Friday, 29 April 2011

Crossbow Guzzi

One for the Guzzi lovers out there. Ian B came across this photograph whilst printing some old film stock from his time as an aspiring motor sport photographer in the early eighties. According to the negative folder it was taken at Hullavington airfield at the practice session for a North Gloucester club racing season. It's Ian's story...

"I remember the bike as being purple & loud. A telephone conversation with John at Crossbow Calendars revealed that this was an early version of his body kit with the one piece glass fibre tank & seat unit (later outlawed). He couldn't remember too much detail but did remember that the bike belonged to club racer Steve Bateman who, via email, was happy to take up the story for me:

“Yes we built the Crossbow Guzzi in 1980 onto a standard 850 Le Mans. We had a mechanic working with us Graham...? Sorry, forget his surname, who had worked at Sports Motorcycles in Manchester and he built a Guzzi for Roy Armstrong for the TT and we made loads of mods on the bike.
Firstly fitted 1000 barrels and PR cam, PR close ratio gearbox, lightened flywheel, drilled rocker gear to aid draining from the heads, lightened and polished the rocker arms, fitted Lucas Rita ignition Then I fitted the front end from an MV Agusta that was sitting in the firms barn!
It had two steering dampers and I had a fair bit of success at Brands and the airfield circuits. It was a complete animal but it taught me how to race a bike!"
Steve later went on to considerable success with a Peckett & McNab framed Suzuki (there I've done it again- mentioning the unmentionable on this site) but I wonder where the thundering Guzzi is now?"

Ian's also fired up his own blog at rattlingracing.blogspot

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Alternative lifestyle

Purists look away now - Dave Brown took these pics at the Horsham Piazza Italia shindig, while I sweated it out at Stafford (more anon): that's one hell of an alternative look for a Darmah...

Friday, 22 April 2011

Want one

Apro pos the last post on Ducati UK's Art of Corse event Mick wants one of these. No, the Mach 1, not a woman...

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Top twenty Ducatis

Ducati UK's upcoming Art of Corse event has left a very brave Mick White charged to curate a collection of "iconic Ducatis through the ages." Mick's a top bloke, handy old-school Ducati racer and a great choice for the job. But I don't envy him - he's predictably been snowed under with offers of 916-series bikes to show: so, given an absolute max of 20 bikes to show, what would you pick? Here's my pop...

Firstly some ground rules - these have to be important and pivotal bikes in Ducati's history, and it's for public consumption: as someone was heard to say at Bristol Auto Italia, "They all look the same," so six types of bevel single isn't a good idea. Even so, let’s get the clich├ęs out of the way first.

Cucciolo (engine only) and a 65 - the first complete Ducati. A 916SP, in the original Tamburini graphics, and of course the only 916cc SP. Then a 999R: the winningest Ducati Superbike, and a very misunderstood bike. I'd stop the collection at that point in time, because everything that follows is effectively in the current range. So that's four down, 6 to go...

A Marianna, (failing that F3 or 175 Sport) - that Giro victory saved Ducati, and these first bevel singles were the how and why. A triple cam 125GP bike if I could persuade an owner to show it: if you don't know why, you're clearly not reading Benzina. Then a 350 twin fuel cap 350: the first Desmo road bike. That leaves 13 bikes: it's going to be tight.

Bevel twins: slightly controversial, but bear in mind the previous public consumption remark: 750GT, and a Mille Hailwood Rep - first and last, and easy to link to the Imola72/Daytona77/IoM78 trinity. After all Smarty's bike had centre-stand lugs, and Mike's NCR had that colourscheme. Plus maybe an NCR racer - all those endurance victories, plus the NCR name needs to be involved. And who wants another bevel single in there?

Ah, me actually: need a Street Scrambler as an example of the stuff that actually kept the production lines rolling, so ditto the Monster in original 904cc, tacho-free set-up: the bike that saved Ducati(again) and still the best seller today. Then an example of a folly - the 125 Regolarita or Six Days: proof Ducati made two-stokes, and the last mass produced Ducati single. And of course the Supermono has to be in there, for Bordi's engineering genius and proof that Pierre Terblanche can style a bike well enough to influence Tamburini's 916. Ok, that leaves just six spaces

Mention Tamburini and the Paso has to get a look in as his first bike for Ducati (now in Cagiva's loving arms)and a world-wide influence all bikes - especially the Honda CBR/Hurricane. And obviously an 851 (Tricolore or SP5?) as the start of the Superbike line, and a statement of Cagiva's commitment to racing.

Four to choose, and I haven't even mentioned Taglioni's Rubber-Ducks. First Pantah and an F1 750 - Fabio's first and last belters. Then there has to be a TT2: another NCR connection - (or is that overblown? More revelations and controversy being unearthed for issue 5) plus genesis - the 500GP racer, as raced by Read. That's twenty bikes and no room left at the Inn. The Apollo? No thanks - a prototypical backwater. The Desmosedici - arrg, go on, we'll never get the 500GP bike.

And I might be persuaded to pull a couple of others in favour of a seventies diesel and an early camera or radio, because without those "sidelines" there'd be no Ducati today. So maybe pull some twins, and slot in the stuff that made the bikes possible instead.

Good luck Mick, who's actually after some of the above, plus an MH900E and a bloody scooter...if you can help get in touch and I'll pass it on

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

French Leave

Perfect for a late summer weekend in France - the Trofeo Classic on Sunday 18 September is a free festival of Italian motoring, with cars and bikes parading in the morning, then lining up PM in the hope of prizes. The French do this sort of thing brilliantly, and the hotels and restaurants will put on a proper effort rather than just adopting the UK practice of hiking prices and forgetting bookings (as anyone who's been to Chichester during the Goodwood Revival/FoS will know...)

Best of all Clisson's just 120 miles from St Malo, which is where Brittany Ferries run to with their wonderful overnight service from Portsmouth. So tell the other half you've planned a romantic weekend, and practice your "Zut alors!"/look of surprise when Sunday morning sees Clisson city centre rammed with fine Italian metal

Monday, 18 April 2011

What a pair...

Spotted at the Auto Italia street festival in Bristol, the talented Alan Long explained to me these two beutiful Ducatis that he has built.

The green bike started life as a Bimota Mantra (old joke I know but the mantra is : "This bike is sh**..") with a cut & welded Yamaha Diversion fuel tank, & exquisite welding & detailing on the home made subframe etc.

The blue sport classic looks reasonably standard but closer inspection reveals a Harris fairing & yet more home made lovelyness in the fabrication department. The beutiful Italian blue colour is not quite what it seems either - the shade was copied from a label in a box of Adidas training shoes...

We salute you sir:- I'm told ther are more machines where these came from so we need to see inside your workshop!

(With thanks to Ian B)

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Guardian Angel

Was riding through Bristol's less than beautiful suburbs on my way to the Bristol Auto Italia event when snap goes the Darmah's clutch cable: we've all been there, with that sinking bugger-there-goes-my-day feeling, as I coasted down a busy hill (it's still the A420 after all)and into a side road. Where to my utter gobsmakedness there's a bunch of bikers hovering outside a small workshop.

My guardian angel was truly on form - the workshop was home to Jim Mclean and Neil O'Dowd's Bike Care, the sort of old school bike shop I thought long gone. Despite a punishing MoT schedule Jim tried to find a suitable cable, but drawing a short straw made me one up. Turns out he's a Gilera and Morini fan, and has an MV 350 just like mine awaiting restoration. The crowd were top fun too - I especially like the Advisory note issued to a turquoise Honda: "Change the colour."

I still can't believe my luck - if the cable had broken a few hundred yards either way I'd have missed this perfect spot, and although I was an hour behind schedule, I've still got a warm and fuzzy feeling about the whole thing 24 hours later.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Testi Champion - del cane testicoli

Spotted at an autojumble: I'd have snapped it up to restore if my spannering skills stretched beyond tightening a chain.

These were the mutt's nuts in the late seventies: OK, just 50cc, but otherwise it outspec'd everything: name another production bike that had cantilever rear suspension, mag wheels, 6 16 I could hardly believe such a thing existed. Maybe the headlamp shining through the windshield's a bit dodgy, but then who'd ride it after dark? Nobody could see you, and surely that was the whole point of such a magnificent folly

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Funny front ends

Always had a thing for funny front ends, so welcomed these musings from Ian B:

Which of course led to Jack DiFazio (based in Frome, Somerset not far from Team Benzina HQ) & some of his creations including this Ducati 750.
Almost inevitably that opened up that delicious can of worms that is the feet forward motorcycle. Cue Royce Creasey’s 001 with a Ducati 450 engine

Holiday Planner

These pics courtesy of Rocky Mountain Tours who seem to have some fine riding holiday plans out in Colorado. They rock the Rockies, as it were. If only if they were nearer, and there wasn't the Giro, Spa, TT, Goodwood, Coupe de Legends, the Manx...why is summer so damn short? Time to get riding

Monday, 11 April 2011

Disgusted of Warwickshire

Hmmm - appalled to see a Jap bike on the blog, Matt sent this pic of his helmet. Still kitemarked, still road legal. Lovely

Friday, 8 April 2011

Wifey has insisted I scarify the lawn, which takes half a day followed by the same collecting the mess. Except the ride-on mower tore its inner tube (I hadn't noticed the tyre was going flat - damn thorns) so I've spent most of this week with tyre irons and such. Which means I haven't even started the bikes, let alone ridden them. Pathetic. And taunting by fellow Benzinista doesn't help - this from Ian B:

"After the hottest day of the year I just had to go for a blast after work. And with weather more associated with Tuscany than Wiltshire what did I throw a leg over? The Kawasaki…Well at Benzina we are a broad church, or at least I am. Greg has probably spat Chianti over his Gucci loafers reading this.

Anyway, please forgive my sins as I think the red Team Benzina sticker looks rather fetching on a black helmet"

But the good weather's set to continue...into the garage: eeny, meeny, miny, mo...

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Harley's BMW GS competitor spotted!

Have Harley Davidson gone mad? This prototype competitor to BMW GS trailie was spotted on Ed Youngblood's site - ah, on April 1st...

Shame I saw it too late for the real April Fool's day (though given today's the start of the UK tax year, maybe not - being married to Dr Girlie Nice-Smile I know all about the huuuuge waste of our taxes by the public sector)

Monday, 4 April 2011

Trip hazards

Courtesy great TB supporter Ian Brambley

"I came across this delightful photograph on the internet last week. Curiously it was entitled “I've no idea why she left” I have to say it had me foxed for a few days but then I spotted it. Look carefully on the right & you can see an electric cable running in front of the threshold to the kitchen. It’s a potential trip hazard - that’s got to be it right?"

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Mystery machines

Ivar de Gier is an especially good friend to Benzina, and supplies the magnificent period photographs that make producing the magazine such a joy. Ivar’s knowledge of period motorsport is phenomenal, and his patience with the gaps in my knowledge much appreciated. For issue 5 he’s promised to share some little known surprises of Italian motorcycle production. I’ve given him Carte Blanche, but here’s a taster of the sort of thing he’s come across in his research

“Italian born motorcycle legend Alessandro Anzani died in 1956, aged 79, seconds after asking a nurse “Please, do not shut the window” of his hospital ward. A motorcycle was driving by, and the nurse wanted to avoid the hard sound of the engine troubling her very sick patient. But Anzani did not want that: “I like the sound of engines,” he explained, although the energy it took to speak was too much for his ailing body and these were to be his last words. Maybe he wanted to move on that way, accompanied by the sound that always made his heart beat.

Italian born Anzani initially became famous for motorcycles that featured delicate twin and triple cylinder engines, and his bikes were immediately successful in racing. They also raced successfully on boardtracks across France, the country Anzani had moved to in 1900. Motorcycle racing had an incredible (yet today forgotten) birth on wooden velodromes (boardtracks) - the first motorcycles were bicycles with engines, so it made sense they also raced on velodromes. In an era where combustion engines were not yet accepted on the European mainland (apparently they had a tendency to turn milk in cows sour – and they scared horses), it was also an accepted arena for the first battles in motorcycle racing.

The Anzani lightweight motorcycles were absolute works of art. They delivered more power then any other motorcycle of that era with the same cylinder capacity. Alessandro Anzani was able to build these machines because of income generated by building “stayer” motorcycles (bikes that racing cyclists drafted when racing on velodromes). Yesterday I happened to come across a postcard in our archives that is now 107 years old, from 1904. It shows an Anzani twin cylinder stayer motorcycle. I believe it must have been one of his very, very earliest products as his more regular motorcycle production did not start up until 1907. Machines like this formed the bread and butter of the company at the time, and made it possible for him to expand his advanced and incredible engineering exploits further and further.

This early Anzani was truly gigantic and must have been almost impossible to ride. Why they were so big is a mystery and it would make a nice conversation point for the next “Teas and Cakes” of Benzina. I probably won’t be there, but maybe the drag behind these gigantic machines helped the cyclists gain speed. Or maybe the cyclist did not need to pedal at all as the pull of the inlet tract alone must have been gigantic…

But anyway, there is no greater contrast imaginable to Anzani’s early motorcycle racers than his own stayer motorcycles. I thought it would be nice to share this striking and extremely early Anzani find with the readers of Greg’s Benzina Blog. Benzina is about Italian motorcycles - even though Anzani did move to France he never gave up his Italian heritage and choose to keep his Italian nationality! Hopefully that justifies this machine, which, at first sight, seems to be out of place here.”

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Thanks for coming

Excellent turn out for the first Teas and Cakes of the year - thanks to all who came (the Ducatis almost outnumbered the Guzzis for once). Special thanks to Steve for bringing his lovely Mille Hailwood rep, with made Keith's 900SS (next to it) look...unrestored. Pantinaed. Or something: amazing how many differences between his and mine, despite both being pretty much as thy left the factory.

Sorry about the Harley interloper, though it did sound nice. And the Superlight that turned up later makes you realise that you can hear a Ducati dry clutch from almost as far away as the exhaust note...

Friday, 1 April 2011