Craven Collection of Classic Bikes

Stockton on Forest YORK

The name is Craven - Dick Craven.

I started with motorcycles in the same way as a lot of other people with mopeds or pushbikes with engines.
Fortunately, I lived in the country, so from being about 12 years old I was able to ride on farm tracks etc

At fifteen years of age I bought my first motorcycle a 1936 BSA M20 for £25.
I used to travel to work on this, a trip of 25 miles.
I used to wear an old coat of my mothers and a biggles type leather flying helmet.

I wasn't old enough for a driving license, no tax, no or insurance, (what would they say now officer).


When I was 16 I got a license and became legal with tax and insurance etc.
After a while the old hand change M20 seemed too slow, so I bought a 1955, Matchless 350cc Jampot for £150 with a cash injection from my parents.


This went everywhere flat out at 72mph.
(It was fast in those days).
I got bored with the Matchless, so along came a B31
This didn't last long; it was the only bike I ever had to push home.  it only wanted plug cap screwing on a bit.    i bought it    off greys in fossgate york               


The B31 was traded in at Grays Motorcycles in Fossgate York, for a 1955 Gold Flash with Burgess silencers.


I traded it in at Shearsmiths Motorcycles in Blossom St York for a 1955 Triumph T110.


The Triumph was faster than the Gold Flash, but the rear end used to step round corners, you got used to this and just kept the power on and it was Ok.
In those days you rode what was under you and didn't moan about handling.
Then another 1957 T110 came along it sounded mint but was slower than the 1955 T110, so it was traded in for a brand new 1961 Triumph T110 with Bathtub, at Jordans in Hull for about £280.
I couldn't afford a Goldie at £320.
(I bet this makes you smile, don't it).


Then I wanted to go racing but I couldn't afford to go road racing I only worked on a farm and the pay wasn't good.
My mate and I used to shoot rabbits and pheasants in winter (poaching) for extra cash, but thats another story,
I decided on sprinting, so I would learn what made a bike go faster on a low budget. I bought an old 1955 BSA 650cc plunger sidecar outfit.


Everything was stripped off it, the engine was rebuilt and we were away sprinting, transporting it in my mates pig trailer.
It was about 1963 at the time and as with all sports you have to progress, so all the time it was an ongoing procession of modifications and new frames.
I learnt to braze and weld so I could make my own frames.
It was one of the fastest bikes in the country at that time running on petrol with a fastest ET for the standing start ¼ mile of 11.77secs.
This was an era when George Brown, Alf Hagan and Fred Cooper, to name but a few were, at the top of the tree.

I couldn't afford methanol, nitro or blowers in those days. It was an event getting to the meetings down the country those days usually setting off the night before. I went to the first meeting Santa Pod ever had, it was known as Poddington then, the only thing there was a double decker bus for the timekeepers etc


It's changed a lot since then.
Other courses we went to were Duxford, Church Lawford Esholt Park and Thorton Cleveleys  blackpool. to name a few.


Then I decided to go Grass Track racing as a sidecar passenger, but the driver was too slow so I decided to build my own outfit for the 1968 season, and I'd be the pilot.
With money prizes on offer it was an incentive to put more money in it.
York was a very popular place for sidecars in the 1960s as Dave Hunter, Mick Webster Ginger Lofthouse and Nigel Mead, plus a host of others, hailed from York.
As they all used Triumph engines I copied and I built an outfit using a Triumph Bonneville engine and a Norton gearbox for power.
My first attempt was much too high and heavy so it was quickly lowered.
The hardest part was trying to get a good passenger, as I used to tip the outfit over on a regular basis, not always knowing why it had tipped.

I had four passengers on in one day at one meeting, the last being Barry Wright from Amotherby coaxed on by his mates for the last race of the day. We won that race and he kept riding with me until I retired.

As Barry had 3 Vincent 1000cc engines under the kitchen table (that's where you keep the best bits isn't it) we got his mate George (Alan) Fairweather to rebuild one to race specifications and I built a frame to suit.
This machine lasted a lot longer between rebuilds than the Triumph and gave the right type of power, but never satisfied with what you have and the knowledge that Mick Webster (ex national champ), was returning to grass tracking using a Coventry Climax engine, we bought a shprrocks blower and put it in the vinny.

It was the worst thing we ever did, as we became unreliable and Webster's Coventry Climax was no better. So off came the blower and back came reliability. (Moral better to come 2nd and finish the race than be fastest for only half a race)

Consistency was a contributing factor to winning the East Yorkshire Championship for four consecutive years.
I retired at the end of 1971 to become self-employed repairing motor cars as I thought that if I spent as many hours repairing cars as I did preparing grass outfits, I would make more money.

I kept buying the odd bike here and there and restored them in my own time until I had amassed quite a number of bikes over the years, and in 1994 I opened the museum.
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Copyright (c) R. Craven