Wednesday, 4 August 2010


This amazing bike is an original and genuine TT machine from 1932, as ridden by Roland Stobbart from Aspatria, Cumbria. The bike is an Excelsior B14 Racer with a special long distance return sump engine. The original J.A.P engine has since received some modifications though. The brothers were both of speedway stock and utilised some speedway parts and technology to make the engine more competitive. The barrel is a home-made item cast from low expansion alloy, bored out and fitted with a steel liner. The 80mm piston is a speedway item as is the cylinder head and all of the crankcase parts on the drive side. The parts on the timing side are all home-made items again, (please read the comments from Paul Ingham at the end of this post). The engine was set up to run on methanol (speedway style) via an Amal carb, and the drive to the rear wheel was delivered through an Albion gearbox. The engine delivered nearly 40bhp at 6000rpm

The bike has remained in the family ever since and when Roland died in 1981 it moved into Maurice's workshop. The bike continued to be used in anger and has been ridden in classic hillclimbs by Maurice's youngest son Stuart Stobbart. Maurice cared and nurtured this bike as if it were his own and continued to fettle it right up until his death in 2001 aged 87.

I called round to see Maurice one Sunday afternoon and was surprised to find him sat quietly in the living room. "What's up Mo, why aren't you in the garage today?". "I've had a wee fall lad, nowt to worry about". Apparently, he'd collapsed while carrying the engine across his workshop and like a mother with her baby he'd resisted dropping it in case it got damaged and held it on his chest until his wife got home from church. An amazing man and an amazing bike.

* The bike was once featured in Performance Bikes magazine but was incorrectly labelled as a 1930 Excelsior Manxman - (hence the caption on the photograph at the top of the post). Paul Ingham has since been in touch and corrected this error. The bike is from 1932 and is not a Manxman - the "Manxman" was not produced until 1934. Thanks Paul


  1. There's quite a bit about Rol Stobart in a fine book by Ron Hoare: "Speedway Panorama" (Haynes 1979) I've often wondered whether he had any connection with the (Eddie) Stobart haulage firm? ...


  2. I used to go and have the occasional brew with Rol's younger brother Maurice until he passed away in 2001 and the stories in Speedway Panorama were all true. Mo told me plenty more too, especially about his year at Wembley in 1933... some could never be published without tarnishing the reputations of some very well known names from that era!!

    The contents of his workshop at the bottom of his orchard were amazing, he still had the first Dirt Track Douglas his mam bought him back in the 1930s, this fine Excelsior, a couple of old JAP speedway machines, his own custom built speedway bike affectionately named "Leaping Lena", some old trials bikes that his eldest son Darryl used to ride and a couple of Roland's old bikes too.

    There is no connection to Eddie Stobart and their name actually has 2 Ts. Mo told me a story about the family name. Rol and Mo's grandfather moved to Cumbria from the North East and their name was spelt Stobbart (with 2 Ts). When Rol and Mo's father started his own transport business in Aspatria, he used to keep getting mail and deliveries for another family who lived nearby with the same so they changed the spelling of their name to Stobart (just 1 T). Grand-dad was horrified and refused to speak to them until they reverted to the correct spelling of StoBBart... hence the two spellings you find in speedway history books and the mythical link with that other Cumbrian Stobart guy who does a bit of haulage. During the height of their speedway racing days, programme compilers and journalists continued to use the StoBart spelling as written on their Dad's trucks, but I always spell it StoBBart like Maurice told me to.

  3. Hi, There are a few mistakes regarding the Stobart bike.It has infact got its original Excelsior Jap frame with matching numbers rather than a cut up Manxman one and was made in 1932 . The engine is special in the fact that it was produced by J.A.P. with a full return oil system hence the special original big pump on the timing cover and under the bottom of the crankcase the casting has a extra oil pick up resovoir , this was for long distance racing. The bike was entered in the 1932 Manx Grand Prix by Mr Stobart and retired at the end of the first lap with a puncture.Other than the petrol tank later mudguards and a later speedway barrel and head fitted, the bike is as produced by the factory.I have seen this bike on many ocassions run at the Barbon hill climb and it went well.

  4. Hi Paul and thanks for the feedback. You obviously know your stuff as you're totally correct, the chassis and frame are all original and the frame hasn't been cut at all. Maurice told me that the frame didn't need any work as it was perfect for his big bro' just the way it came out of the factory. So, going by your comments, does that mean it isn't a "Manxman" then?

    The information about the engine came from Maurice himself, but as he was in his late 80s and the bike is from the 1930s,I guess some of his information may have been clouded with the mists of time.

    Maurice and Roland did produce their own heads and barrels though. At one time Maurice ran a speedway school in Workington where he taught his students the mechanical side of the sport as well as how to ride. Utilising his contacts at the Steel Works and the airfield at Silloth, frames were welded up using top quality steel tube and heads and barrels were cast using low expansion alloy. These were then fitted with steel liners and bored and honed to accept genuine 80mm J.A.P speedway pistons. He took all of his measurements from J.A.P engines, hence the similarity. Maurice told me on many occasions that the top end of the engine on this bike was home made, sadly I can't ask him now as he is no longer with us and Rol passed away 30 years ago. One of Maurice's sons, Stuart, sometimes races this bike at Barbon and yes, it does go very well indeed.

    Rol Stobbart also raced a Scott in the 1930 and 1931 Snr Manx and a Cotton Blackburne in the 1930 Jnr Manx but I think he only finished once despite some decent times in practice. Stu has also raced on the Isle of Man - 2007 TT in the sidecar race I think.

  5. Hi,The bike started life as a 1932 Excelsior B14 Racer with the special Long distance return sump engine and is basically as bought new other than the previously mentioned items.The engine would originally have been on petrol and have had a large finned barrel and what was termed in the day as a Dog Ear head indicating the shape of the casting where the rockers operated, with its use changing to sprint and hill climb the top end will have been changed to run the bike on dope and keep competative.
    This bike has nothing to do with a Manxman, as these were not invented until 1934.Regards Paul

  6. Hey Paul - thanks for putting us straight. I've ammended the post to refelect your input. It's been good hearing from you and who knows, we may bump into each other next time I'm at Barbon.


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Whitehaven, Cumbria, United Kingdom
Disenchanted City Boy who rode out of the fast lane and into the back lanes! Life on Two Wheels is so much fun.