Friday, February 26, 2010

Playful Derision

Courtesy of Jeff Decker

Those involved in motorsports are definitely cut from a different cloth especially those that speed around on two wheels. Motorcyclists have attitude. An attitude that ranges from gentlemanly competition to what many would consider antisocial. The spectrum of these attitudes manifests itself in a multitude of symbols. Many of us are familiar with some of these symbols of contemporary biker culture including co-opted Nazi runes and the flaming skull of the Hell's Angels; however, we may be less familiar with symbols associated with the more genteel beginnings of our sport.

I was reading the wonderful blog Vintage Norton Motorcycles by John De Kruif. He posted an entry about Conrad Leach's most recent paintings including the one pictured below entitled "Brooklands George". The painting depicts the venerable Dr. George Cohen riding his Norton M18 at speed.

"Brooklands George" by Conrad Leach

One detail that could easily be missed and highlighted by John De Kruif is the "tweenie devil" on the rear fender thumbing his nose at those trailing behind.

A "cock-a-snook"

The "tweenie devil" is one of several forms of cock-a-snook or minor diabolical being frequently represented as a mascot for automobiles and motorcycles in the early days of motorsports when owners wanted to make statement while showing pride in their vehicle. Turns out  that the term "cock-a -snook" refers to the hand gesture performed by the imp and is a vague idiomatic expression first documented in 1791. Some believe that the phrase may originally have been "to cock a snoot" in describing thumbing one's nose at someone.

                             The Dunhill Mascot "Tweenie Devil"
With this historical backdrop, I wondered why the famous tobaconnist Dunhill utilized the cock-a-snook and more specifically the "tweenie devil" as their mascot. Dunhill originally started off as a saddlery that with the advent of the automobile was transformed into "Dunhill Motorities" by an astute Alfred Dunhill to supply motoring accessories including sidecars for a new class of sporting gentleman. The boot of Alfred Dunhill's own car was adorned with the "tweenie devil" no doubt to challenge others to catch him if they could. Ever the innovator, Alfred Dunhill had many motorsport related patents to include a dashboard clock and a windproof pipe that marked the company's entry into the tobacco business in 1905.

                                    The "Flying Dunhill Devil"

Reconnecting with their past, Dunhill in 2008 commisioned a motorcycle for the opening of their Tokyo store from George Cohen. The "Flying Dunhill Devil" made its debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and took a year to build. It is one of seven limited edition replicas built. The chassis is a modified mid-30's Norton 16H fitted with a 1,000cc J.A.P. engine from 1920. All I can say is it definitely captures the "attitude".

Thanks go to Dr. George Cohen for providng backround information and photos of the Flying Dunhill Devil.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Alpha and Omega

I won't hide it I am a fanatic of Norton Motorcycles. I love classic bikes but I really enjoy Norton bikes. The Norton story is embedded in the history of motorcycling and the cast of characters is absolutely fabulous. There are many books about the mark but in a remarkable bit of internet cross-pollination I came across a very concise history of Norton from the start to the present. I will admit that I don't know anything about the author except that he is a great writer. Click here if you want a quick primer on Norton Motorcycles.

J. L. Norton

Monday, February 15, 2010

Captured in Bronze

I love art and I have always had a passion for bronzes. So, it is always a pleasure to meld my enjoyment of sculpture with my passion for motorsports particularly motorcycling. I was cruising the web when I came across this fine artist from France. Elvio Patuano of Zanzaracers creates beautiful bronzes capturing the speed and action of motorcycling. His works are for sale and I have started to save up! Take a look.



Wax maquette of "Gambalunga"

Agostini and Tait



I should add that Elvio is an equally talented builder of vintage speedboat models. These are absolutely exquisite in artistry and detail.

Check out Elvio's work at Zanzaracers.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Very Nice

I love all sorts of vintage vehicles but the best ones are those that are used. This lovely Porsche was just around the corner from my hotel during my trip to Paris this past October. You have to admire an owner who enjoys driving his baby so much without concern. Un vrai automobiliste!

Friday, February 12, 2010

My Holy Grail Part 1

As a newbie to classic motorcycling, I didn't really know what I was getting into when I purchased my Norton Model 7. Quite frankly I still don't but I am steadily learning. It's not the most common bike and living in southern Texas only exacerbates an inaccessability to expertise that for me is pretty much limited to the internet. Credit for much of what I have learned is thanks to the Norton Model 7 Yahoo group. I read a great deal about the interchangeability of Norton parts but it appears that the plunger framed Model 7 has quite a few specific parts as well. This is particularly true for the peaked front mudguard and the elbowed stays.

Interestingly enough, the current front fender on my bike is peaked just like the original but is a poorly painted chrome version that does not require stays. It doesn't look bad but it also doesn't look right either. I do prefer the lines of the front end with the original fender setup.

My Bike

Close-up from the side

Close-up from the front showing the peak

The Standard

One of the most enjoyable aspects of classic motorcycling is searching for those parts and the relationships formed with comrades in the process. My search for a fender started pretty much the day I received the bike and lasted almost three years. I found one on Ebay UK while I was stationed in Iraq. How absurd when I think about it. Imagine being in a war zone bidding for a vintage mudguard in the UK via Ebay USA. I was very fortunate to correspond with a member of the Model 7 Yahoo group regarding the restoration of the fender. My colleague is extremely talented and provided excellent drawings as well as advice to fabricate the stays that can be declared as unobtainium maximum.

The outstanding drawings

The fender itself is in very good condition with some surface rust. It has a few problems like anything 60 years old. The scarcity of fenders is attributable to the fact that it is the most fragile part of the bike and mine certainly shows evidence of having hit something in its lifetime. Some of the metal work has been done and bronze brazing completed on a couple of small cracks.

 I will freely admit that I never have done any metal work and so this will be a new experience. My main concern will be to re-establish and maintain the peak as well as repair the edge bead at the front. All in all it's a job I think I can handle. Keep posted for the progress.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Little Publicity

Despite it's historical significance, the Norton Model 7 doesn't get a great deal of press relative to other models or marques. So it's always nice to see an article. This one showed up in Classic Bike Guide for January 2010. Get yourself a copy and check it out