COLIN SEELEY: RACING LEGEND AND GENIUS FRAME DESIGNER



BRITISH MOTORCYCLE RACING legend Colin Seeley has died at the age of 84.

Starting out as an apprentice mechanic at 14, he started his own business at 18 and was an AJS dealer at 20.

He then began racing, coming sixth in the TT in 1961 on a Matchless G50 powered outfit.

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As a sidecar racer, Colin, together with his passenger and shop mechanic Wally Rawlings, won many British and world championship races, including the 1964 Dutch TT, on outfits powered by Matchless G50 and BMW engines.

Seeley was one of the first riders to eschew the use of a black leather racing suit, deciding instead to wear red; a move which helped raise his profile on the tracks as he was easy to spot in a pack.

In 1963 Associated Motor Cycles closed their racing department in a move that threatened the future of the G50 racing engine.

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This was still competitive in clubman racing, despite being considered obsolete by many. Seeley bought the race shop stock and tooling for G50, AJS 7R and Norton racers in 1966.

He fitted a G50 engine into a frame of his own design and the Seeley G50 came into being.

Despite competition from machines with more modern powerplants, Dave Croxford won the British 500 Championship on a Seeley G50 in 1968 and 1969.

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The Seeley frame had a duplex cradle in the Mk.1 and Mk.2 versions, before the down-tubes were abandoned with the Mk.3, a spine frame in which the headstock and swinging arm pivot of which were linked by tubes running diagonally above the engine.

The Mk.4 introduced towards the end of 1970 featured a revised tubing layout and continued in production until 1973.

There was even a limited number of hand-built G50-engined road bikes, the Seeley Condor. The Seeley Mk.2 frame is still manufactured by Molnar in Preston.

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The Seeley frame design was also adopted by racers to create the Yamsel, holding a Yamaha 350 engine and creating a machine that trounced the opposition in the late 18960s and early 70s.

Honda commissioned him to create the Phil Read Replica Honda CB750 in 1977 using his own frame design – 150 were made until Read fell out with Honda.

Undeterred, Colin Seeley then made 300 Seeley Honda fours with white bodywork and nickel-plated frames and for a brief period you could source one from official Honda dealerships.

He also worked with the Brabham F1 team for Bernie Ecclestone who he had first met when they both owned motorcycle shops in Bexleyheath in the 1950s.

In the late 1970s, Colin became deeply involved in charity work as a result of his first wife, Joan, dying from cancer.

He established The Joan Seeley Pain Relief Memorial Trust and ultimately, together with his second wife Eva, ran it raising considerable amounts towards buying hospital equipment.
Colin Seeley died on January 7, 2020.

Read more News and Features in the February 2020 issue of Classic Bike Guide – on sale now!

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