Tuesday, February 10, 2015

REPLICATING 'OLD BILL'

BS Allen with his Brough Superior 'Old Bill' replica, with twin-cam JAP 980cc SV engine, and little else!
I recently posted a compelling photo of 'BS Allen' from 1923 (on my Facebook site), beside a replica of George Brough's infamous sprinter 'Old Bill'.  I hadn't realized Brough Superior had built replicas of George's personal testbed/winning sprinter, but of course, GB would sell a bike to anyone willing to pay, in any specification they chose! 
BS Allen as Royal Flying Corps pilot in WW1
Dave Clark of the Brough Superior Club saw my post, and filled in a few details:  "Brian Seamer Allen to be precise, was a real speed nut, and was formerly a Royal Flying Corps pilot in WW1 on the Western front, flying an SE5a.  After the war Allen opened a motorcycle dealership as a partner of a Mr Bennett, trading as Allen-Bennett motorcycles in Croydon, selling Brough Superiors among many others.
A fitting prelude to Brough Superior ownership; an SE5a biplane...
Allen-Bennett sold T. E. Lawrence some of his seven Broughs, and ocasionally BS Allen rode out with Lawrence on very early morning rides around Croydon... a 'bat out of hell' job I think.  The 1923 photo here was taken during the London to Lands End Trial, with Allen on a standard 1923  Brough Superior SS80 with single-cam JAP sidevalve 980cc engine.  The registration number is BY 9587.
The 1923 London-Land's End Trial, with BS Allen on his single-cam SS80
The next photo shows the same machine, re-engined and beautiful, with a very shiny chair, at a hillclimb  in mid- to late-1923.
A gorgeous improvement!  The SS80 now with twin-cam JAP racing engine and aluminum 'zeppelin' sidecar
The BS Allen mystery deepens a bit, as he was pictured in the 1924 Brough Superior catalogue with an exceedingly special-framed SS80 JAP sprinter. This was of course the same time as the birth of George Brough's 'Old Bill' with its engine specially tuned by Bert Le Vack.   
BS Allen as he appears in the 1924 Brough Superior catalogue
Brough Superior built another Old Bill replica for Pilot Officer Beaumont, who advertised the bike for sale in December 1923.  I reckon Brian, being a former RFC pilot, brokered the deal with George Brough to build Beaumont's replica, a deal which included a very special Le Vack engine for Allen himself, after he realized how good this special-framed sprinter.  Allen first installed this special two-cam racing engine in his old chassis, now the re-engined BY 9587.  Note the magneto chain drive cover, which is the same style on the various photos.
The 1924 advert for PO Beaumont's 'Old Bill' replica
When Allen-Bennet folded in the late 1920s, Brian subsequently returned to his other love - flying, setting up shop as Brian Allen Aviation, and dealing with light aircraft, including the Belgian E.O.Tipps, and the American Stinson.
Worth a second view - the zeppelin 'sports' sidecar offered by Brough Superior 
Brian and his wife Kathleen were killed by a blast from a German flying bomb in WW2."
Probably a plane inside...the truck of Brian Allen Aviation Ltd.
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1 comment:

Blueline said...

I constantly find myself looking at the classifieds in my old motorcycle magazines, to see Vincent and Brough Superior motorcycles sold for 100 pounds, to see BSA and Triumph classics sold for mere chicken feed.


It's a little depressing actually.