Author's note: This is approx 16,500 words long, it might be preferable to save it and read off-line!
This series of recollections will dwell on the adventures, the successes and the failures that a small group of club members experienced during the first two decades of our club's existence whilst competing in sporting trials organised by the M.C.C. (Motor cycling Club Ltd), at that time more important things were happening within this club, but whilst mentioning these from time to time it is not the main subject I have in mind when writing this, and I will make reference only when it is necessary for the continuity of the story to be maintained, I hope readers will bear with me when I begin the story with a little bit of my own background, and how it all started for me.
Since the age of 16 I had been a very keen biker, before my time in the RAF I had (like most young men of that era) possessed a succession of elderly machines, but when serving overseas I'd had the opportunity to save hard for a decent motor-bike as and when I was demobbed, and when the time came I invested (unwisely as it turned out) in a BSA A7 'Shooting star', whose performance proved to compare unfavourably with other contemporary 500c.c. twins, however the A10 'Road Rocket', my next acquisition turned out to be a much better bet, and I had three good years with it and somehow managed to work bikes out of my system.
Since I had never bothered to go in for the car driving test I was obliged, when in 1959 I eventually started thinking about a car, to consider a three-wheeled one, which I could drive on the bike licence.
Money-wise I was a bit hard up, after the RAF I had worked at Blackbushe airport for a good few years and had pinned my hopes on the future of independent civil aviation by studying for a 'C' licence and by getting practical experience with the likes of Silver City and Eagle Airways on a variety of aircraft types of that era, Vikings, Hermes, Yorks, and of course that monarch of the built-in-headwind the Bristol Freighter, also during a four month stint in Libya there had been a Douglas DC2 and some DC3s, (I could write a book about that trip!).
However in late December 1958 the unthinkable happened, the trooping contracts that were the lifeblood of the independents dried up, and I found myself redundant, and at the age of 24 having to start all over again, my parents weren't exactly over the moon at having their errant son returning home again, especially when I got a local job, in a garage------.
Life at Blackbushe had been hard, but very well paid, it was like having all the good bits of RAF life with none of the bad, but when I returned to London, tail between legs, all the camaraderie, free and easy life and nights out with the lads were left behind for ever, It's strange but true that sometimes bad times work out for the ultimate good, but at the time I didn't realize this, and, feeling very depressed, I had to knuckle down to working amongst strangers in an environment that was totally alien, and doing work which was routine and boring, but a crust had to be earned.
After just under a year working on cars disenchantment had well and truly set in, and I managed to get started with ICT (now ICL and soon to be Fujitsu) as a trainee field service engineer, but of course at that time the starting salary was pitifully low, however I had a toe in the door, I sold my beloved BSA A.10 Road Rocket, bought a suit and all the other bits and pieces required for the new job, and with what was left-----the BSA trike, bought in September 1959 for £65, quite expensive at that time but this 1936 TW10 four cylinder was in very good shape, and promised reliable and cheap motoring until I could pass my car driving test and get a 'proper vehicle with four wheels', (a remark made by my Dad at the time!).
Working for ICT meant lots of technical training, this took place at the company training college at Letchworth and over the years with that company the trike did sterling service taking me to and from those endless courses.
I started in at the bottom, with key punches, and eventually went right through the range of mechanical machines to the mighty tabulators, enormously complicated punched-card data processing machines with thousands of moving parts, and then, after studying hard, and burning the midnight oil I graduated to electro-mechanical and ultimately electronic machines, (relays and thermionic valves in those days, but that is another story).
When I had bought the BSA the former owner passed the very first issue of the club magazine on, so I thought why not?, and applied for membership, it was now late September, but unfortunately I missed the first AGM of the club as details had already been sent out in early September for the meeting in October.
Things were not quite as well organised in those far off days, and I didn't hear anything till I received issue two of the club magazine later in the year.
That winter I tidied the bodywork up, sprayed the trike BMC Tartan red, and looked forward to the Spring rally and the chance to meet other owners of this type of vehicle, how relentlessly the wheels were turning towards an association that turned out to be lifelong, not only with the BSA and the club, but with Audrey, who I managed to persuade to join me on that historic first club event, and our first time out together!.
We now 'fast forward' to 1961, Colin Bryce and I had finished in the previous year's Morgan Three-wheeler club rally in June, (The 'Malvern') Colin was Gen Sec and I at that time was events Sec, and we both wanted to do something a bit more challenging, and also try to put the BSA club on the map.
After some discussion we decided to have a crack at the M.C.C Land's end trial, little did we realize that this decision was to result in probably the most memorable weekend in both our lives---, Memorable, and completely disastrous.
The job at ICT was going very well now, but money was still tight, and the one thing most important to me was that the BSA was my only transport, and whatever happened over the Easter holiday it had to be back on the road for Tuesday morning, since I was due in Letchworth on the Tuesday morning for yet another course!.
(The thought of actually going by TRAIN just didn't occur to me, the BSA went everywhere).
M.C.C. sporting trials, what they were like, and what we could expect to be put in front of us were, during that period, completely unknown to us, Sid Rayfield, who was the only person who had any experience of these events had not yet joined our club, and the national motor cycling press rarely alluded to this type of motor sport.
Obviously the trike had to be prepared for 'axle bashing', so power and traction seemed good starting points, Engine wise I was fortunate in having acquired a 1204 cc short engine whose bores were in good condition, however the bottom end was in need of tlc, when dismantled it became evident that the crank was rather different to the 1075 cc unit in that the big-end journals were of greater diameter, but narrower, so the drilled con-rods were out of the question, however the trike SL flywheel would fit, I was worried about balance, so all the bits were delivered to a well known specialist in Southwark for crack-testing, grind and metal and finally static balance, as a matter of interest I had a fifth rod metalled as a spare.
With the collection of parts that included the engine was a genuine series five twin-carb manifold, a rare beast! The twin Solexes I rebuilt (Solex had a service agency within walking distance of my home), the only parts I needed were two throttle spindles---easy! The only modification to the engine was to drill and tap (2BA I think) the cam shaft oil feed pipe, a brass plug drilled out to 1/16th of an inch was fitted; the engine had a good oil pump, but there was excessive end play in the driven gear, so the housing and the end plate were ground back to suit the main gear, and that was that, oil pressure at last.
The MCC had warned me that it was mandatory for a robust tow hook to be fitted, so a very crude affair was made out of a spring bolt bent into a "U" and connected to the trike by way of a large piece of angle iron and two Scout bumper brackets, what a shame I didn't fit new clutch springs, still quite cheap at Basil Roy's, but no, they were overlooked, and the disaster was made inevitable.
As I had a good pair of 19 inch wheels I invested in a couple of Avon trials supreme 19X4 inch tyres, no security bolts at this stage, but experience showed they were needed, and they were fitted a couple of trials later, these wheels were fitted right at the start, with an ordinary tired wheel mounted in the normal place on the off-side of the trike as a spare.
Colin arrived nice and early, and while having a meal he informed me that his wife was expecting their first baby 'some time this weekend', well how do you follow that? We checked over all our equipment, spares, maps, cans of petrol, water and oil etc and set of in good time to our checking-in point near Staines, it was a chilly night, and raining slightly.
By tradition the Lands end trial started on Good Friday evening from several different points in the country and then converged on the official start point which this year was near Marlborough, and then a 'touring' section to Taunton, we left Staines, picked up the A.4 at Maidenhead, negotiated the Reading inner relief road passed the 'Jack of both sides' (good memories of that pub!) and as we got out onto the Newbury road a whole convoy of fast moving Tate & Lyle trucks roared by and nearly blew us off the road.
The new engine had settled down well, the power and torque were very much better than the old 1075, but we did notice a tendency for the clutch to slip ever so slightly going up hill on power, with the benefit of hindsight we should have abandoned there and then, but carried on to the Taunton control, where we had a couple of hours to kill.
I had thought that the clutch release mechanism might not have enough play at the end of travel, this would have caused our problem, but it seemed alright, anyway I gave it another half turn, then went to look at the machinery rolling in, It was indeed a very large event, with literally hundreds of vehicles of all sorts, bikes solo and sidecar (did I say sidecar?, in most cases it was a flat board with grab-handles), trials special cars, vintage cars, saloon cars--- I think it was then that we started to realize what we were up against.
At last it was our turn to be off, I think it was around 04:00, but our tiredness was forgotten as we roared off into the night, the first challenge was the infamous Porlock hill, that clutch slip was still in evidence and we boiled, but made it OK, then we were going downhill into Lynmouth and instead of steam from the engine it was smoke from the front brake!, as a section called Southern wood had been abandoned due the rescue vehicle becoming bogged down, we were diverted and our first section was Station lane in Lynton, imagine our excitement as we waited our turn at our first observed section ever, however this soon changed to chagrin as, after a good start we were stopped for a restart test on a very steep part of the section and the engine overheated and blew a water hose!!, so back down the hill ,trying to hide our red faces, looking for somewhere to do repairs.
We found a place with street lamp and nearby stream and surveyed the damage, obviously we could do nothing about the clutch, but the water hose was a piece of flexible corrugated pipe, amongst my spares was just such a thing, so soon we were on the road again, For us the trial was really over at this point, but we thought we would have one last try and Colin navigated us to Beggars roost; This section is quite fearsome, especially in the early hours, pitch black, and with a dodgy clutch!, it consists of loose stones and boulders, rising steeply to around 1 in 3, and always doctored by the locals (who were there in their hundreds ) with tons of shingle for this event, we tried but the clutch was now almost incapable of drive, so that, was that.
We were in agreement that we should try and pick a route back that wasn't to hilly, Lynton hill made it impossible to go back via Taunton, and as we were fairly well up towards the high ground of Exmoor, and on the Barnstaple road, we set of, with Colin leaping out and pushing up all the hills, obviously we could not go on much further at this rate, it was by now around six in the morning, so we decided to stop and try and get some sleep.
Of course this was impossible, and after about an hour of discomfort, cold and worry we carried on towards Barnstaple, the hills were still very steep, and poor Colin was getting near exhaustion, at Churchtown we were still climbing, but a bit further on at Blackmoor gate the road seemed to have more downhill bits as we headed down that damp misty valley.
At that time there was no real plan, obviously we would not get home like this, but as we neared the outskirts of Barnstaple we found our salvation, A breakers yard! It was still quite early on this Easter Saturday morning, but the overnight rain had eased off and it looked like being a reasonable day.
As we limped through the gates we kept our eyes open for BSAs, and were rewarded with the sighting of at least three, so we parked outside a bungalow right in the centre.
The proprietor was located quite easily-he was having breakfast, and after hearing our story we were cordially invited to join him!!, after all that had happened we had worked up a fair appetite, and did full justice to the meal his wife put in front of us.
This was obviously no ordinary breakers yard, and our new found friend was no ordinary breaker, for as we sat having our coffee he gently pushed a door open with his foot and revealed---guess what?, no you are wrong!, it was something that to an old car enthusiast was like a Van Gogh to an art collector, or a P51-D to an aircraft buff, it was in fact a type 35B Bugatti, French blue and nickel, racing tyres, a masterpiece of engineering, we just couldn't believe our eyes, we could touch it, sit in it, and above all covet it; and when he quite casually told us it had been a birthday present from his wife and that it had cost £1000, then a little bit of envy crept in,
After breakfast we tore ourselves away from the Bugatti and were guided round the yard (it was a large field actually) by the owner, from memory I think his name was Whiston but I couldn't be sure, he obviously collected cars in a big way because in the various sheds dotted around the field were his 'special cars' we saw a Daimler sleeve-valve limousine, an enormous car that had latch-key locks complete with solid brass swivel plates over the key-holes, and further on was a Hitler-type Mercedes, I think you would call it an open landau, very rare to see one in such good condition there were more, many more in fact, but the years have dimmed the memory, (oh, I remember a BSA V twin motorbike!).
It was now around 09:30, time to select a donor car for our clutch, I think it was a trike, I know it had an Elder tree growing through it!. After between 6 and 7 hours of work Colin and I had stripped both three-wheelers and rebuilt mine with the good parts (still putting those springs back, would I never learn?), time to say goodbye and get back on the road.
We eased ourselves into the late afternoon traffic, turned left onto the A39, went through Barnstaple, ignored the A361 going east, and stayed on the A39 going west, had we lost our way? not with Colin on board we hadn't, no we had decided in our foolhardiness to carry on to the finish at Newquay!, (well we were pretty young at the time).
The trike was going very well, and we made Newquay in less than two hours, and were still in time to officially finish, academic really as we hadn't been up any observed sections, but it made us feel a little better We found a cheapish hotel, crashed down for an hour or so, had a meal and then went off to the social evening at the Hotel which was the headquarters-for-the-event, there was beer, and food, music, and plenty of people who would listen to our story, a story that got taller as the beer and the ambience of the whole thing got to us, it was good to relax and enjoy ourselves knowing our troubles were behind us, it was fortunate that we didn't know they had not yet really started.
Next morning, after breakfast we did a little sightseeing, walked on the deserted beach, admired the cloudless blue sky, the curve of the bay and the spotless white of the Hotels and houses above, then set off for home, it was a beautiful spring day, with primroses just starting to appear in those sheltered Cornish lanes.
As we started to climb up the long hilly road towards Bodmin moor the clutch started to slip----.
In the intervening years since it all happened I have gone over this journey many times in my mind, and I am pretty sure Colin has as well, now, forty odd years on, the misery of it all has been replaced by a certain amount of nostalgia, and maybe a little regret that we took it all so seriously, and not as a lesson in character building.
Bodmin to London is a pretty long journey in a sick three-wheeler, I nursed it very carefully, using the gears, crawling up hills, going as fast as possible downhill to get momentum, even so by the time we got to Exeter Colin was pushing up hills once more, we had a slight respite on the long downhill slope coming off the Blackdowns toward Ilminster, leaving Devon behind the road was a bit more level, but at Wincanton the engine was really overheating seriously, and I started to have doubts about the trike getting us all home.
somewhere on Salisbury plain, I forget exactly where, we were making our slow progress along a winding bit of the A303 when an A35 came towards us going sidewards, out of control, very fast, then it spinned, it filled our vision, I closed my eyes fearing that this was the end, and felt the wind of it going past, had there been another wheel at the back that would have been it!!, the driver got out looking shaken, and we carried on our tedious way---- Colin did wonders; I think he was near collapse when we got to Amesbury, so I pulled in to a lay-by to review the situation.
I found a telephone box and called home, but my family were out enjoying the wonderful Easter Sunday weather, so no reply there, an A.A. man appeared, but could only offer to get us towed to the nearest garage, (this was many years before relay).
I should say that we did not have the cash for a tow to London, and I just didn't relish the thought of leaving the trike, but Beacon Hill east of Amesbury on the A303 had to be climbed before we got to the more sedate terrain of Hampshire.
On the verge in that lay-by was a heap of very gritty sand, I drained the clutch, and put about a dozen handfuls in, I do not know who was more horrified, both Colin and the A.A. man were vehemently against it, and I knew it was a desperate gamble, but I did it.
We carried on and climbed the hill, After a few miles Colin was pushing again, but the trike seemed to pull marginally better, eventually the A303 turned into the A30, and as we went up the hill out of Hartley Whitney on to dear old Blackbushe airport number four big-end went.
I knew that this was just about the last significant hill before London so I kept it going hard to the top, then pulled in to remove the plug lead.
We had a rest then, it was getting darker by the minute, I put about a quart of oil in the engine, topped up the sand in the clutch, and pulled the starter----nothing happened----the Bendix was jammed up with sand, so off with the starter, I refitted it in the engaged position, and we were off again, now the whole engine sounded like a bag of bolts being shaken, violently, in fact the trike by this time sounded very bad indeed, but it had been my decision, and now we only had about thirty miles to go.
Our speed now was around ten mph, but we were moving ever nearer to home, Bracknell, Staines, and then Heathrow.
I was concerned that we might get to my home to late for Colin to get a train home, so I dropped him off at Osterly Park underground, and continued on my painfully slow progress to Regents Park, by the time I got home at 11:30 another big-end had failed, but as I opened the garage door I noticed the old engine sitting on the bench----.
I heard from Colin the next day, he had arrived home at midnight, to be greeted by the news that he was a dad!, every cloud has a silver lining.
Surprisingly I found it difficult to sleep that night despite the exhaustion; my mind was working on the problems facing me next day, when somehow the trike had to be returned to a going state.
Work on the trike started very early on the Monday morning, in the short term there was nothing to be done with the 1204 engine, but the old 1075 was good for a few more miles, that was the easy part, sand had got into the gearbox, but not the differential, so I had, for the first time in my life, to reduce a BSA gearbox to its individual parts.
The clutch release, the primary drive, and the intermediate bearings were all u/s, the gears had the appearance of having been sand-blasted, but the teeth were still the right shape. I got a bus down to visit Les Cole, (our spares sec at that time) who lived at Louisville road in south London, we went down into his cellar and found the parts I wanted including a good clutch, and NEW SPRINGS (at last), Les was a really good soul, for he let me owe him the cash for all of this, then it was back on the bus homewards to re-build it all, thank goodness the old motor still had oil in the sump, as I couldn't afford any more! By midnight on that Easter Monday the trike was back on the road, financially I was almost ruined, but I certainly knew how to take a BSA apart!
Our first MCC trial had been a bit of a disaster, Colin and I talked about the Derbyshire, due to take place in October, I didn't rate our chances of success very highly, as the 1204 engine was going to need money spending on it, and I was still paying for the Lands end debacle.
June arrived and We did do quite well in the Morgan Malvern rally, finishing ninth due entirely to Colin's navigating skills, driving on B roads and the occasional green lane wasn't too demanding, but we still had the Derbyshire on our minds.
I eventually decided to bite the bullet and enter using the old 1075, Cord's piston rings and a good top-end job made it go a little better, and I fitted the twin carb assembly, but with twin 1 inch S.U.s, the electric fan, which had played no meaningful part at Lands end due to failure was replaced with a quite reliable little motor with a model aeroplane propeller attached, and the trike was ready.
The trial that year was started at part of the old Rootes motors complex at Coventry, so it was M1, M45, and then as we got onto the A45 the engine suddenly started to behave very strangely, with power surging, backfiring and almost cutting out, so, into a lay-by, up with the bonnet, shine the torch in, what did I find?--- the distributor had loosened and was wobbling about all over the place, I obviously hadn't tightened it properly.
Everybody knows that ignition timing has to be spot-on, but in the middle of the night and in the pouring rain I adjusted it till it 'sounded right' and we carried on.
We arrived at the start at midnight, but we were not due out till about three thirty, the rain had really set in now, and the old stagers were shaking their heads and talking about the dire effect this would have on the muddy sections ahead.
Eventually, after many cups of coffee, we were away, into that cold, wet night, trying not to think about warm beds and sleep-----.
The overnight part was once again 'Touring section', around eighty miles of it, and from memory was mostly A515 via Ashbourne and over the southern part of the Peak District to the breakfast stop at the Spa Hotel in Buxton, If we thought it was raining in Coventry we hadn't seen anything yet, in Derbyshire it was tipping it down, however we had breakfast on our minds, only to be thoroughly disappointed, it was of very poor quality.
It was so wet we started with the hood up, the poor bikers had no such luxury, but I suppose they were better of in a way as they, without exception, had proper wet-weather kit, whilst we didn't, and when the hood went down near the first section did we pay for it.
The engine didn't seem to be pulling as well as it should, so I advanced it ever so slightly, but it still seemed to be a little lacklustre.
Our first section was Putwell one and two, and I have to say we had to be pulled out of both, even the recovery vehicle had trouble in the slippery mud, and I seem to remember that Colin had to get out and walk up, even that method of ascent was difficult and hazardous in the conditions that day, years later the trike climbed this section with relative ease, as it did many of the others we encountered that day, but we could not get up anything.
Litton slack is a long climb through a muddy field, probably around 1 in 6 at the start, then increasing gradually to 1 in 4, with a nasty right-hander into the steepest and most muddy part just near the finish, we just about got started, but suffered the ignominy of having to reverse down and take the escape road, which was nearly as bad!!.
Bamford Clough is a steep, stony lane, and here the lack of power became a real problem, once again we were pulled out by Land-Rover, we also tried Hagside. without any success so, as we were thoroughly soaked, and the engine was without doubt giving sub-standard performance and we were also holding up other competitors, we decided to call it a day.
On our way back to Buxton we stopped for a while, and during a brief lull in the rain I did a further investigation of the distributor, my midnight adjustment had 'sounded about right' but really been 'about wrong', very wrong, to much advance, with higher-than-necessary octane petrol it hadn't given us audible warning, but it did account also for the overheating, ah well------.
New life in the engine put new life into us, and when we got to Buxton, club member Grenville Wooley met us, and we had a look at his very smart and original T.9, and were invited to return to Manchester and stay the night, It's amazing how the thought of a few beers in good company revives the spirits, and that evening was no exception, Grenville took us out in the T9 to a country pub, where, to our pleasant surprise other club members had gathered, a trial to forget and a night to remember!!.
Next morning we set off early for home, letting the cool air blow away the hangover, it was a good long drive but the trike purred along, and we arrived in London late in the afternoon and I took Colin back home to Eltham, as we picked our way through heavy traffic at Hyde Park Corner a gun went off quite near us, and we heard the shot whistle overhead, we didn't stop to investigate--.
Well, here I was with two trials under my belt, and not a success in sight, the '62 Exeter was less that three months away and I had to ask myself is it worth it?, the BSA was still in a good running state, and reliable, but I felt that it didn't have that last ounce of performance that was required, also more grip would be a big help, As with all things in life you don't get "'owt for nowt', and 'nowt' was what I had!.
After some deliberation I decided on a sort of strategy. 1. I would enter the 'Exeter' with the trike mainly unchanged in order to complete the full set of MCC events. 2. I would set my sights on the '62 Lands End, but only enter if I was able to carry out certain changes, And 3. I would look for a job with a company car----, (some hope in those days!).
So far our trials had been in early spring and early autumn, but the 'Exeter' was scheduled for the dead of winter, January the 5th to be exact, and I have never been at my best in the cold weather, so I looked forward to it with mixed feelings.
The trike was virtually unchanged for this event, but during the Autumn I started stripping the 1204 unit so as to get an idea of the cost of rebuilding it, due to the very positive crank-case pressure on this type of engine, sand damage was limited to the front main bearing, but the whole engine had to be flushed and flushed again, number four bore had suffered a broken ring and was badly scored, so a rebore was needed, in addition the crank needed re-grinding (again!).
As the whole thing had been subjected to extended overheating all the valve gear had to be overhauled, when I costed it up I told everyone in the family 'Money only at Xmas please'.
As Colin had expressed a ready willingness to have another go I sent my entry form off, had a good Xmas, and watched the weather----, four days before the event it turned bitterly cold and snowed, and then snowed some more, even in central London there was snow persisting on the ground, however our luck was in and it got mild by Thursday the 4th.
As with the Lands End trial competitors checked in at various parts of the country, converging at the Yeovilton Cafe, Our check-in was at the Peggy Bedford hotel on the A4 near Heathrow, and we left at a little after 11:00 pm, after an incident-free drive we arrived in good time at the Cafe, and as we went in we saw that almost every table had a sleeping biker on it!, the hot and steamy atmosphere obviously making everyone sleepy.
The breakfast stop was Exeter, but we had to earn our meal by tackling a section first, in the dark, Pin-Hill it was called, and I seem to recall we travelled miles down narrow country lanes to get to it, after what seemed an age we arrived, and immediately, without any ceremony, we were waved on, and we roared up this steep, narrow climb, with stones rattling up under the front wings, it is impossible to describe how we felt, after all our failures, to get up this hill, even though it was an easy one, was the turning point, just the tonic we needed.
It was still dark when we got to Exeter, being early January it was pretty cold too, but breakfast that morning was like no other, before or since, we were both on a cloud of euphoria, and couldn't wait to continue and add to our success.
Entrants in that trial were a few short of two hundred, if you think in terms of one leaving every minute then it is apparent that there was a constant procession of arrivals and departures, the organisation behind these events, the surveying, the route mapping, the negotiations for permission, then the vast amount of preparation and manning of the observed sections, every person an unpaid volunteer, then you start to realise what a privilege it was to be there.
At around 07:00 we were off again, climbing up towards Dartmoor, with the first grey fingers of light appearing in the sky, there had been a frost, as we found out on a section called Vinnicombe, it was not so steep as some, but composed of layers of flattish rocks, which with frost on them were a challenge, I think I took the wrong path, because we just got bogged down with wheels spinning getting nowhere.
It was a short drive to Fingle Bridge, which straddles the river Teign in a richly wooded valley, with the great grey mass of Castle Drogo looking down from its lofty perch, the section didn't look to bad from the bottom, but we noticed that there seemed to be a long interval between each competitor, despite the sound disappearing quite quickly.
We were off!!, I had not yet fitted security bolts, but I soon wished I had, for the whole thing was on very soft leaf mold, very good for gardeners, but a devil to get traction on, however the trike was moving forward, up an incline, glimpses of trees, dried brown bracken, people, we were going quite fast to the first hairpin, a right hander, I had to yank the handbrake on to get the tail end round, but had yet to perfect this technique, so we lost momentum and dug a deep hole in the leaf mold and stopped, after backing off we got going again, we got round all the other seven or more hairpins and made the top of this 1500 yard section, now realizing why it had taken so long between each contestant, a long section indeed, but we hadn't cleaned it, still, I would know what to do next time.
Next was Waterworks, which we climbed clean, but failed the compulsory stop-and-restart, I felt pleased about this, for it was harder to climb than Pin-Hill had been, We were now on high ground overlooking Bovey Tracey, and we stopped to make a repair to a loose exhaust pipe, an emergency jubilee-clip job, then down the long hill, with smoke and sparks coming from the front brake, ah! The smell of burning brake lining in the morning!!.
We needed petrol, fortunately even at that early hour there was no problem, with around two hundred potential customers coming along there were many filling stations open, and, like two lambs to the slaughter we went on our way towards Simms. It is my recollection that there was only one section on the old MCC round of events that was more formidable than Beggars Roost, and Simms was it, it was (and probably still is) awesome, whilst I think that Beggars, with a little luck is climbable with a BSA trike, Simms most emphatically isn't, no recovery Land rover here, instead, on this our first introduction to the section, there was a large powerful tractor, with ground anchors and a winch, and with a team of at least six helpers.
We joined the fairly long queue at the bottom, and I thought "that doesn't look to bad, what's all the fuss about", the start was almost on the level, disappearing into an opening in the wood, and then taking a curve to the right and then out of view. We were waved to the start, then away, we made the curve, and then it was in front of us, a sheer wall of earth, probably around 1 in 2 looming over us like a dark shadow from hell, with the first part so level we were at just about peak revs in first, and we made about twenty yards up, then the inevitable, and on to the winch.
This was the first of about five times I was pulled out of Simms altogether, and I don't think I have ever been so frightened, we were literally hanging in mid-air from the winch, and I thought "what if that hook straightens out?", if it had it would have been messy-----but it held!!.
The trial had so far followed a long curve, and we were now driving east back towards Exeter, and our next section was Stretes, and we really should have cleaned it but the engine was overheating due to the length and power absorbing nature of the climb, we were fifty yards from the top when the silencer hit a large rock and got knocked off, I think it flew off and hit the rear number plate as well, so that was that, Colin leapt out, gathered the offending parts and ran up alongside me for the rest of the climb, the noise the trike made was reminiscent of one of the German V.1s I used to watch as a boy in Sussex.
After some quick repairs we continued on to the next section, Harcombe, this minor section included a stop and restart, both of which were successfully completed. As we drove round the Exeter by-pass our previous journey along this bit of road was remembered, then it was a sunny day in spring, now it was a dismal day in winter, and raining, but this time the trike was going well, and we were heading for the last few sections, strung out along the southern part of Devon and Dorset.
Waterloo was well named, again we were fooled by the fairly easy start, and I still have a photo of us scrambling our way up the initial stage of this section, suddenly, in front, was an opening into a field, but that wasn't the way to go, we were supposed to take a ninety degree right turn and start going up a 1 in 4 muddy slope, at the best of times a BSA trike doesn't like that sort of quick turn on mud at speed, so we had to slow for the turn, and that left us with no momentum, so we backed down, and the marshal waved us through the opening into the field-the escape route!.
There was just Knowle lane left now, I think it was in Dorset, but that made no difference, it had the same mud and rocks as Devon, it wasn't too steep, but it was a difficult section, and we very nearly failed it, we emerged at the top with the trike literally inches thick in several colours of mud, leaf mold, and even small stones stuck to it like a Dundee cake.
There was nothing left but to motor to the finish at Weymouth and sign off. In writing about this trial in The Front Wheels issue of February '62 Colin commented on the need for more weight in front, security bolts, and low tyre pressures, I agreed with this, at least two of those sections we failed would have fallen to us, one thing I was sure about was that we would do better next time.
Any event that involves 'Off-road' sections takes it's toll on an old vehicle, and one always hopes that if anything is going to fail it will show itself some time other than when actually competing, such things as broken spring leaves, chassis rivets shearing, fabric couplings falling apart, head gaskets blowing, the list is endless, with that in mind I booked a weeks leave before the '62 Lands end purely to re-install the 1204, and go over everything with a fine tooth comb.
Warren Hasel, Bill Sullivan and I had bought a series five Scout between us, purely as a source of spares, and one of the parts I had was the chassis stiffening tube that fits under the neck of the gearbox/diff, unfortunately the chassis was living in a wood in Essex, so, club hammer and chisel in hand I went there and spent a happy half hour removing the part I wanted, at the same time trying to avoid being seen by a farmer ploughing the field next to the wood, so it was bang-bang-rivet-out-duck!!, just another of the skills one had to learn owning a BSA.
With the engine out of the chassis I found that the cross-member under the scuttle had several rivets sheared, and the rest were loose, so before the engine was fitted they were replaced with HTS bolts and self locking nuts, same treatment for that hard-won tube.
I had prepared another gearbox to go with the 1204, for reliability this box had been built using a V twin box I had acquired, I hadn't been to happy about the reliability of the primary drive gears of the four cyl, as a tooth had broken on the 'Herring-bone' first motion gear on the original box so l was giving straight-cut gears a try.
The plan was for Warren to come over one evening and help lift the whole engine/gearbox unit into the trike, well he arrived OK, but found me grinding aluminium from the bell housing, it would appear that the V twin flywheel was of smaller diameter than the four!, and the bell housing was consequently smaller as well!.
so it was an hour before we could fit the box, it was now Wednesday evening, only two more days to get the job finished and partially run the engine in, I reckoned there would be 200 miles of easy driving before the sections, and a further 400 for the trial and journey home, and the trike would then be ready for an oil change.
A late night working assisted by Warren and the trike was ready for road-testing the following day.
The trike (hereafter referred to as 'JP', short for 'Jenny Pod') was a totally different vehicle from last year, The exhaust system was relocated with the silencer (now a Burgess straight-thro') firmly attached high up between 'drain pipe' and chassis member, both tyres had dual security bolts, an electric fuel pump was installed, a water-pump was fitted on the end of the series five generator, a reliable fan, switchable from the cockpit, a large box situated between the bumper brackets, containing the battery, all tools and spares plus ballast, the chassis was strengthened, the springs reset, with an extra leaf in the four top ones, rear spring reset, new fabrics, and of course the engine was rebuilt, now .040 inch oversize giving more useful capacity, and the twin SU's completed the picture.
Next day I drove round the north and south circular roads a few times and clocked up around 200 miles, JP had never gone better, however those V twin gears----, but I could put up with the noise as long as they didn't break.
Just by way of a change, Warren was in the navigator's seat for this event, and Bill Sullivan's trike was entered, to be navigated by John Self, so we were fielding two BSAs for this, the 1962 Lands End.
So, on that Good Friday evening Warren, Bill and John arrived, and we set off together for the usual start near Heathrow.
Cromwell Road had many sets of traffic lights, probably still has, and on one of those sets of lights I stopped, and Bill didn't, resulting in a shunt that badly damaged JP's tail and number plate and Bill's nearside mudguard. We surveyed the damage to check both trikes for mechanical integrity, all seemed ok, so we carried on and started the trial, Bill was one minute behind us, we both made the Bridgewater check-point, And started the trial on time, Bill had terminal engine trouble in Taunton and had to retire, and our hapless pair spent a very uncomfortable night in the trike, but in the morning Bill had the good fortune to arrange a tow from Daniel White, a member who lived near Yeovil, after selling the trike to Dan, both Bill and John went back to Essex by train.
This year the breakfast stop was at Minehead, the journey from Bridgewater was quite uneventful, and we arrived in good time, it was pitch black with no moon, quite chilly, and the first drops of the rain that was to make thing s very uncomfortable were starting to fall.
As we were waved away by the marshal I couldn't help being reminded of events a year previously, and trying hard not to think about the horrors of Beggars Roost, and the misery that followed, Porlock hill gave us no trouble, JP was running sweetly in the chill, damp early morning air.
We arrived, and after a fairly long wait, put in a good try, and got to within fifteen yards of the top, and actually had to be towed out instead of retreating ignominiously back down, However Station lane had been climbed, and it's stop and restart successfully completed, overnight the weather had deteriorated, and as we climbed up onto Exmoor it was raining heavily, we were on the Barnstaple road, but not looking for a breakers yard this time, on the way to Barnstaple there was another section, but what it was called and how we performed I cannot remember, in fact the whole trial seemed to be a succession of wet winding lanes, steep hills, and queues at sections and special tests.
With Barnstaple behind us, we were on our way to Darracott, and after what seemed an endless journey through narrow lanes, steep hills mostly with water gushing down, with small stones, mud, and other detritus to trap the unwary, we got to the section.
Darracott, the very name conjures up visions to stir one's emotions, I've been back on a hot midsummer's day, and it looks like any other wooded slope in the West country, with lush vegetation in the dappled shade of mature trees, but on that miserable, wet morning in early Spring it struck terror into the heart.
Climbing this hill for the first time was one of the most exciting experiences both of us had had in a BSA, in fact a graphic account appeared in the 'Front Wheels' issue of October '62, (now also on this web-site) and re-reading it after all these years I wouldn't change it a bit, suffice to say we emerged at the top shaken but victorious.
Warren was enjoying himself now, I think he had been a bit nervous after hearing all the stories of earlier mishaps, but he was totally unprepared for the one that happened to us as we roared away from the top and down a green lane.
There is one feature of the West-country terrain, one that becomes very apparent when participating in a three-wheeled vehicle with three tracks, i.e. a BSA trike, many of the green lanes encountered are really farm tracks, with two very deep ruts and a ridge in the centre, usually a trike would end up with the back wheel in one of these ruts, going forward in a sort of semi-crab fashion.
When Warren and I emerged from Darracott I must confess that I allowed high spirits to take over, and as we bowled along in second, with a bevy of bikers close behind us, the rear wheel decided to drop into the nearside rut, and in less time than it takes to say IDIOT we were half turned over, with a pile of bikes in a mess behind us, as JP was broadside on in this narrow lane nothing could get by, however in a short space of time the bikers had disentangled themselves and between us all (by this time there was quite a lot of bikes and cars joining the throng) we managed to get JP back on three wheels and heading in the right direction.
After a few minutes we pulled into an opening to survey the damage and put some air into the front tyres, Warren had a bruised left arm, and I had a bruised ego, JP's nearside mudguard was at a slightly jaunty angle, and the rear number plate was awry (again!), but the rain had eased a little and we had to keep going, as I had a feeling there might be a third class award this time around.
When we emerged from the green-lane on to a metalled road I found the steering had developed a very stiff feel to it, this is a phenomenon I had experienced at odd times in the past, due to slight play on the nearside drop-arm keyway, obviously the mishap leaving Darracott had allowed it to move, on examination there seemed to be excessive toe-in, so we lost a half-hour rectifying this problem, whilst bikes and cars roared past us in the driving rain, as in the previous Derbyshire it was a "looks right" adjustment, and the steering felt alright, so we carried on down another green lane heading towards Sutcombe, If my memory serves me right this was a very muddy section that meandered up a sort of fairly steep incline between two fields, we slithered around, always keeping moving, and made a slow but steady climb to the end, we were absolutely plastered in mud, but we got there at last, then it was back down narrow lanes for miles, eventually crossing over the A39 and then out to the coast road at Widemouth, and then-----Crackington.
There is no way into or out of Crackington Haven other than by 1 in 4 hills, and that includes the section called Crackington lane, which is quite straight but viciously slippery, unfortunately the MCC in their wisdom had imposed a stop and restart test half way up, which we failed, despite cleaning the section itself, however we still had only three marks against us, still hope for a third.
We were gradually progressing south-west, crossing and re-crossing the A39, the same road that Colin and I had been on just a year ago, after one more section which we cleaned (again I have forgotten the name) we followed the route-card to Hustyn.
This climb is just made for a BSA trike, the surface is quite hard, with many small stones and a lot of ruts, there is a sharp right-hander two thirds of the way up, where the incline is probably less than 1 in 4, the trick is to go at it with throttle on the floor and hope to make the bend, we were just about still going forward as we crossed the finishing line, we knew we only had Bluehills between us and the finish, but as the rear end started to weave around quite alarmingly we knew we had a flat back tyre.
As I remember it, changing the rear wheel on a BSA trike has never been a pleasant task, but at 3 pm on a wet and windy afternoon, after having been awake for 30 hours we were not in the best frame of mind, but it had to be done, I should say that I no longer carried the knobbly tired wheels down, they were fitted for the duration of the trial, and one reasonable spare carried, the deserved invective heaped on my head by Warren when we found the spare flat didn't happen, not in any way was that Warren's style, We repaired the spare by the side of the road, fitted it and carried on to Bluehills.
There are two parts to Bluehills Mine observed section, the first involves an easy looking left-hand half-circle and then a short 1 in 3 climb, followed by a sharp right turn, the problem with a BSA is the shortage of steering lock, this coupled with the fairly hard surface means that it is virtually impossible to get the tail-end to slide using the handbrake, especially as there is no acceleration distance, you have to start and turn immediately, if you take a very wide line you can just get round, but then you hit the slope at a bad angle, with not enough room to get back round to the right at the top, I still don't know how I did it, but I did, in '68 I didn't, and it cost me a first class award, but more of that later.
The second part is an easy straight climb up a sort of rocky gully, and I should say that, being in the natural amphitheatre of an old tin-mine, there were hundreds of people watching, and we were cheered over the line, there would be many trials to come, but this was a benchmark event, and we finished at Newquay and had a really good evening at the Hotel before setting off for home the next day, The same winding lanes and hills that Colin and I had struggled up a year previously were traversed with ease, the 1204 was loosening up nicely now, and driving over Bodmin Moor and beyond was a sheer delight.
Remembering it was Easter Bank holiday the road back towards Exeter was very busy with traffic, and I have often wondered since then what we must have looked like to the average family out for a drive in the country, JP was covered thickly in red mud, we were covered in red mud, the rear number plate was held on with that orange binder-twine that farmers use for just about everything, there was a deep crease each side of the tail from our two mishaps, and this whole ensemble was cruising along at around fifty-five mph, our problems were behind us, and we were enjoying ourselves.
We had arranged to call in on Dan White and family on the way home, we made good time and arrived at Yeovil in time for lunchtime opening, and we all made good use of the liquid facilities available, in retrospect I think that Dan was a little awed at having both the Chairman and the Editor of the club arriving at once, but he didn't let that stand in the way of having a few convivial jars.
Dan's dad ran an engine repair business and after lunch we were shown round the workshops, you could do things with all that equipment, but all the tooling and facilities were set up to cater for what was considered at that time modern cars and lorries, so not much chance of any help to our club.
From Dan we learned of the problems that Bill and John had endured, and we saw Bills Trike, along with Dan's T.9, into which he was planning to fit a series six engine, obtained from guess where?, yes, our Bugatti man at Barnstaple!, (the story goes that Dan fitted a Rootes type blower subsequently, but like so many others at that time, he disappeared from view).
After a very pleasant afternoon we said our goodbyes and continued on our way to London, another meteorological low had arrived by this time, and it was raining once more, but we had a good trip home and arrived early evening, I think my family breathed a sigh of relief when I appeared, remembering the '61 episode.
At least this time there was still one day of the Bank holiday left to do the things that normal people do, relax, take it easy and make mental preparations for the coming summer season.
A little time to pause for breath after that Lands' End adventure, and bring you, the reader, up to date on the rest of the news at that time, (briefly, I promise!) New characters in the fold were Sid Rayfield, Jack Rowe, Ernest Bethell and Bob Neal; founder member Eddy Davies had resigned, and I had moved into the Chairman's seat, the other key positions were held by Colin Bryce Warren Hasel and Ernest, who were Gen Sec, Editor, and Treasurer respectively, Bill Sullivan was events sec, whilst Sid and Bob were committee members, we met, in rotation at each other's houses every month, the club had regular meetings at The Royal Connaught in Holborn, and John Joiner was hosting regular group meetings in the midlands.
Warren and I produced the magazine, we typed it, and we printed it on a hand turned Roneo, and then it was collated, enveloped, addressed and published at the Committee meet each month.
On the sporting front most of the Classic club events that are still being run today had, by 1962, been formulated and put into the club Calendar, and club members participated (by invitation) in most of the major Morgan Club events, sprints, the Malvern Rally, plus their regular monthly meetings, in addition of course, those events that this story is all about, M.C.C. trials.
With Easter over the trial season was finished till October, and in June Colin and I entered the Morgan Malvern Rally for the third and final time, this year we won it outright, with John Joiner coming in fourteenth overall, JP also scooped the Concours cup as well, not bad going for a trike that had, two months earlier, been scrambling up some very difficult terrain in the West country and had been within a whisker of getting a third class award.
My life was to change quite dramatically in July, when my Dad died suddenly, many things had to be organised and my planned marriage to Audrey had to be put on hold for a while, October brought the Derbyshire again, this time Sid Rayfield, navigated by Alec Chamberlain (a very enthusiastic Morgan owner) was with us, Sid's trike is so famous that it needs little description, it was good to have another trike in the event, the whole trial was filmed by Colin from an 8mm camera mounted on the windscreen bracket, and a 'photo of us in action appeared within the hallowed pages of 'Motor Sport', we were scrambling up Litton Slack, and in the background the unmistakeable figure of Sid, standing by his trike, awaiting his turn, this year we got to within a tantalising four yards or so from the top, we were pulled out at the top, and were able to see Sid fail at exactly the same spot.
Bamford Clough claimed both of us, but we each failed a different section further on, however Both trikes did well to finish the course with only three failures each, just one too many for that elusive third-class award, otherwise we climbed everything in fine style, nothing went wrong and we all met up again at the finish, and after a hot drink and post mortem we all travelled back to London the same evening, Sid setting a pace that I had trouble keeping up with!.
Suddenly '62 was gone, and the whole country was gripped by a severe freeze-up, the '63 Exeter was at first postponed and then cancelled completely for the first time in the history of the MCC, so I took the opportunity to spend the late winter putting a new floor in JP, which had been suffering from the 'Doors flying open over a bump' problem for some time. I was renting a garage in the basement of the flat I was sharing, and this was around a mile from the timber merchants that I bought the 4'X8'x3/8 inch sheet of exterior ply from, Audrey told me when I saw her later in the day that, whilst travelling by 'bus, she had seen a strange looking figure walking along Clapham Rd with a large sheet of wood on his head, and nearly taking off in the wind, it was some time before I plucked up enough courage to admit it was me----.
The weather got better at last, and mindful of the old adage 'start as you mean to carry on' I arranged for Audrey to navigate on that year's Land's End.
Easter arrived, and Good Friday evening found three BSAs starting, Colin and Bob Twiggins (a T.9 owner) in Colin's white series six Scout, Sid and Alec, and Audrey and I.
The weather was dry for a change, but quite cold,. After the usual failure at Beggars Roost, and as we climbed up onto Exmoor the early morning light revealed a thin covering of snow, but it was dry, and improved as the day went on.
For the very first time we had the luxury of a support car, Warren Hasel and Bill Sullivan followed us right through to the end, and it was much appreciated, The trial itself was almost like an action replay of '62, one difference being the fact that, as Sid was right behind us we were able to pause and watch him on some of the sections, Colin of course was way behind us, and being in one of the car classes he started around an hour later.
For two trikes of such different specifications it was amazing how our performances were so similar, although I think our techniques were definitely not anywhere near the same, Sid's very powerful hybrid engine and less all-up weight made getting away from the start much more positive, and as we watched him scramble up Crackington I noticed he used a lot of to-and -fro on the steering, whereas I tended to keep as straight a line as I could, both methods achieved the same end result, many sections climbed, and three failures.
We had not waited at Darracott, our support car was there, and we were waved through, this year the green lane was treated with a little less flamboyance.
Blue-hills was Sid's undoing, he took to wide a line on the first part, hit the steep rise at an angle and nearly turned over, when the trike landed under full power a sun-wheel output shaft almost stripped (unbeknown to Sid at the time), he reversed, finished the section, and then cleaned the second part.
As we were in front, we pumped the tyres up, went down through Perranporth on our way to the finish unaware of the drama that was being enacted behind us.
We signed off at the finish, and booked into a Hotel, expecting Sid and Alec to turn up any minute, after an hour we started to get worried, eventually a taxi rolled up and our intrepid pair emerged, looking tired and dispirited, nevertheless, still managing a smile of welcome!.
Their story was that after a few minutes spent watching some of the other competitors tackle Bluehills they got back in the trike and turned onto the Perranporth road, which was quite level to start with, then the long hill into that town started, a gentle dab on the brake, and With nothing happened!, and the hill got steeper----- The BSA differential brake drum, fixed as it is to the primary drive cage of the sun-and-planet differential, cannot work when a sun wheel or a half shaft is broken, this is the reason for the odd phenomenon of one wheel going backwards when a trike brakes, with only the handbrake to slow them down things looked grim, (we all know how efficient THAT part of the BSA trike is!) However with great presence of mind Sid eventually managed to execute a hand-brake turn into a road leading off to the left which was rising slightly, and with the same sort of luck that had guided Colin and I the previous year came to rest outside a garage, the owner of which agreed to the hire of a lock-up to put the trike in until it's fate could be decided.
We still hadn't heard what had happened to Colin, Warren and Bill, who we last saw at Bluehills filming and photographing the action, and were not aware of Sid's predicament, had gone straight home, so it wasn't till Monday that we heard the story of their misfortunes.
Obviously nothing could be done about Sid's trike in the short term, so we did what we always did on these occasions, had a bath at the Hotel, enjoyed a good dinner, and propped the bar up until exhaustion finally took over and then had a good nights sleep.
Bright and early the next morning I 'phoned Les Cole in London to find out if there was any chance of getting parts for Sid's diff in this neck of the woods, in about twenty minutes the 'phone rang, and it was good news, there was a member living in Perranporth!! I shuttled Sid and Alec to that lock-up, then Audrey and I went looking for Mr Kemp, quite confident that this would solve the problem, (oh the optimism of youth!!). After a bit of a search we found our man, thank goodness he was an enthusiast, in fact he had been watching all the action at Bluehills the previous day, and YES, he did have a spare differential assembly, which he generously agreed to loan us, so we hurried back to the lock-up feeling a whole lot more optimistic.
It was by now nearly lunchtime, work On Sid's trike was at first hampered by the major job of removing his lead-filled bumper, stuck out in front as it was it was secured to the chassis by some pretty large bolts, and it needed all four of us to lift it off, I began to realize why Sid seemed plagued with differential problems, those sun wheels had some hard work to do.
Lunch time came, and Audrey went off in search of food, not as easy as it sounded on a wet Sunday in Perranporth, however, always resourceful, she came back with some Cornish pasties, which although hot on the outside were found to be still frozen in the middle!.
At around eight pm we tightened the last bolt, and in the rapidly fading light headed for home, all of us completely forgetting we needed petrol, and around thirty miles later, on a completely deserted and windswept part of Bodmin moor, we both ran out, the irony of it was that about half a mile further on there was an all-night garage, but we didn't know that, so we all donned every piece of clothing we had with us, and spent a chilly night in the trikes!.
Early next morning Alec and I took our spare cans and walked about three miles to a village (I think it was Millpool) to get petrol, after that six mile walk, and back on the road again, we crested the next hill and there was the 24 hour garage, with Sid leading the way and setting his usual cracking pace we got home mid-afternoon.
Colin and Bob's Land's-end hadn't gone quite so well, Their journey down was accompanied by odd noises from "up front" in the gearbox area, all the more suspicious as the Speedo had stopped working, apparently top gear was OK, but the differential started to seize in the lower gears, on an event such as this a built-in handicap, however our plucky pair pushed on, Porlock was climbed, but Lynton hill was to much, as was Station lane, Beggars Roost, and Barton steep, It was at this point that they called it a day, and Colin, writing in the June '63 magazine recalled that as they were at Simonsbath, 200 miles from home, and 100 to Newquay, there wasn't a great deal of choice ( remembering the events of two years earlier).
Using top as much as possible they had a good drive home, however his decision was justified when a big-end went one mile from home, if he HAD gone to Cornwall that meant he would have just about got to Exeter on the way back, with all the attendant misery they would have gone through.
This was my last trial for a couple of years, Audrey and I were to get married in September, and then find somewhere quite cheap to live, which in London would mean losing the garage, but we were hoping to get on the property ladder, and that meant saving every penny, it was also the last trial with the trusty 1204, although we managed to get a first class award at the Silverstone half hour 'belt' that summer, after which we toured Scotland for two weeks, driving all the way home on battery when the generator failed.
(Bill Sullivan also got a first at Silverstone, 26 miles in half an hour, great effort). After the wedding we moved to a very primitive flat in Bedford Hill, no hot water and the kitchen was on the landing, but for £4 per week what do you expect?
I remember John Joiner coming to see us one late Saturday afternoon, a pleasant surprise and we made him welcome, but we weren't able to offer much in the way of warmth and comfort in that cramped and gloomy place.
Just one more trial in '63, it was both Sid's last, and my first as navigator, he had repaired the trike and re-installed the worm drive that he preferred, the old original 6X31, which was the highest gear-ratio of all, giving 5.16 to 1, so, early in October we set off towards Derbyshire.
It was interesting sampling his trike at first hand, and the initial impression was of smoothness and powerful acceleration, Sid had spent a lot of care on getting the engine balanced to his satisfaction, (not a simple task, as the Matchless barrels and pressure-fed big-ends had changed the characteristics of the motor, and he had resorted to drilling the counter weights and inserting plugs of a heavier metal) the trike cruised at sixty mph comfortably, comparing very favourably with the four cylinder, whose two-bearing crank started to rattle about a thousand miles after fitting a new front main, nothing to worry about, just one of those things, It was fairly cold but dry, and we were enjoying ourselves, having the usual mixed fortunes, that was until we got to Taxal, a climb that was not too steep, but had a very nasty hairpin, with a large rock on the off-side to deter anybody taking a wide sweep, well Sid did take a wide sweep, very fast, hit the rock and stopped even faster, it was that lead-filled bumper again!!, and we stopped----dead.
Once again, when we got going, the differential was making noises, so we crossed our fingers and made it back to Buxton and signed off.
Inevitably, twenty or so miles towards home the differential gave up completely, and for once our luck deserted us, we pushed the trike for about a mile, then found a farm whose owner very generously allowed Sid to put the trike into a barn until we could return and either tow it or repair it, By this time we were pretty weary and somewhat down-hearted, but there was nothing else to do but walk five miles to Ashbourne, wait around for what seemed hours, and then get a 'bus to Derby, the nearest place with a railway station. It was well dark by now, hunger had set in and we had a meal in a 'greasy spoon', and waited for a train.
I think it was around midnight when we were on the move, and into the early hours when we got to London, I think it was King' Cross, but I'm not sure.
In those days London was still quite safe to move around in, so after a reviving hot drink we set of homewards, thinking nothing of setting out on foot towards Clapham, however we got on a bus before we had gone far, and we realized then that it was six in the morning, and some people were just starting their day, we had been awake for nearly 48 hours!!.
Autumn turned into winter, the world rocked with the news of the Kennedy assassination in November, Xmas came and went, and on one bitterly cold day in January I got up at 4 am, picked up Sid with a rebuilt gearbox, and travelled north to that almost snowbound farm where his trike was, to spend the day in a draughty barn 'doin' a' what comes naturally-----', making a dead BSA go again!; Our farmer friend and his wife were wonderful, keeping us supplied with hot drinks all day, and sandwiches at lunchtime, but was it cold, and were those bolts done up tight.
At last it was done, and we set of for home with our tyres leaving tracks in the snow that was now falling steadily, it was now 5 pm, and we had a six hour drive in the steadily worsening conditions in front of us, however, when we got down from the high ground after Ashbourne conditions improved slightly, and we had an uneventful, but very chilly drive home.
Sid never did another trial, and who can blame him, he wasn't a young man by any means, and all the tiredness, worry, and the cold and the wet were very taxing even to a young man.
June '64 came, our thrifty policy paid off, and we moved to "Amicus", (or should I say we moved to a garage with a pit and workshop plus living accommodation), and after a while I collected all my spares from various parts of London where they had been looked after whilst without a garage.
JP, having been kept outside in the road at Bedford Hill for the best part of a year was looking and sounding a little the worse for wear, but had nearly another year to go as transport before the company car appeared on the scene, so the good old 1075 was dusted off, given a rebore, and rebuilt with the 1204 bottom end, Audrey and I were now commuters, so JP sat sulking in Dartford station car-park all day---every working day.
In the winter of that year we started the tradition of the 'Holly run', in fact we did this event right through to Xmas '92.
Having a house brought all sorts of new responsibilities and new skills to be learned, and for the first time I found that there was no longer unlimited time available to spend working on JP, however early in '65 I joined Plessey to travel all of southern England as an engineer commissioning and maintaining some very sophisticated teleprocessing systems, and to do that job I needed a car! (At last).
Quietly I had been accumulating series six Scout engine parts, primarily to look at the feasibility of fitting such an engine, I had toyed with the idea of an A35 unit, but decided to keep it BSA.
The S6 engine seemed a big heavy lump against the short motor, it was weight a lot further towards the rear of the trike that worried me, but I couldn't see any way of squeezing more power from the 1204, the fact that I no longer relied on JP for transport decided me in the end, so I started to get the six engine rebuilt, I had worked out that it would just fit.
The period from early '65 through to Easter '67 was a bit of a desert trial-wise, the S6 project put JP off the road for some considerable time, despite being able to build the engine without having to use parts from JP, there were many other factors making progress very slow, the new job often entailed time away from home, and I was on twenty-four hour callout for a lot of the remaining time, however progress was being made.
Running in tandem with work on the engine was the hydraulic brake project, I didn't see too much advantage of this in trials, but in the summer months JP was used for sprints and other speed events where better stopping power definitely would be a boon, as well as being safer on the road!.
A secondary gain was a couple of inches extra track due to the slightly different layout of the swivel assemblies, but to get neutral camber I had to make slots out of the lower spring attachment-bolt holes and pull the wheels vertical, obviously longer Scout half shafts and short sun-wheel shafts were fitted, I used all A35 parts, and the end result was 7 inch twin leading shoe brakes on the front wheels and a cable and rod operated rear brake, the 'pull-on' hand-brake would give better performance on tight hairpins (I hoped!).
Back to the engine, I had obtained a set of Austin van pistons, I think the bore was 66.5mm, I worked out the capacity at the time and it came to around 1350c.c., I remember I had to sign a disclaimer at the engineers that did the work, but there was so much meat there that I could see at least another two bores in it, the only problem was the gudgeon-pin holes, being 1/16" smaller than BSA, initially I formed shim-steel spacers and retained the clench-bolts, but after 18 months of hard usage I needed to renew some piston-rings and found that the pistons were too large to go past the crank, which meant pulling the whole thing apart and dropping the crank in it's bearers, a horrible job, so I had the eyes brazed up, bushes fitted, and used padded pins, still a difficult job to get the pistons out, but not impossible, saving money by using cheap non-standard pistons was something I was going to regret all the rest of the time I had JP.
I was surprised to find that the valve inclination of the short engine had been discontinued, they were now vertical, also disappointed to find that the combustion-chamber shape seemed retrograde in that the throat from valve to piston head was very shallow, meaning that skimming the head off would reduce gas-flow, thus negating any advantage gained from an increase in compression ratio.
Another problem was the generator, with the engine installed there was very little space for it, driven from the rear of the engine as it was, at first I decided to make a hybrid back-plate using parts of a short engine, this would also have provided timing-chain tension (another shortcoming of the six), however I got bogged down, put it to one side, and concentrated on getting the thing up and running.
Our first run out was to the 'Lost Causes Rally' at Beaulieu, after which I felt like throwing the new engine out, it ran hot, the timing chain rattled, and other strange noises could be heard, and I had to go all the way on battery!, not a good start, it was late summer '66, and I had a lot to do before any venturing out on trials again, the noises turned out to be end float on the camshaft, rectified by using a small bolt and lock-nut on the rear cover to keep the cam in place.
Easter '67 saw Audrey and I heading for the West country once again, a fine but chilly Good Friday evening, most of my engine problems were ironed out (or so I thought), and we were going to show them how it should be done, everything was running fine, except that, whilst driving through Marlborough the ammeter showed discharge, and the clutch was dragging.
I had arranged a drive from a pulley on the starter dog, driving the generator via a 'step-up' pulley, all driven by link belts, well these worked all right at first, but stretched, and stretched,---- then it ran out of adjustment, (surprise surprise), after several stops to remove links from the belts we made it to Minehead, the breakfast stop, where our support car was waiting, with Ray Waters, Geoff Morgan, Ian Pinkney and Ian's Dad, the ammeter by this time was just about on the null position with lights on, but the main difficulty was with the clutch, which would not dis-engage properly due to lack of sufficient movement, Another side-effect of the long engine.
The entire breakfast stop was spent lying on my back under JP filing away at the Chassis trying to get more clutch movement, whilst Geoff held the torch, this turned out to be a completely useless exercise as when we got to Beggars Roost it seemed even worse, and it was frustrating to feel all that power from the new engine and not be able to control the clutch properly, we made a start, but the clutch was starting to show signs of distress, so I backed down and announced our retirement.
I have always felt bad about this decision, our friends had made a real effort to come all this way, and they even offered to set to and start changing the clutch there and then (it was around 3:30 a.m.), but as I pointed out, this would not have solved the basic problem, JP was not really ready yet, and after the that horrendous '61 episode I wasn't going to risk it, so we set off for home, feeling depressed and despondent.
Although the clutch was far from 100% we had a good drive home, arriving in time for lunch.
The '67 Derbyshire saw two BSAs entered, but only one made the start, and that was Ian Pinkney's V twin trike, Ian put in a splendid performance on this trial, showing us all that performance-enhancing mods are not always necessary to tackle this type of event, he spiritedly climbed all but three of the sections in his virtually standard trike, and only missed a third-class award by coming to grief on that dreaded hairpin on Taxal, the same one that wrecked Sid's diff in '63, his trike went faultlessly throughout and as far as I know Bamford Clough and Litton Slack were his only other failures, the usual two!!, it was Ian's first attempt at an MCC event, even more reason for the accolades he received.
The other trike was JP, unfortunately I was on a training course in Poole for the week leading up to the Friday evening that the trial started, I rushed home, had a puncture on the way, got home at 7 pm, then remembered that a generator belt had failed the previous weekend and that I was supposed to buy a new one in Poole, (by this time I had fitted the generator on the rear of the engine, as the designer intended), frantic call to Ian, who rushed a belt down to me from Essex before setting off himself, by this time I was trying to get an hour's sleep, so he left it in the garage.
To cut a long story short Audrey and I left shortly after midnight, and ended up changing a head gasket outside the gents toilet at the bottom of Archway road, and as I only carried one spare, that was that, back home, tail between legs.
Pressure of work, and uncertainty about the serviceability and reliability of the S6 engine precluded entry into the '68 Exeter, the engine was blowing head gaskets fairly regularly so I didn't feel confident about any event of a testing nature, However, after seeing an advert in 'Motor Sport' for a maker of special head gaskets I sent a pattern of with the fee, and fairly quickly received a solid copper/steel gasket which, in use, solved all the problems, in fact it was still in place when I sold JP in '92. Things seemed to be settling down now with all the mods, I had a reliable water pump (Jowett Javelin) running from the starter-dog, and a new pair of wheels had been made by a firm in west London to my spec, they were shallow-dish centres with 15 inch rims, on which were fitted 5.50 inch town and country tyres, for speed events there was a pair of 11/8 inch S.U's, but these were too thirsty for the large mileage encountered on trials, so the standard downdraught Solex was employed, plenty enough power with that over-large engine.
Easter again, (is this getting boring?), this year we had two entries in the good old Land's end, Ray Waters had participated in pretty well everything up till now, but this was his first sporting trial, navigated by his friend Gordon, and of course JP, self and Audrey. Ian and his Dad provided a support car, and writing about Beggars Roost in the May'68 magazine Ray commented on the fearsome sight of this hill when viewed, for the first time as a participating driver.
At that time The MCC rules stated that, if a complete class fails a section then that section is declared null and void, usually a motor-cycle combination got up this section, but this year the locals had excelled themselves in their "preparation", trailer loads of rocks, boulders and pebbles to a ridiculous extent, we all had a good try but failed much earlier than usual, as did almost everyone on the trial, but there's always someone!, (but fortunately no combos).
JP was in truly magnificent form, we conquered everything in our path, the combination of S6 power and those wide wheels added a new dimension, in fact Darracott seemed easy, and we finished that last part with a flourish, in second gear. Bluehills was my downfall, knowing we had done well I was in a high state of nerves and weariness, at last, after all these years an award was a possibility, this year the section started further back on a down-hill part, and I was so jittery that I engaged third instead of first, by the time I realised my error it was too late, and I failed this fairly easy section by not getting the tail round, however we roared up the second part to the usual cheers from the crowd, the power and torque from that large engine was formidable.
As no combo had scaled Beggars we had technically only failed this one section, and I duly got a second class award for this, our last Land' end, to my knowledge no BSA had done this before in post-war years. (Perrigo and Cope did pre-war).
Ray and Gordon were battling it out behind us, it was Ray's first trial, and he, like Ian before him, did wonders, again with a virtually standard trike, they were defeated by Beggars and Sutcombe, but made up for it with good climbs of Orange, Darracott and Crackington, three very difficult climbs, especially if it is the first time of trying, if only the trike's brakes hadn't let them down they would have stood a chance of a third, but they had to retire just three sections from the finish.
October '68 was a watershed in our lives, cruising at fifty towards the start of the Derbyshire the back tyre burst on the M.1. not far from Luton at around 2 a.m., both Audrey and I were taken to Luton and Dunstable Hospital, she had two cracked vertebrae and was kept in for two weeks, and I had a badly damaged left arm from a steering wheel spoke, and we both had nasty abrasions and cuts needing stitches, somehow life lost a little of it's carefree nature after this, we had a baby son, and he came close to losing us both.
The Waters and Pinkney families were marvellous, I don't know what I would have done without them, for they, without hesitation rescued the remains of JP from were she had been taken, and returned her to Ray' home in Essex.
Towards the end of November, with Audrey home and slowly recovering, I went to Brentwood and drove JP home, the windscreen was a tangled mess, the bonnet, scuttle and radiator were a write-off, and I had to take a spare steering wheel, Ray loaned me a radiator and Ian a battery, poor old JP, would I ever get her back to her old self?, I was determined to get awards in all three MCC events, so embarked on a crash (literally!) project to get JP ready for the Exeter, Ian was on a promise to navigate on this one, The windscreen was laboriously straightened out and taken to a specialist to have glass fitted, the scuttle had to be completely rebuilt and re-skinned, the bonnet could wait, as could the radiator surround, I had a spare radiator so that was alright, Ray loaned me a wiper motor, and I retained the loan of Ian's battery.
(This may sound strange, but we were all pretty poor in those days!). As time was running short, and the screen wasn't yet ready, Jack Rowe loaned me his Scout screen, which was around three inches to wide, so I had to make up wooden blocks for it to fit, so everything was ready by Xmas.
Ray had gamely decided to enter, his problems on the Land's end were found to be cracked brake shoes, now rectified. The weather turned wet in early January, and stayed wet all the way through the trial, Stewart Chamberlain provided a support car, so it was Ian and I, Ray and Gordon and Stewart heading off into the wet night looking for adventure----. A write-up of this trial was promised by Ian, as we still wait for it, and my memory is a bit blank I only remember that both trikes finished in fine style after a highly enjoyable trial, JP and crew got a write-up with a large picture in 'Motor-cycle news' and a third class award, as usual
we had failed Waterloo and Simms, but, despite the slippery mud, had got up everything else.
The trip back was pure farce, Ray's generator packed up during the event, and he finished on battery, this worked well till the trip home from the finish at Weymouth, being January it got dark at 4 p.m., so we had to keep in close convoy, JP in front, and we adopted a procedure of, as soon as his lights got to a certain shade of yellow, we would stop and swap batteries, but it had to be on a hill so we could roll-start, I cannot remember how many times this happened, it was a good few!, come to think of it, JP was on 12 volt, I suppose Ray's was as well.
We all got home OK, but I was so exhausted that Ian had to call his long-suffering dad out to come to Hawley to fetch him.
For various reasons, none of us entered the '69 Land's end, for my part Easter is Spring, and Spring is a very busy time, both in the family and the horticultural sense, this event is a marathon, and very hard on man, woman, and machine.
The MCC in their wisdom now called the 'Derbyshire' the 'Edinburgh' trial, although never going near that fine city, I think they had trouble licensing the event, and had to dig up a name from the past, anyway, it was always the Derbyshire to me.
Audrey and I were a little nervous as we drove up, keeping away from the M.1 with all it's horrific memories, and took the A.5 and A428 to the usual start at Coventry, where we met up with Ray and Gordon, only this time Gordon was driving.
As dawn broke over Debyshire it revealed a wonderful early Autumn day, sunny and warm, and the trial was a pleasure, seeing scenery that in previous years had been shrouded in cloud and driving rain, for a change we had had a good breakfast, and JP was going like the thoroughbred she had now become, we roared up Putwells one and two, but I knew we couldn't get up Litton, or Bamford, however we tried anyway, and as it was dry we got literally within yards of success at Litton, but failed in the usual place at Bamford.
Our only chance of qualifying for an award lay with Taxal, never conquered by a BSA since I could remember, this year there was a stop and restart, just to make it more difficult, I tried not to look at THAT rock, still there all these years on.
This year the start was further back, having those fat tyres meant it was possible to take it a little slower, and thus have more control at the turn, and by gunning the engine, giving it full lock, and grabbing the brake (all at the same time!), we just about made it round, and got our third. Ray and Gordon didn't fare so well I'm afraid, burning a clutch out on the first section---Putwell one. Only Ray could turn such a disaster into a funny story, and this he did, somehow missing the Pinkney support car he had to call home in the end to drag his dad away from house decorating and up to the rescue, no mobile 'phones in those days, just hunting around for an un-vandalised 'phone-box (good old days), anyway, the whole story, written in Ray's inimitable style appeared in the December '69 magazine, needless to say this was Ray's last trial, and who could blame him?.
My old regime of entering every trial was slipping, life was busier than ever, with many more demands being made on time (and money!), so the next trial was the 1970 'Edinburgh', I collected Ian from Writtle, and he navigated me to another third on this event, having mastered Taxal it was more or less guaranteed, JP was probably at the peak of it's power and reliability, once again the weather was kind, and we shared the driving going home, I have to say that being a passenger to Ian's spirited driving opened my eyes to just how well JP performed in the right hands, we cruised at over sixty for much of the journey, I dropped Ian back home at Writtle, and was back at Amicus by nine p.m. As far as I was concerned I had achieved my ambition of getting awards on all three (four if you count Silverstone) MCC events, I knew that the engine would need extensive work after one more season, as three years of many different types of competition were about all you could expect from an engine in those days, and I couldn't see myself doing yet another rebuild, so I promised the '71 'Exeter' to Roy Gillett, and whichever one came next to Ray.
I should say that Roy, who had been on the committee for several years had just taken over from Ray as editor, Ray had done sterling service in this role for several years after Warren resigned, Ian was Gen Sec, (there had been several quite short-lived incumbents after Colin's five years in that role), Martin Mackenzie, whose Ford engine trike gave us so much trouble on sprints was Treasurer, and the Bartlett brothers Terry and Derek were fast making their mark on the committee, along with Pete King, whose trike, navigated by Terry, accompanied Roy and I on the '71 Exeter.
For Roy and I it was a brilliant event, the only technical problem being an exploding vacuum flask in Roy and Sandra's kitchen prior to departure, I think it was the mildest 'Exeter' I could remember, which suited my ageing bones, Derek, Ian and Martin Ballard were crewing the Bartlett Land-Rover, and providing support, we all met up at Heston and journeyed down to the Yeovilton Cafe independently.
I let the side down by forgetting to deflate the tyres at Tillerton, and failed this relatively easy section, Roy having to push me up, and getting thoroughly baptised with red Devon mud in the process, after that the usual successes and failures, and after a spirited ascent of Fingle bridge, and as we headed along the A382 towards the Exeter road going pretty fast, a left-hander over a bridge came up rather fast, and at full LH lock, front wheels locked (Lockheed brakes remember!), we were still heading for the right-hand parapet, I think the distance between us and the bridge when we finally stopped would have been measured in inches, Roy's face went white under the red mud.
We had the usual failures on Waterloo and Simms, Roy went rather pale again when, having rounded the curve on the latter he saw it in all it's awfulness!!. To set the seal on failure we didn't make the stop and restart on Meerhay, making four in all, this was my penultimate trial, and Roy's first (and probably last), but notwithstanding we had a really splendid outing, the weak January sun highlighted the red West country fields and woods, and I thought 'One day I'll live down here', (it took thirty two years to realise that ambition).
We finished at Weymouth mid-afternoon, after a wash and brush-up we strolled along the promenade like any good tourists, trying to forget how tired we were, and then started asking after Pete and Terry, but no news, and it was well after their ETA. Knowing they had a support car we didn't feel bad about setting of for home, but we heard about their exploits a few days later.
Muddy Tillerton was their downfall, what with lack of grip and overheating they backed down to find all the water gone and the electric fan broken (I seem to remember that happening to me, about thirty-odd pages ago), after some rural excursions involving electric fences and Holly bushes Terry found water, Pete fixed the fan and they gamely carried on, I think during this trial it came home to them all just how difficult these events were, because our gallant pair had one failure after another, and ended up stuck in a lay-by on Meerhay, unable to go forward or back, and they had to wait till every competitor had been through, they then went to the finish, only to find that the support car had gone back, and become bogged down at Meerhay!, eventually getting out with snow-chains, anyway they all met up at around midnight, and started for home, and ended up camping when exhaustion caught up, rumour has it that a bottle of whisky and one of ginger wine kept them all warm!!.
The '71 'Edinburgh' is not really worth mentioning, Audrey and I finished and got home, but with every piston-ring broken!, it was very foggy overnight, and the engine contributed to this, a very lacklustre performance, it was also the last trial I finished, although I did a lot of work on the engine and it came back on form, but was rattling well.
I had promised a trial to Ray, and as the trike appeared to be ok again we entered the '72 Exeter, it was a great shame that, whilst everything else was right, the engine was full of power, and the weather was kind, the rear-wheel outer bearing chose to start screaming as we went over Salisbury plain, we put up with it as far as Wincanton, but had to turn for home when it all became too much, we twittered and screamed our way through all the towns and villages along the A303 and the A25 (no by-passes or M25 in those far-off days), and that was that, no more trials, end of story.
In the eleven years covered by the foregoing JP had gradually developed from a very ordinary trike through to a quite potent machine, but it had meant a great deal of hard work, and quite a lot of expense, many mistakes were made, and I have admitted all the ones that I made because how else will others know what not to do?, the one thing I did learn from it all was never cut corners on preparation, if there are any weaknesses MCC events will find them you can be sure of that.
Bearing in mind the present-day value of old vehicles I doubt that anybody would be daft enough to emulate what we did all those years ago, but it would be nice if they did!, Apart from the awards, JP's greatest achievement was always, without exception, getting us home, whether it was trials, sprints, holidays, club events or just evenings out, We were never stranded.Where are they all now?, Colin, who I have now known for forty-two years, has recently moved to France, where he has bought a house not far from his beloved Le Mans, he has been a good friend, especially in the years since Audrey and I moved down here, and will still be coming back to Wellington for visits. Warren, another good friend, tragically died in '93, just prior to our move, he was another stalwart during the early years of our club. Sid Rayfield also died, a good few years ago, in the seventies, and as Xmas cards no longer come from Rose Rayfield I assume she has gone as well, however Sid's trike is still in regular use with Graham Skillen, who has wisely kept the trike looking exactly as we remember it in the sixties, I believe a complete engine rebuild is currently under way. Ray and Ian are still going strong, they both still own trikes, Ray's is a four with specially lowered body which is still used for speed competitions, and Ian's (balanced power!) twin is undergoing a rebuild. Bill Sullivan I believe is still living in Essex, and as far as I know is running the family antiques business. John Joiner has re-emerged into club activities with articles, 'photos, and attendance at club events, I last met him briefly on one of the 'Exeter' trials, he was riding a vintage 'bike in the event, but I'm afraid I cannot remember which year that was. Roy Gillett, who edited and printed this magazine for many years is still living in Surrey, running a successful business, and is an honorary member of this club, Pete King and the Bartletts have all disappeared from the club scene, the last I heard was that Pete was living on the south coast, and wind-surfing most of his spare time away, Terry Bartlett was running the family camping-gear shop, and Derek running a car-recovery business.
Me? Audrey and I moved to Somerset in '93, having taken early retirement, we garden just under two acres, have five grand-children in Kent, two Labradors, and umpteen wild birds, we belong to the National Gardens Scheme,(The Yellow Book), opening for charity during the Summer season, and in a state of semi-hibernation during the winter, which is why I had the time to get this all written, I hope it hasn't been to boring, I've enjoyed writing it and re-living those good old days, full of nostalgic memories. I very nearly forgot the star of the show, dear old JP, last driven by me early in '75 when we moved house to New Barn, she spent seventeen years in two different garages gathering dust until Geoff Nunn took her over, and gave her the TLC she richly deserved, re-building the engine and the brake system, also tidying up the bodywork and many other things as well, Geoff sent me 'photos of her in action, and the memories came flooding back-----. THE END.