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ISSUE 169 MAY 2018 £3.60



Running, Riding & Rebuilding RealClassic Motorcycles






06 BSA TRIALS 250 ............................................6

TRIUMPH SPEED TWIN ...............................56

In the 1930s, ISDT rider Marjorie Cottle was convinced that she needed nothing bigger than a 250 to win a gold medal. Turns out, she was right. We ride a spirited BSA inspired by Cottle’s success

This 5T, like every other original Triumph twin, started its life in Meriden. Then it went to New Zealand. Then it came back to Great Britain. And now its current owner plans to take it back to New Zealand – again!


In the same way that the British bikes of the 1970s struggled to compete with their overseas rivals, so the AMF-era Harleys earned themselves a reputation for being over-priced and unreliable. But how do they fare as classic rides? HESKETH V1000..........................................32

Lord Hesketh’s ill-fated foray into motorcycle manufacture is one of biking’s best-known heroic failures. Has the big V-twin’s time finally arrived? FN 350 SIDEVALVE......................................40


RC REGULARS THE CONTENTS PAGE ....................................3

This is a page about the contents of the magazine. Not a page about contentment. Although it’s conceivable that the two could actually be one and the same thing

BSA BANDIT ................................................62

A bike which BSA never built was handcrafted in Kent using pre-production parts. Intended as a 350, it’s been fitted with an A65 engine – and if that wasn’t enough the motor’s been taken out to 750. We reveal some of its secrets…


Among the topics of conversation this time, we’ve missives about military motorcycles, wet sumping, youth culture, and a big V-twin which wears Porsche badges

COMMANDO RESURRECTION ....................82

The concluding episode of a hands-on guide to a nine-month restoration project, in which an 850 Isolastic twin returns to the road

EVENTS ........................................................74

Need some suggestions for places to go and people to see? Check the dates in May for shows and jumbles, rides and rumbles (actually, there are no rumbles but we needed something that rhymed)

FN started out building weapons, and they still do. However, along the way they also built some remarkable motorcycles. Their best-selling post-war model came with competition developed front suspension, and it’s an intriguing wee beast…

FITTING WINKERS.......................................90

HONDA CL250.............................................50

FETTING AMC’S GEARBOX .........................96


Is it a flat-tracker? A soft-roader? It’s certainly a nifty single. Think CB250RS with an extra gear ratio and extended suspension, as the owner explains…

Last month, we took it all apart. This month, it all goes back together again. Without a glitch. Assuming all four gears engage, that is…

Speaking of gearboxes, Jacqueline Bickerstaff waxes lyrical herein about Burman’s BAP box

Hand signals tend to confuse modern motorists, but some old bikes were never intended to have indicators. Marque expert Mike Estall adapts a modern LED kit to suit a Triumph Terrier

READERS’FREE ADS ....................................76

A smart selection of bikes for sale this month include a Panhead Harley, a pair of Velo Venoms and a bargain XBR Honda

TALES FROM THE SHED ........................... 108

Frank Westworth has been desperately avoiding his new BSA project by fixing up an older Matchless 650 twin. Things were going swimmingly. If by ‘swimming’ you actually mean ‘drowning’…



You won’t find RealClassic on the shelves in UK newsagents. If you want to enjoy regular RC reading then take out a subscription and join us in the RealClassic Club.That way, each issue costs just £2.50. Bargain!



WHO’S DONE WHAT REALCLASSIC was assembled once again by Rowena Hoseason and Frank Westworth of The Cosmic Bike Co Ltd, with page design by Mike Baumber, Libby Fincham and Kelvin Clements at Horncastle. Thanks to Jane Skayman for tracking down archive images galore, and to all the helpful elves who beaver away in the background and make RC happen each month COVER IMAGE by Richard Jones You’ll find stack more bike profiles, book reviews and event reports at TRADE ADVERTISERS for the magazine or website should call Helen Martin on 01507 529574, email EDITORIAL ENQUIRIES should be sent to Frank@ or to PO Box 66, Bude EX23 9ZX. Please include an SAE if you want something returned or a personal reply SUBSCRIPTION INFO is on pg114. Call 01507 529529 to subscribe or renew or buy back issues SUBS QUERIES, late deliveries, or changes of address should be directed to 01507 529529, or email ALL MATERIAL in RealClassic is copyright its authors, so please contact us before reproducing anything. RealClassic is printed by William Gibbons & Sons of Wolverhampton. Our ISSN is 1742-2345. THIS MONTH we’ve been reading the HOLLYWOOD STATION series by Joseph Wambaugh (kinda Ed McBain meets Hill Street Blues, and brilliant); THE FATHER (a fictionalised account of real-life Swedish armed robbers); DESPERATION ROAD (truly gritty American noir); MELANCHOLY BABY and BLUE SCREEN (two novels in a series from Robert B Parker; girl detective does detecting girlishly); SORRY by Zoran Drvenkar (whacko German murder/drugs/teenagers romp), and USE OF WEAPONS by Iain M Banks (great scifi; a repeat read in fact). MEANWHILE AT THE MOVIES… Guy Pearce was awesome in THE ROVER, set in the Australian outback after an economic meltdown; Jamie Lannister was equally excellent in the original Scandi version of Jo Nesbo’s HEADHUNTERS, and Robert Pattinson further amazed us in GOOD TIME (imagine the Coen Bros meet Nicolas Winding Refn). What a month! RealClassic is published monthly by MMG Ltd, PO Box 99, Horncastle, LN9 6LZ, UK. USA SUBSCRIPTIONS are $58 per year from Motorsport Publications LLC, 7164 Cty Rd N #441, Bancroft WI. 54921. Postmaster: Send USA address changes to RealClassic, Motorsport Publications LLC, 715-572-4595



hanks – BIG thanks – to everyone who came and ran the RC stand at the recent Stafford Show. It was as busy and as hectic as it always is, and in case you were wondering, Rowena stayed at the workface to ensure that this issue zapped off to press on time. I of course skived off for a weekend of beer and hot dogs … I mean, lettuce and weak tea. Mostly. An entertaining side effect of this temporary arrangement was that as the excellent folk at Mortons’ HQ set up the RC stand for me, I was able to ride up, rather than enduring motorway hell in the car. We usually cart a pile of stuff for the stand, but … if you noticed that that stand was a little bare, that’s because I rode from Bude to Stafford. And… what a difference it makes! The trek from RCHQ Bude takes between six and seven hours, usually, involves a lot of very tedious motorway mileage, and ends with both Rowena and me tired and maybe a little fractious. That’s just how it is. However… Several readers commented on my general bounciness over the weekend, as well as my obviously motorcycle-oriented apparel. The two are connected. OK, so the PTW (dare I use that expression in classic company?) was modern, but the sheer daft entertainment of the ride was exceptional. I had all day Friday to ride up, and all day Monday to ride home, which meant that I didn’t need to choose the most direct and shortest route. So I didn’t. Instead I chose roads I know, roads I enjoy, and on the Sunday night I broke the journey in Shropshire so that I could detour into Wales while heading south on the following day. This all made the trip something of a minor adventure rather than a chore. And it was great. It is too easy to forget how exhilarating and rewarding a decent ride can be, and the delight of the blazing heat of Friday’s northward trek was in no way diminished by Monday’s occasional showers. Modern riding gear is excellent, and I remained as dry as the proverbial bone.


As always, the chat on the RC stand ranged across a vast array of topics, mostly – but not all – motorcycle related, and a lot of it concerned RC and events. Back in the early days, as I was reminded many times, we attended many events, varying from huge national bashes like Stafford to tiny local shows. More than one reader wondered whether we would consider attending more events – as we used to. The answer varied, depending on how I was feeling, so apologies here if I’m contradicting myself. Rowena has a mountain of academic work to complete this summer, which leaves me with a few decent riding opportunities, and I already have several plans to get out there, some of them very varied – did you know there’s a great café at Dunkeswell airfield? Neither did I, but I hope to check it out. There is of course a tiny moral to this tale – the more riding and the less driving, the more I enjoy events. Strange, isn’t it? Or maybe not.

Ride safely Frank Westworth



6 I MAY 2018

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BSA 250

Back in her day, ISDT rider Marjorie Cottle was convinced that she needed nothing bigger than a 250 to win a gold medal. Turns out, she was right. Rowena Hoseason rides a spirited BSA inspired by Cottle’s success Photos by Rowena Hoseason / RC RChive / Mortons archive

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MAY 2018 I 7


ack before Brooklands awarded a gold star to a BSA single; long before Valentine Page designed the Empire Star and its siblings; before even the Blue Star was born, BSA were sticking stars on their special motorcycle engines. Legend has it that this procedure started unofficially with a fitter who wanted to keep track of the motors which had upgraded engine internals. It caught on and was adopted as an official factory process, developing into something of a selling point in the showroom. The small red star stamped on an engine or gearbox demonstrated to the customer that his machine really was equipped with the performance parts which commanded a price premium. That was important in the cashstrapped days of the Great Depression, when the ‘works tuning service’ typically cost £5. By 1932 the competition tuned versions of the 500 singles, fettled by Herbert Perkins, were leaving the factory with a six-point blue star on the timing side casing. But before then… In 1930, the BSA range had yet to respond

Above: Despite the considerable height, this is ‘only’ a 250. The 63 x 80mm dimensions would allow plenty of room for a bigger bore at some point

Below: Top enclosure arrived in stages. In this case, the pushrods and their contacts with the rockers are enclosed, while the hot bits were left to chill in the open

Left: Breathe in… Above: …breathe out!

8 I MAY 2018

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to the cash-strapped circumstances and still sprawled across 17 different models, from a two-speed 150cc two-stroke to a 1000cc V-twin. That year saw the introduction of a whole new series of ‘upright’ single-cylinder models, a move away from the long wheelbase, older slopers. The B30-4 was an ohv 250 which weighed less than 224lb so would qualify for the new ‘lightweight’ tax bracket, promised for the next budget. It was ‘an entirely new machine that will make an instant appeal to the motorcyclist who wants a fast lightweight machine,’ said BSA, and it marked the introduction of a wet sump engine with a 2½ pint capacity, and a forward-positioned magneto. The timing gear was ‘specially designed for silent operation’ and the pushrods and rocker gear were enclosed – although the valves and their springs remained exposed, cooled by the breezes. The gear-type oil pump was driven by a skew gear from the mainshaft, and could be controlled from the saddle; the primary

BSA 250 chain also benefitted from an automatic, variable oil feed. The dry clutch fed drive through three ratios of a constant mesh gearbox with hand change. The B30 adopted a duplex cradle frame with ‘low comfortable riding position; quickly adjustable shock absorbers to front forks; quick finger adjustment to both brakes… and a spring-up rear stand.’ It also came with BSA’s new widetype front forks with a barrel compression spring and quickly adjustable shock absorbers, and the semi-sports handlebars could be adjusted or reversed entirely to suit touring or sports riding. In standard trim the B30-4 cost £40, rising to £46 with Lucas magdyno and a bulb horn fitted. If the customer paid an additional fiver then it came with high-comp piston, sports valve, cam and sprocket, and the appropriate racing ratios. The bike you see here left the factory in July 1930, and was despatched to its first owner in Dartford, Kent. But why would someone have paid the extra cash for these performance upgrades when times were so tight? What was so special about the little BSA?

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Left: Interesting design. The engine carries its oil in a compartment at the front of the crankcase, so it makes sense to have twin front frame tubes passing either side of that Above: Where the oil goes in. Also at the front of the engine are the lighting and sparking departments Below: One rarely considered advantage of the twin port layout is that it makes the driveside of the bike more interesting to look at

MAY 2018 I 9

Left: The Silver Vase winning ISDT team of 1927 Above: In 1926, if your bike needed fixing, you fixed it yourself. Marjorie Cottle before her move to BSA Below: Aboard a BSA in 1932, Marjorie Cottle takes on winter weather and rough roads in the Colmore Cup

A RUGGED RIDER Celebrity endorsement and publicity stunts have always sold products – and back in the 1920s Marjorie Cottle was the hot ticket to promote Raleigh motorcycles. Aged 24 she rode a 2¾hp solo model some 3000 miles around the coast of mainland Britain. Then a couple of years later she travelled almost 1400 miles on a Rayleigh 175 in eleven days, following a route which traced the marque’s name across the map. Despite her riding abilities, Cottle couldn’t compete in road racing after 1925. The ACU barred women from taking part, fearing the bad publicity which might arise from any serious injuries. So instead she took to long distance trials and in 1925 collected an individual gold medal at the ISDT. Fellow female riders Louie McLean and Edyth Foley did likewise, so they formed a semi-official team for the following year, finishing third overall. Cottle and Co were given official status for the 1927 ISDT, and astonished everyone by winning the Silver Vase category outright, demonstrating ‘magnificent riding in terrible weather conditions and over difficult and dangerous roads.’The British men’s team came third. As Raleigh’s motorcycling business declined, so Cottle was recruited by BSA, who were delighted to provide her with a competition-fit 250 for 1930 – subsequently spawning factorybuilt ‘ISDT replicas’ like the B30 you see here. But Cottle’s choice of a lightweight didn’t suit the ACU and she was dropped from the ladies international team. The 250 was deemed to be too small for the course. ‘Miss Cottle is by far our greatest woman rider,’ said The Cornishman, protesting at her treatment. ‘Few men would care to compete against her. In most of her great events she has ridden a low-powered machine… The ACU has chosen Miss Betty Lermitte (an excellent

rider but not of Miss Cottle’s character) because she has entered on a 500cc machine. ‘When the ISDT comes along, the name of Marjorie Cottle will be absent and our foreign rivals will gloat. For they fear her more than anyone. But our selection body considers that a 250cc machine is too small for the route selected, ignoring the fact that Miss Cottle probably knows far more about that than all the committee put together. The motorcycling community is staggered at the decision.’ Even on her 250 and as an individual entrant, Cottle secured another gold medal. For 1931 she bowed to the ACU’s wishes and rode a 500 (collecting another gold) but in subsequent years she swapped back to her preferred 250s, gathering gold and silver medals at each event.

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MAY 2018 I 11

She certainly was determined – Cottle was among the civilian competitors in the 1939 ISDT in Austria. When war seemed inevitable and the civilians were told to return to England, Cottle stayed for the fifth day of the trial and rode alongside the British military team. When the army riders were recalled, Cottle accompanied them across the border into neutral Switzerland. After the war, Cottle worked for BSA in sales and marketing. There’s a suggestion that she was deliberately steered away from competitive events… but it’s hard to imagine

that anyone could’ve stopped Cottle doing pretty much what she wanted. She lived a long life into her late 80s, and it’s a fitting tribute to her achievements that a BSA 250 which was built to celebrate her success is still in active service today.

A LITTLE HISTORY We pick up the story of this 1930 BSA B30-4 some four decades after it was manufactured. By this time it’d migrated from Kent to High Wycombe, where Ray Carter found it. The B30 had been

Timeless delight…

advertised at £100 but the seller got no interest so Ray secured it for £85. He needed a bike for that year’s Manx Rally – and took possession of the little Beesa with one week to spare! Although the B30 was ‘fairly rough’ when he got it, there were no nasty surprises lurking inside the engine, but the exhausts were holed and the silencers leaked. Ray repaired and patched the pipes and then turned to the lighting. He temporarily wired the lamps into a 6V dry battery housed in the toolbox, ‘reasoning it would be OK for the IoM rally.’ Once Ray got to the Island, the BSA had to withstand the elements out in the open, parked on the street next to the hotel. Of course, it lashed down with rain and so‘the drill in the morning was to lean the bike over to tip water out of the carburettor.’ But even with the appalling weather, the B30‘ran perfectly, and covered 600 miles around the Island.’ Of course, as soon as the ferry docked in Liverpool the rain stopped and Ray had a dry ride home… After using the BSA as regular transport for a few months without any problems, Ray decided to give it a thorough overhaul. The cycle parts were blasted and repainted by brush; the magneto was stripped, cleaned and remagnetised; the dynamo had a new fibre gear fitted, and Ray rewired the temporary lighting. With new tyres, cables and a horn it was ready to roll again. Initially, Ray’s friends in his local VMCC section were sceptical about the BSA.‘Why are you riding that awful machine?’they would ask.‘They were always gutless!’Then Ray would disprove this notion by clipping along at a rare old rate and‘opinions changed dramatically when they found it was good for 70mph.’

BSA A B304 ‘RED STAR’ Engin ne

Air-cooled ohv single

Bore / stroke

63mm x 80mm



Carbu urettor


Ignitio on

Lucas magneto

Clutch h

Dry, multiplate

Gearb box

Three-speed, hand change

Prima ary drive

Single row chain

Final d drive



Tubular steel duplex cradle

Front suspension

BSA girder forks


5.5 inch sls drums


51 inches

Seat height

27 inches


224lb dry

Fuel economy


Top speed


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