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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
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
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.
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.
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).
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,
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
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
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.
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.
American working on rotary valve development roughly contemporary
with Baker was Louis Flescher of Omaha,
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
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.
see a video of the Wheels Through Time Flescher Flyer,
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.
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.
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.
he won first place inhis class, then at Ashtabula
he got a second.
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.
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.
years later, Zimmerman's remarkable machine has survived,
intact and in good condition (pictured below). It is at the Barber
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.
of Cannonball Baker courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor
support and Baker patents provided by Vintage Motorcycle
support and Excelsior rotary valve photos provided by
of Louis Flescher and Flescher Flyer provided by Wheels
Through Time Museum.
support and Flescher rotary valve patents provided by
on Merritt Zimmerman provided by Art Zimmerman, Stan Yalof,
and the Barber Vintage
there a conspiracy
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
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.
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
rotary valve schematic from Motorsports Technology.
Tour de France
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.
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
first museum I visited was the Moto
in Marseille, the
large metropolis in the South of France, on the shelf
of the Mediterranean
Sea. The Moto
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.
is interesting that this museum is managed by the city
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
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.
next visit on my list was the Lucani brothers' motorcycle
collection in the small medieval village
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.
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,
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
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
manufacturers in the fledgling days of the motor industry.
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
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
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
death of an idea
Bill Heins (86x)
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).
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.
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
also handled an insurance program to cover some of the
medical expenses of injured riders.
of the regular riders at Ascot
that I knew were
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
of Bill Heins today and at Ascot, circa 1960, provided
by the author.
great Brian Stonebridge
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.”
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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!
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
easily have won. As it was, he finished second. Dave Bickers,
riding for Greeves, went on to take the title in 1960
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.
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.
provided by the author. Top to bottom:
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.
the 1958 Welsh Three-Day Trial, Brian Stonebridge fettles
the spare bike which the Guvnor, Bert Greeves, was
using to follow the trial.
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.
wayback machine has recently posted photos from the 1993
US Road Racing Grand Prix by motojournalist
Ken Vreeke. Click here and
Bettencourt collection of over 180 classic
motorcycles will be auctioned on November 21. For details,
access Torsten Hallman's web site, click
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.
AMA has announced that Vintage Motorcycle Days
2010 will be held July 9 through 11. For more
information, click here.
video from the Barry Sheene Memorial Race
at Australia's Eastern Creek circuit, click here.
GL1000 and CBX fans
will be interested in limited edition prints by
artist R.L. Parker. To acquire, click here.
has called for consignments for its annual auction at
the Petersen Museum in downtown Los
Angeles. For more information, click here.
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.
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,
know it is hard to find motorcycles of an appropriate
scale. For 1:43
miniatures, click here
may not qualify as history (yet), but here's another good
reason you should ride a motorcycle: here.
fabulous dirt track footage, then and
now, click here
historic but sad moment for Erik Buell:
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.
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,
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 email@example.com. Additional sale information and illustrated catalogs are available on line at here.
Photo provided by Barbara Minty McQueen.
calendar for 2010.
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
the cover is Steve McQueen aboard his TR6 from “The Great
Escape.” Cost is £10.00 each. For more information,
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
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,
Winner of the post war class was a 1967 Triumph TRC
restored to perfection
by H.C. Morris of Winchester,
For complete results of the Louisville Concours, click
For more photos of the event, click here.
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.
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
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,
home of the National
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.
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
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.
provided by Gary Smith.
month, we posted an inquiry to seek information about
a mystery engined owned by Mark Ott of Reading,
(see Motohistory news & Views 9/8/2009).
This small OHV engine (20 pounds and 16 inches long) carries
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.
only Motohistorian we have heard from so far is Jean Roquecave
of Saint Soulle,
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