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Competitor Profile: A G Horne

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The Horne-Rudge

The 250cc Horne-Rudge was the result of thousands of hours of development by A G [Greig] Horne [pre-war Manx Grand Prix and post-war TT rider] and his son, A J [Jack], both exceptional engineers. Making its first appearance in 1953 it had an all welded frame with pivoted fork rear suspension. The top tubes give a Featherbed-like appearance but terminated with a crosspiece, just above the swinging arm pivot with the rear sub frame being bolted on. The headstock was exceptionally well braced. Woodhead-Monroe hydraulic shock absorbers supplied the rear damping with AJS Teledraulic forks up front. The brake drums were large diameter Al-Fin light alloy type bolted to wheel hubs turned from solid duralumin bar with press two-inch bearings. Both petrol and oil tanks were hand formed from aluminium sheet by Greig.

The power unit was initially a home tuned 1936 Rudge Rapid, the head having been modified to take hairpin valve springs. Not content with its performance the next step was to create a power unit to their own specification. By 1953 the only Rudge parts still in use, apart from the clutch and gearbox, were the crankshaft and crankcase which was topped by an Al-fin barrel and light alloy cylinder head incorporating bronze valve-seat inserts again with hairpin springs. The oil pump was a BSA unit driven off the magneto spindle. Everything was produced by father and son in a small workshop in Perth, Scotland with little more in the way of power tools other than a welding set, vertical drill and Myford lathe.

On several occasions, [including Jack’s first practice lap of the TT when he had to pull in at Quarterbridge] the plug oiled up. When the problem could not be cured, the magneto was sent away for testing but came back with a clean bill of health but the fault still persisted. However when a replacement unit was fitted the problem disappeared. On closer investigation the inner windings were proved to be breaking down at high revs. This had not shown up during the bench test as the drive was via a flexible coupling which did not submit the unit to the same loading it received on the bike.

Jack raced for many years taking in several TT’s. He was 15th in 1953 on the Rudge, 10th the following year again on the Rudge, 13th in 1957 (NSU, another father and son self-built racer) and 16th in 1961 on an Ariel. The Horne-Rudge, with its deep red, silver and black colour scheme, won the Scottish Championship in its lifetime.

Jack also raced it in the North West 200, Leinster 110 and Ulster Grand Prix, being placed 5th in 1954 and winning the 250cc Handicap Award.

Around 1955/6 T E Rutherford from Hawick purchased the machine and raced it for a season before it passed across the border to Jim Darling (whose grandfather won a TT Sidecar event in the late twenties). When not racing John used it on the roads with a fishtail from a Bantam held on with two self-tapping screws to reduce the noise but on more than one occasion, when changing down and opening the throttle, the end was blown off and the bike leapt forward!

On the arrival of his call-up papers in 1964 he sold it to a work colleague, Paul Hutchinson, for £40 who subsequently exchanged it later that year at a Newcastle Ford Dealership for a Ford Zephyr Zodiac. Billy and Cecil Winthrop from the village of Thropton were the next owners. However the original engine/gearbox had gone awol, being replaced by a standard 2-valve unit.

IN 1970 John Vickery (an engineer who was involved with the HJH motorcycle concern which manufactured Villiers powered lightweights in Neath in the mid 50’s) acquired the remains, thinking it would be an interesting retirement project. Following the theft of the fully rebuilt engine and gearbox, John understandably lost interest in the project. In early 2002 Les Leach bought the remains and has got the Horne-Rudge back on the road, using it at vintage events.

Some years ago T E Rutherford managed to retrieve the original power unit, which, following restoration, is on display in a Lake District museum.

(Historical) note: T E Rutherford sold the Horne-Rudge to Jim Darling as Greig Horne had constructed a NSU Sports Max based racer for him to ride. This NSU machine was later sold on to an up-and-coming racer named Phil Read.)

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