Tuesday, January 19, 2010

ARTHUR WHEELER

From The Telegraph.co.uk:
ARTHUR WHEELER was perhaps the last Corinthian in the tough and dangerous world of motor-cycle racing, and was still competing within five months of his death.
He was initiated into Grass Track racing in 1934, campaigning a "cammy" Mark IV KTT Velocette at pre-war venues all over the south-east of England. Then, in 1936, against his parents' strong opposition, he rode at Brooklands in a "Clubman's Day". Although he finished third in two races, reaching speeds of 81.5 mph, his father forced him to sleep for three nights in the garden shed with his Triumph Tiger 100 as a "penance"; it was also intended to cure the young man of his racing bug, but failed to work.
Having bought his first one-man motor-cycle business in 1937, at Ewell near the Epsom family home, Wheeler used all the shop's profits to enable him to compete in his first Isle of Man race, the amateur riders' Manx Grand Prix. Here he achieved creditable practice times, but crashed at the first corner on his first race lap; and, after remounting and riding for 10 miles with a broken girder fork spring, he retired.
But Wheeler's shop prospered, selling motor-cycles to the "Promenade Percys" of the day who rode the new Dorking by-pass and the main roads to Brighton and Worthing. On the outbreak of war, Wheeler's skills as an engineer led to his being chosen to work alongside another motor-cycle enthusiast, Barnes Wallis, on the "Bouncing Bomb".
After the war Wheeler had a motor- cycle shop at Epsom, and business boomed. This time the profits were used largely to finance a new international road racing career with the "Continental Circus" in which "Wheeler Dealer" established his reputation as a dedicated engineer/rider with a superb technique. Against at least 100 competitors on the post-war race grids, Wheeler was always in the first 10 past the chequered flag on his 250 cc Triumph and 350 cc Velocettes.
He travelled to the circuits around the British Isles and Europe the hard way, transporting himself and his bikes in a 1945 Morris van with a maximum speed of 45 mph.
Wheeler recorded a number of victories on a new 1949 Mk VIII Velocette bought from the Birmingham factory for £420. His friends when he joined the "Continental Circus" and chased World championship points included Geoff Duke, Fergus Anderson, Ken Bills, Freddie Frith, Dickie Dale and the ex-bomber pilot Les Graham.
Whenever Wheeler was racing on the Continent a brawny Belgian mechanic, Noel Lahaye-Moussiaux, attached himself to the team. Lahaye-Moussiaux undertook to work for the team unpaid, and became a lifelong friend. At the end of each weekend's racing, Wheeler - a dapper figure - and the less elegant Belgian, joined forces to host heavy-drinking parties that seldom finished before dawn.
Although Wheeler had more than 100 victories to his credit, it was his greatest regret that he never won an Isle of Man T.T., despite finishing in 40 such races. His most successful year was in 1962, when he finished fourth in the Isle of Man Lightweight T.T., and won the World championship Grand Prix in Argentina. He came third in the 1962 World championship and was hailed as the world's best and most sporting "privateer".
At the end of that year he retired, aged 46, only to take up sidecar trials. But in 1979 the sight of a parade of T.T. stars persuaded him to compete in Classic and Historic motor-cycle racing.
Wheeler had to battle with the sport's governing body to obtain a licence but finally they relented, allowing him another 22 years racing in Europe and beyond. Only five months before his death Arthur Wheeler was Classic racing in Australia, finishing in front of many riders only a quarter of his age.
Shortly before his death he had completed a full service on his beloved 250 cc Moto Guzzi ['Gambalunghino'] ready for events later in the year. A member of the Leatherhead Motorcycle Club for 70 years, Wheeler was also active in Freemasonry and a Past President of the Association of Pioneer Motor-cyclists. He was also a generous Trustee and Past President of the T.T. Riders' Association.
[The first and last two photos were supplied by Bo Ecklund - thanks for your quick work Bo!]

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hallo Paul.
May I submit some photos of a true gentleman I have had the pleasure to meet.
As the one-time owner of one of his Wheeler/Renolds Guzzi I was in contact with him several times and he was always very helpful.
Best regards Bo Eklund.
First picture Kirby Mallory May 2, 1988.
Second pix, at his shop in Epsom 1972.
Thied pix, "Southern 100, I o M" 1962.

daveinnola said...

should,nt that be last of the spartans?

Rick said...

Mystic Mountain Boxers says found a motorcycle frame in a junk ditch in southern iowa, US attatched name plate reads wards-wheeler goods serial number *19587* am going back for the tank, and wondering exacly what this is we found, it is a cast iron frame.
P.S. I am really excited about this, as I ride a 1980 HD Sportster
HELP!!!!

coppamick said...

Hi, I have a Triumph Tiger Cub project that was first delivered to Arthur Wheeler in may 1957, I am trying to discover more history to find the original number or age related plate. Any info would be great
Thanks
Mick