NMM Free Open Day

by Roy and Chris

Chris and I recently went to the “Open Day” at The National Motorcycle Museum. This was the fifth such event and we have been to most of them. There is no charge for entry at these events; however if you arrive with four wheels then they charge you £5.00 for parking; for solos and outfits parking is free. We arrived just after 9.00 am and we were queuing from the main road to get onto the site – it is that popular an event. This museum is huge, with about 850 British motorcycles on display in five halls.

Motorcycles are allowed to park right outside the main entrance, and they also have a coned-off area in the main car park close by. When you walked into the entrance hall you were met by some “Meet and Greet” ladies handing out plastic bags containing a timetable of the proceedings during the day.

I had spotted an outfit outside the entrance hall and I was about to go and get a picture when I saw that Joss Bourne, of the Swaton Vintage Show, and his father were standing alongside me. Joss told me that next year’s Swaton Show will be their 25th event and they are looking for as many motorcycles as possible to turn up. Something new for next year will be a rideout on the Saturday afternoon and free camping that night on the show field, with the show taking place on the Sunday as normal.

The museum foyer contains a large number of machines, including a collection of sidecar outfits; this display is by their Memorial Wall which has a plaque on it to “Les and Rosa” (Davenport), who were very active members of the Fed during the 60’s and 70’s. They would be chuffed to see all those outfits close by!!

Whilst I was queuing for a bacon roll Jim D’arcy and his friend Carl joined the queue. Jim is still into bikes a bit, but these days he concentrates on buying and selling solos. We had a nice talk, then they wandered off to hear a selection of race machines being fired up in the outside courtyard.

I wandered round the several trade halls; amongst these was a Royal Enfield and Wessex sidecar – this was a barn find and it needs a hell of a lot of work to get it back on the road.   Luckily the tyres still held air. I think that this bike was going to be up for auction later.

“Stars on Stage” was in association with Norton Motorcycles Ltd. The host was Steve Plater; he is excellent at asking questions, and on stage with him were John McGuinness, Trevor Nation and Mick Grant, and for Norton there were Stuart Garner and his chief designer, Simon Skinner. This took place in a huge room with lots of chairs, and these were all full and people were standing as well. Luckily I spotted a spare seat and – better still – it was next to Jim D’arcy!! Great stuff!!

The stars were interviewed by Steve and later on questions were allowed from the floor. The final part of this gathering was that two new road-going Norton V4s were fired up, and they sounded beautiful. The audience were offered ear plugs before the engines were started! Luckily Jim and I were sitting in the back row of seats as these engines were loud!!

A jazz band called “The Moonlight Trio” played a good selection during the afternoon.

The museum held a raffle with two motorcycles as the top prizes, these machines have been overhauled by the staff at the museum and they are in first class condition. The top prize was a 1969 Royal Enfield Interceptor, valued at over £12,000, and the second prize was a 1948 James 125. Talking to the girls selling the tickets I was told that lots of people preferred the smaller machine.

I met John McGuinness at his book signing. He is a bricklayer by trade and I used to be a carpenter so we had some light-hearted banter that goes on between these trades. He seemed a really nice chap. Close by TV personality Henry Cole was also doing a book signing for his newly-published book “A Bikers Life”. Henry was also a member of the afternoon’s “Stars on Stage” team.

I wandered up to the restaurant to find Chris, but instead I found Jan and Mick (Fed members) enjoying a meal there, and I enjoyed a chat with them.

This show is really good, with lots and lots to see and do, and its well worth a visit. Chris and I pulled out just before 2.00 pm, but there is a complete afternoon programme with the show finishing at 5.00 pm.