AND WHY WE GO THERE.
OF course one of the reasons is the fact that there are a lot of beautiful and sparkling new models, some of which we show on adjacent pages. These and many more famous names are gathered together to do battle for the good word and consequently the hard-earned cash of the great British public.
This is an excellent reason, and one without which the show could not be held, but it is hardly the reason for the presence in that overheated, underventilated, conglommeration of people and plating, of the sporting motorcyclist. No, he is not particularly interested in examining details of new models, as he probably knows them already, and is more interested in gossip and trade scandal, mostly fictitious, than in actual mechanisms.
Show week is the one occasion in the year when everyone meets everyone else in the game, and a week is all too short for the task of renewing acquaintances. For once we can meet, clothed and in our right mind, free from the atmosphere of castor oil and perpetual hurry which is the lot of the competition rider in the season. It is impossible to get more than a few yards without running into some familiar figure, last seen dirty and happy, partaking of refreshment after a race, or perhaps someone else whom we last saw at the roadside in Glen Helen with a” burst” motor, as we, more fortunate, roared by and nodded acknowledgement to his cheery wave. In another case the positions may have been reversed, and as we revive old memories others come to join in.
There is always, of course, the gentle recreation of leg pulling, and we shall long remember the case of a certain rider, famous for his consistent Brooklands achievements on a well-known “500.” He passed a merry afternoon on the stand, when only a very green salesman was left in charge, innocently inquiring about the new models. ” What was the guaranteed speed ? would it always do it, could more be got out of it, and if so how ? was it easy to hold ? ” and so on, while the wretched youth made valiant efforts to explain everything he was asked. How long he would have kept it up it is hard to imagine, but the little course of instruction was interrupted by the firm’s competition manager strolling back on to the stand with a “Hullo old man, I should have thought you’d have seen enough of those models this year, let’s go and have one ! ” As the salesman realised that the elegant young man whose order he had been hoping to book, could be seen any B.M.C.R.C. meeting, clipping the grass on the Byfieet banking at 100 m.p.h., or over, his expression was pathetic to behold. Then there is the pastime o’f trying to find a ceitain designei whose products are much in demand by prospective T.T. riders, some few of whim may be found in the firm’s office waiting to see the great man. Knowing that is the one place he is rarely to be found, we wander elsewhere to find him taking refuge on some rival’s stand, whose product he is flippantly discussing with a
rider from another firril entirely. [Or perhaps we find him indulging in a game of penny-in-the-slot football in some far corner of the show. He is at Olympia under protest and anyone who wants him can look for him ! Designers are remarkably frank people as a rule to whom the training of Great Portland Street is a thing unknown. Mention to a salesman, that something on your present model (of his make of course) is not what it might be and he will be up in arms at once, and you will be assured that your case must be unique and probably greatly exaggerated. How different from a case we remember when a rider complained to a famous designer whose machines had scores of successes to their credit, that his oil tank leaked continually. “Oh yes, that type wasn’t too clever, I had four tanks on my own machine last year ; but if you drop us a line we’ll send you one of the new sort.”
In past years there have usually been one or two exhibits which through some oversight on the part of their makers have attracted unwelcome attention. There was a certain very clever frame in which a portion of the loop round the back of the gear-box, just went round the back and the other end joined on where it started, thus supporting nothing but its own weight. Another source of amusement, when the ground floor has been exhausted, has been to find out how many of the beautiful engines (if any) in the gallery, have any insides fitted, not that this is in the least relevant, but it serves to pass the time.
There is a cheerful a mosphere about the motorcycle show which is lacking in all others held at Olympia and show week never fails to provide some amusement. We seem to remember rather a bright episode involving Stanley Woods and a fire extinguisher—however that was some years ago, and Stanley is a man of business these days. Perhaps the authorities had a definite pmpose in fixing the date of this year’s show well away from the fifth of November, for the result of the last time this date came in Show week may have been a bit too much of a strain on the nerves of Majoi Watling and company. However a little relaxation, provided it is reasonably discreet, tends to avoid stagnation, and the day when the Wright Brothers (no connection with the originators of the aeroplane) cease to be seen and heard in fierce altercation with all and sundry, and start discussing serious business, will mark the fall of the brightest show of all to the sordid onslaught of humdrum commercialism.
Business is business, we know, but to the man whose work or hobby is the gradual and sometimes painful collection of strange little pieces of metal “suitably inscribed” to commemorate many strenuous hours in the saddle, there is one week in the year when the seiious side is forgotten, and the troubles of the past are drowned (not too literally we hope) in the joviality of the present.