The Labor of Love classic bike collection goes up for auction at Bonhams

The Forshaw Speedway Collection represents 60 years of speedway history from its beginnings in the 1920s. Led by an exemplary pre-war American duo of a Crocker and an Indian, the collection also includes European motorcycles from solo style, representing major brands such as BSA, Douglas, Norton and Rudge. They come with associated memorabilia, including six engines and a huge selection of racing jackets. On display at the prestigious Haynes Motor Museum for 25 years, the collection is now offered with a total high estimate of over £500,000 (R10.1 million).

The bikes and memorabilia were amassed by the late enthusiast and engineer Richard Forshaw, whose father, Captain Ivan Forshaw, was a former motorbike racer before founding the respected family business of Aston Martin in Dorset. Richard was also, in his own words, “a former speedway rider, though undistinguished, now passionate about collecting the sport’s machinery”. He tested his engineering skills by restoring some of the machines, which was a “labor of love”.

1934 Crocker Speedway 500cc OHV (£100,000-£150,000 (R2m-R3m))

Leading the pack are two exciting American machines: the first, a 1934 Crocker Speedway 500cc OHV. Crocker’s handcrafted masterpieces have earned the brand legendary status, with its V-twin machines among most valuable in the world. Founder Albert G Crocker started making speedway frames for V-twins before producing more suitable single-cylinder machines.

No more than 30-40 single-cylinder bicycles are believed to have been produced, including this 1934 example, known as the ‘Red’ Rice Crocker after its original rider, which Richard acquired in exchange for a Brough-Superior in 1996. It was described as “the most original known as it still has the right Crocker tank, frame, etc.” The bike is completely original except for the saddle which was replaced by Rice and is therefore part of its history.

1979 Rotrax-JAP.

Circa 1927 Indian Speedway 350cc OHV Dirt Track Model, Estimated £90,000-£130,000 (R1.8m-R2.6m)

A circa 1927 Indian Speedway 350cc OHV Dirt Track model is also offered. The traditional red Indian was ridden by one of the sport’s early stars, American Art Pechar. The American National Dirt Track champion came to compete in England when the speedway first came to the country in 1928, breaking the Greenford and Stamford Bridge mile records on the same day, June 16. The machine, purchased by Richard in 1990, has been lovingly and painstakingly restored by him and is offered with various letters attesting to its authenticity.

Ben Walker, Global Head of Bonhams Motorcycles, said: “This is an extraordinary collection assembled by a discerning collector who was dedicated to preserving the heritage of the Speedway. Apart from the exceptional Crocker and Indian, there are very attractive and rare machines everywhere, such as these have not been seen at public auction for at least a generation.

Other notable lots from the Forshaw collection include:

1930 Norton Speedway.• circa 1930 Norton Speedway 490cc OHV, estimated £14,000-£18,000 (R280,000-R360,000)
Norton’s attempt to profit from speedway racing. Its engine, based on their 70x100mm Model 18 unit, had a two-port cylinder head, but, unlike the Rudge’s, had only two valves. It was a heavy machine and easily outclassed by the Rudge and Jap engined motorcycles, so few were sold, and it remains a rarity.

1930 Martin-Jap.

• c.1933 Martin-JAP Special Speedway, estimated £12,000-£16,000 (R240,000-R320,000)
Presented in fantastic “as found” condition, this machine appears to be largely in line with catalog specifications and is still fitted with stock Avon Dirt Track 28×2.375 tires. A letter from Richard dated 1998 indicates that he had found it in a cupboard under a staircase where it had been stored since 1935.

1930 Wallis-Blackburne.

• Wallis-Blackburne 500 cc motorway circa 1930, £10,000 –£15,000 (R200,000-R300,000)
Although successful in road racing, very few Blackburne engines were used on dirt. The frame is an early example of one of many made by George Wallis, who raced in the early days of Speedway and knew exactly what was needed for track racing.

1948-Langton-JAP.

• c.1948 Langton-JAP 497cc OHV, estimated £5,000-£7,000 (R100,000 R140,000)
A champion turf racer and one of speedway’s brightest stars, Eric Langton won the British Individual Speedway Championship in 1932 and raced for England 35 times on the speedway in the 1930s. As brilliant an engineer as he was a driver , he designed and built his own frames and extensively modified his JAP motors in-house to achieve maximum power, while maintaining reliability. This is a fine example of one of his machines.

1965 Hagon-Cole.

• c.1965 Hagon-Cole 497cc JAP, estimated £4,000-£6,000 (R80,000-R120,000)
Alf Hagon, a former West Ham speedway rider and sprint racing representative, had his own motorcycle business in Essex, making speedway frames, front forks and rolling chassis to accommodate JAP or Jawa speedway motors . Complete road-to-race motorcycles were usually fitted with a Jawa engine, with this machine being an exception.

1977 Jawa-ERM.

• c.1977 Jawa-ERM 493cc DOHC, estimated £3,000-£5,000 (R60,000-R100,000)
The Swedish-made ERM (Endfors Racing Motors) engine was designed and developed by Eje Endfors and Johnny Lindberger to replace the top half of a two-valve Jawa engine, using a standard Jawa bottom end. Using Cosworth Formula 1 parts, there were high expectations as it was fitted with a rev counter and was extensively tested by top drivers Ivan Mauger and Anders Michenek.

1979 Rotrax-JAP.

• c.1979 Rotrax-JAP 499cc DOHC Mark 2, estimate £3,500-£4,500 (R70,000-R90,000)
This is the Rotrax Mark 2 model fitted with the last of the JAP engines to carry the company logo, a four-valve, DOHC design. However, by the time this new Rotrax model appeared, it was too late: JAP no longer existed and the Jawa engine had already established its supremacy.

Now the collection is donated by Richard’s children. The Forshaw family said: “It has been an honor to be guardians of our father’s collection. It represents a lifetime of enthusiasm and hard work in pursuit of such rarities, and we hope they will find cherished new homes where they will be cherished in the same way he cherished them.

The Forshaw collection is currently on display at the Haynes Motor Museum where it has been on display since Richard’s death in 1997, the display having been opened by six-time world speedway champion Ivan Mauger.

Chris Copson, Haynes Motor Museum Collection Manager, said: “We have had the privilege of displaying this magnificent collection for the past 25 years. This summer will be the last chance for enthusiasts to see the full collection together before it goes to auction at Bonhams in October and we hope museum visitors will be able to do so.

Bonhams returns to Stafford for its traditional fall sale at the Classic Motorcycle Mechanics show on October 15-16.

More entries to the Stafford Fall Sale are invited now. Contact the Bonhams Motorcycles team at [email protected]+44(0)20 8963 2817 or visit www.bonhams.com/motorcycles.

Source: Bonhams