From New Imp to VanVan

My first bike article in OBM has tempted me to send in the following, you may find the pictures suitable for publication.

As a first-year apprentice in 1953, I was offered this New Imperial for the sum of 15 shillings. The engine was in two potato sacks and the rolling chassis was humped into the guard’s van (this was permitted in those days), for the 10-mile ride home from Fareham to Portsmouth.

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After assembly, I rode it for just under one year, and on a ride one day the carburettor top detached from the carb whilst riding down Portsdown Hill.

I considered that 16 years of age was too young to risk a second heart attack, so it was passed on to be replaced with number two, a Fanny B, purchased new. The picture was taken riding past the family home here in Portsmouth.

Before the completion of my apprenticeship in 1958, I was the proud owner of MEL 367 c/w Blackmore Bullitt chair.

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It was a Rapide, utterly reliable and together we achieved gold in no less than three national rallies. MEL 367 is now in New Zealand and the owner called in on the bike on his way to Germany for the VOC rally this summer!

I also enclose a picture of a cycle with reverse steering, which I built and raised loads of money for charity with as it’s impossible to ride it for more than five metres!

Next birthday I will be 84 years of age and am still riding on a regular basis, all be it on smaller, lighter bikes, namely a 25DD Mark II Greeves, and a modern VanVan of 200cc. Although, at my age, the insurance companies would perhaps like to see me on a 10cc pogo stick.

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I have been a subscriber to OBM since its inception and there is no finer read, long may it continue even after I am gone.

Paul Muscat, Portsmouth

View more images and read more Letters, Opinion, News and Features in the February 2020 issue of Old Bike Mart – on sale now!

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