From the archive: Showtime at Stafford


October is a busy month on the shows scene for CDB, enjoy our overview of the Classic Motorcycle Mechanics Show.

Words: Tim Britton Pics: Fiona Watson

Oh boy, is interest in the Classic Mechanics era taking off or what? Enthusiasm for machinery from the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties has grown at a rapid rate as those of us who rode the things in that era indulge our passion.

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At first this interest in ‘modern’ motorcycles was dismissed as a mere fad while the serious classic enthusiast fettled up their traditional machines. But, hold on, isn’t that what happened when groups of people started rebuilding old motorcycles? Didn’t the general public dismiss their efforts as a passing fad?

The thing is, we here in magazine land defy you to say which machine is more classic than another – it is an impossible task.

Above and Below: Alastair McQuaid’s genuine flat track Harley and BSA attracted plenty of interest in our hall…
… as did the Greeves and Husqvarna for our beach scene.

To one person a TY250 Mono Yamaha is the ultimate expression of Eighties two-wheeled desirability but the next person along wouldn’t agree.

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This growing interest has led to even a major manufacturer such as Suzuki taking an interest and considering recreating parts for classic models in their past range.

Not just Suzuki either, as CDB heard a whisper that other Japanese makers are having more than a passing interest in their older models too.

This cracking little Suzuki trials bike was spotted in one of the halls.

There are, of course, loads of other smaller businesses supporting the scene too and their stands and stalls were packed with all sorts of goodies at the show.

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Just overhearing snippets of conversation between trader and enthusiast on such stands was entertainment in itself… “got any knorbled grunge pumps for ’83 36DD special?” asked an enthusiast, “sorry mate, just sold the last one but see matey on the next aisle, he found a box full last week.”

Or the good old “you’re looking for a what? Good luck on that and if you find one I’ll double your price.”

That was to me when I suggested I was looking for the mud shield that goes under-seat on our IT465 Yamaha project.

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Long after Norton’s Commando engine was surpassed on the road bike scene it was still winning in sidecar MX.

Anyway, have a glance at our pictures and see what caught our eye at the Classic Motorcycle Mechanics Show at Stafford in October.

On any Sunday, our tribute

As the ultimate motorcycle sport film was being celebrated at the show at Stafford it made sense – at least in the editor’s head – to try and put a display on that reflected this film.

So, a quick word with Alastair McQuaid resulted in two flat track racers being brought along.

Alastair has the prototype ohv 750 Harley V-twin which became the XR750 and was more than happy to display this iconic machine alongside his A70 BSA Trackmaster-framed racer too.

Editor Britton discusses the plan with Bert White – yes, there was actually a plan – while Dave Thomas checks tyre pressures.

The number of people who pored over his two machines, both representative of the era, was incredible and Alastair was on hand to explain all about the bikes.

Now, if you recall On Any Sunday, more specifically the end scenes, the three main stars – Steve McQueen, Malcolm Smith and Mert Lawwill – were having fun on a Californian beach. Okay, got it?

The soundtrack played as the three guys performed for the camera as they popped wheelies, did jumps and drifted sideways and yes, occasionally parted company with their machines… with Smith and McQueen on Husqvarnas and Lawwill on a thinly disguised Greeves.

A quick call to the Greeves Riders’ Association and Charles Preston at Husqvarna Vintage and we had two bikes similar to those ridden in the film.

While our display had a 400 Cross ‘of the type’ used in On Any Sunday, this was Steve McQueen’s actual 400 Cross Husqvarna.

Thanks to the picture desk at CDB producing a huge image of a Californian beach – cheers Jonathan – and with the addition of some artificial turf and a bag of sand, we had our west coast beach…

Superstar guests of honour

To many of us, the best film in the world ever, the one we can watch over and over again, has to be the Bruce Brown motorcycle documentary On Any Sunday.

Bruce followed the motorcycle sports scene in the USA in 1970 and while there were superstars in the film, Brown made sure the ordinary enthusiast who made the numbers up in events on any Sunday you care to name were represented too.

The peculiarities of American motorcycle sport saw such things as large V-twins being used in what was classed as TT Steeplechase racing and this is a stunning rebuild of a Lawwill Harley with input from Mert himself.
Guest David Aldana was brave, or daft, enough to jump in the sidecar with Bert White for a quick demo lap or two.

October’s show was to feature four of the top motorcycle sports people followed in the film with Mert Lawwill, Don Emde, David Aldana and Gene Romero being invited across from the USA.

All four were really looking forward to visiting the show but unfortunately Don and Mert became ill just before their flights which prevented them travelling. In Mert’s case it meant hospitalisation though we understand he’s recovering well.

So, it was up to Mssrs Aldana and Romero to fly the flag for their co-stars and boy did they.

Our session with the guest stars was a little impromptu as their duties had them all over the show so it was squeezed in when they had time – still got a crowd.
Not sure if David Aldana or Gene Romero have ever been to Hawkstone Park but Darren Hudson has and runs a superb event there… maybe David could be persuaded over.

Phrases such as ‘greatest guests ever’ and ‘among the top people you’ve had here’ were common as the two lads signed autographs, chatted, posed for pictures and generally embraced the show… we even persuaded David Aldana to take his place in the chair with Bert White, sidecar chauffer to the stars.

The winner

Of the many reasons for purchasing a classic to restore, being smitten by a model kit built by the brother of one of your friends has to be a tad unusual, but that was the inspiration for Will Bennett’s stunning 400 Cross Husqvarna.

We managed to catch up with him after winning the Best MX Machine award at the show. We got the bones of the story from Will and we also got his agreement for CDB to do a feature on the bike so, without giving too much away at this time, Will told us he’d got the bare bones of the bike about four years ago.

Will Bennett looks suitably delighted with his award-winning Husqvarna, read all about it in issue 42.
Triumph too have done some winning in the flat track scene with superb Trackmaster-framed machines such as John Hateley’s 750 Bonnie.

“It was a complete shed of a thing,” he said and admitted there were loads of bits missing – seeking out the correct bits was the difficult part of the restoration.

The 53-year-old former AMCA racer who got back into the scene about 10 years ago told us a little about his rebuild. “I did most of the assembly myself but the painting was professionally done and it’s great.” We couldn’t disagree with that and look forward to catching up with Will for the next issue.

Steve Harkins collected another prize – two shows running eh Steve – for his B50 which the judges decided was a superb MX machine.

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