SUR 52D, Memories of S type

Written by and images courtesy of Bob Fletcher

I very quickly part exchanged my TV175 for this year old machine and had an enjoyable, if not frustrating, 18 month ownership competing in many of the current events of the day such as the Snetterton trials, NvMvS all night trial, Scoot to Scotland, LCGB rallies and planned to enter, the later cancelled, 1966 Isle of Man scooter week.

Frustration was the important word with the ownership of the TV or GT200 as it was by then known.  Not many weeks or rallies went by, when either the exhaust box or the exhaust manifold detached itself from the machine and I spent more than one night with water running down my neck trying to reattach some part of the exhaust system on the bike to continue the event, even driving home once with the manifold attached with nothing more than wire.

Very soon as a competitor, you became aware of the Arthur Francis name and his amazing ‘S’ type bikes, you saw the likes of John and Norman Ronald winning in grand style with a reliable bike.  I was totally converted after reading the road test on the GT200 ‘S’ type in Scooter and Three Wheeler. 

Here you had the bike that looked the business and by reputation performed with reliability as well.  The standard GT200 may have had the performance but reliability it did not.  For the average Club man, before AF came along, the regular way of improving your bike and make it go faster was strip it down at the weekend, get the file and emery cloth out and clean up the ports, all this on your kitchen table, then bolt it back together ready to ride to work on it Monday morning. You bought any number of different exhaust systems, hoping you can get one to stay on your GT200 as well as make it go faster. The only problem to getting a new ‘S’ type was, of course, money and it took a few months to get enough together along with £50 on the ‘never-never’ (hire purchase agreement) before I could afford one.  

By this time the SX200 had arrived so an SX200 ‘S’ type it had to be in all over gleaming black (at extra cost!) instead of the standard two-tone paint scheme, with the ‘S’ proudly displayed on both side panels and leg shield.  SUR 52D was collected from Watford in late October and the first event it was used on was the LCGB economy run at Mallory Park in early November 1966 when it came in a creditable 6th of all the SX200’s, still on a very new engine. There then followed four years of fantastic scooter sport with its resulting highs and lows. Lows such as hospitalisation after crashing at another Mallory Park event and blowing up the engine on the Norwich Straight at Snetterton.  Amongst the many highs were class and team wins again at Mallory Park and a second on the Isle of Man sporting trial.

There were many imitators of Arthur Francis and his ‘S’ type but he and his team revolutionised scooter sport in the 1960’s.