Mick Walker / Motorcycle Enthusiast
As 1960 dawned, road racing in Britain was dominated, at both club and national level, by the large capacity ‘thumpers’ from AJS, Matchless and Norton. However, further down the scale things were far less defined. For the well heeled, one of the rare and expensive NSU Sportmax, or one of the brand new Aermacchi Ala ‘d’ Oro’s were thing to have, for the rest of the quarter litre racing fraternity, it was either a case of a sleeved down big single, with all the weight penalties this incurred, or a home built special.
There was a third option, a humble two-stroke. The ‘stroker was then just beginning to make a name for itself, in the harsh world of the dirt biking arena, but definitely not on the tarmac.
But it was in the 1960 TT, when Mike O’Rourke bought his Hermann Meier tuned Ariel Arrow home in seventh spot, which was really the first stepping stone in a relentless march which was to see the mighty four-stroke almost totally redundant by the end of the decade, 1960 was also the year that a young Chelmsford draughsman, Reg Everett, made his racing debut, aboard an ex-Derek Minter 500 BSA Gold Star at Snetterton on Easter Sunday.
The young Everett after drawing number 1 on the grid, lined up against none other than Derek Minter himself and many of the other leading short circuit stars of the time. In the race, following a bad start, Everett and the Goldie came 22nd out of a field of 40. This excellent showing for his first track effort was followed by steady, if unspectacular progress throughout the remainder of the year.
The following year, 1961 still saw the Chelmsford rider Gold Star mounted, and although his ability was improving rapidly, putting the roadster based Goldie against the pukka racing Manx Nortons and Matchless G50’s was proving a major handicap.
Peter Inchley / Ariel Arrow / Thruxton 1961
Then on the 28th May 1961, came an event which was to change not only the fortunes of Reg Everett, but also the local Greeves concern.
This was the Silverstone 1000 kilometer race for production roadsters, where Everett rode a brand new 249cc Villiers 2T power Greeves 25DC Sports Twin. The machine was loaned by local dealer Derek Cornell and was the first two-stroke that Reg had ever ridden. And even though the pair retired at half distance, when the Greeves refused to star following a fuel stop, it was to leave a lasting impression upon the young rider. This was to be reinforced, when later stripped of its road going equipment, and fitted with elementary expansion chambers, the combination of Everett/Greeves scored an impressive 5th heat, 8th final at the important Clubmans Trophy Day at Brands Hatch on the 25th June that year. Following this performance the Greeves had to be returned to Derek Cornell and was subsequently sold.
Although he then returned to racing his Goldie, Reg had not completely forgotten the all too brief experience of riding that lively little two-stroke, “What impressed me most”, he recalls, “Was its superb handling”.
During the close season of winter 1961/62, Reg decided that the Goldie had to go.
This was simply because that after the two seasons he realised he needed something that was more competitive. Initially a Matchless G50 was favoured, but was ruled out, “I just couldn’t afford one” he said, and it was at this moment that a stroke of genious was born.
And it was to have greater consequences than Reg could ever have imagined.
Dave Bickers had just become the European Motorcross Champion, so Reg thought, “Of course, why not use a modified motorcross unit…”.
Snetterton 1962 / Reg Everett / MDS Engined Motocross inspired Prototype
Reg had previously met Greeves’ competition engineer Bob Mills at Derek Cornell’s showroom whilst preparing the Sports Twin for the ’61 Silverstone’ production race. So he decided to visit the factory to see if he could draw up any support for his project, at first he drew a blank, but this changed, as Bob Mills later organised the necessary componants from various roadster, and motocross machines, these enabled Reg to go forward and build his idea.
Even though, as Bob will put it today, “It was all highly unofficial, and later when Bert Greeves eventually found out, he nearly decided to sack me”.
So Reg, who was living in Basildon, started to build his bike, he had the MDS motocross engine, an assortment of frame parts, forks and wheels, which he built with alloy rims, then he added non-Greeves parts, a Manx Norton seat, and the carb off his old old Gold Star. He assembled it in his front room and topped it off with a polished alloy Greeves motocross fuel tank.
The only concession to the power unit was the Goldie’s GP carb, the balance including the exhaust system, was pure motocross.
Practice prior to the 1962 race season revealed, this home built Greeves, possessed surprising good ecceleration, whilst at the top end of the rev range the proformance tended to tail off, but even so, it proved the idea worked.
The debut for the new pairing came at Brands Hatch on Sunday 1st April, Motor Cycling, summed it up like this, “In his heat, R J Everett notched up an impressive victory, on his motocross engined Greeves, with road going forks. He also, led for half the final before being passed by E R Cooper (247 NSU), as his engine tightened, but still managed second place. Reg was as surprised as anyone, this home built bike, had the potential to place him at the front for the first time, and was able to prove that here was a new short circuit star, in the making, what a debut!”.
After Brans Hatch the next meeting was at Snetterton, on Easter Sunday, unlike the Brands affair, which had been restricted to club riders, this one was open to everyone. Top riders, Minter, Shorey, Rob and even Hailwood turned out, undaunted, the combination of Everett and his dirt based Greeves, came home 6th in front of many riding far more expensive and supposedly specialised machines.
The 250 race that day was won by Dan Shorey on his brand new works 196 Bultaco, a machine that was to several top six placings in that years Grand Prix’s.
The following day, Easter Monday, the circus moved down to Crystal Palace, here Reg notched up another triumph, by going out and winning his heat, he eventually gained a respectable 12th spot, after a fiercely contested final.
Over the next few months came a host of wins and places throughout the summer of ‘62’, at almost all of the southern circuits.
Although Reg let fellow competitor Brian Woolley, ‘look in the motor at Snetterton in August, the only ‘tuning’ that had been carried out on the home built machine during the season, was a month earlier, when Bob Mills produced a special expansion chamber which he had presented to Reg during another one of those unofficial factory visits.
The results continued to accumulate as summer passed into autumn and the season drew to a close. Reg’s last meeting that year took place under perfect conditions, of cloudless skies, above seasonal temperatures and the minimum of wind, on Sunday the 7th October when Bemsee staged the Guiness Trophy race at Snetterton.
This is how Motor Cycling reported the event, “As a contrast to Terry Grotefield’s rather processional win on his Aermacchi, in the 250 race, R J Everett flogged his prototype Greeves throughout the race in an attempt to wrest back third place, which he lost to R A Freeman (Honda) after the first lap. The final assault failed only because the Greeves was short of steam”.
Note the use of the word prototype by the Motor Cycling reporter.
Even though Reg had financed the bike himself, the Greeves management issued no official denial when the magazine hit the shelves, and this went on from mid-way through the season.
Also, as we were all to become aware, it became obvious that not only Greeves were standing up to attention, but other factories such as Cotton and DMW had been impressed by the results of the motocross based project.
In stark contrast to the factory’s lack of official interest, when Reg suggested the original formula, a mere two weeks after the final Snetterton race, Motor Cycle in their 18th October 1962 issue, headlined ‘Greeves on Greeves’.
The story said that the previous week, factory boss, Bert Greeves, had put in several laps on Reg Everett’s machine, which was referred to as a ‘Privately owned Prototype’.
Shortly after this at the end of the month came the news of a purpose built racing engine from the Villiers factory, ‘The Starmaker’, which was scheduled to make its debut at the forthcoming Earls Court Show, in November.
Prior to Earls Court, the press had another story, the headlines said, quite clearly ‘Greeves Production Racer’.
This was not Reg Everett’s home built racer, but a pukka factory built effort, obviously based on Reg’s machine!
The machine announced by Greeves was designated as 24RAS, it used a modified 246cc Villiers 34A engine, claimed to produce 25bhp. A short seven days after the announcement also came news of the Greeves tie up between the factory and the famous Guildford tuner, Francis Beart.
This agreement had been reached after a test session, on the factory prototype, at Brands Hatch on the 1st November. With both Bert Greeves and Beart in attendance, the 1962 Senior Manx Grand Prix winner Joe Dunphy completed some 15 laps on the machine and was reported as being “Amazed by its performance”.
By now the press were providing Greeves with a large amount of publicity regarding their race development and involvement. So when the same prototype appeared on the company’s stand at the Earls Court show, several big names, including Geoff Duke were photographed astride the bike.
But where was Reg Everett all this time, the truth was that whilst he had carried the flag, the factory largely chose to ingore this effort. Then in early 1963, Bert Greeves finally decided to loan, not one of the new batch of 36A engined Silverstones built that spring, but also the works hack prototype.
The first batch of production RAS models, began to be delivered to their new owners in that March. These were all powered by the know improved Villiers 36A engine which was reported to be producing a reputed 30bhp. And it was with this engine that Reg was given the factory’s show prototype to race.
Tom Phillips scored the first Greeves victory of the new season in late March at Oulton Park. And Joe Dunphy on the Beart bike led for 13 of the 15 laps at the season opener at Mallory Park a few days later.
Meanwhile Everett made his bow at the international Hutchinson 100 staged at Silverstone, when an 11th place on Saturday the 6th April, but he was alarmed at the handling which, unless the rider sat ‘almost on top of the tank’ tended to get into tank slappers far too easily.
This bike, was not up to the standard of the production batch, or for that matter machines provided to Dunphy or Tom Phillips.
This incidentally was to be a hallmark of the RAS version, but for some reason the show bike was far worse than all the others.
Then at Brands Hatch on Good Friday the 12th April a tremendous second was gained, two day later on Easter Sunday at Snetterton, the Greeves rider was fastest in practice but was forced to retire from the race, held in slippery wet, cold conditions.
At Crystal Palace the following day, Reg went on to get fourth in his heat, and sixth in the final. And although things may have appeared good on the surface, underneath he was far from happy. Again this centred around the handling, which as he tried harder as the season progressed, riding his Silverstone, became even more hair raising.
Things came to a head a couple of weeks later at Mallory Park on the 27th April, during the final Reg crashed coming out of Gerard’s Bend, this was caused by he said ‘poor handling’.
Even with the precaution of sitting-on-the-tank this time it went into an uncontrollable tank slapper and unfortunately Reg was thrown off. Luckily he ended up on the grass and was in a much more serviceable condition than the bike.
The damage was so severe that the Greeves was a total write off, even the crankcases and gearbox castings were destroyed. Returning the remains to the factory a few days later was not a pleasant task.
Bert Greeves had never accepted that the handling was anything other than perfect, so needless to say that Reg went home, without a replacement.
This presented a problem as the previous year’s motocross-cum-road-racer had already been sold. But Reg was fortunate, Brian Woolley, whom he had got to know well during 1962 came up with the offer of his own new 24 RAS because his own rider, Horace Crowder, was out injured.
So a week after the Mallory incident Reg was back in the saddle at Aberdare Park for his first ride under the Woolley banner. On the tight Welsh circuit he soon found that he was right, the Wolley bike handled so much better. And although it was his first visit, Reg managed fifth in his heat and grabbed twelfth in the final.
Following this came a couple of good results at Brands Hatch, notably fourth at the international meeting at the beginning of June.
Then came his first visit to the Isle of Man, where, like all the other Greeves entered, he retired, following the IOM setback, he bounced back with a fifth at the international at Brands Hatch, followed by a second at Silverstone and then another fifth at Brands and at his final race of the season at Snetterton he pulled off another impressive second place.
In 1964, Reg was only to take the Greeves out once, it was his first outing of the year, at the TT on the 8th June.
This was not on Brian Woolley’s machine, but ao old ‘63’ hack RAS loaned by the factory. Reg says this was the slowest Greeves he rode but it kept going whilst all the others packed up, he finished eighth, and last! Even so, in a year dogged by so many mechanical problems for other competitors, it was an achievement in itself to finish at all, in the ’64 Lightweight’ event.Shortly after returning the bike, Reg moved on, he made an approach to Ted Broad, with his association with the brand new Yamaha marque. His exploits on the Yamaha twins are now legend, he first made his motorcycle name with his revolution, the motocross inspired Greeves Silverstone, he then went on to also make his name as one of the top motorcycle racing stars, of the era.