Revolutionising the world of motorcycle combos swallows time the way Desperate Dan puts away cow pies and Rod has been so tied up recently with his first batch of Motopods that he asked if I’d mind filling in for him.
Actually I was pleased to be invited because although my ex-housemate had been my initial inspiration for “What’s in your garage?”, for one reason or another – not least the arrival of his first child a year ago – he hasn’t made it into the pages of The Rider’s Digest yet. I hadn’t been to Hilton’s place since before Millie’s birth, so I phoned to ask what was in his garage these days.
“It’s all a bit of a tight fit with the E Type… (that’ll be the baby blue 1972 V12 convertible that manages to get in most of the garage shots) But there’s the Zed (the much better than original ‘78 Kawasaki Z1000A2 with R1 brakes, rear sets, etc.), the Hurricane (the all original ‘72 Craig Vetter Triumph X75), another Kettle (an original ‘72 Suzuki GT750J), the immaculate Fizzie (the iconic “popsicle purple” ‘75 Yamaha FS1E that has such an affectionate hold on the hearts of so many motorcyclists of around Hilton’s age) – oh, and I’ve picked up another one, a ’76 DX in Kenny Roberts yellow – the Thunderbird (‘98 Triumph Thunderbird Sport), the Honda (CRF450) crosser – although being an ’03 it’s like a relic alongside the latest bikes – the monkey bikes…” (a couple of circa ’68 Z50M Hondas)
“Do you still have the Goldie?” (The fantastic 500cc 1955 BSA DBD34 Gold Star Scrambler, carrying a number 4 to mark it out as a Geoff Smith replica – which was exactly the same sort of machine that Hilton’s father set such a heroic example by racing when he was a much younger man.
“Yes, of course.”
“What about that trick Yam crosser?”
“The Bengt Aberg rep? (’79 Yamaha HL500 – one of only 200 replicas, complete with special frame and White Power suspension, built to commemorate the last victory in a MX GP by a 4 stroke machine for many years) Absolutely.”
Of course when I arrived and we started pulling off covers, there was also a tiny CB250RS engined Cafe Racer nestled at the back of the garage and the ’76 RL250 Beamish Suzuki that was sitting in the back of his Transit with the yellow Fizzie and a spurious “Habana” scooter that Hilton never really explained.
Although he’s sold one or two of his prized machines in the time that I’ve known him (in particular the 1980 Ducati Hailwood Rep that first prompted our friendship almost ten years ago), he’s also bought quite a few so he’s never had a less than impressive collection; and whenever he’s sold one, it’s been because he needed the money for another bike he’d lined up that he was so excited about it was causing him sleepless nights.
In case anyone has failed to spot the obvious pattern, Hilton is fortunate enough to be living out his youthful fantasies and filling his life with the objects of desire that first stirred his emotions as a pubescent teen (aside from the underdressed models that Coburn Hughes used to drape across Italian exotica in their adverts that is, but then they represented another altogether messier adolescent fixation that it’s probably best to draw a discreet veil over!) and very happy it makes him too. None of his bikes are purely decorative, they all run; and although some get out a lot more often than others, he’s as likely to run up to the Ace on his Fizzie or the little Cafe Racer, as he is on the Kettle or the Hurricane.
The only bike that isn’t in Hilton’s Bat Cave in the heart of South London, is the Ducati 996R, which he keeps at his father’s house in Monmouth. When it was in the capital, aside from adding to his problem with space, he also needed to ride for miles, which would stress and overheat the Latin thoroughbred, before he could get it near the kind of roads it was designed for – whereas by storing it at his pop’s it is always within minutes of some of the most fantastic roads in the UK.