Frank Cope

Frank Cope, the legend lives on—–
       Post-war portrait Of Frank Cope           The “Triple” award
Foreward by Roy Gillett

Sometimes I feel a little isolated in the Birmingham area, a Beezaman in a Morgan stronghold. Apart from one close friend with a Scout, there is only Martin Mackenzie, and he has been Beezaless since I bought his trike over a year ago, while having my Trike M.O.T tested last year, however, I came to hear of a very famous driver of our marque, Frank Cope. I have not yet met him as he has been in South Africa for a time, but he has been kind enough to send me an article for the magazine on his experiences with his racing and Trials BSA. Frank Cope’s achievements with his extraordinary BSA were During the 1930s, and yet he is still racing motorcycles at the age of 70….a remarkable man, but the rest of the story must be his—————-.Frank Cope’s story
This first appeared in the March and April 1965 issues of “Front Wheels”
edited at that time by Roy Gillett, to whom this was sent by Frank himself
Now with the addition of Pictures provided by Frank’s Grandson Andy Cope, which have been restored and the feature revised and re-presented by psb
It was rather strange, the manner in which I came to ride BSA Threewheelers in competitions, and all rather unexpected. For many years, I had been the sidecar competition rider for Velocettes, and had ridden one of their K.T.T and side-car machine in these competitions with a fair amount of Success. I enjoyed this immensely; travelling around the country with my passenger, towing the motorcycle and-sidecar behind the car. It did make such a difference on wet weekends to take the machine to the venue in comfort, especially when it was as far north as Carlisle or as far south as Exeter.
I used usually to travel on the Thursday, practice on the Friday and ride in the Trial on the Saturday: home on Sun- day, All most enjoyable, as Messrs Veloce paid all the expenses; but all this came to an abrupt end when out hunting one day after the horses had been laid up for a week or so, due to frost, they were rather skittish. Too much food and not enough work, which seems to affect humans in much the same manner; but, this particular Saturday morning the Albrighten Woodland Hunt had met at the “Fighting Cocks” at Romsley, and soon after moving off from the meet the Hunt found a fox in a local copse and the hounds were soon in full cry.
I was some distance away from the other members and put the horse at a stream which he first partly refused and then jumped, stopping immediately on landing on the other side. This unseated me and left me hanging around his neck, prior to dropping off, when he brougit his knee up to my stomach and soon laid me low on the turf.
After all this I was in hospital for some time. A major operation made such a weakened stomach that I could not ride motor cycles in competitions until I had fully recovered. As the doctor informed me this would take some years, and, as I did not want to give up competition riding, I thought the BSA Trike was the next best thing and so it proved to be.
I approached BSAs who informed me they would only be too pleased to put a machine at my disposal. So, off I went on my new venture, but it was not as easy as I’d anticipated, as, climbing hills with the f.w.d, with the weight on the front wheels and adhesion at the tyres got less the more severe the gradient, so I promptly made a new front bumper of 2 inch round tubing and filled it with lead. This made a vast difference, but still I couldn’t get the adhesion at the front wheels that I wanted.
I had a fair measure of success, but nothing approaching that of the Velocette and sidecar, so I thought of further means of improving the performance on hills; the only solution I could think of was drive on all three wheels. I looked around and decided that a Velocette 2-stroke engine with an inlet valve in the crankcase would do; Veloce had used it for experimental purposes and tried out in the practice TT races. It had plenty of power low down, but did not greatly exceed the power of the standard 250 2-stroke at full bore, so they dropped the idea of manufacturing in quantities due to the extra expense, and disposed of the two experimental engines to me, I had used these engines in the freak hillclimb at Redmarley some years previously and also at grass- track racing, but as they tended to overheat, I fitted an aluminium water jacket onto the cylinder barrel after turning off the top
5 fins in the lathe. I had also had the radiator on the rear tube of the trike which kept the engine nicely cool. This had been lying in the corner of the workshop for some years and I thought it it might be the solution to the r.w.d. for the BSA.
I fitted the engine into the boot along with the radiator and a Triumph gearbox, which took the primary drive from the engine, and then fitted a sprocket on the rear wheel, giving a ratio in bottom of about 20:1. I also fitted a spring chain-tension sprocket to take up the play. Upon trying this out on some local hills, leaving the passenger in charge to engage the gear, operate the clutch and the throttle of the extra engine, we soon made a team that could gallop up the local hills without any trouble at all. We entered in the local trials and also the M.C.C events I must say that we had to keep the lid of the boot open about two inches to let out the exhaust gases and to provide a little ventilation for the engine radiator. It amazed people to see all the smoke coming out of the boot; they often thought we must be on fire, but they were even more amazed at the way the car climbed the hills. It was pretty well invincible in the M.C.C trials, one of the best awards I won with it was the Triple Award, a silver signpost pointing to Edinburgh, Exeter Lands End. This award was for the three events, to the competitor who did not lose any marks in these three trials, and, as the total distance was just under 1000 miles, you can understand that it was no mean feat for the BSA. There were very few of these trophies awarded for solo or three-wheeled entries
as can be well understood. Surprising to relate, I also won a cup for the most silent machine amongst the motorcycles threewheelers. This was not really so surprising though, as the vehicle ran like a dream the engine being very smooth; the test was taken on an open road and it was a good job it was not taken on the hills because that was when I had the Velocette in operation, and I must confess it was rather noisy, I cannot remember the BSA ever failing on the road for any mechanical reason whatsoever. It was most reliable and such a pleasure to drive. I might mention that I did not
I have been road racing since the war on various machines, my present mount being a 250 Norton and, though I have ridden foreign ones on occasions, I much prefer to ride British machines, especially when they are made in Birmingham, where I was born
The old BSA threewheeler lies at one of my Daughter’s farms where the grandchildren reduced it to a battered old war-horse. It was badly knocked about during the war when the firm I am with became an army auxiliary workshop… with the rather confined space for storage and, on occasions, 200 motorcycles being received in a week for repairs, the BSA was pushed from pillar to post. I went to look for it one day but could not find it; when the war was over it was discovered under a large heap of coke.The grandchildren playing about in it on wet days are getting just as much pleasure as I did. I could never have disposed of it to be broken up for scrap, having been such an old friend of mine. I am pleased it is giving other members of the family so much pleasure.
My three greatest sporting treasures are : a Brooklands gold star for lapping Brooklands at over 100 mph, The replica of the Lord Woolavington Trophy for winning the Port Elizabeth 200 in South Africa: and the Triple Award for not losing a mark in the three major M.C.C Trials. I value the Triple Award, won on the BSA Threewheeler, more than any of the others. That’s the end of the story of an excellent car.

Frank Cope

Mr Cope’s achievements with his extraordinary BSA took place during the 1930’s, and yet he is still racing motorcycles at the age of 70!.

Roy Gillett.

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