Travelling on motorycles in 1953
Derived from www.go-faster.com/ss100.html.
The full story is given there, together with high quality photos
In the Summer of 1953 my father Geoffrey Gander and his friends set off on their annual Motor Cycling holiday around Europe. It was probably quite an adventurous trip to take at the time. They would ride through France, Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland. We think of old bikes as being unreliable, but my father and his friends were keen riders and engineers and completed the trip without much more than a puncture.
The bikes that took part in the trip were: GAU 856 Brough Superior SS100 with fuel in the loop sidecar AHC 650 Triumph Thunderbird. He bought this one on 22nd July 1950 for £219 16 9 and by the day they set off in July 53 it had done 24,900 miles. KBY 571 Sunbeam VMM 871 Sunbeam AHC 963 Triumph I have published these pictures as I like them and I hope that anyone interested in bikes of this era will also enjoy them. I have all his pictures from numerous other trips and will try and publish these when I find the time as they are also full of beautiful pictures.
Update 11th October 2011. If you would like to use these pictures then please ask in advance as this web page seems to have gone "viral" as it started off a week ago with a few visitors and yesterday had over 350,000 hits and downloaded over 34GB of data - my hosting company is about to sting me for the bandwidth! I put these pictures up as I thought a few people would like them, but unfortunately some people seem to be pinching them and trying to spin them off as their own! I suppose I should have known better but just thought people would like them so sadly .. to be clear the copyright of the pictures remains mine copyright Paul Gander. If you would like to use them then please just email me below and ask. On a more positive note my father would have been very happy to know that so many people are enjoying seeing what he got up to 50+ years ago. They are lovely pics and please do enjoy them and sorry that I have needed to add this paragraph. Lots of people are asking me if I can provide large prints/posters of some of the images so if anyone has any suggestions then please do get in touch. Best regards Paul. 12th October - yesterday we had almost half a million hits! and almost 50GB of pics were downloaded. As my annual hosting costs are now being exceeded every 8 hours! due to the huge volumes of visitors lots of people have asked if they can help with it to keep the web page up - thanks for all the very kind offers. If you would like to give a £1 or whatever then please use the button below and thanks, I am trying answer all your emails so keep sending them as its lovely to hear from everyone all over the world that likes this. Sorry if your emails have bounced but my email has crashed a few times due to the volume! I have always wondered what a 50's Triumph would be like to ride and as a result of this page a local 50's Thunderbird owner has been in touch with me and in an incredible act of generousity has offered to let me have a ride on his bike so I can experience what my Dad rode! I cannot wait ... as I have never even sat on one! even though I have ridden bikes for 30+ years. Somehow houses, kids, new kitchens and an assortment of other stuff have hoovered any money that might have been turned into a proper bike. It will be great to have a go on one. If you own any of these bikes then please do get in touch and I can give you high resolution copies of the pictures. When we cross from England to France now we have a ferry or the tunnel. For this trip they choose to fly the bikes from Lympne Airport in Kent over to Le Touquet.
They were all smartly dressed bikers and whilst helmets were not required, a jacket and tie certainly was.
Lympne Airport Whilst the bikes were swiftly loaded at the English end, it took a while for the French to unload the bikes. So what do you do just a few minutes into France as an Englishman... of course you brew tea whilst you wait. My Father stands on the right of this picture, clearly dressed for a motor cycle ride!
The Customs at Le Touquet.
A stop in Northern France for a smoke. The girl in the Brough sidecar looks very fashionably dressed.
Ken gets a puncture in St Quentin
A stop at Bar le Duc for essential supplies
And shortly after a roadside stop for a picnic
A stop for a coffee in Saverne
Entering Germany at Kehl and about 600-700 miles into the trip. My father was 18 when War was declared and having listened to the radio broadcast with his mother, had a cup of tea and then rode his motorcycle down to the recruiting office and signed up for the RAF. I assume that his friends were in the war and wonder what their banter was as they crossed into Germany.
A stop in The Black Forest
A stop by Lake Constance and the weather is looking excellent.
About 800-900 miles into the trip. Into Bavaria although I am not sure where, with the Bavarian Alps in the background and naturally they have brewed some tea.
They then continued on via Steingaden, Garmisch and Walchen and on towards Austria. Crossing the border (below) into Austria at Ursprung
And on past Kufstein and into Kitzbuhel where they seem to have stayed for a few days walking in the mountains and apparently tea was 1/6 On the road from Kitzbuhel to Brock
The picture below was taken on the way to Bruck and is my personal favorite
Getting closer to Bruck and the scenery and weather look fantastic
They have to stop and pay to enter the Grossglockner Pass. This was a very well visited tourist road with over 90,000 vehicles using it in 1952. It has a beatiful selection of bends that must have been wonderful on the bikes.
Soon after a stop for tea is required.
The Tunnel at the top of the Grossglockner Pass. The road peaks at 6,400ft.
The view from the Pass
At the top of the Franz Joseph Glacier
Re entering Germany on the way to Salzburg in Austria
They stopped for a while in Salzburg and then took the Inn Valley to Rattenburg where the picture below was taken. If you have ever wondered if Germans really did walk about in leather shorts .... They must be about 1300 miles into the trip now.
After Rattenburg they head for Innsbruck and after that Steinach in Austria and then onto the Brenner Pass The Brenner Pass is one of the principal passes of the Alps and will take them from Austria into Italy. It peaks at 4,500 ft After the joys of the Brenner Pass they continued on to the Giovo Pass into Italy. The Giovo is very small and twisty and splendid on a bike, except when they did it the road was just dirt and gravel with no safety barriers. The traffic jam has been caused as two coaches have become stuck.
And then on over other spectacular roads and into Switzerland at Mustair, below.
Then onto Zernez and onto St Moritz with around 1,600 miles completed.
After St Moritz they head past Chur and Frick as they start to head westward and home.Then through Zurich and leave Switzerland at Basel. Basel Customs stop.
After the lovely twisty roads of the previous week, they are back onto the arrow straight French roads and it seems a bit cooler by the riding gear. It must have been tempting to open the bikes up on this staight and maybe they have just stopped for a post speeding smoke or are about to blast off!
And on to Langres for a stop. I have ridden some of the roads between Troyes and Basel and they are excellent fast sweeping undulating roads.
And back to Le Touquet with over 2,000 miles covered
And the final picture in this album they have entitled "England in 20 Minutes"
My father kept detailed logs for all his bikes and I still have most of them. On July 4th AHC 650 had 24,924 miles showing and he gave it a full service. On July 19th it had 26,960 showing and just had an oil change and thorough checkover. On the trip he spent £7 and 14 shillings on petrol and 10s on oil and 4s on a headlight bulb. Just a few weeks after I published these pictures I had a telephone call from the owner of the SS100 in these pictures! The next day he rode it round to my house and after tea (its a tradition!) he took me for a ride on it - fantastic! It had been 60+ years since my father owned/rode it and I am very grateful to the owner for taking the time to bring it over. The picture below is of it parked in my garden. Behind it is my Dads 1950 D1 Bantam that he bought new in 1950 so again 60 years since they were parked up next to each other. If you look in the reflection of the Broughs tank you will see my V Twin. My father also rode this one when he was in his 70's. When I first bought it (a Ducati 888SP4) it had a speedo in kilometers and I rode it round to show Dad my new bike and he wanted a ride and I told him it had a K calibrated speedo, but it started pouring with rain so it was a few days later before he had a go and by then I had put an MPH speedo on it. I forget to mention this as he was off on it as soon as I arrived. When he came back I was surprised to hear from him that whilst it was quick - "it took longer than expected to reach a ton". A short chat and the mystery was solved. He had taken it to an indicated 160 still thinking that it was a kilometers speedo and 160kph would be 100mph. So my 70+ year old father had just done 160mph on the Alton bypass! Mum was not amused, though dad clearly was and had a cigar and a beer to celebrate... My dad carried on riding bikes until he was 87 and then decided he was getting a bit old for bikes and bought himself a sports car.
I have added a video of riding on this SS100 here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrbvznNjz-M And another of starting it here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdGPBClblZA I am looking for a Moto Reve from c1907-1909 that my Grandfather owned for many years until WW2. The picture below was taken c25 years ago in the UK and the then owner thinks that it may now be in Germany - if anyone knows where it is please do let me know. In the UK it was always registered LB923.
Moto Reve My email is firstname.lastname@example.org I have been a bit overwhelmed by the interest in these pictures and travels and bikes and as lots of people are asking if and when I can post more pictures and details of the bikes etc I have created this group. If you join it I will email you when I find the time to scan more pictures of other trips and the full logs of the bikes mile by mile, maintenance and what needed fixing etc. I have set it up so only I can post to the group so the only email will be from me about these pictures. Click to join OldMotorcyclePictures Click to join OldMotorcyclePictures Below are the details of the Triumph taken from Triumph literature of the era. If any one can supply me with period literature for the Brough and Sunbeams I will add them to the page.
The receipt for the bike when new
The first page of the Thunderbirds record book - 9 shillings and 3 pence for three gallons of petrol! Happy days...
My father (Geoffrey Gander) and his father (Thomas) were both Triumph enthusiasts. My Grandfather starting riding motorcycles at the beginning of century and by 1911 had his own small motorcycle business in Eastbourne. Around 1918 my Grandfather bought a 1911 Triumph and continued to ride it for over 20 years and it still survives today. He liked it as it was the first reliable useable motorcycle that he owned. My fatherĘs first rides as a child were on this veteran Triumph and he starting riding bikes in the mid 1930Ęs and usually volunteered to deliver customer bikes back to them. He was meant to push them, but once out of sight of the shop and his father – they were usually ridden. His first bike was a small Excelsior Empire and this was parked outside his parentĘs house on the morning of September 3rd 1939. Immediately after the 11.15am declaration of War he jumped on his bike and rode into Brighton to sign up for the RAF. As he didnĘt ride a horse, shoot and had left school at 14 he was not considered pilot material and with a good understanding of things mechanical he became an aero engineer and at 18 years old was servicing and rebuilding MerlinĘs. After the Battle of Britain he was shipped out to Egypt and remained there for the duration. He wasted little time upon his return and on 12th December 1946 he bought the first of three brand new Triumphs. He kept very detailed logs of all the bikes with every mile and every adjustment and replacement part is meticulously recorded. The first new Triumph was a Speed Twin, registration HC7830 costing £175.16 and 11 pence with engine number 47 5T 81816 and frame TF 10517, gearbox number TE 81902, Magneto BTH KC2 S4 6K 956310 and Amal 276BN1AK carburettor. It cost £219.16 and nine pence. He sold it on July 8th 1950 for £160 with 29,850 miles on the clock. It had been ridden all over the UK and Europe. As it had been meticulously maintained by an engineer and was in excellent condition my father seemed to get a good price with just £15 depreciation in 29,000 miles. On the 22nd July 1950 he bought his second new Triumph a 6T Thunderbird registration AHC 650. The frame number was 6T 11266N and engine number 11266N. It cost £219.16 and 9 pence and was delivered with 105 miles on the clock. The first 3 gallons into it cost 9 shillings and 3 pence. A week later he had done 391 miles and changed the oil and adjusted chains etc. Insurance was £4 and a shilling. As the miles racked up it had oil changes every 2,000 miles and by December it had clocked 6,000 miles and the head was removed and sent back to Triumph for refurbishment. By March it had done 8k and apart from usual servicing had its fuel lines replaced. It had averaged 68.25 mpg to date. By March 15th 1951 it had done 10,587 miles and the head was giving trouble again. This time my father did the work himself and as he still worked as an Aero engine engineer had access to whatever tools were required. He replaced the cams, followers, springs, reground the valve seats and decoked it but whilst doing this noticed all was not well with the bottom end. It went back to Triumphs and returned with new main bearings and pistons and then behaved itself as by July 1951 and its first birthday it had done 13,405 miles when it set off for a trip to Switzerland. By September it had 16,995 miles showing and went off to Cornwall for a weekĘs touring. At the end of September 51 the magneto failed and the head was off for new inlet valves and guides. By March 52 it had travelled 21,707 miles. Judging by how my father rode in later life, those 21,707 miles would have been conducted at a spirited pace. At the time Triumph described the Thunderbird as “a fast, powerful and luxurious built for high-speed travel on the motorways of the world”. My father seemed to be using it as Triumph intended. By July 1953 it had been on numerous trips into Europe and around the UK and had 25,914 miles on the clock. He serviced it on July 4th and with all oils changed and 10 shillings spent on a pair of F80 plugs he was ready for another trip into Europe. I have put his album of the 1953 trip here as I like the pictures and have ridden to some of these places myself.