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St Valentine's Day Massacre

by Laurence O'Brien

19th Bristol Classic Bike Show Report

Why was Mike Rendall as pleased as punch? I can encapsulate it in three words - Louis Vuitton Classic. And, now that I have your undivided attention I shall proceed with the report, with explanations coming later.

Shepton Mallet in deep Somerset awoke from winter hibernation not with the sound of the cuckoo but the ear-piercing buzz of what seemed like hedge-trimmers run amok - 'twas the Wess Vinglun Chapter led by Bob Wayte aided and abetted by Bro' Steve entertaining kindred spirits on a pre-opening round-up of stray sheep at the Royal Bath and West Show Ground. The Show Ground comprises three halls, one main and two minor linked for the show by tent-like tunnels. Our stand for the previous two years has occupied the main hall - not quite all of it you understand, but a substantial and very important part of it. Above and around us was a gallery where crowded on-lookers would take reels of film of our machines, unable to approach from the ground. This year we were prised out of our prized position into one of the minor halls, moving steadily towards the door - and you know what that means - yes - next year we shall be in the autojumble - and the year after we shall be the autojumble. Rumour has it that the show sponsor, Footman James, were out to let as much space in the main hall to trade stands at £400 per pitch and the minor attractions such as exhibitors could be left on the sidelines - only an unsubstantiated rumour, but it sure looked that way.

However, Bob made the best of this forced change with the stand being bigger and brighter and attracted as many if not more visitors. The stand presented well marshalled iron horses with a centre display of static exhibits including the remains of Bob's shaft driven late vintage Vélo. Steve had made one of the statics more dynamic - a cut-away Cyclemaster engine had had a handle attached to the crankshaft for young (and not so young) visitors to enjoy the current trend of visitor inter-action and hands-on participation.

Talking of remains, Steve Wayte announced a new competition to identify Ian Edwards's exhibits. Most people were almost fooled this year - the machines were complete and running, although the flatter than flat front tyre on the Griffon suggested a bit of imagination required. None-the-less they had some semblance of motive power, contrary to one member's exhibit which looked suspiciously like a pedal powered 1990s mountain bike; its owner had apparently arrived on it and parked it temporarily against the rear wall, only to find on his return that it had been integrated into the display.

The left wing of our arena housed the bread-and-butter cyclemotor range, starting off with Mike Jones's usual collection of more unusual, possibly unique examples. Mike is migrating towards vintage cars, but being 'forced' to dispose of some of his two wheeled machines to raise funds. Now there is trying to sell and trying not very hard to sell, and the half-hearted attempt to sell one of his beloved machines at the end of the show with the tiniest "For Sale" sign ever on his highly original Cyclemaster took the biscuit for half-heartedness. His Teagle and Mini-Motor were denied any change of ownership, well figures weren't mentioned but I'm sure that given the right spin...

Dave Smith and his inflation-proof Cyclemaster powered butcher's bike plus basket with contents retaining the same prices as last year, another rare example, came between Mike and Roy Best with his alluring Power Pak. Philippa Wheeler's Raleigh mounted Cucciolo brought the visitors' attention, after due and thoughtful study to the NACC regalia stand and a stack of past 'Buzzings'. These proved to be a popular attraction amongst the cognoscenti/anoraks.

A retro-cyclo Delta Dart was exhibited by John who also loaned an example of garage floor covering to protect ones tootsies from the chill concrete. Unfortunately, it didn't cover the whole area - in fact it covered very little at all and what with Bob, Steve and miscellaneous members, and members' relatives the cover was hardly to be seen.

Geoff Warren's VéloSoleX 3800 started the back line of autocycles in a Franco-German duet with John Davis's Triumph, nay Treeumph, German engineering derived autocycle with a rather cute cable operated bell mounted on the front below the headlamp. This was adjudged the Cyclemotor/Autocycle prizewinner this year.

Ian Edwards's aforementioned machines were a Leopard Bobby '56 and another French (barn fresh!) discovery: a pre-'55 Griffon. Now, at no prompting whatsoever, Ian whipped the side panel off the fabulous beast of yore to display its innards, and left panel and fasteners like some discarded entrails on the floor - now that's more like Ian.

Buzz Noel's Hercules moped and Dave Smith's NSU Quickly completed the autocycle section. Alan Hibbard's Clark Scamp and Philippa Wheeler's Gadabout led seamlessly to the Veteran wing - we had Andy Hart's pre-war '38 Norman, Bob Pike's 1922 Halcyon and John Denny's 1914 Wall Auto Wheel on a period BSA Roadster

The real prize this year was for Mike Rendall and his Excelsior Autocycle: a passing Sotheby's personage invited him to the Louis Vuitton Classic at the Hurlingham Club. This is a champagne bash for machines in the Crimean to Korean War period, and Mike had a special request to participate in the Concurs d'Elegance - well done Mike - talk about proud! All this on top of receiving the Wess Vinglun prize - a silver rose bowl sponsored by Avon Engraving Ltd.

Those two Trojans (eh?) Bob and Steve who do so much in restoring machines have now so little time left when putting on the show that they can't display their own kit - our thanks go to them for all the humping and transporting and no chance to win the rosettes!

First published - April 1999

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