Howard German 1933 – 2019. Words by Richard Merrill (via Bob Badland, APMC Secretary)
Howard was born into a well-known family of London antique dealers. After finishing school and Technical College, and against his parents’ wishes, took up motorcycle racing. Specialising in the Continental Circus and British short circuits by summer and working at firms such a Duple Coaches and De Havilands by winter to pay the bills. Besides successfully riding his own 7R, he rode for others including Mead and Tomkinson, Geoff Dodkin, Len Stevens Velocettes and the Bultaco’s of Barry Sheene’s Dad, Frank. He also rode 50cc Itoms becoming British Champion as well as winning a bronze replica in the 1959 TT.
His friendship with Michael Tomkinson led to him riding the M&T Velocettes in Endurance races such as the Thruxton 500 and, more importantly, the Barcelona Montjuic 24 hour race with partners such as Peter Darvill, Alan Harris and Stan Dibben – a race they tried so hard to win. They led and were placed many times but the overall win evaded them. Indeed in 1961, riding with Graham Downes and whilst leading the bike expired almost within sight of the finishing line!
As well as circuit racing, Howard was active in hill climbs and sprints with the likes of Clive Waye’s Scott and Dr Joe Bayley’s Douglas. A founder Member of the NSA, Howard devised with Clive Waye the incredible Dragwaye. This was a 1000cc (later 1300cc) supercharged 13ft long motorcycle dragster with Howard sitting slingshot behind the rear wheel and competing for fastest time of the day against the likes of Alf Hagon and George Brown. Later, the machine was converted to a more ‘conventional’ riding position albeit with the rider still behind the rear wheel. In the hands of Dave Lecoq, Howard took the quarter mile and one kilometre world records.
Retiring from racing Howard became an Antique Dealer initially with a shop in Hampstead Heath and later Portobello Road specialising in guns, swords and scientific instruments. His involvement with motorcycles continued with him riding his 350cc Matchless in pre-65 trials, such as the Talmag.
He also now took up the role of Team Manager for Michael Tomkinson’s Endurance Team of single cylinder BSA B44’s ridden by the likes of Alan Peck, Mick Andrew and Bob Heath. This was followed by the B50s ridden so successfully by MGP winners Nigel Rollason and Clive Brown, culminating in them winning the European Endurance Championship against much bigger machines. They had outright wins at the Zolder 24 hour race and class wins including the Thruxton 500, but regrettably still no outright win at Barcelona. Later M&T campaigned initially with Laverdas followed by the centre hub steered Kawasaki ‘Nessie’ ridden by riders such as Neil Tuxworth, Phil Carpenter and Norman White.
In recent years Howard has occupied his time restoring and riding his veteran machine in the Banbury and Pioneer runs. Bikes restored include a Rex, a Rudge and OK Precision with a Minerva in progress when he was taken from us. Howard had been a very active member of the Sunbeam Club and ex-President of the APMC as well as local clubs Kenton & District MCC and St Albans MCC organising trials and is probably even now eyeing up a possible tricky section for the Good Lord to try!
Howard leaves Anne, daughter Sarah, son Paul, their partners David and Karen and grandchildren Barrett, Scott, Hannah and Rory.
Thank you, Howie, from all your many friends and colleagues for all the fun we have had and for making everyone who called at your home so welcome.
Howard German. Words by Alan Turner and Baz Staple.
We sadly record the demise of Howard after a long illness, having spent sixty years in motorcycling, from veterans to racing.
Howard and his brother Michael whilst still at school did paper rounds for pocket money with the intention of buying a motorcycle. Michael bought a Royal Enfield Flying Flea and Howard purchased a claimed complete 1912 Triumph at £2.10s (£2.50). He got it home on a borrowed street trader’s barrow. Members of the local VMCC helped him with the inevitable missing pieces. He utilised a war surplus Corgi to pass his test! Now with the Triumph running he entered the 1950 Pioneer Run® with one daily Newspaper stating “Schoolboy rides old crock to Brighton”.
On doing his National Service with the RAF it was a dream period, securing a place in the engine workshops at the training flight at Halton, just a few miles from home. The careers officer there, Flight Sergeant, and other keen motorcyclists indulged themselves in their interests, particularly on Sundays being excused from Church parade on vague religious grounds.
It was perhaps good fortune, but more likely Howard’s enquiring engineering and enthusiastic mind, as well as a pleasant way of dealing with people, that he gained the acquaintance of influential people in racing circles, such as Clive Waye, Geoff Murdoch, Stan Pike, Rex Judd, Frank Perris, the Sheene family and Bertie Goodman, Velocette supremo.
Howard was a very slim young man when he achieved the Crystal Palace race circuit’s record for 50cc machines, which he held in perpetuity. His early racing endeavour was at motorcycling’s Silverstone Saturday in the vintage category on a 250cc Royal Enfield Blackburne. It cost £20 with a spare engine and was said to have Brooklands provenance. Geoff Murdoch of Esso Oil provided lubricant free of charge, who turned to be the original owner of the bike, who had indeed used it at Brooklands. The race itself, a handicap, Howard was first away but was never caught by the pursuing pack. He then paid £30 for a Rudge from Stan Pike. He rode a JVS in 1953 at the Manx Grand Prix but the bike was uncompetitive. He also took part in long distance trials, enduros, sprinting and hill climbs and of course on the Pioneer Run on his beloved veterans.
On a handicap race using a borrowed vintage mark 1 KTT Velo at Thruxton, Howard was last away when others were nearly completing their first lap. By inspired riding he just caught the leader on a 500cc Rudge Ulster to win. On the same machine, now on methanol he entered a modern race at Mallory and was satisfied with third and fourth places. Tony Godfrey riding a modern mark 8 KTT Velo, the maker’s ultimate OHC offering, could not match the speed of the flying 1930 mark 1.
He entered long distance events such as the Thruxton 500 for production machines, then the high profile event of the 1950s and 60s. The entry list being a who’s who in British road racing talent. In 1964 Howard and Alan Harris raced a Velocette Venom Clubman entered by L Stevens, Velocette specialist and achieved third overall, but was the first 500cc home, heading a 1-2-3 for Venoms. The Goodman family were so impressed they created the Thruxton which went onto the market in 1965.
Howard made friends with many in racing circles, such as the Montesa and Ducati teams, plus Francesco Bulto. He married Anne In March 1959 who had already accompanied him on many of his racing excursions. Best man was Clive Waye.
About this time he came across a Velo rider in trouble at the side of the road and he towed it home with the rider stopping a couple of nights whilst Howard sorted it out. The rider turned out to be Peter Williams and when Howard needed an AJS 7R he got a tuned one from Peter’s father, AMC race shop supremo, Jack Williams, with the engine reputedly producing the same power output as that prepared for Bob McIntyre.
In around 1959 he got involved with Clive Waye’s project – Drag-Waye of revolutionary design, which eventually achieved 10.19 seconds for the quarter mile. In 1965 Howard took a nasty tumble and decided with Anne it was time to move into organisation and became the team manager in the Drag-Waye project.
Howard, a consummate motorcycle enthusiast at all levels, he was unable to enter the 2019 Pioneer on his beloved Rudge Multi, but son Paul did so in his memory and enjoyed the ride.
Howard was always modest concerning his considerable achievements and had a kind attitude to people and was always happy to help. He was a member of the Sunbeam MCC, VMCC and APMC and will always be remembered as very human and a gentle man.
We offer our sincere condolences to Anne, Paul and any other family and friends.