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1960 Chris Vincent 500cc BSA Sidecar 1949-1952 Eric Oliver Norton-Watsonian 500 and 600cc Racing Sidecars and 1960 Chris Vincent 500cc BSA Sidecar

Eric Oliver was, in the years after World War Two, the finest racing sidecar rider in the world. He was World Champion four times, won an Isle of Man TT race and countless minor road races always ona Norton-Watsonian outfit like the one pictured. In later years success would have been easier on a foreign multi cylinder machine but fiercely patriotic Oliver stuck to the British single cyclinder saying he had flown British during the war and would always race British

As a flight engineer on Lancaster bombers he had safely returned from an almost unprecedented 47 missions and came to regard number 13 as his lucky number. Given the choice he would wear it on his racing bike. Although in his championship years he had help from Norton, who provided works engines and Watsonian always provided his sidecar, he built his own machine mixing and matching new and old parts to suit his needs. After trying out the Norton Road holder forks seen on this machine he soon reverted to the old pre-war style girder forks until Nortons gave him experimental telescopic forks they had discarded for solos. His constant changes in the search for the most competitive outfit makes it difficult to identify them now. Particularly because be liked to ride a solo machine in the Isle of Man TT races as a typical clubman private owner and bought a Manx Norton like this with an extra engine so he could ride in both 350cc and 500cc races. That was a ploy which went back to his grass track racing days when he was a champion with one bike and two engines changed by helpers between races. Striving to beat later competitors with faster engines Oliver was first to develop streamlining with the help of Watsonian Sidecars. It helped on fast circuits but hindered on slow ones by limiting the amount he and his passenger could lean in and out of corners.

His success was the result of utter dedication to the task, meticulous preparation and practice. Before every race he and his passenger would practice the push start with the result they were always away first. When faster outfits got in front Oliver would plan to outwit them, For several laps he would pretend to overtake the leader on a bend from one side. By the last corner of the last lap, by which time the rival moved to block an attack from the usual side, Oliver would make his bid from the other side, this trick nearly always worked.

He twice made comebacks after retiring as a professional, In 1955 he rode a roadster Norton Domintaor with touring sidecar and seated lady passenger amidst the pure racing outfits and finished 10th and by no means last.

In 1978 he build himself an outfit, very much like the one pictured for vintage racing and scored his final victory at Brands Hatch on number 13. Above all he was brave and resourceful. Fearing he would be banned from a Grand Prix by the medics, if he sought treatment for a broken ankle he flew to London, had it strapped up and returned the same day, next day he rode and won.

1949-1952 Eric Oliver Norton-Watsonian 500 and 600cc Racing Sidecars and 1960 Chris Vincent 500cc BSA Sidecar

This machine is truly historic not just because it won the 1962 Isle of Mann International Tourist Trophy sidecar race but the way it did. Designed, constructed, developed and ridden by Vincent himself, it interrupted the eight year domination of the Isle of Man Blub Riband race by the German BMW racers. Almost beyond belief he did it with a production sports roadster engine from the BSA range he had tuned himself, with advice from his colleagues in the BSA experimental department.

The BMW power units were limited production racing engines, very expensive and only available to selected riders. They produced as much as 25% more power than Vincent's humble twin.

His performance was not a flash in the pan but the culmination of three years of racing development. In 1960 and 1961 he had been in the picture in the Isle of Man race when mechanical trouble stopped him, but had scored countless successes on enclosed circuits. The background story is that, after severl years as a grass track sidecar champion, he decided to switch to road racing. Surveying the scene he seems to have decided it was a power race with BMW power in the lead, but he felt that a smaller lighter outfit with better streamlining would not need so much power and if the steering and road holding could be improved it could gain on the corners what it lost on the straights. So Vincent's outfit was noticeably sleek. His own design of fornt wheel suspension by a long keading fork controlled by easily adjusted damper spring units, could be turned to suit track conditions, the rear wheel suspension was unusual but it was light and seems to have worked well. The BSA parallel twin shooting Star type A7 did not appear to be altered externally......Vincent was never prepared to talk about the internals.

It swept into bends noticeably fast, held a tight line ands sped away ahead of machines hampered by wheelspin. After a mounting scale of wins at various circuits, race watchers decided Vincent was an exceptionally skilled rider.

No noticeable change was made in the Chris Vincent BSQ in the five years of its active life. A unit construction A50 engine with two carburettors and a little more power, replaced the old A7 unit when it became available.