Saturday, November 26, 2011

Blue Haze Ride 2011

The Japanese Bike Show organised a ride for two-stroke bikes on Saturday 26 November 2011. The Blue Haze Ride started at Burswood Casino carpark at 9am before heading off to the E-Shed Markets Fremantle, where the bikes were displayed as part of the Fremantle Festival.

The Ariel on arrival - for once I was mostly on time! A photo by Graelin.

Although organised by the Japanese Bike Show it was open to all two-strokes regardless of origin. It was great to see some 'oddities' out there. This is a 1972 Jawa Californian from Czechoslovakia. Jawa built the Californian with the export market in mind to bring in much needed hard currency.

A Kawasaki 750 triple and a range of modern two-strokes.

1970s Yamaha and Suzuki.

A trio of Yamaha's. Yamaha's two-stroke range started in 1955 with the YA-1, a copy of DKW's pre-war RT125 motorcycle - the most copied motorcycle in the world.

Very modern two-stroke sports bikes, including an Aprilla.

I'm not a great fan of modern bikes but I must admit this 1985 Suzuki is pretty damned stylish. If I had to.....

A BMW R80/7. Well, not really a two-stoke, so that probably explains why it was parked in a corner.

The group sets off. A photo by Graelin.

Photo by Graelin.

The main pack arrives at the E-Shed. Typically I lost my way on the ride (too slow, wrong freeway exit) so I arrived slightly before the main group, which allowed me to snap a couple of pics as they drove. The scream of the two-stroke engines was quite wonderful.

A photo by Graelin.

The pack settles in

As I'd arrived slightly earlier than most I parked in the E-Shed motorcycle bays. Why is there always so little motorcycle parking in Perth? The E-Shed is a popular coffee stop for motorcyclists on a Fremantle run but there are only about 10 bays (quite a lot really) awkwardly spaced around a large transformer box. I'm guessing that if the transformer box wasn't there there would actually be NO motorcycle parking there at all.

Some bikes were trailered in specially. Ray and Anne bought down their collection of British lightweight two-strokes.

Ray poses with his collection.

A 1952 BSA Bantam D-1, a 1954 James Cadet and a 1954 Francis-Barnett.

Probably the most successful British motorcycle of all time. Other British motorcycles may be more famous, more powerful, and more expensive, but the Bantam was THE bike almost everyone of a certain age first learned to ride on. The Bantam of course was the British version of the German DKW RT125.

I moved the Ariel around to join its English brethren.

The English contingent certainly drew a crowd. I was quite surprised by the number of English gents who suddenly appeared with that nostalgic look in their eye saying, "I first learned to ride on a Bantam when I was 14..." There were dozens of them and it was great to hear all their stories. I had a good chat with a fellow who did his mechanic's apprenticeship at BSA in Birmingham. He had lived half way between the BSA factory and the Francis-Barnett/James factory but went with BSA as he had more opportunity to learn from them as BSA at least built their own engines. F-B and James used Villiers engines. He'd owned a Bantam, a Gold Star (which he didn't like) and a Leader at various times.

Photographing the James

An immaculately restored 1974 Kawasaki 750. It was for sale for $19K.

Chris' 1986 MZ ETZ250 was a latecomer to the show but it certainly drew a bit of attention. Two English guys instantly recognised it and came over for a chat. The East German eisen-schwein (iron-pig) was built at the old DKW works at Zchopau by MZ (Motorradwerke Zchopau) and exported all over the Eastern Bloc and - surprisingly - the UK. In the UK they were dirt cheap and almost became the BSA Bantam of a later generation. MZs certainly weren't flashy bikes but they could tolerate abuse and neglect and just keep going.

Another Czech Jawa. This one is roughly 1968-70. It's been restored with a mix of parts. Still looks beautiful though. The similarity with a DKW is obvious.

Looking over the crowd at about 12pm. I think it was a good turn out and there was a lot of interest from passersby's. There was good chat and discussion amongst all the riders, regardless of what they were riding. Good work Mike and the team for arranging the ride. It was a great day!

At about 1pm the crowd began to move off. Ben hops on his beautifully restored 1970 Jawa.

I tend to think of this as an 'old bike' problem, but no. One of the riders gets a helping hand with a push start. We shouldn't laugh as it's happened to all of us. As it turned out I was almost the last bike away. When I moved the bike to join the English contingent I forgot to turn off the petrol tap and the engine was flooded (note to self - DON'T FORGET TO TURN OFF THE PETROL TAP - AGAIN!). It needed a good half an hour to rest before it kicked over again. Thanks to Simon from Perth Street Bikes for helping try to start it with me.

The Endeavour replica was in port too so I popped over to have a look. I was only stopping for a minute to have look but another two groups of English tourists came over to ask, "Isn't that an Ariel?" Happy days!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Planes of Fame Museum

Planes of Fame Air Museum was founded by Mr Ed Maloney in Claremont, California in 1957. From an original collection of only 10 aircraft, the collection now comprises over 150 across two locations in Chino, California and Grand Canyon, Arizona. The museum aims to keep these vintage aircraft in the air and have many restoration projects underway. We visited the Arizona museum on our way to the Grand Canyon. There weren't many visitors so I had the chance to talk a little with the volunteers manning the counter - but not for too long as while Shelly likes auto museums she doesn't find aircraft museums quite as interesting.

The museum has a great and informative website too -

This magnificent Lockhead Constellation airliner graces the front gate of the museum. This aircraft was the personal transport for General Douglas MacArthur during this time in Japan and the Korean war.,cntnt01,default,0&cntnt01what=stplanes&cntnt01alias=VC-121A&cntnt01returnid=128
A Convair CV240 airliner. This plane is in flying condition.

View of the collection from the hanger doors. The Grand Canyon museum is smaller than the Chino museum, which holds the main collection, including a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and B-29 Superfortress.

A replica of the World War I Nieuport 17 fighter flown by the American fighter ace, Billy Walker. Walker was one of a number of Americans who enlisted in the French flying corps at the outset of the war. Their squadron became known as the Lafayette Squadron, after a French general who served with Washington during the War of Independence.

A World War I Bristol F2B. The British Bristol fighters were sold to the US and many Allied nations in the aftermath of the war.

A World War I Siemens-Schuckert D.IV fighter from Germany. This non-flying example is a really rare survivor. The Treaty of Versailles banned Germany from possessing an airforce and all German aircraft were commandeered for war reparations or destroyed.

A Grumman G-32-A Flying Barrel.

A Stinson Reliant executive plane. Very sweet

A Stinson Sentinel air ambulance. These planes were used as transports, spotters and air ambulances during the Second World War and Korean Wars. My great uncle John Markham owned one of these for many years. He had found it as a wreck at an Indian airfield during an epic round the world flight in the 1980s. He later purchased the plane and a wrecked Tiger Moth, had them shipped back to Australia and restored. I'll write something about that later.

A Messerschmitt Me-109G

It looks like a Japanese World War Two Aichi Val dive bomber but is in fact an American Vultee BT-15 converted to look a Val for the movies. The museum has an actual Val under restoration.

Douglas Skyraider. These aircraft were developed too late for WWII but saw extensive action in Korea and Vietnam.

North American Trojan T-28B

Douglas Invader bomber. Built towards the end of the Second World War, they saw service in Korea with the US Airforce and also in a number of foreign airforces.

A Ford.. and a bomb!

The museum strongly believes in keeping these machines flying. Many of these vintage planes have been picked up by retiring US airforce personnel in order to keep their flying dreams alive in retirement. Many however find that the expense of keeping the planes running difficult to sustain and, as with vintage cars and bikes, they can be a lot less fun to fly that they would appear. The Stinson Sentinel for instance was a rushed design during wartime and it has some poor handling characteristics that prevented it from enjoying a post war career. Generally, unless there is a special connection, the owners' children aren't keen to take on the responsibility and cost of maintenance so planes are handed over to the museum who display them and keep them flying.

There was also an extensive of aircraft models. This is a Northrop YB-35 Flying Wing. Northrop experimented extensively with flying wing designs. A prototype and pre-production versions of these four engined bombers were built after the end of the war but were too unorthodox for the Airforce. A jet version - the YB-49 - was also built but all were eventually scrapped. The two engined 1941 prototype is the only surviving example of this amazing machine. It has been restored to flying condition at the Chino air museum.

Outside the hanger are a collection of 1950s jet fighters. Being exposed to the elements, these planes look a little worse for wear.

From left to right, a Russian Mig-17, a British De Havilland Vampire and a French Aero Delfin L29.

Republic Thunderjet F-84B

The ubiquitous Russian jet fighter of the early Cold War era - the Mig-17. They were a popular jet fighter and sold all across the Soviet Bloc and Middle East.

The twin boom De Havilland Vampire was Britain's first operational jet fighter being developed and flying before the Gloster Meteor. However, due to engine problems it did not reach front line units until after the Meteor was deployed in the last months of the Second World War.

Surprising as it sounds the Vampire is largely constructed of wood. The wings and booms are steel skinned but the rest of the body is composed of marine plywood. The weather has certainly taken its toll on this plane and the wood paneling is badly flaking.

An aircraft fuselage awaits its turn for restoration.

This interesting flying wing was a home built aircraft based on the designs of the German Horten brothers. The Horten's worked originally with tailless gliders in the prewar years before moving into powered aircraft in 1943. Their aircraft were always constructed of classic lightweight materials, such as doped canvas and plywood. The builder of this aircraft constructed his of fibreglass, a much weightier material. When completed the aircraft proved too heavy to get itself airborne. It was eventually donated to museum and is awaiting its turn for restoration.

A line of engines lying in the dust. I don't know what aircraft these come from.