WELCOME TO A SERIES OF NEVER BEFORE PUBLISHED PHOTOGRAPHS OF A CLASSIC MOTORCYCLE TOUR OF THE UK AND CONTINENT.
In 1951, my Father, John Carr Winter (JCW) bought a brand new Vincent Motorcycle (NMB213) straight off the production line from the factory in Stevenage,Herts - and secured it with a £5 deposit!
This heralded a period of travel through 1950s Britain and the Continent that has been recorded in his photograph album. The photographs became influential upon myself to become both a motorcyclist and indeed an author ( see panther-publishing )
"An absolutely lovely book - beautifully written, whimsical and with just the right touch of nostalgia." 100% Biker
We travelled through very different times, but it was fun all the way. I hope you enjoy them too.
1) Monte Carlo, Milan and the Alps (1953).
2) Highland Tour (1954).
3) My Brief Encounter With Marty Dickerson.
4) Fifties Motorsport - cars, planes, trains and bikes.
5) The Festival Of Britain National Rally (1951).
6) To buy a brand new Vincent ( 3rd March 1951).
7) What's Over The Hill? Village Lads Get Mobile.
8) A rare ex- TT Sunbeam - a tale that will make you weep.
9) Over half a century later.
More photographs are being discovered all the time and the quality of the existing ones improved, so please keep revisiting.
MONTE CARLO, MILAN AND THE ALPS - 1953.
The journey appears to begin in Monte Carlo for the simple reason that after purchasing a Vincent JCW was on "jam and bread" thereafter which didn't extend to the purchase of a Camera. Until, that is, he had passed through France and realised it was too good to miss. This photograph will be available for sale on line shortly sp please keep visiting
Here's long suffering passenger, Dennis looking characteristicaly shell shocked. JCW motored around the clock to reach this point. They had endured a puncture on the road south and were helped by a"big bear of a French man" - useful when wrestling with tyres. The heat was so great they had to work on the bike for no more than five minutes at a time before retiring to the shade of a tree by the roadside. The French man was kept supplied with cold beers throughout. This hospitality was later appreciated by the author for many years spanning a breakdown in the Alps in 1985 to a puncture on the Pont Du Normandie in the millenium. Long live entente cordial!
The entry in the album reads briefly, "A Smelly Camp". Odour was at the forefront of JCW's mind. On the way down he bought a pair of deck shoes for recreation. These were tied to the back of the bike where they promptly became wedged between the wheel and the frame. The resulting smell of burning rubber only came to their attention when the locals on autocycles caught up with them at the traffic lights holding their noses. As you may have guessed, thrift meant these still had to be worn. Worse was to follow. They turned out to be two left feet!!!
Pipe smokin'...an Englishman abroad.
Continental elan may have made deck shoes the requisite haute couture of motorcycling boots, but this shot shows an undeveloped Monte Carlo free of crowds generally as well as alone fashion victims. Even so, the Alps were calling.
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One last look; DP seems reluctant to get on the Vincent!
But it was worth it. Overladen Horex takes on Vincent for neck and neck race around the Alps. Discretion prevents a recall of how the "dust up" actually concluded, although German rider got a dig in the ribs from his passenger when...
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These roads are made for ridin'..."
To run on a whiff of petrol and have one's direction influenced only by which roads look interesting-this school of travel was inherited by the author when first travelling the continent thirty years later. Perhaps the same views effected JCW for these two photographs were taken by each of us standing in exactly the same spot- something we only realised when my photographs dropped through the letter box (as they did in those days).
Much loved Triumph Thunderbird on the cieling of the world in the 80s -similar area; "not lost just don't want to be found". That excuse didn't work on a subsequent honeymoon!
After descending the Alps, JCW meanders on to Milan Cathedral where "security was tight".
The main piazza in Milan - note famous American brand already making its' presence felt. this shot should be in every Italian cafe with it's "artistic haze" (easily mistaken for lack of focus) and consequently
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Milan again. This views still shows bomb damage being put right.
Heading for home via the mountains. Tank defences in the middle distance?
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Family tradition; riding too far and then being too exhausted to ride any further. Consequently an agreeable night was spent in the forest after putting up the tent in the beam of the Vincent.
Au Revoir Le Touquet.
Whoops...well, nobodies perfect. JCW picks up a speeding fine on the way home.
JCW's son and aspirant author, set out on an identical journey under the influence of these photographs, some thirty years later, albeit on an Enfield Bullet.
And happened upon this scene one still day in late summer. The fisherman raised his hand in farewell after this photograph was taken. It was just a moment in time on my first continental tour. One felt like a pioneer as did JCW thirty years earlier and hopefully future generations will if they are allowed to sample such freedom. In the back ground a Citroen 2CV is put to its intended use by workers in the field. But my overiding recollection is of the silence... until I started up the Enfield, but I was soon gone and the fishing went on.
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And this is what it lead to...
...a road that was too good to rush, which is why 18 bhp Enfields have will always have a certain appeal. Meanwhile back in the 1950's.......
HIGHLAND TOUR - 1954
But not all trips go quite according to plan.......
Here's JCW in the Highlands of Scotland trying to locate the site of an accident the previous year. In classic Scottish weather NMB213 was being gunned around the twisting roads that abutt the Loch side when the bike lost it's grip, went one way to hit a rock and took to the air before coming down on it's rider. Incredibly the whole incident was witnessed by a Doctor's wife from their cottage on the opposite side of the loch (no bridges then).
Before leaving the cottage she picked up the cleanest makeshift bandages to hand...her laundry. When JCW's BSA bound companions Ern and A N Other retraced their tracks they found him lieing in the road as a lady wrapped her underwear around his head (some people would pay a lot of money for that experience). The only assurance she offered was that the pants in question were fine as they had been rinsed in a mountain stream which was absolutely pure. For their part, they were as worried about the brand new Barbour International that was covered in blood; austere times. JCW was not alone in "coming a cropper" in the Highlands. In that same year Edward Turner of Triumph rode from Lands End to John O Groats on the "Gaffers Gallop". Bob Fearon ( below left) also took to the air on a misjudged Scottish bend, happily for him it was nowhere near as dramatic. JCW spent the rest of the week in Glasgow Infirmary writing phoney letters home to his Mother assuring her all was well. His freinds were now firmly ensconsed in a nearby Glasgow boarding house. The experience lead to them preventing their sons ever having motorcycles. Not so JCW.
Wonderful period shot of the said Gaffers Gallop courtesy of Mr John Nelson. Mr Edward Turner of Triumph was up in the Highlands at about the same time. As another emminent engineer he was, in some ways the perfect antithesis of those creators of the mighty Vincents Phil Irving and Philip Vincent. Far less a perfectionist, far more commercially driven and something of an artist with an artists temperament; the bikes he produced were equally distinct. That the 1950s industry could allow such distinct companies to exist in its midst (if one only briefly), shows what a "broad church" it was.
"...reading the book one could feel something of his spirit..."Jane Meadows, Edward Turner's Daughter.
"Mr Winter's pleasant narrative style soon draws you in..." Best Of British Magazine.
"The writing style encourages one to keep reading and the further I read the better it got." Centrestand Magazine.
"Read It" Old Bike Mart.
I don't mind admitting that we don't know quite where or which vessel. The year is 1953 and it's an aircraft carrier in either Gourock or Greenock. Both acted as shipyards when busy, breakers when not.
Thankfully the following year was incident free, but the weather made an impression. When opening the album over half a century later JCW's candid, "sentiment free" comment was "I couldn't believe I'd worked twelve months for this". Old motorcycle gear (highly fashionable today, but not always waterproof then) and one of the many army surplus tents drove them into a "B 'n' B".
"...after riding through this we stayed in a guest house run by two old ladies who put a hot water bottle in our beds and by crikey we were grateful..."
Glen Coe without tourists.
Life before bridges...there's a ferry round here somewhere. Passenger looks characteristcally shell shocked.
Remoteness and ruggedness of the Highlands made it ideal for training special forces. Indeed much of the Ardnemurchan Peninsula was completely closed to the public. As late as the seventies you could stumble upon the odd landing craft or come across a jeep in a barn. Of a more permanent nature is the Commando Memorial at Speen Bridge. The training itself cost many lives but in the early fifties people were just relieved it was all over.
Still, Vincent had optimistically prepared an expectant market and Smith Clocks would end up supplying the mighty v-twins with a speedometer the size of a frying pan.
In peace, some still had to test human endeavour to its' limit...and beyond.
The cement has hardly set on the recently errected memorial to John Cobb who reached a speed in excess of 200 mph in his jet boat Crusader, before being killed. Cobb went on to recieve what many 1950s schoolboys would regard as the ultimate accolade; a feature in The Eagle comic (right).
Bedraggled but true to life. Even a brand new Vincent straight off the production line had to earn its keep. This is what the majority looked like in reality. And the chrome tank? Pulled out of a scrap wagon at the Sheldon steel works whilst the original was being repaired. Scrap or not it was still doing fine service at the top of Loch Ness.
Above Loch Broom - narrow roads, low cloud; The Comet took it all in it's stride. Indeed with so much torque it was made for these roads.
This is near Lossiemouth. At least it's not raining.
Perhaps not suprising that cars should start acquiring some appeal, even if they haven't got a roof. Here's a chain driven Frazer Nash somewhere around Aberdeen.
"...if you want a thoroughly enjoyable through early 1950s motorcycling...then this is a must read." Ian Kerr
"He excells at prose and spins a good story..." Lyndsay Brooke author of Triumph Motorcycles In America.
"...Winter is a good story teller, writing with detail, wit and self deprecating humour and the book is peppered with classic quotes that elevate the tale." Real Classics Magazine.
"There's noo whisky". Like a scene out of the Ealing classic Whisky Galore. But these are at Stonehaven awaiting a date with the scrap man. Curoius drinking laws prevailed. JCW on entering a bar at Cove (south of Aberdeen), found everyone stepped back from the bar and looked at their drinks from a distance. They all seemed to know what they were doing, so JCW tried oredring a pint. With enviable precision they all stepped back again. There was a law in Scotland that you couldn't drink on a Sunday unless you were a traveller. If the bus had pulled in, then no one was travelling and barmen and customers alike stood back from the pumps. Compton Mckenzies' classic was not so far from the truth.
Both years it poured down, but it was undeniably beautiful.
How many holidays end up this way? Enthusiastic rider still lapping it up; passenger clearly had enough as he awaits the ferry home.
Phil Irving's classic text; "Tuning For Speed". Essential reading for vast numbers of self reliant enthusiasts. But Edward Turner of Triumph appealed to customers on an entirely different basis. Father and Son succumbed to differing virtues; both were happy.
Father's Day - 17th of June this year. Should you be struggling for an idea...
MY BREIF ENCOUNTER WITH MARTY DICKERSON
An unexpected encounter whilst strapping the bikes down on a car ferry to France as first published in The Daily Telegraph at My Slow Trip With The Speed King
"Here they come"...early Ashbourne Park when the "track" was still incredibly narrow.
Meanwhile, Jim Alves of Ariel stops to make a point at Wild Boar Clough.
"On A Modial"...if it isn't a song, it should be.
Nothing looks like it, nothing sounds like it...Bugatti at speed.
It all seemed to be going so well for Jaguar.
Until...nervous spectator casts camera an uneasy glance in the era of the straw bale school of health and safety.
But the race went on. Each car almost certainly powered by a Norton 500. By all accounts, "a bugger to handle".
A study in fifties hair cuts and a glimpse of the first "Grandstand" at Oulton Park.
"I couldn't put the book down. I must congratulate you on a fantastic read" The Editor - Daimler And Lanchester Owners Club
Meanwhile in the car park at Oulton Park...
As driven by Michael Caine in "The Battle Of Britain".
There are somethings a man doesn't want to be reminded of. This model Aston Martin could have been had for little more than the second hand valuue of the Vincent, when the time came.
Dan Dare...even if everyone dressed in primary colours and qued for bread we still stunned the world with the Victor. Briton's still believed they would win the space race and scenes like this gave weight to that belief. Even today it looks out of this world but in austerity Britain it left spectators breathless. Some historians have questioned our priorities; looks fantastic all the same.
TO BUY A NEW VINCENT.
The product of that brilliant Australian, Phil Irving and Philip Vincent ("The Two Phils"), they produced the worlds fastest and arguably most exotic motorcycles of the time. This was all the more remarkable given the scarcity of resources in the early fifties. There seems to have been little regard to expense and each individual part feels tailor made. But Vincent closed it's doors a couple of years after JCW puchased NMB213 thereby denying that experience to future generations. The likes of Edward Turner at Triumph, who by contrast insusted "the minimum amount of metal does the maximum amount of work", shouldered the responsibility of mobilising the populace. If ever you hear old motorcyclists "debating" which of these was the best engineer; smile benignly and walk away slowly.
Many young men tried to "blag" a Vincent brochure out of a dealer, but JCW succeded. It was a sound investment for TT racer and dealer W.M."Bill" Webster. Although he used to boast "I couldn't win the lightweight on a Manx Norton", he ran a successful dealership for many years. This is the bike on the day of purchase having been preceded by an original and still much treasured Vincent badge (see below).
The brochure endures to this day and is produced in full at the end of the website.
This picture of the Comet is worth producing here as it is easy to see why JCW couldn't wait to get his hands on one.
And having got the Vincent, there was nothing left to do but ride it.Happily the Welsh borders were little more than the twist of a grip away. Here's old friend and Triumph Speed Twin rider, Noel Clarke reflecting on the empty roads and early spring tranquility. Were these the best of times? You can almost hear the lark ascending as the populace was still running on petrol coupons!
On another similar trip, coming across an armed naval vessel (possibly HMS Conway) having been put on the rocks!
Port Merion long before "The Prisoner" arrived.
The Dovey Estuary.
Old friend Noel contemplates bringing his Triumph bound family on holiday here later in the year. And so he did coutesy of a Speed Twin hauling a Watsonian sidecar. A 500cc was considered a "big bike" then!
And looking further down the harbour.
Dear Old friend Ern, a BSA bound companion stopping for a swift half.
The beauty of Wales continued to bewitch.
The Vincent's torque served it well in this kind of country.
Much later and looking the worse for wear (it was an everyday bike). NMB213 leans against the wall at Rudyard Lake. JCW had been to look at a Delage Straight 8 at Rudyard garage. His view was that it was exotic. The mechanics dismissed it as "rubbish" because it was complicated to fix. Similar differences of opinion prevailed for a long time depending on whether you were driving or working on the vehicle in question. Today we just throw them away.
A much photographed spot.
"BEST READ Sept 2011 "Winter has a most erudite style that is both witty, satirical, sometimes self deprecating and always thought provoking" The Classic Motorcycle
THE FESTIVAL OF BRITAIN NATIONAL RALLY - 1951.
After purchasing The Vincent, JCW gets off to a flying start by taking part in the 24 hour National Rally.
The control card below only tells half the story. JCW emerged "punch drunk" from 1000 miles in 24 hours and the wonderful kaliedascope of human activity. We may not have festooned our island with street lights but it was a hive of discreet activity. From the fires illuminating railway cabs to the coming and going of shift workers, it should have been filmed (and possibly was for the British Film Institute). JCW clocked in at the long gone Shearsmiths in York, where son would buy a leather jacket thirty years later. He winessed (while passing), the RAF preparing Vampires/Meteors for a high speed flight for which they ultimately claimed the wowrld Record. One thousand miles were covered in 30 hours, after starting at 9am in Crewe and finshing at Billing.
If only we had the bike to go with the trophy.
WHAT'S OVER THE HILL? VILLAGE LADS GET MOBILE!
It was a scene repeated in villages across the shires of England in the early fifties (in this case Norton In The Moors, Staffordshire). Local lads, curious about what lay over the hill and beyond the bus route. Now they had the chance to find out. They were the pioneers; the first of the beneficiaries of mass private transport. In the fifties it felt anything but mass and the roads were those that G.K. Chesterton immortalised with the words: - "Before the Romans came to Rye, or out of Severn strode, the rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road". Amen.
And here, replete with creases is an original photograph of the "Cat & Fiddle"; popular with bikers then and noe.
"Mr Turner had brought to the masses the type of performance that W O Bentley could only provide in return for a blank cheque." (From "Travelling With Mr Turner"). Here's Harry with a very different bike than anything envisaged by "The Two Phils". Amongst the local crowd he was famous for being fastidious with the care of his much loved Speed Twin. Indeed on any run he had the habit of comparing the temperature of everyones sump by placing the palm of his hand on them after a run. This lead to everyone doing the same to a glider when they pulled up at an aerodrome. However, it looks like he took the joke well.
And here's the type of handbook Harry might have taken advantage off; useful, not least as it tells you what you need to know. In a modern handbook, I counted over 150 legal disclaimers. Such is life.
Below is the very glider being brought down towards the end of another day on the open roads of fifties Britain. Poor Harry tried a vain riposte (never wise amongst engineers and generally handy people) when he referred to the gliders laminated wood as being "lamented". You can tell, the story was oft repeated.
For too long, owners of these type of vehichles were undisputed kings of the fast lane. Looks rather smart all the same.
The BSA twin. Far more common than a Vincent they shared the universal feature that you could actually fix them yourself.
And BSA like the others believed in preventative medicine; here's the lubrication chart.
And having got their bikes in tip top condition, and arming themselves with a Bartholomews Map, they headed off into the sunset. And on this partcular occasion, the sun seems to have set in Brixham.
Were they the first "Ton Up Boys"? Perhaps not on these bikes.
A RARE SUNBEAM
Was this the Sunbeam that one of the Spann Brothers crashed at Cregna-baa during the T.T.?
We believe so. And why? Nothing more than another local man who told us so. The frame was broken in the accident and then fixed so that it could be raced again the following year at Southport Sands and was certificated for reaching 100mph!
And then it spent the rest if its' life in an undertakers shed before JCW bought it for £10. Here he is on the day.....he GAVE it away!!!
Small wonder he's smiling. Gordon takes hold of his new mount. We know not what happened then until JCW wrote an article for the erstwhile UK magazine "Motorcycle Classics". Then a member of the public wrote in stating that he believed the bike he was restoring may have been the very same machine.
Happy days, when all the signs looked like this and the road was open.
Or is it just rose tinted spectacles?
HALF A CENTURY AND MORE LATER
For a time Vincent's famous "STOP" light, these photographs and the original brochure was all that remained in the garage of NMB213. Along with some priceless memories. Then having failed to persuade the owner of a Vincent that he should donate the bike so that JCW could complete his rebuild of the said light, he gave it to him. By the time the oil pump below was found, the author excersised enough influence to ensure it stayed in the family. And so has the attached kit, the completion of which was interupted for 15 years or so by the arrival of a very rusty MGB. It is now being completed with Grandson.
The full brochure is reproduced at the very end of this site. I hope you enjoy it.
Travelling With Mr Turner, the quirky, yet most WARMLY RECIEVED motorcycle book in YEARS!!!
AVAILABLE AROUND THE WORLD:-
Motorsport or Motorcycle Classics USA
*********************************** THE END (and a fairly typical one at that) *************************************************************************************************
The Aston Martin that never was...any regrets? Yes!
In this vehichle, JCW began his career in what they now call "marketing". With a suit and a can of oil he began visiting customers, parking this vehichle out of sight and strolling in as if JCW had just wafted along in a Daimler. On any given journey the 800cc engine would burn so much oil that it needed refilling. Life changed, and JCW would shortly acquire the first of a series of company cars that would be replaced annually for the next 40 years; not nearly so much fun.
And as the sun sets, everyone heads for home by whichever way.