Saturday, 18 December 2010

Trophies and Dreams and Rock and Roll

After moving to Bristol I bought a Mobylette moped for a fiver to get about on, which was stolen within weeks, rather bizarrely.
I mention this for reasons of continuity only - this is All The Motor Vehicles I Have Ever Owned, after all

I then acquired my second MZ for a tenner.
This was a 1973 ES250 Trophy, a curious beast with leading link forks, which had been sprayed matt black and came with three tea chests full of spares and three spare wheels
A MZ ES250. Ghastly

A bargain you might think? Regrettably, unlike the first MZ, this one was abysmal. In fact the longest I ever got it to run for was five minutes, it was appalling to ride, having been designed by the East Germans to haul a sidecar and after riding it once I resolved never to ride it again. It was horrid.

I popped a small ad in the Evening Post to sell it, saying “offers invited” and a very strange man indeed with a foot-long white beard and appalling body odour turned up on my doorstep with his twin sons, neither of whom appeared to have a chin.

He went into paroxysms of delight over the MZ and offered me £50 for it. Then I told him I would throw in the spares and he got even more excitable and offered me £100. “So, you, er, like MZs do you?” I said. “Yes. I’ve got 9,” he said and he and sons took it all away
This was a relief as I hadn’t been able to use my shower for some weeks, as it was the only place I had to store the wheels.

Meanwhile the £80 I got for selling the Z400 financed a Blues and Psychedelia night at a night club in the middle of St Pauls.
In those rather more innocent days, one could actually do this without paying people off, operating as a front for something illegal or getting ripped off.
On the other hand, you couldn't actually make any money for anyone to rip-off playing John Lee Hooker and The Strawberry Alarm Clock back to back.
Then I began to "manage" a blues/soul trio called The Red Hot Knives - a sort of punk Booker T and the MGs - and there were many late nights and extremely early mornings, as the band were put on in obscure venues including a vegetarian cafe, a civil service social club and the splendidly named Demolition Ballroom, which one night after a rained off Ashton Court festival saw me join a well meaning bunch of lunatics mount a 12 hour blues/punk/protorap/acid rock spectacular at two hours notice.
My principle job was getting the Red Hot Knives there in one piece and soberish, calling the BBC to promote the gig, lugging the PA and keeping the rainwater from dripping on the mixing desk by holding a tarp over the sound engineer with a broom handle.

We packed around 700 people into the Ballroom that night, a squatted and squalid former furniture showroom which stole its power from a by-passed streetlight. My minor involvement in that night remains one of the things I'm proudest of. It were proper bonkers.

All of which has little to do with Motorcycles, but as the whole effort was financed by a worn out Z400 I felt it deserved a mention.

Anyway, I digress...
For £50 I bought  a mates Honda CB250T – this was cheap because he didn’t have the money to spend on a few bits it needed, like an exhaust system and a chain and sprockets.

The Honda wasn’t a half bad bike and was more than capable of getting me about in a fairly unexciting manner.

But that was the rub – unexciting – as stimulating as Thora Hird in a rubber basque.

I buggered about with it a little, ditching the enormous chrome back mudguard and fitting a white plastic moto-crosser one, along with a neat little trail-bike tail-light/number plate set up.

My CB250T, and the best angle to view it from

I found a small ad in the back of motor-cycle news for a company that sold budget exhaust systems - fifty quid for bare metal, or sixty for chrome. Being a cheapskate I bought the bare metal one, and sprayed it matt black. I had to take the stand off to make it fit, and it still took a few whacks with a hammer get it on. It looked great, until I started it up, and all the paint fell off.
The remainder of my ownership involved me battling to keep paint attached to the exhaust system. And here's a tip. Never use Hammerite to paint an exhaust system. The smoke produced as it melts is impressive and probably toxic.

Then, in April 1986 the insurance company decided to accept that my XJ 650 – stolen some two years previously – really was not going to turn up again and paid out. Finally I could get myself a really good motorcycle.

I had hard cash, and, as the Honda was running well, I had no real urgent need for a new bike. Which meant that I could take some time to look for a really good one.

Most motorcyclists have wish lists. On mine were a Laverda Jota, A Ducati V-twin (either a 900ss or a Pantah would do) the gorgeous little Moto Morini 350 V-twin and the Yamaha XS650 Custom – but I had resigned myself to never finding any of them in my price range in the near future.

The morning I got the £700 insurance cheque I was idly scanning the columns of Motor Cycle News over a full Irish breakfast - a pint of Guinness and a John Player Special - in the bar of the Old England.
An advert almost leapt off the page at me.

“1980 Moto Morini 350 Strada. £350. no offers. call Bristol.....”


gliddofglood said...

It's like latter day Dickens.

Yes? Yes? What happened next??

Ixion's Disciple said...


part the 16th soon.

slylittlei said...

Blimey, I remember the Demolition Ballroom... and I used to drink in the Olden Gland at the time, too!