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Cyclemotor Car Stoppers

by Alan Hext

Four years ago I bought a 1962 Ford Classic to transport my cyclemotors to shows, road runs, etc.  These old cars have a huge boot capacity and I can put two of my machines inside with relative ease.

I was fortunate in hearing through the grapevine of some engines units for sale in Bristol, a distance of 130 miles from my home in South London.  I made a telephone call to confirm the sale and a date for collection was set for the following Sunday.  At 6:30am on the day I awoke to a most beautiful sunny November morning.  I had already prepared for the trip the night before: topping up with petrol, checking oil, water, etc.  Maps were in the car, cash in my pocket and sandwiches were handed to my son, who was coming along to buy a BSA Winged Wheel.  Before this trip, my Ford had never given me the least bit of trouble. Garage door opened, I get into the car, turn the ignition key and the starter motor promptly jams into the flywheel gear ring.  "Drat it" I say to Astonished Son, no sweat though - we'll rock the car in gear to free the starter.  No joy - more impatient I decide to gently roll the car down a slope in front of my garage, thereby doing both jobs in one: freeing the motor and bump-starting the car.  Five miles an hour in top gear, I let out the clutch pedal - the back wheels lock up.  I get the tools out from the boot, open the bonnet but can't get a spanner on the end of the starter.  It has to be tackled from beneath the engine.  The old man gets under the front of the car while his son wanders off to sit in the comfort of the house.  I put the spanner on the end of the commutator, crunch and the starter is freed.

Uneventful ride to Bristol, arrive but having no house number to go by, I stopped the car to ask someone if they had heard of the house name I was looking for.  Time: 9:50am and most people were still in bed.  A small motor scooter was lying on its side in the road; a front door opens and a most attractive girl peers out and looks up and down the road.  Apparently not seeing me on the other side of the road, she came out to pick up her scooter.  She was the only local in the street and I walked across the road to speak to her.  Just then she bent over in front of me to pick up the fallen scooter. At this very moment I began to speak to her and then realised that she was not fully clothed.  I am afraid my voice and presence made her leap into the air, dropping her partially erected mount back onto the road and, of course, this didn't go down too well.  I apologised for my bad timing and when she asked me what I wanted I thought it prudent not to mention that I was after a Power Pak.

Finding my destination at last I was rewarded by a feast of cyclemotoring goodies and, in another garage, were many majestic vintage cars.  My son bought the Winged Wheel plus a genuine unused BSA Webb-forked frame to go with it.  I bought a Cymota, reconditioned and unused since the factory rebuilt it in 1952, it was still in its original cardboard box.  I also purchased a Standard Power Pak, numerous bicycle frames, wheels, etc.  The seller, who I believe wishes to s tay incognito, was a most interesting character and still uses a 1948 Ford pick-up for everyday use in his business.

My poor Classic was now full up with all the cyclemotor and frame bits, inside both the boot and car.  On the way home I refilled the petrol tank and this must have been the last straw so to speak; because, on the homeward trip, I started to overtake a coach but couldn't!  The flipping clutch had started slipping.  All this extra weight had shown up a worn clutch on the old car so I settled down to a slower steady pace.  When I got home the wife took one look at the JUNK sticking out of the car and hardly spoke to me.  My son told her about the car's clutch and then she stopped speaking to me.  A great day I was having.

Anyway, I had my newly acquired engine units to tinker with.  A few parts were missing on the Cymota (there always is).  I have had the Power Pak running, and the coil rewired on the BSA, which I used on Colin Packman's October road run in 1988.

This leads me to car-stopper number 2.  As I hadn't got around to replacing the Ford clutch I was forced to use my other car: a 1953 Austin A40 Somerset; it's a good sturdy car but well under-powered in today's modern traffic.  I had to transport my Cyclemaster and Synchromatic-drive Power Pak down to Maidstone for Colin's May 1988 road run.  Into the Austin's boot went the Cyclemaster and hanging out of the rear window of my son's concours Hillman Imp was the Power Pak (Reg No: FSV 210, Imp's Reg No: FSV 209, but that's another story).  Off we set in good time for the road run.  About 10 miles from the Hop Farm, Dad decides to try out the old car's full potential.  Foot flat on the floor, 1 min 58 sec later the car is flat out at 70 mph with the Imp in hot pursuit.  Deciding that I can't shake off my son I slow down to a less breakneck speed; then, after a few more miles, the water temp gauge starts rising followed shortly by a strong smell of anti-freeze.  I was forced to pull over to let the engine cool down.  I was beginning to believe that putting a cyclemotor in the boot of one of my cars was the perfect way of causing a breakdown.

Arriving at the Hop Farm somewhat later, we hurriedly got the bikes and ourselves ready for the road run.  Keith, my son, was going to ride my Cyclemaster and I would use the Power Pak.  Almost everyone had long gone but in front of me, driving out of the farm, were a few Messerschmitts.  Being in a hurry, and not having got around to looking at the route map Colin had thoughtfully provided, I presumed that these tiny trikes were also going on the run - so I took the easy way out and followed them.  Flat out on the Pak with the Cyclemaster close behind we followed the trikes THE WRONG WAY! More problems to come: the Pak packs up.  Now leaderless I was forced to check the route map and only then did I discover we were on the wrong road.  After cleaning the mag points, my unit restarted and we turned around to retrace my blunder.  Just then an unsuspecting fellow cyclemotorist, with his young daughter riding pillion, came over a hump bridge and pulled up looking somewhat puzzled.

"Wrong way" I told him, "Oh, I followed you." he said.  Felling a 'right plum' I motioned onwards with outstretched arm and our newly formed convoy thundered off the way we had come.  The sun was shining, it was very warm, bikes running well and, being leader of our pack, I was regaining my lost confidence.  Two miles back down the road and nearing the Hop Farm, I looked behind at my companions - er, companion - for only my son was behind me.  It was about now that the Power Pak started to falter and become a Power-less Pak. I was now torn between returning to give aid to the short-lived member of our convoy or to try and coax my bike along; I reluctantly chose the latter (I later found out that our associate had a puncture).  My mount got me as far as a level crossing with a woman standing there videoing our progress.  I was pedalling like a loony, trying to get the Pak to run properly, while at the same time attempting to look unruffled.  My son was behind me serenely cruising along on my Cyclemaster.  Lucky devil, I thought, he tells me he can't handle the Synchro Power Pak as it has too many controls to think of - pull the other one son!  I stopped a little further on, now out of breath, to look at the Power-less Pak; it was suffering from a flooding carb as well as a very weak spark at the plug.  Five minutes later we rode back over the level crossing but this time with me using the pedals to propel the bike in the way it was intended, as a normal bicycle.

This breakdown, though, did have some compensations for, back at the Hop Farm early, I had a chance to buy some parts and take some very good photos.  I did get the bike running again and we went out for about a 10-mile run over the route later in the day.  The weather was great and, joking aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the occasion.  Before I close, I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of myself and fellow enthusiasts in thanking Colin and his assistant Tricia for the untold time, effort, and enthusiasm they put into organising these splendid twice-yearly runs.

First published - October 1990
Added to archive - 30 April 1999

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