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.

1 comment:

  1. Wow this replica is a pure beauty and seems to work ! There is some burning on pipes !!