Sunday, June 23, 2013


40 Year Anniversary

It was a last minute decision to go.

The weather forecast for the Friday ride to the Rally and for most of the weekend was calling for rain, which meant even more mosquitos than the millions that are already vacationing here in Finland, pestering the living hell out of me and slowly, drop by minuscule drop, extracting the lifeblood out of me to nourish and feed a batch of new mosquitos. Parasitic welfare at it's finest.

Invite from the Britti Ralli of 1975.
The PS reads: The railroad to south is near the express trains stop, if not Vihanti, at least in Oulainen from where there is about 35km to the Ralli.
This was written in case of any failures or breakdowns of the British motorcycles, of which they were prone to do.

I nearly didn't go. I had tons of work still to do to catch up on articles for the blog. 
But it was only a 380 km ride, so it was an opportunity to go for a trip together with Heikki, the Karu MC president who invited me to go with him to the 40th Anniversary of the Brittiralli.

The Brittiralli is an all British motorcycle event, held in a different location in Finland each year. The first Britti Ralli was held in 1974 in Somero, Finlandwith an attendance of around 50 bikes. 
This year it was in Himanka, a small little town on the west coast of Finland just south of Oulu, right on the Gulf of Bothniathe stretch of water that separates Finland from Sweden. 

A Britti Ralli invite from 1981.

In the early 1960's in Finland, British motorcycles were the bike that was ridden by the true motorcyclist. Triumphs, BSA's, Nortons, Ariels, Vincents. The Czech CZ's, Jawa's and eastern European bikes were common in Finland, but not considered a real motorcyclists bike like a Triumph or a Norton was. 
English badged bikes had that British race pedigree, and they also came with a ready made bad boy image thanks in no small part to the battles between the  Mods and Rockers, the scooter riding Mods and the Triumph and Norton riding Rockers back in jolly old England.

In the '50s, motorcycles were Britain's third export, right behind cars and spirits or booze. By the end of the 70's, Britain's motorcycling industry was all but gone. How did this happen?. Well, that depends on who you ask.

Back in the early 60's the British motorcycle industry started to get into trouble. They didn't realize just how much trouble until they were in until the 1965 Honda CB 450, The Black Bomber, came along and blew the doors right off the British motorcycling industry. And not so much for what it did do, but more for what it didn't do, which was it didn't leak oil and it didn't fail. Which meant more time riding, less time wrenching.
However, it wasn't a great seller, and was far from perfect, but it was the DOHC engine and bike that was the game changer when it hit the market and subsequently, the roads.

The Black Bomber, so named because you could get in any color you wanted, so long as it was black.

In 1960, Edward Turner, the greatest motorcycle designer that Great Britain has ever seen, made a trip to Japan, and was shocked at what he saw. The Japanese were gearing up for an assault, a full scale assault on the west, and Triumph, along with all the other British motorcycle manufactures, were completely ill prepared and were about to be caught with their pants down around their ankles.... 

Had they been paying attention all along and made sure they had all their bearings greased and their pistons and cylinders lubed up real good, they probably would of been fine and may have even survived. 

But unfortunately for the British motorcycle manufacturing industry, in reality it was more like this....

A lot of the reasons for this was because of their complacency, their typical British "nose in the air" arrogance and just sheer ignorance of the outside world of motorcycling, and all of that can really be summed up in this mind-boggling quote by Donald Heather of BSA fame when he was informed by Bert Hopwood, a famous British motorcycle designer, of the reliability crisis affecting the British outdated engine design: 
"Most motorcycle owners love to spend their Sunday mornings taking off the cylinder head and re-seating the valves" said Mr. Heather, who simply could not conceive of the fact that most motorcycle owners would rather be riding than wrenching. "No wonder that they decided to go Japanese" commented Hopwood.
This complete and utter ignorance reached a breaking point, when, in 1968, during a BSA-Triumph board meeting, one of the marketing directors dropped the bombshell that "Honda is going to introduce a four cylinder 750cc machine next year". 
Well !!. It was like a fart in church on Sunday morning!!, "Kuin äänekäs pieru jumalanpalveluksen aikaan" !!. 
The Boards stunned silence was deafening.

Disbelief and panic set in. 

Disbelief because large displacement four cylinder machines had been hugely expensive, so if Honda was making one, it meant it would carry an affordable price tag. 
Panic, because they knew they had to do something, and fast, which led to the 750cc three cylinder engine that was already sketched up by Hopwood and tested during 1966, being quickly put into production as the Triumph Trident and the BSA Hurricane.
Management differences and internal bickering between Triumph and BSA delayed the introduction of both the Trident and the BSA Rocket 3 by nearly 18 months until 1969, allowing Honda to capitalize on their mismanagement.
At that time in Japan, the biggest engine being made was only a 650cc and was a small seller due to mandated and repressive insurance tax rates there. So when Honda found out that the British were developing a three-cylinder 750, it was on like kong. The result of course, was the 1969 CB750, the final nail in the coffin of the British motorcycling industry. 

The racing versions of the Trident were very successful (mainly because Honda withdrew from competition in 1968), but the production models were a complete failure. The Honda was simply a far superior machine. 
And Norton's response?. Nothing. Norton did absolutely nothing at all.

Meanwhile, back in 1970 at the Kontio Ralli, Jallu Nieminen, Mikko Ahola, Hannu Rönkönharju, Eetu Iskulehto, Leksa Kallio and probably some others who's name I cannot find out about, were becoming all too aware of the steady decline and impending demise of the British motorcycle industry, and the increased presence of the Japanese bikes on the motorcycling scene, not only in Finland, but also in Europe. So as a group they knew they could neither stop the Japanese from making motorcycles, nor resurrect the British motorcycle manufacturing industry, so they started to discuss about how to keep their culture and history of British motorcycling alive. They probably didn't realize it at the time, but the Britti Ralli was being conceived. 

This carefully preserved and nicely documented page and photo's from the 2nd Britti Ralli in 1975 was supplied to me by Heikki Jaakkola, a long time Karu MC member, who would have been a regular attendee at the Britti Ralli's were it not for the fact that he developed Rheumatoid Arthritis when he was 20 yrs old, which effectively and cruelly began to limit and ultimately end his ability to be able to ride a motorcycle. He still keeps his 1963 Triumph T-20 Tiger Cub in the Karu MC clubhouse.
Heikki came over to the clubhouse last week with a large binder full of pictures for me to see, some of the 1975 Ralli and also some family photos. 
Very much appreciated Heikki, thank you.

Heikki Jaakkola at Karu MC, June 20th, 2013.

This picture, taken by Heikki's photographer brother-in-law ©Teppo Johansson in 1983 shows Heikki on his '63 Triumph T-20 Tiger Cub, a 200cc four stroke single, and on the right his brother Jorma, on a 1955 AWO 425, a 247cc four stroke single cylinder motorcycle, an East German made motorcycle based on the BMW R23.
I love this photo. As soon as I saw it in Heikki's album I knew it was taken by a pro photographer. The composition is great, and I really love the way Teppo shot it with the sun back-lighting the subjects, how it throws the shadows out in front of the bikes. Not an easy shot to take, unless you're a photographer and understand metering and exposure. 
Really great shot Teppo. 

Since I don't ride a british bike, I had to set up camp just outside the perimeter of the rally, a little over into British bike event territory actually, but my brit bike camping neighbors didn't seem to be bothered at all by Zee Cherman motorzyzle beside them.

A nice pair of his 'n hers Triumph Thruxtons.

The Triumph Thruxton, a 865cc motorcycle, was launched in 2004 and named after the Thruxton racing circuit in Andover, Hampshire in the UK where Triumph won the top three spots in the Thruxton 500 mile endurance race back in 1969, thus establishing and heralding in the "café racer" era where production motorcycles were modified or "café'd" to improve performance.

A nicely done Triumph 650 chopper, or would this be a bobber?.

A Triumph Bonneville with Weslake/Nourish 8 Valve heads.

A sweet little "Coffee 'n Cream" Triumph Chopper.

Triumph Trident chopper. I heard this bike going by as it was leaving, and it sounded great.

An Ariel Square Four and a Triumph 750 Café lurking in the background.....

....and now in the foreground.

I love bikes like this, full of character and interesting little details and years of wear and tear on them, each and every scratch and dent with a story to tell.

A 1973 Triumph Bonneville.

A 487cc Sunbeam S8, a parallel twin OHC four stroke.

Sunbeam motorcycles are a British motorcycle designed by Erling Poppe and were based on a BMW R75 design that was acquired (captured) by BSA at the end of WWII. The S models were produced from 1946 to 1956 and only three models were made, the S7, S8 and the S7 De Luxe. The unusual engine layout was the S7's most notable feature, although not to a BMW enthusiast, as a sharp eyed "boxer" fan will notice the similarity of the Sunbeam engine design to that of a single sided boxer engine. 

Macke and Janina from Inkoo, Finland.

I met Macke and Janina at the rally, they both rode to the event from Helsinki on their 1950's Sunbeam motorcycles.
When they told me they live in an old converted railway station outside of Inkoo , just west of Helsinki, my photographers radar went off and I was just hoping that they would invite me down to stay a night or two. Sure enough they did, and told me that I'm very welcome to stop by on the way south. Which I have every intention of doing. I'd love to see what they've done with the place. It sounds like a movie stage set. I'm really looking forward to it.

Macke and Janina's Sunbeam S7's, easy to differentiate from the S8 because of the balloon tires.

Before he designed the Sunbeam, Poppe, together with a fellow by the name of Gilmour Packman, produced the P&P (Packman & Poppe) 250cc 2-stroke engine. P&P also made, in 1923, a 976cc side-valve machine with a JAP V-twin and another one called the Silent Three that had a 350cc Barr & Stroud sleeve-valve engine. It was called a Silent Three because of how quiet the sleeve-valves were due to the way the valve was fitted between the piston and the cylinder wall where it rotates and/or slides as opposed to the traditional, and noisier, poppet or mushroom type valve still used in todays modern engines.

Packman & Poppe even entered the three machines into the 1925 TT. Then Packman, after an argument with a salesman, was killed and the P&P factory was subsequently sold in 1926 to a John Wooler, who kept it up until the Depression in 1930.

Sunbeam S7 in "Mist Green", the most common color.
They also came in black, and for export, BSA supplied the Sunbeams in any color. Only the brits got shafted with the "non-color" colors.

Sunbeams were a longitudinally mounted inline vertical twin which, like the BMW boxer engine, drove a shaft to the rear wheel. However, unlike BMW, who sensibly used a bevel gear crown and pinion drive to the rear wheel, Sunbeam opted to use a worm gear drive instead, which was completely unsuited to the task and resulted in the high wear and tear of the final drive components of the Sunbeam and contributed to their terrible reliability.

Bevel gear....

...Worm gear.

As a result the S7 never really sold well. In 1949 the sportier S8 was produced, but it still had the worm drive. Along with terrible vibration which was "cured" by mounting the engine on two bonded rubber mounts, the worm gear rear drive kept on stripping. Sunbeams answer?. Reduce the power down to 24bhp, which did nothing to help post war sales.
However, the earlier S7 Sunbeams were expensive and over engineered, which is why now, they are the most sought after model over the S7 De Luxe and the S8.

Macke and Janina's 1950's Sunbeam S7's.

As an aside, the Sunbeam Motor Cycle Club is one of the longest established in the UK. It was founded in 1924 in London at the showrooms of John Marston Ltd, who made the Sunbeams in their factory at Wolverhampton, just a little north of 'Brum.
In 1963, Bob and Chines Stewart, owners of Stewart Engineering who bought the Sunbeam stock when production ended and BSA sold it, broke away from the SMCC and formed their own club, the Sunbeam Owners Fellowship or SOF, to support the owners of the S7 and S8 models that had any problems. 

Ok, after all that I'm thirsty, who needs a drinky winky?.
How about a little dram of Fireball?. 
Fireball. Even if I did still drink, I would probably pass on this. Something tells me if you ran out of gas and poured this stuff in the tank, it would probably get you to the next gas station.

Macke and Janina.
In the background is Heikki, Karu MC president.

Janina and her 1952 Sunbeam S7 De Luxe.

And another anniversary at the Brittiralli, Riika and Bjorn-Tore met at the Brittiralli 5 years ago, so this was a special day for them.
Congratulations to you both.

Old 70's Triumph Chopper, lovely graphics and paint on this one.

Another Triumph Chopper with a nice girder front end.

My thanks to Heikki Mäntyniemi and Heikki Jaakkola for their assistance with information for this article.

I have many more bikes photos to come in Pt II of the Britti Ralli article, which will be published in another few weeks. All the Nortons, BSA's, Ariel's, some of the more unusual stuff like a 1928 Raleigh motorcycle with original paint and a bunch of Royal Enfields too.

Meanwhile, the second half of todays post is an addition or carry on to the last post I published of the Norväjarvi German Soldiers Cemetery


February, pre-mosquito. Nice and white, full of soft white snow it was up here then. Temperatures a balmy -15°C. Perfect.

The Church of Rovaniemi, February, 2013.

The Church Of Rovaniemi, June 2013.

At the time I passed by the church in February it appeared to be closed. I stopped outside to take a few snowscapes. A lady, maybe one of the staff, came over and asked me if I wanted to look inside at the interior. She unlocked the big wooden doors from the outside and brought me inside. The giant fresco at the far end of the church was impressive. She spoke with me, giving me a brief rundown of the history of the church. I didn't have much time then to get all the details and take the photos I wanted, so I made a point of coming back.

This time however, I was in luck. The original or previous church was, along with most of Rovaniemi, destroyed by the razing of the town in 1944. 

The church was designed by architect Bertel Liljeqvist, and the Finnish artist Antti Salmenlinna conceived the interior.

The history of the chandeliers is unknown to me at this time, but I was told that they were very valuable. As seems to be the case with many pieces in most churches.

Arch paintings, 16 in all, of Biblical scenes from the Creation until Christ's coming.

The organ, designed and built by the Bruno Christiansen factory in Denmark, contains nearly 4000 pipes, has 4 registers or keyboards, three manuals and a pedal. As  kid growing up with an artist and accomplished pianist for a father, I remember Dad and I going over to our friend and fellow motorcyclist Jimmy Delany, an organist in one of the big churches in Dublin. The first time I ever heard Jimmy play one of the huge pipe organs in the church, I was shaken to the bone by the sound. Massive sound. There is nothing quite like it. As a result, I started my failed musical career learning piano, but hated the teacher I had. I played mostly by ear while she tried, unsuccessfully, to get me to look at the music sheets. When she rapped me on the knuckles one afternoon at practice with a ruler to try to get her point across, that was the end of our time together. 

The most renowned and valued work of art in the church is Professor Lennart Segerstråles 14 meter high fresco "The Source Of Life" on the altar wall of the church.

On the left, the multitude nearing the source are seeking consolation and the meaning of life; on the right the crowd press forward quarreling and berating one another. Small children turn towards he source, but because of their parents' lack of regard they cannot partake in it's glories. The backdrop to this scene is the stern and rugged landscape of Lapland, through which the Light of the World, the Glory of Christ, comes amount his congregation to illuminate life.

In the cemetery beside the church lie the remains of 603 of the fallen of World War II.

The Lapland war was fought between Nazi Germany and Finland from September of 1944 to April of 1945. A peculiar twist to this war was that the Finnish army, while fighting the German army to leave Finland, was also being forced by the Soviet Union to demobilize their forces. The german army retreated to Norway, allowing Finland to manage to uphold it's obligations to the Soviet Union until the formal conclusion of the Continuation War was ratified by the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty, which basically allowed Italy, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Finland to resume their responsibilities as sovereign states in international affairs and to qualify for membership in the United Nations.
The monument to the war heroes was designed by Professor Wäinö Aaltonen.

Wäinö Aaltonen became interested in art after being deaf as a child, and was, as a sculptor, self-taught. A journey to Italy in 1923 opened his eyes to cubism and futurist art, primarily seen in his paintings. Though chiefly naturalistic in his work, the cubist influence comes through in some of his pieces, as it does ever so slightly in the monument. 

At the far end of the cemetery there is a monument by Ensio Seppänen commemorating the evacuation of the civilians population to Sweden in autumn of 1944. 20,000 people were evacuated from the Rovaniemi district; those who died during the ordeal are buried in Sweden.

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