A  History of Classic Racing  50cc Motorcycles


Name: JEEP (aka J. E. Elton-Payne)

Birth date: July 19th 1943 
Birth Place: Thornton Heath Surrey
Date of Death : Not Yet! 
Place of Death : Not Yet! 
Nationality: English 
Gender: Male

When I was about 12 my Mum and Dad were members of the voluntary St Johns Ambulance service and they used to go to all of the Scrambles meetings that were in the Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire area, as they were part of the meetings ambulance support team.

Mum and Dad would often take us three children to the scrambles meetings at Pirbright, Beenham Common and other tracks whenever they could. Dad had a mid 40's Douglas when I was younger but gave it up for a motorised bike. This was a Cyclemaster where the engine was housed in the rear wheel. This then suited him better for local travel as he never got much time to himself to do solo tours due to us three children.

In 1956 my Dad's Cyclemaster packed up and he decided to go back to a motorcycle. He  gave me the motorised wheel, which had seized to take to bits and learn a bit about engines. I did strip it and with some guidance from my brother got it working again. It went back into the Raleigh frame and I used to ride it in my uncles garden and when possible around the streets. We had moved out of London by then to Wokingham in Berkshire, my uncle lived in a small village called Finchampstead, which was a push bikes ride away, 

I was hooked. To me it was the only form of transport that I would want when I grew up a bit more. The Motorcycle had everything I wanted with freedom, open air and riding pillion on anyone's bike that would have me: what I wanted was 'Speed'. 

I was 14 when Robert (Bob), my brother, brought a box of bits, a frame and wheels home and gave it to me saying “This is your birthday present, if you can rebuild this, it’s yours”. All my money from my paper rounds, green grocery delivery job and from anywhere else went on restoring this bike to a road worthy machine. I finished the rebuild and owned my first motorbike, a Velocette 350cc MAC. 

All my old pictures were lost in a fire and so this an image of someone else's, MAC of same year. Just after finishing the Velocette, Bob took me on his bike to a Silverstone motorcycle race meeting to watch the September 1957 International Hutchinson 100. Being nearly 5 years older than me, Bob had a group of friends who all had motorbikes. They would often shoot off to meetings at Brands Hatch, Silverstone, Blandford to name a few and sometimes take me with them.


A 250cc Mondial. This was Mike Hailwood's race winner for the the lightweight 250cc race at the 1957 Hutchinson 100 on the Silverstone circuit. Note the Laurel Wreath.

I had never been to a live road race before, only seen photos and after that day I was hooked on Motorcycle Road Racing. Bob thought I was mad as his main love was to ride in Scrambles on a 500cc Velocette MSS and considered that as 'THE' motorcycle sport. 

Anyway he arranged for us to enter a clubman’s race at Silverstone later in the year where you could take your own bike and race it. Although I was legally too young and not supposed to be on the road, I was 6’ 2”, (still growing) and so looked older and fortunately nobody questioned me on road or track. We rode our bikes to the Silverstone circuit, stripped them and raced.



I was well down the field and had a couple of narrow ones that made the muscles spasm. Still I completed the race and could not stop running to the trackside to see the other races that day. The adrenaline was up and I could not settle down. After racing we had to put all the road gear back on the bikes for the journey home. From then on I would race whenever I could. I passed my motorcycle test on my 16 birthday and the roads were open to me.

To keep racing an ‘aka’ persona was necessary. When I first started racing I was 15 years old and I needed my parents’ permission to enter a meeting and my Mum didn't want to give it. A best friend, one one in Bob’s group of friends named Derek Holloway raced and to start with let me use his licence details and race under his name when he was not racing. Later he went to America and the ‘aka’ carried on. That's how, in 1957 I started racing and in 1958 sold my Velocette and, with some other monies from doing motorbike work for friends, bought my first Norton Manx model.

The only pictures I have of those days are from some 8mm film that my brother took and I lifted some frames. The first photo is of the 350cc Manx with me bump starting and the second is the 500cc Manx, she gave me trouble and lost oil in this race and I had to pull of on the second lap. She had developed a small split in the pipe from the oil tank. still, easily fixed and it ran well for most of that year. She was going well through 1958 and with me maintaining her, gave little trouble through to 1061. I was getting in a number of good placings and felt comfortable, through the days with the way she was running. I had, during my last race day of 1961, over revved the bike and dropped a valve. She had to have her engine re-built by Ray Petty, of Cove in Hampshire, who had previously adapted the engine to a twin plug head.

1958 Snetterton

1958 Snetterton

 1958 Snetterton

 1958 Snetterton

 1963 Snetterton

1960 Snetterton

1960 Snetterton

1960 Snetterton

1963 Brands Hatch

1963 Brands Hatch

I had a number of road going motorcycles, after the Velocette. During that early period they were always old bikes or wrecks that needed rebuilding. There was a breakers yard on the other side of Reading that used be great for parts and always at a good price. The three I remember most are the Model 70 Panther, a 350cc slopper that I bought for restoration just after selling the Velocette, a Triumph 3T and a 500cc Vincent Comet. Although there were other bikes in between the last road bike I had, at the end of the 60s, was a Triumph Bonneville “Pure Luxury”.

The 1947 Phelon and Moore Panther model 70

The Triumph 3T Parallel 350cc Twin 1946/47. the first photo is of my bike. the others are from a library.

My Triumph Bonneville T120 was in the Blue and White colour scheme but as my pictures were destroyed and I could not find images of the same colour I have used these which were on the internet. The last picture of the T120 engine displays the alternative exhaust system available in the USA at the time. The up-swept pipes are the same style as mine, provided for me by Richard Wyler who had a shop in Worcester Park, London.  

Full picture rebuild of 1964 T120C ex Tri-Colour USA

The next part of this page is based on the 'Question and Answer' column that I used to run in the "Small Torque" magazine for the Racing 50 Enthusiast Club. This club was formed by Steve Bedford, Chris Alty, Debs Bedford and Jeep Elton-Payne. It was the start of an active 50cc racing club and came to life in 1997. The CRMC afforded us a class for the Classic 50s in the up to 200cc race and we ran our own championship. And Yes! I did fill in the R50EC questionnaire ‘To the Power of Ten’, being the 10 standard questions asked of the club members.  

(If there any 50cc Racing riders out there who would like their story told, please send me details and pictures and I will add them to the riders section. This will be after I have finished the web page re-write. BTW I have three new ones to work on already).

Question 1,  When and why did you first become interested in racing 50cc motorcycles?

I had seen 50cc bikes on the road and a friend had a Victoria Avanti that we used to tinker with (this was a two-stroke and a new type of engine to me) but I had not considered them as a race bike. It was 1962 at the beginning of the season. Derek and I had gone down to Brands Hatch for a practice day and I was out on the 350cc Manx. 

I came out of Clearways and down the main straight and saw Derek, thumbs up, on the track side watching progress. I lined up for Paddock and started to lean over when a bike came underneath me followed by a noise like a swarm of bees, making me sit up a bit and move off my line. On getting back to the pits, I had to find out who that rider was and what bike he was riding. It turned out to be one of the Simmonds brothers, Mike, on the WCS ITOM. Dave and Mike were happy to chat about the bike and the 50cc class and as a youngster I liked the way they found the time to answer my questions. 

I was fascinated by the 50s from then on and wanted to ride one. I decided to buy one for the 1963 season, On occasions Dave and Mike, above, would give me advice about my ITOM, whenever I had a problem. They were a great pair of guys.

Question (2) When and from whom did you acquire your first racing 50cc. [supply make, year, and any previous history if any?]

The bike I wanted, after speaking with the chaps at the circuits was an Itom Super Sport. I think it was in the January of 1963 and it was from Tooley's of Burnt Ash Hill, Lee, London. Dick Chalaye was the “salesman” and seemed full of all information on the ITOM and the 50cc racing scene. I needed to buy the bike on HP so Dad came along with me. We decided on a new Mk.6 Astor Super Sport (Red livery) with 3 speed hand change and telescopic forks.

The bike was built for the road and had all the road gear on it and on advice from Dick we purchased the "go faster bits" race kit that was available to prepare it for the track. I raced it during the '63 season and then, because I was so tall and uncomfortable, sold it. However its memory stayed with me and it got into my blood so that I could never loose and never have lost my interest in the 50cc class.

Question (3) How many racing 50`s have you owned over the years [supply makes with likes and dislikes of the machines]

1963 ITOM 50cc Astor Super Sport.

This was the only 50cc motorcycle that I owned during my first period of racing in the 50s/60s, that included the two Nortons. This was between 1957 and 1967. Apart from trying to wrap 6'4" and 11 stone around its tiny frame and suffering chronic neck ache, I found she handled well and provided I could keep the revs up, went very well. I did find that she was prone to seize but the other racers, P. Horsham and Eddie Swain for example, gave me advice on the piston and on oil additives, which reduced the occasions this happened. Dick Chalaye recommended the use of a shot of Graphite in the fuel mix and I used that to start with. 

I enjoyed working on the ITOM and would try out different approaches, given by the guys at the track to improve the speed and reliability. Dick Chalaye and an article he wrote in the Motorcycle Mechanics magazine in 1962 was a great help and the fact that my Dad and Brother were engineers, used to working with tools I had not come across, helped in smoothing and reshaping ports for gas flow improvements. I stopped racing the Itom for the 1964 season.

Minarelli 50cc P6 race bike.

In 1997 I read a small letter, posted in the Classic Racer magazine from a chap named Steve Bedford, concerning the resurrection of the classic 50cc racing class. I had known a Geoff Bedford back in the 60's and wondered if this chap could be related. A quick phone call and 'Yes' Steve was Geoff's son. We chatted about the 50cc racing currently taking place and I offered to join the small group forming the Racing 50 Enthusiasts Club. The first meeting I attended as a spectator was a CRMC meeting at Cadwell Park and this started the fire within me again for the '50' and I wanted to ride.  

However I did not own a 50cc race bike and I mention this one because it shows the friendship and helpful approach of the 50cc community when I came back to the race track. It was owned and built by Arthur Mills, who used to race in the 70s and 80s. He knew of my desire to race the 50 and was also aware that I did not have a bike available, but that I was in the process of building one. He offered this one to me on a loan basis until mine was ready (You bend it – You mend it). I cannot thank him enough as it allowed me to enter some parades with the CRMC to get me back in the grove again. Picture: JEEP on the Arthur Mills Minarelli, parading with the CRMC.



The CRMC regulations allowed a date cut-off point for 125cc and 50cc race bikes of 1972, which made her eligible for Classic Racing. I bought this bike as a project from Italy and turned it into a great little racer. This is the bike I campaigned through the 1998 and 1999 in club races and paraded her through to 2004. She handled well but the brakes left a lot to be desired (I was told that I should not need them on a 50). The engine was good but not fully developed. I had carried out the normal mods that we used to do in the late 50s early 60s and did some extra work on the ports and head. Tyres had been a problem and I had to use oversized rubber, which was changed when I was able to get some 2.50”x 18” general-purpose tyres.

ITOM changed name to IMSA near the end of their existence and they tried to rationalise production by using the "Ring Road" approach to manufacturing. The machine used the Franco Morini 4MP/S engine with ITOM head, barrel and crank assembly. It had 4 gears with foot-change and was housed in a Zanetti frame manufactured for the ITOM. All other parts are as fitted to the ITOM MkVIII except the tank which is of a different, more sleek design.

Pictures: Cadwell Park, CRMC,  Round 1, April 4th and 5th.
Pete Wileman photograph. My first race back after 30 years.

Mark VIII 50cc Competizione ITOM ex. Brian Woolley. 

I purchased this machine from Kay Woolley after the sad passing of Brian. It was in need of restoration and not all of the engine components were there. However it would not have been too difficult a restoration job and I had hoped to have the bike out in 2002. Brian had a green and silver colour scheme and I decided to retain that. If anyone has pictures of this bike I would be grateful for copies, which I will gladly pay for. It died, along with others in the workshop fire.

1968 Spondarelli 50cc

This bike was based on the design of the production model frames that Brian Woolley and Des Bone had made by Spondon Engineering, for their Woolley-Bone ITOM project. I believe that 6 actual production frames were made and currently I know of one in Ireland with a Minarelli engine, a Garelli based one in the UK, one with a Kreidler engine fitted , and Itom based model constructed as a Simmonds Replica with frame No.2 and of course the Woolley-Bone, frame No.1 now in the USA. know where the others are?

This frame was plated for a Minarelli 50cc motor and at some later stage was changed for a Kawasaki 80cc. I have converted it back to a 50cc Min. This bike may be ready for the end of the season and I will tell you how it goes and handles after riding it (if I can get my long frame wrapped around it.

Fire is an Awesome Element!

This sounds like the story of a horror book, but it was almost life changing. 

It was Christmas Eve, 2004 and I am with Linda, my wife, at friends for supper and all is right with the world, when I receive a phone call: “Jeep. Get over to your unit as quickly as you can. The carpenters shop is on fire and the fireball is heading in the direction of your workshop”. Your heart goes into overdrive and the first thing you can think of is "Oh My God, my Bikes"!

Linda and I quickly made our farewells and left. Fortunately I had not been able to drink in the short period that we were there. We pulled through the site gates in a very good time but when we arrived at the unit was already on fire at the back end and moving through. I rushed from the car towards the door, as you would, only to be brought down by a fireman who said “there’s no way you are going anywhere near that” "But", I replied "my bikes are in there". There was a shake of his head and he commented that at 1000°C there was no way the bikes could survive. He was right.


I lost 4 ITOM racers including my pride and joy, the 4M/SS, along with another ITOM road bike, the 50cc Spondarelli, a Yamaha L1 road bike, and a Yamaha L1 5 speed 100cc Racer. My Cotton 172cc Cavalier Trials Bike along with an Aprilia AF1 50cc. I had a Puch 3 wheeled moped to restore and that went too. Also included in the loss were items belonging to other people that I would never be able to replace. It was a very very bad day.

During the previous few years before the fire I had been recovering from a serious operation and with the fire wiping out everything, my approach to life was very low and I thought I would give up motorcycles, my 50cc interest and racing. Over the following few years I still kept in touch with my bike friends and went to meetings but the depression was there and I could find no way of removing it.

However towards the end of 2006 Linda, bless her, had other ideas.  Unbeknown to me she had been in touch with Steve Bedford to see if she could get another 50 race bike for me and use it as a Christmas present and therapy and maybe kick start me out of this malady I was in and get me back on the track. 

I had an old Fantic Caballero M4, which had a 6 speed engine, lying in the shed at home and she asked me if that could be a start of me getting back on the track.  I was not in a frame of mind to contemplate this and said "no I want to restore it at some time" discussion ended. 

However Linda was not to be outdone and she and Steve looked around and found a bike that Steve Nugent had for sale. Enter "Minnie". It became a surprise birthday present in 2006 and the bug was back. I seemed to improve in health the more I worked on the bike and its first outing was a parade at the Brooklands Museum.

My next outing on "Minnie" was at Aberdare Park in Wales.  This is definitely "Averscare" Park as the barriers are straw bales and the protection around the trees was also tied on straw bales. Who is the protection for me or the tree? It is a great track and puts ones metal to the test.  "Minnie" did well, better than its rider who took a little time to settle in.  Anyway, I was hooked and decided to join the CRMC and parade and maybe race her at the meetings until I felt more my old self. looking at the picture you can see the problem that "Minnie" had carrying a guy of my size and weight.  I was then 6' 4" and 14 stone.  I found difficulty in wrapping myself around her but it was worth it.

There are two other 50cc bikes in my stable now, but more about those later or on another page.  The first is a MALANCA, late 60s early 70s and an Aprilia RS50 1998. The MALANCA will be built in the style of the 1960s Classic racer conforming to the class rules and the Aprilia to the Freetech 50 class rules.  These are on-going projects.

Question (4). What unique preparation, if any did you perform on your machines?

My approach to preparation was based on my Dad being an engineer and having a process for many things. In the early days he would say to keep records and make lists. Build a path that allows you to step through and step back if you need to.

Even now I have an approach to the bike before a race and I go through a check. I also clean and polish, not just to make her look good but by doing the hands on I notice things that I might have missed or could cause a problem later.

Question (5). Details of tuning approaches you might have used and how successful.

Outside of the Cyclemaster, I was always a 4-stroke man until the ITOM came along and so two-stroke tuning had to come from any book or magazine I could find and from listening to those who had already done it. I try to keep records of the experiments I try and the results I get.  There were good articles in the Motorcycle press that covered tuning the 50 and these were a good start point for a beginner. This is an article by David Frost written in 1960. (.pdf)

Question (6) What memories do you have of the early racing 50's scene.

Of the people I met. Now these are memories that stay with you for a lifetime.  I was fortunate to know Beryl Swain during her racing days. She was 7 years older than me and a very outspoken lady but, both She and Eddie would, at times look after me in my start-up with the 50. Although I only raced the ITOM for a year, we stayed friends and we would meet up at different meetings, mainly Brands Hatch. Eddie would give me advice on keeping the bigger bikes up to scratch. 

Outside of riding my new Itom at practice days, this was the first race that stays in my mind. It was at Brands Hatch and the numbers on the grid appeared vast. The butterflies were flapping around in my stomach, worse that when I rode the bigger bikes. We started with dead engines, a run and drop the clutch and keep on running until you had gained momentum and then jump into the saddle and you were away.  The noise of over 45 screaming 50cc engines was remarkable. 

I have had the good fortune to be on track with a number of Lady riders, Margo Pearson, Pat Wise and Ceri Dundas-Slater when I was on the large capacity and the 50s. One memory that always stays with me is that, although Beryl Swain was a good rider and better than some of the chaps, she was always started from near the back rows of the grid. !Why?! I leave to your imagination,

A memory that stays in my mind is not to do with the 50cc but of an early race I saw at Silverstone. I was standing at a corner in 1958 waiting for Mike Hailwood to come round on his Ecurie Sportive Norton. At first I could only see Derek Minter and then as the angle changed there were 4 riders in close line astern that looked like a single string of Minter, Hartle, Macintyre, Hailwood; I asked my brother "How do they trust the one in front not to brake?"

Question (7) Have you been involved with any other class of racing motorcycles or competitive motorcycling. 

As I have said above from 1958 to 1968 I rode a brace of Manx Nortons. The 500cc was quite standard but the 350cc was a twin-plug head, Ray Petty Norton and boy could she go. I made middle field most of the time. 

I did a season in Grass track on a 250 Velocette that my brother built for himself to race. It had a Wal Philips fuel injector on it and it flew. A friend, Alan Perrett helped us to get the engine running properly as he used to tune Velocettes for grass track racing. I enjoyed the grass but the black stuff called me back.

Bob and I took the engine from the tracker and put it into a road race frame and I did a season riding in the 250cc class as well. During the period of bringing up a family, I bought the odd scrambles bike and kept my hand in on local tracks. I sold my last MX bike, a Suzuki Z250cc, in 1997 and bought the ITOM M4/SS.

Question (8) Who if any one has been the biggest influence in your racing career, or the racing 50 scene in general?

In the old days the likes of Brian Woolley, Keith Manning (Keith Manning Motorcycles), Eddie Swain, Jim Sheehan and without doubt the Simmonds brothers to name but a few. Today the people that have influenced 50cc racing and to my mind are the mainstay of the Classic 50cc sport, are the likes of Ron Ponti, the late Dave Brearley, Steve Bedford, Chris Alty and Adrian Pallet, the list could go on. If these people keep pushing our sport the way they are, then 50cc races might yet again have a place at all race meetings. 

Question (9) What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given and by whom?

First from my Dad who being an engineer said "if it's not mechanically right don't ride it. "Strip it and re-build it, then you will know it is as safe as you can make it". "Bodges can cause the end of what you love". Secondly, from my brother Bob, "Learn to feel the bike and listen to it, she will talk to you and you will ride better for it".

Question (10) What piece of advice or tuning tip if any would you like to pass on to fellow members. 

With tuning: most of it has been done before so read the books, watch others and listen to those who know, experiment and keep notes you will soon find that you are the one that people will ask the questions of. 

To the quick boys, when I am on track these days, Don't go too fast or you will lap me too many times and reduce my track time!!!