Sunday, 18 December 2011

Another Yorkshire Special – The Myers

Coming from Hull, the Myers family were responsible for the making of a number of ‘special’ frames which were used by some of the top riders in the area.

Bert Myers was a driver for L.V. Brooksbank at Hedon and was a self-taught engineer. Around the racing paddocks Bert was known as “Dad Myers”, and was a popular figure due to his willingness to help any rider out with his welding skills.

Bert had two sons, Roger and Tony. Tony Myers went on to become one of the top runners in racing in the late 60’s and 1970’s. In July 1966 Tony purchased a 1959 AJS 7R for £250 off Bob Peck of Batley. With the progress made by Aermacchis in the 350cc racing class, by the summer of 1968 Tony realised that they would have to improve their old AJS. They realised that a lighter and stiffer chassis was needed for the 7R.

Tony’s brother, Roger worked in the drawing offices at Blackburn General Aircraft of Brough. He started drawing out some possible frame designs for the machine. The chief designer at Blackburn caught Roger sketching the frame and enquired what he was doing. Roger went on to explain that he was trying to come up with an improved design for a racing motorcycle frame. The chief engineer’s response was that “it is bloody obvious lad”. He then proceeded to point two lines across the drawing with the end of his pipe, which a brownish stain from the steering head to the swinging arm. The design of the Myers frame was thus conceived!
The mk1 Myers with 7R engine under construction

 Norton steering head geometry was utilised on the machine. Bert made a very heavy jig consisting of two massive sections of channel welded to a base in order to construct the frame. During fabrication, the jig held the frame in an upside down position. T45 tubing was used in the construction of the frame, the tubes being packed with sand and heated during the bending process, before they were bronze welded.

The Myers 7R sat on 18” rims front and rear and was about 1” lower than a standard chassis. A 210mm Fontana front brake was used and a drilled and lightened 7R hub retained at the rear. A purpose made fibreglass petrol tank was made around a wooden former.
The Myers 7R

The first test of the Myers 7R was in April 1969 at a Cadwell Park Thursday test day. At the Cadwell National in April the top of the carburettor unscrewed, however, by the end of April the Myers 7R took its first victory at a racing 50 club event at Cadwell. It was apparent that from these first few rides that Bert and Roger had got the balance and centre of gravity of the machine just right. Tony found the Myers 7R a confidence inspiring motorcycle which was a joy to ride. More club wins were to come and also some top 6 finishes at National events. Roger also raced the machine at Croft on a couple of occasions when Tony was injured.

Tony continued to race the Myers 7R throughout 1970 and into early 1971. In late 1970 Bert Myers started work on a second frame for Wally Dawson, this time to house a 500cc Manx engine. Measurements for this were taken from Wally’s 350cc Manx Norton and caused some head-scratching when the taller 500cc engine was offered up for the first time. Flats had to be cut on the inside of the main diagonal tubes to clear the cylinder head. The fork yokes were also fabricated using steel sheet, ala Ray Petty. A Campagnolo double disc and hub was fitted at the front end and a single Campagnolo disc at the rear, both these being mechanically operated. At Silloth in April 1971 Tony raced the Myers Manx to 6th place in the final.  Later that year Wally raced it at Castle Combe and practiced with it at the TT, but found it unsuitable for the race.

The Manx Norton engined mk2 Myers with Wally Dawson 

 As Tony had injured his hand racing the Myers 7R, this was sold to Dick Cassidy who is now a TT marshal, and the Myers Manx project abandoned and parts sold. Alan Coultas bought the mk2 Myers Manx frame in 1972 and set about converting it to use with his racing Velocette Venom engine.

During the winter of 1973 Bert started work on his third and last frame, this time to house a Yamaha TZ350 engine. Tony had raced an ex-Mick Grant TR3 that season, but sold the rolling chassis to pay for the parts to convert the engine to water cooling. This was fitted to Bert’s frame after two additional front tubes were added to support the engine. The fork yokes on the mk3 frame were machined from solid aluminium. Tony went back to club racing in 1974. The bike was not a complete success however, as it had the tendency to “fall over” in bends, making it hard to control and resulting in a loss of rider confidence.
The mk2 (then with Velocette engine) and mk3 (Yamaha) Myers machines together

Alan Coultas ran his Velocette using the mk2 Myers Manx frame for 4 seasons. Alan also converted the Campagnolo disc brakes to hydraulic operation after altering the rim off-set and spoke angle to suit. Due to to cracks developing from the flats on the main tubes of the mk2 frame, Alan then bought the third Myers Yamaha frame. Once again he modified this to fit his 500cc Velocette, adding two short cross-tubes to the rear of the engine. A five speed Quaife gearbox and Norton clutch were also fitted, the engine having to be off-set in the frame to ensure the correct primary chain line.  This bike was raced and developed for many years and achieved considerable success at national level. Riders included: John Beney, Wally Dawson, Alec Swallow and of course Tony Myers who almost lapped the entire field at Cadwell Park to win the E.A. Lavington Trophy in May 1983.

During 1988/89 Tony started collecting all the components he would need to build the Myers 7R for a second time and commissioned Roger Titchmarsh to make the frame. This was to the original drawings done by Roger Myers all those years ago, complete with tobacco stained line!  The bike ran for the first time in 1990 and Tony raced it later that year at the MGP. He also had wins at Mallory and Brands Hatch and finished 2nd in the 1991 350cc Kennings Championship.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

From the office of Joe Potts - Joe's most important pictures

After approximately thirty years three important pictures are reunited together. These three pictures were the photos that Joe Potts had in his office at Bellshill. The photos are of the racers who meant more to Joe than anyone else – Bob McIntyre, Alastair King and Charlie Bruce.

The first photo shows Bob McIntyre winning the 1959 Senior F1 TT on one of Joe’s Manxes.

The second shot is taken after the “Formula double Scotch” (or the 1959 F1 TT) and shows Alastair King with Bob Mac. Alastair also won the Junior F1 TT on Joe’s AJS 7R. The two photos from the Formula 1 TT were supplied to Joe by the Motor Cycling Magazine.

The final photo shows Joe’s old friend Charlie Bruce on his DOHC Velocette. It can be seen that Charlie has remounted after a crash (rips on the back of his leathers).

The photos had been kept in a garage but have now been mounted in new frames which are the same as Joe himself specified (he had written light oak on the back of each picture).

Sunday, 25 September 2011

DRM 3 cylinder restored

Hugh Ward has recently restored the DRM and has kindly provided me some pictures. It certainly looks a lot smarter than the last time I saw it in the back of a van at Beveridge Park! Hugh has done a great job and the DRM looks stunning. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

If more information on the DRM is required, here is the link to my original post:
DRM three cylinder

An account of the DRM 3 cylinder:

The post below is based on the words of Mike Brown who helped with the machining of the DRM:
"I was approached about modifying the crankcases and as you sit on the bike facing forward the right-hand most casing is as per original, the next one left has most of the careful machining which removed the crankcase area leaving the gearbox in tact with a flat face to butt against. The next crankcase part moving left was just a small crank case section generally about 35mm wide and finally the left-hand most casing contained a full crankcase but with the gearbox part all removed. The whole thing had to be lined up and holes bored for hollow dowels and long studs or with my engine, long specially made cap screws which held the crankcases together. Finally the mouths of the crankcase assembly were skimmed by removing about 0.2mm.”
“Davy had worked out that if we use 2 crankshaft centre sections of existing AS3 parts, we could seal the crankcases and due to the 6 splines that join the cranks together we would only require 2 crank halves to be modified. These were clocked up and the crank pin hole and the counter bore reinstated 120 degree round to the right with the original crankpin hole filled with a plug so as to help restore rotational balance. Once I had finished with the crank parts my good friend and colleague Hugh Ward reassembled the big end and rod assemblies by pressing them together and clocking them up true.”

“DRM racing sponsored a well experienced and able Scottish racer Mr Bill Milne and Bill had used an overbored /modified TA 125 in the 200cc class I think from memory it was 132cc all this work was done with Davy’s close links with Fahron engineering who produced very successful sets of water cooled barrels at that time. Fahron also produced the 3 cylinder barrels by making the cylinder pitch the same as the twin and machining the barrels and liners as they normally would.”
“Many other issues had to be addressed and Hugh would be able to provide this information but I do recall that initially ignition was with a Femsa unit. This machine was a very free revving unit but for various reasons it seemed to lack low down power in my view, probably due to porting, so performance was concentrated at the top end of the power range approaching 14,000rpm and the rider Kaj did run big end assemblies.”

Friday, 12 August 2011

An important person in the design of the Hopper special

Ian Hopper’s dog was very important to him and he even ensured that his new racing car was designed around the dog. Behind the driver a removable section was incorporated which allowed Ian’s dog to sit by him.
Ian Hopper's dog.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Hopper Special returns from holiday

Following from my previous post, here is the photo of the Hopper special as it returns from a holiday in Strontian. Note the stag wrapped up on the luggage grid! I think it is fair to say not many other racing cars would have been used in the same manner as this.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Hopper Special – making a stir on your debut

H3 was the third special made by Ian Hopper of Glasgow. The rolling chassis was made as a one-off by Joe Potts and featured a tubular chassis, suspension and wheels of a type used in his JP racing cars. The car used the very best component parts available at the time and was finished to an exacting standard throughout. The bodywork was designed by Ian Hopper as a true all-round sports car and incorporated a covered spare wheel and seating compartment for his German Shepherd dog. There is even a photograph of this remarkable all-rounder returning from a holiday at Strontian with a gralloched stag wrapped up on the luggage grid!
A Lea Francis 1496cc dirt track engine was fitted to the car. This was a competition engine designed by Ken Rose for dirt-track racing in the US and was a gear driven double hi-cam, cross-flow, dry sump unit producing 118bhp.The engine was slightly detuned and was fitted with twin SU’s as against the four Amal’s fitted as standard.   
The car was extremely successful and Ian joined forces with Jimmy Gibbon and Harry Slack to form the Ecurie Ossity team. They beat Ecurie Ecosse to win the inaugural 1952 Charterhall 3 Hour Team Relay Race.
The debut for Ian Hopper and his new special was on the 30th of June 1951 (just nine days after it was road registered) at the Bo’ness International speed hill climb. It turned out to be a successful debut with Ian being victorious in the 1500cc un-supercharged sports car class and also setting a new class record.
Such was the stir that the Hopper special had caused it wasn’t long before the authorities starting questioning its legitimacy. As can be seen in the Autosport cutting below at the Winfield meeting the organisers impounded the Hopper special after its race to analyse the fuel. Sadly for the organisers they were to be very mistaken in what they suspected.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Making progress on Joe Potts’ Desmo

I thought I would share some pictures of the newly manufactured chassis for Joe Potts’ Desmo. The frame is a replica of the original 500cc Razorblade frame that Alec Crummie made prior to the start of the 1958 season. The frames are made to be ass authentically as possibly. The rotary tube swaging machine used to make the original tapering down tubes was even tracked down and used for the manufacture of the new tubes. Even the resin used when bending the tight radius tubes came from one of Joe Potts' friends who he built racing cars with.

 It should be noted that the frame has been made to the same specification that Bob McIntyre raced the original Razorblade from the Silverstone Saturday meeting onwards. Before the Silverstone meeting, Alec Crummie added two extra tubes running from swinging arm pivot to the top tubes in order to increase the frame stiffness. The original 500cc Razorblade subsequently had these tubes removed (but the original brazing can still be felt) when it was converted into a 250cc Manx by Archie and George Plenderleith.
The front brake has also been sourced for the Potts Desmo. It is just as Joe was going to fit into it – a 4LS Gilera unit that McIntyre brought back Bellshill. The brake has had the ‘Potts treatment’ in the same manner as he did to the original.
Gilera 4LS drum brake modifed in the same manner as Joe Potts

The Razorblade frame 50 years on

1958 in Joe Potts’ workshop in Bellshill:

2011 the original Potts 500 Razorblade frame with two replicas: 

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Riders I admire - Brian Stonebridge

The second rider I have included in the ‘riders I admire’ series is Brian Stonebridge. Brian was born in Cambridgeshire and went on to become one of the top Scramblers on the 1950’s.
Brian started scrambling in 1948 on a 350cc BSA Goldstar. It didn’t take long for him to be recognised as a talent by one of the factory teams. From 1950-1954 Brian became a Works Matchless rider. In 1950 Brian won a gold medal for Matchless at the International Six Day Trials (ISDT).
In 1955 Stonebridge moved to BSA and was awarded the ACU Scrambles Drivers’ Star. At BSA Brian undertook development work in the competition shop, and it was here that he met two-stroke tuning expert Herman Meier. Brian with Herman realised that the lightweight 150cc BSA Bantam could be developed into a successful Scrambling machine.
With BSA investing less in their competition shop, Brian moved to Greeves in 1957 to be a Works rider, competitions manager and development engineer. It was at Greeves that Stonebridge really started to shine as both a rider and more significantly in the development of off-road machines.
Greeves were a small factory when Brian arrived, but within a few years he had turned them into one of the most important players in the world scene of off-road competition. Brian developed the Greeves trails machine into the highly successful TA – the first of the Scottish trials line. Brian took his second gold ISDT medal on a modified version of this machine – the first ever for a Greeves rider.
Brian had also spent much time tuning the 197cc Villiers 9E engine. He had nearly doubled the power output from it, and when fitted into the Greeves Scramblers it became a highly successful machine. The little Greeves in the capable hands of Stonebridge was able to humble machines of much bigger capacities. It was Brian’s pioneering work on the Greeves that showed that a nimble light machine was the tool to have for off-road competition.
In 1959 Brian and Greeves entered the F.I.M. 250cc European Motocross Championship (effectively the World Championship) and finished a superb 2nd. In fact without injury Brian might have won easily.
When Brian first moved to Greeves in 1957 they were selling 500 machines in a year. Such was the impact of Stonebridge that in 1958 they sold 2,500 and by 1960 sales reached 10,500!
On the 21st of October 1959 Brian Stonebridge died in a road traffic accident. Brian was the passenger in Bert Greeves’s Austin on the way back from a trip to the Hepolite factory when the car was involved in a crash with a lorry. Brian died within two hours of the crash, but thankfully Bert Greeves recovered after spending over a week in hospital.
Such was the high esteem that other competitors and the general public held Stonebridge in, for the Brian Stonebridge memorial Scramble held at Hawkstone Park in 1960 a record 84,000 spectators attended.
Even with Stonebridge gone, his development work and influence was still apparent. For 1960 the European Motocross Championship was won by Dave Bickers on a Greeves and the feat was repeated in 1961. Greeves were a company that competed ‘well above their weight’ and won in the field of off-road motorcycle competitions, and much of their success is owed to the great riding and development skills of the great Brian Stonebridge.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Riders I admire - Jimmy Guthrie

Jimmy Guthrie was born in Hawick, Scotland and prior to WW2 he was (to me) the finest professional motorcycle racer. Early successes for Jimmy included winning the Scottish Speed Championships at St Andrews (on Sand) in 1926 and 1927.

Jimmy Guthrie after winning the 1936 Senior TT
Jimmy’s first TT victory came in the 1930 Lightweight race aboard an AJS. However, he will always be synonymous for riding with Joe Craig’s Norton team, who he joined as a Works Rider in 1931. With the Norton team Guthrie became almost unbeatable. In his career he took 19 Grand Prix victories, 6 TT victories and three wins at the NW 200.  
As well as in his own country, on the European continent that Guthrie was held in very high esteem. His performances on Nortons had taken him to four European Championships and the Works teams from Germany and Italy couldn’t beat the British combination of man and machine. Jimmy would get to the different European races with his bike in the parcel carriage of trains!
His most famous trophy was for his victory at the 1936 German GP, which was presented by Adolf Hitler (who was expecting a German victory). The following year he was invited back to race in Germany, where the German BMW were planning to beat Guthrie and his Norton. In the race he had built up a two minute lead as he headed into the final lap. It was on that final lap that he crashed and sustained fatal injuries. Stanley Woods who was an eye witness to the crash insisted that Guthrie was taken out by Kurt Mansfeld on his DKW. Jimmy was lapping Kurt, and according to Woods, Mansfeld pulled out in front of Guthrie and drove him off the road. Some say it was an accident, as Mansfeld was trying to prove he was as quick as Guthrie, but Woods went even further to suggest Mansfeld did it on purpose as the Nazi regime was unhappy at the British riders being so successful. Stanley Woods' explanation does seem a little far fetched. Other sources clamined the connecting rod on Guthrie's machine was broken and this could have caused the crash (however it is possible that a con-rod can break after a crash due to the engine over-revving). 

NSU team paying their respects at the Guthrie memorial in 1954. From left to right Paul Hermann Muller, Rupert Hollaus, Werner Haas and Hans Baltisberger.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Velocette Viper Trials Bike

I just found this picture of a nice Velo Trials bike, that was built by Dave Lecoq. Dave used the machine for a good few years competing in events such as the Press Trial.
Dave is perhaps more famous for riding Clive Waye’s Drag-Waye dragster. Drag-Waye was a supercharged VW engine machine which completed the 1/4 mile in 9.68 seconds in 1970. In 1971 Dave and Drag-Waye took the world standing kilometre record with a 18.23s and the British 2 litre 1/4 mile record. Dave can still be seen racing Ray Petty’s 500cc racing car.

Going back to the Velo. It uses a very early Viper engine (which had heavier flywheels and an M17/7 cam). Dave chose a Velo engine due to the narrow engine – a theme that he kept to when building it. Dave manufactured a new sub-frame for the bike and also lengthened the Velo forks. The Velo wheels were replaced with much lighter items. Dave also made the oil tank, exhaust system and modified the petrol tank on the bike.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Croft Race Track

Croft Aerodrome near Darlington opened in 1941 as an RAF Bomber Command station. In 1948 the first races took place at Croft (known as Neasham). The Darlington & District Motor Club ran a few Motor Racing meetings at Croft during the 1940/50’s.

However, Croft only became a more major venue when in 1962 Bruce Ropner and fellow enthusiasts bought half the venue at public auction. £40,000 was spent laying a new surface for the new Croft Autodrome race track. Croft Autodrome was 1.75 miles long and roughly triangular in shape and went in a clockwise direction. Famous corners on the track included Tower, Barcroft, Sunny, Spa and the Railway straight. The track was completed in 1964 and was tried for the first time by John Cooper and John Sear in July of that year. The first meeting for cars and bikes was held on August Bank Holiday, Monday 3rd August 1964.

The track became an important venue for motorcycle racing with clubs such as the North East Motor Cycle Racing Club and the Batley Club organising events. The track closed in 1981, as the surface had started to degrade. Straight after the finish of the fianl motorcycle race held at Croft diggers were brought onto the track to start pulling it up – to make it clear there would be no more racing there. However a new Croft circuit re-opened in the mid 1990’s with much superior facilities.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Flow Bench setup for a 250cc Manx Norton cylinder head.

The following pictures show the setup that will be used for checking the air flow characteristics of a cylinder head from a 250cc Manx Norton. The 250cc was originally built and raced by Archie and George Plenderleith . More than 50 years after developing the engine, Archie will be putting the cylinder head onto his flow bench. It will be interesting to see what modern methods make of the work done all those years ago....

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Some Northern race programmes.

I was looking through some of my early 70’s race programmes the other day and what struck me the most was the importance of clubs in promoting racing. These club meetings had a mix of the top stars combined with the many amateur enthusiast on their road-based racing machines (Goldstars, Triumphs, Velos etc). We should not forget the importance of some of these clubs and the meetings they ran.
See below for some scans of covers for a Middlesborough and District Motor Club Croft meeting, a Batley Motor Cycle Club Croft Strongbow Trophy meeting and a Scarborough National meeting.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

1961 Italian GP trophy

Going on the theme of trophies, the trophy pictured here is a real beauty. It was awarded to Alastair King for finishing 2nd on a Joe Potts Manx in the 500cc class at the 1961 Italian GP held at Monza.  It is quite incredible that Alastair on a bike from a funeral parlour in Glasgow could go to one of the greatest races in the world and get a result like that!

The Lambretta Cup
There was a good contingent from Bellshill at Monza for the Italian GP. Joe had gone along to see how both Bob Mac and Alastair got on. Pim Fleming and his wife Jessie had treated it as a ‘busman’s holiday’ and had driven all the way from Bellshill!
For the meeting both Bob and Alastair has Works Bianchi’s for the 350cc class. For the 250cc race Bob also had a Honda 4. In the 500cc class the pair would be riding the Potts Manxes.
Alastair King and Bob McIntyre

The 350cc race was a disappointment for ‘Scotland’s terrible twosome’, as once again both Bianchi’s broke down. Things got worse in the 250cc class, as Bob crashed his Honda due to a split oil pipe putting oil onto his rear tyre. In the crash Bob suffered a broken collarbone, which put him out of the 500cc race.
It was therefore up to Alastair King to do the business in the Senior class. Mike Hailwood and Gary Hocking on MV’s were expected to challenge for the victory. Behind them Alastair would have to battle with the ‘Continental Circus’ riders on Manx Norton’s, such as Paddy Driver, John Hartle and Bob Anderson. As expected, Hailwood and Hocking went into the lead on the MV’s. Behind them there was a real battle involving Alastair King, Paddy Driver and Bob Schneider. Alastair was able to pull clear of Paddy Driver to be running in third position. On the 30th lap Gary Hocking crashed his MV at the South Hairpin. This left victory to Mike Hailwood on the other MV, with Alastair King second on the Potts Manx and Paddy Driver third.

500cc GP at Monza. Alastair King (Potts Manx) leading Hocking and Hailwood on the MV's
After Alastair’s great success in the Senior race he was given £350 in prize money as well the Lambretta Cup (pictured here) for finishing second and the Dunlop Cup. Later in the evening Alastair discovered that the prize money had disappeared from his hotel room. He called in some support to help find it. Mike Hailwood, Paddy Driver, Joe Potts and Pim and Jessie Fleming were all on their hands and knees looking for the money inside the room and outside in the bushes below. Hailwood even ruined his pair of white trousers searching all over the ground for Alastair’s winnings. Unfortunately they were unable to find the money (it had been stolen). Sadly for Alastair, even after his great success, he had to borrow some money in order to get back to Glasgow.

Monday, 16 May 2011

DRM 200cc 3 cylinder

A 200cc racing motorcycle might sound unusual to some, but in Scotland and Ireland the 200cc class was a major racing category.
 The DRM 3 cylinder 200cc machine was a bike put together in 1976 by Davy Mitchell (DRM) to promote his motorcycle shop in Kirkcaldy. At this time Davy was selling Fahron water cooled kits for 125cc Yamaha twins. Davy had the idea of producing a three cylinder machine for the 200cc racing class using the 125cc twin as a basis. Yamaha themselves had made a 350cc 3 cylinder for Katayama and there were other home brewed 3 cylinder 'specials’ such as Tony Dawson's Scitsu and Ted Broad's machine.
 The base for the DRM was two Yamaha AS3 bottom ends. The crankshaft was made by Hugh Ward by assembling three pairs AS3 flywheels. Instead of the normal 180 degree firing order used in the twin,  Hugh modified the cranks so they were 120 degrees apart. This modification allowed the use of a Femsa ignition from a 500cc Kawasaki triple.
 The crankcases and gearbox for the DRM came from the Yamaha AS3. Once again one and a half AS3 cases were utilised.  

The water cooled cylinders for the DRM were made by Fahron engineering. The 200cc 3 cylinder was based on one of their 125cc twin kits but with an extra cylinder added. The three cylinders were cast together as one unit and then iron liners were fitted. Each cylinder used a separate cylinder chamber head. Each of these heads was then covered by a single top which ensured sealing for the coolant.  
Two DRM three cylinder engines were made, but only one was ever completed. The completed engine was housed in a Jack Machin frame (one of two similar frames made by Jack for a 125cc). The tube diameter of the frame was ¾” (the other frame used a tube diameter of 7/8”). A steel fabricated swinging arm was made by Fahron engineering. A Ducati front end and Yamaha rear brake was fitted.
The DRM was only raced on a few occasions due to reliability issues (big-end failure on one occasion). However, the DRM did what it was meant to – cause a stir and promote Davy Mitchell’s shop.

Update. There are a few new links concerning the DRM. The first is an account from Mike Brown who helped with the machining of the crankcases on the DRM:
The DRM has also been restored by Hugh Ward. Pictures of the machine can be found in this post: