In the beginning there was Taffspeed. OK, it wasn’t the beginning at all. In the UK we have a great history of scooter tuning, stretching back to the era of Arthur Francis (Watford) and beyond to the distant mists of time.
Few, if any, have been at the scooter cylinder porting game as long and consistently as Ian Frankland. Along with his brother Terry, the pair were christened the ‘Terrible Taffs’ when they began their competition scooter career in the early 1970s, riding with Avon Valley Vespa Club.
By the 1980s, when I started enhancing the performance (and damaging the reliability) of my own scooters, Taffspeed was one of a select few legendary names whose knowledge covered both Vespa and Lambretta tuning. Despite their location in Wales, the Frankland brothers already had a massive following in Kent and London. While Terry had almost zero tolerance of fools, both brothers were a mine of useful information for the 80s scooter kid in a hurry.
Despite battling bravely with terminal cancer, Ian remains a font of scooter tuning knowledge to this day, and he can still come up with the odd surprise. I spent a couple of days with him working on an interview for Edition 6 of Scooternova. Ian arrived at our house with a shoe-box full of old prints and negatives for me to scan. What I hadn’t realised up to that point was that he might actually have any good images from the mists of scootering past.
On the contrary, even back in the 1970s, Ian had a proper SLR camera and that shoe-box was actually a treasure trove. It contained historic photos from the 1970s ‘middle ages’ of scooter racing right through to the height of the scooter custom scene of the 1980s. Here’s a selection of his images, the full interview and more photos can be read in ScooterNova.
Isle of Man Scooter Week
Ian only managed to make it to one Isle of Man Scooter Week – the last in 1976 – but Terry had also competed there the previous year. Not only did Ian race that week, but he also captured some absolutely cracking images; particularly of the famous water-splash on the Druidale course.
70s and 80s racing
The photos tell the story of a little-known period in scooter racing history; when all the main characters from the 1980s tuning world were still simply just competitors. Ray Kemp (AF Rayspeed) shared grids with Paul Melici (PM Tuning) and Andy Francis. Graham Best and Keith Terry (Kegra Racing), Dave Webster and Norrie Kerr (Midland Scooter Centre) and the Frankland brothers (Taffspeed) were already tuning and racing but it wasn’t until 1983 that all of them started their respective businesses.
Ian recalls that this was the moment that the mood in the paddock changed and the free flow of parts and information between them ceased. From that moment on the sport got much more serious. Race results became adverts for tuning prowess in the eyes of prospective customers. Never more so than when Scootering and Scooter Scene magazines brought the scooter scene to the newsagents’ shelves in 1985.
York Custom show 1985
By this period Taffspeed had settled into as close to routine as you can get when work is your life. Ian was usually the one holding the drill when it came time to port a cylinder, while Terry’s expertise was in the building and setting up of the engines.
Ian – who by now was racing sidecars – often spent his weekends towing the Taffspeed stall to scooter rallies while Terry would be racing whenever there was a clash of calendars.
While faded, Ian’s slides of the York pre-season Custom Show depict what a vibrant and creative scene we had in the 1980s; even as an underground cult supported chiefly by privately distributed A5-sized publications like Scooter and Scooterist, Scootermania and The Ralliest.
What I love about this collection of photos is not so much the images themselves, but the way they capture moments in the history of Britain and its tribe of ten-inch-wheel tarmac terrorists. They are one of the many reasons we have for being grateful to both the legacy of Taffspeed and in particular to Ian Frankland.
For the full Ian Frankland interview and another set of images from this collection, get ScooterNova edition 6,
If you have an interesting scooter, an unusual project, some nostalgia, or a story that you’d like seen first on SLUK, please get in touch at editorial@ScooterLab.UK
Ian Frankland gallery
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