Mal Hawkins, a regular visitor to the site, spotted a name that jogged his memory in the results for the 'Last Chance' Motorcycle Meeting in the 1967 section of the archives, and was good enough to share his memories of an exceptional motorcycle with us.
Memories Of Moonraker
Moonraker made its debut in '67, I believe, after apearing in a Motorcycle News article earlier that year. In the article Ian Richardson, the owner builder, confidently predicted that the bike would top 200 mph to break the then UK flying mile record.
The bike was very well engineered and presented, and spectacular in many respects. Although not as long as the VW-engined Dragway of a year or two earlier, Moonraker was the biggest bike at the time and very inovative. It was the first bike to use a dragster-width rear tyre, although this was a Dunlop R3 road racing tyre rather than a drag slick. Everone else, including Hagon, were running the obligatory 4" Avon or M&H bike slicks.
Interestingly neither E.J. Potter nor Les Fields, who both campaigned V-8 bikes, used car slicks but relied on standard passenger car rubber. E.J. claimed it was in the interests of cost saving, whereas Les had problems with too much traction rather than too little.
Power for Moonraker came from a very unusual 2-litre Butterworth flat four engine. Butterworth were an engineering company who, I believe, specialised in components and engine parts for circuit racing. The engine featured four 500c.c. Manx Norton cylinders and heads mounted on a purpose-built crankcase. Nothing could compare with the sound of this engine. As Moonraker turned from the fire up road to stage spectators and competitors alike would rush to vantage spots along the strip.
Unfortunately Moonraker never realised its full potential. Being somewhat overweight it couldn't match Hagon's performance despite having 700c.c. more in capacity. The bike also suffered from fuel delivery problems. Ian resorted twin S.U. pumps and very large bore fuel pipes but even this didn't seem to completely satisfy the engine's thirst. Supercharging and injecting would have been the answer but squeezing a blower into the frame would have been difficult given the bulk of the engine.
Moonraker's appearances were short lived and I don't recall seeing it after '68. Harold Bull's youngest son told me in '68 that Ian Richardson was offering the Butterworth engine for sale, however, I don't recall a buyer ever being found. Despite this Moonraker is etched in my memory as a truly spectacular machine.