1979 World Trials Champion and the 1982 winner of the Scottish Six Days Trial, Bernie Schreiber has returned to the trials school arena with the launch of the ‘Schreiber Experience’ at Alvie Estate in the Scottish Highlands, some 37 years after his historic win, which is only seventy miles from where he claimed his victory.
Schreiber is the only American to win the SSDT in its 108 year history and the only American born winner of the World Trials crown of which he was victorious on a Bultaco.
Bernie will run his ZER(O)BS coaching and training Experience in conjunction with the Inverness & District MCC Ltd, who promote the annual Highland Classic 2 day Trial on the Alvie shooting estate at Kincraig, a few miles south of the holiday town of Aviemore. The date set is Monday 10th June, 2019.
The training will be run over a full day which includes a classroom session and some on bike time and will be run under an SACU training permit, with guest coach Allister Stewart, Chairman of the Scottish ACU Trials Committee on hand and in a supporting role is ACU coach, Richard Allen.
Schreiber told Trials Guru: “The Schreiber Experience is something that I have been thinking about for some time. When I was invited to attend as Guest of Honour and take part in the Highland Classic, I thought it would be a good place to launch my ‘experience’ and dovetail it with my stay in the Scottish highlands over the weekend of 8/9th June. For the trial, Martin Matthews of MotoSWM is supplying me with an SWM to compete and I will use it again as my demo-bike for the experience day. My coaching techniques will be different to my old trials schools as a lot of years have come and gone since then and while the basic techniques have not changed so much as the sport. Today, there are new formulas of coaching and training that make an impactful difference in building all the fundamental riding skills. The consistent routine of these skills is the blueprint to not only improving and enjoying the ride, but finding your real potential. My big deal is you always have to have a plan. Most people have a tip, everybody’s got a tip, but few have a plan. I always say ‘a goal without a plan is nothing but a dream’ so most people dream of riding better Trials, but they don’t have a plan to ride better Trials. So I wanted to help people to build a plan to take them from where they are to where they want to be. That’s what I do with my new Experience.”
Interested parties for the ‘Schreiber Experience’ in Scotland are asked to contact the IDMCC Secretary by e-mail to obtain the necessary application form on firstname.lastname@example.org
Adam Moore Brownlie, a stalwart of the Scottish ACU passed away peacefully on Thursday 3rd January, 2019.
A. M. Brownie was a Life Member of the SACU and was active in Motorcycle Sport since the mid 1950s. Adam was a former Chairman of the SACU and took over from T. Arnott Moffat as SACU Secretary in 1987. Brownlie became the first salaried official of the SACU when it became a limited company by guarantee in December 1989 as Company Secretary. For many years, Adam ran the office function at Bathgate, Whiteside, then Uphall and was a director of SACU Ltd until 1998.
His main occupation before retirement in 1990 was with the Rolls Royce aero engines plant at East Kilbride and was an avionics engineer.
Brownlie was for many years an SACU steward at many rioad race meetings and the Scottish Six Days Trial, he was a long standing member of the Avon Valley MCC.
Adam was also the ACU Benevolent Fund Officer for Scotland and spent a lot of his time fund raising at motorcycle events.
Details of Adam Brownlie’s funeral are: Saturday, 19th January 2019 at 11:45 am at South Lanarkshire Crematorium – 31 Sydes Brae, Blantyre, Glasgow G72 0TL.
Our sincere condolences go to his widow Mary and son Gordon.
Cover Image: Copyright of Barry Robinson (All Rights Reserved)
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Jock Wilson – A lifetime in the motorcycle trade and sport.
This article first appeared in Issue 14 of Classic Trial Magazine (CJ Publishing), it is reproduced here with the publishers’ permission.
Words: John Moffat
Additional information: Don Morley; Dave Campling; Roy Kerr; Gordon Blakeway; Derrick Edmondson; Yrjo Vesterinen & the late H. Martin Lampkin.
Photos: Don Morley; Iain Lawrie; John Neaves; John Knight; Roy A. Kerr; Charlie Watson; Mike Rapley; Len Thorpe – (Photos, except those by Iain Lawrie, John Neaves, Roy Kerr, John Knight and Charlie Watson were supplied by P.C. Wilson specifically for this article)
The world of off-road motorcycle sport has been made all the richer with a variety of personalities and characters over the years, many of whom were closely connected to or part of, the motorcycle trade.
One such character was at the very heart of the off-road scene for many years, being a competitor; trade baron; team manager and much more. He was one of the sports’ most respected and knowledgeable individuals.
Son of the local postman, Peter Cameron ‘Jock’ Wilson was born on 13th January 1934 at Oakbank, Bridge of Balgie, Glen Lyon in rural Perthshire. His resourceful father made use of motorcycles as his mode of transport to deliver the mail in the glen.
An early initiation to off-road motorcycle sport with the Scottish Six Days Trial which practically ran past his doorstep, the observed section called ‘Meall Glas’ was but three-quarters of a mile from his parent’s house. Coupled with the fact that the primary school-children were granted a half-day from classes to watch the SSDT, how could the young Wilson resist the call to the sport?
Glen Lyon is a beautiful part of the country, it is one of Scotland’s longest glens with the River Lyon meandering eastwards throughout its length to join the much larger River Tay.
Wilson was educated locally at Innerwick Primary School, Glen Lyon followed by Breadalbane Academy in Aberfeldy. Like most schoolboys he was always interested in all things mechanical.
His first motorcycle was an elderly BSA which he obtained as a non-runner. It was this machine on which he cut his teeth and opened up to him the world of motorcycle mechanics. Much of this was by trial, error and experimentation and very much ‘self-taught’. He even fashioned his own set of piston rings, for funding was scarce and ingenuity was very much to the fore-front!
Down south …
Known to all his friends and acquaintances as Jock, which was bestowed upon him during his period in National Service in the British Army, this was usual for a Scotsman living and working in Southern England at the time. Wilson soon became a well-known face at trials and scrambles events throughout the country.
Wilson on leaving school commenced employment locally as a lumberjack, followed by the then compulsory national service at Aldershot Garrison in Hampshire, the recognised ‘Home of the British Army’.
It was during his time at the famous military establishment, serving in the Royal Army Service Corps or RASC for short, under the guidance of commanding officer, Captain Eddie Dow, that Jock met many of the factory trials and scrambles stars of the era through his national service. Jock met and rode with Roy Peplow; Ron Langston; John Giles and many more. Wilson not only learned new skills but also forged life-long friendships in the sport during his military service and participation in army trials.
His good friend in the army, George Morrison from Aberdeen was nervous about going on a date, asking Jock to go in his place and that is how he met his eventual wife Patricia, a local girl from Surbiton. Romance blossomed; they married and moved to London to live permanently.
Civvy Street …
On leaving military service, Jock took up employment at Arthur Cook Motors in Kingston-Upon-Thames, followed by a move to the then well-known large scale motorcycle dealership, Comerfords Ltd based in Portsmouth Road, Thames Ditton, Surrey joining them in 1957.
Jock started out at Comerfords as a motorcycle mechanic in their workshops, quickly progressing to workshop manager. When he became bored with that job, he moved into sales under their highly experienced Sales Director, Bert Thorn who became a close friend and riding partner in many southern-centre trials.
Sporting dealers …
Comerfords took great pride in promoting themselves as the rider/dealer style of organisation. Employees were openly encouraged to participate in all forms of motorcycle sport on their weekends. Thorn was an accomplished trials rider as were Wilson’s work-mates, Reg May, Roger Davy, Derek Cranfield, Peter Hudson and Don Howlett, all of which were in the employment of the company.
One of Wilson’s specialties was modifying AJS trials machines; he replicated many of the factory modifications by making them lighter and more tractable. At one stage, Jock had an ultra-short barrel fitted on his personal 16C, which had one cylinder fin less than the factory barrels issued to the team riders. Gordon Jackson, Gordon Blakeway and Gordon McLaughlan who rode for AJS as a factory team in those days were all friends of Jock. During the 1963 event at the top of Grey Mare’s Ridge, Jackson asked why Jock’s wife was not at the trial.
Wilson recounted: “I replied that Pat was expecting our second child, to which Gordon Jackson replied, well if it’s a boy you should call him Gordon”. And so the Wilson’s second born son was aptly named. The Wilson’s had two sons, the first born being Andrew.
Gordon Blakeway on Jock Wilson: “Jock was and still is a great guy. I remember riding the Scottish in Jock’s company and as we rode through a Perthshire glen, Jock was just in front as he knew the local roads like the back of his hand, with me sitting right on his tail. Suddenly I noticed a postman sitting on the wall with his post-bag and he waved at Jock and I as we swept past. When we got to the sections, I said, aren’t the locals friendly, did you see the postie waving at us? Jock replied: Yeah, that was me Dad.”
Don Morley on Jock Wilson: “I have known Jock for more years than I care to remember. He was a very good rider in his day, which people seem to have forgotten and I have photographed Jock many times in my career as a professional photographer both at the annual Scottish Six Days and various national trials in which he competed.”
When Sammy Miller defected from Ariel to Bultaco in late 1964, his two HT5 machines were put up for sale in Comerfords who were by that time funding the Miller/Ariel trials effort.
Both his machines, registered GOV132 and 786GON were up for grabs. Wilson liked the idea of riding one of these machines himself. But it was the second string, 786GON that Jock purchased from his employers.
Jock recounted: “786GON had most of the lightweight alloy parts installed when it was brought in for sale, plus it was advertised at a much cheaper price than GOV132, it was a no brainer really, so I bought it”.
Jock rode the Ariel in the SSDT twice, in 1966 and again in 1967 winning the 500cc cup that year.
Jock Wilson often rode the Comerfords improved products, such as carefully prepared Greeves (UPA22F in the ISDT) and BSA machinery which had been breathed on in the competitions department, headed up by ace tuner, Reg May.
In the 1960’s, Comerfords had a very close relationship with the Greeves factory at Thundersley, supporting many local trials and scrambles riders on the Essex-built machines. One such rider was Scotsman, Vic Allan who had moved to Surrey from his Garlogie, Aberdeenshire home in early 1967 to race the Challenger models and then the later Griffon motocross machines.
Vic Allan was the reigning Scottish champion in 1966 and was keen to enter the cut and thrust of British motocross. He was a hard riding and boisterous character back then and took great delight in a bit of show-boating by pulling wheelies down the start and finish straights. It was Wilson who had a quiet word with Vic and “calmed him down a little”.
The advice was taken totally in the spirit intended and Allan started getting much needed results for both Greeves and his employers, Comerfords.
In 1971, Vic joined the mighty BSA concern primarily to contest the Grand Prix series, during which time he crashed heavily at the Italian round on the factory 441cc Victor.
Allan badly smashed his hip and was sidelined for several months. It was during his convalescence that BSA closed the Small Heath competitions department.
Being a professional rider and now effectively unemployed, Allan reverted to race once again for Comerfords, but this time on the Spanish Bultaco, eventually becoming the British 250cc and 500 cc Motocross champion in 1974, riding the Pursang models in both classes, the last rider to do so.
Vic became very close friends with Jock Wilson who was effectively his mentor in the early days and during his British championship efforts, they live only two streets distant to this day. They have great respect for one another.
Jock recalls: “The only time I ever had a cross word with Vic Allan was at Farleigh Castle when the Greeves broke down. Vic literally threw the bike on the ground in disgust and was about to storm off. It happened right in front of me, so I went up to him and said, if you are going to treat a bike like that, you can bugger off back to Aberdeen right now!”
In 1968 when Comerfords had become UK concessionaires having taken over the UK importer-ship from Rickman Brothers of the Bultaco brand, Jock Wilson became heavily involved in that side of the business, supplying the dealer network and operating a first-class spares service.
Now with Bultaco UK, Wilson was responsible for negotiating and setting up the contracts with the Comerfords supported riders in both motocross and trials.
Having competed in the Scottish Six Days several times, Jock was a very useful ‘support man’ for ‘Team Bultaco’ at the annual Highland event.
The bright red Comerfords’ Ford Transit piloted by Wilson could be seen at several points daily throughout the event, always bang on time to catch the Comerford and Bultaco runners as they came off the rough with spare parts and sustenance for the Lampkin brothers; Malcolm Rathmell; Yrjo Vesterinen; Lane Leavitt; Manuel Soler and anyone else entered by Comerfords or the Bultaco factory.
Jock Wilson’s personal SSDT and ISDT experience was invaluable when giving support to the factory men. He was trusted and kept many of them both on time and focused on the job in hand, in many cases to win the event!
The International scene …
Jock went on to manage the British International Six Days Junior Trophy and Trophy teams. His knowledge gained by riding in the ISDT many times himself on AJS, Triumph and Greeves machinery gave him a valuable insight into this part of off-road sport and was a very highly thought of manager by not only the riders but the ACU.
The initial suggestion of Jock’s involvement in team management came in late 1977 from fellow Scot, T. Arnott Moffat, the honorary secretary of the Scottish ACU and father of Trials Guru’s John Moffat. The persuasive Moffat phoned Jock up, with the deliberate intention of making the idea become a reality.
Jock Wilson recalls the conversation: “It was one of Arnott’s legendary long telephone calls, but he did a good job of convincing me to take up the challenge, I had a lot of respect for him and trusted his judgement”.
Arnott Moffat swiftly convinced Jock that he had all the necessary skills and experience needed for such a weighty task.
Wilson cut his managerial teeth by taking charge of the Scottish ACU ISDT squad in Sweden at the High Chaparral, Varnamo in 1978. He quickly earned the respect of the riders and team supporters, but the ACU were in the wings watching closely and had taken note. A short time later the ACU enlisted Wilson’s services to manage their GB ISDT Junior Trophy and World Trophy teams, taking on the task from Ian Driver.
The SWM connection …
With Bultaco finances already showing signs of stress, Jock left Comerfords employment in 1979 starting out in business to import the Italian SWM trials and enduro machines, this was achieved by forming a partnership with the accomplished trials and ISDT competitor, Mick ‘Bonkey’ Bowers from Studley, Warwickshire.
Wilson and Bowers, trading as SWM UK Limited quickly established a country-wide dealership network which included the former World Trials Champion, Martin Lampkin who was by that time competing on the brand. This ultimately involved the support of good centre riders such as Andrew Watson and David Clinkard to name but two.
Two years prior to SWM’s eventual cessation of motorcycle production in 1984, the SWM UK partnership was dissolved and Jock reverted to self-employment, working from his home in Tolworth, repairing and tuning motorcycles and repairing damaged wheels for local dealers, as he was a self-taught ace wheel-builder.
Now in his eighties, Jock Wilson is now fully retired, still living with wife Pat in Tolworth and can reflect on a lifetime of achievement as a rider; first class mechanic; salesman; team manager; importer and all round good-guy, who contributed so much to to British motorcycle sport.
Appreciation of Jock Wilson from within the sport:
Yrjo Vesterinen on Jock Wilson: “It would have been in 1974 during my first ride in Scotland that I first met Jock Wilson. As I often said, first impressions count and with Jock this certainly wa sthe case, a warm friendly smile and the firmest handshake I had even encountered.
As the week progressed I felt that Jock genuinely tried to help me by giving me useful tips and encouragement during the week. This paved the way for a lifelong friendship. Whilst in Fort William, I noticed that Jock very much enjoyed the evenings in the bar, usually having an interesting conversation about the trial with a glass of his favourite whisky in his hand.
Some years later when I saw him he said that he had to adjust the fuel mixture a bit. I didn’t get it! He noticed, laughed and said I hav had to add a bit of water to the whisky as the engine was running a touch too rich!
After we got married, my wife Diane and I moved to live down south in Woking, we were in regular contact with Pat and Jock. The highlight of every year was the Wilson family New Year’s Eve party at their house on Red Lioan Road on the leafy outskirts of London. Soon after our son Mika was born, Jock and Pat presented him, for his first birthday, with a jolly nice trike with big fat wheels. That was a gesture that we very much appreciated. At first the trike was a bit too big for him.
Later when Mika had grown up a little and was already cruising around the house on his trike and also at that point he was beginning to speak a little. We said to him, “Please thank Uncle Jock for this new toy of yours.” Mika being a smart young lad took it on board and when Jock arrived he said: “… thank you very much Auntie Dock”. Jock smiled broadly. That name stuck and in our family Jock is still affectionately known as Auntie Dock!” – Yrjo Vesterinen
Derrick Edmondson on Jock Wilson: “Jock was a big man in stature and respect, especially for those who were prepared to earn ‘his’ in return. His handshake was legendary and if you managed to keep a smile on your face without ‘wincing’ from his vice-like firm grip, then the friendship you would gain friom him was endless. A great character with so much experience and one who was always there to help both with advice and mechanical knowledge. My secret admiration for him was his simple ability to paint perfect numbers ‘free-hand’ on a race plate in the days when they were hand painted with a paint brush like an old-fashioned sign writer and not the modern stick on jobs!” – Derrick Edmondson
Before his untimely death in 2016, the late Martin Lampkin commented:
“I had known Jock Wilson from my early days in trials and when I moved to Bultaco it was a privilege to be aroun sucha good and genuine man. During my Bultaco years, Jock, along with Reg May at Comerfords, were the men you spoke to when you had a problem and if you needed some good advice or help as nothing was too much trouble. With the Spanish Bultaco concern in financial trouble, I had no choice with a young family to support but to move to another brand and it was SWM that I chose. Fortunately for me it was around the same time that Jock had become involved with importing them and I knew when we shook hands that the deal would always be honoured. I rewarded him with both the Britisj Cahmpionship and the Scott Trial victories making some very happy memories which I still cherish to this day.” – H. Martin Lampkin, 2015
For back copies of Classic Trial Magazine click HERE
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Jock Wilson’s Ariel HT5 – 786GON – additional article on Trials Guru HERE
Available now only on Trials Guru, the full story of Peter ‘Jock’ Wilson – respected competitor in trials and the ISDT; top class mechanic; salesman; team manager; importer and general all-round good guy. Written by Trials Guru’s John Moffat with the direct assistance of Jock and Pat Wilson; Dave Campling & Yrjo Vesterinen.
(Article first published in Issue 14 of Classic Trial Magazine by CJ Publishing, reproduced with their kind permission on Trials Guru. Back issues of Classic Trial Magazine available HERE)
This article first appeared in Classic Trial Magazine (CJ Publishing Ltd) and is re-produced with their permission.
Words: John May, Yrjo Vesterinen, Derek Cranfield, Dave Campling and John Moffat
Photos: May Family Archive; Eric Kitchen, Barry Robinson, John Hulme, Heath Brindley & Norman Hawkins.
Reg John May was born on 18th May 1925 in Chiddingfold Farm-Hand Cottage in Surrey, moving in 1929 to Honey-suckle Cottage, Hambledon which was next to the local pub called the ‘Merrie Harriers’.
An only son, Reg was educated at the local school, his father was known as ‘Punch’ and his mother was Edith.
Young Reg was particularly good with his hands and excelled at wood-work at school. He initially took up employment in the local brick-works and coal-yard. He was conscripted into national service in the army, serving in Germany and then in Palestine as part of the peace-keeping force.
On his de-mob, Reg took up employment at G&S Valves at Milford, Godalming, Surrey. It was at this time he met an Irish girl called Mary, who was one of two sisters who worked at a stately home in the village. Reg and Mary married in 1949 and moved into ‘Hatch Cottage’ where he remained for the rest of his life.
In the 1950s, Reg took up employment at Vickers Armstrong at Weighbridge in Kent where he rode to and from work on his trials bike. May’s first competition machine was a DKW in 1952. A year later he was winning events riding under the Weyburn club, before switching allegiance to the Witley and Waterlooville clubs.
Reg and Mary had two children, John and Pam. John May went on to be one of Britain’s finest ISDT and enduro riders in the 1970s.
He started with Comerfords at Thames Ditton in 1959 as a motorcycle mechanic. Reg had many good friends in the sport and in particular Bill Elliot, Mick Dismore, Bob Gollner and Comerfords work colleague, Derek Cranfield to take in the national trials.
In 1967, Comerfords promoted Reg to foreman/manager of their new competitions department. It was where the company developed the Comerford Cub and Bantam machines. They also built the Comerford Triumph Trophy 250.
However, Reg May will be forever remembered for his capability of tuning and improving Bultacos, which Comerfords imported to the UK. It was said many times that May could set up a Bultaco better than the factory; such was his reputation and skill.
Reg rode in the International Six Days on two occasions, 1962 and 1965 on a Greeves which expired during the event. He had struck up a friendship with movie star, Steve McQueen.
McQueen’s 500cc Triumph was prepared at Comerfords where the actor visited a number of times to check on progress for the 1964 ISDT at Erfurt in East Germany. Reg had ridden with McQueen in the 1961 Welsh Two Day trial.
John May: “Steve McQueen was riding one minute ahead of my Dad and called him his smoking buddy”.
In 1965 when the new Bultaco Sherpa was eagerly awaited, Sammy Miller loaned Reg his spare Sherpa on which he won the Beggars Roost Trial, a trade supported national event. He then went on to ride the first of the Bultaco Sherpa T models to come to the UK, a machine that is still in the family.
Reg also prepared close friend and motorcycle dealer Bob Gollner’s BSA Gold Star on which he won many scrambles in the early 1960s.
John May: “Dad had many friends in the sport, probably too many to list, he enjoyed a game of snooker when away from bikes which he played with Derek Cranfield. He also liked gardening and grew his own vegetables. He really did have green fingers, he was good at it. He also liked a little whisky which he took from time to time”.
Derek Cranfield: “Reg and I became real good friends when we both worked at Comerfords; we travelled together all over the country to all the national events. We always used my car and trailer as Reg did sometimes like a wee dram now and then. We both liked traditional jazz music and every week would see us at some gig, we even promoted the odd do at the village hall at Hambledon where Reg lived. He was brilliant at making bits for bikes, if he found that a part needed modifying, he would make it or mod it, he was the first to put Bultaco fork inserts in to AJS and Matchless forks and if he found a modification that worked he would share it. I have so many memories of things that we got up to. Like when traveling with the car and trailer, a wheel went past us down the road from the trailer but somehow Reg would rig something up to get us home, or coming home from jazz on an icy night Reg and Mary, his wife were in their car behind me. His lights suddenly went out, then went on, then out, then on again. Reg was spinning round and round down the middle of the road on black ice. In my rear view mirror, it was like a light house, we did so many things together. We were both in charge of the British Bultaco team in the ISDT at the Isle Of Man when the down tubes on the front frames cracked, the team being Sammy Miller, Mart and Sid Lampkin. We found a garage where they would be passing the next day and had a man ready with welding gear waiting, pulled Sid in first, he laid the bike on its side, the bloke started to heat the parts up when whoosh, there were flames as petrol had leaked from the carb, in two seconds Sid had gone, Sammy and Mart did not want to try that, so the frames were wired together, they did not retire. We had great back up on that occasion by a lot of Bultaco dealers”.
When a young Barry Sheene was racing 125cc Bultacos, he and father Frank would engage Reg to solve their mechanical problems. They visited him at Comerfords many times to improve their race bikes.
Keith Thorpe was the workshop manager at Comerfords and his son Dave who was eventually to become World Motocross champion for Honda. Reg made a frame for Dave’s Suzuki when he was racing in the schoolboys.
Reg, adept at modifying frames and experimented with suspension set-ups, not only carrying out work at Comerfords, but also privately in his garden shed at home. He took on a lot of private work for friends and local riders.
John May: “When I was twelve, Dad built me a Triumph Cub. I did all the nationals and attempted the Scott and Scottish Six Days. He wouldn’t let me loose on a motocross bike until I had done two full seasons at trials. I did six seasons at motocross before specialising in enduro. Dad was behind me all the time with advice and encouragement, when it was needed. I qualified for the top thirty-five British Motocross championship two years running. In 1975 my name was put forward by Ralph Venables for selection for the British Trophy team. I eventually rode in eight ISDTs and had five golds, one silver and two retirements”.
Reg May assisted Robin Humphries with the development of the R.E.H. forks, hubs and cylinder barrels in particular. He also developed the 200cc Yamaha motor for use in the Whitehawk, built by Mick Whitlock and assisted Bob Gollner with his projects.
Reg May was mechanic and tuner to Martin Lampkin when he won the first World Trials Championship in 1975 and was there when Lampkin won the SSDT for Bultaco. Later there was a Finnish superstar that benefitted from Reg May’s input, three times world Trials Champion, Yrjo Vesterinen.
Comerfords’ directors sanctioned forty standard 340cc Sherpa model 199B machines to be modified by May to create the ‘Comerford 340 Vesterinen Replicas’.
May was well-known for keeping his cards close to his chest when it came to machine set ups. Customers were not permitted to enter the completion department at Comerfords. But one thing Reg kept secret from his employers was the machine preparation he carried out for Gordon Farley who had worked at Comerfords and had been responsible for the creation of their Comerford Cub.
Farley had moved to Montesa in 1969, but his friendship and trust built up with Reg May was to continue with May preparing the Montesa engine in secret. At that time there was intense rivalry between the Bultaco and Montesa factories and it simply was work that could not be carried out in the public eye.
John May: “Dad and Gordon would take themselves away from preying eyes to meet up to set the Montesa carburation up for the Scottish, no-one knew about it at the time. It wouldn’t have looked good if it had got out”.
Dave Campling has been around the motorcycle trade most of his life, retiring from MCN in 2002. He was an engineer until Bert Thorn invited him to work for Comerfords in 1967. He remembers Reg May: “When Reg was experimenting with engine sizes on the works Bultacos and also John’s Villiers Cheetah, he had all the ideas and knew how much he could get away with in terms of sleeving the barrels and boring out to maximums, but he couldn’t work out what the cc’s would end up as .We sat in the cafe opposite Comerfords one morning chatting about it and he gave me the measurements on the back of his fag packet. I then worked the maths and told him what he would end up with. He was over the moon and later in the week we had a couple of Low Flyers (Famous Grouse) in the Witley clubroom to celebrate”.
All the Bultaco riders who were contracted to Comerfords had utmost faith in Reg May’s ability, this included Malcolm Davis and New Zealander, Ivan Miller and Vic Allan whose bikes were all breathed on by May. This culminated in Allan’s double British Motocross Championship wins in 1974 on the Spanish built Pursang models.
With the advent of Pre’65 trials, this gave Reg May a new interest in riding trials with a beautifully prepared 16C AJS and a 500T Norton. He even built a girder forked 250cc BSA and enjoyed many Witley club events and the annual Talmag in the early days. He also rode in the Pre’65 Scottish with his AJS.
Yrjo Vesterinen remembers Reg May:
“Nineteen seventy-four was an important year for me. For the first time I was able to ride all the European Championship series. The series opener was in Northern Ireland in February, with the second round in Belgium. On route, my travelling companion Tom Sjoman and I, decided to stop in London and visit my sister, who was living there at the time.
An important and exciting visit to Comerfords, the Bultaco importers in Thames Ditton, just outside Central London, would follow. What an experience that was, I had never seen so many motorcycles in one location before.
Successful businesses are not solely about the merchandise, it is about the people that do the magic day in day out. It was a really friendly bunch of capable and knowledgeable people that we came across.
At the back, behind the car workshops there was a smaller workshop that we were told was a special place. There Tom and I were greeted by a certain white-haired gentleman with friendly warm smile on his face. This was the famous Reg May, he was the ace spanner-man at Comerfords that every self-respecting Bultaco customer craved to get their bikes fine-tuned by.
Reg knew everything that was worth knowing about Bultacos, it was all in his head. He didn’t use manuals; Reg knew more than any manual could ever hold. Be it carburation, ignition timing, in fact anything that would make a Bultaco run and perform better than the factory settings. That was his speciality.
After our initial meeting, the next time I was to meet Reg would be In Scotland that same year, 1974. He had been persuaded by Comerfords to lend me his own Sherpa for that occasion. My own machine had been left in Italy after the European Championship round there as there was not enough time to drive from Italy to Edinburgh. Bultaco had chartered a private aircraft to fly Martin, Sid and me to Scotland immediately after the trial in Italy. All the English riders had their own spare machines waiting for them, naturally all prepared by Reg. However, mine was special though, as it was Reg’s own 325 Bultaco!
The bike ran beautifully all week apart from some usual mid-week repairs. However, Reg was not happy as I was not cleaning his bike on arrival to the car park like most others did with their mounts. My excuse was that scrubbing his bike with a dry rag would scratch the paint work. Reg was still not impressed, but said no more on the matter. I did try clean the bike properly after the trial though.
It would take many years before my bikes would start to get a full ‘Reg May treatment’. In 1981 I had returned to Bultaco after a year with Montesa. My Contract with Bultaco was backed by Comerfords and I started to spend more time in England and Reg was looking after my bikes whilst I was there. In the summer of 81 I met Diane Hadfield and from then on I spent most of my spare time with her. Diane’s parent’s house was not far from Comerfords and that led to me working with Reg on an almost daily basis whilst in England. It was then that I really got to know Reg well However I disliked the smell of his workshop. That odour was a mixture of exhaust fumes, welding gases, cigarette smoke, oil and petrol. It would stick to your clothes it was not pleasant and ultimately I suspect that those fumes may have ultimately damaged Reg’s lungs as well.
What I learned was that Reg was an especially talented fabricator. That came very handy when we started designing a new frame for my Sherpa. I had some new and fresh ideas that I was convinced would help to improve the handling and in particular the rear suspension of the Sherpa. Reg tirelessly cut and re-welded the frame as well as fabricated new air-filter boxes, exhausts and winging arms. I would then go testing, quite often with my friend Colin Boniface, who also worked at Comerfords. It was handy to swap bikes in order to see what progress we had made, if any!
Both Reg and I were working on the theory that my bike would be the basis for the next new production bike and once ready and tested we would hand it over to the factory.
That was never to happen as the factory finally closed its doors for good in 1983. Like they say, the rest is history. I moved on, got married, and started a family with Diane as well as building a new business with her. Reg stayed on and continued to develop bikes from the point where we, together, had managed to achieve.
Reg of course used to look after the bikes for Martin and Sid Lampkin and Scot, Vic Allan in their quests for stardom. Only decades later did I find out about some of the magic details that he had engineered into Martin Lampkin’s 1978 works bike. I am the current custodian of that very bike and whilst rebuilding the engine I came across an ingenious main bearing arrangement in it. I suspect that they didn’t even know about this little secret at the factory. It was designed to reduce engine vibration that the 348cc long-stroke engine suffered from. Whilst Martin’s bikes ran beautifully, Vic Allan’s bikes literally flew.
Reg May was passionate, energetic; he loved motorcycles and Bultacos in particular. He had a great dry sense of humour, I have been told, although I rarely understood his jokes. It would take years of practise for a foreigner to achieve that. I still miss Reg May to this day”. – Yrjo Vesterinen
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