by Shawn Downey
Perusing a company memo, my attention is begot by the underscored company policy set forth from this day onward: Overseas personal calls will no longer be tolerated. Telephone extensions will be reviewed monthly. Damn! Now what am I to do? When one is bitten by the classic bike culture, one must employ the telephone as a medium to reach out and snag all the really cool stuff from the motherland. Obeying the new company mandate, I do what all loyal employees do…I sneak over to my colleagues office when he is out to lunch and use his extension to dial up the ol’ homeland of Maggie Thatcher.
Today’s recipient of goodwill and blithering requests is none other than Dave Degens, proud proprietor of Dresda Autos in Middlesex (I wonder how the forefathers came up with that name?) England. “Hello?” snaps the ear piece in a cockney accent. “Helloooo. Hi. I am calling from the United States.” A pause melds into a prolonged silence.
“Yeah? Well for (bleep) sakes, whut the ‘ell do you want me to do? Jump around and play the bloody Star Spangled Banner? Blimey, the (expletive) expects me to get all lathered ’cause he’s calling from the States. Is that all you wanted? To let me know you live in America?” This is Dave Degens in all his glory. The mastermind behind fine tuning the legendary Triton, i.e. sliding a hot rodded Triumph motor into the legendary featherbed frame.
He was not the first to hit upon the combination, but he was the gentleman to make them famous. It all started in 1961, five years after witnessing the Triumph motor nestled in a Norton featherbed frame that Dave Degens was working for a bike dealer who happened to have several clapped out Nortons lying about his shop. Dave being the restless mad scientist that he is, rummaged through the scrap pile until he found a salvageable pre-unit Triumph motor and secured it to the Norton frame. He knew he was onto something when several customers were bidding on the project before it had been completed.
Not wasting any time, he decided to hang the proverbial shingle and stumbled upon a scooter shop entitled Dresda Autos. The name ‘Dresda’ was the hybrid of the two original owner’s and their wives initials (but wait Dave, there is only three sets of initials in ‘Dresda’. Were the owners married to the same woman? Is this a Mormon thing? Where does Donnie Osmond fit into this? Hello, hello? Dave, did you hang up on me?) Dave liked the sound of Dresda Autos and assumed the identity along with the funky icon of the bearded mermaid. Tattoo worthy? You first.
Piloting a factory works BMW to lackluster finish in the 1964 Barcelona 24 Hours Endurance race prompted Dave to enter his own creation in 1965. Utilizing what he terms as “common sense” and his father’s mechanical engineering background, Dave felt he could build an engine that would endure the 24 Hour race without incidents similar to the failures of the BMW such as broken generators, rockers, stripped gears, and explosive misfires. Judging by his first place finish, his hypothesis was correct–he could build a competitive and rock solid motor that put the ridiculing factory teams to shame.
Honda was so impressed with his mechanical knowledge and racing skills that they approached him with a factory racing offer. Unfortunately Dave, as all real heroes, ran into a bit of a mishap with the local constabulary. You are just dying to know what he did, aren’t you? Send a Guinness to me in care of this magazine and I might tell you…
When he resurfaced several years later, Dave entered the 1970 Barcelona 24 Hours and won again! He attributed his success to the solid motor and the employment of a single carb. “Common sense, fer _ _ _ _ _ _ _ sake,” he froths. “No point in lots of fuel stops and high power for a hillside circuit with seven ‘airpins downhill and a single straight. Whut you want is surge out of the corners.” Well then, talk about underscoring the obvious–NOT.
Dave often references the importance of common sense and his bewilderment at the number of people who are lacking in the common sense department. One of his favorite examples revolves around a French racing team who had acquired a Dresda chassis and planned to mate it with a Honda 900 engine. Several days after Dave had shipped the chassis, he was summoned to France by a very angry mob of French guys who claimed that the motor would not fit into the frame. Dave surveyed the situation, politely asked that all of the mechanics back away from the frame, positioned the engine on the floor resting on it’s side and gently slipped the frame over the motor. Complete silenced enveloped the room as the mechanic’s faces blossomed red from embarrassment…
Then there was the other time that Yamaha contracted Porsche to build a screaming race motor. Porsche was able to gain an extra 2 bhp over what Dave was able to produce with the same motor but Porsche was experiencing starting problems and very rough running under 5000 rpm.
Completely stumped, Yamaha asked Dave to stop in and see if he could lend a hand in diagnosing the problem. Feeling out of his league amongst the multitude of dynos and high tech equipment, Dave peeked into the manifold of the Amal carbs and could barely contain himself–the engineers had inserted the slides backwards! Hovering over the carbs so as to not reveal the simple mistake, Dave reassembled the carbs correctly and became an instant genius.
So you are probably wondering if you are able to procure any of this genius in the here and now. Absolutely Gilmore, absolutely. Dave Dresda may own a Honda dealership but he spends most of his time next door in the carriage house of the original Dresda Autos. Deep within the recesses of the Tudor style buildings, Dave is quietly churning out masterpiece after masterpiece.
“Right then,” he gruffs. “Send me your body measurements so we can get to building.”
“Ahhhh, excuse me? My body measurements?”
“Yeah, how many stones are ye? I need to build the featherbed frame to meet your height and weight Yankee Doodle Dandee.”
Glad to see the whole Paul-Revere-Boston-Tea-Party thing has been completely forgotten in Merry Old England. Not only does Dave build a bike to match your stature, he builds a bike to outlast your stature. The entire motor is stripped down and rebuilt to custom specs according to what type of riding you prefer, i.e. racing, dragging, aggressive road, very aggressive road, very very aggressive road, and “See you later spotty” to the cops aggressive road.
Care to place your order? 9000 pounds will get you a white hot motorcycle that looks like a classic but performs like a contemporary. And, if you are a nice guy, Dave will let you stay at his house “for a fortnight or two until we get it sorted it out just right.”