Words: Oriol Puig Bultó – Bernie Schreiber – Yrjo Vesterinen – Trials Guru
Photos: Bernard Schreiber – Diane Vesterinen – Joan Font Creixems
A very special weekend in Barcelona and on Friday, November 16 2018, the city witnessed many of the former World Champions and National trial champions congregate to celebrate the sport.
Organised very ably by Oriol Puig Bultó, former competitions manager of Bultaco and also an FIM official of many years, along with a small but very efficient team, Oriol and friends pulled in favours and a few strings to get this amazing gathering underway. This involved many phone calls and e-mails across the globe.
What a gathering they pulled together, a veritable ‘who’s who’ of the top trials riders the world has ever seen. Sadly not all could attend of course, with Martin Lampkin and Ulf Karlson missing.
1979 World Champion, at this time, the only American to have won the title made a heartfelt speech:
“Good Afternoon Everyone, It’s such an honor to be here with all of you today. All my Trials memories remain deep in my heart and especially my time spent here in Barcelona.
Many questioned that young kid from California, but some truly believed. For me the American dream began with Senor Bultó, my dear friend Manuel Soler, his family and my team manager Oriol Puig Bultó who supported me from the very start to my world championship victory.
So many unforgettable moments with the Bultó family, importers, race teams and riders. All my respect and thanks to every Spanish and International Trials riders who educated me about their countries cultures, language and riding styles.
Many thanks to those world championship motor-clubs for all their hard work organizing world class events at legendary venues. My memories span across the world, but my heart remains in Sant LIorenc.
Today we stand near the birthplace of the greatest Indoor Trials dating back to 1978…the Solo Moto Indoor. This was the beginning of a new and revolutionary era that eventually changed the sport of Trials forever.
A special thanks to all the media who reported our sport extensively over the years, supported the industry brands and made us riders iconic along the way.
Many of you here today are part of our Trials history and without your passion over the years for our sport, the next generation has no heritage or legacy to look back upon.
Some legends are no longer with us as they rest in peace, but we remember them, we hear them, we love them and we still see them riding sections or working championship events to make it an unforgettable experience for everyone.
I truly appreciate your friendships, loyalty, recognition and the opportunity to participate in this Trial Legends event.
Thank you so much for all your support and precious memories.” – Bernie Schreiber, 1979 FIM World Trials Champion
Yrjo Vesterinen the gave his passionate and informative speech:
“Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great privilege and honour to be here today.
Let me ask a question, why am I here? To answer that, we need to go back in time.
In August 1971 Finland was hosting a European Championship Trial in Solvalla. Oriol Puig Bultó and his cousin, Ignacio had travelled all the way from Barcelona to participate there. After the trial Oriol came to speak with me. I had been noticed! What followed was a dream come true. I was later offered a contract to join the famous Team Bultaco.
What also followed was that as my career as a trials rider progressed I was becoming more self-centred and started to think that the team was there to help me to achieve my own goals. I am sure that happened to many of us, whom some call legends. We forget that we were there to do a job for the factories and that we were extremely lucky to have been spotted by the team managers in the first place. We were offered jobs that most people only dreamt of.
Some of you here today may have noticed that I was collecting signatures, signatures of World Champions, European Champions, National Champions, Winners of the Six Days and many other important events in the world of trials, on these picture boards that I have here with me. What unites these people is that they were, once upon time, given a chance and an opportunity to prove themselves. For many of us it was through two remarkable gentlemen, who are here today with us. They are Oriol Puig Bultó from Bultaco and Pere Pi from Montesa. What makes these gentlemen truly remarkable is that they were pioneers of all aspects of off road competition, being great trials riders, motocross racers and enduro riders. They were development engineers, test riders and great ambassadors of our sport.
As riders we probably remember them as wise and patient team mangers that we didn’t thank enough at the time.
What could we as riders give to these remarkable men that they do not already have? Perhaps these printed boards with the signatures of their grateful riders will go a small way to deliver this message that some of us forgot to convey decades ago.
May I ask Oriol Puig Bultó and Pere Pi to come forward. May I also propose that both of these gentlemen sign these pictures in front of us all. In doing so I would like to think of this occasion as the long overdue signing of a peace treaty between Bultaco and Montesa. The war, albeit always a friendly one, between Bultaco, Montesa and their respective teams is now over!
Finally, one signed copy of this print will be auctioned off at the Telford Classic Dirt Bike show, February 2019, in memory of Martin Lampkin for the family’s chosen cancer charity.
Thank you very much.” – Yrjo Vesterinen, 1976-78 FIM World Trials Champion
Oriol Bultó told Trials Guru the background to the celebration and gathering of champions past and present:
“The idea of organizing the “Trial Legends” celebration held last Friday emerged following a discussion I had with Pere Pi (former Montesa) and Estanislao Soler (former Bultaco and owner of the Museu de la Moto) after a similar event we organized for the Spanish “Motocross Legends” in May 2015, together with Pere Mas, President of Motor Club Micorella, very active in organizing Classic Trial events. The Motocross meeting was a success, and we thought that it would good to do a similar event for Trial, open also to foreign riders.
The aim was to meet with the older riders who started riding Trials before 1986, pay tribute to the Champions who left us (Juan Soler Bultó, Fernando Muñoz, Don Smith, Martin Lampkin and Ulf Karlsson), recognize the participants in the first official Trial held in Spain (Trial del Tibidabo, Barcelona 2 November 1964), pioneers Motorcycle Clubs (organizing the SSDT, the early Spanish rounds of the Trial World Championship, the ‘3 Days Cingles del Bertí Trial’ and the ‘3 Days Santigosa Trial’. Also to the inventors of the Indoor Trial (Barcelona 1978), recognize the Women Trial Legends and celebrate the Catalan, Spanish, European and World Champions of those times.
In addition to Pere Pi, Estanislao Soler, Pere Mas and myself we incorporated to the organizing group Joan Font and Xavi Foj, also ‘Trial Legends’. We have been working in this project during 14 months and we are very happy by the number of ‘Legends’ attending (about 248), and the positive response of Catalan, Spanish, European and World Champions.
Too young to be ‘Legends’ we invited Dougie Lampkin, Tony Bou and Laia Sanz, who together with Jordi Tarrés formed the podium with most World Champion titles, totaling 56!
Of the big names of those times Trial only Eddy Lejeune (too difficult to get him travelling) and Mick Andrews (injured) did not attend.
It was a great day, and looking to the happy faces of the people attending we feel rewarded for the effort made. In total, about 400 people attended the event last Friday.”
Oriol Bultó compiled the following shortened history of the sport:
THE BEGINNINGS OF TRIAL
Like in all the beginnings there are some doubts about the origin of Trial, the exact place where it started and by whom. On one hand, it is known that there was an event in Scotland, on the other hand there was the Scott Trial on an unspecified date, and in 1914 a similar competition of skills named “Litton Slack”, with the participation of 132 riders, that feat was important as the motorcycles did not have a clutch, they had a single gear, pedals and belt transmission, and climbing a normal hill was already an accomplishment.
In 1909, in Scotland, after having the idea of organizing a tough competition through the mountains of the Highlands, a group of young people created the Moto Club Edinburg to organize the first Five Days of Trial. The course was about 1000 miles long (1.600 Km) with the participation also of cars and motorcycles with sidecar. In 1911, it already turned into the well known Six Days SSDT up to the present times, although with a halt from 1914 to 1918 during the First World War. In similar dates, Mr. Scott, who had a company under his name, organized the “Scott Trial” only for his employees, with start and arrival at the factory’s own door. In the first edition, 14 riders participated and 9 finished.
During the first few years there was only British participation in the SSDT, because travelling to a foreign country was too expensive and the prices were a medal and a piece of Scottish fabric hand embroidered. From 1940 to 1945 there was another halt due to the Second World War.
It wasn’t until 1955 that the British brands took a real interest in Trials. The BSA factory prepared its Moto Cross rider Jeff Smith to run the SSDT and he won. In 1956, Gordon Jackson set the unbeaten record of losing only one mark in all 6 days. It would have been nice to have Gordon Jackson here with us today. The companies that showed interest were: BSA, Rudge, Ariel, Norton, Velocette, Triumph, AJS, Matchless and Royal Enfield. Almost all of those won the SSDT until the arrival of the light Bultaco motorcycles in 1965 at the hands of Sammy Miller.
At the end of the Second World War, Trial started in Belgium and from there expanded to the rest of Europe. It was November 1962 when Joan Soler Bultó and Oriol Puig Bultó decided to go to Saint Cucufa (France) to participate in a new modality called “Trial” with Bultaco motorcycles that had been modified according to what they had seen in British, French and Spanish motorcycling magazines. When they returned they decided to introduce this new modality into Spain, organizing an experimental competition in the estate of Sant Antonio owned by Don Paco Bultó. It was beginning of 1963, and that would be the first initiation Trial in Spain (Catalonia). There is also information about “Trial” competitions in 1961, one in Viladrau (Barcelona) won by Oriol Puig Bultó, and another in Sant Vicenç de Castellet, both with regulations that rewarded the speed and the ability to negotiate the sections.
In 1964 the FIM created the first international Trial championship, the “Challenge Henry Groutards, won by Don Smith on a Greeves. In 1968 there was the first “European Championship” won by Sammy Miller on a Bultaco, and in 1975 the first “World Championship” won by Martin Lampkin on a Bultaco.
In order to promote Trials in the European southern countries, the FIM favored a Trial short course in Laffrey (Grenoble) directed by the French rider Claude Peugeot on 10-11 October 1964 for riders from France, Spain, Switzerland and Italy.
A few weeks later, on 2nd of November 1964 the Real Moto Club de Cataluña organized the ‘Trial del Tibidabo’ near Barcelona, being the first official Trial in Spain. It was won by Joan Soler Bultó on a Bultaco. In 1965 there was the first “Catalonia Championship” won by Joan Soler Bultó on a Bultaco, and in 1968 the first “Spanish Championship” won by Pere Pi on a Montesa.
The proceedings for the event were as follows:
TRIAL LEGENDS, PROGRAM OF ACTIVITIES
– Identification of the Legendary riders and accompanying persons
– Signature of the Legendary Sheet
– Exhibition of a selection of Legendary Trial Motorcycles
– Drone photo of the world’s widest gathering of the Legends
– Entrance to the restaurant. Collection of the magazine MotoCiclismo Clásico and the program of activities.
– Presentation of the party by the Legendary Xavier Foj
– Book of Honor: Where all Legends had the opportunity to make a dedication
– Reading of the “History of the Trial” in Spanish and English
– Presentation of the riders of the modern history of the Trial
– Toni Bou thanked the Legends of the Trial
– The building of the podium with the most titles of “World Champions in all sports” (43 / 56).
– Tribute to the “Champions who have left us”
– Presentation of the trophy “Trial Legends” to the relatives of the Champions who have left us.
– Recognition of the riders present, participants in the first official Trial in Spain (Catalonia)
– MotoCiclismo Clásico opens an account to rebuild the monument to Ramón Torras
– Awards to Motor Club Terrassa, Moto Club Cingles de Bertí and Moto Club Santigosa
– Recognition of the representatives of the Legendary Motorcycle Brands
– Recognition of the first Trial Indoor Solo-Moto
– Recognition of the Legendary Women of Trial
– Surprise: “You are the Trial Champions”
– Recognition of the first Catalan Trial Champions
– The hostesses will hand the bracelet “Trial Legends” of concord
– The hostesses will deliver the text “History of the Trial”.
– Recognition of the Spanish Trial Champions
– Recognition of the European Trial Champions
– Recognition of the first Trial World Champions
– Delivery of the sheets to all Legendaries
– Delivery of the photo of the world’s widest hug
– Finale (with music for the occasion)
Trials Guru is indebted to Oriol Puig Bultó for allowing us to share the details of this fantastic event with us, and to Bernie Schreiber and Yrjo Vesterinen for allowing reproduction of their speeches from this magnificent event.
Trials Guru commented: Oriol Puig Bultó is a very modest gentleman with an incredible knowledge not only of the Bultaco brand, but also the sports of trial, motocross and enduro. However he insists that the Trial Legends Fiesta was the result of a team:
Oriol Bultó : “The Trial Legends was organised by a small group, originally formed by Pere Pi, Estanislao Soler, Pere Mas and myself. Soon after, we were joined by Joan Font and Xavi Foj. From the very beginning we have worked together as a team“.
Oriol continued: “The speeches by Bernie Schreiber and Yrjo Vesterinen were very toching, they are both great persons and champions“.
Powerpoint of Trial Legends Presentation – click on this link:
The Westmorland Motor Cycle Club Ltd are planning a tribute edition of their annual Bob MacGregor road run in Perthshire. This will be a tribute to John Holmes.
Details are given below:
Held under SACU regulations and social permit, it takes place on Tuesday 30th April 2019
at the start of the Scottish Six Days Trial period.
The run will be for Motorcycles (Pre 75 – preferred) or something special.
The start & finish of the run will be at the McLaren Hall, Main Street, Killin, Perthshire, FK21 8UH, Scotland.
37 miles North of Stirling
Circular Route, Killin-Blair Atholl -Loch Rannoch Area
Route follows A & B Class Roads Alternative Off Road Sections for those interested
The first motorcycles will leave at 10.00am & the remainder to follow in groups of 5 – 10 approx. at one minute intervals
There will be a lunch break on route
Attached entry form to be completed & returned with £15 entry fee to:- (includes £2 donation to Bob MacGregor Trials Club)
Peter Remington, Kenbrig, Levens, Kendal, Cumbria, LA8 8DT
Tel No. mobile: 07891076320 Email: email@example.com
Please enclose a stamped addressed envelope for acceptance of your entry.
Entries to be received by Monday 11th April 2017
Entries will be limited, so please enter early to avoid disappointment.
The organisers reserve the right to amend the event or to refuse entry without giving a
reason for such refusal.
Westmorland Motor Cycle Club Limited
Held under SACU social permit
Bob MacGregor Motorcycle Run
Tuesday 30th April Official Entry Form
Name……………………………………… e mail address………………………………………. Address…………………………………… Tel No………………………………………………… …………………………………………….. Mobile No……………………………………………. ……………………………………………..
Machine……………cc ……………………… Year……… Registration No…………………………
I declare & undertake,
i) That the above vehicle is well maintained & in a fit condition to be entered in the
ii) Vehicle Insurance
The vehicle has current vehicle road tax & is cover by an operative policy of insurance for road use & third party risks & said policy will be available for inspection by the organiser upon request.
In default of the above undertakings or any one of them I agree to save harmless and keep indemnified the Organisers of the above run, and it’s officials, servants and representatives, from and against all actions, claims, expenses and demands in respect of death or injury or loss of or damage to property, however caused arising out of or in connection with my entry or my taking part in this run.
Riders Signature……………………………………………………….. Date…………………….
£15 Cheque / P.O. Payable to Westmorland MCC
Send to Peter Remington, Kenbrig, Levens, Kendal, Cumbria, LA8 8DT with S.A.E
This article first appeared in the April 2018 edition of Old Bike Mart, and is reproduced here with permission and as a tribute to John Holmes.
For more features and news from the classic motorcycling world, and to subscribe to Old Bike Mart, visit: www.oldbikemart.co.uk
A Holmes-spun Triumph…
Recalling being blown into the weeds by a sharp-sounding and decidedly rapid JH Special Triumph Tiger Cub, John McCrink visits the man who created it and marvels at his home-brewed craftsmanship.
About ten years ago, while taking part in one of Pete Remington’s excellent Nostalgia Road Runs in the Lake District, I was riding out of Ambleside on my Triumph 500 and quickly found myself on an extremely steep, uphill climb (1-in-4 no less) known locally and most aptly as ‘The Struggle’.
As the revs plummeted and I was about to drop down a gear, I was suddenly overtaken by a decidedly rapid and fantastic-sounding Tiger Cub trials bike that was making easy meat of the gradient. I got only got a quick glimpse of bike and rider before they disappeared in the direction of the Kirkstone Pass, but it was enough to tell me that I’d been blown into the weeds by none other than John Holmes from Natland, near Kendal, on one of his famous JH Specials.
I first saw John competing on one of his Cubs back in 1991 when we were both riding in the Saturday night trial at the famous Nostalgia Scrambles track near Sedbergh, Cumbria. His bike certainly lived up to the title ‘Special’ as it simply bristled with innovation and inventiveness. That was the first of John’s specials that I had ever clapped eyes on, but a few more have been built since then, all of them demonstrating the Holmes hallmarks of originality, ingenuity, uniqueness and pure craftsmanship. John’s bikes have become extremely well-known and widely admired in the classic trials scene, not only because they look superb, but also because they perform so brilliantly, but we’ll come to that later.
It’s difficult to know where to start when trying to best describe John’s bikes. His trials Cubs are lightweight indeed, consisting of numerous home-fabricated components. The engines are meticulously assembled using his own-manufactured barrels, and here’s the thing: they are created from solid billet using hacksaws and files, as are the connecting rods – a real labour of love. There are no fancy, high-tech milling machines in the Holmes workshop, just honest toil, and patience is a virtue. The frames and swing-arms are altered to improve handling and, where necessary, to accommodate John’s own oil tank/airbox needs as well as the home-brewed exhaust and silencer.
All these mods are done within eligibility rules and in the spirit of classic trialling, for after all, hacksaws, files and metal working tools were all available before 1965.
Unlike many of us, John is not put off by dealing with electrics, and where necessary he has created his own systems that work really well, but I’ll not get into technical details here because in truth it’s way beyond me! Undoubtedly they’re far superior to anything Joseph Lucas would have offered back in the day.
Most ‘special’ builders, having successfully shoehorned the modified engine into the modified frame, could be forgiven for then purchasing ‘over the counter’ items such as fuel tank, footrests, kick-start, control levers, rear suspension units and so on, but not John Holmes. Instead, out come the hand tools again.
Undoubtedly his background as a panel-beater, working on high-end vehicles, honed his metalworking skills and allows him to create such quality items as his petrol tanks. He originally made a wooden former for this task, but has developed his technique to a point where a former is no longer required.
Although John’s Tiger Cubs are unique, many people will remember the incredible BSA 500 trials bike he built, mating a B31 bottom end to a B25 cylinder-head, joined together with a barrel of his own manufacture which utilised a VW liner and piston. It created quite a sensation not just because of the hybrid engine but also due to the incredible inventiveness of the rolling chassis and other component parts all too many to mention (but please see the photograph). Some readers might remember that Trials & Motocross News did a detailed feature on this machine a few years back.
So John’s bikes are unusual in their originality and look fantastic. They are well fettled and beautifully turned out with all that alloy and stainless steel glistening – but how do they perform in the heat of serious competition? There can be no better testament to John’s engineering skills and the reliability of his bikes than to take the honours at that most famous and demanding of classic trials, the Pre’65 Scottish Two-Day Trial at Kinlochleven.
To win such an arduous event you need not only a good bike but also a good rider, and in 2007 John had that winning combination when Yorkshireman, Tony Calvert piloted the JH Special Cub to a fantastic win, dropping only one mark on the first day and zero on the second – quite an achievement. At the time Tony said: “I was chuffed with the win for John as much as myself.”
John’s bike impressed Tony so much that he had to have a Cub of his own, and managed to find one. The bike was then prepped by John in readiness for the 2008 ‘Scottish’, and guess what? History repeated itself and Tony triumphed once again, with only one mark dropped over the two days. What a team!
The Cambridge Dictionary defines the word ‘modest’ as meaning “unassuming in the estimation of one’s abilities or achievements” – and that perfectly sums up John Holmes, for he would never consider crowing about his bike-building skills.
Similarly, he keeps quiet about his competition successes over many years of participating in trials. He joined the Westmorland Motor Club in 1958 and was still competing 40 years later. Some people might be surprised to find that back in 1963, 64 and 66, John not only rode in that most demanding event, The Scott Trial, but also finished in the awards and won a coveted Scott Spoon on each occasion. So what happened in the 1965 Scott? That’s another story.
In 1965 the International Six Days Trial took place on the Isle of Man, and well-known North West scrambler Tony Sharp was down to ride the event on an Eddie Crooks-sponsored 175 CZ. Unluckily for Tony, just before the event he was injured and John took over the ride. It turned out to be one of the wettest and hardest ISDTs on record.
Out of 300 entrants, only 77 were British, of whom only nine finished – quite a rate of attrition, with lots of established factory riders dropping out – but John Holmes was one of the few finishers, and still has the bronze medal to prove it. Although not over-keen on two-strokes, he does concede that the wee Czech buzz-bomb did go well over the six days.
Perhaps the demands of that ISDT had taken it out of John because, come the autumn, although he rode in the Scott Trial, on that occasion he missed out on a spoon.
Sadly John Holmes passed away after a long battle with cancer on 3rd October 2018.
Words: George Gage & Trials Guru
Photos: George Gage & Fin Yeaman
Oban trials enthusiast, George Gage is a joiner by profession and started riding trials bikes with a TY250 Yamaha. The bike disappeared many years ago, but he wished he had kept it as many enthusiasts of the sport do!
It comes as no surprise then that when Scottish trials dealer Garry Coward of Highland Leisure Sport had sourced a similar machine, George had to have it.
George was unlucky to develop Testicular cancer which then spread to his lungs, which resulted in 3 months of chemotherapy treatment. George Gage is a cancer survivor.
Goerge takes up the story:
Garry Coward sourced the bike for me, he knew where the machine was as he had serviced it for a customer for some years. The owner had the bike from new and bought it from an old motorcycle dealer in the Highlands. The owner moved overseas, so the bike came on the market. I bought it with the intention of using it unrestored, but this soon changed when I started working on it. Before i knew it, the Yamaha was stripped and the frame was getting prepared for painting.
George began work and did the following tasks:
The story of the ‘BSA that Alf Rode‘ has been updated with fresh information and new photographs of the bike that has a great deal of SSDT history.
The latest news is that the very bike may be at next years Scottish Six Days Trial as a tribute to local man Ron S. Thomson, 60 years after it was first ridden in the SSDT in 1959!
Watch this space as they say!
Trials Guru is of course all about the sport of trials, but its’ creator, John Moffat is interested in all forms of motorcycle sport, that includes Motocross.
John was invited to get a ‘bit involved’ in the recent Drumlanrig Grand National Motocross on the weekend of 13-15th July, 2018.
Held in the grounds of the majestic Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries and Galloway, the stately home of the Duke of Buccleuch, the event was very well supported and is becoming the premier motocross event in Scotland.
It was promoted and organised by the re-formed and locally based Galloway Motorcycle Club, which was a club that had started out in the 1930s and folded around 2011. The good news is that it is back up and running again, affiliated to the Scottish ACU and headed up by Fraser Dykes (Chairman) and Willie Brown (Secretary) and has a strong nucleus of committee members, all willing to get their hands dirty.
Moffat’s remit was to conduct a full hour-long interview on the Friday evening with the 1982 World 500cc Motocross Champion, Brad Lackey who kept the audience spell-bound with his recounts of his life in professional motocross as a factory rider for CZ, Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki.
Moffat also hosted the ‘Galloway Gathering’ on the Saturday night which saw many former Scottish Motocross riders and champions being interviewed to keep the crowd both intertained and informed. This was all done in a massive marquee on site.
Here are some photos taken during the three day event, courtesy of former Trials & Motocross News reporter, Graham Milne which gives a flavour of what Trials Guru had been getting up to at Drumlanrig!
As a post script to the BSA that Alf rode story, we have great pleasure in disclosing that the machine will have its original registration number returned.
Registered in Dundee in 1959 as JTS139, the number was sold separately from the bike and after negotiations between the owner of the machine and the owner of the registration a deal was done and the BSA had its identity returned. A true happy ending!
Full story HERE
Words: Trials Guru; Steve Owen; Bruce Johnston
Extract from Jeff Smith – Trials Expert, Motocross Maestro (Copyright Motorsport Publications)
The Birmingham Small Arms Company developed a unit construction single cylinder model to be universally known as the C15, which went into production in September 1958.
Having acquired Triumph in 1951 , the C15 was derived from the smaller capacity 199cc Triumph Tiger Cub, BSA was quick to capitalise on the UK trials market by having a C15’T’ model for sale to competition riders for the 1959 season and also a C15’S’ model for scrambling.
The 249cc C15T was supplied with a chromed and painted blue steel fuel tank, full width wheel hubs and lighting kit. Later, many riders fitted Triumph Cub wheels and brakes to reduce weight and a ‘Lyta’ aluminium alloy fuel tank made by Hitchisson of Vauxhall Bridge, London.
The 1959 ‘Golden Jubilee’ Scottish Six Days Trial had a number of the new C15T models entered in the highland classic, but it was not all to be plain sailing as all the factory entered machines were to expire during the week. All save for one, the privately entered C15T of Fort William man Ron Thomson, whose machine was supplied by Duncan’s Motorcycles of Brechin, Angus, near Dundee. It was registered JTS139 and it survived the rigours of the SSDT whereas the factory bikes of Jeff Smith et al did not!
Chris Smith, daughter of Jeff Smith has allowed us to quote directly from the most excellent biography written by Ian Berry: ‘Jeff Smith – Trials Master, Motocross Maestro’: “In the meantime BSA who had decided to field a team of four riders all mounted on C15T machines, suffered unprecedented humiliation in the Scottish Six Days Trial in early May. Poor John Draper did not even make it to the first section before his bike seized and Jeff, Tom Ellis and Arthur Lampkin soon followed suit, all eliminated by failure of the distributor drive. So with three days gone, all four of the factories entries were out of the trial.” (Copyright Motorsport Publications)
Thomson was by 1959 a veteran of the SSDT having ridden on Matchless, BSA, Triumph and an H.J.H, a Welsh built two-stroke. He was originally from St. Andrews in Fife and he is featured in our Great Scots series.
Thomson didn’t enter the following year and when he did ride the SSDT again, he reverted to use the BSA Gold Star in both 350 (PSR54) and 500 (PFS916) variations.
Ron sold the little BSA to Dundee trials man, Alfred C. Ingram who was a bit of a character and he rode the C15 more than a half a dozen times. Alf also had the distinction of literally driving around the globe in an 875cc Hillman Imp car with a very novel way of overcoming mechanical failures along the way!
Alf carefully wrapped up components in grease-proof paper and labeled each one, making a note of the contents on a list which he took with him. When he suffered a mechanical failure he sent a telegram to his mother who would go to his stock of parts with the required reference number and mail the item to him wherever he was in the world. Now that is one way of having your own spares system, globally!
Ingram rode the BSA C15T in a number of SSDT events, and at every one, his machine was marked with dabs of special paint with the riding number inscribed before the paint dried fully by machine examiners at Gorgie Market on the Sunday before the event started. Alf never removed these markings and the machine collected a fresh mark every year he rode. The machine created its own history book of itself.
By 2009 the BSA had entered the ownership of Dundee car dealer Bruce Johnston who knew about the machines history. Bruce purchased the machine from a former editor of the Dundee Courier newspaper, Gordon Small who was a motorcyclist and collected older trials machines and road machines. Gordon was also editor in chief of the Classic Legends magazine, produced by D.C. Thomson. Small had bought JTS139 from his friend Alfie Ingram in the 1980s. The bike was displayed in the car park of the SSDT by Bruce Johnston for a couple of years and advertised as being for sale. However, the price was not to everyone’s taste and the machine didn’t sell initially. Johnston then did what a ‘purist’ would perhaps describe as a ‘despicable act’, he removed the original registration number and put it on retention, the DVLA then issued a replacement age-related mark from the 1959 era. The machine’s records then held the replacement registration mark and not JTS139.
The BSA which, going by the frame number was the 42nd C15T built at Small Heath, had remained intact since 1959 apart form the usual modifications such as Cub wheels and a Lyta tank had effectively lost it’s original identity and a bit of it’s history in the process.
The machine was eventually sold without the original index number JTS139 which was then used on a Nissan car.
Then a strange twist of fate emerged, the new owner had an idea to put the motor from the BSA into a Drayton frame kit, would this be the end of the C15T?
No it wasn’t, far from it in fact, Steve Owen became the new owner and rescued the BSA from it’s DNA forming a virtually new machine and the identity would be further defiled.
Steve then made contact with Trials Guru’s John Moffat via the website’s contact facility asking if any of the BSA’s history was known. Steve made reference to the abundance of SSDT markings and Moffat was immediately intreagued and remembered the bike ridden by Thomson and Ingram as he knew the bike quite well. He was of course slightly confused when he asked Owen for the registration number stating that he expected the number to be JTS139, but of course it had been!
Due to Ingram’s forsight, he did not remove any of the paint dabs from the BSA which still carries all the old SSDT markings on the frame, fuel tank, oil tan, front forks and rear dampers. Bruce Johnston had the wheels rebuilt with alloy rims, due to the decay of the originals, which would also have come under the machine examiners markings back in the day. The motor was out of the frame and Steve Owen plans to have the bike back in one piece very shortly.
Steve Owen told Trials Guru: “I was delighted to learn more about my bike, I guessed it would have a have an SSDT history going by the markings and John Moffat confirmed that by researching from his archive of SSDT programmes, matching the dabs of paint with the years they referred to. It’s a pity that Bruce Johnston decided to part the bike from its number, research indicates that the number is for sale at £3,000 a hefty amount for a number plate”.
“John Moffat knew Ron Thomson, the first owner, very well as his father rode trials in the 1950s with him, he also knows Bruce Johnston through Scottish trials, so I suppose I went to exactly the right place to research the machines history”.
Bruce Johnston told Trials Guru: “I’m not sure I can add much to the story other than that I bought the BSA from Gordon Small who was a journalist with D.C. Thomson newspapers in Dundee. Gordon was a good friend of Alfie Ingram and had bought the C15 from him years earlier. Alfie was a keen mountain man and was part of a mountain rescue organisation at one time.”
As luck would have it, Trials Guru’s John Moffat was friendly with the late Gordon Small who introduced Moffat to world racing champion Bill Lomas.
Moffat: “I knew Gordon Small very well indeed as he had been editor of ‘Classic Motorcycling Legends’ magazine in the early 1980s and our paths crossed many times over the years. Gordon’s nom-de-piume was ‘Gordon Cadzow’ taken from his house name in Newport On Tay and he used this when he edited the magazine. Small also edited ‘The Biker’ column in the Dundee Courier for many years. Gordon arrived at my house in the latter part of the 1990s with former world champion Bill Lomas, who was also a very good trials rider, to look over my ex-works Matchless a machine Lomas had been given by the factory in the winter of 1955.”
Moffat added: “I was delighted to check over JTS139 when Bruce Johnston owned it around 2009, he had it on a stand in the parc ferme area of the SSDT. I was very much taken with the bike and I had a mind to buy it from Bruce, but I thought the price tag was a bit too steep at the time and I didn’t make a firm offer. We chatted about it’s history and I was quite interested in buying the BSA at the time. I knew Ron Thomson very well and I had been given the details of the bike from Ron when he was still alive, it was he who told me about the factory bikes pulling out of the 1959 SSDT leaving him as the sole finisher on a BSA C15 that year.”
Steve Owen takes up the story:
“My friend who has worked with me for nearly twenty years and is a big trials bike fan has an older brother Bill Fitzsimons now 86 years young. He first saw the bike for sale on the Yeomans of Bromsgrove stand at the Stafford show and he noticed all the Scottish markings and thought it looked very interesting. The stand was selling it on a commission so didn’t know much about the BSA.
As interesting as it was he didn’t buy it then and there, but took details home with him after a bit of thinking time he gave them a call and they still had it so a deal was done. The previous owner had already had new rims and tyres fitted but otherwise it was unrestored and running, all be it with a lot of smoke. Bill stripped the engine down and fitted new rings , exhaust valve guide and a main bearing and started to put it together but before getting very far he decided to sell it to me having talked to his brother Mike.
I’m getting around to replacing the engine in the frame to get the little BSA running again. It certainly has a lot of character, although it is a real pity it hasn’t retained it’s original registration to complete the history.”
That isn’t the end of the story, we are trying to locate photos of Alf Ingram riding the bike in the SSDT and are conducting a thorough analysis of the years he rode the BSA – so as they say, watch this space!
JTS139 – Its SSDT history:
1959 – R.S. Thomson – number 74
1963 – A.C. Ingram – number 150
1964 – A.C. Ingram – number 129
1966 – A.C. Ingram – number 126
1967 – A.C. Ingram – number 97
1968 – A.C. Ingram – number 192
1969 – A.C. Ingram – number 90
Ron Thomson – Trials Guru has already written about the late Ron Thomson, a man who was very well known in trials by not only his fellow Scots but also Peter Fletcher, Gordon Balkeway and others of that era who got to know Ron through riding in the SSDT over the years. His story can be found here: Ron Thomson.
Alf Ingram: A trials enthusiast from Dundee in Scotland who was a member of the now disbanded Dundee & Angus MCC and was a keen mountain climber in his day.
The paint dabs on machines that competed in the Scottish Six Days Trial – It was a method used for many years by the event organisers to stop competitors replacing components on their machines. They were marked by machine examiners during the Sunday ‘weigh-in’ by painting a square of paint about 15mm x 10mm on the component with a special paint which was mixed by Edinburgh paint manufacturer, Craig & Rose. It was believed that this paint ‘flouresced’ when examined under a UV light. The examiner would scribe the riding number of the machine into the centre of the paint dab with a pencil shaped wooden ‘scribe’ so that riders could not swap compenents from another machine during the event. Every year the paint shade changed slightly from a blue to green colour.
News on JTS139 – May 2018
Having heard of the article, Bruce Johnston met with Trials Guru’s John Moffat at the 2018 Scottish Six Days and explained that the number, JTS139 was indeed for sale and asked that the current owner, Steve Owen make contact with Johnston to discuss the number. This was achieved on 10th May and a deal was done and the original number would see it back on the BSA C15T. Indeed a happy ending brokered by Trials Guru and the little trials machine had its original identity restored.
All’s well that ends well!
JTS139 photo gallery:
The annual Bob MacGregor Memorial Road Run is all set for Tuesday 1st May which sees the start of the usual excitement in the run up to the Scottish Six days Trial.
Organised by the Westmorland Motor Club (founded 1910) and led by it’s enthusiastic member, Peter Remington from Kendal, it consists of a 130 mile excursion into Perthshire. It starts at the McLaren hall in Killin and takes in some old SSDT scenery from the 1940s and 1950s. On the return leg it passes the 1970s section Edramucky on the slopes of Ben Lawers which was an opening day ‘terror’ section back in the days when the SSDT started and finished in Edinburgh.
With a mixture of old and modern motorcycles, it is surely a day to go watch and take in the scenery.