Motor Cycling

My motorcycling started in 1924, in imagination only, when the chemistry ‘lab-boy’ offered to sell me his 147cc belt-driven Francis-Barnett. I can’t remember what I paid for it but it must have been very little. I had very little money in those days. I asked permission to drive it home at the end of term, but was, quite rightly, refused – it was some 70 miles. So my motorcycling days started at Malvern Link railway station. The thrill of the mile, all uphill, to our house is something I still remember 82 years later. The F-B remained with me for the next 4 or 5 years during which I learnt all about the construction of the Villiers engine and its ability to run quite effectively in the reverse direction if its flywheel magneto was over-advanced. The engine is tough, utterly reliable and ideal for powering a beginners first motorcycle. With only two gears and an unbreakable and light frame and belt final drive. I enjoyed those early years before moving on to more serious motorcycling in the form of a 172cc Super-sports James, still with a Villiers engine with 5 ½ hp (instead of 3 ½ hp of the F-B) and its ability to seize solid if one failed to treat it the right way. (For those who like curious facts or co-incidences: from 1930 onwards I used to look in at Goodchilds Garage in a village called Lane End to pick up a gallon tin of Duckhams R Oil for my James. Apart from this I was unaware of Lane End’s existence and yet ten years later not only was it to be my nearest village but later I was to buy Goodchilds Garage and turn it into a successful DAF car agency.)

I joined the British Two Stroke Club in 1929 and entered several of its reliability trials after being graded as ‘expert’! One of these trials started in south Bucks and finished at Madresfield Court near my home at Malvern the next day. The airship R101 Had crashed at Beauvais during the night. That dates this day accurately.

I saw an advert in some motorcycling journal for a Villiers engine new and in its box asking for offers. I phoned to find out details. “The only mark I can see is a Y stamped on it crank case – I’ll take a fiver for it”. I hurried to collect it from him. The Y engine was the 172cc Brooklands racing engine. It was supposed to give 8 hp. It had a padded crankshaft and aluminium fins on the upper part of the cylinder. Otherwise it was a standard 172cc Super-Sports and fitted easily into my James. But my trials days were ending; I wanted something more social and I had my eye on a Morgan 3-wheeler. I bought a 1924 “Aero” with S-V Blackburne engine for £24 and a new experience began.

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