Lot 417: The ex-Mead & Tomkinson,1976 Laverda 1,000cc ‘Nessie’ Endurance Racing Prototype


October 21, 2007
, United Kingdom

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Description: This unique motorcycle is one of the series of unconventional endurance racers built and campaigned during the late 1970s by the Hereford-based dealership, Mead & Tomkinson. This series of machines has become known by the generic term ‘Nessie’, although the name was first applied to the successor Kawasaki-engined version that carried its fuel tank beneath the engine while the exhaust system snaked sinuously over the top. (It should be noted that some authorities refer to the Kawasaki bike as ‘Nessie MkII’ and this one as ‘Nessie MkI’). Michael Tomkinson began sprinting a KTT Velocette in the late 1940s before turning to endurance racing in 1957, entering a Velocette Venom in the Barcelona 24 Hours race for riders Howard German and Stan Dibben, who finished a highly creditable second in class. The Venom’s shortcomings as an endurance racer eventually forced a switch to the BSA B41/B50, and it was the team’s giant-killing exploits with its much-modified Beeza singles that really caught the motorcycling public’s imagination. M&T secured class wins at the Thruxton 500-Mile and Barcelona 24 Hours races, and in 1971 at Zolder became the first team ever to win a 24-hour event outright with a 500cc machine. To contest for outright victory on a regular basis the team needed something bigger, and in 1974 began racing a mildly modified 1,000cc Laverda 3C triple. For the following season the Laverda was reworked around a rolling chassis equipped with hub-centre steering developed by British engineer Jack Difazio, which would be a feature of all the Mead & Tomkinson multi-cylinder racers. The Difazio company supplied M&T’s first two chassis before the team went on to develop this particular machine, which employs the engine as a stressed frame member and features parallelogram suspension at the rear. The M&T Laverda is featured in the current (October 2007) edition of Classic Bike magazine, where Mike Tomkinson’s son Patrick (mechanic on the race team together with elder brother Chris) recalls that they ‘reworked the front end, most crucially at the in-hub link to cure the overly long 6” trail which made the steering slow, reducing the figure to 3.5”. In this form the Laverda was campaigned by Mead & Tomkinson throughout the 1976 endurance racing season, when its regular rider was Norman White. White was teamed with Neil Tuxworth (Barcelona), Phil Carpenter (Spa Francorchamps and Le Mans) and Stewart Hodges (Thruxton), the team’s best result being 10th in the 24 Hours of Montjuic at Barcelona. M&T had decided to switch to Kawasaki power for 1977 and the Laverda was sold into private ownership at the year’s end with the original Difazio steering geometry reinstated. The machine featured in an article in the motorcycling press (copy available) in 1982, at which time it was owned by one Andy Coldwell, who had acquired it in 1978. By this time the Laverda had lost its bulbous race fairing, which had been replaced by a conventional type equipped with twin headlamps mounted on an external subframe. Currently, the fuel tank, the two fairings to the front of the tank, and the front mudguard (mounted reversed) are original, while the fairing, seat and belly pan are not. After four private owners, the M&T racer was acquired by the vendor (a member of the International Laverda Owners Club) in 1987. The machine was entered at Cadwell Park and Donington Park in one-make and Italian track days, competed in National Sprint Association events and covered ‘a good few’ road miles before being laid up in the late 1980s. Since then a combination of the vendor’s work, family and other commitments has meant that it has remained in dry storage. Road registered and offered with Swansea V5, the machine will, of course, require thorough re-commissioning before further use. In July 2007 the M&T Laverda was displayed on Bonhams’ stand at the VMCC’s Festival of 1,000 Bikes at Mallory Park where Mike Tomkinson’s sons, Chris and Patrick, inspected the machine and confirmed its authenticity. Laverda was the 2007 event’s featured marque, and Piero Laverda was able to reacquaint himself the M&T racer, which he had first sat on 30 years previously at the factory in Breganze, remarking, ‘It makes me feel young again!’ A quantity of spares to include clutch plates, drive sprockets, (non-original) twin headlamps, alternator drive belt and a most substantial file of history (inspection recommended) are offered with this fascinating and historic racing motorcycle which, when re-commissioned, will surely guarantee its fortunate new owner any number of invitations to prestigious retrospective events, including the increasingly popular classic endurance series.
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