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2nd Leiston Long Shop Rally

by Mark Daniels

For the second year of the Leiston Long Shop Rally, Richard Everitt picked up the organisational reins from Terry Keeble, though just days before the event fate's mechanic got his troublesome spanners into the workings of Richard's previously reliable Moby to cruelly reduce him to spectator status.

With the Ipswich crew electing to ride up, the prospect of a 100mile round trip prompted my selection (for comfort) of the of the Motobécane AV89 'bronze rocket' on this occasion, though as expected, this was a widely unpopular choice among my colleagues because of its embarrassingly rapid capabilities.  In the true Spaghetti Western style of collecting recruits along the way, our number had grown to the classic Magnificent Seven by the time we headed out from Woodbridge for another day's adventure.  On the way in towards Leiston (in another repetition of the AGM Rally incident) David Evans was 'attacked' by another grey squirrel, which leapt out of the bushes at him and chased his NSU down the road.  He now thinks the furry rodents must have issued a fatwah against him for reasons best known to themselves, but we reckon they're just after his nuts!  Collecting at the Long Shop before the off, Nick B-J's rare US import Honda 90 trials crunch in yellow with its high/low ratio range selection gearbox and other unusual features attracted widespread interest.

Setting out from Leiston, the rally was led away by the Honda PC50 of Carl Squirrel, fast and stylish; followed by Steve Cobb on Puch MS50, just fast.  As restoration of my red Wisp nears completion, out of interest I chose to tag along with the 3-way Wisp run in the second division between the two Fiesta blues of Peter Green & Tris Green and Mike Seeley's Spanish gold machine.  Their performances resulted very convincingly in that order leaving people wondering what the differences were, though Mike's appreciably picked up after a bit of running following its interminable slumber.

On the leg from Aldeburgh to Aldringham our group seemed to be steadily closing on a couple of division 1 machines which re-appeared in the distance, so the bronze rocket was engaged to warp drive to catch up and investigate.  It turned out to be Steve Cobb suffering a fast deflating rear tyre being supported by Lawrence Coates on Honda PC50 with pump doing quick sprints between stops to re-inflate.  It transpired that Steve noticed the problem as he wallowed out of Aldeburgh, and with his last gasps of air caught up to David Evans on his NSU knowing he invariably carried a puncture repair kit.  With one final wobbling lunge, he managed to tap David on the shoulder and shout "Flat", at which David looked round, smiled back, tucked down-and went flat-out into the distance!  It's great to have mates isn't it?  We waved the Wisps by, then took a quick dash to drop the Puch back at the Museum before going on two-up with Steve on the back to meet the rest at the Eels Foot lunch stop at Eastbridge.  Lawrence reckoned carrying 17 stone of prime Norfolk ballast on the return leg would at least slow the AV89 down to everyone else's pace-it didn't and we were still first back.

Back at the Museum, though he brought it for display purposes only, David Whatling was badgered into firing up his ancient Cyclotracteur mounted on some gargantuan frame that looked as if it had been built for Goliath by Le Dinosaur Fabrique somewhere around WW1 and broadly based on Dibnah technology.  A plot was hatched to conjure the beast to wakefulness by a combination of petrol drained from someone's donor moped, medieval alchemy and the sacrifice of goats to long forgotten pagan gods.  "User friendly" was definitely not one of the marketing criteria in the creation of this pre-historic monster with its 108cc side valve engine mounted above the roller driven front wheel and engaged through a puzzling muddle of moving levers and sliding tubes, by winding a handle.  The all-or-nothing 'carburation' was more along the lines of primitive bomb making equipment, comprising a brass intake pot drip-fed from a inaccessible control tap that you daren't leave on or the next starting attempt could blow the lot up!

Anyway, not so much a case of starting-up as "Commence Firing", at which half the elder pedestrians in Leiston High Street instinctively dived for cover as they thought the town anti-aircraft gun had opened up on a stray Messerschmitt!  With the Cyclotracteur intermittently banging round the square, 'control' appeared more a distant hope as David fought to hold back the now enraged fire-breathing brute with its decompressor and one feeble brake as it chewed bits of rubber from the front tyre and spat pieces out the sides!

As the half-time entertainment mercifully spluttered to a stop, the results of the judging were announced.  Keith Rutledge was awarded best cyclemotor for his recently refreshed Berini, while Steve Cobb collected best moped with his Puch MS50V though this was largely attributed to his cashing in on the sympathy vote from his puncture.  In the absence of any autocycles, Terry Keeble was judged runner-up moped for his Royal Carmine red RM6 Runabout Super-de-Luxe complete with original 'parachute' leg shields, which this year slowly navigated the course under its own power (he pedalled most of it last year-gasp!)  Prizes were copies of "Ride a Red Moped" by Marjorie Santer and published by Breckland Press.

Remarkably, the dominant model on this rally proved to be the Raleigh Wisp, making up nearly a quarter of the field.  The inevitable 4-Wisp showdown somewhere in the distant future promises a further chapter to this story; though judging by the feverish tuning now going on South of the Border (driven by the recent breaking of the 35mph barrier?), the Norfolk contender could be wondering if the gold machine has something wrong with it!

Some have suggested the AV89's pace on the way back to Ipswich proved maybe a bit too much as David Evans's trip home ended dramatically and abruptly in a loud bang and tinkling noise as a piston ring let go on the NSU and wiped out the whole top end.  Neal Green's Puch City "The Leper" continued shedding components from the 19th East Anglian, with its plug lead (again) and later its air filter, though it finally made it back.  Failing a solution to this problem, we expect it to be dragging a trawl net before long!

The Long Shop Museum makes a superb rally base venue with an extensive array of old industrial exhibits displayed through a maze of original buildings that comprised The Richard Garrett Engine Works.  The hospitable reception from the volunteer staff is second to none with the NACC made to feel genuinely welcome and thoroughly at home in fascinating surroundings.

First published - October 2000

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