Jim Whitehead
Page updated 12-Jan-2011
Jim in 2003
Hi, I am Jim Whitehead and have been amazed to see the GK site! It was weird to see my old friends in the pictures.

My mum was a friend of Mr Kuhn and lived near him at Pagham. Mum talked him into letting me join the Firm in 1958. 'Dave' [Vincent Davey] was the boss, Ray Felstead was the insurance man, George Jenner was Sales and helped me pass the driving test on the then new Ford Thames van, a good van painted canary yellow.

George Brown was Spares and lived with his wife Iris, in the flat over the showroom. He was assisted by Ken. Ray used to wind up George Brown by hiding a tiny mouth organ, about an inch long, in his mouth and giving short blasts on it and George used to get quite annoyed at not knowing who was doing it, it used to amuse us all and Ray never let on!

I was employed at the boom time as a Gofer, and worked in the showroom and in the workshop that was brand new. I saw it being constructed and the old w/shop was demolished. We had a temporary workshop across the road in Lawrences Petrol station. The workshop was good to work in and the foreman was named Steve who lived at Roehampton. He was like a dad to his mechanics and his favourite saying was "No, No, No, not without a washer", when he saw me tightening a nut and bolt without using a suitable washer. I liked Steve and all the other guys.

This picture of me and John Leggett was taken after we returned from riding at Newcastle Stadium Speedway. I was assistant to John and we shared the driving in his A40 Austin Countryman estate car, up the old A1 and back. John lost his fuel cap on his bike and fuel split out therefore his race was over. About this time he was riding for Rayleigh Rockets and Rye House.
I remember John Leggett wiring up the metal workbench to a Norton engine that was running and Steve received a real jolt when he sat on the bench to drink his tea. He had only just forgiven us for welding his tin mug to the workbench. I think Jim Crewe was involved as he was an expert welder.

When I left school at 15, Jimmy was doing national service in Germany and then returned to his old job in the workshop. Jim and I use to share transport to work and I have good memories of those days.

I collected a new Ford Zephyr for Vincent and put the number plates on etc as he did not fancy paying the supplier to do so. That car was stolen a few weeks later and used in a Bank Heist, it was found in the next street eventually, with a busted windscreen and crash damage and the Ford radio was gone. It made me feel sad to see the car abused like that. When the damage was put right Steve was instructed to rig an anti-theft device on the car for Vincent, this he did and forgot to tell him where it was located and this caused a problem as Vincent was unable to locate the switch! The switch was affixed beneath the front bench seat and wired through the twin-tone windhorns, and made a racket - well done Steve we all thought it was great!

The other guys I remember are Andy, Bernard Flower, young Eddie who left to go back to Sparking on Houses, etc.

The Bike trade started to wane and Cars were coming to the shop so I left and went to driving a Truck with the Helldrivers, but that is a different tale. I had a recurring dream that I went back to work at the firm and was like a fish out of water and unable to locate anything, how strange! I really enjoyed my first job and the worst thing I did was to leave. Vincent was a great Boss and a man I always respected. He told me off for having a filthy neck and said the customers would think I had stolen the bikes! He was quite correct and I was surprised when I was taken to the washroom and indeed my neck was filthy!

Jim on his Bantam

I had the job of making the tea and we were all drinking our morning cuppa when George Jenner remarked on the nice taste of the tea and, feeling naughty, I lied and stated I had made it with water from the water heater instead of boiling the kettle!! George seemed to explode and sprayed his tea over the other guys!! Chaos ensued and after that incident he used to shadow me when I made the tea, I think he used to bring a flask with him after that incident!

Dave Sleat started as the Gofer and I was relieved to hand the teapot over to him. He stayed the course and made a great race mechanic. I last saw him at the Motor Cycle Racing show in London when he was in charge of the GK stand, good luck Dave. Dave lived near me in Carshalton but we never met at home, strange how life is!!

I am now retired and if I could rewind the clock (wishful thinking) I would have not left the firm, it really was special and I have only good thoughts about my time there, it was truly a privilege to have known the Guys. I still have a motorcycle and enjoy riding, it is a Kawasaki VN900 Cruiser.

Cheers to all - Jim.

Jim remembers the workshop foreman, Steve.

We sent some pix of the workshop in the 1960s to Jim, and it prompted these memories.

Seeing that old Lathe in the pic reminded me of losing all of its vital parts whilst taking them to be overhauled. My transport was a Vespa GS with a rear carrier. The parts were contained in an old wooden box which had a gap in the base. The Vespa was very nippy and a few wheelies were pulled during the trip, thereby losing most of the lathe pattern parts. Steve went all funny colours and ignored me for a few days, Dave kept nodding his head and tutting when he saw me. I tried to keep low for a while and it was soon forgotten after the Lathe was rebuilt.

When I was sent to County Hall to register the new bikes I had to use public transport as I was too young to ride a bike. I was wet behind the ears and did not know that each area had its own Hall. I went to my local County Hall at Kingston-upon-Thames and when I eventually reached the trade counter, the young lady put me right and directed me to the correct County Hall at Westminster! I was gone most of the day! I felt a right plumb I can tell you, so live and learn that's what life is all about.

I remember a young man named Ken who worked in the Spares Dept and he resided at Biggin Hill. He used to have me in stitches but I can't remember his surname. He built himself an AJS trial bike and I remember he was booked for speeding on his way home by a customer he had served that morning!

There were another couple of guys who worked under Steve. One was named Roy and he totalled the yellow Thames van on his wedding night and we never saw him again after he demolished a lamp post!! The other guy was named Andy, who was a young rocker and easy to work with.

I would like to learn more about the Lads so will check the site regularly and once more may I compliment you on a really good Job. [Yes, you may!]