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Spotted at the Airship Run - 8 Sep 2013

Hercules Corvettes

You don’t see a Hercules Corvette for ages—then three turn up at once.

Of course, this didn’t happen by pure chance although there was a certain amount of coincidence in there being three Corvettes up & running, taxed & tested, and available.

Getting three Corvettes to the start was one thing, getting them all round the course was quite another.  They all broke down—one of them broke down twice—and none completed the run under its own power.

However, the following weekend, all three were at the Coprolite Run and, this time, all three were successfully ridden all the way round the route.

Powered by a Lavalette engine and utilising several parts from the Phillips Panda Plus, the Corvette was produced for less than two years, being launched soon after the TI-Raleigh merger in 1960.  It ceased production in 1961 after the decision to replace all TI’s moped ranges with licence-built Mobylettes.

First published in The MAC in December 2013

>Spotted at Kneel’s Wheels - 17 Nov 2013

Fantic Chopper

This one was the head-turner at our AGM run: a Fantic Chopper.

Fantic produced the Chopper in two sizes: 125cc and 50cc; this one, as you can tell from the pedals, is the 50cc version.  This is a ‘sixteener special’: one of the machines that the moped law was changed to outlaw n the 1970s.  Being under-50cc and with pedals made it legally a moped that could be ridden at age sixteen.  A contemporary road test (Motorcycle Mechanics, December 1972) reported that it was the most powerful moped they’d seen and was capable of just over 50mph … or a bit more under the right conditions.

This is Paul Kelling’s latest acquisition and he only collected it a few days before Kneel’s Wheels.  Not surprising, therefore, that it suffered from a few teething troubles on the run.  What’s it like to ride with that long fork? Paul’s own observations mirrored those in the 1972 test: ‘Handling came as a big surprise, simply because it did … the roadholding proved better than many machines of comparable performance. Manoeuverability too, wasn’t too bad, considering the 57-inch, wheelbase.’

A teenager’s dream from the ’70s and, for most, only a dream because very few teenagers would have been able to afford one.

First published in The MAC in December 2013

Spotted at the Mince Pie Run - 29 Dec 2013

Bown Auto Roadsters

In the last issue we said ‘You don’t see a Hercules Corvette for ages—then three turn up at once’.  Now we could say the same about Bown autocycles at the Mince Pie Run.  Not quite the same though because we do often have a Bown at EACC runs.

Bown was an old-established cycle and motor cycle manufacturer that became part of the Aberdale Cycle Company in the early 1930s.  William A R Bown had a seat on Aberdale’s board and was commissioned to produce a replacement for the Aberdale autocycle for the 1949 season.  The replacement was needed because of the introduction of the Villiers 2F engine and all makers of Villiers-powered autocycles were redesigning their Junior de Luxe engined machines to use the 2F.

Although scheduled to start production in March 1949, Aberdale was provided with a factory at Llwynypia under the Labour Government’s Advanced Factories Scheme, so introduction of the new autocycle was delayed until the new factory was up and running.  This factory produced both autocycles and motor cycles, which had originally been shown under the Aberdale name at the 1948 Earls Court Show.  February 1950 saw the autocycle’s appearance on the market, branded as a Bown product.

The new frame was unusually well engineered for an autocycle, being a cradle type with duplex down tubes.  Otherwise, the Bown had all the usual features of the 2F ‘family’ of autocycles: 4-inch hub brakes front & rear, Villiers lighting set, lever operated throttle, strong rear carrier, rear stand and pressed steel girder forks.  Some more individual features were inverted brake levers, a box silencer mounted between the frame rails under the bottom bracket and a spring loaded jockey wheel to tension the pedalling chain.  The colour was maroon with gold lining and its price (in March 1950) was £58 15s 8d [£58.78], which included £12 10s [£12.50] Purchase Tax.

The delay in getting the Bown into production was not good as 1950 was pretty much the beginning of the end for the autocycle era; demand for this type of machine declined from then.

Even a reputation for being well-built machine couldn’t stop Bown sales from declining along with nearly all other autocycle makers.  The autocycle ceased production and the Welsh factory closed at the end of 1954.

That wasn’t the end for Bown: in November 1955 the name re-appeared at the Earls Court Motor Cycle Show on a new moped.  The Aberdale Cycle Company also had a profitable line in its Gresham Flyer children’s tricycles.  In 1958, Aberdale was acquired by Tube Investments, mainly because TI wanted to acquire the rights to the Gresham Flyer.

Bown Auto Roadster

First published in The MAC in March 2014

Spotted at the Mince Pie Run - 29 Dec 2013

Raleigh Runabout

This is Barry Yallop’s Raleigh Runabout, a regular sight at our runs in Suffolk.

The Raleigh Runabout RM6 was introduced in May 1963 at the Blackpool Winter Gardens Show.  The Runabout was based on Motobécane’s Mobylette AV42.

Over the years, the Runabout became the mainstay of Raleigh’s moped range.  In addition to the standard version, De Luxe and Super de Luxe variants were introduced, along with the very basic ‘Pop’ model.  Other models in the Raleigh range, from the RM8 Automatic Mark II to the RM12 Super 50 were all based around the Runabout frame.

Barry’s RM6 dates from 1971, right at the end of Raleigh’s moped production.  By this time, the range of Raleigh mopeds had dwindled until the standard Runabout was the only one left.

The first Runabouts were finished in a two-colour scheme of Raleigh Green and Pearl Grey.  An all-over light blue (Neptune Blue) colour scheme was adopted in 1965 while the De Luxe models were painted Carmine Red.  The ‘Pop’ was introduced in 1966 with its cheapness being emphasised by it simple black colour.

Barry’s Runabout is finished in Royal Blue.  This darker blue colour was introduced in 1967 and lasted until the end of production.

First published in The MAC in March 2014

Spotted at the Radar Run - 13 Apr 2014

Trojan Mini-Motor

This machine attracted a good deal of attention at the Radar Run, particularly from the bicycle enthusiasts.

Let’s start with the motor: it’s a Trojan Mark 2 Mini-Motor dating from 1951.

Now the bit that attracted the attention of the bicycle fans: a 1933 Special Raleigh.  In the heyday of cyclemotors UK purchasers could avoid Purchase Tax by buying cycle and engine separately.  However, an even cheaper option was to just buy the engine unit and fit it to a bicycle you already had.  This meant that a good many cyclemotors were mounted, like this one, on older cycles.

The Special Raleigh was particularly suited as a cyclemotor mount, being very well made and having drum brakes on both wheels.  The three-speed gear helps too: low gear is best for starting the engine and the high gear mans you can give the engine some LPA to keep the revs up on inclines.  A high-quality bike costing 10 guineas when new in 1933; in terms of average wages, that works out around £2,500 in today’s money.  If you know your Raleighs, you’ll spot something odd about the brake rods: the rear brake rod is beside the steering head instead of in front.  But that’s exactly what the 1933 catalogue shows for a drum-braked bicycle and seems to be something Raleigh only did for a couple of years.

First published in The MAC in June 2014

Spotted at the East Anglian Run - 18 May 2014

Red Star Riga-413

Our next bike is something quite different: A Red Star Riga-413 dating from 1992.  The 413 is a variant of the Riga-13 model that was made from 1982.  However, the basic design dates back to 1966 and the Riga-5.

All these models of Riga were powered by Red October engines, which were little more that a cyclemotor engine.  The Riga-13 models used the Red October D8 series of engines and the 413 has a D8e.

Broadly speaking, the Latvian Red Star factory produce two kinds of moped.  Riga-5, 7, 11, and 13 were basic, single-speed machines that were little better than cyclemotors.  The others were more like ‘proper’ mopeds, using a two-speed engine with built in pedals (or kick-start on the later models).

The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 heralded the end for Riga mopeds.  The factory closed in 1998 but moped production had already dwindled to nothing several years before that.

This Riga was at the run for inspection and dating so, although it didn’t go along on this run, we may see it in action soon.

First published in The MAC in June 2014