After achieving six ‘O’ levels at Bewdley High School in 1974, I made the choice to go straight into industry, and trained in Mechanical Engineering as a tool-maker with Parsons Chain Co Ltd, at Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire and passed a City and Guilds Full Technological Certificate parts 1, 2 and 3. Engineering had got into my blood. I started a part-time business in 1978, initially pursuing my passion for motorbikes and off road racing and specialising in repairing moto-cross motorcycles for several off-road bike dealers in the South Birmingham and Worcesterarea.
I was lucky to have been born into a farming family and had the space to experience the joys of motorcycling from an early age. By the time I was 11 years old I’d graduated from a Raleigh Runabout moped to a James Commodore 250, then at 12 years to a Triumph Sprite T100 500cc Scrambler. Many other bikes followed, and at Easter 1976, I entered my first Moto-X races at an AMCA event on a self-tuned vintage BSA 500 B50 MX and I was able to take three straight wins on the day. I was naturally very pleased with myself, and was instantly promoted to senior level.
I competed most weekends up until end of the 1981 season, having graduated to AMCA Expert status in late 1976 then switching to ACU racing at national level throughout the country. I’d gained ACU expert status by 1978 and regularly finished in the top three in open-to-centre meetings. In 1981, I competed in the British Support Championship. I also represented the UK at events in Africa on an importer-supported Maico.
In 1980, I gained full sponsorship on Yamaha machines from former Motorcycle World Champion, the late Mike Hailwood. Before his untimely death, Mike and fellow rider/business partner Rod Gould owned motorcycle sales businesses in Birmingham and Worcester. I competed in the British Support Championship on Yamaha’s in 250 and 500cc two-stroke classes as well as Yamaha’s pioneering 4-stroke ‘Arberg Replica’. However, my heart was with Maico and I returned to riding the German brand in late 1981, riding a sponsored Maico 490 Mega II – now recognised as possibly the best Moto-X machine ever built for its time.
Sadly, I finally ended weekly competitive racing at National level in 1982 as my business then demanded so much more of my time, that there wasn’t enough spare for the preparation of machines, training and vital riding practice required to make it to the top flight. There was also the thorny question of funding the next stage of competition at that level.
During my competitive racing days, I developed many special parts for competition bikes. At that time, production bikes often fell far short of the much-coveted ‘works’ machines. With my engineering background, I was quick to spot the improvements carried out on the factory machines, and copied or even improved on them for my own machines. I soon became known as the specialist in this field and was often asked to carry out improvements and repairs on the bikes of top riders.
At around the same time, I began modifying sports cars as well as bikes. The Triumph TR7 was then available in the UK, and in 1980 a drop-head version was introduced. However, our American cousins were exclusively enjoying the coveted TR8 version, powered by the ubiquitous 3.5 litre Rover V8. Fuelled no doubt by rally success in the hands of ace driver Tony Pond, enthusiasts within the UK and the rest of Europe eagerly awaited the TR8s debut on this side of the pond. However, this was not to be. In 1982, after only 16 factory-built RHD TR8’s were made, Michael Edwards, boss of British Leyland pulled the plug on production and sold the tooling for scrap.
But pent-up demand remained. As a TR7 owner myself, I had already seen the opportunity to develop my own TR8 conversion. I duly built a TR8 using all new parts and in 1980 decided to turn this into a business specialising in the conversion of TR7s into TR8s, but still based at my late father’s farm – which I subsequently purchased from him.
In 1984 our modified TR7 V8 was received with great enthusiasm at its debut launch at the inaugural Classic and Sports Car Show at the National Exhibition Centre. Our humble stand was totally overwhelmed with interest as, at the time, there was very little to compare to the highly developed ‘Grinnall V8’, with its open top (there were very few open top cars at the time), special KONI suspension, vented discs, 4-piston caliper brakes, disc rear brakes, tuned 265bhp 3900cc V8 motor, Getrag gearbox, wide wheels and tyres, all-metal body styling and leather trim. We were delighted when opera conductor and composer Stephen Barlow placed an order for one. His film star wife Joanna Lumley, when asked to contribute to the ‘Courvoisier Book of the Best’ it was the Grinnall V8 she proffered, describing it as ‘a hairy wizard of a car’ adding that driving it was a ‘bat-out-of-hell time!’
For over 12 years, my small enterprise converted, rebuilt and restored over 350 TR7s. To this day, the Grinnall V8 is held in high regard by many TR aficionados. The International TR Register now has a sub-section for ‘Grinnall’ car and owners. The cars are still much sought after, but rarely sold.
Back in the early 90’s as theUKmoved into recession, interest rates soared to 14%, and the market for restored and up-rated cars went into decline. New cars had improved and were cheaper and soft tops were now readily available. I felt something new was needed and I was aware we were missing out on the potential of something new and different on both the home and the export markets.
So in 1990 I turned back towards my passion for bikes. Encouraged by my
3-wheeler loving Father (a Morgan fan though sadly never an owner) and with help from my college buddy Neil Williams and designer Steve Harper, we began to develop the Scorpion-III; a radical new three-wheeler cycle car. Though inspired by the original 3-wheeler Morgan, it was to look forward rather than back.
Having owned and enjoyed a BMW K100 bike since 1986, I chose the K-series 1000cc 4-cylinder BMW shaft driven drive train to be at the heart of our new lightweight flyer. Intensive research and development took only two years and at the time of its launch in 1992, the Scorpion-III was a press sensation.
In the first 12 months it was featured in virtually all of the UK’s motoring press, and dozens of international publications. It has been featured in several TV motoring shows here and abroad. In 1995 it was tested and praised by Tiff Needell on BBC Top Gear, and when Tiff interviewed the late Lord Strath-Carron, Scorpion owner and motoring Politian, he described it as being ‘more fun than a Ferrari!’ The Scorpion-III has been displayed and admired at many shows as far afield as Japan,Australia, and USA as well as all over the E.U.
The Scorpion-III is still the benchmark in its class and after all this time is selling in modest numbers to enthusiasts throughout the world. Sales of the Scorpion-III are now approaching 400 Worldwide. However, always keen to innovate in accordance with market trends and emerging technology, in 2007 I developed the S-III to accept the new and sensational BMW K1200S 167bhp motor and drive train, and in 2009 the latest 185bhp K1300S motor.
The natural evolution of the Scorpion-III is the Scorpion IV, its four-wheeled big brother. Research and development on this began in 2000, but production was restricted due to inadequate fabrication and assembly space and the ever-increasing demand for our more recently introduced Trikes. Following our move into new, purpose-built premises in March 2015, production of this machine will re-start, and we can begin to tackle its sales potential.
The S-IV is powered by a turbo charged mid-mounted Audi 20-valve 1.8 litre engine that, with optional tuning packages, takes the power from 225bhp all the way up to over 450bhp. Professionally styled by Steve Harper this machine is a direct competitor to the successful Ariel Atom, and the long-established, Chapman designed Caterham Seven.
I have also successfully developed trike conversions for the BMW R1200C, Montauk and CL models, and the R1150R. Around 250 have been converted since the launch in May 2000 at the UK BMF Rally. Following the success of the BMW trikes, I developed a conversion for the Triumph Rocket 3, 2300cc monster bike. This model was styled by the talented Steve Everitt and was launched at the 2005 BMF Rally. 2015 will finally see the launch of another of Steve Everitt design, a trike based on the Triumph Thunderbird 1600 and 1700 twin.
I have always been passionate about motorcycling and am proud to say I’m a member of this wonderful community. Starting at nine with a Raleigh Runabout moped, I built my first engine aged 11. I currently own 15 bikes, including the wonderful Ducati 1200S Multistrada. Other machines I’m privileged to own are an immaculate Honda RVF750R-RC45, a fully rebuilt light weight BMW R1100GS (on Dellorto carbs), a mint 2004 BMW R1200C, a ‘73 BSA B50 with only 3000 miles, an exceptional ’95 Honda CR250R (last of the 2-strokes) fitted with Ohlins suspension. I still compete in classic MX, and have restored a 1981 490 Maico Mega II. Current builds include a Cheney/BSA B50 600cc, an early ‘70’s 440 Maico, and a ’63 Greeves MDS 250. Another Maico – a ‘76 250, awaits the same attention.
I enjoy long distance m/c travel (especially Africa &USA), mountain biking, fell-walking with my lovely wife and little dog Ruby (a Lakeland/Patterdale Terrier). I have a passion for motorcycle touring, classic bikes and cars (a TR8 DHC awaits some very special treatment one day soon), steam railway and anything that steams or smells of Castrol R. Other interests (I do have them) include, architecture, building, carpentry, DIY, music, opera, films, reading (non fiction mainly), real ale, wine, eating out and cooking – and of course, engineering.
In 2012 my wife and I purchased a two acre site and former farm buildings just outside Stourport on the B4194 upon which we are building a brand new 9000 ft2 (836 m2) factory and showroom facility that open’s in March 2015. We have exciting plans for this new site and with the assistance of our local planning authority, Wyre Forest District Council, we believe we can generate good business and employment for the area and can increase production to meet a global demand for our increasing range of products.