OLD NEWSLETTERS 6
Newsletter of The National Hill Climb Association Ltd
Editor: Tony Quinn, 3 Chard Close, Nailsea, Bristol, BS48 4QA
Tel. 01275 854789 (7pm-10pm weekdays, any time weekends)
Club Web Site:
Results Web Site:
Here’s your February Hillclimber as promised. Not much new material, as it comes shortly after the January mini-issue. Most contributors still seem to be in hibernation, but there are some important enclosures with this issue.
First up is the membership renewal. Please include your email address, if you have one, so that I can include you in any short notice news email-shots. Also, we have the agreed event list, AGM minutes and the Vintage/PVT and Classic records listings assiduously compiled by David Childs.
Trawling through our club’s web site, managed very ably by our very own ‘Tigger’, aka Nigel Glover, I found a useful machine checklist and some descriptive notes of some of the hills we visit. I hope that some of our more recent, or maybe just less travelled, members may find the notes an inspiration to visit new hills.
From the Chair
Well done to Doug Parnell for organising the AGM and dinner. Feedback indicates that all enjoyed it with about 56 members, partners and friends sitting down to dinner. The comedians loosened things up and made for a relaxing and enjoyable evening.
It was good to see Curly at the AGM and dinner, recovering well after his serious road accident. I’m sure it was quite an effort to attend and we were all pleased to see you.
Everyone is hoping for a better year than 2001. There are an awful lot of events and I hope that they will be well supported. At the AGM we considered reducing the number, but no-one wanted to let go of any of them! It was decided to hold Fairoak and Manor Farm on consecutive weekends rather than on the same weekend. We shall see how things go. Please give these events your full support.
Welcome to new committee member Richard Bowker who was elected at the AGM.
Comparing the provisional event list in the January Hillclimber with the fixed list you will notice that we decided not to take up the late September invitation at Prescott, but to accept the Bugatti Owners Club invitation to attend both the single day events at Prescott on Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 June. It is likely that we will accept entries predominantly from the ‘moderns’ for the Saturday hillclimb and predominantly from Vintage/PVT and Classic machines for the Sunday event. Having said that, it is quite possible that there will be spaces for some ‘moderns’ on Sunday and vice versa, so don’t be put off from entering both events if you feel like a full weekend of motor sport. Alternatively, run your modern on Saturday and your ‘ancienne’ on Sunday.
The opportunity to run at Harewood this year is an exciting prospect. I believe it’s one of the longest, if not the longest hill in the UK. An ACU track certificate is required and, by the time you read this, Doug will have carried out a preliminary visit to view the hill from a bike rider’s perspective.
Remember that 2002 is the last year that kevlar/glass fibre helmets bearing the 1.5mm single wide border stamp will be acceptable. After 1 January 2003 it’s the double border stamped helmets only. Please note that helmets with shells made from polycarbonate bearing the single border had already become non-compliant last year.
I saw some ‘single border’ helmets on sale at the Bristol Classic Bike Show. Don’t be tempted by the reduced prices, the helmets won’t be acceptable for competition use after 31 December.
The 2002 ACU handbooks should be in your possession by now.
Alcohol Burners – please note
Don’t forget the advisory display of an orange Day-Glo disc on the front number plate if you are running on methanol. This is the convention for car events so that, in the event of a crash, it alerts the marshals to the fact that there may be a fire, but that the flames will be less clearly visible than those of a petrol fire. Otherwise you may appear to have a faint blue haze surrounding your body and it may take some time for the marshal to work out that you’re not a Christmas pudding, by which time you may be well and truly toasted, not to mention your precious bike.
£25 Special Offer for first timers
This offer is available for 2002 to any rider wishing to enjoy their first competitive meeting with the NHCA. It includes entry to the event, ACU day licence, day membership to NHCA (if not already joined) and a free Hillclimber as a follow-up. It is available for the following events –
¨ Early Hartland
¨ Manor Farm
¨ September Wiscombe
¨ End of Season Hartland
Any new competitor may take advantage only once. When returning the entry form, mark it ‘£25 Offer’ and be prepared to complete the one day licence form on the day.
Guidelines for Bike Preparation
For a full list of rules please refer to the A.C.U handbook.
· All sump drain plugs should be lock wired as well as all feed pipes and fuel lines.
· If the machine is fitted with an oil breather, a catch tank/bottle should be used and secured firmly.
· All throttles should be self-closing.
· Any machine fitted with stands, full or side must have them wired up.
· A handlebar/steering stop must be fitted.
· On full lock the rider’s hands must not become trapped.
· Each machine should be fitted with two separate means of braking and each brake should be able to stop the machine on its own.
· Tyres must have a clearly definable tread pattern covering the full width and circumference and must not be slicks.
· All bearings should be in good condition with no excessive play.
· All primary drive trains should be covered giving good external protection.
· Machines must have the engines stroke clearly marked on them. (For noise testing).
· Clutch & brake levers must be ball-ended.
· Road legal machines should have any lights, indicators and clocks taped over.
· All machines must display 3 number boards, sizes and colours as per standing ACU regulations.
· Clothing should be leather and in good condition. Two piece leathers which zip together are acceptable, but one-piece leathers are strongly recommended.
· Helmets should be in good condition with a current A.C.U gold sticker with sturdy well-fixed straps.
· Boots and gloves should be leather and overlap or go under the riding leathers leaving no bare flesh.
· No machine is eligible to race unless it has passed scrutineering.
· The scrutineer’s decision is final.
· Scrutineering will end at 9 30am prompt unless otherwise stated in the regs.
….and now, some of the hills at which we compete
Hartland Quay, North Devon
516 yards long, rising 260 feet varying between 10 and 20 feet in width. The surface is very old machine laid tarmac and is pretty bumpy.
The Hill starts with a hairpin left up a very steep slope, a straight, a 90 degree left, a sweeping left, a steep straight, a hard left, a couple of wriggles and a bumpy finish.
Fairoak Farm, Honiton, Devon
700 yards long and approximately 12 ft wide of machine laid tarmac.
The Hill starts with a hard right on a slight down hill, followed by a gradual left over a bridge, a "straight" followed by a right and then a left uphill, the straight to the finish follows.
Wiscombe Park, Honiton, Devon
1100 yards long of excellent machine laid tarmac and is situated in the grounds of a Manor House.
The Hill starts with a short straight to a 90 left, followed by a long straight to "The Gate", a right hander. This is followed by the "Esses", a left, right, left, followed by a straight to the "Sawbench" a 90 right, a long straight then leads to "Martini" a 120 degree left hander to the finish.
Manor Farm, Charmouth, Dorset
502 yards long of good tarmac.
The Hill starts with a 120-degree right, followed by a short straight to a sweeping left and then a hard right under a bridge. On the exit to the bridge there is a sharp but sweeping right hander and then a straight to a 90 right to the finish.
Wadebridge, Royal Cornwall Showground
Several courses are laid out on the access roads in the Showground, they consist of lefts and rights in different combinations. The surface is machine laid tarmac.
Tregrehan, St Austell, Cornwall
The machine laid tarmac starts with a medium straight into a sweeping left uphill to a long right into a short straight to a 90 left to the finish.
Prescott, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
This is the home ground of the Bugatti Owners Club and has a very good tarmac surface.
A straight start is followed by a sweeping left, a hairpin right called Ettore’s, up to a hairpin left named Pardon, through some Esses to a hard left uphill to a hard right into the finish.
Gurston Down, Salisbury, Wiltshire
The well known hill starts with a long downhill straight to a gentle left hander (depending on how fast you are going!) along a straight into a hairpin right uphill leading to a left and onto the long uphill finish straight. The surface is excellent tarmac.
Bryn Bach Park, near Tredegar, Glamorgan
The Hill is a well tarmaced road situated in a landscaped ex slag heap, and consists of a long straight slightly downhill to a 90 right, a straight up to a hard right, leading to a left, right and then a left to the finish.
Baitings Dam, Ripponden, West Yorkshire
A splendid hill, A real "Hill Climb" as you may have guessed, this is the access road to the dam. A really good surface with the hill as follows.
From the start, it's a steep climb to the first hairpin, then the second hairpin, then the third hairpin past the paddock and then a longish straight to a 90 degree right hander to the finish, this is a real riders hill with power not really being an issue.
Tony Madgwick writes to tell us about a new magazine by the people who do Trail Bike Monthly called Supermoto Magazine. The editor’s page mentions hill climbs. We could supply some material to the mag and it could be a bit of window for the club. Tigger??
VMCC Sprint Section dates
These were also supplied by Tony Madgwick and may be of interest. He believes that day membership of the VMCC will be available for NHCA entrants.
Eelmoor (Aldershot) Sun 26 May 2002. (To be confirmed) 1/8 straight + separate twisty. Entry sec Juan Manzano, 31 Turners Avenue, Tenterden, Kent, TN30 6QL. (SAE please)
Kemble (Nr. Cirencester) Sun 30 June 2002. 1/4 Twisty. (Not a mega twisty, more of an almost-straight with couple of kinks). Entry sec Andy Forward, 3 Longhurst Cottages, Westfield Common, Woking, Surrey, GU22 9NS (SAE please)
Eelmoor (Aldershot) Sun 11 Aug 2002. (To be confirmed) 1/8 straight + separate twisty. Entry sec Juan Manzano, as above. (SAE please)
Brighton Sat 14 Sept 2002 (limited entry by invitation)
Bristol Classic Bike Show - 9/10th February 2002
Doug Parnell and a merry band of folk held a display of machines at this event. There was great public interest in the NHCA and numerous leaflets and membership application forms were distributed.
‘Hillclimber’ dates for 2002
The next Hillclimbers are scheduled as follows –
Copy by 10 May for publication by 20 May
Copy by 10 July for publication by 20 July
Copy by 10 October for publication by 20 October
Please try to make an effort to contribute. Articles and other contributions may be sent by ordinary post, email or just dictated over the telephone. Nothing is too small for inclusion.
CR500 Piston/rings +2mm. New £80.
Weslake 360 degree crank. Std, unused £300.
Box section swinging arm, fits Featherbed/Manx, aluminium. £50. Central oil tank, Manx, aluminium £50. Norvil floating front disc £60.
Suzuki T5500 engine, direct crankcase induction by reed valves, extra transfer ports. Yamaha twinshock frame and swinging arm to take above engine. £300.
Yamaha LC250 head/barrel, pistons/reeds £50.
Pair 16 inch Astralite wheels, wet tyres. £100.
All above from John Woods. Tel. 0113 252 4308 – home.
Newsletter of The National Hill Climb Association Ltd
Editor: Tony Quinn, 3 Chard Close, Nailsea, Bristol, BS48 4QA
Tel. 01275 854789 (7pm-10pm weekdays, any time weekends)
Club Web Site:
Results Web Site:
Please note the change of email address above. The old address is no longer any good.
Everyone must be too busy riding to write, but I hear that there have been some well-supported events. Having competed in non-NHCA events (cries of ‘shame!’) at Loton, Oulton and Cadwell, we entered the July Shelsley, but with Cathy holding the steering wheel and me trying to hold my bottle.
Shelsley is host annually to a select few invited to the August meeting, so it was very generous of the Midland Auto Club to offer us a second invitation this year. The bike entry of 25 was well over-subscribed at this superb and well-run venue. Spectator interest in the bikes was very apparent, both on the hill and in the paddock, as was the admiration of the two wheeler brigade expressed by a couple of car entrant/drivers we chatted to whilst observing at the start.
Many thanks to Andy Briggs for doing all the organising and giving us a serious pep talk prior to the first, and very slippery, practice run to ensure that we all behaved ourselves. Thankfully the weather improved very quickly and the sun shone on the righteous. Jason Reeve smashed the 2-wd 3 wheeler record and it was wonderful to see Ewan Cameron piloting the ex-Cyril Hale Halec-JAP, on which Harry Voice occasionally rode shotgun – see David Childs’ appreciation of Harry.
It’s good to learn of other hill climbing events across the Channel. As you’ll see from reading Doug Parnell’s article, he and Andrew Bennett had an unforgettable time in Italy when they competed (on Italian bikes of course) recently at Nalles in Northern Italy. Many thanks for the article.
Finally, I think your Hillclimber should have a new editor. I’ve been doing this for about four years and reckon I’m getting a bit stale. The Hillclimber needs someone a bit younger and certainly more mainstream than someone with an old three-wheeler. Please give it some thought before the AGM in late November. If you’d like some idea of what’s involved, please give me a call or button-hole me at Wiscombe.
Odds and Sods
· Tigger has received some information about the possibility of participating in a twisty sprint at Dunkeswell on the Somerset/Devon borders. Maybe for 2003?
· It would be appreciated if riders unable to complete their runs for any reason could inform the secretary of the meeting or some other official. This is especially important where there is a paying public and a commentator, e.g. Prescott and Gurston.
· Geoff Sims kindly provided this extract from ‘Shell Successes 1953 – The Hill Climb Season’ by Ken Wharton…. “Hill climbs offer one of the few chances of comparing the performance of a motorcycle with that of a car, since a special motorcycle class has become a feature of certain meetings. How evenly they are matched is remarkable. Yes, there is plenty to see both in action and in the paddock – so come along and watch us some time.”
Ken Wharton put up the fastest time at Prescott in May, at Shelsley Walsh in June and August, driving a Cooper. He also did 2nd fastest time of the day at these meetings driving an ERA. Unfortunately, there is no mention of the actual times. Geoff Sims asks ‘Does anyone ever enter two cars these days?’ The above is interesting due to the fact that, at the Prescott Hill Climb on 8 June, Jason Reeve and Steve Hoole recorded the fastest time for cars and bikes, and on 9 June John Woods did likewise.
· Some of you may remember Matt Isaac, Peter’s nephew, who ran a 600 Honda in road trim at some events a while ago. Peter reports that Mat is currently working for the McLaren Formula 1 Team’s test team and enjoying it greatly.
· As this is being written, negotiations are continuing for the Harewood event in August. The organisers are being extremely helpful but as it is not a regular bike course there are one or two safety issues to be resolved with the ACU. Let’s hope they get sorted and that our members enjoy a good day with no ‘nasties’ so that we get invited again in due course.
· Doug Parnell advises that there was a good article about the NHCA in a recent issue of Performance Bike. Let’s hope it acts as an incentive for newcomers to join in the fun.
· It’s now possible to download some entry forms from the club web site –
· More articles, snippets, needed always. Nothing, well hardly anything, turned away.
· Doug’s tailpiece to his article reminds one that the Italian car manufacturers have a knack for choosing unfortunate names for their models. Does anyone remember the Lancia ‘Dedra’ or the unhappily titled Fiat ‘Argenta’ (introduced at about the time of the Falklands conflict)?
My Experience at Shelsley Walsh- Sunday 7 July 2002
Many of you may be surprised that I was allowed to drive at Shelsley Walsh but at the beginning of the year a deal was struck. This stated that Dad (TQ) would compete in the Morgan Motor Company Challenge Series and I would mainly compete in NHCA (National Hill Climb Association) events, particularly Shelsley as it had instantly become a favourite two years ago when we raced there. I agreed to this because Dad had a chance of going for the pump fuel trophy whilst the NHCA have a range of interesting and varied hills that provide a range of valuable experiences. The meetings are also fairly relaxed with friendly people, great for first-timers wanting to have a little go.
As the majority of you know Dad’s preparations tend to be fairly limited. The main exception to this rule is ‘Gearing’. This takes hours using ‘Excel’ to create various charts using lots of numbers which are then translated into the actual chains and sprockets, which apparently are the basis for my two gears. The tickover was set higher in an attempt to stop me stalling the car in the paddock. I feel this was actually psychological rather than practical. The clutch was also changed for this event, as the other one was ‘not the best’. I do know this was called a diaphragm clutch and was very springy but maybe even less effective at the end of the day. The clutch is an ongoing problem so feel free to suggest any ideas (just not too expensive – remember this is TQ). There were probably other alterations I’m not aware of as the driver rather than mechanic although still quick to criticise if I feel the car is at fault and if not then it is still best to try and blame the car!
Meanwhile I had my own preparations. There was no time for extensive polishing because I had reading to do. As it turned out it was a short article (the best kind) by Ken Wharton who was famous as hillclimbing champion in the 1950s. This particular article was about his experiences at Shelsley in his Cooper. It was interesting and gave an insight into the various corners and the speed in which to take them. We also pulled a map of Shelsley off the Internet and discussed at what points the gear changes and braking should take place. This is only my third hillclimb and I still have an enormous amount to learn and try to benefit for Dad’s and anyone else's experiences. Mike Sythes, a friend of Dad’s advised me about my start at the Morgan club sprint about raising the revs gradually and releasing the clutch at the highest point to give a start that tends not to bog down.
When we first arrived the weather was terrible consisting of fine rain, which made the surface of the hill very slippery. It is always important when driving a hill for the first time to walk the course. Due to the steepness of Shelsley and limited time we only walked up to the entrance of the esses. This was extremely valuable because I could plan lines to take through the corners finalise gear change and braking points. This is all good theory but actually I just tried to get up the hill and the majority of everything else was forgotten. I describe it as learning to drive again. You have to concentrate on one aspect at a time and gradually bring everything together to create the best possible time.
Time in between runs at hill climbs can often be an extremely valuable opportunity to make minor and sometimes major adjustments. Luckily the car was running well and there was no need for any of this. The meant that the breaks between runs could be used to discuss the previous run and suggested improvements for the next run. My aim was to improve one aspect on each run, which would hopefully lead to a slightly improved time. I feel it is best to make small steady improvements rather than do anything drastic that could cause an accident.
Practice Run One: ~ this run is always the most nerve-wracking particularly at a new venue. I definitely felt more confident having walked the majority of the course beforehand. This run was in the wet so the tyre pressures were let down to give more grip. Jason Reeve, a fellow triker had also warned me that the start line had been resurfaced for extra grip but the rest of the hill would be exactly like an ‘ice rink’ due to the rain. This meant I needed to make a careful start and drive slowly to avoid losing control. I managed to arrive at the start without stalling the Morgan, which is a major plus as it needs to be bump started! I made a good start off the line but by this time I was unable to see hardly anything because my visor misted up apart from a very thin line where my eyes were. This meant I had to keep moving my head to see the relevant part of the track. As you may expect my loss of vision made me drive even slower to ensure safety. I think it was best, Dad didn't know this at the time he just thought I was being extra careful! I expect he thought the same of my extreme braking when arriving at the esses when in actual fact I hadn’t realised they were quite so steep and I have to say this was reaction to my slight panicking. The time was 69 seconds. However I couldn’t wait for my next run now because I had a better feel for the course.
Practice Run Two: ~ luckily by this time the course had dried out significantly although I was warned to be careful as patches of the track could still be wet and therefore slippery. To avoid the mist problem with my helmet I made sure the leave a thumb sized gap at the bottom of my visor and I reapplied some anti mist stuff called Rain-X. I had previously applied this to both Dad’s helmet and mine at home to help the mist problem, which had occurred previously. It seemed to have worked at the time when we were both walking round the house in our helmets to see if they would mist up! However, we came to the conclusion that the solution had to be applied on the day of use, which was the case because my helmet did not mist for the rest of the day.
This run was much improved on the last with a good start, a steady drive through Kennel and the Crossing, braking still way to early when approaching the esses and a faster sprint across the finishing line. I could not wait to find out my new time as I knew it was much improved on the last, so at the top of the hill Dad ran over to the timing hut to look on the sophisticated computer system but the time had not yet been registered. When we arrived back at the paddock we rushed to look at the other sophisticated computer equipment to find out they had a slight problem with the timekeeping apparatus. Yes, you guessed, it was possible that this could have been the driest run of the day and had no idea of the time. Could this mean I get another go? Apparently not! As you can imagine I was not impressed with this and therefore prayed all through lunch for it not to rain because I was going to have better dry run with a time!
Timed Run One: ~ luck was definitely on my side because it stayed dry and a lengthly lunchtime discussion gave me an idea of what aspects I would work on for this run. Kennel and the Crossing could be taken with more accelerator and a better line could be taken through the esses. I was able to use this theory and everything definitely seemed faster but the truth was in the time, which in this case was a 51. Dad was really pleased and so was I. I knew I had completed a good run and would be happy if this was my best. There was a problem still with the clutch, it was slipping and burning at the start (not my fault!) which was definitely losing me time.
Timed Run Two: ~ this has to be labelled the scariest run for both of us with mixed blame. First I managed to stall the Morgan before I arrived at the line which meant quickly finding willing volunteers to give a push. We or should I say Dad managed to get it started again so I didn’t miss my run. I made a good start but still the clutch was burning as I moved off the line so I did what I had been told which was to ease off the accelerator and then ease back on. This improved the situation although I still lost a small amount of time as a result. I was considerably faster and I think I had better line through Kennel and Crossing. I decided I would try and leave my braking a little later coming into the esses because the steepness of the hill also acts as a brake. However it was at this point that I could not get into first gear, which immediately resulted in lots of four letter words. This was good, as there was no time for any longer ones! By now I was in the corner of the first esse in neutral and heading straight for the sand bags so I pulled sharply on the steering wheel, revved the accelerator and jammed the lever into first. I drove quickly through the rest of the esses getting into second on the exit and putting my foot to the floor until I was across the finishing line. I was determined not to lose all too much time, as it had been such an excellent run. Indeed it still was I had achieved a 49-second time and a terminal speed of 62mph.
As with any hill what goes up must come down. I really enjoyed coming back down Shelsley because it allows you to realise just how steep it actually is. Also because you descend slowly it is another chance to look carefully at each corner for next time. I was told by Dad to go slower because braking distances are longer but I think it was nearly as much fun as going up.
Currently our Morgan is the only one that races with the NHCA, and they only give a first place in the three wheeler class. This includes lots of ‘trikey’ things, which go much faster than our Morgan ever will. However I was definitely the fastest Morgan on the day! During our lunch break I had admired the Shelsley Walsh mugs and Dad promised if both the car and myself were in one piece by the end of the day then he would buy me a mug. Therefore I was not only had a fun day, achieved a good time but also got myself a cup!
H A (Harry) Voice – An Appreciation
I had known Harry had been unwell for some time but it came as a shock to read, in Classic Racer, of his death at the age of 89 on (I believe) 6th March. Universally known as Harry or Les, it was only after I had known him many years that one of his former workmates told me the initials stood for Hereward Albert.
Harry will be unknown to younger members but in the late 1950’s and 1960’s he was one of the ‘stars’ of the hillclimb and sprint world and in the early and mid 1950’s he was a well known road racer.
He was tall with a fairly large nose set in a longish, slightly weatherbeaten and craggy face which didn’t seem to change much over the 30 plus years I knew him. On a bike he always looked very serious but off it he was a very down to earth, gentle, kind and modest man with a strong sense of humour and (when you knew him well) a strong Christian faith.
A life long motorcycle enthusiast he was fascinated by engines of all sorts (not just motorcycle) particularly racing and unusual types. He treated everyone (from expert to newest novice) as equals, was interested in how other riders were doing and had the ability to talk to much younger riders as if there was no age difference. He was always a pleasure to meet, always interesting to talk to and never lost his obvious enthusiasm.
Harry was born in the USA but grew up in Bodmin and considered himself a Cornishman. On leaving school he got a job in the Midlands but was laid off (with millions of others) in the depression. He then had a number of temporary jobs before obtaining a job building church organs for a Clevedon firm and stayed with them for most of the remainder of his working life.
The war years were spent in the Navy on fast motor boats. During this period two events occurred which changed the course of his life. Most importantly he met and married Vi but he also bought an elderly 350cc KTT Mk 4 Velocette racer with a view to ‘having a go’ when the war ended, having previously only owned road bikes. Years later when talking to me about this machine and the late 40’s he said “I thought I was in heaven and I just was!”
After the war Harry and Vi set up home in Clevedon and the Velo was entered in a few grass track meetings without much success, also (it is believed) in one or two sprints and possibly a hillclimb or two. Then in (I believe) 1949 Harry entered it for a road race meeting held on the sea front at Weston-Super-Mare and came 2nd in a 350cc heat and won the reserve race.
Following this success Harry started road racing at local meetings such as Blandford, Warminster, Thruxton, Castle Coombe etc and quickly acquired two more machines, a 350 KTT Mk 8 Velocette and a pre-war rigid framed 500 Excelsior-JAP. In the late 40’s and early 50’s many race meetings allowed dope fuel but some were restricted to petrol. The KTT Mk 4 and Excelsior ran on dope and the more modern Mk 8 KTT on petrol, giving competitive mounts for both.
The KTT Mk 8 was replaced after a few years by an AJS 7R and this, in turn, was followed, for a short period, by a 500 Manx Norton. He also bought a new 350cc plunger framed BSA Gold Star for the 1952 Clubman’s TT, sold it after the race and bought a 350 swing arm Goldie the following year which was kept for a couple of years.
Like most racers of the period Harry was attracted to the Isle of Man mountain circuit and competed in the following races:
1952 350 Clubman’s TT – BSA (plunger)
1953 350 Clubman’s TT – BSA (swing arm)
1953 350 & 500 Manx G.P. – 350 BSA & 500 Gilera
1954 350 & 500 Manx G.P. – 350 & 500 BSA’s
1955 350 & 500 Manx G.P. – AJS 7R
1957 350 & 500 Manx G.P. – AJS 7R
1958 500 TT – Manx Norton
The highlights of his I.O.M. racing were the 1953 Clubman’s TT when he finished 8th after stopping to fix a front brake cable adjuster which had slackened off. Later that year he was sponsored by Geoff Duke in the Manx G.P. on a 350 Gold Star (almost certainly a ‘works’ bike) and a 500cc DOHC single cylinder ‘works’ Gilera. Harry finished 7th on the BSA but the Gilera was delayed by oiling problems and then ran out of fuel on the last lap. Harry told me one of the problems with the Gilera was that the Italian mechanics had very little English and he had no Italian! The following year he finished 13th in the Senior MGP on his Goldie with a 500cc motor loaned by BSA.
1958 was Harry’s last year of modern road racing but old habits die hard and a few years later he took up vintage road racing using the Excelsior and continued until he was 71.
The first record I can find of Harry hillclimbing is in 1957 but the club’s records are incomplete and he probably started earlier. He then hillclimbed fairly regularly until 1974 although he did fewer meetings in later years and (I believe) never did any northern meetings in those pre-motorway days. Initially he used the KTT Mk 4 and the Excelsior but from 1962 an early AJS 7R fitted with a 350 JAP motor replaced the KTT which then seems to have been used mainly for vintage grass track races. After 1967 only the Excelsior was used.
Harry had many class wins and places in both 350 and 500 classes plus a number of FTD’s. The three I know of are the Tregwainton August meetings in 1957 and 58 and Dyrham Park in 1965, but there may be more. He also took ‘second FTD’ (George Brown was quickest) at Shelsley in 1959.
Harry was an extremely quick rider in both wet and dry conditions and was one of the ‘iron men’ who could get the best out of rigid framed, girder forked machines on bumpy tracks with tyres which had little grip by modern standards and, in the case of the Excelsior, handling and brakes which left something to be desired.
Besides solos he passengered the Halec on a number of occasions. This machine looked something like a single seat 500 Cooper with three wheels. The passenger sat on top of the streamlined bodywork! Harry said it was a bit hairy (understatement!) as there was not much to hang on to!
Most of the older riders will have their memories of Harry. Mine are of him sitting very upright on the girder forked, rigid, Excelsior with pudding basin helmet, Mk 8 goggles and (sometimes) a dewdrop on the end of his nose. On one occasion at Wiscombe I was watching him take Martini. When he reached the apex of the corner he opened the throttle a bit too quickly and the front wheel came up a foot or so. Harry was completely unfazed, easing the throttle just enough to allow the wheel to slowly descend while still accelerating hard toward the finish line.
Jack Difazio was one of the riders Harry raced against in the 1950’s and when recalling him recently Jack said “Harry was a real gentleman.” I think that sums him up really well.
Our sympathies go out to Vi and his family and many friends.
1 David Carter – 12pts
1 Reg Davis – 12pts
3 Roy Venard – 10pts
4 Ken Edwards – 8pts
5 Dave Massam – 6pts
1 David Childs – 21pts
2 Nigel Glover – 11pts
3 Will Wells – 7pts
4 Doug Parnell – 6pts
5 Tony Madgwick – 5pts
Please note that the first Baitings was not a round of the Vintage/PVT and Classic championships, but the second Baitings on 8 September is a round of those championships.
The Italian Job (the two-wheeled version)
Just imagine a Hill Climb with an entry of about two hundred & fifty bikes, where the paddock is one side of the village and the course starts from the centre about a mile away. You ride your bike to the start on public roads watched by the local plod who turn up on their Moto Guzzi patrol bikes and head straight to the bar for a quick beer. The local Fire Brigade are marshals and most of the village seem to come out to watch. Not a NIMBY in sight.
The course is about four miles long with hairpin after hairpin, just like Baitings Dam just about fifty times longer, and to cap it all when you get to the top there’s another bar.
The Event is at Nalles, which is in Northern Italy in the foothills of the Dolomites. It’s a Hill Climb but not as we know it. To give it its full title it is the Nalles - Sirmian Consistency Race. It takes place over three days with signing on and Scrutineering on the Friday afternoon, that is when you get the first indication of the way they do things there. The event is sponsored by a local apple grower so you get a tray of apples and a bottle of red wine just for signing on. In the paddock is a bar and stage. In a barn on the Friday night there is a social occasion. On Saturday morning you get your first practice in the afternoon you have your first timed run. Saturday there is a gala dinner attended by the World Champions at the event. Then on Sunday morning you get your second timed run. As the name implies you get prizes for consistency over the two timed runs, that is what attracts such a large entry but amongst that entry there were two distinct agendas – the consistency people on pretty ordinary classic bikes and the speed freaks on well sorted Manx Nortons, G50 Matchless and trick Guzzi singles, all out to be the fastest and stuff the consistency.
Where were the Brits? In the second group, where else? There were just the two of us Andrew Bennett and myself. Andrew was riding brother Ian’s superb four cylinder 250 Benelli which is an exact replica of the 1969 World Championship winning machine, open meggas included. You can imagine the interest that created. On the Friday evening Andrew was invited to bring the bike on stage and start it up. The Italians loved it, so did the Germans Austrians and Swiss who were at the event. We spent the rest of the evening on the VIP table with the likes of Tarquino Provini and Luigi Taveri, something to savour! There were no airs and graces, they were there to enjoy themselves as well.
How did we do? Pretty good but we’re not sure exactly what our placings are yet. Having told you about the good aspects of Italian run meetings there is a down side which is that things happen when they happen, so we haven’t had copies of the results yet. We did look at the print-outs before we left. By our reckoning Andrew was third overall and the fastest 250 by a long way and I was about tenth and the fastest 350, definitely the fastest Ducati single which was a good feeling for a Brit in Italy, especially as I was nursing a multi coloured bruised leg at the time.
Would I do it again? Yep, it was a great experience, thanks to Andrew and Ian Bennett for getting me involved and to their friend Graham who allowed his week old Golf Estate to be thrashed mercilessly across the continent with a box trailer on the back. I did it the easy way and flew to Milan with Alyson we had a short holiday in the Italian Lakes before going off to the Sued Tirol to meet up with the lads and bike. Just one last thing which gives you an insight to the way Italians are. My hire car was a model you won’t see in the UK. I wonder why, it was a Lancia Dodo complete with a little bird emblem on the door pillar, when the Italians get it wrong they really cock it up, but when they do it right it’s pretty good.
£25 Special Offer for first timers
Don’t forget to tell your friends that this offer is available for 2002 to any rider wishing to enjoy their first competitive meeting with the NHCA. It includes entry to the event, ACU day licence, day membership to NHCA (if not already joined) and a free Hillclimber as a follow-up. It is available for the following events –
¨ Manor Farm
¨ September Wiscombe
¨ End of Season Hartland
Any new competitor may take advantage only once. When returning the entry form, mark it ‘£25 Offer’ and be prepared to complete the one-day licence form on the day.
Copy by Copy by 10 October for publication by 20 October.
Newsletter of The National Hill Climb Association Ltd
Editor: Tony Quinn, 3 Chard Close, Nailsea, Bristol, BS48 4QA
Tel. 01275 854789 (7pm-10pm weekdays, any time weekends)
Club Web Site:
Results Web Site:
A big thank you to everyone who has supported The Hillclimber over the past four years with articles, results, snippets of information, gossip and even a poem. As you can see from this issue, we’ve got a good mixture that I hope you will enjoy. Thanks in particular to Dave Carter for his article on the subject of trials and tribulations at the Manx Grand Prix.
Nobody has expressed interest in the Editor’s job so far, but I’m afraid that someone is going to have to take over the reins. As I said in the last issue, I feel that after four years I’m getting a bit stale and also that The Hillclimber would benefit from someone with more mainstream two-wheeled involvement. I’m not ruling out volunteering for the job, or another post, sometime in the future, but feel that if I end up doing it reluctantly for a further term, it would turn me right off in the longer term.
We’ve the AGM coming up early this year on Saturday 30 November. Please try to give it your support; I know there’s going to be a lot of lively debate as to which meetings should be run by the Association and what invitations should be accepted in 2003. A straw poll of riders taken at Wiscombe indicated that the main concern is that there are too many meetings, thus diluting support.
The weather at this year’s all-bike Wiscombe wasn’t quite as sunny as previous years but, at least for us under-powered folk, the surface gave plenty of grip. Ken Edwards took the hot seat as Cathy had just gone off to University the day before. The Morgan ran well, taking 3 seconds off my best unblown time at Wiscombe due to a combination of the demon ignition system, possibly the effect of advancing the cam timing by a few degrees and getting the gearing dead right. This was offset somewhat by the choice of an extra-wide rear tyre which gave only limited wheel spin off the start line, then gripping fiercely and bogging down the engine. Ken had a trouble-free time with his pretty Tiger 80 350cc, recording a personal best on the hill. Oh, such joy! I think Martin Palmer must have gone to ‘another’ Wiscombe! He found it quite slippery – see Martin’s report later in this issue.
Late Season Event at Margam Park
Just a reminder that it may not be too late to enter the Swansea & District VMCC’s twisty sprint at Margam Park, Neath on Sunday 27th October. Please contact Mrs M Warren, 12 Hoel Isof, Cimla, Neath, South Wales, SA11 3SR.
AGM & Dinner 2002
There are now sufficient people committed to coming to the AGM/dinner to say that it will definitely go ahead at the Prince of Wales Hotel (on the A38 by the Dursley turning) on Saturday 30th November.
The AGM will be in the afternoon starting at the usual time of 2.30pm.
It’s still not too late to book up for the evening. Doug says that he can accept stragglers up to 16th November.
However, there is a shortage of rooms at the Prince of Wales, so please find below some alternative accommodation. It appears that another group have made a block booking, but the whole block may not get taken up so more rooms will probably become available about two weeks prior to the event.
The alternatives are
The Pillars B&B, which is 100 yards from the Prince of Wales
Greenacres Farm B&B
The last two are both a short distance away but will mean a taxi ride unless you are teetotal.
We’ve enjoyed some publicity for the NHCA this year with an article on hillclimbing a Buell at Gurston in the August issue of Performance Bikes and an article about Hillclimbing in general, but aimed at the June Gurston event in MCNews. This appeared on 19th June) with some general piccies, and a link to some hillclimbing videos I've supplied to be hosted on their site.
Hopefully there will be an article in Classic Racer about classic Prescott. Also, there is a possibility of an article in Old Bike Mart on classic Prescott. The OBM & Classic Racer ones have as yet failed to appear, however quite a few of the events have appeared in the events part of MCN.
The BMF have also published our events schedule.
I would like to receive descriptions of the hills. I need these descriptions for each of the hills (length, each of the corners, corner names, that sort of stuff), in particular the ones I haven't done! Directions on how to get there, spectator entrance fees, surrounding countryside, bars, food on site etc. etc. would also be useful. Mail or email to me would be good –
Remember that after 1 January 2003 it’s the double border stamped helmets only.
Curborough – July 2002
When Dave Wills said at the end of the riders’ briefing, “Oh, and remember if you fall off, you have to write a report”, I thought he was joking. Well, as you can see he wasn’t! This being my first year at hillclimbing I am still adjusting to some of its customs.
The weather on the day of the event was extremely hot and sunny with a good turnout of bikes and at least fifty entries. After a quick walk around the track I could see it was going to be an interesting day. First practice started at approximately 10:45am with the bikes following Class order.
First and second practice saw all the bikes getting off the line cleanly and putting in respectable times. With second practice finished, a break was taken for lunch with the first competition run coming around. It was obvious from the first run that the riders had now got the bit between their teeth as times were coming down very quickly. I was very pleased with my first run, although I was sure that there were another few tenths somewhere to be gained.
Second competition runs saw riders pushing harder with times falling further in all classes. Unfortunately my own second competition run did not go that well. Things started OK off the line, well in second gear, then third, fourth and fifth before the entry to the long left, went into it a lot faster than the first run, got the bike over at a fair angle. Then the front end started washing out, eased off the power, the front end regained grip. Thought everything would be OK from now on, so gave it a fistful, but it obviously wasn’t because the back end let go and slid around, dumping me onto the tarmac. Fortunately I had invested in a back protector two days earlier which was now being put to good use as I was spinning down the track on my back like a turtle with my bike doing the same on its clutch lever protector, exhaust, footpeg and gear lever. We both eventually stopped, I picked the bike up and pushed it away from the circuit. I felt OK but concerned onlookers thought I should see a doctor who gave me a couple of plasters to put on my arms after wearing through my leathers.
It was now time to straighten out the bike and get it re-scrutineered so that I could enter the Open runs. After straightening, Alan Jolly kindly re-scrutineered the bike just in time for the Open run. This event saw all sorts of bikes running, classics, road race, one-off specials, supermoto, combinations with respectable times being put up by all. It was time for the Top Ten run-off
which I had managed to qualify for. We all went as quickly as we could with results as follows.
1 Glyn Poole
2 John Woods
3 Paul Jeffery
4 Jamie Mitchell
5 Jon Staden
6 Robin Sims
7 Paul Jarrett
8 Jason Reeve & Steve Hoole
9 Gavin Lloyd
10 Alan Jolly
On the day new records were very close to being set with Jason Reeve/Steve Hoole having set the fastest time of day with 33.18 which equals the record set by Jon and Sandra Staden on 30 July 2000 with Glyn Poole’s outright record set on 30 July 2000 still standing.
After the Top Ten proceedings came to a close with people tidying up and making for home.
A big thanks must go to Robin Sims the Secretary, Dave, Sandra and Sarah Wills and all the others involved with the organisation of this event. Hope to see you all there next year.
Withycombe Farm – 24 August 2002
This was my first encounter with the hill at Withycombe. My day started ominously, firstly by taking a wrong turn, assuming I must head for Withypool to find the farm, instead of Winsford. On arriving at the site I was met with a mysterious, rank odour (worse than Harvey Hill’s socks!) which persisted throughout the day. Joking I remarked that perhaps it was the remains of a previous hillclimb casualty. Little did I know that I would be the first (and only) casualty of the day.
On my second attempt at the hill I missed a couple of gear changes with new motocross boots on and, pushing it harder to make up time, on the top bend I lost the front wheel. I tried to correct it, but before I knew it I was sliding along the tarmac and rolling down the hill. I wasn’t hurt at all and the bike was unscathed due to crash protectors on both wheel spindles, machined from plastic. Anyone interested in purchasing a set from me, call 01805 603589. Sliders on my knee saved my leathers and an aluminium handlebar protector was ground down, saving damage to the bike.
Brian Smith made a wise manoeuvre by aborting his aim at the top bend and choosing a safe path across the grass, rather than risking it – on Shaun Hill’s bike!
On the whole there weren’t too many incidents, although changing the start made the first corner interesting. For the last couple of open runs the start was relocated further back into the farmyard, which was more sh*t than tarmac!
Many thanks to the owner of Withycombe Farm who not only provided a good site, but also helped set out and clean the track. The track runs from the farmyard in the valley, through a gateway to a sweeping left bend, then rapid acceleration up the straight over undulations which provides the potential for a wheelie, up to a board over a cattle grid and then into the top left hand bend with a straight to the finish. The tarmac is sound and clear from gravel, with a light smattering of manure.
Winsford village pub is easily found following a footpath from near the start line at the farm. From Winsford the farm is 1 mile on the left after Winsford ford.
Results: Paul Jeffery won the 250cc (17.74 secs) and the 500cc classes (17.62 secs) and the top 10 with a time of 17.63 secs. Martin Palmer won the 350cc class. Jon Staden won the 750cc class. Richard Burch won the 1300cc class.
Tregrehan – 25 August 2002
I’ve never really liked Tregrehan, it’s always slippery, it’s a car meeting (lots of delays) and it normally takes the best part of eight hours to squeeze in four short runs (a whole minute and a half of racing).
Despite this, the day started reasonably well, the track was dry with an adequate grip and everyone completed their two practice runs without any major incidents. The first batch of the timed runs was also Ok, conditions still dry. I managed a low 21 second run on my 350 despite a rattly engine and making a mess of the last corner. It was from here on that things began to go wrong.
IT STARTED TO RAIN. Until now I had been lying third in the 500 class, the new slippery conditions relegated me to sixth. The second timed runs were even more hazardous. The majority of the car drivers were too scared to drive, opting instead to sit it out and wait for a third timed run. The clerk of the course was not amused. Apparently he likes the motorbikes because no matter what the conditions are like we just get on with it, no fuss and no delays……which brings me to the top six run off.
Paul Jeffery voiced his concerns about the track conditions saying he didn’t think it was a very good idea. “It’s very slippery, one of us will probably fall off!” he said. Jamie pointed out that the Keates brothers had just put their leathers back on and were ready at the start line, there was no backing out now. From what I can gather, everyone almost crashed except me who actually did crash. I locked the front wheels braking for the last corner and down I went scuffing my leathers and bending the handlebars in the process. Like I said, I’ve never really liked Tregrehan.
Wadebridge – 31 August & 1 September 2002
“You fall off, you write a report.” It couldn’t be simpler, but it pricked my conscience for two weeks before I put pen to paper. Two weeks and another plea from Tony, the Editor, and my guilt finally got the better of my reluctance to see myself in print. So here it is, reflections of a crasher, a ‘failure’ as it’s worded in the results.
I didn’t think I’d been pushing hard enough to crash. My times had certainly not been spectacular, but I’d got onto the dirt strip between the grass and the track on the exit to a left-hander. Now I’ve been riding long enough to know that I should back off whilst easing it back onto the track. Easy really, quite basic stuff, so why did I crack it wide open? I still don’t know, impatience or frustration, but the result was that the bike snapped sideways so quickly I was highsided onto the tarmac. All that grass, the track is ten feet wide, surrounded by acres of grass and I didn’t touch any of it. I bounced painfully up the track and, at 53 years old, you don’t bounce as well as you used to, the result being a fractured fibula and a premature end to my season.
It happens, though, and it certainly didn’t detract from the weekend’s enjoyment. A great venue for a two-day event. Camping almost in the paddock, toilets nearby and showers not too far, all within walking distance of a pub. Add to this motorbikes, friends and like-minded company and life doesn’t get much better. Many thanks to the organisers and thanks to the timekeepers for being patient with me when I stole an extra run (or two) on the Saturday, trying to get used to a borrowed bike. Apologies to Geoff Emery whose bike it is and, if you’re reading this Geoff, just think of the scratches as street cred. And should you ever need to borrow a bike, please don’t hesitate, ask someone else. I’ve seen what can happen.
Sunday’s weather was superb, the summer we never had and it produced some close racing. Paul Jeffery dominated the 250cc class and just won the 500cc, with Jamie Mitchell breathing down his neck just two hundredths of a second slower.
Geoff Hodges and Martin Palmer won their classes and Martin couldn’t have got any closer to Paul in the Top Ten run off, tying with him for second place. Paul must have made a mistake because he was over half a second slower than his previous run, but Jamie managed to pull out over a second over both riders, giving him a victory that eluded him in his class runs.
A good weekend.
Wiscombe Park – 15 September 2002
While driving down the track at Wiscombe I noticed the Esses section was very green, but although it looked slippery I was assured that the greenery was growing in the tarmac, not on it. The rest of the track looked fine, even the sheep sh*t looked quite grippy, so I made the educated decision not to walk the hill.
With scrutineering out of the way we all gathered together for the riders’ meeting, we were told the usual “no wheelies, stoppies etc.” and of course the first person to fall off gets to write the report. Tony Quinn offered a stamped addressed envelope for the unlucky person.
After a long delay due to timing light problems and the lack of a paramedic (who was busy drinking tea back at the station) the first practice got under way, it soon became apparent that the Esses were OK. It was the first and last corners of the hill that were slippery, causing many riders to require a change of underwear, one of the most spectacular being Shaun Hill who, after nearly sliding off going round Martini, somehow recovered, gave it a big handful of throttle and nearly fell off again exiting the corner – well saved!
Another impressive piece of riding was demonstrated by Paul Jarrett on the Husaberg, who approached Martini sliding completely sideways super-moto style and still went through the corner as fast as anybody else. He also managed to go faster on his mate’s CRF 450 than on his own bike.
It was Martini that got the better of me, I slid off my 350 mid corner on the second practice run, much to the relief of the other riders. With the report-writing duties handed to me they could get on with their racing, giving it the full 100%.
I would like to thank Kev Trevorrow and Gavin Lloyd for also falling off (at Sawbench, I believe), it made me feel a little better not being the only one to taste the tarmac.
Martin (fell off again) Palmer
A ‘Thank You’ received by Mike Giles, secretary for the Wiscombe meeting.
Just a quick note to thank yourself and everybody involved for organising this year’s Wiscombe Hill Climb.
It was my first ever Hill Climb and I can honestly say I have not had so much FUN riding my bike for a long, long time! I’m only sorry I couldn’t help with the clear up, but I didn’t get back to Nottingham ’til gone midnight as it was.
Thanks again and I’ll definitely be back again next year
Andres (No. 724)
2002 Manx Grand Prix - a wholly oily problem!
Anyone who knows me will be aware that visiting the Isle of Man, and especially the Manx GP, is something that I rate very highly indeed. Being part of a classic racer's (Andy Reynolds) team for the races does add a large dimension to it, of course, but to go merely as a spectator is an experience which I would urge anyone to take. Not only is it a motorcycle Mecca, but the island itself is worth the visit just for its own sake – the atmosphere and scenery is without parallel, and there are about 250 vintage bikes in the VMCC events to goggle at into the bargain. 2002 has proved to be no exception. Although sightseeing and socialising time was for us, to say the least, in short supply during practice week, enthusiasm and adrenalin rushes take over and hectic though it is, enjoyment is certainly on the grand scale! Anyway, cutting a long story short (you will have read many such thrillers in the past) I will confine myself to the bare facts that the race results for Andy were really excellent. He was riding this year a sponsored Petty Norton Manx, an ex-Bill Swallow bike, in the Senior Classic, and it is substantially faster than his Seeley G 50, which he has always ridden before. This is instanced by the fact that in the speed trap by the Grandstand, Andy went through faster than Bill Swallow, at 122.9 mph, second fastest of all; and averaged over 97 mph for the whole race! Finishing in 7th place overall was his best ever result and the cause of much elbow lifting later! His faithful Seeley/AJS 7R brought him in at 13th place in the Junior Classic to gain yet another silver replica - making two replicas won for the 4th year running. This says a lot for the preparation of the bikes and must be one of the best records of all the entrants. This year the weather too was something special - lots and lots of sun and near perfect conditions for both races. Icing on the cake was added by digs being provided for us in a large house overlooking the whole vast sweep of Douglas Bay - luxury indeed, and very much appreciated. (Even the cellar was well stocked with superb wines).
Possibly one of the most interesting experiences for us was the substantial oil leak which the Norton suffered on its first outing in practice, so I will regale you with the details of the anxiety we went through in practice week. You will appreciate that any leak more than a few spots is a real worry; and we were dismayed to see just such a leak - a flood, to our anxious eyes. (Velo owners are of course, used to inspecting closely any ground beneath bike engines!) At first we suspected a pressure relief ball valve, and were a bit puzzled as to any cause or indeed, cure. Later we found that the crankcase there is not pressurised anyway; but a closer inspection showed oil which seemed to be coming from above, where the oil filter was screwed into the crankcases on the timing side. So out the filter came; and it had a large aluminium washer under the hexagon head. Thinking this may not give a proper seal, the intention was to replace it with a fibre washer. No doubt you will all have found that when a fibre washer is needed, one the correct size is never available; and so it proved. Yours truly had to spend an hour patiently filing the centre hole of the nearest one we had, to fit. Finally it was done though and the filter replaced, with hopes that the problem was solved.
Dear reader, you have guessed it! The problem was not solved - indeed the leak was if anything worse. Despondency ruled for a while. Then, an even closer inspection showed without question that the oil was coming out not from either of those sources, but from the back of the timing cover where the magneto drive emerges. We kicked ourselves for not seeing this earlier, because a felt oil seal had been put in that position - but it hid the oil leak until it was squeezed, which forced oil out. By good(?) fortune we met Brian Richards (builder and previous owner of the bike) at Jurby airfield, while testing, so we miserably told him of the problem. Immediately he said that oil always collects in the timing cover, and that it should be drained after every meeting! - but that judicious and liberal coating with silicone sealant would do the job. Other knowledgeable people we consulted also gave the impression that it is a common Norton Manx problem so we were encouraged to think we had got to the bottom of it at last. Immediately, on the spot, Brian set to and carefully spread the silicone around the opening where the magneto drive shaft enters the back of the case. Leaving ample time for this to dry, another test was made later. Dismay again! Not only did the thing still leak, but on removal of the timing cover, the case was found to be half full of oil - and as the timing arrangement is a small toothed belt, and not a chain, it would clearly scoop up oil in the belt as it went round and fling it copiously around the place just where it was not wanted and could get out! No doubt you will also have realised that a toothed plastic belt definitely does not require oil anyway!
Back to the drawing board! Quickly we reasoned that the oil could only come in from only one place - through the inner timing cover through which the bottom drive pinion shaft entered. So, off with the inner cover to check the drive pinion shaft and the brass/bronze bush it runs in. Fortunately Andy had a suitable micrometer with him, and we knew the shaft to be 1/2" diameter. The shaft showed two mm wear, which we considered not too excessive but possibly enough to allow oil past. We had no suitable internal micrometer so could not check the bush. I seem to remember being told that with a steel shaft in a bush, it is the shaft that wears; but you may know this better than I. Anyway, we considered that we should for safety obtain and fit a new pinion with its shaft, and a new bush; although we would have to borrow a hand reamer to install it. So Andy got on the phone and sure enough, managed to get the items posted the same day -'Special Delivery'. We were apprehensive that the Post Office could not wind themselves up to deliver to us next morning, but, good as gold, by 10.30 the package appeared. Next stop was a lucky contact we had made, Nick, an engineer working in the Department of Transport machine shop close to our garage, who has at home a well-equipped workshop, including a press, a 1923 belt-driven lathe and lots of engineering ability! Showing him the problem bits, he pronounced that the new pinion shaft mated to the existing bush was a satisfactory fit and should not be any tighter; and that the difficulties of accurate hand-reaming a new bush would very likely end in no better a fit anyway. So we arranged to visit him at home that evening. In the meantime we had heard from others that they had cured the same problem by two ways; some by machining the inner cover to fit a double-lip seal, which we saw as a good solution, and some by making the bush in two pieces and inserting an o-ring in between. The first, although the best way, was clearly beyond our means, having no access to seals anyway; so we agreed with Nick that we would try the second - fortunately he was able to acquire a selection of o-rings, courtesy of the D.O.T., to choose from!
We were encouraged to see that in his workshop Nick was a painstaking and precise worker, and that he took great care to press out the bush, part it in the best place (there was an oil hole to be lined up), and replace the two pieces, taking great care with measurements to ensure that the o-ring was just nipped. We thought it prudent to do this, as if the o-ring were loose it might spin and rapidly destroy itself. We had a small safeguard in that the original bush was used so we had the new one as a spare should things go wrong. Eventually, after consuming some tasty fish and chips on the spot (regular meals had taken a back seat at the time!) the job was done. Needless to say we were on edge at the next test! - and when Andy drew in after a lap we were down on our knees with heads on the dirt and eyes out on stops!
Happily, no drips this time, to our great collective relief - and later taking off the timing cover, we found no trace of oil whatever. From then on we squeezed a little oil on to the outer end of the pinion shaft, considering that the inner part of the bush would be lubricated from the inside, but if no oil was passing the o-ring the outer part could run dry. Thankfully, even after a four-lap 150-mile race thrashing, no more trouble occurred. We came home knowing that the double-lip seal job must be done as the real answer before any more use, as the o-ring must disintegrate sooner or later; so 'oil' was well that ended well!
‘Hillclimber’ dates for 2003
We haven’t worked these out yet and would appreciate some input from members at the AGM.