I was a little sad at going to various rallies and never getting any awards and as I had spent most of the last year off the road with a broken leg I was just itching to get back to doing what I liked best, riding bikes. One of my friends Maurice Perry (Mosser) was getting married and his highly tuned Triton was up for sale so I made him an offer that was accepted. There was no way that I could ride, it at least not as a solo. Mad Liz Edwards from the Tame River MCC (Severn Rally organiser) had the answer in the form of a Watsonian Monza sidecar which was a little rough but at £27-50 it was perfect.
My good friend Brian Wall, who ran Perks Motors the Velocette/Suzuki dealership in Wolverhampton, said that he would marry the two together for me and modify the gear linkage so that I could ride it. The clip on handle bars were turned to face forewards and a set of wide slightly raised bars fitted upside down. As I could not bend my leg more than 50 degrees a forward foot rest and what was a Velo Thruxton alloy gear lever were mounted off the front engine plate connected to the gear box with a piece of 1/4 inch bar.
Over the next couple of weeks I re-sprayed the sidecar to match the bike, a Ford metalic green, and hatched the plan to take the long distance award at the coming Stag Rally. I would ride all night but how could I prove it? I would set off to the local Police station at Dudley and get them to sign a piece of note paper at the desk to say that at 19.00 Friday June the 18th I was there, then drive the 200 miles to Carlisle and do the same at the Police station there. Then across to Newcastle Police station, then down to the rally at Bythorne 475 miles. Surely that should be enough.
I set off as planned and all went well until I started to climb Shap. The power dropped off and on looking down I could see in the darkness the exhaust pipes glowing red. Time to get onto the hard shoulder. I knew that it must be an ignition timing fault and I had never worked on this bike before. Time to do a little head and backside scratching. It must have slipped, I've got to reset it but how? I've got all the tools but I don't have a timing disc. I remember Mosser saying something along the lines of "34 degrees btdc and/or blah blah". The other thing I didn't have was a torch. It took me a while but I figured if I took a length of wire from the sidecar light and unscrewed the small bulb from the speedo I could make up a lead lamp. It worked! Now take off the timing cover and remove the timing pinion. That done it was time to get to work on the points end of the magneto which is where I found the fault. The small mushroomed shaped piece of metal that engages in the slot of the cam ring had a small flat on it and had allowed the cam ring free to rotate to the fully retarded position. It was me now that was feeling retarded! I took the mushroom out of the mag end of the advance/ retards cable and turned it 180 degrees and replaced it, set the points to just breaking with the piston at about 3/8" down the bore and put it all back together. It fired up as predicted first kick and I was back on the way. But it had taken me the best part of 2 hours!
Just after leaving Carlisle I noticed that each time I went over a pothole there was a scraping noise. It turned out to be the strap that supported the rear of the sidecar body dragging on the road. The braze had broken on the chassis. I managed to lash it up with the chain and padlock I carried. The rest of the journey was un-eventful.I arrived at the rally site mid morning to find most of my friends already there - Andy Hawthorne, John Wall, Pete the Snuff, Steve (Porker) Porter, Les Richardson to name just a few. I signed in and presented my evidence of mileage to George Cousins and I received my first award for long distance.
Back home on Sunday evening I saw Mosser in the local pub and mentioned the flat worn on the advance/retard mushroom "Oh yes, I meant to tell you about that. If you pull back too hard on the air lever it rides over it" Cheers mate.
- Les Hobbs
Now see the Press Cuttings that covered the Rally and Les's success.