Drawn by a light in the sky, we continue to follow the road south. Dusk beckons, and with it, again will come the devils that have tormented us on our journey. We hurry on as the sun sinks behind the woods of the New Forest, exploding the autumn sky into a vivid paintbox of gilt. Towering high above the trees and silhouetted against the embers of fading sunset, Judge Peterson’s slender gothic needle at Sway points ominously to the heavens of advancing night. Demonic yellow eyes start to glow in the darkest patches of old dead stumps, as we run down the jetty at Lymington to jump at the last second, onto the departing ferry. The tolling of a church bell drifts across the water as land looms from the mist, while our cloaked pilot in the prow raises an arm, and points a bony finger—our destination, The Island of Vectis!
Pick up any motor cycle encyclopaedia you like, and strangely, hardly anyone seems even to acknowledge the existence of this maker or its machine! The Scamp was the rather unlikely product of ship’s mast manufacturers A N Clark (Engineers) Ltd from the even more unlikely location of Binstead, on the Isle of Wight! It’s quite baffling how a maritime company decides to get involved in moped manufacture, but the Scamp project was started in 1967 as a departure from the usual yachting business. With no previous experience in the field, that really is some wild diversification! Still, all credit to Clark; they bravely committed themselves with an imaginative and unique motor of their own design and manufacture, mounted in an adaptation of the CWS ‘Commuter’ bicycle.
Glass’s Index lists:
‘Scamp’ 49.9cc (2-stroke) 38mm bore × 44mm stroke, introduced March 1968 from engine no. E10001, frame no. U10327. Scamp moped introduced. Single speed, auto. clutch, rigid frame, brakes front 3½" hub, rear calliper type, tyres 12"×2", ½ gal. tank, direct lighting.
There is absolutely no ‘stock’ reference material available for the Scamp, the only source on this machine coming from original literature, club archives and records of enthusiasts’ contacts with the manufacturer, so we really have to make the most from this information, and study of surviving examples.
Our test feature machine today is engine number E11850, frame number V12063, still in original condition and finished in red with gold pinstripe. This bike is the highest frame serial so far recorded by the register, and by contrast, also for the photoshoot, the second blue bike displays engine no. 11955X, and the lowest recorded frame serial: V10316.
Mounted on the left-hand side of the rear wheel, the conventional piston-ported engine features radial finning on its alloy head and cast iron cylinder. The crankshaft is most unusually constructed in that the flywheels bolt together by socket cap screws, through the big-end bearing core, with the con-rod seeming to run on uncaged roller bearings, so the whole assembly would appear home serviceable with no more than a simple Allen key! A Dansi flywheel magneto hangs off the nearside journal, while the drive outputs to a simple single-stage centrifugal clutch.
The rear ‘disc’ wheel is a primitive assembly comprising of a Dunlop 12"×2" rim crudely bolted and riveted through the spoke holes to a pressed steel disc form fixed to a driving flange. It may be little surprise to find such wheels often display some buckle effects. The flange rotates on bearings around the rear axle, driven on a shaft from a large reduction gear running in an oil-bath alloy case, and powered by a pinion shaft from the clutch drum. Turning a ‘power key’ located in the clutch housing enables the drive to turn the motor by a counterbalanced nylon pawl engaged through a slot in the clutch drum. Once the motor is started, centrifugal force overcomes a spring to disengage the pawl. The automatic clutch operates as motor revs are further increased. Switching back the ‘power key’ disables the pawl as the clutch rotates into contact, returning to bicycle function.
The feature bike’s motor is fed from an original fitment 12mm Amal 369/162 carburettor, though the rider’s manual clearly illustrates a Dell’orto, so probably both types could be fitted. The exhaust comprises two steel bowls bolted together to form a chamber, and is easily stripped for de-carbonising.
With its 12" wheels and 16"×2" tyres, the CWS ‘Commuter’ cycle borrows much of its general impression from the RSW16 bicycle and Raleigh Wisp, which pre-date the Clark by a couple of years. Adaptations to the bicycle feature a hub front brake (though a calliper set is retained for the rear), Radaelli saddle, specially wide rear rack mounting the triangular petrol tank in its crook, fitment of a basic lighting set, and suitable control equipment. The cycle propstand is woefully inadequate for the bike as a moped, and any attempt to precariously balance the machine on this flimsy leg is merely inviting the inevitable. You might as well save time & trouble, and simply throw the bike down on its engine side every time you park! Leaning against walls or even backing the pedal against a kerbstone is far less hazardous.
The lattice cycle chassis looks pretty impressive in its design and structural construction, being the nearest interpretation imaginable of a small-wheel version ‘Mixte’ frame, but anyone who’s ever ridden the notoriously twitchy Raleigh Wisp is going to approach a Scamp with some trepidation. It has much the same geometry as the Wisp, but with the engine mounted at the rear wheel, the centre of gravity is going to be further back—oh dear! Still, one has to remain optimistic!
Engage drive mode by pulling down the ‘power key’ and latch into position by rotating it 90°. In drive mode, the Scamp can be reversed easily on the freewheel, but moving forward will now turn the engine, so needs the decompressor engaged to enable navigation. Pull on the petrol tap at the fuel tank, and the choke is—a strangler on the back of the carb down by the rear wheel! No linkage control, no throttle latch; you can just bet this going to be awkward! We pedal up the road on the decompressor, drop the lever, and the drive disengages so we coast to stop with the drive pawl clicking. The pawl doesn’t latch again until the bike stops moving, to allow another starting attempt—with the same result. During starting, it seems the pawl instantly disengages whenever the engine stutters, and the trick is getting it to catch and run as soon as the motor fires. This could take some time!
There is a primitive sort of tickle device on the carb, which comprises the top of the float needle sticking through a hole in the float chamber top. You can press this to flood the chamber, though it doesn’t seem to offer any discernible advantage in the starting procedure, and a veritable disadvantage would appear to be as a direct access point to allow rainwater into the float chamber!
It takes several attempts before the engine does continue running, but then you’ve got to stop and dismount to open the choke shutter! To stop it stalling (since we don’t want to go through the starting palaver again), the tendency is to keep it on the throttle, but the automatic clutch drags and the bike tries to make off down the road—so you have to hold on the front brake now, while you try and open the strangler with your left hand down by the rear axle! This proves hopeless if you’ve made the mistake of dismounting to the left side, possible but awkward if you dismount to the right. Once the choke shutter is actually open, it’s just as well to lift by the rack to get the back wheel off the ground and rev it a bit on the throttle to clear its throat. Now the engine starts to run slower without dying out, we can remount and get underway.
A lot of these starting difficulties would certainly have frustrated most customers, and it’s baffling as to why they ever sold machines fitted with the Amal carb? The Dell’orto with its latch choke mechanism would have been so much more suitable.
Anyway, back on the bike and off we go, open the throttle, and the single-stage automatic clutch locks on in one bite at quite low revs, so the Scamp really just chugs off the line. If you want acceleration, then it’s going to have to come from your own leg power! As we start to build towards cruising speed, one also starts to become aware of the handling characteristics. Take a hand off the bars to signal, and the Scamp feels as if it’s poised for any opportunity to go chasing rabbits in the bushes! Just a little more edgy than a Wisp, but the Ariel 3 is still number one on the top 20 chart of ‘Bikes that are trying to kill you!’
Once the motor gets warmed up, Scamp cruises happily up to 25mph, above which vibrations start coming in through the Radaelli seat and the ride becomes uncomfortable. Hot engine, on the flat, with light tail wind, our pace bike briefly glimpsed a very best of 30mph. Downhill, 34mph maximum—and that really wasn’t going to go any faster! Speed falls away readily as the bike encounters any incline, but it still manages to labour slowly up moderate hills at low revs without the need to pedal, as the motor digs-in once it falls below 20mph.
Both brakes prove suitably retarding when required, with even the rear calliper function proving surprisingly effective, though small wheel machines would typically be expected to deliver better hub braking performance anyway, advantaged by the basic law of physics.
The flywheel magneto is a Dansi set, and the Clark rider’s manual specifies lights of 15W front & 3W rear, but put in these wattage bulbs and the dimness is unimaginable. More practical illumination is found by reducing the ratings down to only 3W for both front and rear, so perhaps the generator coil might be somewhat down on output?
Scamp’s motor ran smoothly and evenly throughout the trial with never any hint of four-stroking, a confidence inspiring little engine that, once you’ve got it going, feels as if it’ll run as long and far as you like. Getting started however is a most deterring operation, and would obviously have proved unsuitable to many customers for practical everyday transport. To make this situation even worse, the plastic drive pawl developed a further reputation for rapid failure! Clutch function also appears to engage prematurely and makes slow running and acceleration operations un-conducive, while in the longer term, all the working components of the clutch are cast from zinc and very prone to complete disintegration. The rigid frame and forks, in combination with the small wheels and vibration effects, quickly prove fatiguing; then add these factors to the sedate performance and spooky handling, and you’ve got a machine that the rider probably isn’t going to enjoy for long.
Tragically, the Scamp never found time to evolve, since it came and went in the same year! Glass’s Index lists the bike as discontinued in November 1968. It was reported from Clark’s that they ‘…could not compete with the Japanese and Continental companies already established in the market. Due to continuing financial difficulties a Receiver/Manager was appointed by Lloyds Bank resulting in a 50% staff reduction at Binstead and a complete disposal of almost all finished machines and components…’
Clearly a catastrophic conclusion, but why the situation occurred isn’t really explained. With a selling price pitched at 46gns, the Scamp was appreciably cheaper than its most obvious market competitor, the Raleigh Wisp at 57gnss, which was selling very well. On the face of it, prospects for the Scamp might have looked pretty good, but the ‘continuing financial difficulties’ element could suggest that the company trading position might have been struggling for some while. Reading between the lines that yachting work was failing to support the company around this time, the Scamp project was embarked upon as an alternative business generator. Though March might have looked an ideal time to launch the bike to catch the start of the sales season, Clarks seemed unaware of motor cycle marketing practice of showing machines the previous November at Earls Court to ‘prime the trade’ and initiate the advertising for advance orders. Trying to find period magazine road tests or articles on the Scamp is practically impossible, and Clark’s very own poster even fails to show a picture of the bike!
What seems to have happened was that Clark found themselves still sitting on a whole load of complete machines, cycles, engines and parts at the end of the summer as a lack of advertising had failed to generate sales. The season had passed, and a struggling company was stuck with all the stock value—a classic formula for cash-flow foreclosure. Big banks don’t tend to have much patience with small companies trading in the red. Everything was flogged off any way it could go, even chassis without engines were fitted with standard cycle wheels at the back and simply cleared as bicycles. Out on the streets, these could be readily spotted from the standard CWS Commuter, by the dedicated Clark rear carrier with its big hole where the petrol tank was intended to fit.
With a variation of the name, a new business rose from the ashes and still trades today in Binstead on the Isle of Wight as Clark Masts Teksam Ltd, and Clark Masts (Technical Services) Ltd. spare parts company—but don’t expect them to supply any parts for your moped, that’s all long gone.
No official figures are known of how many Scamps were actually made, but the company suggested 3,000–4,000. With the frame series seemingly starting from 10000, and considering our test machine is the highest frame serial so far recorded by the club, a statistical projection suggests the total is more likely to be within 2,500. How many survive today? Who knows? However, it’s certainly a lot more than some of the ridiculously low numbers being claimed in most of the adverts by people trying to sell them!
Some say that God rides a Harley, well that may be a little controversial—but if ‘Old Nick’ were to claim his own machine, who knows? It might just be the Clark Scamp…
Next—The brief window of opportunity opens, to test another rare autocycle as it passes between private collections. Such fleeting chances come Out of the Blue, and there’s no time to think—just grab the camera, notebook & pen, and go! The dials of our time machine spin backward again, to another adventure. A shattered Europe stumbles back to its feet, and it is the old machines that will have to rebuild the new world. The most economic motorised transport is particularly in demand, and sharp commercial eyes spy an opportunity as Autocycles are emerging for their second generation.