Saturday, April 19, 2008


[Saturday, April 19, south of London, Kempton Park race track]
The Kempton Park autojumble is held several times per year at this horse racing track, and although my host Dai Gibbison insists the quality of goods on offer has gone down in recent years, the available spares and old motorcycles are more varied than any event held in the 'states. It's cold and drizzly here today, and unfortunately my suitcase was still sitting in San Francisco when I arrived in London Friday morning.... so I had to borrow some warm clothes. We didn't get rained on during the day, which was a blessing, as I was numb by the end of 5 hours 'looking down' and scouring the stalls for good parts. I mostly found books and magazines, which is great, but getting them home is always an issue... so I always carry an empty duffle bag in my suitcase for the return trip. Still, it looks like a box will be shipped to San Francisco, as the huge Stafford show is next weekend, and I just know there will be a KTT engine waiting for a new home...

The very first stall had, of course, Velocette parts, mostly in the shape of two LE's. I say 'shape' as one of the bikes had a replacment frame made of welded strip steel (sort of like a Nimbus, now that I think of it), instead of the monocoque body which originally clothed the mechanicals. It was clever, but not as clever as the bolted-up Meccano LE built in the 70's (see top pic - that's Dai investigating).

You never know what you'll find, and this Wade supercharger was one of THREE blowers at one fellow's stall, ranging from this giant Rootes type (good for a yank v8), to a medium size Shorrock (perfect for a Triumph), to a tiny little 150cc hair dryer of a thing, which would be perfect to hopping up your Moto Giro bike.

Every stall seemed to have at least one machine for sale, with lightweights the most common. Usually these were Lambrettas or Panther 250cc or Bianchi moped, but this Ariel 3 caught my eye. I know one contemporary scooter mf'r has a 3 wheeler - is it Piaggio? This was the prototype, which is, to my eye, a fairly clean and attractive design. Unfortunately, the dying British industry had no idea how to advertise it - the best they could come up with was 'Here it is, Whatever it is...". If Ariel couldn't sell a flourescent orange 3-wheel scooter in the drugged-out early 70's, they deserved to go out of business.

Also for sale were representatives of 1920's, 30's, and later machines, and this '25 Douglas was typical of the variety; well-used, original, running well. This was a tempting machine, but as the Dollar is the new Peso, I passed on the £3500 asking price. Nice machine, and it has gears and a clutch, which makes it rideable in city traffic, if a bit slow. And yes, it rained a bit during the day, but an oily-rag cleaning keeps the water at bay! Dai claimed a few of the vendors sold only rust, in the shape of motorcycle parts, but I found the variety excellent. Not many 1920's racing bits though, so my metal content was fairly low at the end of the day, which I've come to expect. We paid double in the morning to enter before the general public, and I was intrigued to watch items shift from stall to stall as vendors bought from each other, and resold them from their own space later in the day.

If you have a taste for Italian machinery there was plenty available, including this tasty Ducati 250cc cafe racer. It's done up to look like one of Gus Kuhn's 60's racers, with a short humpy seat and megaphone. I didn't ask how much.

And, because I'm into gear as well as being a gearhead, I was happy that one vendor sold only vintage motorcycle clothing. These two photos are from the Hi-Star Clothing stall, and they had old helmets as well as the odd racing suit, riding pants, and of course racks of leather jackets. I especially like 'Mole's' Rocker coat - has he gone underground? How do you give up your customized leather jacket(especially with that nickname)? Maybe he just got too big... which has happened to some of the jackets I've painted for other people (subject of another blog post - are you listening, Josiah?). Most of the stalls had a jacket or two for sale; it seems genuine, vintage Belstaff waxed-cotton Trailmaster jackets are selling for £1-200, no matter what their condition, and most of them were fairly rotten - the height of cool. I haven't had one since my last Trailmaster suit was stolen 10 years ago. They ruin any other clothing they touch, though; the wax gets incredibly filthy.

My next bike - this hippie-fied Enfield India, with tied-on feathers, god's eyes, bungee'd center stand, and saddle bags quilted from old curtains. Grooovy.

But, if I could fit it into my suitcase, this little Bianchi moped would be the perfect San Francisco Moped Army soldier. Shockingly cute and tiny, I probably should have bought it for my daughter... I'm a Bad Dad.

And, when the electricity goes away, you can still make parts for your bike (which will run on homebrew alcohol) on this treadle lathe, a relic of the Victorian Iron Age. Need to cut faster? Hurry up!

Something you don't know about me; I'm horribly Addicted To English Puddings, and the king of them all is the Treacle Sponge with warm Custard sauce... I get weak in the knees just thinking about it. If you've never, you must. This one was excellent, from a pub called The Bell, outside Reading; a 14th century half-timbered Tudor building with charming Gothic doorways, and a warm fire. The Sponge was washed down with a fine cask ale, hand-pumped by the barman. The two best things about England; desserts, and pubs.

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