The Exeter Trial


The Edinburgh trial of 1977, by Pete King



This appeared in the May 1981 club magazine

Before sounding off on my experiences of this year’s Edinburgh Trial, a few words about pre-war BSA cars on trials.
Before the war the Company used to enter teams of threewheelers for the trials and there were also some interesting specials. One car owned then by a Mr. Cope had a 250cc VIlliers 2-stroke engine in the boot driving the rear wheel independently, this being started on the inevitable down hill approach to the section amid a cloud of smoke. Another model had a genuine 3 wheel drive with a ratchet arrangement on the rear wheel which normally allowed the propshaft to rotate slightly slower than the wheel.
When the front wheels started to spin on a section then the ratchet drove the rear wheel. Of course none of this is allowed now, likewise reversing up the sections which would be ideal for a FWD three-wheeler which my wife Hilary uses every day. Preparation of the car for trials consists of moving as much weight as possible forward. To accommodate this I have fitted a box to the chassis in front of the radiator which carries the battery and tools.
Leaving home early Friday evening with Hilary passengering, we drove up to near Coventry to spend a few hours with another BSA owner and No. 36. Geoff Nunn, but unfortunately after working all week on the car, the crank moved out of line on his Vee-twin engine but after having the car towed home he still came up to spectate, meeting us at Litton Slack.
After scrutineering at Coventry we started at 3.07 am for the night drive. Now this is the one part of the trial where I think we have a definite advantage over the bikes, although I nearly always have the hood down, you get quite a bit of warmth from the engine and, of course, what navigating there is, is easier with your passenger sitting next to you. After collecting our numbers at Two Dales we carried on to the first section, Clough Wood. By this time It was Just beginning to get light and after letting down the tyres to 5 psi, we attempted the first section. I had fitted new tyres for this event and with moving my toolbox further forward, the car now performed much better than on the two previous events; we still experienced a fair bit of wheel spin but once we were off the line there was no stopping us.
This was my first Edinburgh and one of the problems that I find of competing in any trial for the first time, is not knowing what the sections are like. I usually have a chat with the marshals on the start line and have previously made some notes on friend’s experiences taking part in BSA’s, although these were not much use for the next hill, Litton Slack. BSA’s have climbed Litton Slack only to fail on the left hander at the top. The lack of lock on the BSA often being as much of a drawback as the FWD. After a fair bit of trouble reaching the start line, we attempted the section, I would have liked to have thought that we got halfway but anyway we ran out of grip and had to come back down.
One of the nice things about Litton Slack is the fact that as people fail the section, and there were quite a few, you don’t have to be towed up or reverse down but just turn right and drive down the field. The only problem being that the field is littered with rocks, we climbed out of the ruts on the section and then with all the wheels locked, skidded about 20ft. down hill to stop with a large rock jammed under the chassis and both front wheels just clear of the ground. A couple of people helped me to lift the car, “THANK YOU”, whilst Hilary rolled the rock clear.
So round and out by the other road and up to the top to pump up the tyres. I don’t have security bolts on my rims and one of the tyres had started to break away from the rim. I pumped the tyres up to 25 psi. which seated It again and then stopped at the next garage to pump it up hard to reseal it on a compressor that was older than the car. After this 1 didn’t let the tyres down below 7 psi.
Millstone Edge; we cleared the section, but had problems on the special test which included driving around a marker, where we were handicapped by our large turning circle necessitating reversing half way round.
A short drive on the road to Bamford Clough which, to the best of my knowledge, a BSA has yet to climb, and we failed to set any new standards. A quick hand brake turn and we had cleared Haggside 1. Haggside 2 was so deeply rutted that I think the front wheels could only go up the section no matter which way you try to steer. Haydale was a bit greasy at the start and very bouncy for us at the top.
A not very quick hack around the Bennetston Hall Hotel car park for the second special test, and on to New Tunstead. This was long, wet and muddy which we bounced over to the top. Taxal needed another handbrake turn to get round the 1st bend and then we just managed to pull away on the stop-and-go test and clear up to the top.
Now the lowest part of the BSA is the brake operating arm and somewhere up the section it had taken a clout sufficient to shear a 3/16″ woodruft key so we arrived at the top with no brakes. Leaving the car in the lay-by, I got a lift down to the town and found a suitable friendly garage who let me make up a key. The final special test I forgot to stop astride line ‘C’ so least said ….. Now to Cheeks which is loaded against BSAs, The start line is along- side the hill, you have to start on full left lock to get round on to the hill. There is no distance to get up speed to put the back round on the handbrake so the only possibility with the trike is to get both front wheels spinning going round the bend keeping on full lock let the car ride up the bank on the right hand side and slide sideways down the bank and then up the section.
Unfortunately, without a locked differential and with all the weight of the car on the left hand wheel, it gripped and we stopped with the right hand wheel trying to dig a hole in the hill. A little bit in reverse and then an easy drive up the section, even changing up to 2nd gear!. Finally, on to Axe Edge which we cleared physically, but I’m not so sure about our time on the double restart, wait and see what the results say. Down to Buxton’s Pavilion Gardens in time for a pint and what a finish it was, with a Great Dane dog show and a canoe club also meeting there. See every- one on the Exeter, when we might even raise a team. Pete King, Hayes, Middx.


Pete King on “Cheeks”

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