SAMMY MILLER

 

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Former Scott Trial competitors at the Centenary Trial in 2014, from left: Johnny Brittain (Winner: 1957); Gordon Blakeway; SAMMY MILLER (7 times winner) & Nick Jefferies. – Photo copyright & courtesy of: Barry Robinson, Ilkely.

Samuel Hamilton Miller, MBE was born on the eleventh of November in 1933 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Better known as Sammy and as a trials rider, but of course he was much more than that.

He is the most famous motorcycle trials rider of all time.

During the war Sammy and his friends played on their bicycles on waste ground and bomb sites, this is where he sharpened his off-road riding skills.

Sammy’s first competitive event as a road racer was in 1953 when he was twenty years of age.

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Sammy gets down in the saddle on his Mondial race bike, he rode a similar machine in the 1950s – Photo – John Hulme/Trials Media

His first Scottish Six Days Trial was in 1953 at twenty years of age on a machine he built himself to his own specification, using a mixture of parts being a Villiers two-stroke motor of 197 cc displacement in a Matchless frame from the 1930s. He called it the ‘S.H.S’ which stood for Samuel Hamilton Special. He rode the machine to Belfast Docks, boarded a ship which sailed to Scotland’s west coast, rode the event which started in Edinburgh and rode back to the Docks, boat and back home to Belfast.

Moving across the Irish Sea to the Midlands of England, Sammy signed for Ariel Motors, Birmingham in 1957 to ride their HT5 machine and was allocated the machine carrying the registration mark GOV132, which had started out as a factory retained rigid trials machine in 1949. Ariels kept a hold of three numbers GOV130, 131 and 132 for their works trials team. Miller retained the registration mark GOV132 until 1964 along with his second Ariel, 786GON which is the subject of a test and short feature on this website Details: link HERE. Short Feature: 786GON

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Sammy Miller on his factory Ariel GOV132 in the 1958 Scottish Six Days Trial on ‘Foyers’ on the south side of Loch Ness. He developed the Ariel into a purposeful machine from 1957-1964. – Photo supplied by S.H. Miller MBE

 

Miller did extensive work on the HT5 model and pared its weight down considerably to its final 1964 form. This was done by the use of lighter wheel hubs taken from the company’s Leader road machine and making the seat/rear mudguard unit, front mudguard and fuel tank from fibreglass resin, manufactured by Butler Mouldings. The machine was purposeful with the exhaust outlet angled to blow leaf and debris from the rear tyre. He drilled many components to reduce weight and used lightweight aluminium alloys for many of the components in an effort to reduce un-sprung weight.

Miller realised that the British motorcycle industry was becoming ruled by accountants and development work took a back seat. This was contrary to Miller’s temperament; he was constantly trying new ideas.

It came to a head when Ariel was taken over by the larger BSA concern and the writing was on the wall. Miller had been introduced to Snr. Bulto by friend Harry Lindsay and Bulto was keen to enlist the services of Miller to develop further the Sherpa N off-road model into a trials machine to be known as the Sherpa T.

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The 1967 Scott Trial in Yorkshire, Sammy Miller (105, EAA60D) about to pass a slower competitor to take the win – Photo courtesy and copyright: Blackburn Holden IV

Secret testing began in company with his friend Roy Peplow at Bulto’s ranch called ‘San Antonio’. Much work had already been done on the Sherpa N, but Miller would take it to new heights and to many wins. He had it written into his contract that if he didn’t win more than fifty percent of the events entered, then Bulto didn’t have to pay him, such was his confidence in making the Bultaco Sherpa T into a winning machine.

For fuller details of how Sammy did this, see our Bultaco – Spain ‘section’.

The Scottish Six Days was won five times by Sammy, twice on the Ariel (1962 & 1964) and three on a Bultaco (1965, 1967 & 1968).

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1963 – Scottish Six Days Trial start at Gorgie Market, Edinburgh – (166 – Doug Theobald – 250 Greeves); 170 – Harry Lambert (250 DOT); 168 – Rob Edwards (250 Cotton); 175 – Sammy Miller (500 Ariel – GOV132) & 169 – Terry Hill (250 BSA) – Photo courtesy: Rob Edwards Collection, Middlesborough

Miller won the Scott Trial seven times, three on the Ariel (1958, 1962 & 1963) and four times on a Bultaco (1967-1970).

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Sammy Miller developed the Bultaco Sherpa T -Photo: Jason Batsford

Miller was ACU British Trials Champion eleven times and was European Trials Championship (Challenge Henry Groutards) Bultaco mounted twice (1968 & 1970).

Sammy left Bultaco in 1973 moving to the mighty Honda to form a trials team which saw Yorkshireman, Rob Shepherd become British Champion, full details of this can be found in our Honda Trials ‘section’.

Sammy Miller is a winner of over 1,300 trials, a mixture of International, National and Centre events. He has accumulated nine gold medals from the International Six Days Trial.

In racing he rode a variety of machines including AJS 7R, Mondial and NSU, he has won three 250cc North West 200 events (1956-1958).

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Sammy Miller (NSU) at the Ulster Grands Prix in 1957 chats with Terry Hill

He set up his own motorcycle parts business in 1964 in New Milton, Hampshire, called Sammy Miller Equipe which later became Sammy Miller Products Ltd.

The Sammy Miller Motorcycle museum was formed and he created a trust to ensure that the machines he owned would continue to be seen for years to come. Sammy sold his parts empire in 2007 to Richard Jordan who trades under the name to this day.

Over the years, Sammy has written three books on the sport and his achievements.

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These include: Sammy Miller On Trials’; ‘Clean To The Finish – How to ride to trials success’ and ‘The Will To Win’; ‘The Sammy Miller Story – By Jeff Clew in 1993’. Also a book written about him by Mick Walker, ‘Sammy Miller – Motorcycle Legend’.

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‘Sammy Miller on Trials’ was the first book written by Miller and is now a collectors item

Miller still keeps himself busy on a daily basis by working in his workshop which still undertakes restoration work for the museum and customers.

In 2009 Sammy Miller was awarded an MBE for services to motorcycle sport in the New Year’s Honours, a truly fitting accolade for someone who popularised and promoted the sport of motorcycle trials world-wide.

With full co-operation and permission, we now reproduce an article by John Hulme of Trial Magazine on Sammy’s Museum.

Words: John Hulme and Pictures: John Hulme + Iain Lawrie.

In 1996 Sammy Miller MBE took over the run-down premises of an old farm and converted the barns into a modern, prestigious building with picturesque surroundings. It is now accepted as housing one of the finest collections of fully restored motorcycles in the world, including factory racers and exotic prototypes. At the end of 2004 permission was granted for an extension to the museum which now allows it to house over 400 exhibits.

In autumn 2010 Trial Magazine’s John Hulme called in to view this tribute to one man’s love of motorcycles:

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Sammy Miller MBE and his wife, Rosemary. Photo Courtesy of S.H. Miller

Welcomed by the warm hand of Sammy Miller himself the moment you walk inside the fabulous buildings, he immediately breaks into a documented history of the museum and its contents, the enthusiasm bouncing out from this motorcycle legend. Sammy’s life has always been dedicated to motorcycles. As a boy he followed motorcycle racing in Ulster and then went on to compete and win his first race in 1953. After a well documented period on the Road Racing Grand Prix circuits he moved into trials and went on to develop the world famous Ariel trials machine GOV 132 before moving on to Bultaco and creating the modern trials scene in 1965, and then on to Honda in 1970 to design the world championship winning trials machine.

Strangely enough, when Sammy left Honda when they abandoned their trials effort in 1977, he joined forces with the fledgling Italian manufacturer, SWM (Speedy Working Motor). He was active in the development of the initial red and white Guanaco model which utilised an Austrian made Rotax reed valve induction two-stroke motor.

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Sammy pictured here with Dutch photo-journalist Toon Van de Vliet who rode one of the first SWM models at the SSDT in 1978 – Photo courtesy of Toon Van de Vliet personal collection

Sammy is still active today and still has an outing on a machine when possible as well as demonstrating some of his prize collection.

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Sammy on his GOV Replica Ariel HT5 on Loch Eild Path in the Pre’65 Scottish Trial. Photo: Copyright Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven.

Unlike most other museums this is more than a static collection to be dusted and polished at regular intervals and displayed like butterflies with pins through them. This is a live museum, for whenever the opportunity presents itself these machines are run in classic bike events of one kind or another. Many of the racing machines are still fully competitive and capable of giving a good account of themselves in high-speed parades. Like any good museum the contents are changing constantly. Virtually every new acquisition represents a full-scale renovation with the attendant difficulty in finding missing parts or replacements to exchange for those that are badly worn. Apart from the motorcycles on display you will also see many interesting artefacts, all of which represent a link with motorcycling of a bygone era.

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Sammy in the off-road section of his museum at New Milton in the New Forest – Photo: John Hulme/Trials Media

The Off-Road section, for me, was incredible as one of the machines in the collection was something that has been on my mind many times in the past. George Sartin of Talon products’ fame many years ago started to develop his own trials machine; he made a prototype which then just disappeared off the face of the earth and there it was, immaculately restored in the museum. There are the awesome Jawa ISDT machines from the mid-seventies, and another particular machine which caught my eye was the long track championship winning machine of the late Simon Wigg, current trials star Alexz Wigg’s uncle.

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Always one to bring something new to the museum, Sammy had just acquired the famous 1961 SSDT-winning AJS ridden by Gordon Jackson when he recorded the famous single mark victory.

5 The famous Gordon Jackson AJS as it arrived at the museum.

Gordon Jackson’s famous AJS (187BLF) as it arrived at Sammy Miller’s Museum – Photo: John Hulme/Trials Media

The machine was in a sad state of affairs but Miller restored it, quite rightly, to its original condition.

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Sammy Miller with the restored AJS 187BLF in 2011, just a few weeks after collecting it – Photo: Courtesy S.H. Miller

The museum houses the finest collection of fully restored motorcycles in Europe, including factory racers and exotic prototypes, plus memorabilia spanning seven decades of motorcycling for sport and for pleasure. There are over 400 rare and classic motorcycles on display in four galleries.

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Sammy with the AJS Porcupine Racer – Photo: John Hulme/Trials Media

During all this he has still found the time to restore many rare and exotic machines to concourse condition and perfect working order. These he kept as a private collection until 1980 when he opened up a museum so that the public could have a chance to see and hear them. He even took some abroad to many locations, including Australia and New Zealand, so that they could be seen by as many people as possible.

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Talon Mickmar in Sammy’s Museum at New Milton – Photo: John Hulme/Trials Media

He has now placed the entire collection into a Trust to enable it to be kept together for future generations to experience and admire. There is no one more dedicated to motorcycling than Sam. He spends ten hours a day seven days a week working, promoting or restoring motorcycles and still finds time to compete (and win) races today.

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Sammy with GOV132 the HT5 Ariel he developed between 1958 and 1964, the world’s most famous trials machine  – Photo: John Hulme/Trials Media

Sammy Miller was awarded an MBE for Services to Motorcycle Heritage in the 2009 New Year’s Honours List. The museum is open pretty much all year round and for me is a must to visit if you have not done so already. For more information please visit: Tel: 01425 620 777 – Sammy Miller Website HERE: – Mail: museum@sammymiller.co.uk

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Sammy Miller sampling one of the racing machines from his museum – Photo: John Hulme/Trials Media

Sammy Miller MBE – Achievements

  • 11 times successive British Champion.
  • Twice European Trials Champion – the forerunner to the World Championship.
  • 13 times successive Hurst Cup winner.
  • 18 times successive Walter Rusk Trial winner.
  • 5 times winner of the famous Scottish Six Day Trial.
  • 7 times winner of the World’s most arduous trial the Scott Trial on the harsh and unforgiving Yorkshire moors.
  • Winner of over 1482 Trials events.
  • 9 Gold medals at International Six Day Trials.
  • Irish Motocross Champion.
  • Irish Sand Racing Champion.
  • Winner of most Irish Road races, including winning the North West 200 and the Leinster 200 three years in succession.
  • Third in the World Grand Prix Championships on a works Mondial
  • Sponsor of the British Classic Trial Championships.
  • Still rides today at retirement age and wins Trials and competes in classic road race events throughout Europe and as far away as New Zealand.

© – All article text, Sammy’s Museum copyright: Originally published in Trial Magazine – Issue 25.

Many thanks to John Hulme of Trial Magazine for his permission to re-produce this article.

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John Moffat has interviewed 11 times British Trials Champion, Sammy Miller on many occasions. – Photo: Trials Guru/Helen Thomson

For back issues of Trial Magazine UK click HERE

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Sammy Miller and Trials Guru’s John Moffat catch up at the Classic Dirtbike Show at Telford in February 2016 – Photo: Fiona Watson

Sammy Miller Museum, New Milton:

Iain Lawrie from Kinlochleven, one of Trials Guru’s enthusiastic photographers, took a trip to see Sammy’s museum for himself.

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GOV 132 – Sammy’s famous 500cc Ariel – Photo: Iain Lawrie

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In the 1980s, Sammy Miller built this GOV replica Ariel and competed in many Pre’65 events, including winning the Pre’65 Scottish – Photo: Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven

Keep checking for updates to this section on Sammy Miller

 

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Photograph copyright and credits:

  • John Hulme/Trials Media
  • Blackburn Holden IV
  • Barry Robinson
  • Fiona Watson
  • Toon Van de Vliet

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