1929 Chater-Lea Brooklands Special: "Copperknob"
This is my go-to machine when I visit The National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham. It’s as if I’m paying homage to the brilliant absurdity of British quirkiness. Not only beautiful in design but a true success mechanically.
This famous machine was built by Ben and Joe Bickell in their garage in Highgate, London for the 1929 racing season. It was nicknamed "Copperknob" on its first appearance at Brooklands.
The frame was genuine Chater-Lea, salvaged from a wrecked A.A. outfit, and was equipped with a variety of engines, ranging from a Chater-Lea 350cc overhead camshaft single to a big V-twin JAP. Engine manufacturer JAP introduced a new 500cc ohv power unit in 1931 and sponsored the April meeting at Brooklands to launch and promote it.
In a race run between motorcycles all exclusively powered by the new engine, Copperknob won an emphatic victory recording an average speed of 93.97mph. More success followed in 1932, as Copperknob recorded the fastest lap in a Senior Handicap at 112.17mph. The season was rounded off by winning the Hutchinson Hundred despite almost continuous rain at an average 99.61mph.
After Ben Bickell's tragic death whilst riding an Ariel in the 1936 Ulster Grand Prix, Copperknob passed through various hands until a complete restoration in the early 1960s. For all its undoubted performance, Copperknob must have been a most uncomfortable ride on the notorious Brooklands concrete; suspension technology was still in its infancy.
Like most other track racers, Copperknob utilised a rigid frame and girder fork at the front end, and an adjustable Ferodo ring damper on the central spring.
Information source The National Motorcycle Museum