1966 A Villi, Good Year?

 

It seems to me that there was a last ditch approach to beat the onslaught  of Sammy Miller and the New Bultaco "Two Stroke" trials bike that was now dominating the World Trials Motorcycle scene.

British Manufacturers were throwing every thing at the Challenge.

Little did they Know that there efforts would be in vane?

Well the supplier of there power plant would send them a Memo, saying that they were going to withdraw the Engine unit that they were supplying.

Who? "Villiers"  who else? were pulling the plug on engine supply.

Absolute Disaster, again it turned the Motorcycle industry into total Dismay.

What-Do-We-Do-Now syndrome.

Here are a few of the Manufactures Trials Models that you well never of heard of. Because of the Plug Pulling.

 

The DMW Highlander.

The frame of this machine was said to be made by Cotton too, Forks were Metal-Profile. which DMW had the patent for has designers. They also held the patent for the swinging arm rear suspension that is still used today on nearly every bike produced.

And a lot more patented suspension parts.

 

More history on DMW later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Kyffin Sapphire."Red Rose"


The Kyffin Sapphire "Red Rose" Trials Model.

Now how Many of these have you got in your Garage.

 

The late Roger Kyffin, of Stockport, Cheshire built trials and scrambles machines under the ‘Sapphire’ name powered by Triumph and Villiers engines, initially using modified Dot frames and later those of entirely his own design. Powered by the Triumph 5TA twin-cylinder motor, Kyffin’s specials were light, fast and very successful, Scramblers.

Engines were bought as sets of spare parts (Triumph would not supply complete units) until Meriden twigged what Roger was doing and swiftly, put a stop to the practice ,and Roger Kyffin was forced to look elsewhere, for a power plant.

He turned to Villiers, producing a particularly neat trials model powered by the 37A engine, but when the supply of these dried up production stopped, as it did with the rest of the other manufacturers trials models using the Villiers 37A engine units.

Knowing that all "Two Wheeled" sport is linked,

Rogers son Andrew, Has run a very successful North West Mountain-bike Centre for years.

 

The specification for the "Red Rose" trials bike is as follows.

A superb handling machine designed by Trials Riders.

Lightweight frame and cycle parts ,slimline glass-fibre petrol tank.

Smooth action telescopic forks with 6" movement.

Girling damper rear suspension pivoting on silentbloc bushes.

Adjustable Timkin taper roller bearings fitted to the steering head.

6" "Motoloy full width hubs front and rear.

Dunlop "Trials Universal" tyres, and cable operated rear brake.

Polished Alloy Mudguards, 1/2"X 5/16" Renolds chain.

Smiths 80mph spedo-meter, Slimline Primary Chain-case.

Villiers S25 Carburettor and air filter. bulb horn.

Note; you can see that the prototype tank has been made longer and slimmer in the second picture.

But all prototype "British" Two strokes that came out of the woodwork at the time seemed to have bulbous GF fuel tanks without any style.

But most were quickly changed to one with more style.

 

Photo Later.

Photo Courtesy Simon Hatcliffe.

More later on this story. Thanks Simon.

The forks are said to be Betor the same has fitted to Bultaco at the time.

Thinking back this Machine could have been the nearest rival to the all conquering Bultaco of the time, if only  the corporation behind the Villiers name had seen the light instead of totally ignoring the current market for these Villiers 37A engines. No matter what financial difficulties they foresaw,and then to be pig-ignorant and decide they knew best, and would build there own machine No matter what. Just did not make sense.

Roger Kyffin could have been the "Guru" of British trials machines instead of being shunned by the trade. How easy it is to now look back.

 

Photo Courtesy Simon Hatclffe.

This is the 250 Scrambles version of the  Sapphire, note it is named the Moto-Cross in 1966.

 

Here  is a better scanned version of the above that Simon has kindly sent me to use.

You can read most of this now on this version.

But I am leaving the above because this shows how these pages evolve, any pages that any of you think you can provide me with information to update, just send it me I will be most grateful.

I am doing this for you guy's as well as myself.

How many of you had heard about a Kyffin Sapphire? until these pages.

I must thank Simon Hatcliffe again for coming up trumps with this vital information for the preservation of the history about this brand of long forgotten machine.

More later on this.

 

The Paul Wright "Scorpion".Own page, under Scorpion sports bikes.

The Scorpion. that just still qualifies.

 

 

More to come the "Sprite" The "AJS".

The "Elstar" which we already have a page.

And CoTTon that was said to make some of the other pages.

We will delve further into this last ditch "British Two Stroke" trials.

industry and we will be there on the Dot. Gollner be a long journey.

Better call the Butler for another Scotch although that Greeves me.

James and Francis are still in the frame. has is Norman, big family really,

and then there was the big "Exit" that I never did get to finish and put into manufacture. and try and avide the Firefly and the Cheetah.

 

AJS 37A,T

 

 

 

 

So this was the Machine that put an end to the rest of the Trials Machine production throughout the United Kingdom at a stroke? Manganese -Bronze Holdings the New owners of "Norton-Villiers decided that they would build there own bikes and the rest of the industry could go away and find there own power-plants to use or pack up.

Could you believe how a management of a company the size of MBH could make this decision?

It is still making me fume now writing this.

Cotton were now receiving the only amount of "Starmaker" engines that were made.

The frame for the AJS was also said to be made by Cotton or more so through Cotton as they were allegedly made by a supplier based in Thruxton. or were they?

By March 1967 Fluff Brown had been enticed to leave his  long time position at Cotton and move to Norton- Villiers in Wolverhampton.

Scrambles rider Andy Roberton had been signed by NV to ride the new cobbled together scrambler with "Starmaker" engine.

Peter Inchley had been poached from BSA Triumph to ride and develop the Starmaker engined Bultaco, along with being now the man in charge of the complete AJS-Villiers  sport bike research and development.

Roberton soon got fed-up with NV and started to use CZ's supplied by Dave Bickers.

Inchley went onto finish third in the TT, on-what was also a cobbled up machine.

What an Image Norton Villiers were portraying.

Not really one of a listed PLC.

The 37AT used mainly the same parts as the bikes they were fronted to replace.

In that they used Metal Profile forks and some of the so called Works bike the Davis Brothers, Malcolm ,and Tony used sported Ceriani like the scrambler.

MotoLoy hubs were used, Girling Shocks, and  a Peco type exhaust.

The myth is that there are only 10 of these machines still in existence, but considering the amount that were stockpiled unsold, there have got to be more frames somewhere?

Or were they just cut up?

Here is the cobbled up Scrambles bike at Farleigh Castle in 1967,

Andy Roberton.rode it until the back brake anchor broke and put it out.

Tank and seat are just temporary!

 

Manganese Bronze Holdings went the same-way has the nineteen sixties British Motorcycle industry,  and were liquidated in 20012. 

 

DMW bought  some of the tooling and spares from the liquidated Norton Villiers in the early seventies and carried on making 37A engines for a while and looking after the National health invalid carriage engines for the government contract.

Much later when DMW ceased production the Villiers spares and the Metal Profile forks were sold to Competition Classics in Manchester. We know that Metal Profile forks were later sold to Greeves Motorcycles.

There has been a whisper that the Villiers 37A engine may again rise from the ashes. so watch this space.

I may even be able to get an engine to finish my prototype "Exit" Type 37 trials bike!

 

1966 CoTTon, Trials.

 

Probably Cotton were favoured by Villiers at this time more than any other British Motorcycle manufacturer. has I have said Cotton were receiving most of the Starmaker engine production from Villiers, and I remember having to wait a while for a couple of Kit Form trials models to arrive as the production was said to be over stretched. 

Eventually the two kits appeared for me to assemble at North Bar Garage in Banbury after suffering the wroth of the father of the twin boys that were to be recipients of the two new machines.

 They arrived with the steel fuel tanks instead of the neater glass-fibre ones specified. that to was not taken lightly by the father of the two boys.

 the frame on these bikes was a lot like the later frame to be produced for the AJS 37AT with the only difference has I can see being the  method of rear chain adjustment. The AJS was adjusted on the swinging arm front pivot where as the Cotton used the conventional sliders on the rear of the swinging fork.And the AJS having the large top tube, But the dimensions were very much the same and may have been made on the same jig ?

 

Photo Courtesy Stuart Bedford.

Here is one of the two Cottons I put together from kit form this is Mr Bedford on board riding through "Traiters-Ford near Sidford in North Oxfordshire.

You note that these two bikes were fitted with the New to Cotton "Metal Profile" forks, it was about this time that "Tube Investments" were pulling the plug on "Norman Motorcycles", although the "Telstar" racers were still fitted with the Armstrong designed leading link forks,that were supplied to Cotton from Norman Motorcycles. And I bent a few of these and still received the spares for them, collecting them from a garage in the middle of Gloucester in the evening when I had finished work.So they must have had a load of the Armstrong forks stock-piled.

One thing about the Metal Profile forks supplied by DMW, now fitted to the Cotton Trialsters was that a Memo came with the Kit saying that the top of the fork stanchion needed to be pulled through the Top yoke by and Inch to make the bike steer.

Just a matter of using what was currently on the Market.

 Colin Dommett being Works rider at the time was probably the one that settled on this setting. The Cotton frame was designed to use the Armstrong front Fork, so this is why the MP forks upset the steering geometry,

And is probably also why the AJS 37AT did not steer.

 

Photo Courtesy Stuart Bedford.

You can clearly see in this shot the 1 inch of stanchion above the top Yoke.

 

Photo Courtesy Deryk Wylde Offroad Archive again.

 

And here is an even better shot of the Green Framed, Red tanked bike, Pat Onions demo bike, being tested by the Late Max King.

 

 

***

Here you can clearly see where the  inspiration for the "Sprite" frame came from with this shot that I took of the Cotton frame, and yes I will take a better one to replace this as I work on the bike.

 

Now just look at what CoTTon could have built in 2016 if they had  stayed in the forgotten motorcycle market at the time.

Again Justyn Norek has the vision, brilliant.

 

Copyright Justyn Norek.

 

 

 

 Golner Cheetah

 

Cheetah History later.

 

Sprite.

 

Photo Courtesy Deryk Wylde Offroad Archive.

Dennis Jones "Jonah" on one of his flat out approaches to every section.

If any boy could test a Villiers 37a to destruction  "Jonah could"

You can nearly hear the motor crying "enough".

The story about the Sprite trial bikes will be linked to the Chris Leighfield- Dennis Jones Page,

 

But here is a Video that Frank put together before his sudden departing.

I was in contact with him at the time and he so pleased that someone had again taken interest in the 'Mark'.

 

 

 


Piecing together what information I have found, and talking to people with knowledge of the Midlands Trials scene at the time, along with the help from the Hipkin family.
This is my account of the time scale of the Villiers powered Sprites.

1963. Development started to produce a Sprite trials bike. Starting point, a CoTTon frame that had the front frame loop replaced with twin small diameter tubes, to gain ground clearance. Easy with a plumbers pipe bender? Don't forget half of the team was a plumber. Then looking at building the frame for production, ( being a plumber) it would make sense to bend the top tubes running through to the seat rails in just two lengths! The rest still looked very much like a Cotton.
(This development is totally as I see it and the way I would have gone about the task)!!!

 

Photo Courtesy Offroad Archive, with permission
1964. First production frames are produced; we now know that AMC forks were used on the first batch of bikes. Also that the Glass-fibre fuel tanks were very bulbous and to be honest slightly ugly? British Racing Green in colour. This shot of the Mk1 frame was basicly a Cotton with the two small section engine carrying tubes, the tank on this bike also seems to be the Cotton one Note the Birmingham registered Registration number OV and "B" 1964.

Was It Sprite or Cotton in the little green book? But the Frame makes it the 'Sprite"

 

Courtesy Offroad Archive again with Permission.
1965. More development had refined some areas. In the design, ground clearance was slightly higher. During this period the new Monza Starmaker engined bike was being developed. This appeared in the press in October. The bike had 10 inches  ground clearance but still with a seat height of only 29 inches. The forks were of leading link type, with longer Girling units, and producing a travel movement of 7 inches. Nylon pivot bushes were fitted to these and to the swinging arm. Price in kit form £184, while the Standard trials, price was still kept to £149 (32A engine) only £4 more than the year before. Jonah rode in the Scottish for the first time on a Sprite. This shot is Arthur Dovey on his Sprite that he bought from Frank has a frame and fitted an engine that he had from the Rickman Brothers forks are AMC.

Arthur built the bike in late 1964 and it was registered for the road in early 1965.

Arthur was also sponsored by Frank on the machine.

 


1966. This is the year that the Sprite kits were pushed to the fore and sales coming from the novice rider, as well has the professional? Some well known names were now riding Sprite machines as well as the two development riders. I have a photo of Sam Cooper on a Sprite fitted with Bultaco forks and front wheel. The results started to come during 66 and Sprite was now a leading trials winner as well. A team was entered in the Victory trial  and Jonah won the under twenty-one Cup and finished second overall.

Team members were "Jonah", Sam Cooper, and Chris Leighfield.

A young Mick Wilkinson was also given a Sprite to ride.

 

Photo courtesy Offroad Archive again.

1967. As far as I can see this is the year when the frame was modified again, and this is the years that the two seat tubes were lost. So "Sprite's" without these tubes are not Pre65 but of 1967 origin.

Here a determined Chris Leighfield sets is sights on the ends card ahead, with the patriotic British Racing Green tank and  British  union jack flag. He also swapped to a Blue one at times.
OK that is my rambling with the history as I see it with what information I have.


More about Sprite later. and there is more on the "Vibsa to Sprite" Page.

 

 

"Higham Firefly"

 

These are the only Pictures I can find for this  Machine,  said to be built by Steve Jones in Lowestoft Suffolk ? from 1965 to 1970. and one ridden successfully by John Lee for a time.

 

They were said to be really neat and lightweight  and steered really well for the time.

 

But Another case of having no engine available to fit when Villiers Pulled the plug.

 

This is Martins bike has you know 

 Martin bought the frame kit when he was 17 in 1967.

And fitted a B40 lump into the machine before later fitting a BSA B25 engine in 1970.

 

 

I am hoping I can get the story about the "Higham Firefly" from John Lee, fingers crossed.

 

 

 

Photo Courtesy Andrew Ives.

Here is a 250 Villiers Engined version of the bike , I believe the "Kits" were sold mainly for the Villiers 37A. 

 

Here is a Greeves top ended Villiers  "Firefly" framed bike.

I must say the steering seems very long on this machine  that was said to be built in 1967.

 Maybe it is just an optical allusion or the rear shocks are to short.Or taking another look the fork yokes have to much offset ,they need to replaced with parallel yokes.

This bike was also registered in Northamptonshire  so could have been a frame "Kit" sold by 

John Lee?

 

***

The frame kits were said to be nickel plated and this frame looks like it was.

Also fitted to probably one of the first folding footrests.but only to necessitate the kick-start lever being used.

 

Here you can see a better layout of the frame, and I would think with the later added chain tensioner. Good engineering practice again with the swinging arm shock bottom mounts.

 

***

The frames looked to be well designed if you look at the position of the lower suspension brackets ? With light weight tubing the best position to bronze weld a bracket for vertical movement would be on the side walls of the tube. Motoloy Hubs again used it is such a shame that this company went the same way as all the others in the late sixties.

D.O.T. Elstar,Butler Norman ETC Have there own pages.

 Another rider  that used to have a "Higham Firefly" was the South Midland Centre rider Brian Daveraux. and has ridden it in recent years.

 

This "Firefly" frame sold by Brightwells is for a BSA C15 engine, but shows the frame build very well.

 

You can see that this frame is made to carry the oil in the frame too 1969 vintage.

 

D.O.T. Elstar, Butler Norman ETC have there own pages.

More information later.