In the Summer of 1953 my father Geoffrey Gander and his friends set off on their annual Motor Cycling holiday around Europe.
They took a Brough Superior SS100, Triumph Thunderbird, Triumph T100 and a couple of Sunbeams.
It was probably quite an adventurous trip to take at the time. I have now been informed that so many modern foreign bikes ridden by smartly dressed English riders would have been quite a sight on Europe's roads. They would ride through France, Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland. We think of old bikes as being unreliable, but my father and his friends were keen riders and engineers and completed the trip without much more than a puncture. The bikes that took part in the trip were:
GAU 856 Brough Superior SS100 with fuel in the loop sidecar. This bike still exists and I wonder if any of the others do?
AHC 650 Triumph Thunderbird. He bought this one on 22nd July 1950 for £219 16 9 and by the day they set off in July 53 it had done 24,900 miles.
KBY 571 Sunbeam and VMM 871 Sunbeam. At least one of these Sunbeams should still exist as it was owned by my dads pal and Best Man (when he married) - Fred. He owned it until he passed away about 10 years ago so hopefully it is surviving somewhere?
AHC 963 Triumph
I have published these pictures as I like them and I hope that anyone interested in bikes of this era will also enjoy them. I have all his pictures from numerous other trips and will try and publish these when I find the time as they are also full of beautiful pictures. It was the second anniversary of my fathers death that had been looking over his old picture albums and I guess it was that was the inspiration to put the on a web page, thinking that a few people might like them ... If you own any of these bikes then please do get in touch and I can give you high resolution copies of the pictures.
Since I published these a couple of months ago this page has had over 11 millions hits and many people have asked if they can get prints and posters of their favorite picture. You can now do this if you visit here -
If you want a print or poster sized copy of any of the pictures then see the link to the printing house that can do this and ships worldwide. I have been to see them and they are a well established local English company and they will be using high resolution versions of these pictures without the copyright wording to produce really stunning prints. They can even print onto canvas. If the picture you like is not yet available from them then please email me and I can add it. - email@example.com
I have been advised by many people to make the images smaller or at a lower resolution to deter people from pinching them, but I think this will detract from honest peoples enjoyment of the pictures so have left it as is for now. I have also been told how to block everyone from downloading the images, but have not yet done this as if someone wants a favourite one for a personal screen saver then I don’t mind – perhaps if you do take an image for personal use then please do donate something via the button at the bottom of the page. One image alone has been downloaded over 100,000 times! I expect the garages of the world to be decorated with these pictures!
If you want to use an image in the public domain, on a web site or for any commercial purposes then please email me to ask.
And now back to the Trip ....
When we cross from England to France now we have a ferry or the tunnel. For this trip they choose to fly the bikes from Lympne Airport in Kent over to Le Touquet.
The start of the trip at Lympne Airport on a sunny day in July 1953 with a pair of two Bristol Freighters awaiting customers. Thanks to Geoff for telling me what the planes are.
They were all smartly dressed bikers and whilst helmets were not required, a jacket and tie certainly was.
Whilst the bikes were swiftly loaded at the English end, it took a while for the French to unload the bikes.
To experience what this must have been like Geoff Morris has very kindly sent me a link to a period video, see http://www.britishpathe.com/video/girl-motorcyclists-aka-vespas/query/Wilkinson
So what do you do just a few minutes into France as an Englishman... of course you brew tea whilst you wait.
Below, my Father stands on the right of this picture, clearly dressed for a motor cycle ride!
The aeroplane below is a Miles Aerovan G-AJTC and it was owned at the time by Ladislav Marmol. We know this as Frank Byford has been in touch and back when this picture was taken he worked for Greeves and was riding the prototype Greeves scrambler. In the year this picture was taken the plane was used to fly Frank and a BSA Goldstar scrambler from Southend to Le Touquet, to take part in a moto-cross event for the benefit of the Paris Surete.
The Customs at Le Touquet.
This picture below is entitled "A corner of Le Touquet" and couldn't really look more French ...
all the women are fashionably dressed, the men standing around smoking, the cars and even someone selling ballons.
Bob P has tracked down this exact spot and the picture below shows it as it is today. Not quite so French looking now and no sign of a ballon seller.
If you are interested in early motorcycles, then we have just reviewed an excellent book about motorcycling during World War 1 - see hereBelow a stop in Northern France below for a smoke. The girl in the Brough sidecar looks very fashionably dressed and more fashion shoot than bike ride.
And onwards via Rheims below. Again almost no traffic is to be seen on the peaceful roads of 1953 Europe.
Below, Ken gets a puncture in St Quentin. The Triumph has a built in front wheel stand so its just a few minutes to get the wheel out.
The picture above is available as a print or poster now, see http://www.easyart.com/academy/paul_gander
And he soon becomes the main event in the town with everyone lending a hand or advice. The children in these pictures are probably now pensioners!
A stop at Bar le Duc for essential supplies
And shortly after a roadside stop for a picnic. The trees wre deliberately planted to give shade to passing horses and riders.
As vehicles appeared and speeds increased the trees had white bands painted around them for safety, but it did not work and most old roadside trees were cut down.
A stop for a coffee in Saverne and the passing local seems to prefer the Sunbeam
The picture above is now available as a print or poster see http://www.easyart.com/academy/paul_gander
Below, the streets of Saverne are again very peaceful with no traffic.
A visitor to this web page (Richard Nash - thanks) has been busy and found the exact spot where this picture was taken. It is 24 Grand Rue / corner of Place de la Gare, Saverne.
A visitor to this web page (Richard Nash - thanks) has been busy and found the exact spot where the above picture was taken. It is 24 Grand Rue / corner of Place de la Gare, Saverne. and a modern picture of the location is below for comparison.
And back to 1953 below ... Entering Germany at Kehl and about 600-700 miles into the trip. My father was 18 when War was declared and having listened to the radio broadcast with his mother, had a cup of tea and then rode his motorcycle down to the recruiting office and signed up for the RAF. I assume that his friends were in the war and wonder what their banter was as they crossed into Germany.
A stop in The Black Forest to cool off in the shade and have a smoke.
Looks like a spot that will be fragrant with pine. No sign of tea being brewed but I suspect it was as it look like a mellow spot.
A stop by Lake Constance and the weather is looking excellent. About 800-900 miles into the trip.
Below, on the way to Garmisch they stop to see a waterfall - anyone know its name? see below
Into Bavaria although I am not sure where, with the Bavarian Alps in the background and naturally they have brewed some tea.
After years of wondering where this is, thanks to people who have emailed me (thanks Ralf, Christian and Eva) that this is Nesselwang.
They then continued on via Steingaden, Garmisch and Walchen and on towards Austria.
Crossing the border (below) into Austria at Ursprung
And on past Kufstein and into Kitzbuhel where they seem to have stayed for a few days walking in the mountains with all the walking done wearing a jacket and tie naturally.
Below they are seen stopping for tea and the notes say they were charged 1 and six a cup - about the same as 1.5 gallons of petrol
No wonder they needed a cup of tea if they had just walked up here to see this view, below.
The town of Kitzbuhel is below
Another picture below of Kitzbuhel with a Policeman passing on his bike and being eyed suspiciously by the man leaning against the car.
A horse drawn cart is delivering beer in the background and someone is selling paintings from an old (probably almost new then) truck.
There is much going on in this picture, easier to see it all in high resolution, but see what you can spot
The white cross marks where they stayed for the night.
Is it still a hotel - can any locals tell us? Well thanks to numerous emails the Hotel would seem to still be open, see:
On the road from Kitzbuhel to Bruck
The picture above is now available as a print or poster see http://www.easyart.com/academy/paul_gander
The picture below was taken on the way to Bruck and is my personal favorite
The picture above is now available as a print or poster see http://www.easyart.com/academy/paul_gander
Getting closer to Bruck and the scenery and weather look fantastic
They have to stop and pay to enter the Grossglockner Pass. This was a very well visited tourist road with over 90,000 vehicles using it in 1952.
It has a beatiful selection of bends that must have been wonderful on the bikes.
The leaflet that they are given as they enter the Pass
Below, soon after a stop for tea is required. Apart from several changes of smart clothes, their cold/wet riding gear, overnight stuff and all the other bits you need to
take away for two weeks they also carried essential tea/cooking equipment and cameras etc etc. I am not sure how it all fitted on as the bikes never look that loaded up.
Some of the bends of The Glossglockner stretch out before them, below. If the tarmac was grippy this must have been fun.
Another view from this Pass
The Tunnel at the top of the Grossglockner Pass.
The road peaks at 6,400ft. Any experts in old sunglasses as lots of people are asking me about the ones in the pciture below and asking what make they are?
Below, the view from the Pass. A picture that could have featured in an advert for the Sunbeam
At the top of the Franz Joseph Glacier
The Franz Jospeph Glacier in 1953, several miles of ice. Today with global warming it has probably shrunk to the point that it will fit in a nice glass of whisky.
My remark about the glacier shrinking seems to be true as Dieter has been in touch with the picture below and to let us know that the glacier is named Pasterz.
Re entering Germany on the way to Salzburg in Austria
and below crossing in to Austria
Arriving at Salzburg they find the town preparing for a music festival.
And on they go along the Inn Valley road on the way to Rattenburg.
Below, if you have ever wondered if people really did walk about in leather shorts ....
They must be about 1,300 miles into the trip now.
After Rattenburg they head for Innsbruck and after that Steinach in Austria and then onto the Brenner Pass
The Brenner Pass is one of the principal passes of the Alps and will take them from Austria into Italy. It peaks at 4,500 ft
After the joys of the Brenner Pass they continued on to the Giovo Pass into Italy.
The Giovo is very small and twisty and splendid on a bike, except when they did it the road was just dirt and gravel with no safety barriers.
The traffic jam has been caused as two coaches have become stuck trying to pass each other.
And then on over other spectacular roads and into Switzerland at Mustair, below.
Then via Zernez below on still deserted roads
And on to St Moritz with around 1,600 miles completed.
The road to St Moritz twists its way to the town and an overnight stop.
After St Moritz they head past Chur and Frick as they start to head westward and towards home with a stop on The Julier Pass for tea and a picnic.
Apart from the earlier puncture this is the only shot of any tinkering with the bikes, they were very reliable.
On a high resolution scan it appears as if Fred has created a funnel from plasticine and is using it to oil his clutch cable, below.
Then through Zurich below with once again empty roads. Thanks to Atomar in Switzerland, we now know exactly where this picture was taken on Bleicherweg in Zurich. Where the picture was taken from is still today a parking area for motorcycles.
You can see the above spot as it is today by clicking on the link here, it has not changed much.
and back to 1953 and they are leaving Switzerland at Basel.
Below, Basel Customs stop looking into Switzerland.
and at the same place looking into France below.
Below, after the lovely twisty roads of the previous week, they are back onto the arrow straight French roads and it seems a bit cooler by the riding gear.
It must have been tempting to open the bikes up on this staight and maybe they have just stopped for a post speeding smoke or are about to blast off!
The Triumph Thunderbird would maybe just top 100mph, the other Triumph just under, The Brough without the sidecar would top 100 and maybe 85/90 with the sidecar and the Sunbeams about the same.
This was in an era when the average car would be hard pushed to top 60 mph. The passing locals give the Brough an interested glance.
And on to Langres for a stop. I have ridden some of the roads between Troyes and Basel and they are excellent fast sweeping undulating roads.
If you are ever in this part of the world do try the D979 and D980 - both splendid roads.
A quick stop in Langres, below and onwards for the plane home.
Richard N has emailed me to tell us that the exact spot of the above picture is 7 rue, Diderot, Langres, France and if you look it up on Google earth on this link you can see it has not changed too much or todays pictures from Google.
Maybe with all of the people visiting this web page we can work out the exact location of every picture and plot out the exact route with all the stops?
And back to 1953 below and back to Le Touquet with over 2,000 miles covered
And the final picture in this album they have entitled "England in 20 Minutes"
My father kept detailed logs for all his bikes and I still have most of them. On July 4th AHC 650 had 24,924 miles showing and he gave it a full service. On July 19th it had 26,960 showing and just had an oil change and thorough checkover. On the trip he spent £7 and 14 shillings on petrol and 10s on oil and 4s on a headlight bulb.
Lots of people have asked me about what i used to scan in the pictures. I tried a few scanners that were hopeless and finally bought a dedicated photo scanner, an Epson V500 Photo. I
If you like Triumphs, then below is an excellent book about them from the 1950's to the 1970's. A delightful and often humorous account of life with the Triumph motorcycle company in its hayday.
Soon after I published these pictures I had a telephone call from the owner of the SS100 in these pictures!
The next day he rode it round to my house and after tea (its a tradition!) he took me for a ride on it - fantastic!
It had been 60+ years since my father owned/rode it and I am very grateful to the owner for taking the time to bring it over and glad to say it is still being ridden in a spirited manner.
The picture below is of it parked in my garden. Behind it is my Dads 1950 D1 Bantam that he bought new in 1950 so again 60 years since they were parked up next to each other.
If you look in the reflection of the Broughs tank you will see my red V Twin. My father also rode this one when he was in his 70's. When I first bought it (a Ducati 888SP4) it had a speedo in kilometers. I rode it round to show Dad my new bike and he wanted a ride and I told him it had a K calibrated speedo, but it started pouring with rain so it was a few days later before he had a go and by then I had put an MPH speedo on it. I forget to mention this as he was off on it as soon as I arrived. When he came back I was surprised to hear from him that whilst it was quick - "it took longer than expected to reach a ton". A short chat and the mystery was solved. He had taken it to an indicated 160 still thinking that it was a kilometers speedo and 160kph would be 100mph. So my 70+ year old father had just done 160mph on the Alton bypass! Mum was not amused, though dad clearly was and had a cigar and a beer to celebrate... My dad carried on riding bikes until he was 87 and then decided he was getting a bit old for bikes and bought himself a sports car.
If you have ever wondered what an SS100 is like to ride on - I have added a video of riding on this SS100 here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrbvznNjz-M
And another of starting it here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdGPBClblZA
And if anyone who works for the DVLA is reading this page - I would love to know what happened to my dads Thunderbird AHC 650 - when was it last on the road? did it get scrapped/exported or maybe just maybe is it lurking in a shed...
I have always wondered what a 50's Triumph would be like to ride and as a result of this page a local 50's Thunderbird owner has been in touch with me and in an incredible act of generousity has offered to let me have a ride on his bike so I can experience what my Dad rode! I cannot wait ... as I have never even sat on one! even though I have ridden bikes for 30+ years.
On Saturday afternoon I took a lovely Thunderbird for a spin down some fine English country roads. It started first kick, ticked over and it was wonderful to ride. What stuck me most was how well it handled, it took no notice of any bumps in the road and tracked like a modern bike!
And here I am pictured below grinning after my ride on Johns very fine Thunderbird.
Yes of course we had tea! No the bike isn't tiny its just that I am 6ft4 and 16st!
John - many thanks!
If you have an unwanted 50's Triumph - Thunderbird or T110 then please do get in touch ...
This web page has dangerous consequences! Since I published it in October 2011 it has led to me buying a 1914 Triumph in October and you can read about about my experiences as a novice to such an old bike here - http://www.go-faster.com/1914Triumph.html
And in January 2012 I finally bought a bike I have been lusting after for decades - a 1954 Triumph T110, see - http://www.go-faster.com/TriumphT110.html
I am not the only one who has been a bit inspired by these pictures and several 50's Triumphs have been purchased by visitors to this site, they have sent me pictures and I will try and add them.
So in the last 12 months, I have been reacquainted with my grandfathers 1911 Triumph, see http://www.go-faster.com/VeteranTriumph.html
I am also looking for a Moto Reve from c1909 that my Grandfather owned for many years until WW2. The picture below was taken c25 years ago in the UK and the then owner thinks that it may now be in Europe - if anyone knows where it is please do let me know.
In the UK it was always registered LB923. I have created a web page about it and hope one day to find it and bring it back into the family, see http://www.go-faster.com/motoreve.html
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
I have been a bit overwhelmed by the interest in these pictures and travels and bikes and as lots of people are asking if and when I can post more pictures and details of the bikes etc I have created this group.
If you join it I will email you when I find the time to scan more pictures of other trips and the full logs of the bikes mile by mile, maintenance and what needed fixing etc.
I have set it up so only I can post to the group so the only email will be from me about these pictures.
Click to join OldMotorcyclePictures
I have just started to create a web page about my Grandfathers 1911 Triumph and in the picture below you can see my Grandfather Thomas riding and the little faces in the sidecar are my father Geoffrey and his sister Doris.
You can see the web page on the link below and it also has a video of it firing up after many years resting.
Below are the details of my fathers 1950 Thunderbird Triumph taken from Triumph literature of the era.
If any one can supply me with period literature for the Brough and Sunbeams I will add them to the page.
The receipt for the bike when new
Remarkably the family of the man who owned Jempsons (Mr Ken Hurrey) and who sold my father his Triumphs have seen this web page and very kindly sent me some pictures of the dealerships that the Triumph would have come from. The picture below shows Ken (known as HurreyKen in trials circles!) with a fine selection of machinery outside.
Below is the workshop at 118 Seaside and left to right we have John Payne, Dave Stretton (they went on to form Eastbourne Motorcycles), possibly John Banks and right front, Mick Richards. I am not sure about the logic of white overalls in a motorcycle workshop! but I suppose it clearly shows who has been working.
The first page of the Thunderbirds record book - 9 shillings and 3 pence for three gallons of petrol! Happy days...
Here he is on AHC 650 when it was almost new.
This is a shot from the 1951 album entitled - Wednesday 18th July 1951 Nearing the top of the Grimsel Pass (7,139ft) Grimsel Hospice on the island in the middle of the lake.
Before he had the Thunderbird he had bought a Triumph Speed Twin new in 1946, see below.
and his final new Triumph was a 1954 Tiger 110, below
I have started a separate web page about the T110 and you can see it here - http://www.go-faster.com/TriumphT110.html
As he approached 80 years old he considered giving up biking as his 500cc bike was getting too heavy for him to drag out of the shed, so the solution was to buy him something much lighter for his 80th birthday. Here he is in his mid 80's popping round on it for tea.
My father (Geoffrey Gander) and his father (Thomas) were both Triumph enthusiasts. My Grandfather starting riding motorcycles at the beginning of century and by 1911 had his own small motorcycle business in Eastbourne. Around 1918 my Grandfather bought a 1911 Triumph and continued to ride it for over 20 years and it still survives today. He liked it as it was the first reliable useable motorcycle that he owned. My father’s first rides as a child were on this veteran Triumph and he starting riding bikes in the mid 1930’s and usually volunteered to deliver customer bikes back to them. He was meant to push them, but once out of sight of the shop and his father – they were usually ridden.
His first bike was a small Excelsior Empire and this was parked outside his parent’s house on the morning of September 3rd 1939. Immediately after the 11.15am declaration of War he jumped on his bike and rode into Brighton to sign up for the RAF. As he didn’t ride a horse, shoot and had left school at 14 he was not considered pilot material and with a good understanding of things mechanical he became an aero engineer and at 18 years old was servicing and rebuilding Merlin’s. After the Battle of Britain he was shipped out to Egypt and remained there for the duration.
He wasted little time upon his return and on 12th December 1946 he bought the first of three brand new Triumphs. He kept very detailed logs of all the bikes with every mile and every adjustment and replacement part is meticulously recorded. The first new Triumph was a Speed Twin, registration HC7830 costing £175.16 and 11 pence with engine number 47 5T 81816 and frame TF 10517, gearbox number TE 81902, Magneto BTH KC2 S4 6K 956310 and Amal 276BN1AK carburettor. It cost £219.16 and nine pence. He sold it on July 8th 1950 for £160 with 29,850 miles on the clock. It had been ridden all over the UK and Europe. As it had been meticulously maintained by an engineer and was in excellent condition my father seemed to get a good price with just £15 depreciation in 29,000 miles.
On the 22nd July 1950 he bought his second new Triumph a 6T Thunderbird registration AHC 650. The frame number was 6T 11266N and engine number 11266N. It cost £219.16 and 9 pence and was delivered with 105 miles on the clock. The first 3 gallons into it cost 9 shillings and 3 pence. A week later he had done 391 miles and changed the oil and adjusted chains etc. Insurance was £4 and a shilling. As the miles racked up it had oil changes every 2,000 miles and by December it had clocked 6,000 miles and the head was removed and sent back to Triumph for refurbishment. By March it had done 8k and apart from usual servicing had its fuel lines replaced. It had averaged 68.25 mpg to date. By March 15th 1951 it had done 10,587 miles and the head was giving trouble again. This time my father did the work himself and as he still worked as an Aero engine engineer had access to whatever tools were required. He replaced the cams, followers, springs, reground the valve seats and decoked it but whilst doing this noticed all was not well with the bottom end. It went back to Triumphs and returned with new main bearings and pistons and then behaved itself as by July 1951 and its first birthday it had done 13,405 miles when it set off for a trip to Switzerland. By September it had 16,995 miles showing and went off to Cornwall for a week’s touring. At the end of September 51 the magneto failed and the head was off for new inlet valves and guides. By March 52 it had travelled 21,707 miles. Judging by how my father rode in later life, those 21,707 miles would have been conducted at a spirited pace.
At the time Triumph described the Thunderbird as “a fast, powerful and luxurious built for high-speed travel on the motorways of the world”. My father seemed to be using it as Triumph intended.
By July 1953 it had been on numerous trips into Europe and around the UK and had 25,914 miles on the clock. He serviced it on July 4th and with all oils changed and 10 shillings spent on a pair of F80 plugs he was ready for another trip into Europe.
I have put his album of the 1953 trip here as I like the pictures and have ridden to some of these places myself.
The Gander tradition of bike trips continues, you may be pleased to know and last year I rode down to Tuscany and back up into Northern Italy, back through Switzerland and home via France.
3,000 miles in two weeks. Sadly none of my pictures compare to my fathers but you may like to see what we got up to.
Below is parked up heading north up the glorious Futa Pass from Florence to Bologna on a very hot day.
Below is the top of the Furka Pass on a not so hot day, we passed people taking cover in the storm shelters from the white out on the way up....
These are the bikes that did the trip, none of them suitable for Touring, but very enjoyable on a fast twisty road.
My one is the 19 year old Ducati on the left and is the one that my dad rode many years ago. I always imagine him along for the ride.
A member of Vincent Owners Club asked if I had any old Vincent pics in the albums. I have a few and one is below from Fathers 1952 Trip.
It shows two well used Vincents and the single has been crashed in southern France and brought back home lashed to the back of the twin.
Do either of these still exist?
Following a chat with Vince from the Vincent Owners Club the picture below has much more of a story to it. It appears that the Shadow that has been crashed and its forks damaged and then the forks of the Comet and the Shadow have been swapped around to keep the outfit running. The Comet has the big Shadow speedo and vice versa. The Shadow is a 1951 model and in the 50's was owned by a Mr Les Sherman of Essex and the Comet is also a 51 model and in the 50's was owned by a Mr T M Simmons also of Essex - so probably friends on a trip together. It must have been quite a combined weight of people and bikes for that Shadow engine to haul. Maybe some of the people that knew about this Vincent adventure still exist? In the background is another Vincent KOD 674 - a 1949 C Rapide that was owned by someone in Devon in the 50's and was sold in Bristol in 2008 - so that one still exists.
All the riders in the background seem to be wearing the same sort of period biking clothing, no sign of leathers or "biking" boots. I assume that under those long coats everyone is wearing a suit and tie. It makes me realise that only racers of the period wore leathers and boots and everyone else was smartly dressed for their motorcycling.
A previous owner of the above Vincent was looking at this web page when he was very surprised and pleased to see a picture of his old bike, he kindly sent me a few more pictures of it and the other Vincent in the background, see below. Many thanks Les for sending the pictures.
The Vincent below was owned at the time by Pat Crone who also owned WMK930.
Below is another period picture of WMK930, but we dont know the name of the rider.
I have always wanted to have a ride on a Vincent twin - so if anyone has one they would let me have a go on - then please do get in touch ... I can only ask !
Lots of people have emailed me asking about what cameras were used. Clearly they were good quality ones and the people that used them knew what they were doing both in terms of the technical and composition aspects of taking a good photograph. I have blown up one of the images of one of the cameras below, to see if anyone can identify it?
So far it has been suggested that this camera is a Ensign Commando or a Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta - any more suggestions?
Thanks for your interest and emails.
And finally ... The Brough Club very kindly lent me a Brough for two months! Unbelievably generous of them - naturally I have rambled on about my adventures - see
And finally finally ... after 35 years of waiting and searching waiting...., last year I finally managed to buy my Grandfathers 1911 Triumph and my usual ramblings can be found here -
My email is email@example.com