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The Hornet

This came in from Sideburn ambassador John Harrison, a few months ago. Sorry for the delay...

My boy Tim is aiming to take 'The Hornet' to a hillclimb at Loton that weekend [Bike Shed show weekend], and my loyalties should lie with supporting him ideally.

While on the Hornet I should like to distract you for a moment with it. I do intend to write a blog post about it in the future as it is surreal enough for Sideburn.

Skip the next paragraph if you haven't time.

It is a 'Shelsley Special' built by the living legend and nation treasure that is Duncan Pittaway (the man's stories could fill a weeks worth of blog posts) some 30 years ago. It was the first car he built and he couldn't afford JAP V-twins but found that Harley JDs were affordable and, in those days available. He built it in true cow shed build style, used it a bit before discovering his next big thing and moving on. 15 years ago he lent it to someone who got it semi reliable and made a starter for it and used it for a couple of years. It has always been a mythical machine for Tim and last year Duncan generously lent it to him to get both he and the car competing.

Duncan and

I met at a hillclimb where we were paddocked next to each other. He loved the Dodge and was running his '66 Barracuda (above) complete with big end shells hastily fashioned from Coke cans, but working! We have Flathead Harleys in common too as he has a VL which he races occasionally as well as it being his road bike.

Anyway the Hornet has 2 JDs on methanol running through a 4 speed all chains transmission a la Frazer Nash. The chassis is a light pre WWI Citroen found in a French hedge and the axles claim GN ancestry. It is notoriously unreliable, but quite fabulous in concept and execution. It sounds and smells quite marvellous.

Last year we succeeded in getting it running after a fashion and Tim competed in 2 hillclimb events, the second of which we towed it to behind the Dodge, then raced both. Encouraged by Duncan he entered his first circuit race at Silverstone on Sunday and finished against all expectations. He was only lapped twice by the winning car (in 8 laps), attained 78 mph, and wasn't last so it was deemed a successful debut for boy and car, which has never previously run for more than five mins at a time.

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