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London, Dec 2011

December 15, 2011

Oh lucky me!  My employer asked if I could be bothered to travel to England for a project in the Midlands. Knowing that a quick weekend furlough would give me some time in London, I jumped on the 747.


The Victoria and Albert Museum.  Quite a colorful place, showing some of the huge variety of things that were common during the Victorian era.  I really enjoyed the fabrics and wallpapers, sculpture and the exhibit on the Crystal Palace.  (19 acres enclosed by iron and glass!).  Not much stuff for a gearhead to see, but I did find this wooded gingerbread mould from the 1830s-50s, showing a man on a hobby horse cycle:IMG_0212


Walking around the neighborhood, on my way to find Pd’O, I stumbled upon the Michelin Restaurant.   Built in 1909 as a factory for the tire company, it has some great artwork on the tile walls.  After being decommissioned as a factory, Sir Terence Conran converted it to a restaurant.  I’m not going to write about him here, but his name is all over the streets of London this season.


FYI, Bibendum is the name of the fat tire guy.



Sloane Avenue in Chelsea is a highbrow highstreet, with all the best shops complete with million dollar sports cars parked on the curbs.IMG_0425



Richard Gauntlett, esquire.  His eponymous gallery offers many great items, “toys for boys” in his words.  One of the front windows has an exquisitely restored DKW, with a deluxe picnic basket and Ruby Helmet.



My favorite item in Richard’s shop was Conrad Leach’s painting “Norton Duke”IMG_0616


Paul and an old 1890’s Bayliss Thomas highwheeler.  Richard bought is as part of a television show on BBC or Discovery or something.  Look for it on your local broadcast featuring a few guys reviewing antiques and buying or not buying them, and telling the owners that their old whatsit just might not be worth a million bucks, even if the owner is positively sure that it must be.



Around the corner on the high street, you can buy your kiddo a swell little pedal car.  It looks just like a Bugatti, and costs about $10,000 US (plus VAT!).


5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 15, 2011 1:15 pm

    OK, my Excelsior is Bridgette Bardot. And she is near warm up. Love those old pics. Thanks, Paul Venne

  2. December 19, 2011 10:55 am

    Thanks for the pics and story.

  3. Jared permalink
    January 22, 2012 6:35 pm

    Talented gents all – Conrad the painter, Richard the curator, Paul the writer, and Pete the engineer. When the sum of all parts is equated, a motorcycle gang of boundless entertainment is possible. -JZ

  4. January 22, 2012 10:47 pm

    Master Pete, My project needs a 30 tooth Excelsior kicker gear badly to finish. I’ll probably have to make one at this point, but I thought I would ask you too just in case you might have one or know something. I have a 33 tooth earlier model gear, but my 1917 sector gear is too big for it. Can you help any? If not Matt Smith said he could fab one for me. Thanks and safe motoring, Paul Venne

    • January 22, 2012 11:10 pm

      Hi Paul. I wish that I had a spare! I looked for a few years before I found mine from Charlie Carter in Florida I think, or maybe it was Gene Harper? It is a bit tougher to make than a typical gear, due to the ratcheting stuff that goes inside it. Matt Smith would be a good source, hopefully he’ll make up a dozen of them!

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