Interest in vintage, or pre-1931, motorcycles increases apace, and the Vintage Motor Cycle Club now has well over 100 members. Consequently, a year ago we asked C. E. Allen, founder of the V.M.C.C., to write us an article on the better-known vintage machines, which duly appeared in MOTOR SPORT We now feel that many people would like a more detailed survey of vintage types and the performances and habits associated with them, and consequently we give herewith a summary of road-tests which MOTOR SPORT conducted when such motor-cycles were new machines.
The cult of the vintage motor-cycle is an interesting study. Whereas car enthusiasts turned to ” vintage ” sports cars because of the generally poor quality of production models of the early nineteen-thirties, the same is hardly true of the motor-cycle, the design of which did not deteriorate, so that on the score of performance, ease of handling, braking and comfort the average post-I930 machine can give points to the average vintage model. Why, then, this cult for aged motorcycles ? The reason would appear to be twofold. In the first place, there is pleasure and fascination for some people in projecting themselves back into a past age to enjoy again the low-speed pulling, light-weight, simplicity, accessibility and economy that characterises machines of the belt-drive and acetylene-lamp era. Secondly, there is the satisfaction of having a motor-cycle which offers quite good performance, even in comparison with many of the moderns, in conjunction with extreme economy of operation. For there is no doubt about it—the vintage motor-cycle is the most inexpensive vehicle you can find, and certain of them are no mean performers into the bargain. Its first cost is very small, so that even if it requires extensive overhaul, the total expenditure is less than that of a new or recent machine. Couple this with excellent fuel consumption and low tyre wear and you have an economy factor that cannot fail to appeal to the impecunious enthusiast. The tax on any motor-cycle is very favourable In comparison with that of a car ; for example, the monthly rate (apart from the Gaitskell half-fee) is Is. 8d. up to 150 c.c., 3s. 6d. for 150-250 c.c., and 6s. lid, for over 350 c.c., with the addition of 2s. 4d. if a sidecar is attached. There is even a concession for pre-I933 bicycles of any capacity which do not weigh more that 224 lb.—these pay 3s. 6d. a month, but unfortunately not many machines qualify. With fuel consumptions in the region of 50-100 m.p.g. clearly, a lot of fun can be had for a small outlay by the vintage motor-cyclist.
There are, of course, pit-falls. Spares, and particularly beaded-edge tyres, are even harder to locate for vintage motor-cycles than for vintage cars. Lighting is often particularly difficult to arrange. But regarded as a hobby the vintage motor-cycle definitely merits consideration in this austerity age.
In the accompanying article those who already own vintage motor-cycles will be able to study the characteristics and performance possessed by their machines, or others in the same class, when they were brand-new models. Furthermore, by providing clues as to what these motor-cycles were like and how they went, this article may serve to convert people to the vintage cult. In this latter respect it must be remembered that the various machines are seen in the light of achievements of their age—in other words, “a very smooth clutch ” was so only by 1925 standards, while brakes deemed ” entirely adequate ” then might well be considered on the weak side today. Even so, we feel that the collective qualities of these sporting models of twenty or more years ago speak well for the vintage movement and that many people will be agreeably surprised at the performances they may expect from carefully rebuilt examples of the better makes and models.—Ed.