Tuesday, 5 January 2016

A lucky find: The return of the Potts dustbin

Do you ever get the feeling that some things are meant to be?

One such episode relates to the return of the Potts streamliner.
This was very distinctive fairing and the second generation of dustbin fairings to be fitted to Joe Potts race bikes, but the first to be made in fibreglass. Previously they had used a fully panel-beaten aluminium design to great effect throughout the 1955 season. Although massively beneficial to the top speed of the machine, it added considerably to the overall weight of the bike and also suffered from poor airflow to the front brake and forks. This resulted in a chronic lack of brakes and front damping towards the end of the 1955 Junior TT, Bob eventually finishing 2nd to Bill Lomas on the works Moto Guzzi. These were early days in the use of fibreglass as a moulding material, but as usual Joe knew someone who could help. That man was George Jackson the local bobby.

Bob and George

 Across the way and opposite the Potts premises on North Road were Scott’s Motor Bodies, who manufactured and fitted out most of the ice-cream vans in the area. George had more than a passing interest in this new material and spent many hours at Potts after his police shift had finished.
It is clear by the final design, that the objective was to both lose weight in the fairing itself and supporting brackets, but also to increase the flow of air to the front end of the bike. The dustbin fairing was very light indeed and was made from a single layer of glass-fibre mat. In the press at the time it was stated the new fairing was less than half the weight of the previous alloy item. Air ducts were formed of the same material and are integral to the design, leading from the high-pressure area at the front of the fairing to direct cool air onto the engine cylinder-head and barrel.
The front brake-plates and hub are exposed to the airstream from below the wheel-spindle and the air scoops to both brake-plates are fully clear of any obstruction. The openings beneath the engine and gearbox were reinforced at their edges by casting in a rubber tube around the periphery, which considerably increased their rigidity. These fairings were all olive green  and colour impregnated resin was used throughout. The moulds from which they were taken were all made in house at Potts.  Alex Crummie welded, formed and hand finished to a mirror surface the dustbin mould, before it was suspended in an angle-iron supporting frame. George Jackson laid up the resin and finished the fairings ready for use.

Bob on the Potts 250 at the 1957 TT

The initial testing of this new design was done by Charlie Bruce on his Velocette MOV special, as they did not want to run them on Bob & Alistair’s bikes until they were fully sorted. Charlie liked his that much he painted a yellow rim around the mouth. Bob tested the streamlining extensively during 1957, including using it on the 250 Potts Manx at the TT that year. For the start of the 1958 season, Alistair had the Potts dustbins fitted to both his 350 and 500 Manxes. As Bob and the team were still working frantically on the new lightweight bikes at the start of the same year, both his specials were un-faired.

Oulton Park 7th April 1958


The team well knew the value of streamlining and for them not to use a proven device at a fast circuit like Silverstone indicates that there were problems elsewhere. Sadly these problems could not be cured in the time available before the TT and they would eventually revert to standard frame bikes for the time being. Alistair meanwhile was having a wonderful year, with wins and lap records at Oulton Park on his standard framed machine.

MCN April 1958

Bob did use the Potts dustbin fairing on just one occasion that year and what an event it turned out to be. This was the Aintree Red Rose Meeting on the 10th May and run over the most dreadful of conditions imaginable. 

Bob and Alistair were entered by Joe in both the Junior and Senior events and ran with consecutive riding numbers, Bob No.70 and Alistair No. 71. As Aintree was a very fast circuit both were using the full dustbin fairings.

Even the report of the event proved controversial, as the writer for The Motor Cycle incorrectly identified the riders involved in the incident. Yes J. E. Stancer’s Norton was hit from behind as he was about to be lapped…….but by an unfortunate Bob Mac.

It was the final straw.  This was the very last time that Joe Potts allowed either the Potts dustbin fairings, or the lightweight Razorblade frames to be used.

Skip forward 56 years to 2014.
A vague listing on Ebay stirred the grey matter and some further research was hurriedly done. Could this in fact be the Potts dustbin after all these years? Luckily the bid was successful, the low amount offered still sends a shudder down the spine but there was no certainty as to the authenticity of the purchase. However after seeing the front fairing mounting bracket and rev-counter mounting support for the first time, it was instantly obvious you were looking at the work of Alec Crummie.
How simple and effective this bracket is, acting as a steering lock-stop, a mounting for the rev-counter and resisting the considerable forces generated by full streamlining.

Beautifully made from rectangular section steel tube so favoured by Potts over the years and is a hallmark of their work. This tube was used on the rear sub-frames of both the Bruce Velocette MOV and New Imperial special made by Charlie Bruce for his brother. Needless to say it came from surplus issued to Potts for their war effort. Even the rev-counter bracket has been precision machined on the lathe, no saw and file here.

So we come at last to the fairing.

Although showing some distress following 50+ years in storage, the key indicators are still there:

The original hand painted number 70 and background on the nose, but even more telling is the damage to the nearside front of the fairing adjacent to the wheel spindle. Here you can clearly see the permanent effects of Bob’s coming together with Mr. Stancer’s Norton that fateful day.
At this point enthusiasm takes over and both the mounting bracket and dustbin fairing are offered up to JP5 (McIntyre's original 1958 270lb 500cc Razorblade bike albeit fitted with a 250cc engine). They fit like a glove. The positioning, the clearances to everything from handlebars to foot rests is tailor-made. Even the steering lock to lock is perfect.

The Potts dustbin fairing

And the icing on the cake is that the Razorblade frame uses a two-hole mounting, unlike a standard Manx and the fairing bracket has exactly the same. Quite simply the fairing could not be fitted to anything else.

Welcome home.


  1. How absolutely wonderful to see you are back on line !Bill Brown

  2. I'll second that comment by Bill!!

  3. Thank you, it's lovely to see one of my grandfather Alex Crummie' s bikes. It will be great to show this to my kids