Sometimes, a café racer was the only answer!

Colin House brings more evocative images of the Sixties as he describes the accident that resulted in him rebuilding his Norton Dominator as a café racer, and some of the cafes, coffee bars and pie stalls he and his mates frequented.

I thoroughly agree with Gerry Allen’s interesting letter headed ‘Café racers just aren’t what they used to be!’ in OBM (March).

I bought my standard 1961 Norton Dominator in 1963, but when the driver of a Triumph Herald car decided to turn right as I was overtaking him, I sustained a dislocated collarbone and a numb left knee. Adrenalin helped me to pick up the bike, which had received extensive damage to the tank, seat, mudguards, footrest and exhaust system.

This is another Mortons Archive picture we couldn’t resist as our editor’s late and sadly missed Motor Cycle colleague John Ebbrell, who died in a motorcycling accident in the Scottish Highlands in 1974, replenishes the capacious fuel tank of a beautiful-looking café racer.

Once the support harness had come off my arm, I stripped the damaged parts from the bike. By that time café racers were becoming quite popular, along with cafes, coffee bars and pie stalls. To name a few such local venues we had the Salt Box, Nightingale if you wanted an exciting night, and Johnson’s along with Thornton Heath Ponds (or ‘The Ponds’) and Chelsea Bridge.

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These were stalls or converted vans that were visited after the cafes closed at night – even as late as midnight, some of them. We could be standing around talking, with mugs in our hands, at two in the morning, and if it was a weekend someone might suggest having a run to Brighton!

Read more in the May 2018 issue of OBM – on sale now!

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