Over the last 15 or so years me and the missus (and Jess the dog too) have ventured ‘darn sarf’ at least once a year to visit friends, go to Goodwood or just for a change of rain.
Last year we had two goes at it, the first one to the Isle of Wight where I spotted a stunning little BM lookalike lurking outside a cafe in Yarmouth. Closer examination showed it to be a Hoffman, other than the Teutonic connection and the fact that it has a cylinder sticking out each side, I’ve found out precious little about the little precious; my investigations continue.
On our second trip I swung by Sammy Miller’s place in New Milton to see the display of bikes that he keeps there. I’m not going to call this a museum: it’s much more than that. It has 365 bikes laid out as well as other bits and pieces. I’ve encountered Sammy a few times in the past, his place was just up the road from Rickman Brothers and any time I visited he’d be honing his latest creation or cutting the back off a Triumph 2000 to turn it into a ‘pickup’ to tote his trials bike around on — he’s never still.
A few years ago at the Colombres event in Northern Spain we were all in the restaurant for the evening get together and halfway through the paella Sammy sneaked off out of the room, a few seconds later he re-appeared aboard his four-cylinder Grand Prix Gilera, hard to beat the smell of Castro! R, a glass of rioja and a 50-year-old four-cylinder 500 spinning up to 8000rpm on open megas! Great fun and very Sammy. Ah, where was I? Oh yes Sammy’s bikes. It’s nigh on impossible to choose a bestie from the exceptional stuff on display, but the one that appealed to me was a 1938 Zundapp K800 flat four. It’s those cylinders poking out of either side, I just love ‘ern!
At the other end of the scale, and in another time zone I spot a CB92 Honda, the bike that announced Soichiro’s arrival on the European stage. The little screamer had more volts, more leading shoes and many more revs than anybody had ever seen in a world that was previously dominated by irascible Tiger Cubs, incontinent C15s and torpid, languorous Billy Bantams.
I know what I’d rather have between a few quid in the bank or a CB92 in the shed. Give me that little silver and blue jet any day please (just as an aside, did you know that on the early CB72 and its slightly bigger brother the CB77, the silencers, were made from stainless steel pressings?). From Sammy’s toy shop I pitched up at ‘Unit 56’ in the Cotswolds. What a pleasant surprise, many beautiful bikes including a lovely Boxer BM in a rather nice caff-racery style. I hope it wasn’t a ‘hipster’ thing…
And finally to Stafford! Over a jug of foaming ale brother Bill and me were swapping lies with Howard from ‘Disco Volante’, good chap Howard, he now deals in Borrani rims and other shiny Italian fruit and mentioned that he had been offered a complete but tatty widecase 250 Ducati.
The owner (let’s call him Doris) sent H a few pictures and a tentative deal was struck whereby H would exchange a half-inch thick pile of fivers for the project and all appeared well. A few days later ‘Doris’ called to say that he’d had a change of heart and was going to ‘do it up’. Fair enough, but then Doris rang once more offering H the bike again. Of course H wanted pictures to see how things had progressed since Doris started the project.
Well, the pictures arrived and the entire bike was dismantled and in the back of one shot was an ice cream tub, marked with ‘SHIMS ALL’ containing every shim removed from every gearbox shaft, selector drum, camshaft, rocker shafts (two), top bevel (both sides), bottom bevel (both sides), crank, clutch, kick starter pinion.,. and more. The boxes and bins containing the dismembered Ducati are still with Doris. It’s said that Ducati were originally a company that manufactured shims and only started making bikes to utilise its core product.
So think long and hard before dismantling any complex piece of equipment: especially if it wears a Ducati badge.