Monday, December 08, 2008


[Howard from Australia has an update on the Harry Beanham/ABC story]

"Your mention recently of Harry Beanham and the photos you bought years ago showing his ABCs as well as his Broughs has prompted me to say a few words on the matter just to clear a couple of points up.

They had a good few auctions to get rid of the saleable stuff and motorcycle parts, and bikes themselves featured heavily throughout all the sales. At least 30-odd LE Velocettes, half a dozen Lilacs (I bought a job lot of parts including a NOS frame for $5) and of course the ABCs plus parts along with many other complete bikes eventually. Prices were almost giveaway even though the likes of Verrall's had been informed of the lot going up for sale. I was engaged by the auctioneer to sort all the bike stuff out and give an idea of values.

In the last auction when all the good stuff was offered up they still went cheap I thought; I bought the Gnome et Rhone for about A$5200 (if my memory is correct) and bikes such as a 1927 Royal Enfield big twin and a '27 Matchless M3S for A$5500 each. Harry's 1928 Brough Superior SS100 fitted with his 1923 '4-cam racing engine' SV JAP climbed very slowly up to A$48000 being sold for A$52,000 all up with buyer's premium - a sum thought to be outrageous at the time but if only we had known what they would be worth now! The new owner had the option of ubying the correct type 'JTOR' ohv JAP for A$15,000 from another Brough enthusiast after the auction. Harry acquired the '28 SS100 in a swap for a camera way back. The above mentioned '23 4-cam JAP came from Harry's early Mk1 Brough shown in some of your photos; unfortunately that bike was broken up many years ago.

Getting back to Harry's ABCs which truly were the love of his life; you assumed the French Gnome et Rhone model belonged to Harry's father - that was not the case. Harry purchased the bike on the 19th March 1923 from Milledges for £65 and still owned it when he died 73 years later! After buying the bike at the last auction I also bought some Gnome et Rhone parts and correspondence together with photos of the bike dating back to Harry's purchases in 1923, and eventually the original acetylene headlamp and 'Prestolite' cylinder, fitted shortly after the bike's purchase.

I have attached the first page of the book Harry kept on the bike, from the first day he owned it with every detail including the day of the week on which he bought it (Monday). The G et R is my favorite machine and I cannot see myself ever selling it. It has the original Lucas headlamp that was fitted to the '28 Brough SS100. Harry had a lot of other UK-built ABCs, and in fact at one stage wanted to own every ABC in Australia; I would have thought he came close.

A very close old mate of mine who died back in '93 once bought an ABC from Harry for a shilling, back in the mid-50's, but had to go over to Adelaide to pick it up from Allparts (the trading name of Harry's motorcycle wrecking business), the deal was that he had to have a legal document drawn up by a Solicitor to the effect that should he ever sell it must be offered back to Harry first 'at a price not taking into account any vintage value'."

[Thanks Howard!]


Anonymous said...

Great update. Thanks. I love the name Gnome et Rhone, it's so lyrical. I haven't any idea what it means. Does it refer to a town near a river?

C-ya, Jer

Anonymous said...

The 'Gnome' (sounds like what it is - an imp) was an engine introduced in 1900, which became a company name ('Societe des Moteurs Gnome), and one of the biggest airplane engine co's in France. In 1912, a rival designer introduced the 'le Rhone' (yes the river) engine, then became a company (Societe des Moteurs le Rhone'). Gnome bought out their competitor in 1915, forming a new company ('Societe des Moteurs Gnome et Rhone'). All very straightforward, except for the names.