Speedway Workshop

The Erskine "Staride"


Two Staride machines are featured on this page.
(Below-Left)* is one owned by Mike O'Neil in America, and is in excellent condition after being salvaged from a barn, whilst (Below- Right) shows the recently restored machine that is one owned by Ian Paterson in Scotland and has an interesting feature in that it has the the special Erskine Forks.

Two Staride machines are featured on this Page.
(Below-Left) is one owned by Mike O'Neil in America, and is in excellent condition after being salvaged from a barn, whilst (Below-Right) shows the recently restored machine that is one owned by Ian Paterson in Scotland and has an interesting feature in that it has the the special Erskine Forks.


 

Currently in a rusty state, Mike's machine is currently undergoing restoration and last we heard, it was hoped that the original rider could be traced.

Pictured-Below is an interesting picture that has been sent by Mike and shows the "Staride" Badge which was attached to the Frame of this machine. Mike has also sent close-ups of the engine and these you view on the Long 5 J.A.P Page.

Below is the story behind the "Staride" and charts the story of this truly amazing machine on which a World Championship was won and how it became one of the most sought after machines in the History of Speedway.


THE "STARIDE" STORY.
From the Book "Ride It - The Complete Book of Speedway".
Author: Cyril May
Now comes the Erskine Staride. Mike had come to the conclusion that no matter how good a rider was, if he had not the right kind of frame it was a hundred-to-one chance against him succeeding. And so, throughout the winter of 1947, at his Southampton workshops, he experimented with frames of all shapes and sizes. He found there could not really be a standard frame, as practically every rider required something different. Height, weight and style all entered into the subject. A rider who treated his machine roughly required a stouter gauge of tubing than one who rode his machine moderately. A light frame for the amazing leg-trailer, Oliver Hart, would of course, be of no use.

Mike took mental notes of the various types of frames that were used by all the top riders, and combining them, he built a jig which, in his opinion, incorporated all the best points of existing frames and his new frame could be made in large quantities. Eventually the production of the Staride began. This was a complete speedway machine with a JAP engine and its neat insignia on both sides of the tank and the rear mudguard: a circled star with Staride across its middle. The new Erskine job was the talk in the pits all over the country, and Mike was inundated with orders from novices to stars.


As soon as Bill Gilbert rode a Staride in 1948 he shot to the fore and increased his prize money eight-fold. Practically the whole of the Southampton team bought them and Billy Hole and Eric Salmon, who greatly contributed to Bristol's victory in Division Two, were mounted on Erskine Specials. One of the highlights of the season was the riding of the New Cross skipper, Ron Johnson. He had three Starides, each one to suit his style at different circuits and there were five models at New Cross. In League racing, Ron scored 86 per-cent and was runner-up in the British Riders' Championship. From North to South: from East to West, the orders came rolling in at Erskine's Southampton depot for the new Staride. From the Beaumont Brothers, Jim Boyd, Tommy Allott, Cliff Watson, Tommy Bateman, Alec Statham, Norman Parker and Ron Mason, to name but a few.

Graham Warren shot from Third Division status to a test star in a matter of months and he did it on a Staride. His team-mates too, the late Stan Dell and Doug McLachlan, rode similar models. Jack Parker first raced one at the 1949 opening New Cross meeting and won the Trinder Trophy. Tommy Price was riding below par at the start of the 1948 season and, switching to a Staride, wiped up a Newcastle meeting and later won the World Championship Final in 1949. At the end of this year however, Mike Erskine had produced about two hundred frames and models and had enough on order to keep him and his staff of seven busy throughout the winter. He said: "I do not claim that the Staride is the best speedway machine, but it is so easy to ride that if a fellow cannot ride it, he will never be able to ride any machine.


(Pictured-Left) are the Special Erskine Forks as fitted to the Ian Paterson machine featured above. Note how the forks are actually made from a single piece of tubing and formed into an upturned "U" shape.

Freddy Williams took two Starides to Australia for that country's racing season and then became World Champion on one in 1950. Norman Parker took one to New Zealand and other members of the Erskine Brigade included: Bill Pitcher, Norman Price, Ted Bravery, Bert Spencer, Eddie Rigg, Wally Green, Paddy Mills, Geoff Bennett and Bob Fletcher. These are just a few of the lads who moved faster, and collected more money, thanks to the patience and skill of Mike Erskine. Although his workshops were, of course, a hive of industry, Mike still rode for the "Dons" and he also found time to take over Jack Parker's position as Chairman of the Speedway Riders Association while Jack was racing in Australia.

Norman Parker, the Wimbledon skipper, was responsible in no small measure for Erskine's racing improvement during 1948 and Mike partnered him in many fine races. The Staride manufacturer had a good season with the Dons in 1950 and became a World Finalist, but the following one proved unlucky. After a nasty appendix operation early in the year Mike resumed racing. Then came an unfortunate crash at New Cross in July in which he suffered a very painful and unusual injury - a fractured cheek-bone. Before the 1952 season had begun, Mike Erskine had finally decided to call it a day and retired from active racing. Twenty years in the sport wasn't a bad record. In the meantime however, he had been constructing 500cc racing cars.

The Blackmore Vale Club's grass track meeting at Wiltshire's Willoughby Hedge, near Mere, on April 16, 1961, saw the appearance of a newcomer, and Mike's nineteen year old son Jon was competing in his first-ever meeting. He gained third spot in his heat and final on a 250cc Rudge, which constituted an exceptionally fine first-effort performance. By the following year, junior Erskine was a true grass track star, now raised into the experts category. 1962 was Jon's initial speedway season and unlike his father, he reached the top within a very short time. Riding for the newly-formed Neath team in Wales he was a heat- leader in a matter of weeks, but, after making three superb performances in the qualifying rounds of the Provincial Riders' Championship, fate stepped in with an injury and kept him out of the Final. Towards the end of the season, young Jon featured in one of speedway's most spectacular crashes: it was at Leicester that he was catapulted clean over the safety-fence.

Father Mike gave his son a new frame for his twenty-first birthday in February, 1963. Meanwhile Neath had folded up, so Jon signed for Long Eaton. On his way to race at the Nottingham circuit, he often gave me a lunch-time call and, needless to say, his trailer carried two Staride machines. "It's a tough life but a good one," remarked Jon. "I covered over 92,000 miles last year in fulfilling my speedway engagements which, of course, was intersected with grass track racing, but my greatest ambition is to be a farmer!" Two broken collar-bones collected in grass track spills in 1963 failed to dampen the enthusiasm of this lanky but likeable lad. Other injuries too played havoc with a brilliant career. Preferring the smoother speedway circuits to the rougher grass tracks, they now claimed him exclusively and speedway's gain was grass track's loss. Joining the Newport team in its initial year, Jon Erskine became one of the heroes in the Wasps success story of 1964 and wedding bells rung for him in the early part of the following year.

*Notes: Images missing from archive.

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