Grey Flash Motorcycles
Page Under Construction--Please e-mail corrections
and additions..Thanks! We're short about 9 bikes.
Also would like to list Grey Flash unique features...like those Albion
gearboxes and slotted Girdraulics. What is the correct color of grey
? Why were many Flashes listed as "Engine Only" when they were actually
complete bikes ?
|Engine Number||Frame Number||Delivered to:||Build Date||Notes|
|F5AB/1C/1473||Engine Only||D.G. Teacher, Sheffield, England||Aug 11, 49||No Gearbox|
|F5AB/2B/2750||RC/1A/4650||Oct 27, 49||Show Model|
|F5AB/2B/2751||RC/1A/4651||Western Webb, New Zealand||Nov 8, 49||Extensively Tested|
|F5AB/2B/3375||?||Welleslley Trading Co.||Jan 7, 50||Eddie Stidolph Canadian championship bike, currently raced by C. Palmer in USA AHRMA events. AHRMA class champion in '97 & '98|
|F5AB/2B/3396||?||Gene Aucott, Philadelphia, PA||Jan 7, 50||Ex. Marty Dickerson/Ginecco Flash|
|F5AB/2B/3407||?||Welleslley (G. Rampling)||Jan 13, 50||Coburn Benson/John Clark bike, currently raced in USA AHRMA by D. Dunfey|
|F5AB/2B/3408||none||M&S||Jan 13, 50||Engine only|
|F5AB/2B/3441||none||M&S||Jan 21, 50||Engine only|
|F5AB/2B/3454||none||M&S||Jan 27, 50||Engine only|
|F5AB/2C/1475||none||J. Potts||Jan 27, 50||For Car use only|
|F5AB/2B/3520||Kings, Lanchester||Feb 2, 50||Dual purpose|
|F5AB/2B/3519||Conway Motors||Feb 10, 50|
|F5AB/2B/3534||Hieronymi (?)||Feb 10, 50|
|F5AB/2B/3555||RC/1A/5455||Conway Motors (road trim)||Feb 17, 50||Dispatch date 3/25/50, Albion 16 gearbox|
|F5AB/2B/3556||Hieronymi (?)||Feb 17, 50|
|F5AB/2B/3685||Moorhead, Belgium||Mar 17, 50|
|F5AB/2C/1480||J.P.E. Hodgkins||May 5, 50||Built by W, Brown|
|F5AB/2B/4011||Sept 9, 50|
|F5AB/2B/4835||Sept 29, 50|
|F5AB/2B/3782||RC/1A/5682||Trivilato, Brazil||Apr , 50||Dispached Sep 11, 50, Albion, BTH mag, 32mm 10TT9 Amal|
Grey Flash Notes (by David Dunfey 6/30/05)
My Grey Flash (3407) has been in racing trim for a few decades. Although I had all the original parts, over the years it has been raced with different equipment in order to make it more competitive. I recently undertook the task of putting it back to original. During that time I received a lot of questions about Grey Flashes. I thought that I would offer what I think know about Grey Flashes.
The number of production machines cannot be determined by counting the Flashes listed in Dennis Minett’s notebook. Only the Machine Registrar knows which machines were sold as Flashes. If one looks at the Minett notebook alone, there appear to be far fewer Flashes built than thirty-one, which is official count of the Registrar. For example, Minett notes that several Flashes were rebuilt, but there is no mention in his notes of their original build specifications.
The press reported the demise of the Flash in August of 1950. This would lead one to conclude that the Flash had a formal run of eight months. However, the prototypes were raced in the last months of 1949 and there is a Works Order Form for a Flash as late as 1952. The Press reports were only reporting the withdrawal of the Flash from racing, but it appears that few Flashes were built after August of 1950.
Whatever the exact number of months was, it was short. This short production run causes great difficulties when one attempts to establish the exact specification of a Grey Flash. The Black Lightning by contrast was offered as a production model for six years. This meant six years worth of published specifications; show models and appearances in the spares books. The Flash, however, is frozen in time with the original 1950 Press specifications. If, for instance, one looks at the 1950 Spares book it lists the Flash gas tank, UFM and lower fork link as being dull chromed. These items were apparently done this way on George Brown’s racer and the factory hoped it could promote these special finishes on the production machines. It should be noted that the 1952 and later Spares Supplements changed these items to “grey paint,” which was probably consistent with all of the production models.
In addition to the short production run, the Flash was produced
in three models: Racing, Dual Purpose and Road. Add to this the Show models
and the TT models and one realizes that there were very few machines built
to any one specification. In fact, the factory literature shows sufficient
variations so as to limit its usefulness as a restoration guide. As a result,
when I refurbished 3407, I relied on its original condition and contemporaneous
photographs when resolving questions.
The gearboxes of at least three different manufacturers appeared on Grey Flashes. George Brown seemed to prefer the Burman BAR gearbox used on many prewar racers. I have been told that this is a very nice box of high quality. It remained on the Spares List through 1954 as PR50 with a price of twenty-one Pounds. There was also at least one Flash built with an AJS 7R gearbox. For the bulk of production, Albion was the only company that could or would supply boxes as well as the gear sets necessary for racing. The Albion was available in many models. Most common were the No.5 and No. 16 boxes with an occasional No. 20. The No. 5 and 16 boxes were available with aluminum or magnesium cases. The No.5 box had no kick-starter and was typically supplied to the Flashes in racing trim. The No. 16, which had a kick start mechanism was supplied on the other models as specified. The end cover on the No. 16 was designed to support the end of the countershaft with a bushing. The No. 5 box with no kick-start mechanism supports the shaft with a more robust roller bearing. The difference between the magnesium and aluminum box was reported to be seven pounds. If true, this is impressive. The No. 16 box, however, showed up on many racers. Of the three Flashes imported to North America, only 3407 had the magnesium No. 5, box despite the fact that all three bikes were raced immediately. According to Minett, Surtee’s Flash was also delivered with a No. 16 box.
Minett almost always mentions the gearbox by model number in the first line of his notes, but one has to be careful with his notations. When he writes: “engine only” it usually means that he built the engine without the chassis. Sometimes the chassis accompanied the engine and sometimes it did not. As an example, the three North American Flashes are listed as “engine only” in the Notes, but all had Works Order Forms listing the chassis with the appropriate 1900 difference between engine and frame numbers. When the engine was to be used for some other purpose it is usually stated.
Regarding cosmetics, I suspect there is a lot of the “tail wagging the dog” phenomenon occurring with the Flashes. As mentioned above, the production was short as well as low volume. As a result, it is difficult to establish with certainty what could be deemed as standard cosmetics. Many existing Flashes are currently raced or were raced in the recent past. They have all been modified to meet racing regulations and to be as competitive as possible. I noticed this when I went through every Vincent book I owned and was unable to find a suitable example of an original Flash for instruction. Many Flashes have been restored using the TT machines or the Show models as guides despite the fact that these machines were highly customized.
I was lucky to have some original paint remaining on my bike. FF3/1 survived intact with all of its original finish. Other parts had been polished, but there were surprisingly large areas that the buffer missed. This was not obvious because to the casual observer the grey paint closely matched the color of the bare aluminum. This brings up the rather thorny question: what was the original color grey? The honest answer is that I am not certain. Glyn Johnson has done extensive research and has used the original factory paint code for guidance. His research shows a light green-grey was used. His TT Grey Flash is meticulously executed. The paint matches the factory paint code and is consistent with what others, such as Ted Davis, have reported.
The argument for green is bolstered by the appearance of a large batch of damper covers in original factory packaging with a Grey Flash part number printed right on the box (D3/1.) These parts are clearly green. Harry Belleville had dozens of them. I have only examined three of these, the first two looking quite original. The third one was not as well sprayed on the inside and showed original black paint under the green. There was also a small dent, which along with the black paint led me to believe these were resprays done by the factory. Additionally, I am a little suspicious as to the why factory decided to produce so many damper covers for Flashes? The Flash was, after all, effectively discontinued in the same year as its appearance. Moreover, the damper cover is probably the least troublesome or necessary part on any racer. It is puzzling.
Thus, the green-grey has tremendous momentum for being the correct original color. This, however, is not the color on my Flash. The grey pant that is original on 3407 is silver grey. It has no green in it. It is the color of aluminum or dull chrome. I chose to paint my bike this color because I am convinced that it was delivered with this color. The paint was so consistent and apparently original that I could not ignore it as the proper choice.
Having made the selection of color, I must admit that the green does
not seem to be consistent with the dull chrome tank, UFM, and lower link,
and the anodized upper link that the Factory appeared to be promoting in
the press. Although this cosmetic scheme probably appeared the only on
the prototype Grey Flashes, it is difficult for me to believe that the
Factory would have selected a green-grey as a paint that was not a match
to these items. I would also note that Know Thy Beast states the
color of the Flash as “silver grey.” I wonder if Mr. Stevens has catalogued
enough racing components to shed any light on the color tint? In the end,
however, I would not be surprised if the production colors varied wildly
enough to qualify all of the colors in the grey through grey-green spectrum
as being original.
There is one other minor paint color controversy: the brakes. The only Flashes I ever saw in person were the North American Flashes. As a result, I believed all production Flashes (show and TT models excluded) had black brakes. The wheels were standard Lightning components. One day while talking with Bill Hoddinott, he stated that the brakes should be grey. It had never occurred to me that grey was considered the standard! I was quite certain that the paint on my brake plates was original because they had been painted black prior to machining. All of the machined areas were bare magnesium. I suspect they should have been painted again prior to assembly in order to coat the machined areas, but they were not. Because the brakes were painted prior to machining, I felt that I could not challenge the obvious: black paint was the Factory finish on 3407.
I called Carleton Palmer and asked him if his brakes were originally
black. I remembered that his bike had been painted silver, including brakes,
when I first saw it at Shadow Lake. Carleton found several photographs:
one of his Flash being raced by Eddie Stidolph, the original owner, a second
photo that Gene Aucott had given to him of a Flash posed just outside the
factory, and a third of Gene on his Flash at Daytona before he sold it
to Marty Dickerson. All of these Flashes had black brakes. Black brakes
also seem to be consistent with the Factory literature. As a result I am
inclined to believe that the production Flashes had stock Black Lightning
wheel components. So, I concluded that black brakes on 3407 were in their
original and correct condition.
Apart from paint color, many Flashes as well as copies of Flashes have gold lines on the tank. This is not correct, although it is a lovely feature of the Vincent. The only satin chrome on 3407 was the handlebar.
A few have asked me about the special parts on a Flash, meaning
those parts which do not appear on Lightnings. The milled fork legs, FF40/1R
and FF40/1L, appeared only on the Flashes. The originals were milled rather
extensively making the copies stand out for what is usually rather tentative
machining. The UFM, FT1/3AS, has a series of large holes drilled crossways
through the bottom of the steering lug. Under the aluminum plate on the
front of the steering lug are thirty-seven holes (the odd hole is the threaded
hole for the grease fitting.) The RFM, FT/1AS/1, has a series of large
holes drilled through the pivot lug.
All of the above is very consistent on Flashes 3375 and 3407, which were made within a few days of one another including the hole patterns and milling work. These bikes also include the light shallow flange racing rims (20” front and 21” rear) that bear no obvious markings, which are shared with the Black Lightning. Although the wheels are common to the Black Lightnings the sprockets and chains are not. The chain on the Lightning is 3/8”, while the chain on the Flash is ¼.” Thus, the sprockets for the Flash are ¼” and numbered H5/1/46 through 60. The chain guard is a Comet item shortened fore and aft for quick wheel and gear changes.
The original head for 3407 was a nicely ported Black Shadow head, ET22/3S, blended to the 32mm Amal 10TT9 clip fitting carburetor PR5/3with a 15 degree float bowl. The Black Lightning by contrast is listed in the Spares List as using the 1 5/32” flange fitting 10TT9 carburetors PR5/2 and PR6/2 as standard. Some bikes in addition to the TT bikes were fitted with large port heads. These are mentioned in the Minett Notebook. Carleton was kind enough to detail the technical specifications of these heads in his recent article in MPH 675.
The exhaust, as specified on the Works Order Form for 3407 was a 2” straight through racing pipe, PT1/3AS, which was used for sprints and fast circuits. This was one of at least three pipes available from the factory. PT1/2AS was listed for the Comet and Meteor models and described as supplied on the Dual Purpose Flash model. Presumably, it was used with the stock silencer or the 1 5/8” extension pipe PT1/6AS, which was used in place of the silencer. There was a 1 5/8” straight pipe, PT1/5AS, which was described as a racing pipe for Dual Purpose models.
The seat is the same as the Black Lightning, but the early Lightnings had thick seats that looked like modified stock seats. Most people assume that the standard Lightning seat was the thin seat that appeared only on the later Lightnings. Carleton points out that the best example of the early Lightning seat is seen in the photos taken of Rollie Free’s Lightning taken while Dennis Minett was working on it. These photos appeared in the publication of the Notebooks. I have always been told that the Lightning tachometer had yellow numbers. I do not know enough about the Lightning tachometers to know. However, the Grey Flash used the more common black and white 8000-RPM tachometer.
The pieces necessary to fit the Albion box are substantially different from the Burman. The frame tie, F106/1, is the most obvious. The cast spacer between the G50/2 and the gearbox, F102/1, is the other. Not so obvious is the hand fitted and ground spacer for the top stud mount (between the top of the gearbox and G50/2) as well as the large and long offset alloy bar securing the bottom of the gearbox to a case stud behind the inner primary case. On the Comet, this stud goes right into the inner primary case. Additionally, the clutch hole in the inner primary case is in a different location for the Albion countershaft than it is for the Burman countershaft.
Due to my recent travels, I did not have access to my notes and
materials. I did have a Spares List, so I believe most of the above is
accurate. Comments and corrections are most welcome.
Somebody once showed me a photo of a "B" Meteor in Trials trim with an Albion box fitted. If this represents, genuinely, a pre-Flash photo (ie, not a retrofit of an Albion) then it might explain why Vincent could fit an Albion at short notice: they had already done it. It seems this Trials machine was semi-official, but this remains to be proved- ridden by somebody like Ted Davis.
Above statements should be carefully checked out, as my memory of my sources of information is not sure. However, Burman did produce the "TT" type box suitable for the Vincent pre-WW2, and the URL I sent to jtan gives numbers of teeth. Bruce McNair 2/7/02
Joe raced a small Formula 500 car, which could possibly have been powered by the Grey Flash unit. I never heard of there having been a bike built round this engine. I can remember Joe turning up at a bike meeting, at the wheel of a Rolls Royce, wearing carpet slippers as his feet hurt him. Later, say 1965, I saw a running Comet with what was probably this motor. The then owner might have been a VOC club member but from outside the Glasgow area, and the bike might be in the old records. Bruce McNair 12/05/01
Another Grey Flash 'no gearbox' possibility was the mythical 5-speed Albion. I do not have production dates for the Albion 5-speed, but it seems to have been exclusively an "after market" gearbox produced after the Flash era. Bruce McNair 12/06/01