Hi. You have driven yourself to the vinceunlimited Petrolhead page. Can you smell the four star in the air? The Petrolhead page is a new parking space in the vinceunlimited universe where I can collate all the relevant stuff from the site for a particular type of web traveller, in this case the petrolhead sort. Or the dieselhead sort. Or the electric drive sort. Or the Hydrogen sort. All sorts in fact.
In time this page will be fully populated with all the vehicular related content, such as bikes, driving, road tests, related stories and car technology found within the vinceunlimited site. Plus this section won't be limited to cars and bikes. Trucks, vans, road and rail, ships, boats and aircraft. In fact anything with wheels, tracks, propellors or jet power whether it moves or not.
It is set out as a reference source with the articles listed in alphabetical order by title and can be navigated by jumping about using the vSearch titles below.
Another blog from the 2006 archives. My first mention of autonomous driving and the insurance implications...
The result of an accident between a car and a small child
I have just read about a development of a technology from one major car manufacturer that encompasses radar, cruise control and the ability to follow white line markings whilst steering to effectively allow the car to drive itself.
All these technologies are already produced but this car combines them all.
The car in question is a Honda Accord - the pensioners of Britain must be wetting themselves with glee.
All this relies on effective road marking of course but nobody has yet made that quantum leap into the future to envisage who might have to take responsibility should it all go pear-shaped.
Can we look forward to the accident case where the driver claims that he was not actually controlling the car, whereas the manufacturer will be pointing to some small print in their instructions whilst the insurance company attempts to blame the road maintenance companies?
All of which means the poor motorist that was crashed into will be a pensioner himself before he gets compensation.
All of which he'll spend on a new Accord.
And the circle will continue ad infinitum…
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.125 1 Jun 2018
First Published: Version 2.03 14 Jun 2006
A to Zoom
I was talking to a friend of mine about cars that people drive.
We all have preconceived ideas about their thoughts and lives.
And when I thought back on my life and cars I used to own,
I fitted all the types there were. And I was not alone.
I started with an Austin. A10 I think it was.
I loved that little car you know, with its paint a thick black gloss.
But when I was in the country and doing thirty-five,
All I got was horns and lights and people shouting "You can't drive!"
So I got myself a new car. I felt just like a king,
Even if the handling was like a prayer upon a wing.
But my Beetle days still haunt me. In spirit anyway,
I still want love not war you know ... and at any time of day.
Those days with my old Beetle made me think environment,
My mind was getting greener about the energy we spent.
So I went down to the High Street and got my fivers out,
And bought the latest fashion one couldn't do without.
I purchased one of those things Sinclair called a C5.
I even bought the pole and flag so I'd be seen and kept alive.
I thought I was a hero and pollution was no longer,
But everyone who saw me in the street thought me a plonker.
I had to go upmarket so I became a Gent.
My Daimler was a class act, everywhere it went.
With tables in the rear and leather lined throughout.
The shiny paint was gleaming, I never had a doubt.
Until someone with a switchblade, ran it down the side.
I couldn't keep the car no more, so sold it then I cried.
I had to get a basic car, something not so new,
An ubiquitous vehicle, an old Escort would do.
Although it was a simple thing I liked that little car,
And when the MOT ran out I didn’t look too far.
The company helped my choosing, I wasn’t at a loss,
They brought out a modern version. I brought a new Focus.
I had the modern family car but with styling like a shark,
But I couldn’t find the damn thing when in a big car park.
So I changed it for another. A car that looked much harder.
The Sweeney gave me the idea, I brought a black Granada.
I raced it here and raced it there all around the town,
But when the local bank was done they nearly sent me down.
I had to trade it in for something not so big and black.
So brought a Hillman next. An Imp, with its engine at the back.
I tottered round the roads nearby but never went too mad.
The handling was, lets put it this way, pretty flipping bad.
One day I took a corner, I was only doing twenty-eight,
The skinny tyres gave me no grip, the car just went on straight.
Over pavement, through the hedge, half way up a leap.
I thought, this was fun I’ll go again but this time in a Jeep.
My off-roader was a total hoot. I went round with muddy feet,
And everyone got out the way when I drove down the street.
But the Jeep was far too thirsty and I’m a sometimes frugal man,
I still needed all the cargo space so I brought a Kangoo van.
Economy and load lugging - they were second to none.
But nought to sixty in eighteen secs meant I didn’t pull anyone.
And a man has needs above the needs of his economy,
So I splashed my cash and traded up for a new Lamborghini.
Ray–bans specs, laying rubber lines and acting just like Rambo,
I terrorised the neighbourhood driving in my Lambo.
It had to go when I got caught going more than fifty-five.
Not much you think, but then again, it was in my front drive.
And when I tried to fit it past all the cars in my small street,
It wouldn’t fit as it was about as wide as seven feet.
I changed the car for something that I could drive most anywhere,
A shopping trip, an opera, a classless car without a care.
My little Mini would park up outside a flash boutique,
Or fit in with chavs at markets collecting their cheap meat.
So I lavished love and bits on it at every opportunity,
So much that it resembled last year’s Christmas tree.
And when the thing was laden down with all the bits from near and far,
I decided to trade it in for a proper custom car.
I looked around the free-ads and asked around the meets,
But most were overpriced and under funded junk-yard heaps.
Finding one seemed just like hunting out a four-leaf clover,
So I bought the latest ‘in-thing’ a custom Vauxhall Nova.
The bonnet bulge and paintwork made it stand out alright,
And the turbo-charged conversion set the big fat tyres alight.
Even the huge spoiler, which did nothing for my front wheel drive,
Seemed to shout I’m here - I’m now - I’m definitely alive.
But then I got my hair cut in the shape of cheddar cheese,
And wore my jeans hung down so low the crotch was near my knees.
And when I got the beanie hat, worn facing back to front,
It fell across my eyes and resulted in a shunt.
The Nova was a write off (all I salvaged was the dice),
So I had to start again from scratch and look for something nice.
The fancy car mags were the first place that I kept my eye on,
So, how is it I ended up with a mangy Ford Orion?
I guess they call it growing up and finally settling down.
The car was Mr. Sensible - for motorway or town.
I only had it two months, but it really seemed an age,
I guess that's what happens when you drive something beige.
And in those two months living with the dreadful booted Ford,
Invisibly travelling round the place, getting me quite bored.
I had to get a car that shouted out until it’s hoarse.
Yes, you’re there before me. A turbo-charged black Porsche.
I was the Mr. P-Man. Seeing cars off at every light.
I’d give the single finger but I never stayed to fight.
They just couldn’t catch me when I laid my horses down.
The kids would grow up thinking I'm King without a crown.
I attained a God like status, pulling all the skirt,
I saw so much good loving that things started to hurt.
But when I faced up to a car and saluted in my way,
I didn’t realise his little Caterham could blow me away.
And when he got my number and threatened life and limb,
I chose to ditch the Porsche and get a hiding thing.
Something that had no-one thinking - he is up for S.E.X.
And Nissan came to my rescue with its big QX.
Now Q-cars look quite normal but are faster underneath,
With acceleration giving goose bumps and speed to clench your teeth.
It was big and strong and manly but this was not enough,
The stylist had a day off when this car was signed off.
And with performance comes the cost, fuel soaked up like a sponge,
But the styling didn’t get the looks despite being painted orange.
It finally put paid to all fast living and days out clubbing.
I had more luck when I changed it for a new Reliant Robin.
A new Reliant Robin buyer - I must have been a mug,
The salesman saw me coming and sold me a three-pin plug.
If you missed a hole with the front wheel the back would surely find.
Speed-humps eventually wrecked the car and rattled up my mind.
So I changed again and this time I went out all the way,
I brought a big red car with wings – a Chevrolet Stingray.
I posed about the town again driving like a lout,
But as it was American it didn’t make the roundabout.
A British car would make more sense than a big Yankee car,
And nothing seemed better than one named after a girl's bra.
The Triumph was a perfect car made in steel for Purdy's Steele,
But rust took away the pleasure along with the nearside cill.
I needed a rainproof vehicle 'cause I parked it near the shore,
Where savage rains and sea-salt oxidised metal to the core.
I had to get some transport built for this environment,
And invested in a U-boat from the German government.
Now, as you can imagine, this idea was not plain sailing.
At over fifty years old I spent too much time a'bailing.
And when I visited relatives or went down to the mall,
Torpedo tubes and periscopes couldn’t make up the shortfall.
I sold the boat to a contact in a complex and shady deal,
He would let me know his name, but Prince H was on the bill.
I had to get a some normal wheels and settled on a car,
You can’t get more normal than a (yawn) Vauxhall Vectra.
The lanes of Britain’s motorways opened up for me.
I say the lanes, actually it was only the one we all call three.
I finally had a way to do ninety mph city-to-city hacks,
And as a bonus somewhere to hang my coat up in the back.
But doing this for nine months solid without missing out one beat,
I put too many miles on and had a rapid over-heat.
I needed a new engine and wanted something cool.
I went for a different way of things and brought a new Wankle.
The rotary engine was a talking point in shops and at the Pub,
But when I loudly said its name I got fired from the country club.
They wouldn’t let me back in until I apologised and show,
I could get a classic British car to sit in the member's row.
But I had followed alphabet choice, so was a good trendsetter,
And classic steeds did not start with requisite next letter,
But Jaguar they saved the day and followed up the hype,
With a brand new four-wheel drive, shiny new X-type.
With all my wheels in motion I could climb the highest peak,
But spent all day in traffic jams, cars tucked cheek to cheek.
The daily grind was wasteful as the fuel gauge dropped so far,
But that was nothing next to depreciation that fell off the radar.
I had to ditch the cruise control and my leather seats all had to go,
I swapped it at a dealers for a few grand and a nearly new Yugo.
And that is why I’m writing this to recall my memories.
I’ve been from A to Y in cars and motoring was a wheeze.
But I have yet to finish - It's the way that I behave,
And I’ve settled on the last one that shall take me to the grave.
When I’ve saved enough to get me a fast zed for a few bob.
A classic Kawasaki or a Zonda Paganini should do the job.
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.073 21 Feb 2018
First Published: Version 2.00 in May 2005
Performed as part of the vinceunlimited Podcast entitled Alphacar on the vinceunlimited WordPress site dated 29 Oct 2014 [vinceunlimited.wordpress.com]. Also available via Apple iTunes.
The image depicts the rear of a Ferrari 360 with a photoshopped registration number plate. It was taken from a cherished number plate site, source now unknown, around 2002. Please advise if you know of the source material and I will duly give credit. It was added, along with the links in Version 5.073 21 Feb 2018
Bad Driving Habits
Driving Me To Distraction
Is there anyone who has not got an opinion on driving?
Well this is one to get you all going - unless you are in London at 5.30 p.m. on a weekday. Speed limits, don't we all just hate them? Come on, admit it. If you like limits then you are beyond hope. Just go out and stand in the road now. Only you won't get hurt because all the cars are going so slow nowadays because of the restrictions, humps and hopeless drivers who couldn't drive a Scalextric car.
And it's our own fault. Limits are only put there because the general imbeciles driving around today can't control their vehicles or judge when it is safe. Speed does not kill - bad driving does. And the general driver, despite their own high opinion of their ability to match Schumacher, drives pretty poorly.
So to counter this threat to innocent passers by and other road users the authorities (i.e. our elected representatives) put up arbitrary tin plates suggesting a recommended maximum. Now that would be fine if that was all it was. Instead, our protectors (i.e. the police) do their best to catch people going a bit quick and then to fine and humiliate us.
Fines themselves are fine, one could say a fine deterrent. It's the points system that gets me riled. A few misdemeanours over a matter of years can lead to diabolical insurance premiums and possible incarceration with all the attendant bottom stretching. With possible loss of employment, status and respect. Ask yourself - Is that really fair punishment for going too fast?
Sure, I'd agree that bad driving deserves all the bottom expansion in the world but bad driving is difficult to measure. And all this makes for an increasingly stale road system. And for people like me with four star in their veins it isn't good enough. We need to fight back.
We should concentrate instead on bad driving and eliminate those poor habits. So, take a look at the few listed below and if it's you - shame...
Hogging the outer lane. Have you looked in the mirror lately? Move over you pussy. I wanna go past and you ain't the police sunshine. Imbecile.
Hogging the middle lane. See above. And stop worrying about filtering off the motorway. The junction is at least two miles away and its well signed. Nerd.
Inappropriate speeding. I know, after all I said but 30 mph passing a school at 9 a.m. is much worse than 120 mph at night down an empty highway. Idiot.
Using your hazards whilst stopped in town. There's always another car stopped behind you so all the passing cars can only see one of your indicators. Looks like you are about to pull out! Wombat.
Parking on the 'other' side of the road with your lights on. The headlight dipping system blinds every passing car. And as you are stationary you hardly need to see. But we do. Dipstick
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.015 4 Nov 2017
First Published: Version 1.00 in Oct 2003
The image depicts a typical motorway scene and is not intended to be a comment on the vehicles involved. It was taken by the author in Feb 2016 and added in Version 5.015 4 Nov 2017
The vinceunlimited Bentley Arnage Story
The Best Car In The World?
Although not an owner of one of these magnificent beasts I am fortunate enough to have driven one, in comparison with its bigger and older brother the Continental Series, no less.
Pick a car. Any car. As long as it's a brand new shiny behemoth
I had always been a fan of the Continental; its raw powerful looks and sheer road presence always allured me.
I was always so impressed by the way that whenever you see one on the road, it seems to be going past at great speed yet appearing totally unruffled, a task mimicked well by the 'smaller' Arnage.
So, when a Cardiff dealer offered me the chance to take part in a test drive day in the grounds of a luxurious hotel, lining up the whole Bentley range next to a chartered helicopter and sumptuous servings of quality food, I couldn't resist.
It would be ungentlemanly to refuse, wouldn't it?
Driving a quarter million pound car. The author with a Bentley Continental
So I got my chance in a Continental.
The keys, a full tank and a stunning twenty-mile route to savour. And I did.
The car was very special, as you might expect for a quarter of a million pounds.
Forget the opulent interior - it was the engine that impressed.
Bentley (and Rolls-Royce) didn't formerly tell anyone about the engine size, merely pointing out that it was 'adequate'. They should have added 'for towing a 5 bedroom house.'
The torque was storming.
Try to imagine someone pushing the back of your chair right now. Into the next room. Through the wall. Then into the next room, without hesitation, even quicker. All more speedily than you could read this.
Yes, forget horsepower. From now on, I buy my cars based on torque, whatever a Newton Metre might be.
My wife, Lynda, tries out the Arnage. Later I explained she could actually get in
There was one caveat to the Continental though - the Arnage.
At nearly half the price the Arnage wipes the floor with the Continental.
When I tested it, it came in two flavours. I'm talking engines again, by the way.
The traditional V8 lump and the newer BMW-sourced straight 8.
Bentley helpfully made it easier by labelling them Red and Green, quite literally.
Go for the Red one. I'm a new fan of all things BMW but this car needs the V8. I just wish it wasn't named after the cheapest tea in Tesco.
The Arnage shares all the grunt of the bigger car and sets it all to a modern theme.
From the outside, the car does resemble a weather-worn brick but inside, you realise this can compete with the best-finished modern cars.
Some comment that it can't match a Mercedes-Benz's build quality and to an extent, they would be right.
When the floor carpet is pulled back around the accelerator, you do not expect to see the trimming work of a six year old. But when the carpet is reinstalled the thick pile helps to remind you that you are in a special place.
The drive is modern, easy and relaxing, even when applying that torque.
The interior ambience is impressive although the modern devices we all need in cars today are not as well accommodated as they might be.
Designed before the satellite navigation era, you will have to suffer the indignation of a pop-up screen spoiling the sweep of the dash, but I suspect you will be more likely looking at the array of dials and switches, many designed and styled to feel good, solid and traditional.
The only gripe is that because customers can select from a huge range of colours and trims (The 'brochure' was a hand-finished solid wood briefcase), getting a used one to suit you perfectly may be a problem. Burgundy leather seats trimmed with cream piping and mixed with a black dash don't quite do it for me.
My new favourite car. A beautiful, dark blue Bentley Arnage
The drive is solid and reassuring and belies the car's two ton size.
Forget you are in a limousine and treat it the way Bentley intended. It is a sports model after all. If you want to float everywhere, get one with a small silver statue at the front.
The Arnage will flick through corners and holds the road like the tarmac's melted. You don't even get to hear the rubber ripping. Very strange. Very addictive.
But the best bit is sitting deep in those accommodating hide armchairs and looking down at people next to you, even those in four by fours.
In both ways!
Gripes? Well there are always some.
On the pre-2005 model I drove, I don't think the headlamps suit the nose, the fuel consumption is for those who never care about it, and it costs £150k.
At least it's better than that Continental I always wanted. Thanks Bentley, you have saved me £100k. Now save me another £30k by making the new baby Bentley even better.
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.075 23 Feb 2018
First Published: Version 2.00 in May 2005
Also published by Channel 4 Car Road Tests around 2005 (but now no longer available)
The first image shows part of the Bentley line up presented by a generous Cardiff Bentley Dealership in the grounds of Miskin Manor in 2000 and was added in Version 5.075 23 Feb 2018.
The second image shows the author parked up during a road test of the fabulously expensive Bentley Continental in 2000 and was added in Version 5.075 23 Feb 2018.
The third image shows the Author's wife, Lynda, with the Bentley Arnage in 2000 and was added in Version 5.075 23 Feb 2018.
The fourth and final image shows a Bentley Arnage, parked in a service station car park, photographed in Jan 2012 and was added in Version 5.075 23 Feb 2018.
The long and shiny road
The road could be painted a lovely blue colour. To match the car
The technology that brings us reflective white paint to help guide us on our roads at night is one of man's greatest achievements. Obviously not in the league of the wheel or Penicillin. Or even bicycle clips. But pretty much up there.
As you hare down a country lane at night a pair of brilliant white lines guide you from one curve to another. The experience is surreal.
But, as usual, there is a limitation. In many cases, whilst we enjoy the reflection from the central lines sub-dividing the carriageways there isn't always an edge marker. And let's face it, the less unnecessary white paint embellishment on our country lanes the better.
Now, we cannot just paint the whole road surface because then we wouldn't be able to see the central white dividing lines. Plus the grip (for those of us who go quick enough to need it) would be severely reduced, particularly in the wet, the cost of paint would be exorbitant and, quite frankly, it would be an eyesore.
Unless the paint could be made black. And reflective.
So, we need a solution. How about making the roads fluorescent.
Add a luminescent compound to the Tarmac* mix. That way all the light absorbed during the day will be magically converted to a bright ribbon of road at night.
Just think of all the gorgeous colours that could be generated. Plus, the motorways could be coloured blue, the main roads green, the minor roads red and the little lanes yellow. All to match my road atlas.
We'll never turn onto the wrong road at night again.
Admittedly, as far as I know, luminescent paint is slightly radioactive. So all our cars will need lead underseal (lead underpants for cyclists). Then the handling and performance will be affected. So we won't be able to go quick after all.
Come to think of it, it's a silly idea. I tell you what - let me take another look at that bicycle clip concept again.
Added Version 2.04 Dec 2006
Some cad has been reading this page. I really don't see why the parents can't be held responsible but there you go. He even suggested that carrying out the florescentising of our roads might be a bit confusing to airline pilots, a consideration that I clearly overlooked. With such fine forethought you would have thought he would have his own website. Smartass.com or something. Ooops. I'm meant to be encouraging feedback.
Author: Vince Poynter *Little known fact: Tarmac is a registered name used in a generic way, much like Hoover
Version 5.142 29 Jun 2018
First Published: Version 1.00 in Oct 2003
The image depicts a Peugeot 406 Coupe travelling on a typical British A-road, taken by the author in April 2016. The image was added in Version 5.024 24 Nov 2017
Oil be seeing you. Oilways
Do you consider yourself green?
I suppose the answer would be yes if you are either a resident of the planet Nerasis (sector 45AF.789 in the Zarciod Belt, turn right past Uranus and it's only a block or two away) or a pedal cycling, anally retentive killjoy with a huge chip on your shoulder. Either way, you ain't gonna like what I say.
Fossil fuels. Burn 'em.
I make no secret of the fact that I'm a turbo charged V8 with nitrous injection.
I overtake people on the pavement (that's the sidewalk to all you Yanks) in the same way that I pass them on the road. Life is for living and we today are fortunate to have been blessed with the black stuff.
Oil. Fantastic product, all that energy easily stored and able to take us on adrenaline fuelled trips that crack cocaine would struggle to produce. I'm a petrol junkie.
Hold it old chap, I hear you politely say. What about the resource issue?
If we all go around mindlessly using these decomposed dinosaur reservoirs then there won't be any left for the next generation. Stuff them! It doesn't matter. If we didn't have oil we would invent some other way of getting our automotive kicks and so will the next generation.
Let's pass on something useful - The ability to have fun.
Just one reservation about oil. Why did someone invent Diesel, then think it might be a good idea to use it in cars? Beats me.
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.017 10 Nov 2017
First Published: Version 1.00 in Oct 2003
The unedited content represents a view held at the time, long before the adoption of powerful electric or hybrid vehicles and modern, clean diesel engines
The image depicts a toy Shell classic petrol pump, circa 1970, taken in December 2002 and was added in Version 5.017 on 10 Nov 2017
The vinceunlimited Gilera 50 Story
Freedom at forty-five
Mark on his shiny new Gilera 50 moped. Yes it was his
The transformation of becoming a teenager is very traumatic. Your mental state changes as dramatically as your physical appearance. And your needs change too.
Transport suddenly becomes essential as the world doesn't just revolve around the bit of grass, bushes and a muddy stream just outside the front door. It is then that the explorer within starts to make a few tentative steps into the unknown.
I realise that in most cases this is only as far as the next group of shops but nevertheless the urge to get out of sight of the parents becomes paramount.
This is why, as a teenager I was gutted to not have a bike. I lived far enough from my school to miss out on activities that involved pointlessly hanging around on bicycles and although I was pretty fit (like all kids were in the seventies) I couldn't keep up on foot when they all peddled off to the next crucial hanging about point.
The fact that I was not allowed a bicycle as a child, due to some old nonsense about not keeping up with traffic, meant that when I was sixteen and legally allowed to ride a powered vehicle I was transformed.
The day I first rode a moped was as important to me as the time when a caterpillar first emerges as a butterfly. Although anyone witnessing those first tentative miles would probably liken it to an hour old fawn riding a wasp.
I was given a choice.
My elder brother of two years (hello Mark) was provided with a gleaming moped on his sixteenth birthday.
He chose a Gilera 50 Touring. A sturdy moped based on an accommodating 125cc motorcycle frame.
When I reached the magic age myself I was also offered a new 'ped or I could opt for a 'second-hand' motorcycle at seventeen.
As I was generously allowed to use Mark's Gilera I decided to defer the gift for a year and use the Gilera, as and when I could. Mark rarely saw it again.
The sturdy design meant that it was a comfortable bike, which was just as well as I spent many a full day buzzing along for hours on end.
The near 80 to the gallon meant that my wages could easily keep the tank full and my new found wanderlust was well accommodated. There was barely a road on the south coast that I hadn't been down. Some started to show signs of wear from overuse!
Being Italian it was red and handled well. In those days only Italian metal could properly get round a bend.
The proper motorcycle design ensured that the only restriction was the stupidly positioned pedals. These were a moped requirement and although they both locked in a parallel forward position (not all did) they grounded far too easily.
Tyre technology was dire compared to today's wide sticky compounds but this little solid bike could be predictably pushed to the limits of ground clearance and frequently was.
They can do 95mph. Provided you add them both together
The downside was the top speed.
At forty-five miles per hour most sixteen year olds today would be over the moon. But this was 1975 and Yamaha had just released the FS1E, its new 50cc sports moped. And my mate Jeff had one.
The Fizzy was a strange slight thing, much like Jeff, but it had an enviable top end nearing fifty. It was probably only 48 but the 65 that showed on the Speedo meant that all spotty teens wanted one. And when they got it its little heart was pushed to the limit whenever ridden.
And then there was the Honda. Not the ubiquitous Cub step-through but their CB50 version of a mini-racer. This would speed at a shown 48, nearly as quick as the Yam, and my friend Dave had had one of these.
My Gilera, or should I say Mark's Gilera, was beaten hands down. And as teenager's brains do not allow them to temper the throttle all our ride outs together usually meant me following in a slipstream of blue haze and Castrol GTX.
Until I got to a bend, as the Jap bikes couldn't handle anything other than a straight.
Or when we had to ride up a hill as the screaming Japanese machines were so power stressed that they had no torque.
Plus, when we started using the mopeds for their true use, picking up girls, the Gilera still went 45 with a passenger while the others wheezed along at 40. Ha!
So other than top speed and limited cornering angles there was nothing to beat the Gilera.
I acknowledge that the electrics, as a six-volt system, were inadequate, barely powering the headlight which used to beam only as bright as it was revved but they were all like that in those days.
However the fit and finish was good, reliability was excellent, it was as strong as an ox and the accommodation and comfort were first class.
So would I choose it if I had my time again? Definitely no. It only did 45 and that was all that mattered.
But in hindsight my memories are not of the seats, the colour, the handling or even the speed.
I was sixteen, confident, daring. Couple that with inexperience and the net result, as many found out, was falling off.
The halcyon days of the moped were marred by crashes. Copious amounts of them. And when you live through them they make great pub stories.
The first was typical.
After visiting my friend across town I decided on a detour on the return trip.
On unfamiliar roads I would now be wary. At sixteen I was just plain carefree.
It wasn't high speed, or even the appearance of a roundabout beyond the blind bend that caught me out. It was the panic braking that caused the spill.
Even today the road is so quiet I could have sailed straight on, but at the time, not knowing the terrain I grabbed loads of brake and locked the wheels. The inevitable occurred and I was sent sprawling on the tarmac watching the Gilera spin away onto the roundabout in a shower of sparks.
This itself, whilst dramatic, hardly warrants pub-story status. What added to this was a bus load of pensioners parked on the far side of the roundabout.
Every one of these grey-coated souls turned to look at the fool lying in the road with his sideways bike still purring away.
No-one came to the rescue, presumably assuming I was OK or dead, with neither option needing their involvement.
I just lay there. I wasn't hurt. A bit shocked perhaps but mainly because this was my first off and I hadn't yet worked out what to do.
Later experience of these things taught me that you are allowed to get up if you want to but I didn't know that. In fact later on getting up too early was the problem but you'll have to read about that in my CX500 page.
On this day I lay there wondering whether an ambulance should come, or a policeman or my mother.
I must have been there for some time before I realised my mistake and rose, dusted myself off, picked up the bike and rode away.
I remember waving to the crowd on the bus, trying to promote an image that it was all planned and I'd be back around again for a repeat performance should they cheer loud enough. One or two waved back but I wasn't about to do it all again.
I rode off in to the distance, a bit more carefully from then on.
Now, where did this bit fall off from? A greasy monkey at work
It was the first of too many spills which punctuated my early riding days.
I recall another moment in those early days during a ride out to Bournemouth with Dave.
It was a fine summers day and we fancied an ice-cream and a gawp at some girls in bikinis so we set out on the forty mile journey, an epic at moped speeds.
I hadn't had the bike long, it must have just had the new handlebars fitted after the bus-stop episode, as the bike still wore its L-plates.
Unusually, and the only one amongst my friends, I later took the test to be able to ride L-plate free. This got me stopped by men in white cars with orange stripes quite a lot (you do remember the days when plod drove marked cars don't you?) but it did allow me to take all my girlfriends on the back (not all at once though).
The L-plate was significant. In fact crucial to the event. The rear one was mounted attached to the Gilera's number-plate by a Meccano strip and during that tortuous journey had loosed itself and started rattling.
Most would have ignored it, hoping that it would detach but the rattling irritated me.
At this point I should have pulled over and attended it in safety at the side of the road, but as we were riding solo I was struggling to keep up with the Honda ahead. Stopping was out of the question. So I inspected the problem on the move.
Imaging the scenario, a real don't try this at home moment. I'm doing forty-five, yes that speed again, leaning back to fiddle with an L-plate that is mounted low and behind the rear wheel. If Gerry Cottle had seen me I would have been signed up there and then.
But I didn't fall off. Not whilst checking the plate. The trouble started when I settled back to look forward. I was still doing forty-five but now there was a pavement directly ahead. Not that the road had changed, just my course.
I did what anyone would do at that time, I hit it fair and square!
The front went airborne and came down on its side, with me half underneath. Luckily the tree-lined avenue was more gap than tree so I came to a slow but mercifully recoverable stop.
I was a bit sore and felt stupid but got back up to ride again. After all, Dave hadn't noticed and was ploughing on regardless. I had to make up time.
I lifted the bike back onto the road, re-selected neutral and re-started the stalled engine.
It started, as usual, first time so I pulled in the clutch to select first gear - and the cable broke.
The impact onto the softened tarmac pavement was taken by the clutch lever which had filled with a tarmac blob that severed the cable when operated. I had no clutch.
No problem, clutches are for pussies anyway. I snicked it into gear and shot off after Dave.
Dave was devastated. He had missed the spectacle and more importantly our chances of pulling were blown. I wanted to go straight home to miss the weekend crowds but Dave wanted his ice-cream. So we went to the beach side and had ice-cream, his topped with crushed nuts, mine with strawberry sauce and gravel rash.
This was eventually followed by a mad dash back home along a crowded bank holiday route with no clutch.
I figured that all I had to do was keep going, so that's what I did. I never dropped below thirty, timed all the traffic lights perfectly, went straight through the roundabouts whether the nearby cars were stopped or not and got all the way to a set of lights in Southampton before a stop caused me to stall. Some forty miles later.
It is amazing what feats are achievable in the face of adversity.
I suppose, in hindsight, I'm rather fond of the Gilera.
It took me on adventures I had never had before and accompanied me through a harrowing time of growing up.
I learnt to ride solo, corner, take passengers and crash.
It was an important time and the moped played its part without complaint.
I handed it back to Mark when I got my Yamaha trial bike at seventeen and started all the adventures again but it was the Gilera that kicked it all off. And in quite a dramatic manner.
I suppose it was a bit like a teenager itself in a way.
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.066 6 Feb 2018
First Published: Version 1.03 in Feb 2005
The first image shows my double denim clad brother Mark sat astride his new Gilera moped in 1977 and was added in Version 5.066 6 Feb 2018.
The second image show the moped under my possession in 1978 during a trip with my friend Jeff on his yellow Yamaha FS1E. Italian style meets Japanese power. The photo was added in Version 5.066 6 Feb 2018.
The third image shows me fiddling with the exhaust pipe of the Gilera, demonstrating admirably that I am a fully qualified trained mechanic, able at least to hold a motorcycle part with just one hand. It was added in Version 5.066 6 Feb 2018. The photo, not the exhaust.
The vinceunlimited Honda CB200 Story
Not a dream machine.
My brand new, second-hand, nearly stock red Honda CB200
With age comes experience.
The trouble was that when I purchased my second motorcycle I had neither.
I had just turned eighteen and had already cut my teeth on motorbikes (along with other parts of my body as well) and was ready to move on.
The Yamaha trail bike I was selling just couldn't handle the way my biking days were developing and I needed a new steed.
More of my friends had graduated from their mopeds and I didn't want to be left behind with all the high-powered horses that were amassing around me.
I say, high powered, all were under 250cc as this was the usual starting point for teenagers in those days. Something to do with the fact that 251cc was deemed too powerful by men in grey suits for new riders.
My loins were calling out for company. However, taking two spare helmets but having no spare seating is the definition of optimism
Plus the Yamaha trail bike just wasn't designed for two and my loins were calling out for company.
I set about searching for my next bike and considered all the two-fifty options available.
It was 1979 and Honda had just launched the SuperDream in 250 and 400cc flavours. The SuperDream, or CB250N if you prefer, was a fantastically new variant on the old and bulbous Dream 250. The trouble was it was brand new and very expensive for a new kid on the block.
Yamaha had the RD250 but Yams were always too race orientated.
Suzuki tried the same game with their GT250 but didn't even have Kenny Roberts on their side.
But the most desirable to me was the Kawasaki KH250 triple. It oozed sex appeal with its multi-exhaust layout, screaming two-stroke noise and links to the fantastic K900. The twenty miles to the gallon was pitiful and the reliability suspect but the triple hit all the right notes.
I wanted to go with my instinct.
The problem with instinct is that old chestnut - practicality.
I wasn't affluent enough to make passionate decisions and had to rely on my family to help finance the deal. This help came with the inevitable 'advice' and that came in the form of 'strong suggestions' that I ought to buy a Honda and it shouldn't be as powerful as 250cc.
I didn't want a smaller engine than my 175cc Yamaha so there was only one choice.
Honda's Dream machines had a sibling, the CB200.
It was an ugly mutt of a bike designed primarily for commuting and generally unloved, even by its owners.
It had good reliability from its basic, tried and tested, twin 200cc power plant but that's like saying Nora Batty is good at washing up. So what?
And its power was poor.
The only plus sides were it had a four-stroke engine and was red. Despite my earlier love of the Kawasaki triple I have to admit that four-stroke power is much better unless your only desire is top speed or acceleration. And Kwacker green is putrid.
The Cee-Bee's most admirable quality was its comfort, particularly in comparison with the unforgiving seat of my previous trail bike.
In fact, I now wonder whether the ease of riding distances coupled to the (let's be generous) gentle power helped form my love of touring mindlessly around.
A Cibie headlamp, an upswept exhaust, no crash bars. Much cooler. Still not cool
Mind you at 18 to 19 a man has to look cool and the nondescript Honda did nothing for that.
It needed improvement and I started exploring the black art of customisation.
Not in the sense of chromed engine bolts, lowered track or power enhancements. Just a replacement exhaust and new headlamp.
The original exhausts were low uninspiring pipes running at low level parallel to the ground with unsightly oversize mufflers. My replacement exhaust was a potent two-into-one upswept stainless steel pipe terminating in a stubby megaphone - loud and stylish. Not many CB200s had them so it made it distinctly different.
The headlamp conversion was a Cibie unit, from the famous French manufacturer who were making a name for themselves producing large concave, efficient, bright headlamps. Again this added to the style. And let me see in the dark.
But despite these lavish and expensive enhancements the Honda was still as ugly as a Yak. Only the Yak now had bigger horns.
The bike did fulfill some requirements though.
It's rear seat was shared a few times and I put a few miles on the clock but I struggle to recall those miles with any detail.
I cannot even recall crashing the thing. The only 'off' that I remembered is when I tried to charge down one of my 'friends' who had been terrorising my sister's boyfriend's party.
My colleague Chris had been idly throwing a knife into the kitchen wall due to a lack of ability to entertain himself properly at a party and I chivalrously intervened.
The result was that after a few more beers and being ejected Chris turned his attention to me.
I suppose trying to run down a threatening, drunken yob stood just outside the gateway, with a Bowie Knife recently in his possession, is a silly move but, despite warnings, he refused to move out of the way.
I gave it full throttle and dumped the clutch at which point he twisted deftly to one side and kicked out at the Honda.
His foot caught the rear of the front wheel and sent me and bike in different directions. He then proceeded to kick a man when he was down - How cheap.
I would love to tell you that I leapt to my feet and battered the drunkard black and blue but anyone who knows me would write in and get this website closed down due to fraud.
Instead I writhed around wondering why it didn't hurt.
Now, I know it was down to his soft trainers reigning hail on my thick jacket and helmet.
If I had kicked back he would have suffered worse - I had steel toecap motocross boots.
However, frustration took its course and Chris changed tack and decided to lay into the Honda instead. It suffered worse.
Two weeks later, and after the intervention of parents, Chris had been forced to pay for the damage repairs and we were all mates again. Kids eh?
So a few months later the Honda was sold to a new keen owner, 'provided I removed that awful loud exhaust and huge headlamp'.
Thankfully this pre-dated eBay by several years so I still had the original parts.
It seemed the buyer wanted an original Yak.
So, as a conclusion - I should have brought the Kwacker.
I wouldn't have needed to change a thing and would now probably be telling you a story about how I was innocently playing with my own knife when some do-gooder squealed to the host and got me kicked out of a party. Then tried to run me down.
So in retribution I bravely kicked the living daylights out of him.
And then did the same to his naff Honda.
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.076 28 Feb 2018
First Published: Version 2.00 in May 2005
The first image is the author's stock Honda CB200 as originally purchased at the end of 1979. The crash bars and rear rack were non-standard fitments by the original owner
The second image shows the author sat astride his fully loaded Honda CB200 and was taken around Summer 1980
The third image, dated around late 1980 shows the author's modified Honda CB200, showcasing the Cibie headlight unit and featuring the two-into-one upswept exhaust
The vinceunlimited Honda CX500 Story
The front end of my lovely big red Honda CX500. Purchased just for the bit above the headlamp
Those regular readers of my road tests will both by now know that I started with a small Yamaha trail bike before graduating to a rather uninspiring Honda CB200.
The choice of these bikes was helpfully determined by outside influences [Hi Dad] so my next upgrade had to be my own choice.
I decided on a Kawasaki 750cc 4-stroke bike.
However, the external influence raised its profile once more and I brought a 500cc Honda.
Something to do with him 'only' having a 360cc bike at the time and about to change it for a 650cc methinks.
Maybe that's a bit unfair.
Although my shiny new second hand Honda CX500 wasn't a Kawasaki nor 750cc it had many redeeming features.
Firstly it was as bulky as a 750cc. This provided the stability and comfort that bigger bikes give.
Secondly, Honda's were better built and more reliable than products from the Big Z.
And thirdly, well mainly really, it had a dashboard.
Yes, I agreed to the choice on the grounds that there were lights built in between the speedo and tachometer. Sad really.
The other exciting addition to this on-bike dashboard was a temperature gauge because the bike had a water cooled engine and believe me in those days that was cutting edge.
Only the Suzuki GT750 'Kettle' could boast this technology but that bike was styled in the dark and drank fuel like a whale filters plankton.
So I ended up with a red 'S' registration Maggot, for that is how I later understood that they were known.
The name wasn't unjustified either as the bulky water encased engine resided under a substantial spreading fuel tank and enormous padded double seat.
Everything seemed styled for a much bigger bike and I suspected that Honda had plans for a 750cc version. In fact, later incarnations took the size to 650cc and added turbos then a 750cc was made, so my suspicions were right.
The CX500 also took the mantle of tourer for those who didn't want or couldn't afford the magnificent 1000cc Gold Wing. As it happened in silly laid back style it later became the Silver Wing.
My version was the bog standard CX500, a purring water cooled v-twin.
It was only a couple of years old and in fantastic condition.
It became a weekend plaything, tourer and then reliable commuter and fulfilled all roles well. I reckon it is now still going, probably as a courier somewhere.
I first used the Maggot as a weekend plaything because I worked too close to my home to warrant using it much. In the three mile journey I barely had time to close off the choke before arriving at my destination and actually spent more time warming the engine than riding to work.
So the Honda was used for getting to the disco at weekends [hey, it was the early eighties] and impressing the sixteen year old girls. Nothing suspicious here, I was only a late teen myself.
The sheer bulk always made an impression and warranted due care when reversing off pavements. Once, I went too slow and got to the point where foot doesn't touch ground then side of bike does.
The back end of my bright red Maggot, as purchased. Just look at that lush seat
I also increased my radius of exploration exponentially over the previous CB200 and the Cotswolds and Wales became my hunting ground.
Funnily enough I don't recall ever going to the midlands or Norfolk - Can't think why.
Inevitably I wanted to travel further and my mates and I discussed a round Britain tour using all the coastal routes. This never came to pass but I still think it would be an adventure and will do the journey someday.
A few of us did settle on a tour into France, the evocative, exotic, topless French women of St. Tropez were the incentive so four of us planned to go.
As is usual in these cases circumstances changed and two of my friends, Jeff and John, taking advantage of their break from A-level schooling went ahead early and ended up settling on an island mid-way down the French west coast for the rest of the summer.
Spike and I had jobs, me full time and Spike as a paperboy or something, so we intended to follow on later.
The journey down through France was not as fun as it might be today.
We had never travelled abroad and the only preparations we made were painting our lights yellow and buying a map.
The map was poor and we got lost leaving Calais.
The French weather was burning hot and Spike, who had just purchased my father's Honda CB360 yellow banana, was obsessed with his motor overheating so insisted on travelling around 40-50mph.
At these speeds the air cooling effect must have been abysmal on his engine as it was hardly effective on my CX500's radiator. However being the one with the temperature gauge made me the one worrying about it.
It set a poor tone for the holiday and resulted in a disagreement half-way down France.
In essence Spike wanted to join Jeff and John and start 'pulling birds' and I wanted to motor on down to St. Tropez where I argued the real action was.
The mid-size bikes proved popular in France so Spike and I did make temporary friendships. And no, I do not know the contact details of the hunk on the right
Spike won out by refusing to leave the camp we had arrived at and my topless French women dream was destroyed.
We never even met up with the others and from what I heard later that decision could have saved Jeff and John's friendship, but that's another story.
Another memorable long journey made on the maggot was one into Wales.
I had a met a new girlfriend, Inger, who had never been on a motorbike before so we both looked forward to our trip.
She had no more idea than me that we were to undertake a 400-mile, six-hour ride and it showed how versatile the big Honda was. In fact testament to the comfort of the seat that there was no complaint from either of us.
The amusing fact with Inger was that as she hadn't ridden pillion before I asked that she leave the steering to me and remain upright at all times. I meant perpendicular to the bike but she interpreted it as bolt upright.
Every time I leant into a bend she twisted her torso to remain upright.
I thought it hilarious, She was hardly big enough to destabilise the beast below so I let her carry on. I didn't tell her until we reached the Severn Bridge. And for that Inger I apologise.
Mind you I cannot recall going out with her for long but that was more to do with the fact that I fell for her friend Fiona than because of my riding.
Excuse me for one moment while I recall Fiona ... Thanks.
Fiona unfortunately didn't have the inclination to get on my bike. It wasn't because she only had eyes for Suzuki's or anything it was just that some people just don't seem to get the biking thing, mainly because of the sort of event that next happened on my bike. A car pulled out on me at a junction.
It was midday and I was taking a well earned lunch break.
Although I had crossed half of Southampton I only had a feint purpose in mind so was in no particular hurry. The sun was out and the roads in those days still clear enough in places to enjoy a midday ride.
I was travelling towards Portswood doing no more than a few mph above the limit when I noticed a car waiting to pull out to my left. I was on a main road so took little more care than at any of the other two-hundred or so filled junctions that I had passed that week.
The driver however didn't want to follow the crowd, opted for not seeing me at all and pulled out across my path. Naturally I braked. Very hard.
The car in question was a Citroën Dyane, a sort of [hardly] upmarket 2CV.
The driver, fool enough to pull out in the path of a huge red bike, added to his stupidity by stopping once he saw me.
Little tip, why not consider keeping going next time. If he had accelerated with all the pull his pathetic vehicle could manage I could have steered behind.
As it was he stopped slap bang in front of me across the whole road.
There were no steerable soft options and I braced myself for impact.
Now a fact known only to experienced bikers and the local Accident and Emergency departments is that many frontal motorcycle crashes result in damage to the bikers lower legs because when a bike hits a stationary object the rider slides forwards and imprints his knees into his own handlebars and stationary car.
Therefore in any bike accident, once it is inevitable, the golden rule is to get well clear of all metalwork. In the case of T-boning a car that means heading straight on over the top.
I slowed as much as I could leaving an impressive black streak of rubber and picked my point of impact. My heart wanted to hit the git square in his door but my head ruled that the bonnet would be a lower hurdle to cross.
The bike wedged itself behind the car's front wheel, I raised my torso and took up flying.
I cannot recall the flight but do remember the landing.
Sliding down the road my episode with the Gilera moped came to mind but this time I reacted differently, I quickly stood up.
Unfortunately, I did this too soon and went flying once more.
It seemed my shoes were not designed for thirty mph and their destruction was testament to this.
Thankfully, other than the two vehicles and my crash helmet my shoes were the only casualty.
My helmet was a write off because they always are in these situations. There seemed no damage to it other than a couple of round spots worn off the orange and green stripes at the forehead, but the car had a matching two-foot long parallel stripe on the bonnet. This is proof that helmets save lives and why I didn't need the ambulance that some witness called.
I went back to inspect the damage, such a long walk!
Despite the fact I had just invented unpowered flight I was in a better state than the driver, still sat quivering in his car. An old man, I doubt that he drove again.
His car certainly didn't, my CX500 was parked bolt upright three feet into it.
Annoyingly my motorcycle recovery specialist had just purchased a frame re-jigger and wanted to justify it's purchase and bend the bike back into position.
It was just a few pounds short of write-off and I was too inexperienced to insist on it to the eager insurance company.
I didn't even get compensation for my high speed shoes.
So, in effect the maggot wrote off a car and lived.
After the impact one of the replacement items was the forks, naturally.
Not that they needed a Citroën Dyane to make them flex, they were the weak point of the bike and were clearly not designed for the 'two-ton' weight.
Occasionally I would lean over the handlebars and look down the shaft of the forks whilst braking just to watch them bend back toward the radiator.
Other than that I couldn't fault the Honda.
It chugged along effortlessly at any speed I chose to travel at and for any number of miles.
Reliability was excellent and fuel consumption acceptable for the size.
It was big and red and comfortable. The v-twin throb was unusual, the modern era of popular twins hadn't yet started and when I fitted an aftermarket stainless steel exhaust it sounded good.
It worked in rain and shine then more rain, mile after mile with little attention other than basic servicing and the shaft drive kept the back end from looking like a freshly hit oilfield.
Things were getting dirtier as attention moved from wheels to girls. Meaning, of course, I didn't give it such a thorough cleaning quite so often. The bike, I mean. The bike!
All this reliability came in handy because for the final few months it became the archetypal commuter as it took me into the New Forest day after day in pursuit of my new girlfriend, Karen.
Those late night return trips along an empty motorway allowed me to test its standing start quarter mile abilities. Can you imaging finding any time of day or night you could stop in the centre lane of a major motorway nowadays?
Mind you today's 500cc bikes, although water-cooled, would now pull wheelies under such conditions. The CX kept its front wheel firmly rooted to the ground.
It was eventually sold when I realised the Fionas started outnumbering the Ingers so I had to get a car.
I did a poor deal that involved swapping it for a Hillman Avenger that eventually got swapped for a bicycle that got nicked.
It was a sad end to a good bike.
But the key question is would I have it back?
With that repaired frame? No way. Other than for sentimental reasons. Parked up in a garage.
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.092 2 Apr 2018
First Published: Version 2.001 in Jul 2005
The first image is the author's Honda CX200 as originally purchased in late 1980. The engine protection bars and rear rack were non-standard fitments by the original owner [image first added in Version 3]
The second image is the rear view of the same bike at the same time [image first added in Version 3]
The third image shows the author sat astride his bike, along with Spike [wearing leathers] and his Honda CB360. The girl next to the author is a german friend met at the campsite. The other two guys were also at the site but the author didn't seem quite so keen on these two for some reason. The image was taken around Summer 1981
The fourth image, dated around late 1981 shows the author sat astride the bike with the new non-standard stainless steel exhaust. The other non-standard feature is the author's girlfriend of the time. The image was taken outside her, decidely non-standard, family home
The final two images and all captions were added in Version 5.092 2 Apr 2018
The vinceunlimited Kawasaki GPz750R Story
Written Sep 2005
Top Gun style. Sat on my brand new red and black Kawasaki GPz750R
The Kawasaki GPz750R is a better known bike than many may at first think because it had a part in a top grossing Hollywood film. The bike was Tom Cruise's mount in the 1986 blockbuster Top Gun. But I had mine first.
The year was 1985 and I had recently met my wife. We shared a passion for bikes and as she was prepared to share her greenbacks with me we had the chance to trade up to a decent steed. Frankly I was fed up at the time with her ugly Suzuki GSX250. It's narrow seat and uninspiring performance wasn't suited to the two-up riding we did and I hankered after a big sportsbike.
My Honda CX500 was now a distant memory and I wanted the misses to appreciate the benefits of big bike riding. We considered a litre-sized machine as we felt the need, the need for speed and looked around for an interesting bike. There was only one, the Kawasaki GPz900R. It was the spiritual successor to the legendary Z900 series using a new water-cooled version of the firm's famous four cylinder motor. It eventually grew a big reputation for speed and handling and for a time looked to take the legendary title from the Zed.
We looked at getting the 900 version but the 750 was really big enough, looked identical, had cheaper insurance and came in a gorgeous piano black and red finish that looked so much better than the dull 900 options, which is probably why Tom had one as well.
B328 WOW was one of the new generation of sportsbikes that came complete with full fairing. This, along with the heavy water-cooled motor in a frame set-up that preceded 500cc Race-rep styling meant for a long wheelbase and top-heavy tendencies. Combine this with a large turning circle and small diameter front wheel and the result was a bike that preferred speeds of three figures to three-mph and it was this characteristic that explains the first anecdote.
The bike was brand new when collected and had been prepped by the dealer. Because of the danger of theft by leaving the tax disc stuck to the inside of the screen the dealer had helpfully put it in a plastic holder but using a decision that could only be made by a blind grease-monkey connected it to one of the fairing screws slap bang in the middle of our shiny new black and red fairing. It was an eyesore that the misses and I vowed to eradicate just as soon as we got home to our screwdriver set, which as usual was waiting patiently in the shed ready for more screwing action. No I'm not going down that route!
Such a beautiful bike, spoilt only by a naff plastic tax disc mount in the middle of the fairing
Anyway, before we got home we had to visit various family and friends and show them what fantastic people we were by showing off our shiny new bike and one of the first was my wife's auntie. We did the visit and were rewarded as expected with a nice cup of tea then set off on our merry way to the next [dis]interested family member. As we were leaving the auntie's the trouble and strife decided to take the helm and I obediently climbed on the pillion seat. We pottered off and headed for the main road, a sharp left turn two hundred yards from auntie's. The misses carefully pulled up to the junction and waited for a clear moment to join the traffic. A gap soon appeared, she let out the clutch then the water-cooled engine spluttered and stalled. She had hardly commenced the turn so was in mid lean with no power. We had dropped below the hard-deck and there was no choice but to let the damn thing fall over. Personally, I stepped off the back.
We were distraught. Our shiny new bike laying at 45 degrees, resting in the pavement, dribbling fuel. One day old and a new fairing seemed to be needed. We lifted her up [the bike, not the wife] and inspected the damage. One broken plastic tax disc holder - but that seemed to take the entire brunt. That blind grease monkey had inadvertently saved us 700 quid!
The story might imply that the love of my life is an incompetent buffoon on a bike and I must have been one Tomcat short of a carrier for letting her anywhere near the front seat but that cannot be further from the truth. After mastering the idiosyncrasies of the bike she went on to pass her Advanced Motorcycle Test on the beast, raising major praise in the bargain and could turn tight consecutive figure of eights on it at slow speed. In the same way I was mimicking Maverick at speed she was proving an equal exponent in the guise of Ice-Man. We later realised that the keeling over incident was caused by fuel starvation that occurred when leaving the bike for an hour or two after riding which resulted in fuel evaporation in the feed pipes to the carbs, well that and the top-heavy balance. Well at least that was the reason when I dropped the thing outside the in-laws a few hours later. Luckily I held it before it actually grounded this time as there wasn't a tax disc holder on the right.
The GPz750R always was kept in quite spectacular condition, receiving almost as much cleaning as riding and stayed in pristine original condition. In fact it was so clean that when Ice entered it into a concours competition it won first place. Admittedly it was only a smallish local car-group competition but the judges did consider age and it was only one year old. Our friend with the 15-year old Beemer was not amused and claimed unfair play but the judges couldn't fault our bike no matter how hard they looked. I told my mate with the BM that he should have at least washed it!
I too, took my Advanced Motorcycling Test on the bike and passed. I don't recall much about the test apart from the poor weather and the tea at the Little Chef afterwards. In fact I recall many a Little Chef visit on the bike as it took us on adventures all over the country. It was a great bike to buzz the tower with. Cars were eaten alive with its rapid acceleration and our riding got quicker and quicker. It was built in the days before tyres became fatter than Pavrotti so it's skill was in fast open road riding rather than track-day scratching although I did ground out the pegs on roundabouts sometimes.
The dials go up to 160 so that must be it's top speed [said every pimple-nosed boy]
In fact it was the incredible speed that eventually killed off our relationship - the Kwaker and me, not the misses. The buzz was getting too intense and risks were getting more and more hairy. I recall one of the last rides, destination unknown. It wasn't hard to overtake cars on single carriageway roads, in fact it was easy to blip past two without dropping a gear such was the power. However, when dropping a peg or two in the gearbox acceleration was phenomenal.
Car drivers have no idea how different a big bike can be to a car when accelerating. Most car drivers haven't experienced supercar acceleration which smash through sixty in fewer than six seconds. Bikes are twice this fast and the power is there from any speed. Enough to quite literally take your breath away. For anyone with fuel in his or her veins experiencing this is a must. And I used this force on many an occasion. Drop two gears and even if the road is short you can sail past cars, one, two, three at a time. When the road opens up, and providing there are no turns, getting past four or five at a time becomes possible and it's addictive as hell.
Even modern busy roads help the motorcyclist in a strange way. Because there are so few chances for an average sub-1400cc tin-box to get past another car drivers tend to drive in a monotonous mode, not ready to pounce when the road does open up. They think that even if they wanted to pass by almost certainly there will be someone coming the other way. So they drive on the bumper of the car in front, not looking any further ahead than the bootlid of their predecessor. I sometimes think that you could cause multiple suicide just by driving slowly then off a cliff as every car in the queue behind will follow. For a keen biker all these cars are collectively known as mobile chicanes. And one day I came across one of these target rich environments, a slowly moving train of cars and decided to overtake two or three of them.
Said cars were all pootling along in a queue at about 45mph, with me following. I rounded a corner, knowing that the road would probably open up and I might get past a couple, so I dropped a couple of cogs. Before the corner had unwound I saw the straight and had passed my first victim, this gear took me past the second as well and the third now looked a likely sure-fire bet. By now I was probably travelling about 70mph so passing the others was quick but at this stage a keen car driver may have started to spot the overtaking opportunity and I was on the highway in the danger zone.
Idle drivers never check their mirrors so the good rider is keeping a keen eye on all the tell-tale signs of overtaking, and none of them usually include actually indicating or looking. The signs are in an exhaust puff of smoke, a twitch of the front tyres, possible re-positioning, putting a second hand on the steering wheel, all that sort of thing. In short second sight. Luckily for me car three was so close to car four that I assumed the towrope was invisible so I treated cars three and four as one. By now the revs had reached the point where the dial turns from black to red but I wasn't looking anywhere but the road and cars ahead. The slight tail off in power gave me the incentive to snick up a gear and I snicked away.
Passing car four I was probably travelling near to 90mph but now a lorry had trundled into the distance. I read this as a good sign. The lorry wasn't travelling fast so I now knew how much space I really had, after all an empty road could mean a potential fast car, one blocked by a moving lorry is a calculable, albeit reducing, gap. Add to this the presence of oncoming vehicles usually dissuades cars from overtaking. I had an open road, the best view, a line of cars who weren't about to overtake, a gap to aim for and a powerful bike that was singing tunes only racers usually experience. I flew past cars five and six like they were stationary and in all fairness comparing my speed to theirs this wasn't far short of the truth. In fact it now looked like I could actually get past them all.
It is a strange fact that for some reason we all secretly believe that if only we could pass one more car or lorry then we might actually be at the front of the queue with no more traffic ahead, ever. On the kind of road only seen in car adverts. Common sense trashes this theory but common sense didn't make me pass six cars at these speeds. That was caused by adrenalin and I had it in bucketfuls at this moment. One more vehicle lay ahead, the box van heading this little queue.
Naturally I made the narrowing gap, I'd been through the fire and came out the other side glowing - but only just. You probably wouldn't be reading this now if I hadn't. I glanced at the speedo after I swept through the gap and it was coming back down, through 125mph. I had just passed seven vehicles in one twist of the throttle in a space where no car could get by, exceeding the limit by a factor of more than two. And it was raining.
I was Maverick, I didn't want to be Goose. I told the misses and we sold the bike. I've never owned another sportsbike since then.
Although on those hot summer nights when I feel like playing with the boys I get that loving feeling...
The soundtrack to this webpage is available on Columbia Records
Footnotes and Feedback
Looking back on my time with the bike, it was one hell of a ride
Note originally added December 2006
Since delivering this fine piece of writing I have received word from sources abroad that Mr Cruise's bike was probably a nine-hundred.
According to my source's knowledge the seven-fifty wasn't marketed in the land that used to be passed from Red Indian father to son.
This fact was delivered by a Kawasaki nutter [Niek's words, not mine] from the Netherlands so it may be double-dutch.
Are you reading this Stateside? If so pop into your local dealer and quiz him mercilessly until he squeals out the truth. Then let me know.
Or are you in the movie industry and know the truth? In which case stop arseing around reading this and sign me up to write your next blockbuster.
Or are you Tom Cruise, in which case stop arseing around and send me Nicole's number.
More note originally added March 2011
A lull in my schedule allowed me some time to net-hop and I typed in Honda CX500 to see how far up the Google chain [my bikes] webpage was.
During my search I came across a link to the Internet Movie Cars Database. Here I hastened to the Kawasaki GPz750 and 900 links and discovered that it seems Niek seems indisputably correct.
The bike that TC rode in TG was a 9 but as suspected was mistaken for a 7-5 because it was a special in 750 colours for the movie.
imcdb gives some info on the matter but the full convoluted and strange story is told by Mik Anderson who seems to be an obsessive fan. And without these types the net would be rubbish.
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.112 3 May 2018
First Published: Version 2.02 in Sep 2005
The four images show my red and black Kawasaki GPz750R motorcycle shortly after being purchased brand new, stood on the crest of Toot Hill, Romsey, with me posing by it's side. All photographs taken by my wife around the beginning of Aug 1984
The movie Top Gun had a US release in May 1986 but wasn't released into the UK until Oct 1986
The soundtrack to Top Gun was released by Columbia Records in 1986
The Internet Movie Cars Database resides under the URL of imcdb.com
Mik Anderson's article about the GPz900R featured in Top Gun can be found at http://mikandersen.dk/index.php/top-gun-motorcykel/top-gun-bike-english-version
Lane discipline is good here. Probably. If you ignore the empty lane on the left, that is
I'm a fan of driving. Sure there are many reasons why I shouldn't be. Take a peek at my opinion on driving habits if you need to see a few reasons why. But I am also an optimist, if things are bad they can be fixed.
All we need is the will and a bit of clever thinking. And that is a speciality of mine. I have worked out how we can reverse one of the worst habits of British motoring by changing some simple rules.
Why not let people who drive correctly, drive faster?
We all want to go quicker but need to do this responsibly. Here is the way.
Without changing the rules about only overtaking on the right, let us allow drivers to go quickest on the inside lane, then progressively slower in the outer lanes.
Sounds crazy? Well just think about it for a moment.
Imagine a three-lane motorway. When you are driving along with no other traffic (remember the seventies?) I propose that you should be able to charge along safely to your hearts content.
If you then come upon a slower vehicle ahead then you will need to move out a lane to pass. But you have to temper the speed a bit and go past carefully. If you again want to get going once past you will be encouraged to move back to lane 1 to be allowed to travel again at speed.
And when the traffic is so bad that all three lanes are needed then all the overtaking in lane 3 has to be so much slower, therefore safer. It is a self-restricting system. Slow when busy but with less restrictions when the roads empty.
And drivers will voluntarily move over to the left after overtaking. Simple. Like all great ideas.
Of course, the set limits would have to offer something if this is to be sold as a good system. If the government gets hold of this idea then some quango think tank will decide that on motorways the limits should be 70, 60 and 50 mph. Much easier to sell the idea to a sceptical public at 90, 70 and 60 mph.
Mind you it won't stop the arsehole cruising along at 60 in the centre lane, clogging up the whole system. For that I propose a simpler system. That I shall be legally allowed to carry a firearm and shoot him.
(Note: Americans and Europeans will have to read this page in a mirror to get the idea)
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.023 23 Nov 2017
First Published: Version 1.00 in Oct 2003 and reproduced here in full, unedited
The image depicts a typical British motorway scene and is used to illustrate lanes being used. There is no implication to suggest the vehicles are in the correct or incorrect lanes. The image was added in Version 5.023 23 Nov 2017 and updated in Version 5.024 24 Nov 2017
LCD Car Windows [Updated 2005]
The new black in car windows
Blacked out windows. They should have bought a van instead
Maybe it's because I wear glasses and so cannot instantly pick up the oh-so-fashionable Oakleys everytime the sun comes out.
Maybe because I hate it when all those pillocks keep their sun visors down long into the evening, or later. Or forever.
Or is it just that I hate that time in a winter's evening when the sun is right in your face, just above the steering wheel rim.
I think we need to do something about sunny days.
Why not use LCD technology to automatically black out car windows on a summers day?
It's a well-known science, relatively cheap and controllable. Look at the watch on your wrist (no, not you Mr. Breitling). Control could be light sensitive, or switched by yet another button with a strange logo on the dashboard.
Just imagine you've been out cruising all night, so your windows are clear. It's early morning and you are thinking of an excuse to tell the boss that you need a day off. You know, dead grannies, leaves on the line, working from home; that sort of thing. When you pull up next to a car and it's the man-boss himself, on his way to work.
Just flick the switch and your car becomes a haven of seclusion. Or a Mafia staff car. Yes, you too could look like a reclusive film star. In your twenty-six year old Datsun Cherry.
There is only one problem as far as I can tell. Legislation would prevent the technology being applied to front windscreens, so all the problems listed above would still irritate me.
I guess I'm gonna have to get that Laser Surgery done so I can wear the bloody Oakleys.
Plate Tech Tonic [Addendum]
A new thought has occured to me since writing this piece in 2003.
Why not apply the technology to the transparent surface of a car number plate? With a switch operation this could be utilised in the unfortunate event of being caught going a bit quick near a wayward speed camera - much safer than madly braking don't you think?
Put the device on a timer and it would revert to looking normal soon after passing said revenue collector.
The timer device wouldn't be so useful when fleeing a bank robbery though and it's all probably highly illegal, so don't say I told you to do it.
Braking Down [Additional addendum]
Another idea [here we go again] for avoiding those pesky fines from those unmarked cameras that spring up suddenly would be to mount a rear braking light around the number plate.
That way it will brightly illuminate just at the point the speed is being ... er ... corrected, cleverly obscuring the number whilst braking but remaining undetected whilst innocently parked up.
It would only work on rear facing cameras, if at all.
However, it is also still probably illegal but a defence, if questioned, could argue that plates are there for vehicle ID when driving off. If the brake light is on the vehicle is stopping.
I think my fees as a motoring lawyer have just increased, M'lord.
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.084 19 Mar 2018
First Published: Version 1.00 in Oct 2003 and reproduced here in full, unedited
Addenda First Published: Version 2.00 in May 05
The image was added in Version 5.025 27 Nov 2017. It depicts a blue Range Rover with blacked out windows, taken by the author in April 2012. That is, the photo was taken, not the car. That would be theft. And naughty.
Fiction By Vince
Written July 2006 as a submission for a BBC radio writing request held during the 2006 football World Cup. In all the BBC received over 1100 entries but they didn't think this eligible for publication. I do, so have done so here. Belligerent? Damn right.
A professional driver. A powerful car. All that's needed is an empty road
Can you hear it? Just there, right now. That eerie silence.
Normally right here about this time there would be a cacophony of sound. It was there just a few minutes ago but now it’s all gone. All gone with the rest of them. Just me. And that beautiful silence. It’s about time I changed all that.
[The sound of V8 engine rumbles into life]
Now that’s even better. The purest sound known to people like me. You can forget your whale song, newborn and opera, this is the best sound available to mankind. At least if your veins gush with four-star and you pray to the God of Clarkson. And for us true petrol heads right here, right now is when we can get our biggest fix.
You see to really appreciate a car like this you need, well first off, a car like this. A thrilling combination of beauty, power and performance. But just as important you need space. Space to fulfil your dreams. Space to stretch her legs. Space to touch the edge of the envelope.
And don’t go thinking that the reference to stretching her legs is some sort of sexual suggestion. No, for the true purist you can forget your Kirsten Scott Thomases and Angelina Jolies. Right now I wouldn’t even have the gorgeous Vicky Butler-Henderson sat here. What I’m about to do is at its best as a solitary pursuit. You can’t say that about many things.
It is indeed a rare occurrence, blue moon, haystack needle sort of thing and I’m about to make the most of it. I’m at odds with the rest of the world but at peace with myself. On the starting grid of something truly spiritual. Outside, rebellious, dangerous, exciting.
This has all happened because of football. It’s never been my kind of thing really. Of course I sound authoritative discussing some points with my peers and often watch a publicised match or two. I even casually follow my local team’s progress. However, I have a sneaking admiration for those that truly no nothing of the beautiful game and believe that the overpaid superstars really ought to get a proper job. But right now, when communal fervour has driven everyone inside and off my road I am truly grateful that it is our national sport.
[The V8 revs]
Did you hear that? Primed and ready to rock and roll. Not that I’m going to play any music. Truly great driving sounds come from pistons, intakes and exhausts. Motorhead has nothing on a V8 in a tunnel. And a tyre squeal sings better than Led Zep.
I’ll have to be careful though. I won’t quite be the only one out here for the next ninety.
I’m not talking about other demons like me. We are a rare breed and share an instinctive support for each other. If we pass there will be no tantrums, no drama. Fast at speed maybe, but in total control as only a true driving god is. We may kick at the speed of light but we know where and when it is right to go for a goal.
Even the mortals in their Sunny one-point-twos quietly going about their daily business, as oblivious to the tournament as they are to life in general won’t be a problem. My sudden presence then disappearance would only shock if they actually had the ability to react.
No, my real problem will be those boys in blue who are forced to miss the moment that everyone will be talking about for the next forty years. This will instil a deep rooted jealousy that can only be satiated by persecuting a man like me. I’ll have to be on my game.
Kick off in five minutes time. Just like the others but for other reasons I’ve etched this time firmly in my psyche. Sat here in this lay-by counting down the minutes, then the seconds. Watching the fading remnants of morons racing past to get to their phosphor alters.
Nearly time to go. Nearly time for life to take its true meaning. Nearly there. The road ahead clears. No-one around. Empty silence.
Dip clutch…first gear…final check over shoulder…ease out clutch…and we’re off.
[The V8 rumbles]
It is totally clear ahead and my freedom beckons. I can go any route I chose, like an eagle soaring through the skies. Left or right at this junction, the choice is only mine. Floor it now…
…With any luck I’ll make it back in time for the match.
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.139 26 Jun 2018
Written July 2006 and submitted to the BBC as part of a radio script submission request
First Published: Version 2.04 in Dec 2006
The photograph shows the author sat in a Mercedes AMG GT, taken in May 2015, added on 27 Jun 2018
The Smelliest Car
A vinceunlimited blog article from 19 Nov 2008
I read in Advanced Driving magazine about a new car from the French battery company Bolloré.
An electrically propelled vehicle to be called the B0. That is the ‘B-zero’.
I somehow doubted that it will be called that.
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.150 11 Jul 2018
First Published: Version 2.04 19 Nov 2008
The first prototype was called La Blue Car. It became the La Pininfarina B0 [zero] in 2008 with model releases in 2013 and then with Renault in 2015. Since then it appears to have passed in the wind. Like the Mercedes-Beans
Advanced Driving magazine was published by the Institute of Advanced Motorists [IAM], an advanced driving charity with a purpose to improve driving standards, now called IAM RoadSmart
The vinceunlimited Top Ten Vehicles
21st Century Travelling [In 2005]
You have probably landed on this page from my list of bike or car road tests.
Or maybe you were transported here by a strange new time machine, or even from another manufacturer's computer. Any how you came you are welcome to read why I have chosen the next ten vehicles as my favourite of all time.
It is an eclectic mix of transport that I have either used or lusted after with envy.
Cyclists will note that I have not included a bicycle in the list. After all cycle technology is now futuristic and sexy so I could forgive a lack of motorised power. However I refuse to forgive saddle technology until I can actually ride a bicycle further than ten metres.
Of course, when compiling a list like this the rejected ones are nearly as interesting.
For instance you may wonder how I could have a list like this and not include a Ferrari. Easy really, there's none there.
A few may qualify on the grounds of looking fantastic but underneath is just a lightweight Fiat.
I'm not fooled, nor are many of the owners. Check out the Owner's Documents on any used Ferrari and you will be surprised to see so many names. The hype doesn't live up to the reality.
Great red though but this isn't a favourite list of colours.
Keeping on the subject of cars, in the past I've swooned over the fantastically brutish Aston Martin Vantage and may still get one yet but how could I include a car that if a generous benefactor offered me a swap for any Aston from any time I'd really have no second thoughts about choosing the brand new, phenomally quick and beautiful DB9.
Some of the DB9's details are cheaper than a crate of canaries although I've never been one to turn down a beauty because of a few small imperfections. Mole on Demi Moore? So what.
Another plus would be: "Blonde, James Blonde". What a great introduction.
As you will be able to tell generally I'm not into classic vehicles. I'd rather own a modern Bentley Arnarge than a 4½ litre supercharged model from the 1920s. Unless I can sell it of course.
Plus, impressive that the 4½ litre Bentley behemoth is the most attractive classic car has to be the Jaguar SS100. But still not as good as a couple of dozen modern vehicles.
I love bikes, it's in my genes, whether I currently have a bike or not. It's all to do with the lack of a cycle when I was young and the freedom that my first moped rides brought me.
So I need to include bikes in this ultimate vehicles list and the Ducati 900 Monster was one of the first that I thought of. The reason why this strange naked retro was considered is that it re-vitalised my interest in bikes in the nineteen nineties.
I hadn't had a bike for a while and the squared-off eighties styling never persuaded me to renew my interest. The Monster 900 was a breath of fresh air. It seemed so stylish and raw with an exposed engine and trellis frame it made me want two wheels again.
Thinking back, I can't think why I brought a Yamaha Diversion 900 instead.
Oh yes. Italian electrics, Ducati clutches and a saving of about two grand. And when you are able to make a choice based on such trivial reasons the original option doesn't really deserve to be in a top ten.
And second best is why I cannot include a First Class dining experience aboard a ferry.
As you can tell from other entries I do like being spoilt. So many cannot handle an obsequious waiter or fawning Maitre-d but I'm willing to be waited on hand and foot. It's not a case of being better than those who serve but the fact that it makes a pleasant change. I'll happily have a beer with the waiter afterwards.
A First Class dining experience on board a ferry, such as the cross channel version is a thoroughly pleasant way of passing the time. But two reasons keep it off the top ten. Firstly, the QE2 is infinitely better and secondly the QE2 doesn't end up in France!
My final rejection is an oxymoron. No, not the Ford 2-litre Oxymoron, but a genuine oxymoron from an age where such a beast could exist. A cute war-plane.
Nowadays war planes are stunning, agile weapons of mass destruction but back in the 1920s at the dawn of flight the planes were not overly effective. However, one stands out above the others, including the Red Baron's exciting Fokker Tri-plane.
The Sopwith Camel first came into my life as a child. If you were born a male in the late fifties or early sixties you would be familiar with Airfix kits. Plastic self-build models that filled many a wet weekday after school. They are still available but this tactile hobby, along with most other hands-on experiences, have become side-lined by the ubiquitous electronic games. This is a shame as building a model is a very satisfying skill and I still fondly remember the first one I built - a Sopwith Camel.
This little bi-plane had all the ingredients of a favoured vehicle. The styling was right with the curved leading edge to the wings, dual forward gun synchronised with the propeller and rounded tail plane.
A cute war plane, such an oxymoron.
So, onto the actual vehicles making my top-ten.
1969 Cooper F1 car
My toy racing car. The wing was raised too high in this version, based on a late season entry. So now looks rubbish
Formula 1 racing has always held a certain appeal. The fast cars, obscene money and glamorous locations keep the sport in my mind even if the last few years Schmedious results have kept it off my TV. So it is natural that I should include a car from this pinnacle of motor sports.
I suppose it is a symptom of age that despite the obvious appeal of modern cars there is an era of racing that seems more glorious and it dates around the time I first got an interest in the sport. I have chosen the Cooper F1 from the 1969 season as it was this car that, to me, epitomises open wheel racing.
The rear tyres look properly wide, the engine is exposed and the newly added wings were just right. I like the front spoiler jutting from the actual nose and the rear spoiler was better looking mounted low on the engine.
I've never driven one, nor am I likely to as the price of classic F1 racers nearly match their modern counterparts but I can dream.
An Ariel Atom with my Jaguar XJ8 in the background. I might need to take a moment
My next choice is not so far away from the car above and is probably chosen because of the similarities.
But instead of a having to be Ray Parlour's wife to afford a classic F1 motor this blatant facsimile costs a more reasonable £30-40k.
Still a lot of money for a weekend car with no panels but well comparable with its natural opposition.
I love the Atom's Meccano build and raw energy and can personally testify to its ability to deliver the goods that the look promises.
Short on comfort but very long on desire, the Atom deserves its place in this illustrious crowd.
Nearly as quick as the Aston but with seats like a Business Class jet and the torque to match.
I have never experienced power like the Bentley Arnage delivers and in back to back tests with its bigger brother the Continental it wins on every count, including saving £100k.
The Continental may have the classic looks but I'm sure I can find an Arnage to beat it.
The best car in the world.
Note that a full appraisal of my time with a Bentley Arnage will eventually be available in the Cars section of the website.
My first aeronautical choice is probably in the list of everyone who has ever seen the Concorde.
Breathtakingly beautiful, stunningly quick and well out of the reach of the hoi-poli. Marvellous.
The only problems are it's cramped interior and that it has disappeared from our skies.
Worth every bit of pollution.
In the top ten? No doubt at all.
A Douglas DC-3 hanging in the Smithsonian Museum
The second most beautiful plane in the world [see above] hails from the time just before the second world war but its lines are just so perfect.
I love the fat fuselage, strong wing arrangements, classic twin prop design and sturdy tail.
Still operating in many places around the world today the McDonnell Douglas DC-3, known as a Dakota in the UK, is living proof that if it looks right then it probably is right.
I've yet to catch a flight in one of these beauties but guess that the reality doesn't quite live up to the glamour.
Particularly as I'll probably be in South America when I get a go in one.
Eurostar Best Class
I'm not much of a train buff.
For many years I rarely travelled on one thinking they were too expensive and inconvenient.
Also, with 8 miles between my home and the nearest station, thanks to Beecham's cuts in the 60s, I never had cause to use them.
Not that I had no contact, my wife spent most of her career with a railway company and we took advantage of the odd subsidised trip.
Things have changed recently though as I now work mainly in London and the train is the only viable option. I now estimate that I have travelled over one hundred and fifty thousand miles sat on a train.
This experience, in all its sordid glory is why a trip on the Eurostar in the best carriages is such a delight.
I have travelled three times in First Class and on every occasion I have thought it most pleasant. The large seats, at seat service and quiet comfort is reminiscent of travel tales of old.
Just don't think that the modern version of First Class is the same.
For some peculiar reason, probably to do with the French translation, Business Class is the new premier travelling style and 'mere' First Class is a poor relation.
Now, how do I say 'contravenes the Trade's Description Act' in French?
Honda CBX Moto Martin
A Moto Martin CBX. In Brown. Brilliant
The first bike in my top ten list is a hybrid vehicle and I'm not talking dual fuel.
In the late seventies Honda produced the stunning CBX with its fantastic transverse six cylinder engine. Wider than a Cockney car salesman with a penchant for iced buns this behemoth was a dream machine.
Except two problems.
One, was the name. Now Honda is a make to be respected for its engineering excellence and reliability but much like my Miele washing machine I don't exactly look at the product with love.
The other problem with the CBX was the handling - the stock Japanese flexi-frames could never harness the engine outputs at the time.
Moto Martin, a small French custom builder came to the rescue by taking the engine and putting it in a stylish trick frame mounted with swoopy body parts with twin-headlamps.
All par for the course today but 30 years ago this was enough to make me tear out the advert and hang it on my wall.
I own one.
Need I say more?
Note that a full appraisal of my Jaguar XJ8 4.0 will eventually be available in the Cars section of the website.
Who wouldn't be impressed with one of the traditional Queens of the sea?
I have travelled the Atlantic on the QE2 and can confirm it is all that you would expect, then more.
One trip and I'm a confirmed cruise fan. A tall order for the QM2 replacement to beat.
For more details about my experience on this most magnificent of vehicles see my separate story.
The two Vincents. Technically the one on the right is a Rapide. The Black Shadow had a black enamelled engine. Both were the same speed when parked
Last, but not least, this list would be incomplete without the vehicle I was actually named after.
My father told me this, whilst saying I should have been grateful that he didn't like Francis Barnetts.
Although this bike now looks a little quirky I am actually quite proud to be named after such a phenomenal bike from the nineteen-fifties, with a great reputation amongst those that know such things.
If only I could afford one now.
Think multiple grands. And then some.
Fantastic name though.
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.072 16 Feb 2018
First Published: Version 1.03 in Feb 2005
Images added, along with minor text updates for setting out purposes, in Version 5.060 23 Jan 2018. All photographs taken by the Author, except the one he is in [Obvs].
A Dream Come True
A short story by Vince, written 1982.
The heat from the ground rose defiantly, shimmering above the winding road, the distortions playing havoc with the clear cut edge of the tarmac strip.
A feint roar could be heard from the distant horizon. The noise grew louder and louder, now heard well above the relentless chanting of the birds and insects. A glint of light was caught in the distance and as the rumble drew closer it could be observed that a motorcyclist, resplendent in his white leather jacket, was riding his mount rapidly towards the ancient monument half a mile away.
As the rider rode faster into the foreground it could be observed that this was no ordinary day tripper. The open megaphone type exhausts echoed a note reminiscent of track racers, the rapid acceleration shattered only by the tortuously hard braking for his next corner belayed an experienced street racer. Each gear change was just a flick from his right boot just a fraction of momentum lost. At every corner the hot black rubber of the tyres scrabbled for grip, the footrests causing sparks to be flown from the tarmac. Then again the rider pulled upright rapidly towards the next bend in an ecstasy of speed and tormented delight.
This frantic moment of riding soon came to a close. The rider having pulled out of a sweeping right hander screwed open the throttle, laid on the tank and watched the long straight unfurl in front of him. The speedometer needle indicated seventy, eighty, ...ninety passed as his right foot forced the next gear into operation. The black chromed exhausts bleated out in beautiful harmony as one-hundred and ten showed. Ton-twenty and the motor screamed for more, the airstream battling with the rider for control of the machine.
The needle peaked at one-hundred and twenty-five as the next bend loomed into the distance. Within a split second the rider’s right hand was gripping the brake lever. The motion abruptly spoiled as the black calipers grabbed the shining twin front discs. The front end dropped as the weight fell on the front wheel, the forks diving in pain as ninety, seventy, fifty passed. Then a quick gear change and the bike cruised gently round the next bend.
Now that the riding was more sedate the details of man and machine could be seen. The rider wearing his black crash helmet, bearing the mark of a Greek God painted delicately in gold, faded blue jeans and studded leather boots was haunched over a mainly black bike.
The heart of the bike, a mighty V-twin motor, thumped it’s power through a huge chain and was converted to power by a massive oversize rear tyre. The front end, braced by two powerful looking forks, boasted a huge tyre, twin discs and rather unsubstantial but neat looking mudguard. Above, the double headlights were gripped in a small nose fairing suggesting night racing but were taped over as it was a sunny afternoon.
Above the unburstable black motor lay a shiny, glimmering petrol tank. As with the rest of the machine it was gloss black and only the golden letters broke the monotony. The name reminiscent of by-gone days where the engine once ruled the roads, now emblazoned on the most beautiful bike in the world, read...VINCENT.
The Vincent motorcycle concept I envisaged for this story in the early eighties. The café racer is influenced by the Vincent Black Shadow, the Moto-Martin CBX and Ogri
Vince was proud of his bike. Very proud. He had read how customers spend hundreds of pounds and thousands of hours churning out visually appealing machines, only to be torn to pieces and then re-built in time for the next custom show. Also, like it as not, they don’t run, or can’t because they have sixty-nine carat gold plate on the rear sprocket or something.
But Vince’s bike ran, and it ran well. He remembered how his old CX500 used to bounce and weave along this, his favourite stretch of road. Even the Suzuki GS750 seemed to wallow above eighty on these curves. But his Vincent, that he was riding now, seemed to eat potholes and white lines as though it were stood still on a bowling green. Most bikes seemed like a roller-coaster on speed compared to this machine.
And what a machine it was. A speed machine, an accelerating machine, an enthusiast’s machine, a reliable machine...? Vince pondered on this for a while as the shining black beauty purred slowly into town, the passers-by admiring the immaculate lines and enviously noticing the smug look of it’s pleased rider. The reliability, he thought, was probably the machine’s weakest point, although this would probably be complimenting it’s other features. The speed was electrifying, the finish superb, the handling perfect. Even the fuel consumption was favourable compared to the modern multis.
In reality, Vince thought, nothing should go wrong with his bike. After all he had built the engine and bike from scratch, so he knew it inside out. He remembered how his grandfather had nearly thrown out the old engine. Now neatly restored, painted black and brightly polished it looked like it had been brought just yesterday. It’s one-thousand cc’s of sheer muscle seemed to ooze character as it fired it’s cylinders in turn after every second lamppost on the pavement. Beautiful, Vince thought.
Up ahead were traffic lights. They were about forty yards away by now and Vince knew that if he opened the throttle the black sensation would roar easily through before the red, even if the amber showed up now, but he was in no hurry. Vince used to scream along at fifty or sixty in town on the Suzuki thinking he was a king, but on this machine he knew he was and therefore had no need to prove it. He casually glanced down at the large Smiths speedo and read twenty-seven miles an hour.
Sure enough the lights turned red and Vince pulled up resting his front wheel just short of the white line. The traffic system was a slow one so Vince knew he would be able to look around, revelling in the fame this bike seemed to bring him. When he stopped in the street it was almost as if every male over the age of fifty had owned one when they were young. So strange that there was only one other Vincent in the country now.
He noticed his reflection in the mirrored glass of a shop front, the bike’s weight resting gently on his left boot. Vince placed his right foot down and raised his left, seeing his reflection as though he were riding. He crouched low over the tank and smiled as he imagined Brands Hatch wind around in front of him, the chequered flag waving as he passed the finishing line well ahead of the competition.
Today however, the only competition was the buzzing RD250 that had pulled up right next to him.
The Yamaha was the usual two-fifty seen around suburban streets. Vince himself had owned something similar when he had started motorcycling just a few years ago. This model, being about two years old now, and obviously thrashed, was naturally tatty. The scratches, twisted footrests and bent handlebar levers seemed to compliment the Vincent perfectly.
The rider too was the standard eighteen-year old Vince had been three years back, with his painted polycarbonate hat and Foster-Grants. A wry smile told the message Vince was expecting. The rider rocked backwards and forwards revving his engine and grinning widely. This guy wanted a race.
Vince casually clicked the gear-lever into first and gave a quick blat of the motor to show the competition that he meant business. The revolutions died down to it’s normal thumping tick-over as he held in the clutch and watched the ominous red light.
The Yam owner was now sweating. He loved racing cars and bikes away from the lights and considered himself good at the ‘sport’. After all he had only been beaten once and that was because he had missed a gear. A criminal act in the unwritten law of street racing. And today he was challenging no ordinary Escort. This black monster next to him seemed to ooze power, even stood still. His eyes locked onto the lights, only blinking to remove the sweat gathering on his eyelids.
Suddenly the red light was joined by the amber. The Yamaha owner dropped his clutch holding five-thousand revs. The front wheel pawed the air, nearly sending the rider off the back. Seven-thousand on the clock and the rider plucked his next gear from the box, the front wheel again falling to the ground. Another seven-thousand was showing and again the front tyre was losing traction with the tarmac as the rider flicked a higher ratio into operation in a frantic dash for victory.
The red and amber had now dissolved and had been replaced by green and Vince knew he could now start. He had not been tempted to jump the lights with his opponent, after all he did have the capacity advantage over the Yamaha. He noticed that the other rider was across the other side of the junction and was only about fifty yards away from the narrowing gap, caused by the parked cars, which they were racing for.
The huge motor only showed two-and-a-half thousand on the tachometer when he slipped the light clutch away from the left handlebar. He knew that he had over seventy miles an hour in this gear so it was now down to his right hand. Vince preferred to release clutches gently and let the motor do the work rather than lose valuable forward motion trying to control senseless wheelies.
The tachometer was showing four thousand now and the scorching black rubber of the rear tyre was acting like a clutch as a plume of white smoke emitted from the back. Vince leaned forward onto his forearms to prevent the aerobatics of the front end and watched as the little Yamaha appeared to be coming back towards him.
It was now only twenty yards to that gap and the Yam had the best line, with the rider obviously happy as he seemed well ahead. Having jumped the lights and gained that extra twenty or thirty yards he was confident that it would take something pretty special to beat him past that red Cortina parked ahead. The juggernaut approaching the other way prevented any alternative route and as his front wheel was way ahead of any competition, which was the only thing that mattered, he guessed that the other rider was braking fiercely.
The competition, however, was something pretty special and Vince wasn’t going to loose easily. The gap may have been only fifteen yards away and they may have been travelling well above fifty by now but Vince knew that his bike only needed a gap of about nine feet to get through and saw that his front wheel was in line with the Yamaha’s rear and he was accelerating like he had never experienced before.
With the throttle against the stop and the motor now screaming in delight he was being physically stretched by the power. His arms seemed to be pulling from their sockets and his eyes watered with the pain at the tremendous G-force, pushing him against the moulded seat hump.
The bikes were level now and the red Cortina seemed all too near. With his acceleration Vince knew that if he were to back off now he would have no time to stop or swerve. It was now or never. His right hand forced the throttle harder against it’s stop causing the rubber to twist painfully, as the bikes edged closer together, the gap drawing nearer. Now even the Vincent’s front end lifted as the two battled for first place.
Luckily for Vince his front wheel was now ahead, but the Cortina was very close, however, rules are rules and he decided to swerve towards the gap, just missing the car by a few inches. The Yamaha rider sensed this and threw his right fist forward, shutting off the throttle and grabbing the brake lever. The tiny black caliper clutched it’s shining disc and sent a thin black run of rubber down the tarmac.
Vince had won, but only just.
Further on down the road the mighty Vincent pulled up at another set of traffic lights. It burbled away on tick-over as it’s last competitor silently drew up next to it.
Vince looked at the Yamaha’s owner and smiled confidently. The rider gave a return nod.
“Thanks.” Replied Vince.
“Quick...” he continued “...isn’t it?”
“Quick enough.” Confirmed Vince.
“What is it?” Asked the Yam owner, as the lights turned to green.
“A dream come true.” Vince replied, dumping the clutch. The mighty motor again responded and he roared off into the distance…
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.175 17 Aug 2018
The first half written for an article in Southampton and District Motorcycle Club magazine under the title The Ultimate Ride, published in 1982 with the remaining penned to fit the requirements of Bike magazine, but sadly never published meaning the writer had to get a proper job.
At the time of writing the Southampton and District Motorcycle Club was based in Woodside Avenue in Eastleigh. It can now be found via sdmcc.net
First published in this website Version 3.0 Mar 2010
The header photograph shows the author squatting next to an immaculate Vincent Rapide motorcycle. The Rapide was produced between 1936 and 1955 and remains a collectable bike. The more famous, faster Black Shadow model had black enamelled engine casings. The photo was taken by the author's wife in Skegness in April 1996
The sketch was drawn by the author to demonstrate the bike envisaged in the story. It was influenced by the Vincent Black Shadow motorcycle's V-twin motor sat in a frame similar to the eighties Moto-Martin CBX1000. Also there is just a bit of Ogri in it. Orgi was a cartoon character drawn by Paul Sample for Bike Magazine between 1972 and 2009. Ogri actually rode a Norvin, a Vincent engined Norton café racer. Actually he didn't as he was just an ink drawn character. Ogri continued in motorcycle magazine Back Street Heroes until 2012
The vinceunlimited Yamaha DT175 Story
An Initial Trial.
I have no pictures of my first motorcycle so here is the front page of the Sales Brochure for the Yamaha DT175 in 1977. Credit: Yamaha
We all remember our first.
Our first girlfriend, first kiss, first single and first time stealing from the dairy. Or was that just me?
Anyway, our vehicles are no exception and my little Yamaha DT175 trail bike was the first vehicle that I owned.
Mind you at the time it didn't seem so little and in many ways it wasn't the first. But much like girlfriends you can't include a quick shuftie with your neighbour as a prima facie conquest. So the Yam formally remains my first.
My parents had purchased a new Gilera moped for my older brother when he turned sixteen. They gave me the option of a new 'ped at the same age or a second-hand motorbike at seventeen.
As I was able to use my brother's wheels I chose the motorbike option and given the stringent restrictions on size ("not a 250 son, too big") and considering cost, I chose the Yamaha.
The year was around 1978 and the bike had a P registration plate, it was only a few years old. That's a P at the end by the way.
Trail bikes back then were much different from today. The styling still had suggestions of a fifties mount with it's front mudguard set close to the wheel, although trail bikes were soon shipped with higher mudguards shortly afterwards.
The tyres were 'knobblies' so gave me a chance to use it on and off the blacktop.
Top speed was a quite miserable 65mph or so. This meant that it never kept up with my mate Jeff's Honda CB125. Then again, nothing else could either.
The best bit of my new toy was the colour.
Although the bike was in sound mechanical condition with no damage to the bodywork, the bike had been repainted. I can't recall the probably implausible excuse the seller gave for the re-spray but I didn't care. It was a cream colour with brown stripes.
For some peculiar reason known only to myself, as a teenager my favourite colour was brown, plus at the time Kenny Roberts was putting Yamaha on the racing map and the distinctive blocky stripes were aped on my fuel tank.
Not mine. The bike, the photo nor the girl. In the absence of photo evidence of my own DT175 I found and used for years this scan of a similar model from an old Bike magazine featuring despatch rider Sue Fiddian. By old Bike, I mean the magazine not the girl. Sorry Sue. Credit: Bike Magazine
It was a unique bike at the time so if you recognise this pattern and now know the bike get in touch. I would love to see it again. Mind you it would be well past its sell by date by now and I guess pretty ropey. So I'll only give you a few quid for it, all right.
Another useful feature was the off-roading abilities.
Not so much the serious mudplugging but the ability to climb easily up the pavement kerb at the local disco.
Of the few times I ventured off the tarmac my inexperience kept me from performing fantastic tricks and my leg length prevented me from stopping. In fact, I can't recall ever pulling a proper, wheel in the air for more than a half-second type, wheelie. And I call myself a biker!
Plus, in those days, stoppies were only carried out by riders with no control and grabby brakes. The drums on the Yamaha certainly never grabbed anything to my knowledge.
However, I did find the thing ace at driving round town with its light weight and responsive two-stroke motor.
The wide bars, although sometimes a pain through dense traffic, enabled surefooted slow riding skills and great manoeuvrability. This was coupled to a high vantage point from that seat that didn't suit my legs, although it was comfy enough for one bum.
Add a second bum, whose owner had to make do with swing-arm mounted rear footpegs, and it didn't do so well. But for one up hooligan riding round town it was perfect.
I even considered fitting road tyres rather than the standard fitment off-road rubber. I recall that despite my efforts I couldn't match a front and rear so didn't proceed with this mod. If I had I would have beaten the modern super-motards to the idea by several years. Despite not heralding this modern change I travelled many a happy mile.
Nevertheless, it was the unhappy mile that it will be best remembered for.
I recall a frustrating crawl up the outside lane of a dual carriageway, at it's 65mph maximum. Jeff, on his CeeBee had passed the car and decided on a different route into the New Forest. He swung into a left-hand turn and disappeared.
I was still in hot [read: warm] pursuit and trying to pass the car.
Why people insist on travelling at one mile an hour less than my top speed, I'll never know.
Anyway, I just made it and shot round the bend. It was set at a right angle and Kenny himself would have been pleased with taking it at this speed. On his race bike.
Mind you I did have one race bike advantage. The footpegs on a trail bike are small and high set so don't dig in when cornering. A common problem on seventies machinery. Provided the tyres held out the thing could corner like a demon. And the road that day was perfectly dry and smooth.
I leaned over, to the point my boots were scraping the deck, but it wasn't enough. The corner was too sharp. So I leaned a bit more and something eventually grounded out. My handlebar ends!
I slid across the road.
Thankfully, it being the seventies meant that no traffic was on the other side. Unfortunately, being summer and a carefree teenager meant that I wasn't dressed properly. The lightweight jacket I had on rode up my torso, followed by my tee shirt, then in turn, each layer of my skin. Gravel rash par excellence.
Despite this mishap I enjoyed my time with the Yamaha.
Even now I wish it was sat in my garage so that I could play on it. The engine may have been noisy and underpowered but the styling was just right. The high exhaust and low front mudguard may date the thing to a certain period but that's when I was learning the meaning of freedom and this bike helped me achieve that. I'll always remember it fondly.
Like all my other firsts, I guess.
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.054 9 Jan 2018
First Published: Version 1.02 in Mar 2004
The first image shows the front page of the official UK Yamaha DT175 sales brochure and was added in Version 5.054 9 Jan 2018. Credit: Yamaha
The second image shows a photograph scanned from an old 'Bike' magazine and was used to illustrate a story about a female despatch rider called Sue Fiddian. It was first added to my website in Version 3 in Mar 2010. I liked this as it best represented the 'look' of my DT175. Used and generally remembered in black and white. Credit: Bike Magazine