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The Grass Roots End

by Jim Lee

My interest in what I call the grass roots end of motor cycling stems from March 1954 when I passed my test on a 1940 Rudge-Whitworth 98cc autocycle.  Until then, cycling 17 miles each way to work had been the norm; ninetry-eight cubic centimetres of power from the Villiers Junior de-Luxe engine was sheer joy until the frame broke, increased the wheelbase no end, and promptly wore out the alloy expansion box on the tarmac.

There followed a Francis-Barnett 197cc Falcon, BSA C12, and a new 65cc ohv Dunkley Whippet Sports in 1958.  The summer of 1958 saw me touring Devon and Cornwall on the Dunkley, a remarkable little bike.  Made at Hounslow in Middlesex, I suspect most of it was of Italian origin; are there still any out there?

Next came a succession of Ariels; in fact, most models from 1928 onwards passed through my hands.  Together, trials and scrambling all helped to cement my relationship with motor cycling.

My interest in all aspects of the powered two-wheeler has always remained.  Following redundancy from Triumph Engineering, Meridan after many happy years in the industry, I found myself once again at the grass roots end of the game.  Self-employment followed in the export business, together with importing and a motor cycle business, all of which revolved around the world of motor cycles at large.  Batavus, KTM, Solex and Puch mopeds were sold, added to later with Derbi.  Jawa-CZ and Honda followed.  Of them all, Puch was to leave a lasting impression.

An excellent product, designed and built with typical Teutonic thoroughness, they fully deserved their 50% share of the UK moped market from 1968 to the late 1970s.  Unfortunately, because of the ridiculous and restrictive legislation concerning mopeds in the UK, their success in our market was to be short-lived.  Nevertheless, their success continues in mainland Europe.

My enthusiasm for Puchs leaves me with ten different models, including a Cheetah scooter.  Both my wife and I enjoy our Puchs, together with our respective BMW motor cycles.

Steyr, Daimler & Puch was formed in 1934 and currently employs some 18,000 people at its three factories in Austria.  Very much involved in Europe's automotive business, they currently produce no two-wheelers, having sold off the moped manufacturing facility to Piaggio in Italy, who produce the Maxi, and to Hero in India, who make some of the late 1980s model that were conceived in a joint design execise with Porsche.

Founded in 1897 by Johann Puch, Puch motor cycles continued in production until 1987.  Born on June 2nd 1862 in Sakosak (today part of Jugoslavia) Puch was to make an enormous contribution to the European motor cycle market over the ninety years from 1897 to 1987, but that's another story.

First published - December 1994

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