Club History

This is the new version of our club history, it is still being written, so any additions/suggestions would be welcome. Peter Bowler 01823 672423

The present BSA Front Wheel Drive Club was officially launched on March 14th 1959 at the Priory Social Centre, Hornsey in London, previous to this a small group of BSA FWD owners living in north London had been meeting at each others homes and,  as numbers increased,  in pubs. The main topic of conversation was of course BSAs, but since a few of these people were members of the existing BSA club, there was a lot of discussion on what could be done concerning the plight of this club which had been on a downward spiral for some time.
Eventually the decision was taken to approach the committee and offer to take things over and start again. The affirmative reply was received with an almost embarrassing alacrity, along with a list of members and the entire possessions of the Club!,  Armed with this important mandate our enthusiasts lost no time in hiring the hall and  circulating their intention to hold an extraordinary meeting, and generally doing  all the things that were necessary to launch the new club.

The very first magazine  of the new club, published in  May  1959

During the meeting Roger Judge was voted in as the club’s new Chairman, who immediately proposed that all assets be transferred to the new club,   A committee of six was elected, a new set of rules drawn up and apart from these formal arrangements, a couple of rallies were organized for the coming season.

The very first Committee of this new and revitalised club consisted of: Chairman Roger Judge, Secretary Eddy Davies, Treasurer Fred Heath, Reg Kim committee member, and Les Cole Spares Secretary. The magazine editorship was to be jointly held by Roger and Fred.

The good news was that most of the members of the existing club joined the new one, and  the membership list very rapidly rose to 63 by the time the first magazine was published in May 1959, This first ever edition of the new magazine coming from the  club was quite interesting, as you would expect, containing a wealth of technical articles, plus nostalgia from the beezering past and optimism for BSA Motoring to come, It occupied 16 pages of very small type, was printed by the Edith Williams Secretarial Service of Welwyn Garden City at a cost of £7.10.0d for 100 copies with postage costing 2d (old pence) a copy. Front Wheels, as the magazine was called, was intended to be produced quarterly and in fact issue 2 did appear four months later in September. Thirteen pages of print,  achieving quite a high standard of presentation and content.

Spring rally 1960, convoy of BSAs on route to  the hill climb

Issues three and four eventualy appeared, but it soon became obvious that Fred Heath, who had only carried on with the new club to grease the wheels for the transition period was starting to take more of a back seat since the front cover of issue three stated simply that Josephine Addison had taken over the treasurer’s role,

Issue four, published late in 1960  was announced as the last of the quarterly magazines to be published   because it was felt that a monthly issue would keep members better informed of forthcoming events, also in this issue several committee changes were announced as follows: Membership Secretary Colin Bryce, Events Secretary Peter Bowler, and magazine editor Was now just Roger Judge.

The first AGM had been  held on October 24th 1959 and by July 1960 the number of members had risen to 136. It is sad to note however, that having done so much in such a short time, not one of the original nucleus of founder members was left on the committee by the autumn of 1961.

1961 saw the start of radical changes  taking place within our club, the format of the magazine was to be eight pages, it was launched as “No 1” and dated January 1961, in “Secretaries notes” on page 1 Colin Bryce announced the arrival of Warren Hasel and Bill Sullivan to the committee, and on page 2 our treasurer gave the club balance as one hundred and forty seven pounds five shillings and ninepence. Also in this issue an explanation was give about the “ten year test” which was about to become law (now known simply as the MOT) and further on a new innovation for the club was a report on the  first monthly social evening  at “The Royal Connaught” in  Holborn in London on the tenth of December, not a huge turnout but a very enjoyable evening was the verdict from the members who did turn up.

The second of the monthly magazines was entitled “Vol 1 No 2”, thus setting the trend for future editions.

In “Club announcements” penned by Eddy Davies there was news of  several events that  club members were invited to, including the Morgan club’s “Malvern Rally” and the MCC High speed trial at Silverstone (indirectly, as it was necessary to join the  Morgan club as our club hadn’t yet had any dealings with the MCC (The Motor Cycling Club), the new events sectretary had been busy!, also in this issue was the second of what proved to be a long running series of articles entitled “Universal Torque”, right on the last page and a sure sign of the times was an advert for a 1936 TW10 with lots of new parts and in going condition for £18!. Those were indeed the days.

Image result for banda duplicator
This is a picture of a similar machine to the one Warren used, every single page had to be hand-fed, so for an eight page magazine it was 800 operations for 100 copies, and our membership was around 160 by this time.

In issue 3 of the club magazine dated March 1961 it was announced in “Universal Torque” that the very first competitive event of the club would be a Treasure hunt, which would occupy the Spring Rally slot in club ‘s 1961 calendar, and would start at The Cromwell Inn in Stevenage and end at the Jubilee cafe on the A1 trunk road, also in this edition there was a letter from the assistant keeper of the Science Museum in London to say that, in answer to the letter from Warren Hasel it was being considered that the BSA FWD exhibit might be displayed alongside the Front end of a Morris mini car, also in this issue was an amusing poem from Mrs Pollard all about the new “ten year test” which was now compulsory.

Issue 4 contained a write-up of the disastrous Land’s end trial endured by Peter Bowler and Colin Bryce.

Part 1 of the colour supplement Top left Bill Sullivan competing in a driving test at Hendon, bottom left a Cartoon by Warren of a BSA in a breakers yard- – -a common sight sadly. Top right P.Bowler’s “Jenny Pod ” by Loch Ness
Part 2 of the colour supplement Top left checkpoint on the Spring Treasure hunt, top right a BSA leaves the start point, bottom right Bob Cleveland proudly holds the Twinpot Trophy that he has just won

Up till now everything seemed to be set fair for our fledgeling club, but there were dark clouds on the horizon, the problem was that the monthly magazine was eating into our funds faster than they were being replenished in a sort of Micawber situation, Warren Hasel and Peter Bowler were conspiring at that time to come up with an alternative, basically the idea was to try and print our own magazines but in those days the only options were Roneo, Gestetner or,    as Warren discovered– – -Banda

In all there were six monthly issues of “Front Wheels” printed by The Edith Williams firm and edited by Eddy Davies, but in the last one which appeared in June 1961 it was announced in the editorial that it was the last one in this format, it was not good news to the membership as everybody had got used to the style and presentation that was the norm for this type of motor club at this time, however Warren had got hold of rather battered hand-fed Banda machine  and so we pressed ahead with trying to do the best we could for the club without any more drain on our finances than was necessary.

Also in this issue there was actualy a colour supplement created by Warren  using the Banda method as a foretaste of what to expect in the coming months, It should be mentioned at this point that Warren was a top-rate engineering draughtsman, in addition he was a talented artist who made a huge contribution to our club as is shown by some of the magazine covers below.

Harking back to 1961, this was a really remarkable year for our club we had had our first Competitive Treasure hunt, we had two BSAs going round Silverstone in the MCC high speed trial- – -and winning awards, and we had been represented in the Morgan Club’s biggest rally, “The Malvern” two three-wheelers took part and one finished the course. it was quite a tough all-night affair with some difficult hills, but Colin Bryce navigated P Bowler’s trike to the finish successfully, and on July 30th the first “Challenger’s rally took place in Chelmsford organised by Bill Sullivan.In addition to all this we had applied for and succeeded in getting affiliation with the ACU (Autocycle Union) which had far reaching benefits for our members with three-wheelers.

Our membership was still growing but at a slower pace after  the the heady days of 1960, unfortunately our membership turnover was a headache as a large proportion were impoverished students living on a shoestring and the rate of attrition in the form of cars being taken to breaker’s yards was very high, one yard for instance near Tottenham Court road broke a BSA three-wheeler every week, most of the parts being sent for scrap.

       As mentioned there were six issues of the Banda magazines, it was recognized by the  committee that eventually we had to think about the future of the club lifeline and come up with a much better way of presenting it, whichever system we adopted it would mean also having to procure a long-carriage typewriter since both Roneo and Gestetner stencils were of foolscap length (this, along with quarto were the standard sizes of paper back in those days!) to accomodate two pages of type, after some carefull study of both it became apparent that Roneo had the edge as they were offering Electronic stencils as a means of displaying pictures, maps and drawing etc.

Peter Bowler contacted Roneo about the possibility of the club buying a cheap machine, but even a second-hand one was £60 with a box of stencils thrown in, so a committee decision had to be made asap.

As could be expected an urgent meeting was called, and after  discussion went on long long after everybodies bedtimes it was decided that every committee member would loan the club £10, the question of the special typewriter was also discussed, and Peter Bowler said that he knew a girl who was a typist whose office was updating and that there might be such a machine available to sell,  so, arrangements were made, an evening visit to an office block near London Wall in the city, and  Peter was confronted with an aray of all sorts of machines placed on a large table, and in the middle was a long carriage machine  (an Imperial) with a £5 ticket on it!,  All seemed well when Peter arrived home with this quite new looking machine but when he tried it out he found that it was fitted with Pica type instead of Elite, which was much smaller and what we were used to, however it would do

This is the same model as the one purchased for £5 in 1961
This is a Model 250 Roneo hand-turned Duplicator the same as that bought by the club in 1961

till the club could afford a typewriter of it’s own.

During the six month period when the Banda magazines were published some committee changes were announced,  after Fred Heath had given up the treasurerers job Josephine Addison had taken the job on but suddenly in late 1960 she decided to go and live abroad, Warren agreed to do the job temporarily and then a new member Ernest Bethell who had joined the club in  October 1961 was press-ganged into the job Roger Judge had dropped out and Eddy Davies had stepped into the role of Chairman, Bill Sullivan  also joined the Committee at that time, due to the faded nature of all those Banda magazines the author of this feature apologises for not having the exact date of all these changes!

In the September magazine Roger Leavesley broke new ground for the club by announcing that he was going to organise regular monthly meetings for members in Coventry,  in November of that year Bill Sullivan organised the very first “Nautical Rally”, so named becaise the award for winning it was a trophy formerly belonging to a rowing club, complete with oars!,  and as As 1961 wound down it was AGM time again, this time it was taking place at “The Dickinsons Arms” in Holloway, and for the first time maps were provided on the last page of the October magazine in rather faded purple Banda colour, one of the new innovations called “The Enthusiasts award” was also launched at this time. The balance mentioned at this meeting was £89-14s-0p, it was just as well our finances had improved so well as a result of printing our own magazine that plans were also mentioned of buying a suitable typewriter, Peter Bowler suggested we wait for Gamages sale this winter as they had this type of machine in stock, he worked nearby and would go and hopefully get one.

In February 1962 everything came together at last, the first issue of the magazine appeared, four pages typed in pica by Peter, the rest in elite by Warren, and  printed with the new  Roneo, we were in business at last,  the other news that month was that Eddy Davies had stepped down and left the committee, he had served this club well during the formative period and his steadying influence would be sorely missed, now there was no-one left of the founder members who had been so instrumental in getting the club established.

As Eddy had left us soon after the AGM we had to wait until the February Committee meeting to discuss the situation, during that meeting Warren Proposed Peter Bowler as the new Chairman, this was seconded by Ernest and carried.

As Peter drove home after this meeting he wondered whether he was up to this new responsibility, he was aware of his own shortcomings but overcoming them was going to be a challenge he had to face, the future of our club depended on it.

In an effort to recruit more members an advert had been placed in “Motor Sport” early in the year and in the March editorial of “Front wheels” it was announced that we had

This is the route card for the “Icknield Orient” which took place in 1963

attracted some enquiries from overseas. Also on the front page the first of the themed “Icknield” rallies organised by Peter Bowler was to take place in April along roads and lanes that included the famous old Roman road the  Icknield way, and the theme, naturaly enough was also Roman, unfortunately no route card remains of this so a later example  is displayed  on the left. Also in this issue  was mention of the the arrival of a new member Sid Rayfield at the “Royal Connaught” meeting, Sid regaled us all with stories of his exploits in the MCC trials in which he had been successfull in winning awards for several years in his specialy adapted V twin Three-wheeler (This car was many years later acquired by Graham Skillen, and is still in regular use at the time of writing (December 2019).

In the March 1963 mag and invitation appeared from Ian Clay, competition secretary of the Morgan club to thier sprint at Church Lawford in May of that year, Also in this edition was an interesting letter from Grenville Wooley about a talk he had with a Mr Potter, an ex design engineer with BSA, part of the discussion was about the series 7 Scout, which had been mentioned in the previous magazine, apparently it had a radical new suspension of very advanced design and Mr Potter had tried to get hold of one but it was a pre-production prototype and had to be retained at the factory, and was never seen again

Moving forward to June 1962 and the “Malvern” rally came round once more, again there were two BSAs entered, and as  the Bowler/Bryce team  had  learned a lot from the previous year they knew more about what to expect,  and they nanaged an almost perfect score on the rally and achieved a win!, and to add to the Morgan club’s chagrin Peter Morgan, the then head of the Morgan works who supervised the Concours awarded the top prize to Jenny Pod as well- – – – -, a milestone indeed for the BSA Front Wheel Drive Club.






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