Tuesday, 3 January 2012

A trip to see Joe Potts at Bellshill during the mid 1960’s

The following is Dave Law’s recollections of his trip to visit Joe Potts in the 1960’s:
Bob McIntyre was my hero. I can remember exactly where I was then my mother told me he had died. It hit me hard – the ace of aces was gone! I was 16 years old when this happened.
A few years later, Colin East asked me if I was willing to take him all over Scotland for a week or so as he did not have a car licence. As I had never been to Scotland it interested me. My transport was an old Morris Minor van. I had welded two 12” wide steel panels at the rear of each front wing. As they were unpainted they had gone rusty. One of the rear lights used to drop out and swing on its wire – the body was rusty where it should have been. The van cost me £10, but it never let me down. This was our transport and sleeping accommodation. It certainly gave no impression of wealth.
So off we went, Scotland or bust. Colin had contacted no end of people and we collected motorcycle parts from all over Scotland. Everywhere we went the friendliness and hospitality of the people was superb. We sometimes had so many people feeding us we were absolutely stuffed – we did not like to offend them by not eating!
For my part I enjoyed the company of the Scottish people and wonderful scenery. The sight of an eagle soaring, not very high above the ground, flying nearly parallel to us, at our speed and not far away will stay with me always. That experience was near the Castle of Mey at the very top of Scotland.
Apart from seeing Scotland, my only real interest was to visit Joe Potts at Bellshill – Bob McIntyre’s friend and sponsor. We arranged our course to visit Bellshill on our way back down heading home.
We found Potts’ garage which was much larger than I had anticipated. I parked my rough looking Morris Minor van and stood on the pavement wondering whether or not to go in. I’d been sleeping in the van for a few days and I felt very scruffy and not at all confident. This place had been the base of the road racer that I most admired. Being quiet and shy by nature, I wondered if we would be welcome.
I decided that I would soon be sent away if I was not welcome. I managed to muster up my courage and walked to the open garage door with Colin with me. Once inside there were, I think, three mechanics working under cars on three ramps to the right. I believe it was the foreman, in a white smock, who came over to enquire what I enquired.
I asked if it was possible to speak to Mr Potts. He asked “Which Mr Potts?” I replied, “Mr Joe Potts.”
“Follow me,” he said, and we walked out of the garage door and turned to the right, through a double door and into an oak panelled corridor. The foreman asked us to wait. He knocked on a door and entered. We were invited into an oak panelled office with Mr Potts sat at the desk behind the door. He asked what we wanted. I guess that I must have looked a little nervous and I said I was interested in motorcycles. He replied that he had all the time in the world for motorcycles, with a very friendly manner, which put me at ease. Mr Potts quickly rose from his chair, opened a door in the panelling and put on a smock. He led us to the back wall of the garage and unlocked a door. In we went.
The various motorcycle press articles I had read about Bob McIntyre sometimes had photographs of Bob McIntyre in the workshop, preparing engines and bikes including a shot of him putting a Manx engine on the dyno’. This was the place where it had all happened and the photos had been taken.
I felt I was on hallowed ground, It was all here!
Bob McIntyre with Joe Potts and Joe Woollams at Bellshill in 1958

Mr Potts enquired of my intentions and ideas. He started bringing various items from the store ‘cage’ that he felt may be of use to me with the benefit of valuable advice based on their experience. He gave me several tips, often explaining how they found them out by chance. If it gave more power, they incorporated it in future engines. At one stage Mr Potts said with obvious affection, respect and admiration in the tone and manner of his voice “When you are dealing with a rider like Bob McIntyre....” A feeling of sadness came over me for Mr Potts’ obvious loss of a good friend, companion and a very great part of his life over many years.
Amongst the components Mr Potts brought out for me was an E95 Porcupine connecting rod, in case I wished to make a 250cc engine. He explained that they had engine parts and castings in case they wanted to make a 350cc Porcupine. AJS had supplied with these parts to them. I was told that AJS had let them have the parts to build a 350cc engine if they wished, but not a 500cc machine.
By now I was concerned that I may not be able to afford all the parts and told Mr Potts so. He very generously replied that they would cost me nothing.
Colin expressed an interest in the Porcupine cylinder head castings and some other items and was also given them.
Eventually we left. I felt I had an audience with a very good, warm natured and generous man – a great engineer. When the Bellshill team was in full swing it must have felt so very complete and happy to be part of it, I could very much understand why various people willingly gave their time to help out with Bob McIntyre’s racing programme.
It was such an amazing experience for me and I will never forget it.

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