Hurley-Pugh Motorcycles

The 1938 Motorcycle Show Disaster

A report, compiled from various newspapers of the day

It seems that in 1938, Hurley-Pugh planned to show on their stand at the Motorcycle Show, a fully equipped Wildebeest model with every optional extra from their extensive catalogue.

The machine was assembled at the main works and then H-P's Sir Bertrand Winthrop-Smythe, the gentleman in charge of what then passed for marketing and promotion, instructed the show authorities on the way they wished to have their stand arranged. Part of the instructions concerned the positioning of the stand and included a footnote insisting on a solid concrete base to take the weight of the display models.

At the last minute the Show floor staff altered the location of the stand. Instead of a solid concrete ground floor location, the Hurley-Pugh stand was given pride of place at the middle of a wooden mezzanine type structure that had been specially built for the show. The staff's manager, a Mr Reginald Bloor, said after the event that he "felt that the raised location would give Hurley-Pugh greater impact with the visiting public". This proved, unfortunately, to be true.

Soon after the doors opened the main show hall was filled with motor cycling enthusiasts, most of them thronging to the Hurley-Pugh stand to see the latest technical innovations. As the first visitor to reach the stand climbed on to the show bike, the 879lbs of high quality motorcycle broke through the raised display platform, crashed into the wooden flooring beneath, and then, still accelerating rapidly, fell the 25ft to the floor below, crushing seven enthusiasts.

In the true spirit of one of H-P's slogans "Re-defining Success", Hurley-Pugh Executives used this disaster to great effect by pointing out in the motor cycling press that after the machine was recovered from the wreckage, it was found to be still essentially intact and operable.

The quality press reported the accident with suitable solemnness, but the tabloids of the time were thought to be in very poor taste. The November 11th issue of the Daily Trumpet, reporting "Hurley Budge a big hit with show-goers", was a typical example.

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