ELSTAR   Motorcycles 1965-1971.

 

This breed was the brainchild of Alf Ellis a first class engineer and shrewd businessman.

Little publicity was given to the mark , most were sold on the quality, and service you received from Elstar.

The name ELstar was a combination of the Ellis name and the BSA C15 "Star".

This was the engine unit that he fitted to his first grass-track machines, and they did become Stars in there own right, and grass trackers at the time in the early sixties clambered to buy one of these machines.

So the business Elstar Motorcycles took off.

 

 

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Elstar 250 BSA B25 engined Grass bike.

Photo Courtesy Philippe Delhoume.

Philippe would like to know the 928 carb jetting for Methanol if anyone knows it.

 

By 1965 Alf had decided he wanted to build a trials bike, so set too, and built the frame in two weeks.

He needed a rider for the thing so rang up Bob Cooper from the Stratford Club.

Fortunately for Alf, The James factory had just pulled the plug on there trials activities, and Bob was stuck with a machine that the factory had turned its back on, but could not sell it has it was not his, to sell

Alf said he had not got a motor for the ELstar and needed to buy one for the machine, A Villiers 37 A lump.

Bob suggested that if he had the works James ,Villiers motor sat in a bike, that no one seemed to want, why didn't he use this engine has he knew it was good, and had been tuned to his liking.

So Bob fitted the motor into the New Blue ELstar Kit, he was amazed at how good the machine was.

After the run out in the first trial on the machine Bob found a small crack under the steering head on the frame,when cleaning the bike, but it was left untouched, as it was not structural.

He then went on to win the Leamington Victory's "Good Companions" trial on the ELstar.

 

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This is where I first saw the machine at Edgehill Quarries,in Warwickshire.

And I was really amazed at how good a design it was, with its simplicity.

What I really liked was the way the rear wheel plates were made and welded to the swinging arm. Just a simple bend of flat steel.

I copied this method later on a re framed Ex Rodney Gould BSA Gold Star, because the idea was so good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here above you can see what I mean about the method of joining the wheel plate, to the swinging arm.

 

 

Bob Said at the time, that it was the best trials bike that he had ridden, and the bike  would find grip where nothing else would, and he also loved the way the Ceriani forks fitted worked,with the six inches of movement.

 

His brother Sam Cooper  also rode a ELstar for Alf in the Scottish Six Days. in 1966.

After the first day in Scotland Alf got an urgent phone call from Sam saying the frame had cracked.

After a long conversation on the phone between them they came up with a remedy,

So Alf fabricated a clamp bracket and then drove all the way from Smethwick to Scotland to fit it, the bike then lasted out the week.

Bob said that he could not see how a man like Alf Ellis  with no experience of building trials machines, could in a two week period build a bike, that was so good, when other parts of the motorcycle industry built them so badly, with the years of experience they all had.

Unfortunately there were not that many ELstar Trials machines made, there were the Grass and Speedway bikes to come first, and then when Alf had got a steady flow of Trials frame kits going through the door.

He had his fatal car accident. and production came to an abrupt end, over night.

 

18/12/2016.

We now have these photos below of the bike Bob Pearce is rebuilding to Original Specification ,and Bob I have just retrieved a email from Pat Slinn No less, sent to me in 2009,that says and I quote.

"Alf Ellis ? who owned "Elstar" fitted a needle roller bearing to his grasstrack engines, I built a lot of engines for Alf, (usualy during overtime !).(at BSA,)

 

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Photo Courtesy Bob Pearce and his bike.

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Photo Courtesy Bob Pearce,

 

Photo Courtesy Bob Pearce.

 

Photo Courtesy Bob Pearce.

 

So your, and my theory that the colour of the machines could have been BSA Nutley Blue, seems to now ring true, as Alf must have been at BSA quite a Lot, and It was Pat "Quote" "I had to tart up a bike for BSA Incorporated in the USA to try and stop the invading flow of Japanese machines, this was painted in "Nutley" Blue." I replied, "I dont think that worked then Pat".

So Bob. I will speak to Pat for conformation or at least see what he says?

 

Below is Steve's ELstar.fuel Tank that Steve and Bob are going to get recreated, for their Bikes.

 

Photo Courtesy Bob Pearce.

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The theory is that this Glass-Fibre tank had a bottle stopper type fuel tank cap? "unless anyone knows any different"?

Let us know if you do. Charlie>

 

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It seems that Grass tracker Andy Ross then took on the mantle for a while until eventually selling the remains to Bob Joyner.in 1969

 

Scan Courtesy of Deryk Wylde "Offroad Review".

 

Andy Ross was another owner of Elstar Motorcycles, that came to a tragic death in a shooting accident in 2006, after becoming a very successful businessman, after selling Elstar.

 

The remains of the ELstar company was eventually bought by Bob Joyner,a motorcycle entrepreneur  who then set up his own  Speedway and Grass-track team to develop the brand further for a while.

Riding for him at the time was the late Rob Hommer who had already been building his own speedway and grass-track frames so you would think that he had some input into the RJ  ELstar's.

 

 

 

 

 

Other prominent ELstar Trials riders were Mick Bennett and Steve Wilson  from the Stratford upon Avon Club.

Nick Holt from Nene Valley, and I seem to remember Bunny Ward and even "Jonah" riding one at sometime.

Saying that there were not many ELstar's  built meaning there are not many still about, today

And Photos of any Elstar trials bikes are few.

 

 But luckily here is a bike that was living in the right area Coventry in the West Midlands, before it got sold recently. We would like to know where it is now living. Update.We Now have a name  of the New Owner Bob Pearce, read below.

 

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Here you can see that it has the right rear wheel plates to make it genuine.

I wonder if the owner knew how rare these ELstar's  are?

And he had ridden it for eleven years, before putting it up for sale.

 

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You can see from this shot (and I will find a better one) of the bike that the construction of the trials frames were very much like the Grass-Track bikes.

The swinging arm was virtually the same although it may have been a different length.

 

Photo Courtesy Steve Townsend.

Here is two shots of Steve's Grass bike that he sent me on 27/11/2016.

And this shows clearly the make up of the ELstar frames.

 

 

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The rear subframe was also bolt on in the same manner.

The main tank-seat tube bend, was virtually the same, only modified to give the correct dimensions for the trials frame.

And even the pick-up point for the swinging arm was very similar although it would have been in a different position on the tube than the Grass track  bike.

 And has you know the bike handled and found grip like no other similar machine.

Bob Cooper an ex Works James rider said so, although he was using his Villiers engine from the James, but it had got to be the layout of the machine that made the difference.

 

 


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The bike above seems to have a longer than normal steering front tube reinforcing gusset plate, so perhaps after a couple of cracked front engine tubes, the longer length of this plate  helped dissipate the hi-frequency  vibrations that cause this sort of problem.

And this bike has been ridden for eleven years by this owner so it must have worked.

 

Also look at the BSA type rear shock top mountings I remember these on the first ELstar bike  that  Bob Cooper rode.

 

 

 

This is Nick Holt riding what I think is the ELstar that he owned, in the late sixties.

 

One thing I do remember that the machines were blue the same as  this text.

Another small and for once thriving  British motorcycle  company that was stopped in its tracks by the tragic death of its talented owner .

But would it have lasted any longer when the supply of Villiers engines dried up to the trade.

Sadly we will never know, 

 

Hi Charlie,

  Just stumbled across your article on Alf Ellis Elstar trials bike, whilst searching the net for information about said bikes, im pleased to say that I am the new owner of the bike, purchased via ebay from  Gerry, in Coventry,

I to was a little surprised that he wanted to sell it, and although I had to pay what I thought was a fair price, the expression " Hens Teeth " come to mind.

 

The bike its self is in quite a bad state and will require a full rebuild, but it is running, started it up today!

The frame number is EL108 , I have the green log book, the original reg No was KOP 23F, the first date that it was licensed was 27th July 1967 to a Robert Hastwell, first change of ownership was 2nd May1968 to John Sutton, it was not taxed again until 18 Nov 1971 again to John Sutton.

I'm not that well up on midland riders, do those names mean anything to you?

 

Charlie> Perhaps if you know Robert or John, you could ask them to look at this site because we would love to know its full history and any other ELstar trials bikes I might add.~Oo>

 

In your article you say that the bikes were blue, did this include the tank?, the log book says it was blue as well.

But in Don Morleys book he states that the bike had a silver frame with a Post Office red or British racing green tank,  (Don was wrong a few times you know~Oo>)

I have rubbed the frame down to bare metal under the tank and it was silver, no signs of blue,

Charlie.>Bob as far as I remember the bikes were all blueincluding the Ceriani fork legs, but these were the so called "Works" bikes. and some of the Grass bikes had silver frames and some were plated.

 

The tank is not original and is from a Beamish Suzuki, its going to be very had to find an original one to copy.

Charlie> I am looking into the tank shape for you , I seem to remember they were quite angular. and Blue.

As for the numbers made and those that are left, any ideas? and do you know anyone else who has one?,

I hope this sheds a little more light on the bike, and I look forward to updates on your excellent site.

 

Best Regards  Bob Pearce

 

Thanks Bob, Now we have something to work from you never know where more information may come from.

 

I was told Steve Wilson went to live in Cornwall does anyone know him down there?

This was after a career of frame building not only trials bikes mostly with Bultaco engines.

But then to move on to building BMX frames firstly for the Halfords team of the early eighties. but also in his own rite Steve Wilson Products of Redditch.

 

Photo Courtesy John Collins Motorcycles.

Here is one of the Steve Wilson frames.

 

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Here is Steve Wilson and two of the Halfords Wilson BMX team of the early eighties.

 

Test and advert, Big Question is, did Steve help build the ELstar frames?

 

Just to put the situation into prospective, here is eldest son Lee. a bit later with one of his "Hidden-Nation" BMX frames.

 

What goes around,comes around, Lee is back making frames again now. 2016.

Meteor Works ® and Veloatelier®

 

And I am still playing with trials frames. Just.

 

I have read some of the "Off Road Review" "Reference Library" for some of the information here.

 So Deryk what you set out to achieve in the first place has worked! With me anyway.

But you know that already.

 Thanks for that.

Deryk tells me today 04/12/2016. that Chris Baybutt was the main grass track rider for Elstar and this kept them very busy with maintance of thes bikes.

 

Photo Courtesy Don Morley. Scanned from Classic British TS trials bikes.

Gary Westwood as just sent me this message, we keep finding information don't we.

And I had been told that this machine had a red tank.

I think the last picture of an Elstar trials bike is one I used to own in the early 1970's. It had a red tank and a nickel plated frame which broke in half where the bolt went through the front frame tube. The engine was a Villiers 36A not the usual 37A with the heavier flywheel.

This is how Bob wants to rebuild his bike.

Silencer is Peco still available I am told from the same family that made the originals.

The exhaust system is very mush a copy of a Sprite at the time, but with a bit better front bend.

Don says the tanks were Red or Green, I can only remember them being Blue, but the colour was only pigmented gel-coat, so in theory you could have any colour.

I only remember the frames being Blue to but the production frames may have been silver or even plated as were some of the grass bikes.

Any information you can throw at the subject would be great.

Deryk is still looking through his "Archives" for photos he knows he has.

 

OK Big Big Breakthrough, Looks like we could have found the Sam Cooper Scottish frame of 1966? or did they all break at the front tube flinch plate junction?

 

You know I said about BSA forks 

well Steve Robbins has this ELstar bike with just that set of forks.

And.

 

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Photos Courtesy Steve Robbins.

Just look at where the frame has been repaired!

 

Could this be the Sam Cooper Scottish frame? reg number now--- LWD 477E.

 

I am going to do a bit more of an investigation now. 

And I have had a mail from a guy that says he built the last batch of trials bikes in a shed behind Alf's house after his demise.

Good story, getting better.

Rugby Club trial 1967.

Triumph Cub engined Elstar.

 

 

More Later. as we find more information.