On my second visit to Sywell Aerodrome this year I had a great time at The Sywell Classic. I didn't attend the event last year due to being in New York for the Motorcycle Film Festival, and so when I returned this year I could see a noticeable difference in the increase in the numbers of race machines and clubs that were in attendance. The event is really growing in the two and four wheel categories, the aeroplane element included the Trig aerobatic team, Spitfire fly pasts and a fantastic WW1 enactment complete with very loud cannon fire and triplanes! After being in attendance at the Light Aircraft Association rally a few weeks previously I personally would have liked to have the option to go airside and sketch some of the aeroplanes as I had done at the LAA rally. I guess this is a hard thing to orchestrate with larger numbers of people in attendance, a lot of who would not be used to the rules of being on an airfield. Never the less the show was great and I'm really happy that it is continuing to grow and evolve in a positive way.
The Red Baron Rudges
When Ralph Richardson started racing his Rudge around 1991 in the pre '34 class a passing comment was made that he should be known as the Red Barron, the colour was only chosen as he prefers this colour to the standard black and I have to agree it makes them not only stand out but makes them look a bit more 'special'. The term 'special' is really a subjective thing, these bikes may not be historic racing machines but I feel that they have been built and campaigned with the same spirit that has become the heart of motorcycle racing. The machine in the rear of the sketch was originally bought by Ralph in 1967 as part of a lot of 4 machines for a grand total of £25. The 1934 250 4 valve was a basket case when Ralph bought it, he eventually got round to rebuilding it as a racing machine in 1991. When you look closely you can see that there are a few non period additions to the bike, including a Mini carburettor float which is used due to it's increased volume which is needed when running on methanol. There are also Mercedes Sprinter throttle linkages used within the rear break. Some would say that this doesn't make the machine period, but I feel that these decisions are done within the same spirit of motorcyclists of the past. Back then they would not have worried about whether their choice of parts would have been period or correct, they would have chosen based on what works, what they could afford or what they could find at the time. This is exactly what Ralph has done and so these racers are just as genuine and therefore relevant than a period racer.
The foremost machine is a 1931 350 which again Ralph bought as a basket case and built as a racer. It has only really been out to a handful of events until the barrel blew at Cadwell. The 350 has crankcases of a similar weight as the 500 Rudge and so this bike carries more weight than the 250, and Ralph finds the 250 easier to 'chuck about'. However Ralph will keep on working with the 350 to see what it can do.
With my ongoing obsession with sprint motorcycles I couldn't help but spend time sketching this Twin 1957 Norton Dominator 500 beast. Built and run by Mick Butler in 1971 Super Cyclops was the successor to a single engined Norton 'Cyclops' a similar evolution to Brian Chapmans Mighty Mouse and Super Mouse. After retiring the bike in 1971 the machine had a checkered past eventually being stripped down and stored away. The next time the bike would run was at a demonstration in 1982 at Le Mans. Rebuilt in 18 months by Colin Fallows Super Cyclops ran again in 2014. The drag bike is part of Roy Webbs collection and has been run in various N.S.A. events running 10 second quarter miles at 135 mph running using 20% nitro. Back in 1971 Super Cyclops was run on 85% nitro but with the price of rebuilding Norton Dominator engines running at over £5000 the machine is treated more gently today. The twin Nortons are also supercharged by a 1000cc Shorrock running 9 pounds of boost. The timing of two engines has never been an easy engineering task, the Nortons are connected via Ariel Square Four gears which does a good job of keeping the two engines in synch by eliminating the use of chains which can easily stretch.
It's incredible that machines of this vintage survive as they are normally recycled into other machines once they have served their purpose. Thanks to dedicated collectors and restorers like Roy and Collin these machines can still be seen running today and lessons of the past can be learnt and demonstrated in the way they were always intended to.
Cammy Velocette Sprint and Hillcimber
Hephaestus Slingshot Dragtser
Webster Race Engineerings, Hephaestus is one of a pair of slingshot dragsters built to race in the Nostalgia drag class. They were first run at Dragstalgia, at Santa Pod earlier this year, unfortunately the slingshot had more power than they expected and it flipped up due to it running period wheelie bars which are fairly short. The whiplash action actually knocked Jon Webster unconscious and so the pair of slingshots were never completed the run. Sywell Classic was their second outing and as the runs are only done as a demonstration no official times were recorded. The next time it will run will be at Flame and Thunder later this year, Jon hopes the car will achieve 7 second runs, maybe even into the high 6 seconds. The car runs a 509ci Big Block Chevrolet engine with an 871 supercharger, running on methanol, generating 15 -1700 hp. The purpose of these cars is to show that drag racing at this level can be done at a relatively affordable level with a reasonable amount of maintenance during a season of racing. A slingshot build like this would cost a customer about £70,000 which at this level of performance is a reasonable price.
Jon first got into drag racing back in 1984 when he entered his first drag race in a Morris Minor which ran a Ford V8, he achieved a 10.88 second run at 126mph which is pretty impressive for the time and machine used. From there people started asking him to do similar work on other drag racing projects and now Jons business specialises in building and tuning drag racing cars. They have also built bike too check out their customer cars here:
I have drawn slingshots in the past and always find them tricky to get looking right in a sketch due to the extreme proportions. I think I got close with this one, well I had a blast doing it anyway!
1960 Buckler Space Kart
Whilst sketching the Super Cyclops I became intrigued by the Go Karts across the way on the British Historic Kart Club stand. This is a first for me and according to the members on the stand possibly the first ever sketch of a kart! My chosen subject was this 1960 Bukler Space Kart, initially it was the 205cc Villers engine that intrigued me as I was used to seeing them in motorcycles. This is a very early example of a kart with the earliest in the country being made in 1958. This particular kart was found in a barn in Cumbria. The barrel has been bored to 205cc and has a lightened fly wheel. These engines run incredibly hot, hence the ducting to cool the engine. Built by Buckler cars these were one of the first production karts to be built.
Historically karts have always used motorcycle engines, starting with Villiers, which are still raced successfully today in the 250 class which is testament to the fact that these engines are so tuneable and robust. After the Villiers Bultaco engines were used, for some reason the trials engines worked better in the karts.
As with motorcycles once the Japanese engines became more available they were used more and more, until in the 70's the Italians developed dedicated rotary valve engines.
Rotary Engine with direct drive to the rear wheel.
Classic 50cc Racing Club
I didn't get round to sketching this great 125cc Maico as visiting Canadian sketcher Paul Chernard got there first! The Maico was on display on the Classic 50cc Racing Club stand, I love these 50cc racers there is something about the minimalism that I really enjoy, the long thin tanks and classic fairing coupled with the small 50cc motors they just seem so perfect, I'd would love to own or even race one of these fantastic machines one day. Maybe I will get one in the sketchbook at the upcoming Stafford show.
A couple of good looking machines on the Triumph owners stand
Some real historic race cars in attendance.
1970 Macros Mantis M70