Classic 50cc Motorcycle Racing
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"The Pope Special"

 A watery wonder, the Pope Special, was one of the fastest machines in 1962. It was built by the Pope brothers, who were motorcycle engineers based in Dartford, Kent, but for some reason did not bring its rider, A. E. Dawson, deserved renown though he put up some excellent performances.

 The Pope Special was based on a 50cc Demm Dik Dik of circa 1958 and offered a performance equal in comparison with other off the shelf sports mopeds of that period.

The Pope Special was based on a 50cc Demm Dik Dik of circa 1958 and offered a performance equal in comparison with other off the shelf sports mopeds of that period.

It was raced on many of the UK circuits and was often a podium finisher. It also competed in the Isle of Man 50cc TTs with its rider A . E. Dawson. Due to the fragility of the DEMM engine, this  was changed through its life to the water-cooled ITOM unit that is now in the bike. The cooling works on the Thermo-Syphon approach as there is no pump fitted to the engine.

The Early Days.

This is a photograph of the Pope racer in 1959. The rider with it is Alan E. Dawson who rode for the Pope brothers on the 125cc Montesa and the 50cc racers. This shot was taken at Brands Hatch during an early spring meeting. In the program the bike  was only recorded as being a DEMM as it had not then  been christened "The Pope Special". Alan was small in stature and fitted the bike without problem. being able to get down below the screen helped reduce the wind drag. It's also interesting to note that Alan's leathers were for someone a lot larger than him, but they passed scrutineering.

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With the success of the 1960 Chiltern Enduro, the second 50cc Chiltern Enduro, organised by the Racing 50 Club, took place on Sunday 7 May 1961. Here you can see No. 33 on the mass start line as the flag drops. The chequered helmet identifies Alan pushing away, mounted on the Pope Special.

Those around him are: Bill Ivy No.27, of the W.D. Ivy and M. Thomas/Chisholm-Itom pairing, No. 48 the J. Avery and W.J. Stocker/Victoria SS pairing along with No. 53 the P. Wright and T. Lake pairing on a MOTOM. 


 

In 1962 Alan Dawson was entered in the 50cc class of the Isle of Man T.T. and programmed to be riding either the Pope Special or a Kreidler. It was the Pope Special that had the calling and it appeared, as previously intended, with Alan as the rider. This was the DEMM engined Special, air cooled. Unfortunately, when the flag dropped the bike failed to start and it was given a DNF in the results. 

This engine is a basic DEMM 50cc unit, tuned by the Pope brothers.



In the 1963 Alan was again entered into the Isle of Man 50cc TT riding the Pope Special, water-cooled: the only mention of Alan in the race was the commentator announcing that "H. L. Fruin, riding the Fruin Dartela, coasts in and re­tires at the pits. A. E. Dawson (Pope Special) has retired at Cronk-y-Voddy and the riders are OK".


Alan Dawson with the Pope Special waiting at Scrutineering for the 1963 Isle of Man T.T.

In the picture below, you can see Alan Dawson and the Pope Special waiting at Scrutineering for the 1963 Isle of Man T.T. He is just going out of shot. behind him are 34, A C Hutchings with his Benelli and 36, Ian Plumridge on the Val Knapp Honda CR110.


This four-speed engine that was fitted for this race boasts one of the John Pope water-cooled cylinder barrels and head, which was unusual for the period as John had developed the head in two parts. The main water-cooled head stayed in situ but if the combustion chamber shape needed to be changed to modify the output of the engine for a given performance, the centre, containing the plug could be released on its own. At the time of writing, the author can not be sure weather, for this race, the Pope brothers had stayed with the DEMM or moved to the Itom.







Now onto other battle fields and some of the races that the Pope Special had been involved in, mainly at Brands Hatch and Castle Combe in the South of England. 








 Alan Dawson on the Pope Special



31-03-1961

22-05-1961

27-05-1961

19-08-1961

20-08-1961

 31-03-1961 

 22-05-1961 

 27-05-1961 

 19-08-1961 

 20-08-1961 

08-10-1961

19-08-1961

12-04-1963

13-10-1963

18-08-1964

 08-10-1961 

 19-08-1961 

 12-04-1963 

 13-10-1963 

 18-08-1964 

There were many more races between 1958 and 1964 but the small selection here gives an idea of the enthusiasm and dedication the Pope brothers put into their 50cc machine preparation and racing.

The Pope Special, with the ITOM engine, on display at Crystal Palace in 2014 and at other shows. It was displayed by the current owner, Ray Palmer, of Maidstone Motoliner Ltd.

This photograph was taken in the museum of Motoliner. It shows the livery of the team that ran it in the 50s and 60s. the original frame was lengthened by a few inches to accommodate riders taller that Alan Dawson.

You may note the battery box under the seat. The ignition system was a total loss approach until much later in the bikes history when it was upgraded to a full electronic unit.

An exhaust system, based on the DEMM Cowhorn, was designed to maximise the power capabilities of the engine. There are as few bends in the pipe as possible. As it worked well on the DEMM engine it was kept for the ITOM.

A closer picture of the Barrel and head assembly. Although not obvious, the head, which was sunk into the Barrel could be removed and if necessary another fitted with a different squish band

This hub was a standard DEMM supplied unit, but with the need to stop this fast racer it was modified by John Pope to twin leading shoe.

This picture shows the reverse cylinder approach that the Popes used on this ITOM engine. Note the carburettor pointing to the front wheel. The gear change was modified from twist grip handlebar change to a foot change mechanism.

An excellent article by Alan Turner on The Pope Special, for Classic Racer.

The following  images are taken from the article in Classic Racer concerning The Pope Special. 

If you wish to read the full article please click on the image to open the .pdf file. 

If you wish to go to the Classic Racer web page then click on the magazine image. My thanks to Alan Turner and Classic Racer for allowing the the author to use this article and pictures.

 



This is a slightly later picture of the "Pope" than the 1959 shot at the top of the page. Here it has its suit of cloths on and is running the DEMM, air-cooled engine, pre the gearbox oiling system. The Pope brothers also spent many hours on the frame and running gear as can be seen from the front brake and the "laid down approach" to the rear shock absorbers on the earlier model.


This is a later version of the DEMM engine. Still air-cooled but here you can see the oil feed tubes going into the gearbox improving the oiling system over a wet sump approach. The Petrol/Oil mix approach was used for the cylinder and crankcase. Both approaches being used at the same time gave a very reliable engine.

The cylinder head skull and squish band could be changed without disturbing the water-jacket


 

Early days with the air-cooled Demm, no pumped gearbox oil and un-damped suspension units. Believed to be taken at Brands Hatch, at Bottom Bend with Alan Dawson in the saddle.

 

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