Motorcycle Restoration Projects
BSA and Hagon specials live on
Historic Vehicles’ Jim Gibson caught up with retired Eurobodalla (NSW) dairy farmer Don Greig and discovered more than just a good all-round Aussie bloke.
A familiar sight leading the pack, with the fray in pursuit.
The quietly spoken, unassuming septuagenarian with the strong handshake and enquiring blue eyes found time between running the family’s dairy farm with his brother, Ross, to race motorcycles. In doing so, he indelibly marked the name ‘Don Greig’ in the annals of dirt-track speedway, during a decade of racing in NSW.
Brother Ross loved farming, with tennis as a sport, while Don loved working on and repairing the farm’s equipment. He also just loved riding motorcycles.
The bike-riding regime was ‘paddock bashing’ around the farm and on tracks in the general area of Coila and Bergalia. However, these working and casual pursuits were transformed after a chat with his good mate Ray Stubbs. Ray travelled around country NSW, in the course of his job with the PMG and had spotted riders duelling on dirt speedway tracks around Canberra and in Goulburn and Young.
Ray said: “You should have a go at it, Don.”
Don and Ray (leaning on the bike) at the Boxers Creek track, before taking second in the race on Sunday April 29th, 1962.
So, in 1962, Don race-prepared a B33 500cc BSA bike that he’d purchased for the princely sum of 15 quid ($30). ‘Race-prepared’ is really an overstatement, because all he did was screw on some racing number plates and pulled-off the muffler.
With the straight-ribbed, road tyre still on the front wheel, Don set off for his first race at Boxers Creek track, near Goulburn. He was accompanied by enthusiastic sidekick, Ray, who had a specific job: short-circuit, dirt-track racing required a push start.
Don out in front…again.
Because of his inexperience as a track rider, Don was classified as a ‘C-grader’, but that didn’t deter him.
The short track dirt circuits were oiled to keep the dust down and the track that day was wet from recent rain. Don’s experience on the farm, sliding a bike around in the mud and slush, it was just what the doctor ordered.
He streaked across the finish line to claim second place in his novice race.
Shirley and Don at Mt Ginn circuit in Canberra, in 1962.
Don now had the bit between his teeth, so he joined the Canberra Short Track Racing Club and went on to run at several tracks around NSW, winning races and, most of all, having fun.
His B-grade-rider mount was a Gold Star BSA, with a lowered frame and an engine built and tuned by Sid Wills. It was fitted with a road-race cam that gave it a more usable power band, in preference to the original scramble lobe-profiles.
In 1965, a very important chapter of Don’s life began, following his marriage to Shirley and then the beginning of a family. So the Gold Star was sold and the leathers were stashed away.
Don in the shed, ready to get started on the Hagon frame special, with a pile of components on the floor.
In 1971, this hiatus ended and the Hagon venture began. Wanting to get more serious this time around, Don decided to invest in a more competitive special and built his own Hagon-frame dirt tracker, with a 500cc JAP engine and coil-shocker rear end.
The result of the build was vindicated at a Mothers’ Day meeting in Young, where he won seven races out of eight, only missing the eighth win because of a mechanical failure.
Don with an A-grader slipping under him, determined not to be beaten by a B-grader.
Unfortunately, this segment of Don’s racing carrier ended only a year later, when running the dairy business and juggling the travelling to competitive race meetings nearly every weekend became an impossible task.
So the leathers, having been resurrected, were once again – permanently – stowed for posterity.
The treasured Hagon-frame special.
However the Hagon masterpiece remains in Don’s motorcycle collection along with old faithful number one, the B33 BSA.
Don retired in 2004, but after a few years he was at a loose end, so Shirley said to him: “Why don’t you get a hobby?
“Buy a road bike or something.”
Don didn’t need much more encouragement. After that Sunday suggestion, by Monday, a deal had been done and a Matchless was on its way from Melbourne.