Monday, May 27, 2013


Vincent Prat of the Southsiders MC gets a shove on his Norton M30 'International'
It is hands-down the best combined car/bike event I've ever attended, whether static or track, concours show or oily-rag festival, because it includes all of that, in the most compelling venue possible, the only original autodrome still in use from the early days of motorsport.  The Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry, to give its full name, is situated only 40 minutes south of Paris, yet feels of another world and another time.  Currently owned and used by a consortium of car manufacturers (for testing), the 2.4km oval was originally designed to handle racing cars of 2200lbs, moving at 140mph; having traveled over 130mph (in a modern rally car) on the banking, I can assure you the track is in no danger from such abuse, only the car itself, and its madly bouncing passengers.  While not as bumpy as Brooklands, Montlhéry is still a concrete track with expansion joints and decades of shifting movement, and the faster you travel, the harder the hammering.
The 1904 Slavia CCCC, newly created by Pavel Malanik, a replica of the Czech Laurin-Klement 4-cylinder machine, their last motorcycle design before moving to car production (Laurin-Klement became part of Skoda)
The Vintage-Revival caters exclusively to pre-1940 cars and motorcycles, their owners and friends, a few pressmen and caterers, and that's about it! While the attendees are expected to wear period clothing, it's nothing like the Goodwood Revival, as there aren't 50,000 spectators milling around in a mad time-warp circus.  Nor are there cordoned-off 'rich folks only' paddocks or seating areas; once you're in, the whole fantastic gearhead playground is yours.  If you're really serious about Vintage vehicles being Used, the two day event at Montlhéry is exactly what you need, especially if you want to see something a little out of the ordinary on two, three, or four wheels.
The 'early motorcycles' class on the banking; a few of these pre-1918 machines had a serious turn of speed, and took advantage of the removal of the chicane from mid-banking to really fly!
I dub thee, 'Eu-Rod'.  A recent, nativist movement in Europe towards the creation of European Hot Rods, using original period components in combinations which never existed, but perhaps should have.  No Ford bits here, everything is Aero engines and original Brasier or Talbot or even Bugatti chassis, built-up with a mix of autojumble-sourced tanks, radiators, instruments, steering wheels, lamps, wheels, etc, plus new bodywork, brush-painted, oxidized, and meant to look old.  Most are insanely cool, like this example, built by Oliver Way, a leading light in the trend.  
The water-cooled, V8 OHV aero engine powering the Oliver Way 'Mors Aero GP' special
My favorite BMW, hands-down: an ex-Works R63 750cc OHV racer, with an extra fuel tank strapped atop the flat tank, and twin carbs for more 'go'.  I used to own an R63, but it didn't go like this one!  From the Hockenheim Museum....
A 175cc Terrot in action.
The business office of the Amilcar C6 of 1927, with a supercharged straight-6 DOHC motor.
The lovely little 250cc Benelli 4TN OHC racer of 1938
The very special BMW R63 racer from Hockenheim Museum, with many deviations from standard, like 6-stud cylinder fixing and an extra-deep sump.  A unique machine.
I could have sworn I saw Tazio Nuvolari...
The original ABC of 1913, a fore-and-aft flat twin with OHV and a good turn of speed - this machine has Brooklands history.
David Borras of El Solitario worships at the altar of French engineering....
The Bentley Boys.
If you've been campaigning your Blower Bentley on the track all day, you might as well stuff the family in the back for the drive home...
Three wheels, three passengers.
The madman; George Cohen in his aero-engine 'Brasier', nominally of 1908 (at least, the chassis dates from then), immediately post-banking, with yours truly as his 'will I die?' passenger.  More on this later!
Team Brooklands
The Coste family ready for the track in their Morgan (and groovy Ruby 'Shibuya' helmets!)
A pair of Unicorns; the 1904 Laurin-Klement 'Slavia' and the 1909 Torpedo '4', both built from scratch using period photographs, by Pavel Malanik in the Czech Republic, an area traditionally rife with clever engineers.  They both run well, and quickly.
Get under!
From the Brooklands Museum collection, the Titch Allen-built replica of the supercharged Triumph Speed Twin which terrorized Brooklands in the late 1930s
The Southsiders' Triton, back from Bonneville...
A short drive in the ex-Malcolm Campbell 1940 Ford 'Woodie'
If you're going to build a non-extant engine, make it a good one;  the Torpedo was built from period photographs, and goes like stink!
From near and far they came, bearing gifts for the eye... the Torpedo and Slavia, ready for a blast around the track.
Unique!  The Sevitame military-spec prototype, with a twin-cylinder two-stroke engine under all that alloy finning.  Note the leaf-springs above the handlebars; these aren't 'Gazda' sprung 'bars, but the springs for the front fork, which has a central rod sliding through the steering head to connect the girder forks with the spring. Clever.
Built by Simca, the Sevitame has an 'inverted' engine, and is meant to be semi-amphibious, using a propeller extension drive out the back; it could power a small boat, with all electrics, carb, etc safely tucked or shielded from a possible dunking.   
Owned and ridden by Francois-Marie Dumas (co-author of 'A Century of Japanese Motorcycles', author of 'Unusual Motorcycles' - and this one qualifies!) and , here speaking with fellow motorcycle author Jean Bourdache (read his blog 'Z'Humoriste' here).
A fine day at the races.
Nice to have a sign-writer on the premises, but he needs to know that Indians were 'Motocycles' 'r' for Springfield!
The 1919 Leyat Hélica in all its mad splendor.
Attending the Amilcar gods...the 1927 C6 racer of Mr Kawamoto, former chief of Honda, who flew the car from Japan to France for the occasion.
Do Not Hand-Signal Right; in an impromptu 'road test', The Vintagent tries a Ner-A-Car on the banking, and finds it remarkably stable.  An actual Road Test will follow shortly...
Among the first: the Bert LeVack designed DOHC JAP 350cc engine of 1923, from the Hockenheim Museum, one of a half-dozen such machines built.  LeVack was an Olympian figure of early motorcycling, from the era of the designer/builder/racer, of which he was a prime example, along with the Collier brothers of Matchless.  His contemporary George Brough was more a stylist/builder/racer (not being an engineer, or making his own engines), but LeVack pushed innovation in his engine designs, which moved all of Motorcycling forward technically.  These futuristic little JAP gems with their shaft-and-bevel double-overhead-camshaft motors were also installed in Zenith and Coventry Eagle chassis, at a time when a simple pushrod overhead-valve motor was considered radical, and Norton, Sunbeam, and Douglas were just entering production with 'super sports'/racing OHV machines.  LeVack worked with JAP and Motosacoche as engine designer, after a successful career tuning motors and racing at Brooklands.  He was never a road racer, more a 'speedman', although he did pay attention to chassis development as power from his engine experiments began to rise.  Long Live LeVack.
Three men, three wheels, two cylinders with this 1927 Morgan-JAP Aero Super Sports
The banking looms behind the proceedings like a fixed wave, waiting to be surfed.
Moto-porn if ever there was.  The 1935 Koehler-Escoffier 'Monneret', so named because Georges Monneret rode it successfully for decades.  Georges organized the Velocette 24hr/100mph run at Montlhéry in 1961.
The Big Guns...the engine dep't of the awesome Koehler-Escoffier 'Monneret'.
The small guns...a micro version of the 'Hélica', on a bicycle, which sped around the circuit, and the paddock!  Keep your fingers clear, kids.
The Real Guns...a pair of ex-military Matchless G3s
English powerhouse: the 1927 McEvoy 1000cc racer with a pushrod, two-valve Anzani engine...
...and its forbear, a 1924 McEvoy with a British Anzani 8-Valve, twin pipe engine; both from the Hockenheim Museum, which brought 6 magnificent machines.
Every radiator-overflow line should be so elegant...
Ah, the perfume of Castrol 'R'
A tale of two a simple pushrod racer, the LCMP 175cc of 1934, and behind, a 500cc machine transformed to DOHC by Nougiér.
The little Magnat-Debon LMCP, with a gem of a 175cc racing motor
The unique dashboard of a Majestic, among the most distinctive motorcycles ever built.  Note the 'crackle' or alligator paint finish; while this machine is restored (and the owner taught himself how to paint it!), such a paint finish was originally offered, hand-painted by artisans.  Trés chic!

Handsome, unusual, and impressive from any angle.  They handle beautifully with their hub-center steering and sliding-pillar front suspension.  Read my road test here.

The red 1930 Majestic with 350cc Chaise engine...underpowered for such a strong chassis.  Read my road test of the Majestic here.
Driving to Montlhéry from Paris with Jérome, one never knows what you'll encounter on the road...and this lovely Jag E-Type Series 1 coupé wasn't even headed to the track...

Les Atelier Ruby's designer Jérome Coste modeling his family '35 Norton ES2 racer, and his El Solitario coveralls...en peu Orange Mecanique!
More fantasies!  This cyclecar was built by Tim Gunn of the Old Bicycle Showroom in London, using mostly bicycle components, with a JAP sidevalve engine.  The steering arms are made from bike pedal crank arms, the axles are bike cranks, the steering hubs are bicycle headstocks, etc.  All very simple, clever, and it works!  A good look at cyclecars makes me wonder why more people don't build them just for fun...dangerous fun its true, but hey, we're bikers!

A personal favorite; a 1929 Douglas SW6 600cc pushrod racer - basically their famous 'Dirt Track' racer, but with brakes.  Long and low like a ferret, and very fast.
Stylish young gents in period attire!
It's a rough commute on the train from Paris to the little town of Linas, to reach the Montlhéry circuit, but one must endure!
Deliciously 'oily rag'...a 1927 Norton Model 18 'saddle tank' model
The flying 'Easy Two' - a 1935 Norton ES2 owned and campaigned by the Coste family for many years
Replicas, fantasies, and notional creations mix with original oddments at Montlhéry.  This Excelsior OHC 'Board Track' racer is one of a few replicas built from photographs, as nothing of the 1919 original remains.
Wingless flight - the crazy prop-driven aero-car, the Leyat Hélica of 1919.  The body is built like a plane, with a fabric covering over lightweight ply, and the rear-wheel steered body (sans engine) weighs only 550lbs!  In 1926, a similar Hélica was timed at 106mph at Montlhéry!  Super light, marginally stable, and dangerously fast...the Hélica is for the very brave only!  And magnificent.  Only 30 were built - a fantastic 'oily rag' example can be see at the Musée des Arts et Metiers in Paris.
Fastest by a lap: Frank Chatokhine and his super-quick Triumph racer.
Period attire, or something like it.
Fantasises of flight: aero engines abound at Montlhéry, mostly on cars, but this fabulous 'Ganardz' with 5-cylinder star radial engine is a charming alternative to flight.

'You've got to get under, get out and get under' as the old song went.  Here George Cohen sorts the chain-drive setup on his 1908 Brasier with ca.1914 Hispano-Suiza aero engine...

The original: a 1937 BSA Empire Star, on which the M24 Gold Star was based, in original 'oily rag' condition, from the Brooklands Museum team.

Rare bird!  A ca.1925 Moto Guzzi C2V, a pushrod-OHV production racer, one step down from their immortal C4V with four valves / OHC.
A late 1930s Norton Inter/Manx, with a large square-fin Manx Grand Prix-type cylinder head in a pre-war International chassis
Related by color only - a 1934 MG KN monoposto racer with an equally blue Bugatti twin-seater
The crew who made it all happen...sine quo nihil (without whom, nothing).
Gents in period attire, as requested; "Tenues d'époques Obligatoires!"
All hats off to Vincent Chamon, the organizer of Vintage-Revival Montlhéry, for another fantastic event!
Waiting for the 'go'... Vincent Prat (Southsiders MC) on a borrowed Norton International M30 racer.
The psychedelic Art Deco grandeur of a Voisin 'Lumineuse' interior, with fabric designed by the great couturier Paul Poiret.  His geometric design is loomed, not printed on the fabric, meaning its a very expensive interior to replace on your Voisin, and nothing else will suffice, as its such a feature of the car.  The fabric also came in red!  
Another grand Voisin 'Lumineuse' tourer, from the esteemed maker of cars and airplanes.  More than 10,000 Voisins were built at their factory near Paris, yet less than 200 exist today (at least until every barn in scoured!).  After decades in obscurity, they're having a day in the sun, recently winning the Pebble Beach and Villa d'Este Concours d'Elegance.  With their elegant lines, Voisins were popular with wealthy artists of the day; both Man Ray and Le Courbusier drove them.  Corbusier famously worked with Gabriel Voisin to re-design Paris with a 'modern' plan, boldly taking challenging the Baron Hausmann redesign of that city from the early 1800s.  The Plan Voisin for Paris is a nightmare of well-intentioned hubris; unfortunately, Corbusier created very compelling images of a tall-towered city, surrounded by characterless parklands...which were unfortunately built in many cities as 'public housing', and are now crime-addled guard-less prisons, or at best, horrifically ugly.
The magnificent Art Deco Voisin radiator mascot, a riveted eagle, suitable for decorating a fine automobile, or the Chrysler Building in New York City...
1936 Velocette KTT/KSS mix, looking like a MkVII KTT, but with the earlier MkVI KTT/KSS cylinder head...
Koehler-Escoffier 1: a 1928 'Mandoline' OHV racer.
Koehler-Escoffier 2: a 1912 'Mandoline' OHV racer with belt drive, and what looks like an added-later oiling system on the crankcase.
Koehler-Escoffier 3: the awesome 1935 'Monneret' 1000cc OHC racer, used in anger until the 1950s. 
Grace and integration of components; the fantastic lines of a 1928 AJS K10 racer, with its long chain-driven overhead camshaft.  More on OHC AJS racers here.
Rare because Strange; the 1919 Bedelia BD2 tandem cyclecar is from the Age of Experiment, when a super-light four-wheeler, powered by a motorcycle engine, was yet exciting transport.  The Bedelia is steered from the rear seating position, and this is one of few truly 'sorted' examples in the world.
To dream...even the eccentric Bedelia is fuel for young fantasies of skillful mastery over power and speed.
Bug juice.  Hot laps leave this Bugatti panting, and peeing its pants.
Would that more women sat at the wheel of a vintage Bugatti; they complement each other well.
Bug, ready to fly.  A ca.1930 Type 35B Bugatti ready for a spin on the track.
Objects in photo are larger than they appear on your computer; this massive SU carb feeds a hungry supercharger for a Talbot straight-8 racer.
At the beginning...a 1902 Clément with automatic inlet valve motor and battery ignition - I have an identical model in 'oily rag' condition in NYC, purchased at the Bonhams Paris sale two years ago.
The Coste family in their watercooled JAP-engined 1926 Morgan Aero Super Sports
Watch as they grow, and raise them a few short years, this pair will pilot the family Nortons...


Anonymous said...

Actually Springfield Indian added an R to Motocycle in 1920's

Anonymous said...

That was a massive dose of vintage machines. Thanks for sharing them.

John Lawless

Anonymous said...

Paul, thanks for sharing.

Jim Allison

Anonymous said...


Barry Collick

Anonymous said...

Very cool.

Stephen Schein

Anonymous said...

Woo Hoo Hoo! I'd have loved to be at that one!

Comer Parks

David in Fort Lauderdale said...

Stirring! I am inspired to hijack the Radio Flyer wagon, the recycling bin, my old Schwinn 10-speed and a box fan to create an "Extension Cord Special" ideal for circuit racing around a central electrical outlet.

Anonymous said...

It appears the Patina Brothers Motorcycle and Car Club is alive and prospering. Once again, just excellent Paul. Many Congratulations.

Blind Melon

Anonymous said...

Very nice, and thank you for sharing your thoughts and images with us all. I was there and appreciated every minute!

Carol Quiniou

Anonymous said...

Thanks!!! Nice information to read, must be there once in my life, but... Time is not my best friend

FN Oldtimers

Anonymous said...

Great like usual.

Jean Marie Guivarc'h

Anonymous said...

Ho Paul one of Very Very Best report of the Vintage Revival Montlhery 2013 !

Vincent Chamon

Grandpa Jimbo said...

A poem beckons:

"One man's meat
Is another man's poison.
Thus speaketh the popularity
Of the Avions Voisin"

Ogden Nash

The Vintagent said...

Awesome, Jimbo!
Please tell me Robert Frost wrote something about Velocettes?

ElSolitarioMC said...

just brilliant.
Monthlery looks even better through your eyes!!!

The Vintagent said...

Ah, but Senor Borras, I photograph what I see!
What a fantastic weekend...

Verona said...

This is cool!

Charlie Huckins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlie Huckins said...

I love your blog! So many cool old bikes, cars and lots of neat history. Love the 1927 McEvoy by the way. One of my dream machines... Beautiful and fast!