As those magnificent men on their GP machines climbed aboard their 2014 motorcycles at the Sepang circuit this week for the first time this year and immediately began running at record breaking pace, I thought it would be ironic and appropriate to feature a racing motorcycle which is probably the closest to being the exact opposite of today’s highly sponsored, factory developed and supported technological marvels. I love modern GP motorcycling racing and cannot wait for the season to kick off in March. Today’s top riders are unbelievably talented and become incredibly wealthy for risking their lives to entertain us. There is unfortunately, unless your father is a Sheik or owns Microsoft, absolutely no room for a privateer in this exclusive club.
There was however room for the privateer to be competitive back in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s before the big money rolled in and the playing field was still more level. Riders living out of a van and racing the European events on a shoestring budget were very much a part of the motorcycle racing scene back then. South Africa and Rhodesia produced some very successful privateer riders who on a good day would beat the better equipped factory riders. Most privateers raced older model racing motorcycles. There was a small group of privateers who were even more extreme. These were the riders who built their own racing motorcycles from bits and pieces of other motorcycles, developing their racing technology on their own. Our featured motorcycle is a very successful example of such a Frankenstein racer.
Jannie Stander was a talented rider but possibly an even more talented motorcycle engineer. In 1952 he converted a 1946 Velocette MAC 350cc road machine into a legendary racing motorcycle which remained competitive until the mid 1960s. Working on his own he resleeved the engine to 250cc and fitted a BMW 250cc crank. He converted the side valve engine by adding his own double overhead cam conversion to the top of the engine and added an Amal GP carb. The Norton front shocks are just one of many components used from a variety of different motorcycles. Aesthetically this may not be the tidiest of conversions but Jannie clearly believed function beats form. This motorcycle, named “Boksnot”, was a giant killer and won everything worth winning locally in the 1950s. It was always a work in progress and there are believed to have been as many as five versions built by Jannie, of which this is the only surviving example. He took his now very old creation to Europe in the 1960s and managed to get podium finishes against some amazed top riders mounted on the latest equipment. The motorcycle looks a little more refined when cloaked in its fairing but I prefer the raw, homemade look without the fairing as seen here.
Retro Write Up features custom motorcycles where the looks often outweigh the actual performance. In this instance, looks meant absolutely nothing to Jannie Stander, winning did. For example, his interpretation of and reason for this scruffy looking open primary was a far cry from what you see on custom motorcycles today. It is probably this lack of concern for appearance which makes this racer’s looks strangely appealing. Thank you to the late Errol Herbert for preserving this motorcycle for many years and to Tom Lindley for taking over as the loving custodian of this important piece of South African motorcycling history.