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MX and enduro in the 50's

Bill 'Buffalo Bill' Nilsson with his AJS in 1957 500GP 1952 - 1959 (European/World Championship)
From the 1957 season the former European championship was transformed to the World championship.

In 1952 there where an organized championship with six races in Italy, Sweden, France, Great Britain, Belgium and Luxemburg. These formed the first "real" European championship. The title winner was Victor Leloup, Belgium (Saroléa). Second place went to Auguste Mingels, Belgium (Matchless) and John Avery (BSA) from Great Britain was third.

In 1953 there where eight rounds since Holland and Switzerland joined the circuit. The champions where first, Auguste Mingels, Belgium (Matchless/FN). His fellow countryman René Baeten,Belgium (Saroléa) took second and Victor Leloup, Belgium (FN) third. The Belgian trio was under pressure though by the Brittish riders that took place four to seven in the final standings.

Auguste Mingels (FN) in 1953 1954 was somewhat of a repetition regarding the top riders. There where still the same eight rounds. Auguste Mingels, Belgium (FN) won with René Baeten,Belgium (Saroléa) second. Jeff Smith, Great Britain (BSA Gold Star) and Victor Leloup, Belgium (FN) both ended up on the same points, 20p. The young Jeff Smith had been a succesful trial rider and was about to become one of the greatest motocross riders ever.

1955 still consited of the same eight rounds and that year, the Swedish riders started to crush the Belgian - English dominance. John Draper, Great Britain (BSA) won the title after Bill Nilsson, Sweden (BSA) fell within only a few hundred meters from the finishing line in the swedish GP, losing with just one "1" point. Third was Sten Lundin, Sweden (BSA). The Swedish riders had funny nicknames, these two where called Bill "Buffalo Bill" Nilsson and Sten "Storken" Lundin (The storch). Another interesting fact is that all top three riders rode BSA.

1956 winners where Leslie Archer, Great Britain (Norton) first. John Draper, Great Britain (BSA) second and Nic Jansen, Belgium (Matchless) third.

René Baeten, Belgium (FN) in 1958 1957. This was the first year that the series got World campionship status, there where nine races held at, Sweden (Saxtorp), Italy (Imola), Belgium (Namur), Luxemburg (Ettelbruck), Holland (Lichtenwoorde), France (Cassel), Great Britain (Brands Hatch), Denmark (Randers) and Switzerland (Wohlen), though. This meant also that foreign riders that up to this point had been racing under English license now could compete representing their own country.
Bill Nilsson,Sweden rode an AJS and managed to win the title in front of René Baeten, Belgium (FN) and Sten Lundin, Sweden (Monark) as second and third.

In 1958 There where 10 races since Austria (Sittendorf) was addeed to the series. The established GP countries got more race tracks and the Swedish GP was held at Udevalla. The Danish in Naestved and the Brittish GP at Hawkstone Park. René Baeten, Belgium (FN) got revenge and took back the first place sending Bill Nilsson,Sweden (Cresent) to second. Sten Lundin, Sweden (Monark) took third just like the previus year.

1959 was the last World MX 500GP that decade and there where 11 races. Germany (Western) contributed with a race at Bielstein. The Swiss GP was held at Geneve and the Belgian in Houlpaix. Sten Lundin, Sweden (Monark) won with Bill Nilsson,Sweden (Cresent) second. David Curtis, Great Britain (Matchless) was third.

Jaromir Cizek, Rolf Müller and Fritz Betzelbacher at Sittendorf 1958 250 Coup D'Europe 1957 - 1958
The 1957 results where a bit unclear since there isn't really any clear records. The Maico factory claimed their riders won the championship and the data have been derived from their records.
Fritz Betzelbacher, Germany (Maico) won the title with Willi Oesterle, Germany (Maico) second. Jaromir Cizek, Czechoslovakia (Jawa) took third.

In 1958 there where twelve rounds in Austria, France, Holland, Luxembourg, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, DDR and Poland. Jaromir Cizek, Czechoslovakia (Jawa) won that year, Rolf Tibblin, Sweden (Husqvarna) was second and Rolf Müller, Germany (Maico) third.

250GP 1959 (European Championship)
In 1959 there where thirteen rounds since Great Britain joined in. Rolf Tibblin, Sweden (Husqvarna) won the title in front of Brian Stonebridge, Great Britain (Greeves) and Jaromir Cizek, Czechoslovakia (Jawa) in third.

Motocross Des Nations 500cc 1950 - 1959
The English domination continued with some minor flaws through the entire 50's.

1950,27 August in Sweden (Värnamo-Skillingaryd), was won by Great Britain, John Draper (BSA), Harold Lines (Ariel 350) and Basil Hall (BSA). Sweden went for second place with Olle Nygren (BSA), Eric Ericsson (Triumph), Helge Brinkeback (Ariel). Motorcycle riders at this time where often more all-round competing in Trial, TT, scramble and speedway. These Swedish riders for example where all about to have success in other diciplines, for example: Olle "Varg-Olle" Nygren, Varg means Wolf became one of swedens best speedway riders at all times. However he had success in the unbearable novemberkasan first. Helge Brinkeback also went for speedway. Belgium was third with: Marcel Cox (Saroléa), A Meert (Saroléa) and Victor Leloup (FN).

1951, 5´th of August in Belgium (Namur), Belgium won with their team Nic Jansen (Saroléa), Victor Leloup (FN) and Marcel Meunier (Saroléa). Great Britain took second with Brian Stonebridge (Matchless), Geoff Ward (AJS), John Draper (BSA). In third was France with Gilbert Brassine (FN), H Frantz (BSA), J Charrier (BSA).

Belgian Victor Leloup (FN) passing a fallen Leslie Archer in 1952 In 1952, 17 August at Brands Hatch, the home team Great Britain won again with riders: Brian Stonebridge (Matchless), Geoff Ward (AJS) and Phil Nex (BSA). Belgium got second. Auguste Mingels (Matchless), Victor Leloup (FN) and A Van Heuverzwijn (Saroléa) where the riders. Sweden was third with: Hans Danielsson (BSA), Eje Bergman (Matchless), Kuno Johansson (BSA).

1953, 23 August in Sweden (Värnamo-Skillingaryd), Yet another British victory for Leslie Archer (Norton), John Draper (BSA) and Geoff Ward (AJS). Belgium second with the familiar team: Victor Leloup (FN), Auguste Mingels (FN) and René Baeten (Saroléa). Sweden was third again with: Lasse Gustavsson (BSA), Kuno Johansson (BSA) and Bill Nilsson (AJS).

1954, 29 August in Holland (Nörg). Brian Stonebridge (BSA), Geoff Ward (AJS) and Dave Curtis (Matchless) once again won the title for Great Britain. Sweden was second this time with: Bill Nilsson (BSA), Kuno Johansson (BSA) and Gunnar "The Chicken" Eriksson (Ariel). Gunnar "The Chicken" Eriksson went on to take individual gold in sixdays in Czechkoslovakia 1953 and 1955, and he was 2:a in novemberkasan 1954 before he went back to motocross full time in 1955 riding NV-Velocette. Belgium came third: Victor Leloup (FN), A Van Heuverzwijn (Saroléa) and Nic Jansen (Saroléa).

In 1955, 28 August in Denmark (Randers) Sweden won the title for the first time with the riders. Bill Nilsson (BSA), Sten Lundin (BSA) and Lasse Gustafsson (BSA). No other team finished intact but Belgium came in second with René Baeten (Matchless), Victor Leloup (FN) and Jean Somja (FN). Third was given to Holland with: Hendrik Rietman (FN), Frans Baudoin (Matchless), Jan Clynk (BSA).

The Brit Geoff Ward riding BSA in 1956 The 1956,26 August competition in Belgium (Namur), was a new victory for Great Britain, The riders back then where Jeff Smith (BSA), John Draper (BSA) and Geoff Ward (BSA). Sweden made second, Sten Lundin (BSA), Lasse Gustavsson (BSA) and Gunnar Johansson (BSA). Belgium took third with: René Baeten (FN), Jean Rombauts (BSA) and Nic Jansen (Matchless).

In 1957, 1 September in Great Britain (Brands Hatch) The Brits claimed another title. Jeff Smith (BSA), Dave Curtis (Matchless) and Brian Martin (BSA) was the riders. Belgium once again was at the podium with second place finishing René Baeten (FN), Nic Jansen (Matchless), Hubert Scaillet (FN) Sweden with Gunnar Johansson (BSA), Ove Lundell (Monark) and Raymond Sigvardsson (AJS) was third.

1958, 8 September in Sweden (Knutstorp), Sweden did put in a strong effort and repeated their 1955 win with Bill Nilsson (Crescent), Ove Lundell (Monark) and Lasse Gustavsson (Monark) as team members. Great Britain had to settle for second with Dave Curtis (Matchless), John Draper (BSA), Ron Langston (Ariel). France was third with: Jean Cros (BSA), Robert Klym (BSA) and René Klym (BSA)

1959, 30 August in Belgium (Namur). Everything went back to normal, the title back to Great Britain and the riders where: Don Rickman (Triumph- Metisse), Jeff Smith (BSA) and John Draper (BSA). Sweden din't managed to turn their individual success into a team victory. The Sweds took 2: Ove Lundell (Monark), 3: Sten Lundin (Monark), 4: Raymond Sigvardsson (Matchless) and 7'th place Bill Nilsson (Crescent). This compared to the Brittish riders who managed 1: Don Rickman (Triumph- Metisse), 5: Jeff Smith (BSA) and 6: Johnny Draper (BSA). If the individual places had been counted instead of the total time Sweden actually would have won. But the event must be remembered by the fierce fighting and what a close battle the entire 50's had been. Belgium was third with Nic Jansen (Machless), Hubert Scaillet (Matchless), Lucien Donnay (FN).

ISDT 1950 - 1959
Year Trophy Silver Vase
1950 Great Britain Great Britain
1951 Great Britain Holland
1952 Czechkoslovakia Czechkoslovakia
1953 Great Britain Czechkoslovakia
1954 Czechkoslovakia Holland
1955 Germany Czechkoslovakia
1956 Czechkoslovakia Holland
1957 Germany Czechkoslovakia
1958 Czechkoslovakia Czechkoslovakia
1959 Czechkoslovakia Czechkoslovakia
The 1950 ISDT took place in Great Britain (Llandrindod Wells). Great Britain won both the Trophy and the Silver Vase that year.

In 1951 the competitions where held at San Remo/Varese in Italy. Great Britain once again won the Trophy and Holland won the Silver Vase.

1952 In Austria (Bad Aussee) Czechoslovakia managed to win both the Trophy and the Silver Vase.

The 1953 edition was held in Czechkoslovakia (Gottwaldov). Great Britain regained their title as the leading force by winning the Trophy. Czechoslovakia once again won the Silver Vase. The Jawa motorcycles where still competitive but started their slow decline since the communist leadership had placed restrictions regarding reinvestments and forced the Jawa factory to hang on to some designs for almost 40 years to come.

1954's edition was again held in Great Britain (Llandrindod Wells) The Czechoslovakian Trophy team won the event and Holland won the Silver Vase.

In 1955 the competition once again where held in Czechoslovakia (Gottwaldov). Germany won the Trophy and Czechoslovakia the Silver Vase.

1956 the famous ski resort Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany held the ISDT. Czechoslovakia won the trophy and Holland won the Silver Vase.

1957 edition was held in Czechoslovakia (Spindleruv Mlyn). Czechoslovakia won the trophy and Holland the Silver Vase.

In 1958 Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany held the event just like two years earlier. Czechoslovakia won both the Trophy and the Silver Vase.

1959 in Czechoslovakia (Gottwaldov) the 34'th ISDT went off with Czechoslovakia winning both the Trophy and the Silver Vase just like the year before.

Bikes in the 50's
1958 JAWA OHC Four Stroke 250cc During the 50´s motocross was an estasblished sport with international competitions and champions. The most famous brands from this era was the English bikes. The MX bikes from the 50's where heavy, didn't have much suspension and was mostly derived from plain street bikes slightly lightened, sometimes raised fenders and rougher tire patterns.

Triumph had a lightweight 200cc dirt/trial bike named "The Cub", it was a small four-stroke producing 10bhp from it's near kvadratic 63x64mm bore and stroke. It was produced between 1954 until 1968. That gives us an idea about the development speed compared to nowadays when a bike can be obsolete within a year or so. 1958 BSA releases the model C15, It's basically a BSA version of the same bike. Brian Martin and Jeff Smith formed the 50's BSA motocross team. The BSA C15 was released as trials and scramble versions in 1959.

In the early 50's The Czech manufacturer Jawa produced a standard two-stroke road bike (model 11) which was converted into ISDT 250. The factory had some success in ISDT/ISDE (International Six Days Trial/Enduro). 1956 did Jaromir Cizek race the new OHC four-stroke Jawa 500 twin, he won some international events and returned 1957 JAWA 557 250cc in 1957 racing the new light Jawa typ 557 two-stroke in the 250cc european championship. He totally dominated the series. Back in 1958 the Jawa factory had bolted a four-stroke head onto the two-stroke bottom end. The bike was embarassing underpowered and Jaromir Cizek couldn't defend his title.

One Contender during this period in both Six Days and motocross was Eric Cheney, who started in the MX des nations team for Great Britain in 1947, kept scoring medals during the 50's and finally quit racing 1961.
Matchless had the G80CS and G3LCT models. The G80 was a 500cc 86mm bore which came into production 1957 Matchless G3LCT 1956, the production continued until 1967. They where populas as enduro and desert bikes. AJS had their best luck with their 18CS model. The Suede Ove Lundell rode a Swedish Monark and estableshed himself as a top contender in the late 50's. The Swedish riders dominated much of the 50´s with a 500GP championship to Bill Nilsson in 1957 and Sten Lundin 1959. Bill Nilsson rode a Crescent-AJS while Sten Lundin rode a Monark. 1958 René Baeten from Belgium managed to split the Swedish dominance and took the championship. There where many more bikes and riders worth to mention. Follow the link below for pictures and books about this era.
Bike resources of the 50´s.

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2002 © All right reserved. All information is to the best of my knowledge, there are certanly important events, bikes and riders that I'm not aware of, please contribute to this historical document if you have essential information that shouldn't be forgotten. www.mxbikes.com, B Hahn