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Motohistory Quiz #72



Greetings, Motohistorians. It's time for another Motohistory Quiz.

What is this and where was it built? Be the first to send us the correct answers, and you will become a Motohistory Know-It-All, complete with your own personalized diploma.

So, rush to your keyboard and seen your answers to Ed@Motohistory.net.



Chasing the

rotary-valve dream



Previously, Motohistory published a four-part series entitled “The Mechanical Mind of Cannonball Baker,” recounting the innovative engineering ideas for which Baker has received little recognition. Three of the installments in the series—posted 9/12/2007, 12/7/2007, and 1/29/2008—involved his decades-long effort to develop a rotary valve cylinder head. Arguably, Baker was the most successful of the many American motorcycle men who have chased the dream of perfecting a rotary-valve head for the four-stroke engine since one of his prototypes performed flawlessly in a trans-continental marathon ride from Los Angeles to New York in 1941. The motorcycle that performed this feat (pictured above) is currently on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. Later, after the war, Baker built a highly-refined second prototype, a patent drawing for which is pictured below.  That motorcycle still exists and is currently on display at the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina (pictured below). Baker began this work in 1929 and finished in 1954, but his hopes to take his rotary-valve designs into production—both before and after the Second World War—were never realized.


Before exploring other American motorcycle men who have chased the rotary-valve dream, let's review the advantages and disadvantages of the concept. The appeal of the idea is that a rotary valve can reduce weight and significantly reduce reciprocating parts, including pushrods, rocker arms, valve springs, and valves. However, the tried-and-true poppet valve has a singular virtue that has always plagued the development of rotary designs. Combustion chamber pressure pushes the poppet valve into its seat, increasing its effectiveness. With a rotary valve, combustion chamber pressure pushes it away from its “seat,” creating serious problems with sealing the chamber. Using mechanical forces to keep the rotary-valve tight against the combustion chamber increases friction and lubrication problems. This is the biggest engineering problem that has stood in the way of bringing rotary-valve four-stroke engines into serial production for both cars and motorcycles.


Rotary valves can be divided into two basic designs. The Aspen-type is a rotating disc that sits atop the combustion chamber. As it turns, timed ports function as valves to introduce fuel and expel exhaust. While not working well for four-strokes, this design has become standard fare in the high-performance two-stroke where it is used to meter fuel mixture into the crank case rather than the combustion chamber. The other basic design is the Cross-type, named for British designer Roland Cross (pictured right), who patented the design in 1920 and worked on it until 1945. This type consists of a drum that sits horizontally across the top of the combustion chamber. It contains ports that introduce and release gasses as the drum rotates, timed to the rising and falling piston (pictured below).

This is the design that Baker and other American motorcycle designers have applied in their quest for a viable rotary-valve four stroke. It was reported in The Motorcyclist in December, 1934, that Cross had perfected the design and that it would appear on production motorcycles the following year. That dream died in 1935 when Cross entered two rotary-valve machines at the TT. One failed to qualify and the other retired due to oiling problems. Like Baker in America, Cross's rotary-valve development was interrupted by the war, and was not resumed, though as late as 1960 Norton was experimenting with the design for its Manx racing engine. For more about Roland Cross and Cross Manufacturing, click here.


Variations of the drum-type rotary valve were used as early as the 1892 Pennington, but the poppet valve was established as state-of-the art by the turn of the century.  However, there is a rotary-valve motorcycle (pictured below) at the Seal Cove Auto Museum in Seal Cove, Maine that appear to predate the Cross patent by at least five years, and Baker's work by as much as 15. No one knows anything about the history of the motorcycle or who built it. It was part of the estate of Richard Paine, but no documentation seems to have been passed down with the machine. The engine on which the rotary valve head is installed is a Thor, circa 1913, and it appears to be built with parts from a number of brands. The small telescopic “shocks” that appear beneath the handlebars suggest that the front forks may be Merkel, and the fuel tank clearly does not fit the frame. While the engine appears to have been expertly built, little care has gone into the rolling chassis, which might be regarded more a test mule than a finished motorcycle. For example, frame tubes both above and beneath the engine are crudely bent to allow enough space for the taller cylinder head. “Rotary Manifold Motor” is proudly and carefully lettered on the tank, but other lettering on both sides of the tank has been totally obliterated. It would be interesting to know what it said and why it was removed.


The literature from the teens indicates that visionary designers were working with the rotary valve concept. Still, how do we know that this machine predates the work by Cross in 1920 and Baker in 1929. We don't, but it would seem unlikely that someone developing a rotary-valve head in the 1920s would use decade-old components. Why would this person have not used more contemporary parts if his work was during the ‘20s? This is only logical speculation that cannot be proven one way or the other until more history surfaces on this very interesting experiment, but it would appear to be the earliest known attempt at the use of a rotary valve on a motorcycle. Also, oil and grease deposits still on this engine indicate that it would run. For more information about the Seal Cove Auto Museum, click here.


Another American working on rotary valve development roughly contemporary with Baker was Louis Flescher of Omaha, Nebraska. Flescher (pictured right), who descended from the German/French Flesche family from the Alsace-Lorraine region, built bicycles under his own brand as early as 1898 at his shop in Omaha. One must wonder if his interest in motorcycles can be attributed—at least in part—to the fact that George Wyman, who was the first man to cross the United States aboard a motorcycle, stopped at the Flescher establishment during his 1903 journey. Flescher even built his own motorcycle—the Flescher Flyer—in 1914. One of these (pictured left) still exists and is on display at the Wheels Through Time Museum. It is not a rotary-valve machine, but demonstrates innovation, featuring rocking footboards that function as controls. To see a video of the Wheels Through Time Flescher Flyer, click here.


Flescher's involvement in rotary valve development, however, did not come until later, and it was not applied to a motorcycle. Rather, Flescher developed a rotary-valve head design for a four-cylinder automobile engine. An application for patent (pictured above) was filed in June, 1929, and registered on March 25, 1930. Flescher, it would appear, was running somewhat ahead ofBaker, whose first of four patents was published in 1934.


While rotary valve development was given up by Baker around 1954, during the same decade it was taken up by a master machinist and mechanical genius in Cleveland, Ohio named Merritt Zimmerman. Zimmerman (pictured here) built a 244cc 45-degree V-twin engine (pictured below) with rotary valves that was reported in an article that appeared in the March, 1966 issue of Cycle Magazine to have been completed in only four months after its drawings were finished (Zimmerman worked on his drawings for four years!). Zimmerman built all of his own patterns, including casting molds and their interior plugs. The result was a stunningly beautiful piece of work with the appearance of a serial-production motor benefiting from years of development. It weighed only 55 pounds and produced 25 horsepower (Cycle's article claimed that the engine produced 45 hp, an incredible and erroneous claim that was based on the time at a dynamometer miscalculation). The engine could achieve 12,000 rpm, and when later installed in a motorcycle made 75 mph in second gear and topped out at an estimated 110 mph. Lively performance for a 250 for sure, but what was even more impressive than the engine's good output was its torque curve, which was nearly flat. This quality of his design was also demonstrated by an automobile that Zimmerman built, powered by an in-line four based on a Crosley racing crankshaft. In testing by the Ford Motor Company, it went from 0 to a top speed of around 100 mph in top gear only.


Zimmerman installed his little V-twin in a rolling chassis of his own construction. Using telescopic forks and plunger rear suspension from a Zundapp, he built his own frame. Power was channeled through a Burman gearbox. The whole machine, with legal lighting and equipped for enduros, came in at only 280 pounds. Whereas Baker had tested his design with a cross-country ride in 1941, Zimmerman chose the punishment of off-road competition to prove his product. Although the engine burned a piston at 80 miles in its first outing at the Jack Pine Enduro in 1954, its rotary valve did not fail. At the Toledo enduro that same year, Zimmerman was among only 11 finishers in the event. At Athens he won first place inhis class, then at Ashtabula he got a second. At Akron the following year he won his class, then got a second in a scrambles at Cleveland. At the punishing Jack Pine that year his frame broke at 175 miles, but the engine was working flawlessly. At the Ohio State Championship Enduro in 1955, his rotary-valve wonder took sixth overall and second in the lightweight class.


The testing of their prototypes by Baker and Zimmerman also demonstrated that the rotary-valve can get high fuel mileage and run on low-grade fuel. Cross had run his engines on 78 octane, Baker found no problems using what in 1941 was called “white gas,” and Zimmerman also confirmed that low-octane fuel did not impede performance. Baker achieved over 57 mpg in his cross-country test, and Zimmerman achieved 50 mpg with his rotary-valve car, and neither inventor had yet begun to turn his attention toward fuel-efficiency development. But these virtues did not turn the heads of the captains of motor commerce. Zimmerman and his colleague Stan Yalof tried mightily to sell the rotary valve idea to the American automobile industry. Yalof recalls about their frustrating experience, “They just wear you down. We couldn't raise enough money to even get the idea through the bureaucracy. You finally just conclude that it is the Not-Invented-Here-Syndrome. They don't want to be bothered with innovation that they're not already working on or that wasn't their idea.” Like Baker before them, they found that those who could bring the rotary-valve engine into the commercial market did not want to be bothered.


Fifty years later, Zimmerman's remarkable machine has survived, intact and in good condition (pictured below). It is at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, though not currently on display. The rotary-valve four-stroke remains a tantalizing concept that repeatedly attracts geniuses, but that mass producers just can't seem to warm up to. They claim that the sealing and lubrication problems of the valve are just too hard to overcome. But Baker appears to have solved it by using an oil-impregnated carbon material for his valve drum, and Zimmerman also appears to have solved the problem with a mounting and sealing system that he chose not to disclose in detail at the time of the Cycle Magazine story. However, the machine and Zimmerman's documentation are still here for R&D department of any company that will take a serious interest. Zimmerman's son Art remains an enthusiastic advocate of the concept, and continues to look for interest and funding that might eventually bring the benefits of his father's work to the public at large.


Photo of Cannonball Baker courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

Research support and Baker patents provided by Vintage Motorcycle Works.

Research support and Excelsior rotary valve photos provided by Drew Crafton.

Photos of Louis Flescher and Flescher Flyer provided by Wheels Through Time Museum.

Research support and Flescher rotary valve patents provided by Jim Flescher.

Research on Merritt Zimmerman provided by Art Zimmerman, Stan Yalof, and the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum .


Is there a conspiracy

against rotary valves?

Stan Yalof, who tried to help Merritt Zimmerman broker his rotary-valve design to the American automotive industry, feels they were thwarted almost at every turn by bureaucracy, corporate inertia, and parochialism. Zimmerman's son Art has a different opinion. He believes strongly in the viability of his father's work, fifty years later, but believes that he and other proponents of the rotary valve have been victimized by an active conspiracy among commercial interests that profit from the parts and manufacture of the conventional reciprocating poppet valve design. If you are a conspiracy theorist, you might find additional support for Zimmerman's opinion in the goings-on at the FIA during the current decade.


In the early 1990s, Bishop Innovation carried the development of the rotary valve pioneered by Baker, Flescher, Cross, Zimmerman, and others to a high level of performance and reliability. Bishop's work was convincing enough that in 1997 it teamed up with Ilmore Engineering (later Mercedes-Ilmore) to bring the concept into Formula 1 where success would leave no doubt of its commercial viability. Work by Bishop and Ilmore produced an engine that was ten percent more powerful and more durable than a comparable poppet-valve design. Testing indicated that in had 45 percent improved breathing over a four-valve head of like capacity. Furthermore, it could rev beyond the 18,000 rpm of the leading F1 poppet-valve engines to an astonishing 25,000 rpm. In 2003, a final iteration intended for use in competition was under development until, in 2004, the FIA revised its F1 engine standards to ban rotary valve technology.


This story is told in great detail in an excellent article by Tony Wallis in Motorsports Technology, published in 2007. Wallis concluded his article by stating, “Regrettably, F1 has abandoned its raison d'etre to “improve the breed” and replace it with “protecting the status quo.” Is this the work of hide-bound old fogies like those that Yalof confronted in the American automobile industry? Or have the conspirators of Alan Zimmerman's theory infiltrated even the committees of the FIA? Or is it a bit of both? Regardless, the century-old dream of the rotary valve can't seem to catch a break, even among the minions of high technology. To read the Wallis article, click



F1 rotary valve schematic from Motorsports Technology.



My Tour de France

By Ralf Kruger



Editor's Note: Motohistory readers will recall that earlier this year your faithful editor and German contributor Ralf Kruger undertook their American Museum Monster Tour, covering 15 states and visiting over 20 motor museums in 14 days (see Motohistory News & Views August 8 through 16, 2009). Clearly, Ralf enjoyed himself, because as soon as he returned home, he climbed into the saddle to finish his 2009 vacation days with another museum tour. While Americans were fixated on what Lance Armstrong might achieve in the French countryside, Kruger undertook his own Tour de France. Below is the story of his adventure.


Since I had already planned to visit France this year, wouldn't it be a good idea to learn more about French motorcycles while I was at it? And what better way to do it than astride a motorcycle, so I climbed aboard my BMW and made my own Tour de France, looking for museums that would tell me about the history of the French motorcycle industry and sport.


The first museum I visited was the Moto Museum in Marseille, the large metropolis in the South of France, on the shelf of the Mediterranean Sea. The Moto Museum is housed in an old, four -story former mill, wonderfully modified for its current purpose. Exhibition space is more than 1,200 square meters, containing about 150 motorcycles. These include French bikes in addition to motorcycles from all over the world. Each floor of the museum is dedicated to a certain historical period. The first floor shows motorcycles from 1900 to1930, the second floor bikes from 1930 into the 1950s, and the third level is about the sixties to current days. Each floor's display is divided into special themes. For example, there is a big collection of single-cylinder Moto Guzzis as well as a collection of military motorcycles from the Second World War. These are eminently eye-catching, revealing the love and care with which the arrangements have been created. But, in my opinion, the most outstanding are the displays of rare French motorcycles such as the Magnat Debon, Gnome & Rhone, or San-Sou-Pap as well as the more common brands like Peugeot and Motobecane. The fourth floor is reserved for a row of special exhibitions, one being the unique Nougier motorcycle collection. These magnificent racing machines were built by the brothers Jean and Henri Nougier from the early ‘30s to the mid-1970s. They were impressive not only in French national competition, but during the 1950s the 350cc and 500cc fours earned esteem in the international Grand Prix. Another special exhibit is about the riders of merit who came from Marseille and its region. Beside their original racing bikes, the display includes wonderful old photos attesting to their achievements and glory.


It is interesting that this museum is managed by the city of Marseille in cooperation with the Marseille Vintage Moto Club. This arrangement—as one of few to my knowledge— relieves the motorcycle club from financial risk and, still more importantly, simultaneously anchors motorcycle history as a legitimate public interest deserving of government support. There is also based in the museum's own workshop a program to educate young people in applied mechanics, sheet metal working, painting, and other aspects of restoration. If you ever have the opportunity to visit the Moto Museum Marseille, do not hesitate to make it happen. You will see one of the best motorcycle museums I know of. And don't be concerned if you do not speak French as Museum Director Francois Sassu speaks English. To learn more about the Moto Museum Marseille, click here.


The next visit on my list was the Lucani brothers' motorcycle collection in the small medieval village of Entrevaux, in the South-East of France. Here you can learn about more aspects of history than just motorcycles, because it is a very old village of the Middle Ages, built into a hill and backed by the river Chalvagne. It has defensive walls and even a drawbridge. What astonished me about this ancient place is that it is still so full of human activity. There is no hint of dereliction in this community. I saw many busy traders on the small marketplace and hard-working carpenters everywhere. Evidently it requires constant refurbishment to keep these ancient walls upright and tidy, and respect for their history is obviously fixed and lived by the people of this village.


The exceptional collection of the Lucani brothers can be found by passing through several narrow alleys and into an old, warped house containing 75 French and foreign motorcycles spread over its two floors. Even if the small house makes for a very cramped display, this conforms nicely with the ambiance of the rest of the village, leaving a positive and lasting impression. One special aspect of the exhibition is its various old bicycles with rare auxiliary engines such as the Italian Alpino, the German Rex, and many French brands like VAP, Ydral, and Lacombe. But there is also room for big French motorcycles, including brands such as Dollar, Radior, or Soyer. Most, I am sure, are not well-known outside the boarders of France. So, if you are willing to combine French living history with your learning of motorcycles, draw a red circle on your map around Entrevaux. For more information, click here.


Every journey comes to an end, and in my case I connected my way home to Germany with a detour from the French Autoroute to the French village of Sochaux, the place where today's Automobile builder Peugeot has a big museum to display its history. Peugeot began with the manufacturing of metal tools such as saw blades and gardening devices, all of which can be seen in this museum. But my aim was to gaze at old Peugeot motorcycles, and my hopes about their presentation here were mostly fulfilled. Peugeot had a strong influence on many Continental and overseas manufacturers in the fledgling days of the motor industry. Even the well-advanced British motorcycle manufacturers were impressed and influenced by French engine design. To underline this statement, I recall that even the renowned Norton brand used a Peugeot V-twin for the 1907 TT race on the Isle of Man.


As for the exhibit, examples were presented from an 1898 DeDion & Bouton-powered tricycle to the motorcycles and mopeds of the 1950s and ‘60s. I was especially delighted with the presentation of Peugeot motorcycles from the 1930s, which were a significant aspect of the display. Although the row of motorcycles has no evident breach, I can't reject my feeling that Peugeot has failed to present certain important details of its history, which is often the case with corporate museums. Also, I would have liked to see better and more extensive information on the labels for each motorcycle. This absence of detail was not helped by an audio headset that neglected to talk about motorcycles as well. Even if we consider that Peugeot is a car manufacturer today, I believe the company should rework and improve the motorcycle nook in its museum. With a little more effort on the part of this institution, there is so much more we could learn about the vivid lion's history. For more information about the Peugeot Museum, click here.


Motorcycle Racers, Inc.

the success and

sad death of an idea

By Bill Heins (86x)



In the early years of racing, race promoters purchased sanctions from the American Motorcycle Association according to a “star system.” Professional races would be advertised as “two star,” or “four star” where the number of stars was a code for the amount of money that would be paid to the riders. A “star” was worth $500, so the more stars that were advertised, the larger the purse. This enabled the riders to know what was guaranteed and whether it was worth their time and travel to attend a race. Of course, they also had to take into account that the total purse would be paid down a number of places in each class, and spread out over two or three classes. Sadly, sometimes with a lack of adequate supervision from the sanctioning body, by the time the main event was finished the promoter might have taken his gate money and skipped out, leaving the riders with no pay day. Sometimes the riders had to take the matter into their own hands, and riders who had failed to qualify for the main event would be assigned to keep an eye on a questionable promoter. In the early 1960s, the professional riders in California formed their own organization—a union—to deal with this and other issues. It was called Motorcycle Racers, Inc (MRI).


A promoter in Los Angeles opened a half-mile track called it LA Speedway. It was closed after a short time, then taken over by J.C. Agajanian—known throughout the racing community as Aggie—and reopened as Ascot Speedway, a name that would become legendary during the golden era of American flat track racing. Ascot ran a regular Friday night program from April through October, and became the training track for some of the nation's greatest riders. MRI had negotiated a small additional payout for their members over and above the star purse guarantee. So it made sense for anyone who raced regularly at Ascot to belong to the MRI. The MRI also handled an insurance program to cover some of the medical expenses of injured riders.


All of the regular riders at Ascot that I knew were MRI members. This included names such as Sam Tanner, Neil Keen, Stu Moreley, Jack O'Brien, Elliott Schultz, Al Gunter, Don Hawley, Troy Lee, and Dick Dorresteyn. In addition to the regulars, many traveling riders from other states quickly joined the MRI. Shell Thuet was the president at the time that I arrived from Texas to race at Ascot and become a member of the MRI. Shell resigned and I was asked to take his place, which I did. Our board at that time consisted of C.R. Axtell (owner and tuner for Sam Tanner), Albert Gunter, Jerry Crevillo, and Carol Simms (secretary) in addition to me. As the MRI gained membership and strength, its members voted to ask the promoter for 40 percent of his “overage.” “Overage” was the term applied to the income after enough fans came in to pay the basic costs of the event. A promoter like Agajanian was well enough experienced that he knew exactly how many tickets he had to sell to pay his expenses. The “overage” was his profit, and the riders felt they deserved a share of that profit. Of course, on a bad night there would be no overage and nothing additional for the riders. We were still racing for very little money, we provided a great show, and we felt we deserved more consideration. Aggie, of course, declined our request, setting the scene for a rider strike. The strike began when members voted to not ride until they were given their 40 percent of the overage.


As the riders saw it, the prices of motorcycles, parts, transportation, medical expenses, and accessories were all going up while the rider compensation was not. As the promoter saw it, the crowds were low at the start and the end of the season, and when he had a losing night, the riders did not share that loss. It was all out of his pocket, so he was reluctant to pay up every time he had a good night. But he knew that if we stayed away, the crowds would find other things to do on Friday night and possibly not return at all. The MRI also had moral support from both the spectators and the sprint car drivers. Allen Heath, one of the top drivers, wanted to do the same thing with the sprint car drivers.


Negotiations went on for five nights a week, with meetings of the riders sometimes twice a week to present counter offers to the members. Aggie said he was considering promoting motocross instead of half mile. He criticized the style of racing without brakes and said there was no natural bridge for kids to go from bicycles to flat track racing with no brakes. Looking at racing as it exists now—at how flat track declined and motocross grew—it was more than just an idle threat. I believe he was right. As negotiations wore on, many of the riders became ready to return to work. But they needed to somehow make their effort worthwhile. The end came when Aggie paid some of the top-name riders to return and ride. Gradually, the others went back. Though Agajanian had broken the strike, which lasted three or four weeks, he offered to pay the 40 percent overage for some of the races. Everyone got something, but no one got it all.


All of the members of the MRI Board were so discouraged by what we considered a betrayal, we all quit in disgust. A new board was elected, but I believe they never held a meeting. With the Death of C.R. Axtell in the fall of this year, I am the only remaining living member of the original MRI Board. As I see it, the good news from all of this is that racers now can make a living and some do very well. The down side is that the stars do well, but the others are still looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Without both groups, there would be no races.

Photos of Bill Heins today and at Ascot, circa 1960, provided by the author.



The great Brian Stonebridge

By Colin Sparrow



Editor's Note: Fifty years ago today, British scrambler Brian Stonebridge died in an automobile accident. Sadly, the car was driven by his boss, Bert Greeves. In tribute to this beloved competitor and innovator, we are honored to publish this tribute, penned by Colin Sparrow, Chairman of the Greeves Riders Association and Editor of “Leading Link.”


Brian Gerald Stonebridge was born into a Cambridgeshire farming family on June 6 th 1928. In eleven short years, from his first scrambles victory in 1948 to his second place in the 1959 250cc European Championship, he established himself as one of Britain 's foremost moto-cross riders. Sadly killed in a road accident while a car passenger in October 1959, he was universally recognized also as a brilliant tuner and developer of competition bikes, and as one of the great “characters” of motorcycle sport.


After leaving school and completing his National Service in the Royal Armoured Corps, Stonebridge trained as an instrument maker. He started scrambling on a BSA 350 Gold Star in 1948, his natural talent and skill securing him a place in the winning British team in the 1949 Moto-Cross des Nations.


Encouraged by top rider Basil Hall, Stonebridge was a works rider for Matchless from 1950 through1954, earning many scrambling successes throughout that period and a Gold Medal for them in the 1950 ISDT. He was selected for the British Moto-Cross des Nations team on no less than seven occasions, and in 1952 he won the event outright. During his AMC days, he also had a bash at road racing on a 350cc AJS.


In 1955, Stonebridge moved to BSA, with continuing success riding Gold Stars and undertaking development work in the competition shop, and in that year he was awarded the ACU Scrambles Drivers' Star. It was while working at BSA that he met Herman Meier, the well-known tuner of two-stroke engines. Ever on the lookout for new ideas, he recognized that lightweight two-strokes could be an effective way forward in off-road motorcycle competition, and with Meier's help he spent time developing a 150cc Bantam into a rapid and ultimately successful scrambler.


At the end of 1956, BSA decided to cut back on their competition shop staffing, and in early 1957 Greeves were the beneficiaries when Brian came to them as works rider, competitions manager, and development engineer. It was with Greeves that he found the situation that suited him best, for with this small and youthful manufacturer of competition machines there was plenty of scope for a talented engineer with an individualistic approach.


At Greeves he took the competition models in hand, developing their trials bike into the 20TA, the first of the “Scottish” line and the trials riders' machine of choice at the beginning of the sixties. In 1958 he took his second ISDT Gold Medal on a modified version of this machine. At the same time he scientifically developed the 197cc Villiers 9E engine which Greeves fitted to their scramblers, doubling its power output and turning it into a machine which in the right hands could take on the best scramblers of the day. “The right hands” was often of course Stonebridge himself, on many occasions humbling top class 350 and 500cc opposition on the little Greeves – made to seem even smaller by its lanky 6'4” rider!


In 1958, Stonebridge saw the opportunity that the new European Championship for machines of up to 250cc presented for Greeves, and after contesting a couple of rounds in 1958, they went for it in 1959. But for injury, Stonebridge might easily have won. As it was, he finished second. Dave Bickers, riding for Greeves, went on to take the title in 1960 and 1961.


Brian Stonebridge – known as “Strawberry” by those who raced against him because his long limbs reminded them of the runners on a strawberry plant – was a brilliant rider and development engineer with an independent but endearing personality. Contemporary tributes speak of a steely determination to succeed, and a temperament which demanded that he do things his own way. This was, they say, tempered by his quiet manner and playful sense of humour which combined with a natural humility to allow him to deal calmly with success and failure alike.


That he was universally respected by the public and fellow competitors alike was supremely illustrated by the record 84,000 spectator attendance at the Brian Stonebridge Memorial Scramble at Hawkstone Park in March 1960, and by the presence there of every significant British rider of the era. For video of this historic event, click here.


Photos provided by the author. Top to bottom:


Winning on its first appearance, Brian Stonebridge debuts the works NSU/Greeves special at Brands Hatch, April 1959. Stonebridge would go on to use this machine to take second place in the 250c European Championship.


At the 1958 Welsh Three-Day Trial, Brian Stonebridge fettles the spare bike which the Guvnor, Bert Greeves, was using to follow the trial. 


The Vase B Team for the 1958 International Six Days Trial at the Reading briefing. From the left, Jack Simpson (Greeves), Brian Stonebridge (Greeves), Jim Sheehan (Velocette), and Peter Stirland (Royal Enfield). Stonebridge was to take a Gold Medal in the event.


Penton and Green

open 13th ISDT Reunion Ride

By Ted Guthrie


October 2 and 3, Ohio’s Enduro Riders Association hosted the 13th Annual Leroy Winters Memorial ISDT Reunion Ride, held in the Buckeye State for the first time.  Some 165 riders turned out for two days of riding and socializing, just north of the McArthur, Ohio venue.  A week of rain preceding the event led many to fear muddy conditions.  However—as if by design—on Friday afternoon the clouds parted and the sun shone through.  Conditions on Saturday morning were cool, but clear and sunny, making for a day on the trails.  In celebration of the 40th anniversary of their participation in the 1969 ISDT, John Penton and Bud Green mounted beautifully restored steel tank Pentons as first riders out, taking a ceremonial lap of the fairgrounds.  Penton and Green are the two remaining living riders of the U.S. Vase team that included also Leroy Winters and Dave Mungenast (pictured here).   

Virtually from the start, the course funneled down into pristine, tight, wooded, single-track trail.  True to their word, the ERA group had laid out a course that was vintage-friendly, but still challenging, as well as great fun.  A mix of gentle hills, shallow creek bottoms, and grassy fields followed.  Despite the rain, trail conditions were just about perfect, with no dust and a little bit of mud.  A very moderate speed average allowed plenty of time at check points for repairs to the vintage bikes and rest for vintage bodies, not to mention opportunities for old friends to catch up and share accounts of the day’s adventures.  The afternoon’s ride consisted of the same trails from earlier in the day, ridden in reverse.  Uninterrupted sunshine throughout the day provided even better riding conditions on the return loop, and riders began filtering back into the Parc Ferme mid-afternoon, after some 50 miles.

Saturday evening featured an exceptionally well-attended banquet, celebrating those ISDT/E vets in attendance, including Tommy McDermott, America’s first ISDT participant.  Besides dinner and a program celebrating the International Six Day Trial/Enduro, hosted by Jack Penton, guests were treated to an extensive display of ISDT/E motorcycles and memorabilia, assembled under the direction of noted collector and historian, Kent Knudson. 

Sunday’s ride was once again enhanced by virtually perfect fall weather and flawless trail conditions.  Less mileage than on day one had the riders back at the start by noon for the afternoon’s final event – a grass track motocross.  Row after row of riders then ended the weekend event with five laps around a beautiful, rolling, natural track, providing abundant traction over the untilled surface. Judging by the favorable attitude of everyone in attendance, Ohio’s first-ever ISDT Reunion Ride was unquestionably a great success.  For a video of John Penton being advised that he will mount a bike and open the ride, click here.

The ISDT Reunion Ride 2010 will take place October 23 and 24 in Combs, Arkansas, hosted by the Razorback Riders.  To access the Razorback Riders web site, click here

Photo by Jeff DeBell.

Vintage photo by Leo Keller.




SuperbikePlanet's wayback machine has recently posted photos from the 1993 US Road Racing Grand Prix by motojournalist Ken Vreeke. Click here and here.


The Bettencourt collection of over 180 classic motorcycles will be auctioned on November 21. For details, click here.


To access Torsten Hallman's web site, click here.


More than 100 GL1000 Gold Wings showed up for the recent Randakk International Vintage Honda Rally, making it the largest gathering of four-cylinder Gold Wings in many years. For a recap and photos, click here.


The AMA has announced that Vintage Motorcycle Days 2010 will be held July 9 through 11. For more information, click here.


For video from the Barry Sheene Memorial Race at Australia's Eastern Creek circuit, click here.


You GL1000 and CBX fans will be interested in limited edition prints by artist R.L. Parker. To acquire, click here.


Bonham's has called for consignments for its annual auction at the Petersen Museum in downtown Los Angeles. For more information, click here.


Hemmings recently published a story about the little-known automobile built by Indian (the name Indian did not appear on it). To read the story, click here.


The late David Manthey's Munch collection recently fetched prices at auction from $39,000 to $160,000. To see the whole collection and the prices they drew, click here.


HO Gauge railroaders know it is hard to find motorcycles of an appropriate scale. For 1:43 miniatures, click here and here.


It may not qualify as history (yet), but here's another good reason you should ride a motorcycle: here.


For fabulous dirt track footage, then and now, click here

A historic but sad moment for Erik Buell: click here.


The Trailblazers Motorcycle Club, on of America's guardians of motohistory, has updated its web site and added a Facebook page. To access the web site, click here. For the Facebook page, click here.


As the November 15 deadline for its 2009 raffle of a 1947 Knucklehead, the Wheels Through Time Museum has announced a Fall Special, offering a long sleeve Tee and a DVD for every seven-ticket purchase. For more information, click here.


Mannheim celebrates its 35th

By Peter Gysser


The 35th Mannheim Veterama took place October 10 and 11.  This has become the largest vintage auto and motorcycle swap meet in Europe, featuring over vendors.  It has been estimated that more than 1,000 classic vehicles change hands each year.  Saturday morning we had strong rain, but both Friday and Saturday afternoon provided excellent weather.  To learn more about the Mannheim event, click here.


McQueen Indian goes to auction


A 1940 Indian Chief sold as part of the Steve McQueen estate in 1984 is returning to the auction block at the annual Bonham’s Classic California auction scheduled to take place at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles on November 14.  The motorcycle is billed as one of McQueen’s regular riders.  Other McQueen-owned vehicles that will be auctioned include his 1949 Chevy pickup truck and a 2001 Ford Mustang Bullitt Edition, a factory original presented by Ford to McQueen’s son Chad.  Buyers interested in participating in the sale, either remotely or in person, may register to bid by contacting usacars@bonhams.com.  Additional sale information and illustrated catalogs are available on line at here.   

Photo provided by Barbara Minty McQueen. 


Ace Classics offers

Triumph calendar for 2010.



Ace Classics of London is offering a 2010 calendar featuring 12 images of classic Triumphs, from Tiger Cubs to Bonnevilles. Each bike is accompanied by a history of the motorcycle, from its departure from the Triumph factory to the current day.

On the cover is Steve McQueen aboard his TR6 from “The Great Escape.” Cost is £10.00 each. For more information, click here.


Motorcycles shine

at Louisville Concours



On a beautiful but breezy October morning at Churchill Downs, with horses training on the track as magnificent vehicles rolled into the infield with the twin spires in the background, how could help but get into that Kentucky Derby mood? Women showed up dressed to the nines in big, floppy straw hats, a man in a bright red coat bugled his call to the post over a sea of Bugattis, and the Second Annual Louisville Concours d'Elegance was begun. The nearly 20 motorcycles on display were divided into two classes for pre-war and post-war models, and competition was stiff with many scoring in the high 90s. Winner of the pre-war class was a beautiful 1938 Indian Four owned by David and Betty Corsmeier of Milford, Ohio. Winner of the post war class was a 1967 Triumph TRC restored to perfection by H.C. Morris of Winchester, Kentucky. For complete results of the Louisville Concours, click here. For more photos of the event, click here.




VMX #39 features a cover story about Knobby Shop International (KSI) Hondas, built for Marty Moates to use at the British Grand Prix in 1978. Only two of these big thumpers were built by Alan Greenwood, a 450 and a 470. The story, written by Rod Spry, is based on his restoration of the 470. Other stories are about Fred Mork's Parilla 250cc Wildcat Scrambler, the 1973 Maico MC125, a Cheney Yamaha 500 with Ribi front forks (again, restored and written about by Rod Spry, the Franks Honda 125 ridden by such young riders a Tommy Croft and Danny LaPorte, and much more. Especially interesting is a story about Jury Trofimets, the trainer behind Russia's greatest motocross men, including Moiseev. For more information about VMX, click here.


The August November/December issue of Motorcycle Classics features the Benelli 650 Tornado, raising the question, “Better than a Bonneville?” Giving the motorcycle—offered from 1968 through 1976—author James Bolton states, “. . . very compact but robust looking, sort of like a Honda Benly that's been pumping iron and abusing steroids.” Other features include a story about the Velocette Venom Clubman by Clem Salvadori, Alan Cathcart's test ride of the new Indian Chief (not so classics except for looks), the Kawasaki Z1-R (1978 through 1980), and Margie Siegal's review of the 1967 BSA Hornet. For more information about Motorcycle Classics, click here.


The December issue of IronWorks includes a feature about the 1971 Harley-Davidson FX that this magazine awarded its IronWorks Choice Award at the recent annual open house hosted by J&P Cycles in Anamosa, Iowa, home of the National Motorcycle Museum. Willie G's first significant contribution to the Motor Company, this model is arguably the motorcycle that launched the so-called cruiser that would eventually unleash the wallets of aging American Boomers. Margie's Siegal's Seasoned Citizens feature this month is about an exquisite original 1963 Harley-Davidson FLH. Siegal often brings a fresh point of view to her writing about motorcycles, and in this case it includes the story of Ricky Bobby, a chocolate Lab who loves Harley-Davidsons. For more information about IronWorks, click here.


LAPD motors

celebrate a century

of service



As far as we know from current historical research, the first time a traffic citation was issued in America by a motorcycle-mounted policeman was in 1908 in Nassau County, New York. The cop was Willis Seaman, whose Indian ran down a scofflaw traveling a breathtaking 39 mph (see Motohistory News & Views 12/13/2007). This exciting new tool for traffic control quickly caught on and the motorcycle soon became a favored conveyance of law enforcement officers throughout the United States. In less than a year, on the opposite coast from Nassau County, the City of Los Angeles created a motor corps within the LAPD. In celebration of the LAPD Motor Corps 100 th Anniversary, on October 3 more than 300 LAPD motor patrolmen and 50 more from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department rode in procession from the L.A. Coliseum to the Police Academy at Elysian Park (pictured right). Offered free to the public, the event included a performance by the LAPD Motorcycle Drill Team, speeches, awards, and displays by the manufacturers of police motorcycles. Visitors were allowed to get their photos taken aboard vintage LAPD motorcycles with various historical backgrounds through the use of green screen technology. There was also a LAPD Motor Corps-sponsored blood drive for Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. For more centennial photographs, click here. For art prints from the event, click here. For a copy of “BCMC,” the story of LAPD motorcycle cops during the turbulent 1960s, click here.


Photos provided by Gary Smith.



Last month, we posted an inquiry to seek information about a mystery engined owned by Mark Ott of Reading, Pennsylvania (see Motohistory news & Views 9/8/2009). This small OHV engine (20 pounds and 16 inches long) carries a CAV label on its magneto (C.A. Vandervell Ltd.) but otherwise no brand markings. It carries serial number 3002. It has an external flywheel, and a belt pulley is mounted behind the flywheel. Because the carburetor and float bowl are rigidly mounted at an angle, we opined that it might be a “clip-on” engine intended to be mounted along the frame of a bicycle. The spark plug has the markings “OLEO VIOUEOT and Co., Sole Agents USA.” While the engine came from an American collection, there is nothing to indicate that this is the original spark plug or that the engine was originally purchased in the USA.


The only Motohistorian we have heard from so far is Jean Roquecave of Saint Soulle, France. Roquecave writes, “My two cents about Mark Ott's small OHV engine is that it bears resemblance to this Anzani cycle motor clip-on engine from the 1920s.” Thanks, Jean, there are clear similarities here, and your feedback should give owner Mark Ott a direction to pursue. Any other Motohistorians who have an opinion on this mystery engine should E-mail Ed@motohistoryl.net.