JEEP's Archives
Motorcycle Magazines
On-Line encyclopedias
News Paper Cuttings/ Scrap Books/ Submissions

We are always looking for contributions to the web page. Please let the webmaster know if you have any information or pictures for them
Name: John Lee 
Birth date: 21st December 1946 
Birth Place: Coventry 
Date of Death : N/A 
Place of Death :N/A 
Nationality: English 
Gender: Male
Classic Racing - Fifty at Fifty

No matter what the capacity, you can have fun on track with all sizes of old bike. He started with a Tiger Cub but John Lee found true happiness with a 50cc, at fifty.

'Where are you off to this weekend? Is it old blokes on old bikes again?'

This is the summer chorus from Number Two daughter as I couple the 1971 Sprite Cadet to the rear of the high-top Escort van. Both of these are huge sources of embarrassment to the aforesaid sixteen year old, but the high-top means I can chuck a bike in without removing the screen, and the caravan has a door in the back which makes carrying a second bike a doddle - and, anyway, it is a parent's function in life to embarrass their offspring.
Nowadays the racers tend to be 50cc Minarellis; much easier for a gentleman of my advanced years to heave in and out of the race transport. 'Scuderia Pantalone' is about to embark on yet another weekend of high-revving short-stroke engines, tall stories and late night Old Speckled Hen drinking.

I attended post-war motorcycle trials in my carry cot and, according to my mother, the 'motorcycle club boys' were twisting my chubby little fist and trying to get me to say 'Brrm brrm' before 'Dada.' I didn't quite cut my teeth on a ball-ended lever but it wasn't far off. My dear old dad, CH (Bon) Lee rode in trials, mountain grass tracks and park races in the 1930s, mainly on 350cc Velocettes, but for a while on an extremely quick, home-tuned Triumph L21 which embarrassed the works Triumphs on more than one occasion.

When I first began to ride in trials, Dad's pep talk consisted of; 'keep your feet on the pegs son and keep it shiny side up.' Before that, when I was puffing and blowing round the local cycle speedway track, it was; 'remember. The bloke who wins is the bloke who knows when to shut off.' Good advice, which I regretted forgetting as I head-butted the scenery in Aberdare Park in 2002.

Under the circumstances it was only natural that I should be drawn to powered-two-wheelers. By the age of fourteen I was thrashing a rigid framed 350cc Velocette (what else!) around my uncle's farm. Dad wasn't letting me loose with a road bike straight away, though. When this sixteen year old pestered, he was told; 'you're doing a season in trials first. I want you to learn to fall off properly.' Anyone who has slid up the road will recognize the wisdom of those words!
"Scuderia Pantalone"  
Born to ride a Minarelli
'Scuderia Pantalone'
Sprite Cadet and Stable
John Lee at Abadare Park
50cc Minarelli
A very shiny 125cc BSA Bantam trials bike was bought from Bruce Lewin in Leicester. It was an ex-Ken Sedgeley scrambler and proved to be a handy tool... but I did ride it into the canal when I couldn't lift the front wheel over a tree root in one section. The Beeza was soon joined [ In the canal? Real Mart ] by a MAC Velo road bike and later superceded by a Model 16C AJS. If lifting the front end of the Bantam was a problem for my seven and a half stones, then keeping the front end of the Ajay down proved a more exciting one!

A string of machines followed and I was not without a motorcycle from the age of fourteen until our twin sons were about ten years old. A friend of mine had started racing again and the boys were growing keener and keener on bikes. She Who Must Be Obeyed expressed her concern and with traffic conditions so changed I did not want to encourage them onto the road, so I gave up motorcycles and the boys and I became heavily involved with barn engines. When Number One son announced at the age of nineteen that he was buying a road bike there was little I could do. After all he was a man now.
Now, I am very sedate on four wheels but could not make the same claim with regard to two so I decided to follow in father's wheel tracks and opt for racing as the safer option. Soon a little 250cc narrowcase Ducati was tucked up, nice and cosy in the shed. The little Duke was paraded with the CRMC and hillclimbed with the NHCA. Then in my 50th year I began racing a Triumph Tiger Cub in the 200cc class with the CRMC. As a second string I acquired a T200 Suzuki and Number One son's roadgoing T200 was modified for him to parade.

I have always been fascinated by racing 50s and, as things would have it, the Racing Fifty Enthusiasts' Club rode in the CRMC 200cc events. When the Suzuki holed yet another piston at Pembrey, I loaded it into the van on Saturday night and announced my intention of watching Sunday morning's racing and then making an early start for home.

Someone said; 'I've got a spare Minarelli rolling chassis with me,' and someone else added; 'I've got a spare Minarelli engine.' At 06.45 the next morning we were screwing together a 50cc racer. My contribution was a pair of exhaust springs! In the pre-practice assembly area I was told off for revving it below 10,000rpm, and told to; 'go out and try to kill it.'

After one practice and two races I was hooked. The grin-to-cc ratio is immense! Now came the quandary. I wanted to race a 50 but I did not want to stop racing the Tiger Cub and I couldn't ride them both in the same race.
Before the start of the 2001 season I noticed a piece in 'Classic Racer' announcing that the Racing Fifty Enthusiasts Club (now the Classic 50cc Racing Club, by the way), was to hold a full championship with the Preston and District Club. I contacted the secretary, Steve Bedford, for more details and to begin negotiations to buy his air-cooled long stroke Minarelli as soon as I had sold my Suzuki. About a week before the first meeting Steve phoned me.

'Are you going to Three Sisters next week?'

'Yes but I haven't sold my Suzuki yet so I'm just riding the Cub.'

'Never mind, you can borrow my short-stroke Min, if you like.'

Would I like? He didn't have to ask twice! Steve was not able to make the first meeting so I took the bike up to Wigan myself and proceeded to break the screen when I chucked it up the road at the first corner in practice. Later in the day, when he phoned to see how things were going, he was told the news and I could hear him laughing down the phone from ten feet away. They're a great crowd, these 50cc racers.

Steve had not done himself any favours. I still hadn't sold the Suzuki and once I'd ridden the short-stroke the lustre went off the idea of buying his long-stroke. The upshot was that Steve let me use the short-stroke all season; I gained my national licence; I came second in the air-cooled class, third overall and second in the Preston and District Club's 50cc championship. Perhaps still weighing less than nine stones has its advantages after all!
At the end of the 2001 season I bought a well sorted short-stroke Minarelli. What happened to the Ducati and the Suzuki is a different story. Another trophy for the 2001 season was the 'Ouch!' award, which I picked up for falling off more times than anyone else. Sorry Steve. The award came my way again in 2002 as a result of the 'Aberdare Tree-butting Incident', this time falling from a modern 80.

I was determined to avoid the hat-trick and managed to keep it right side up throughout 2003. I like my classic Minarellis. The shed is a bit cramped, cold and leaky so if any kind soul can offer the use of a nice cosy workshop in the Rugby / Hinckley area I should be very pleased to hear from them

John at Three Sisters on the 50

The Size and The Weight
'Why Scuderia Pantalone?' you may ask. Well. In the Commedia Del Arte Pantalone was a comical old fool. Enough said?

People To Speak To:
·The Classic Racing Motorcycle Club
·The Classic 50 Racing Club
Well if you think there is no payback in this sport, I have a bike that's sorted, which gives me great pleasure to ride and the trophies to prove it
Return to Racers
Piston Rings
Piston Rings
(A letter from John Lee to the Open Mega)
The John Lee Picture Gallery
classic 50cc racing | 50cc racing uk | 50cc racing | 50cc motorcycle racing | 50cc motorcycle | 50cc | racing50 | 50 racing | 50cc Roadracing | Abf | Ahra | Avanti | Benelli | Bridgestone | Bultaco | Delta | Derbi | Demm | DKW | Ducati | Ducson | Garelli | Gilera | Guazzoni | Gritzner | Heldun | Hemeyla | HM | Honda | Itom | Italjet | Jamathi | Jawa | Krauser | Kreidler | LGM | Maico | Malaguti | Malanca | Maserati | Minarelli | Monark | Mondial | Morbidelli | Morini | Moto Guzzi | Motom | MV Agusta | MZ | Nassetti | Nougier | NSU | Pasotti | Piovaticci | Prykija | Puch | Rascha | Reimo | Riga | Ringhini | Roton | Royal Nord | Sachs | Scrab | Simson | Sterzi | Suzuki | Tatran | Tecnomoto | Testi | Tohatsu | Tomos | UhlStein | VanVeen | Velo | Villa | Yamaha | ZM | Zündapp | 50cc | 50cc LSR | Land speed records | Bonneville 50cc racer
Working... Please wait