Dylan Miles

1928 OK Supreme 250cc Racer Ex Works 1928 Lightweight TT Winner

£59,995 | Location: United Kingdom

‘CG 1150’ has been widely accepted since the mid-1930s as the machine ridden to victory in the 1928 Lightweight TT by Frank Longman. The OK’s history between 1928 and the early 1930s is not known but there is overwhelming evidence that it is the actual TT winning machine, albeit with some components changed, most notably the front forks

Longman’s victory, OK Supreme’s only TT win, was all the more remarkable given the team’s inauspicious start to its 1928 Island campaign. The new duplex bolted-up frames, designed by G H Jones, had proved fragile in practice, prompting Jones to return to the factory to fetch some 1927-specification replacements (see Jones’s letter on file). It seems that these replacement frames were then hastily, and untidily, stamped up to match the paperwork submitted to the A-CU

In the race, Longman led from start to finish, averaging 62.9mph, only 0.32mph slower than the Senior winner, coming home some 17 minutes ahead of 2nd place finisher C S Barrow’s Royal Enfield. Although Longman’s team-mate Alec Bennett had retired, the three other OK Supremes ridden by George Himing, Cecil Ashby, and Vic Anstice came home in 4th, 5th, and 6th places respectively, with only Ashby using the 1928-type frame

One factor undoubtedly contributing to OK Supreme’s dominance was a new JAP racing engine featuring a Jones-designed cylinder head with 12-degree downdraft inlet port, which was not made available to OK’s rivals. Examples of this engine sold to the general public had the horizontal inlet tract. Sadly, Frank Longman would lose his life in the 1933 Lightweight TT following a crash at Glentrammon Corner while riding an Excelsior

The original logbook shows ‘CG 1150’ to have been first registered on 18th April 1932 to one Richard Wallis of Monk Sherborne near Basingstoke, Hampshire. Richard Wallis was the son of Arthur Wallis of Wallis & Steevens Ltd, Basingstoke-based manufacturers of steam-powered traction engines, road rollers, and agricultural equipment. The OK was licensed for just two months, as evidenced by the logbook’s solitary stamp. Importantly, this logbook records the Type or Model as ‘Special TT Racing’, while at the same time omitting the ‘C’ from the engine number

‘CG 1150’ then passed to Christopher Child. A collector of racing motorcycles with Isle of Man TT history, Child had once owned the 1927 TT Triumph sold by Bonhams at Stafford in April 2012 (Lot 335). He lived at Ramsdell near Basingstoke, a mere one-and-a-half miles from Richard Wallis’s home in Monks Sherborne. Child was a friend of collector Lorenzo Piper and the machine and some literature was passed to Piper on Child’s death circa 1963. In a letter on file Piper states that Christopher Child had been a great friend of his father

‘CG 1150’ was owned for a period by Norman Webb, the well-known collector of historic racing motorcycles, and it appears likely that Webb bought it from Piper. Norman Webb sold the OK to TT rider Arthur West, who sold it on to Bernard Harding on 29th March 1966, Bernard having responded to West’s advertisement in Exchange & Mart dated 24th March 1966. A copy of the advertisement is on file together with the sales receipt (for £50). Incidentally, Norman Webb repeatedly tried to buy back the OK from both Arthur West and Bernard Harding. The current vendor obtained ‘CG 1150’ from Bernard Harding in October 2003. Documents supporting the foregoing history may be found within the history file

The OK’s restoration was started by Norman Webb and continued by both Arthur West and Bernard Harding. When the vendor acquired ‘CG 1150’ the restoration was largely completed except for the front forks. Bernard had been unable to find some appropriate Webb forks, but the vendor had a pair, which have been fitted. It is clear that the machine had heavyweight Webb forks fitted when raced, even though OK Supreme used Brampton forks at the time

Longman was known to be autocratic and would not race unless he could prepare machines to his liking. The Webb forks were no doubt his doing, probably because of their superior handling or perhaps because Webb gave him more sponsorship. It appears that the machine remained in the factory after the race until being sold in 1932. If, as is suspected, the forks were Longman’s doing, the factory would have refitted Bramptons

 The machine certainly had Brampton forks when Christopher Child and Lorenzo Piper owned it as can be seen in the photograph on file. This photograph was lent to Bernard Harding by Lorenzo Piper and is dated 9th September 1934. It shows Piper on the bike with female pillion passenger, presumably while being exercised by Child on Piper’s father’s land (see file). Following the restoration’s completion, the OK took part in the Isle of Man TT 100th Anniversary celebrations in 2007 (a copy of programme is in the file)

There is good evidence that ‘CG 1150’ is the actual TT-winning machine as it was viewed by Manxman Harold Rowell during the war. Rowell had an encyclopaedic knowledge of TT machinery and although it appears he never published anything, people who met him confirm his obsessive recall of detail. Rowell and his brother both rode in the TT pre-war and were best known as stunt riders in the George Formby film ‘No Limit’. Wearing battledress, Rowell viewed the OK at Lorenzo Piper’s farm having assumed that it had been scrapped as part of the war effort. Piper confirms Rowell’s visit (see references on file)

Perhaps the most convincing evidence of the machine’s authenticity is the cylinder head. As mentioned above, OK Supreme’s designer G H Jones designed a special head with a downdraft inlet tract. This machine has a head with a 12° downdraft inlet tract, whereas the standard 250cc JAP racing head had a horizontal tract. In addition, the Burman gearbox is stamped ‘TT’ in addition to the customary markings. A gearbox of this same type is clearly visible in the action picture of Longman’s machine reproduced on page 190 of Motor Cycling, 13th June 1928 edition

In short: what we have here is a machine that is, beyond reasonable doubt, Frank Longman’s 1927 Lightweight TT winner. As such, it represents an exceptionally rare opportunity to acquire an ex-works TT-winning motorcycle of the Vintage era

Photo Credit: Tim Scott

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