HistoryIn looking back over the years of the 9E and all its derivatives, many will remember it as a stodgy gutless lump, this is true if only the roadster and trials units are considered, but they were ideally suited for their role. Now cast your minds back to the scrambling scene of the early sixties, and see who blitzed the 250 class. The vast majority of runners in this class used the 9E motor or a derivative of it. It must be conceded that there was not much else around at the time, but those 9E engined machines flew, for certainly in the Eastern Centre ACU events they ran on methanol.
During the same period big time 250 cc Grand Prix road racing was being dominated by foreign multi-cylinder machines capable of fantastic speeds, with much glamour being attached to the International set. Vast amounts of money was poured into the development of race winning machinery, in the hope of a world championship win, which would bring in lots of free advertising for the winning factory. If we now delve behind the International scene and look at ordinary clubman racing, we find that the impoverished owner and riders of lesser ability were having a lot of success, and a lot of fun into the bargain, mounted on British two-stroke machines. Names like Cotton, DMW, Royal Enfield and Greeves abounded in clubman race programs, together with tuned sports mounts, innovative specials and the odd ageing and fragile Grand Prix racer. This form of racing enabled many riders to taste the thrills of competition, on machines owned and maintained by themselves, as sponsorship and works bikes where few and far between. As many of the entrants used stroked 350's and therefore inherited weight problems involved with this method, the light weight two-stroke became the path to follow.
Clubman racing was purely sport orientated, with riders competing for the fun of it, rather than for prize money or trophies that may have been on offer by the organizing club. This spirit has now been recaptured with the upsurge of interest in classic motor cycles which is epitomised by the Classic Racing Motorcycle Club and the Vintage Motorcycle Club Racing Section, who put on events especially for old racing machines. A dozen or more classic events now appear regularly on the annual British ACU calendar, with invitations to Continental events held in France, Germany and Holland which bring out of retirement many old racers, and their machines. Over the past few years Historic racing has taken off in the UK, with most clubs now including a classic race in their program in an effort to boost entries and therefore revenue.
As a genuine Manx Norton now costs a kings ransom, many riders have opted to use a converted roadster in the interests of a much reduced capital outlay and running costs, which has seen an upsurge in the number of hitherto mundane mounts being raced. This approach was used by Greeves in 1963 with the advent of the Silverstone. They took a Villiers 36A scrambles motor (developed from the 9E) modified it and fitted it into a purpose built frame, and came up with an instant success. Cotton and DMW followed the same path, but used the Starmaker engine, while Royal Enfield opted for an Alpha based power plant. Scorpion, a manufacturer of Trials and Scrambles machines, came up with a 66 x 72 design in 1965 for a racer called the GP5 (see Fig 1 ), billed as a world beater it closely resembled the Villiers and Royal Enfield approach but alas never got off the ground.
These motors were said by the factory to develop over 30 bhp in their standard form, and were quite suitable for the clubman scene 30 years ago. The reader can be sure that flash high dynamometer readings were used as publicity "normal output" figures at that time, just as many companies do today. As a stable mate to the mighty Super Nero, George Brown used an Alpha based Royal Enfield in sprinting, averaging 96 mph over the standing start mile in 1966, so the potential of this path is not new.
On the scrambles side classic bike fans are catered for by an abundance of pre 65 events, which invites riders to race on the original type of course seen many decades ago, and attracts many Villiers engined mounts to do battle with their traditional enemies. Pre 65 trials riders also benefit with many meetings catering for the older mounts, run over terrain more suited to them, rather than the trick riding trials riders of today with their equally trick machines. Many manufacturers in the fifties and sixties used nothing but the Villiers power plant, and the vast majority of them offered competition derivatives to eager riders of the day, of which many thousands must still remain.
With the abundance of Villiers parts available at realistic prices, tuning parts from International 210 kart suppliers and 1990s technology, an uprated 200 or 250 cc Villiers engine can be produced at a very reasonable cost, with a power output and reliability factor, far exceeding that of its ancestor. If the quest is for a fun roadster, this too can be constructed to give a little more power allied to a substantial increase in reliability, as any high performance parts fitted to it do not have to be used to their limit. Riders using 9E powered trials machines can also gain an increase in low speed pulling power, by following the modifications outlined in this manual, without losing tractability. At the other end of the scale, Invader Kart Engines claim 35+ bhp from their 9E lookalike racing unit and it is more suited for road racing than sports road use. The engine is available over the counter, and comparing it with Japanese hardware it is very competitively priced, well within the reaches of the average impoverished clubman. Once a suitable engine unit has been prepared it can be installed in any period frame and raced with CRMC, VMCC or the Pre 65 Scrambles Club.
Although many genuine Villiers based 250 road racers are used regularly, there are not many that are converted 9E or 32A roadsters, but a lot more have popped up recently, especially in the VMCC . Adrian Armson used a Greeves 197 and a 250 on methanol with the Vintage club a few seasons ago. For the 1993 and 1994 seasons the Villiers riders were Tony Webb and John Wood using methanol engines in the VMCC. Peter Thorne, Ashley Brooks, Rob Carrick and John Wood with the CRMC, using the full race Invader 207 cc petrol burning kart motors.
The 9E became widely used by both the scrambles and karting fraternity when it was introduced in 1955, but more so when aftermarket conversions and the sports versions became available later on. It is from both these branches of motor sport that we can extract expertise and hardware, for they have been in the forefront of 9E development for years.
The 9E ("E" denoting 197cc), first made in 1955, was a direct descendant of the 8E (Fig 2 ) which was produced from 1953 to 1958, which in turn was derived from the 6E (produced 1948-1953) the 7E being a competition version of the 8E. The 9E retained the bore and stroke measurements of its predecessor but little else, and is therefore of no use when it comes to spares. The 9E carried on in production until 1967, gaining little more than the updated gear change in 1962, but in that time further derivatives were made, namely the 10E, which was an engine destined to be mounted with the cylinder vertical, and featured outer casings with the stripe at a different angle.