Cooper MkV 1951


For our last post in 2010 we felt like closing the year with a life sized toy.... We are also children after all!

All shooting sessions in Ze studio are an adventure story, this one could take two books full of what can be discovered and told about the machine and its pilot.
In this first post let's talk about this "machine". I write of a "machine" cause it's a strange mix between motorcycle and car as you're about to see.

It's a 1951 COOPER MK V, at those times it raced in the 500cc class of formula 3, very popular in England.

On such cars, some of the most famous english pilots have started and competed: Sterling Moss, John Surtees, Jack Brabham, Ken Tyrrell among many others.

500cc class was launched in 1946. John Cooper and his childhood friend Eric Brandon wishing to race in this economical category, decided as many other pilots of those days, to assemble their own prototype (T2). They will create later on, with John's father, their compagny, The Cooper Car Compagny.

John and Eric will win many races among which The Prescott Race and will make the COOPER 500 evolve during the following years. Afterwards, John had a brilliant carrier as a Formula 1 tuner and belongs to those who revolutionnarized this sport.

The prototype (T2) prefigures the model we photographed, its a tubular chassis, the bodywork is alloy made, the engine, placed behind the pilot, is an air cooled, mono cylinder, alcohol fed 500cc J.A.P 4B providing 45 Hp at 7000 rpm with a compression rate of 16.1 . Direct transmission is with a motorbike chain. At those times this JAP engine is quasi universal in many sports in England such as speedway, sprint, grasstrack, cycle cars....

The 4 gears box is of a NORTON MANX. A few models are equipped with a 4 gears BURMAN. The rims, true pieces of art, are made out of magnesium.

For some versions, they will even use the 1000cc V shaped bicylinder JAP.

For later versions the Jap engine will be replaced by the NORTON MANX one more powerful about 50hp soon on some models they will use a 500cc T100 Triumph alloy engine, this is the case for the one we photographed.

The owner, prefering the sensations and the torque of the mono cylinder, replaced it by a JAP.

I don't know if Santa Claus hear us, but I would certainly order one....

more details here



Men's File issue #04 Preview


Hey folks issue#04 of your favorite magazine is coming soon stay tuned !...
Meanwhile don't forget to order issue #03 here



Monument Valley...our Mythology


During our trip, Monument Valley stroke us with its minimalist landscape and its quietness, far away from everything in the middle of Navajo reservation.
Getting close to it, I was extremelly impatient to discover this mythic landscape. Will it be worth what I imagined?

We arrived there at the end of the day, at the perfect hour when the sun sets down, red light was illuminating rocks around. Clouds, very important for the making up of this landscape, were turning purple; thunderstorm, far away behind the Mesas completed the show.

The view is so breathtaking that it was impossible to continue driving, we pulled away along the road, and let the evening time slowly roll, comfortably settled on the flat roof of our bus, drinking a few tough drinks. Night came, a skinny dog attracted by the smell of our barbecue became our night companion.
Later in the night, the wind rose, I was haunted by my dreams about this place.
In the morning it was quiet again, it was time for us to hit the road for a long 550 miles trip to Wendover, Utah at the shore of the big salt lake.

In 1923, Harry Goulding, opened a trading post somewhere around and a few years later went to see John Ford in Hollywood to convince him to make movies there.
More than 60 movies have been shot on this location, from "Stagecoach" in 1939 to "2001, a Space Odyssey" including, of course, "Easy Rider".

I can't resist, look at 3:30


Our Rides: just before Winter

Last ride for "T" with a modern Hinckley, next spring with a classic...

Photos by Benoit the "Passenger"



Sprinting in U.K Airfields


By David Lancaster

David Lancaster is a journalist and lecturer, based in London. After studying philosophy at the University of Warwick, he spent three years as deputy editor of MotorCycle International magazine (published by BIKE founder, Mark Williams) before freelancing for Arena, BIKE, Classic Bike, and The Times, Independent and others.
He later founded the food, drink and travel title EatSoup for IPC Magazines and then launched Restaurant magazine. He rides his family's Vincent Black Prince, has sold too many old BMWs, and is road registering a Reed Titan Honda K4.

Scattered over England are numerous disused airfields. Further reductions in RAF spending may see more shutting down soon. They have a peculiar, elegiac charm: quiet, often deserted, with decaying wartime buildings, whose ghosts could tell of five years of wartime industry and danger as fighters, bombers, gliders even, were dispatched to be nervously counted back hours later by command and ground crew.

A few, still, have a life devoted to mechanical ingenuity and speed related endeavourer. Bruntingthorpe in the Midlands, is used for car and bike testing, and aircraft preservation. It was where I cut my teeth as a bike journalist in the late 80s, learning just how hard mph is to come by beyond 120mph. And when to brake on its two-mile runway. Removing the mirrors helped us crack 150mph on a Kawasaki ZXR750.

A few less industrious and high maintenance airfields host drag racing meetings from around May to October, organised by the National Sprint Association and supported by local clubs. The make-do-and-mend spirit is one wartime RAF pilots would recognise. Bikes range from the barely modified ‘run-what-you-brung’ machines, to highly tuned, leading edge racers, replete with anti-wheelie bars, turbos and hand-built frames. The vintage bikes have a compelling minimalism/brutalism to them: hard tails, often powered by large capacity V-twins, they strongly echo post war Stateside street style.

A drive to collect a Honda 350 K4 from its Manx owner led me to Keevil airfield, near Swindon, south of England, on a soaking wet autumn day. The Manx team’s members – the Lonan Gentlemens' Motorcycle Club - have near-dominated TT and Manx Grand Prix sprints for the past few years. The Honda I was collecting had won its class three years in a row.

The team’s Paul ‘Hodgie’ Hogson would take his class fastest time (and course record) later that day at Keevil when the rain eventually eased, running 9.79 secs on his Yamaha FZR 500 based sprinter. He took the 250 class too, on a RG Suzuki based special. While the rain fell I took the chance to photograph and chat to the owners of some wonderful machinery.

British Douglas’s were out in force, supported by the company founder’s great grandson, Bill Douglas, featured on the left of a shot here, with blazer and handlebar moustache. His family bikes were built not far from the airfield, in Bristol. Pictured with him is Henry Body, now in his 60th year of motorcycle competition, and still fast on his solo and sidecar-lugging Dougies, taking the best in the vintage sidecar and solo classes that day.

Jap engined-specials are popular with vintage sprinters; the units are ‘built to tune’ according to one rider. Yet others, such as the lad pictured, cut their teeth on tuned and stripped scooters, with kicked out forks. Keevil airfield itself played a key part in the war effort. It was built solely for the war, and was mostly out of use by 1947. Not only was it the launch pad for fighters, bombers and gliders, whose pilots would land in mainland Europe on secret missions, but Spitfires were built there too. In response to the successful German bombing of the south coast assembly plants, production was shifted to a new hanger at Keevil and by 1945 some 600 were dispatched. More info, with photos.

Action pics by Alan Turner

I came away more than happy with my new old Honda, and as ever impressed with this most subtle form of racing. Technique and split seconds matter – in the sprint time, of course, but more importantly in the launch. Just as appealing is, though, is the range of machines and the skills and depth of knowledge of the riders. And, at somewhere like Keevil, there is a sense of riding in the tyre marks of the RAF and USAF crews, launching themselves into the dark night heading toward mainland Europe, relying just as much as the sprinters on technique, skilled assembly, horsepower – and luck.