You’ll not find Ben Kingham, owner of Bedfordshire based BSK Speedworks, disagreeing with the old maxim that “the customer is always right.” It would, after all, be churlish after happy punter Frank Hunsperger effectively won him the prestigious Pro-Builder prize in this year’s Built in Britain with Carole Nash.
Having acquired the BMW K100, a road-legal but near-as-dammit faithful replica of Ben’s own race bike, Frank took it upon himself to enter the machine – for very good reasons.
“I’ve followed the competition for years because some of the shed engineering that’s done in Britain is just amazing,” says the 66-year-old Liverpudlian biker. “I didn’t really look at the regulations and phoned Ben up to suggest he go for it and then he called me back about an hour later to say it had to be the owner who entered. So I thought, OK, I’ll enter it then.”
The rest, as they say, is history. To Ben’s surprise the pared-down 1984 bike, once beloved of tourers and police riders, took the popular vote. “It’s funny that it won really because it’s not built for looks, it’s built to go. I mean obviously I’d say it’s built quite well but I was quite shocked because you get a lot of people looking at these sort of bikes and going ‘oh the seat, the angle of the tank aren’t quite right’ but it wasn’t ever built with those things in mind. It’s the same seat and tank as on the race bike, it’s been built to be as close a replica to the race bike as possible; to perform.”
If it rides anything like as well as the bike Ben just rode to take the 2013 British European & American Racing Supporters (BEARS) championship, then it’ll win even more fans, including ones who might dip hands in pockets to acquire their own BSK rep. According to Frank, the 90hp, circa 150 mph machine does! “It’s a cracking bike to ride,” he reports. “It goes where you put it, you just point the nose and it goes unlike other bikes where you have to fight a bit. It also goes around corners like it’s on rails and really does stop. They’re good features to have when you get to my age!”
Indeed so confident is Frank on the K that he’s set to take part in next year’s Thundersprint and tackle some circuits. “I’ve always wanted to do trackdays and this will give me the opportunity because I’ll be riding a bike that’s not necessarily going to kill me, unlike some of the road rockets now.”
Both he and Ben have their own reasons for embracing the K100. Despite having ridden many other marques – his other bike is a Yamaha XT600 – Frank retains an affection for BMW dating back to being a pillion-riding toddler on his dad’s 1938 R51. For Ben it was about finding a bike with a decent bit of poke that satisfied the BEARS entry criteria, although parental influence was again at work as Ben too used to ride on the back of his dad’s K100 in the 80s.
“We were looking at the possibilities for that class, which is up to 1985, the Ducatis, Laverdas, Harleys, that sort of thing,” he recalls. “Then I thought about the K100 because it’s actually quite a powerful bike once you take all the touring stuff off it. The engine’s actually standard internally but because I’ve taken off all the fairings and bits ‘n’ bobs it’s brought the weight right down and performance is obviously down to the power to weight ratio. You could pick them up quite cheaply then too. Prices are going up now of course because everyone wants one.”
Despite arguing that the bike is not designed for looks, he does though agree that this K is special, noting rhetorically: “It’s unique isn’t it, there’s not any other one that looks like that? It’s also the first and is a good replica with many of the parts the same as those on the racer.”
Frank, who picked up the now award-winning bike on eBay, agrees: “It’s not a bike that’s been built to go into shows, to attract attention, for looks. It’s been built to ride, quickly. A lot of the design features are based on that principle, a lot of the nuts and bolts, the whole engine and transmission, are from the original bike so it’s not all stainless steel and chrome.”
Winning Built in Britain appears to instil pride in both men although Frank is keen to apportion acclaim as he sees appropriate. “I get the pleasure of owning the thing but really the credit has to go to Ben as the builder,” he not unreasonably points out. The other partner in the mutual appreciation society modestly notes that “it’s Frank’s bike and he’s added a few bits to it” before acknowledging the impact of winning could have on the business that arose from his hobby and which he started just 18 months ago.
“It’s fantastic really. I mean with winning the championship – and now Built in Britain – I couldn’t ask for more as far as the business is concerned. It’s great publicity and because the bike’s quite different it catches people’s eye, they see the company name and the ‘phone starts ringing. ” With the winning machine now being displayed to upwards of 100,000 bikers at the Motorcycle Live show and featuring in the Carole Nash 2014 calendar, there will be plenty of people’s eyes to catch.
But whilst Ben would no doubt love to bask long in the glory there’s the pressing matter of the three K100s he’s been commission to restore by a client in Dubai; the Vincent café racer he’s nearly completed – Vincents are another race and BSK specialism – plus the everyday servicing, repair and parts manufacture that help keep the wolf from the door.
For retired firefighter Frank though, it’s time simply to enjoy the bike. “I have been going to Aintree since I was a toddler and used to bunk off school to watch practising for race days and, whilst I’ve always liked motorcycles, I never thought I’d have the nerve for racing. But I started taking more interest in the classic rather than modern road rockets and found the whole scene was much more laid back. Everyone seems quite chatty and friendly. So I’ve entered next year’s Thundersprint just to have a go and I’m also hopeful I’ll be able to parade it at some of the British Historic Racing events if I can make a few modifications.”
Ben, then, might want to keep an eye on who’s in his slipstream in future!