Completion of 125 rebuild and preparations for Spain

As we drove home from the Ulster G.P on the 12th of August, I could not see how I could hope to continue with my racing program to the end of 1964, without Vic’s participation. Having neither the financial resources nor time to purchase a Thames and complete the build and testing of the short stroke 125, before leaving for Bilbao on the 24th of the month.

On the morning following our return home, my doubts with regard to continuing racing were all put aside when Ron Kenward called to tell me the good progress he had made with the 125. There was still much work to do but Ron was reasonably confident the engine and gearbox could be completed and installed in the bike for testing, in time for my last possible date for departure.

This now left me with the need to find and equip suitable transport for the bikes within less than 10 days! I turned to my father who, along with his business partner, was based in a vehicle and plant depot in Tooting, South London. Here they operated as General Traders buying and selling Building plant & equipment and occasionally, light commercial vehicles. One of their contracts was to refurbish and sell on through the trade, Mac Fisheries Bedford Dormobile vans. It transpired that there was just one of these vans left in stock which they agreed to loan to me until the end of the Spanish Series. Apart from the fishy smell, transport problem solved!

Most of my remaining time in the UK was spent repeatedly scrubbing out the van and rebuilding the short stroke 125 Parilla at Ron Kenward’s home.

Digging around in the parts store of a local motorcycle dealership, Miner & Bruce, in Bedford Road, Guildford, Ron found a used gear change indexing mechanism off of a 4 speed Italian scooter. Making a new indexing cam plate for this mechanism and modifying the mounting position on the crankcases, we were able to fit this unit on the right hand side of the 125 crankcase, neatly out of sight under the outer cover.

There was however, one problem which we could not solve unless we moved the cover out by 1 cm for the 6 speed, or 2 cm’s for a 7 speed cluster, or make other major changes to the cover which would have made it obvious to any casual observer, that we had installed a non Parilla special gearbox.

The problem was that with the space restrictions under the standard Parilla side cover we could only index through 5 gears, even though we had 6 pairs of gears in the box!

In the end, it turned out that this would not be too much of an issue as fortunately, I had selected gear ratios which would give a good spread from 1st to 5th gear for tight short circuits and ratios from 2nd to 6th gear which would be most suitable for the longer high speed circuits. This meant however that I would be restricted to using only 5 gears and would have to change the setting of the indexing mechanism each time I went from a high to a low speed circuit or vice a versa. A problem which fortunately would not arise during the Spanish Series of races, as they were all on short circuits.

Eventually, we succeeded in getting the bike finished in time for just one test run on the Hogg’s Back, in the afternoon on the day planned for my departure. Immediately following the test run, which went well and was most encouraging, I returned home to Old Woking, quickly loaded up the 250, the spares and all the tools before driving down to the Port of Dover, at some speed, in an effort to make the last Ferry crossing of the day.

Being the last vehicle through Customs and allowed to board the RORO Ferry, I had the position of ‘last on, first off’ and taking advantage of this; I just slept in the van until we reached the Port of Calais, some time later.

The quick route through France to the Spanish border and San Sebastian- Bilbao, in 1964, was the N10, N1 via Rouen, Le Mans, Poittiers, Anqouleme and Bordeaux, keeping well clear to the North West of Paris and this was the route which I took in my dash to make up for lost time.

Just south of Rouen, I came across two young hitchhikers trying to get a lift south to Marseille. I cannot remember their names now but they were English and turned out to be interesting travelling companions.

Within less than 2 hours of joining me on my journey, and after they had got over the fishy smell, my new companions changed their minds regarding their destination and asked if they could accompany me all the way to Bilbao. Their change of mind would turn out to be very fortunate for me!

On to the next chapter…Bilbao