From the archive: 1952 was the year when…

September 8, 2022

Sometimes a chance comment changes the direction of a feature ever so slightly… in this case, by spanning a few more decades.

Words: Tim Britton Media Ltd

Pics: Mortons Archive

The archive at Mortons – CDB’s publisher – stores the bulk of what was in MotorCycle and MotorCycling, which were the UK’s premier motorcycling publications from 1902 to 1983 when MotorCycle Weekly fizzled out. The addition of Nick Nicholls’ Collection a year or two ago was a good thing as his colour image resource from many major off-road events is an important part of CDB.

As well as pictures, slides, prints, negatives and line drawings from 80 years of motorcycling publications there are also 80 years’ worth of motorcycle papers on the shelves. Happening to have MotorCycle Weekly January to June 1982 open, and looking for something for another feature, it eventually dawned on me that 2022 marks the 40th anniversary of Bernie Schreiber’s win in the SSDT. A momentous occasion as Bernie is currently the only American to win this event and I remember reading about it in the paper in those days. This set  off a chain reaction along the lines of ‘hmmm, what was happening in 1972…?’ 

So, I had a look at the 1972 issues, then further back to 1962 and the title for this piece became obvious: ‘60, 50, 40 years ago’. In my mind the calendar was flicking back like the counter on the wonderfully steampunk time machine in the film based on HG Wells’ book. It’s a shame the archive doesn’t have even a pretend lever to operate like Rod Taylor did in the film… anyway, back to 1962 which is a long time ago... Then our archivist Jane came in looking for pics of John Avery as she’d been speaking to someone about the BSA works rider and they wanted a couple of pics of him as a present. With John still being around it was obvious another decade had to be added to the list.

So, here’s a sample of what was going on from 70, 60, 50 and 40 years ago and recorded by MotorCycle and MotorCycling – with a smattering of mainstream news items to spice things up a bit.

Check back for part 2, 3 and 4 (1962, 1972 and 1982).

1952 was the year when…

… motorcycle dealer John Avery repaid BSA’s comp shop boss Bert Perrigo’s faith in him by winning the 500cc British Scrambles Driver’s Star in his first season as a member of the BSA works team. Avery had been doing well on a converted B25 250 BSA which he’d acquired when it had been taken in part exchange at his father’s car dealership. The bike was nearly new but seized solid; Avery rebuilt it and used it in trials including the SSDT and then converted it to scrambles trim. Despite giving away quite a bit in capacity Avery and the B25 acquitted themselves well and he was ‘noticed’. The lad had started his own motorcycle shop after his obligatory National Service and combined his scrambling with building up his business. It is likely his regular success in off-road events would help increase the traffic to his shop as everyone likes to be associated with a winner.

John Avery speeds towards his British Championship win.

BSA were grabbing headlines elsewhere in motorcycling in 1952 when they fielded a successful team in the ISDT and also gained the Maudes Trophy for this feat. In those days the ISDT was considered a shop window to the world and teams were expected to enter on catalogued machines which could be bought by the general public, less the on-the-day-mods to make the motorcycles suitable for an enduro. BSA entered a team of three riders – Brian Martin, Fred Rist and Norman Vanhouse – into the ISDT on the newly introduced A7 500cc twin and announced they would also attempt to win the Maudes Trophy at the same time. Maudes Motors presented this trophy to the ACU to be awarded to anyone who in the eyes of the judges ‘furthered the cause of motorcycling’. The trophy was hotly contested though not always awarded, however BSA’s attempt was successful and consisted of three machines being pulled from the production line by an independent observer, run in under supervision, serviced as would be a customer machine then prepped for the ISDT. The three riders then rode from the factory to the event in Austria, taking in as many BSA dealers on the way as they could, competed in the event and won gold medals, then rode back to the factory…

Fred Rist hustles his BSA along a dirt road in Austria.


What else happened in… 1952

Though we tend to focus on motorcycling, often to the exclusion of all else, there are things which happen in the wider world which bear mentioning, if only to put our motorcycling in context.

As around the world there were nuclear arms tests by several countries, Japan and the Allied powers signed a peace agreement to formally end the Second World War and the occupation of Japan. On a happier and more automotive note Chevrolet introduced the Corvette prototype to the world.

Norman Vanhouse deals with a treacherous road surface.


Here in the UK King George VI passed away and we entered the second Elizabethan age when his daughter Elizabeth II became queen though the coronation wasn’t until 1953.

In the sporting world both Olympic contests were held in Scandinavia in 1952 with Finland hosting the summer games and Norway the winter ones. The UK gained one gold in each contest in case you were wondering.

About the Author

Share this article