PHANTOM Motorcycles - The Ghost Who Rides

In 1929 the last motorcycle rolled out of the Phantom Manufacturing Co. works near Cambridge shortly before the mysterious disappearance and surmised deaths of the three founders of that great company. Yet, despite this seemingly unsurmountable obstacle, the company has been able to recently reopen and has produced its first new vintage motorbike since that fateful day in 1929. But how is this possible? The only surviving member of that original company, Mrs. Mabel Ramsbottom, will be 119 years old this year!
Okay, okay, where are we going? What is this? I wanted to know something about a bike company by the name of Phantom I had chanced upon on wiki and as I googled into a possible link of the one I was looking for, The Phantom, ( I read what I had copy pasted above. It was one of those ‘what-the’ things, but thought let me ‘continue reading’ and so…
For those of you familiar with the history of the Phantom Manufacturing Company, you will be aware that Mrs. Ramsbottom, company secretary, has been in spiritual contact with the three founders, Erasmus Thump, Enoch Podsnap and Titus Bottomly for many years now. Just recently, the location of the lost key of the Phantom works was revealed to her by none other than the spirit of Erasmus Thump himself!

This was getting way weird, in the search for a vintage motorcycle, I stumbled upon a fiction! But it is turning out to be interesting, so… Mrs. Ramsbottom carried out subsequent commands from the founders with an eye towards reopening the works as a going concern. After locating the lost trust accounts of the firm, missing since 1929, she hired a team of industrial cleaners and mechanics to spruce up the old works and bring back the existing production machinery to working standard.

Don’t ask me, I am a lost as ever and really hoping soon everything would make sense. Continuing... That work being accomplished, Mrs. Ramsbottom, together with the spirits of the founders, interviewed a selection of men to undertake the production tasks in support of the designs and plans of the founders. In due course, three somewhat grizzled men named Richard, Edward and Mark were selected, (owing in no small part to the fact that they were the only candidates willing to work for half a crown per month). Their task is to make in metal, the visions of the founders, and ensure the finished product is sold and supported for the betterment of The Phantom Manufacturing Company.
These chaps have been beavering away quietly in the works for the better part of two years, and now the time has come to unveil their handiwork -- the first new Phantom vintage motorbike since 1929....code-named, '
Erasmus' Gamble. Okay, so there was a company by the name of Phantom Motorcycles way back in 1919 formed by 3 gentleman and a lady and now after almost a century, some passionate guys from the U.K (see the website, they are from U.K) are bringing back the brand from the dead. Now it is getting interesting, but why a brand which probably very few have ever heard of, leave along seen it.
This is where it gets scary, the sole surviving founder, Mrs. Ramsbottom has been hearing voices/ talking to spirits (howsoever you may take it) for the last 5 years or had the ‘first contact’ 5 years back. What happened way back in 1929 was that after the founders decided to work on a new bike, they hired some staff and later one day, the staff were given a salary for a month and asked to leave. Then the trio locked themselves in Erasmus laboratory where the bike was being made and not until the next day when Mrs. Ramsbottom came to the office did they leave the lab. What happened then is even eerier. They were never seen again, and what happened in between no one knows. So after all these years, the then company secretary (now she is over 110 years old)started hearing the voices as to where the trust account are and all and then she contacted these gentleman which was also decided by the spirits/ voices. The 3 gentleman, Mark Frost, Ed Wimble and Dick Smith have their own motorcycle shops and are quite well known in the U.K with the name of Ace Classics and Baron’s Speed Shop. Incredibly, communications from the founders then began to reach these gentlemen via email. The messages brought instructions, drawings and a plan for building this bike Phantom EG.Whether you believe it or not is entirely up to you, I am just writing what I read. Anyway, the website if you have noticed is in the blog format and so as I started reading it wanting to know more about the brand. This is what I got to know in a nutshell. The brand was formed by the four founders, Mr. Erasmus Thump, Mr. Titus Bottomly, Mr. Enoch Podsnap and Mrs. Mabel Ramsbottom in the late Spring of 1919. Each of the founders had his/ her own responsibility. Mr. Thump was responsible for invention and exploration while Mr. Bottomly was the spanner man and giving shapes to the bike overall frame and design. Mr. Podsnap was responsible for testing the bike and helping out the other founders and Mrs. Ramsbottom was the company secretary.
Apparently, the gentlemen trio were the first inventors of the chain drive system which they mentioned as 'flexible, steel, ladder belt' drive system. “They also devised a crude gearbox, consisting of seven different cogs on three spindles, connected by four forks and two large clock springs. They called this amazing device, the 'Noddle Box.' It gave their machine three ratios so that operators would be sure they could climb any known hill and take full advantage of flat areas to achieve mind bending speeds.” Okay so designed the first gearbox, is it? They also designed a pulse-jet motor. Which was not very successful and so settled for the standard internal combustion engine. A kind of carburetor was developed which they called 'The Sneezer'. All in all, they experimented a lot. By this time, I was really keen to have a look at what the bike looked like and despite a thorough search, I could find only a picture of the bike and that too surrounded by the members and yes, there is also a video in a language I am not familiar with. So that was not of much help. But to continue on the story, the voices wanted the bike to look what they have dreamt of and so if this is what they had envisioned, wow! That is quite a bike. It looks like a pre WW II board track racer, only too damn beautiful.
So how does the new mortal trio build this bike? We build the Phantom EG the way we have always built motorbikes -- by the hands of skilled artisans. Our lads specify or form every piece of the machine. Of course, no two clients are the exact same shape, or have the exact same taste. As a result, every Phantom is unique, 'commissioned' as would a piece of fine art. The EG was designed from the start as an homage to those amazing machines that spunky gentlemen (and ladies) used to set speed records at Brooklands and board track racer circuits back in the 1920s. The Phantom EG is not for everyone. There are other motorbikes that are faster, and still others more comfortable.
Okay, they are being quite frank here, so for whom is the bike targeted at? It is obviously for fanatics (like me and you, but since we are a little sold out on cash, so…), its for vintage collectors, only that it can be ridden, and as ‘Erasmus Thump’ mentions, “A Phantom owner stands out from the crowd. He treasures the spirits of the past, and wonders what those pioneering riders, if they were still alive, would be riding today. It is not about being a purist with a desire to simply ride something from the past. It is to embrace the spirit of exploring speed and holding on to the best of the past, whilst embracing enough of the new to make the experience memorable again and again. What sets the Phantom EG apart from all others, is the abundance of soul. The spirits of The Phantom's founders, along with those legendary riders of the day such as Harry and Charlie Collier, W. D. Chitty, Bert Le Vack, Jake De Rosier, Jack Emerson, "Barry" Baragwanath, Gwenda Stewart, and scores of others both famous and not, run through every part of a Phantom EG. All these riders may have passed into history, but their presence is felt every time you sit astride a Phantom EG".
The features of the motorcycle will take you back to the golden days with its handmade lugs, a rigid rear end and machine-turned engine plates. The engine doing the work here is from a Norton 750 twin and the bike’s overall look is similar to a 1920 Norton BRS ‘Brooklands Race Special’ which was the world's first production racing bike and is beautifully fabricated. The frame has been designed such that it can accept different engines by changing the engine plates. Don’t know, if the riding position would be acceptable to a lot of bikers, but it sure looks that the back will get some tumble after a few kilometers and not to mention the shoulder blades. The forks are Girdraulics, while the wheels are 21-inchers wearing modern Michelins. The bars seem and actually are quite low, which for a race might be easy to handle but it will be surely very difficult for more than 20 to 30 minutes. Actually this bike is completely on the lines of the 20s broad track bikes and it is not meant for long rides and how much would you go with a less than 6 liter tank in a 750cc engine anyway? To get a feel of what a broad tracker bike might have looked like, visit Timeless Motor Company. If at all you want to convert it into a road bike, just pull up the handle and raise the seat, that’s all. Gears are in your hand and they are expected. Everything except the brakes belong to the 20s, but even the disc brakes up front and the one piece disc and sprocket rear brake seems so right in the bike.
The modern ‘founders’ will make up to six bikes a year and all these hand made bikes has to be ‘commissioned’. The enthusiast can choose their own specific wheels, brakes, engine, colours, seat, handlebars, etc. So the bike can be according to your whimsical and fancies but it would still look like ‘The Phantom’. And so how much is it going to cost? If you supply the engine, they will credit you back with £10,000 from the whole bike which they are retailing at £30,000. As mentioned, these guys are quite frank. Trump, the founder says “Some people who are not familiar with The Phantom Manufacturing Company have asked me if we will build a reasonably priced machine. My answer is that all our machines are reasonably priced and have always been so. But I would add that we will never be inexpensive either.
Let us be clear about this and get right to the point - the Phantom EG owner will be a gentleman of means. Prices for the Phantom EG range from $30,000 (approximately £20,000) to just over $100,000 (approximately £62,000) depending on component selection and finishes. We do not possess any financing capabilities”. The frames are hand built from the best steel. The fuel and oil tanks and tube joints are double butted and bronze gas welded. These hand crafted machines are made with consultation with the client which also includes taking the dimensions of the client so that they can design the proper "posture-triangle" positions of the hands, feet, and posterior. “In this way we can design the best compromise of speed and comfort, whilst maintaining the proper centre of gravity of the machine and rider. We then specify the type of motor and suspension we feel best meets the requirements of the client based upon the information collected. And, finally, we agree a final colour and detail design for the finished machine. The buyer is then required to place a deposit equal to one-third the price of the machine and a delivery date range is agreed. The buyer is provided images of their machine as it passes through the various stages of production and notified of the exact final delivery date 30-days prior. Final payment is due upon delivery. We are happy to ship your Phantom EG to you at cost by the most reputable of providers. Or, if you prefer, you may pick up your machine directly from us.”
Of course, as much as you are, I am also equally intrigued to know whether there was actually such a machine in the 20s. Nothing in the net suggested that, I do not have antique motorcycle books, but the ones I have of vintage and classic collection doesn’t mention a Phantom. The only picture I got was from wiki and it is here and it doesn’t seem like the same logo at all. The videos in the website don’t mention of the Phantom and the photos given of the erstwhile founders could be anyone. Search for an Erasmus Thump in the net and you will know what I mean. So all these can also be a fictitious story, right? Who cares! Three gentlemen has made a brilliant looking antique/ vintage motorcycle and let us just appreciate their love for the craft and of course the extraordinary skills they possess. This is a nice looking bike and if there is an interesting story to go along with it, it is that much better. A little spice always ‘spices’ up your life. So what s it about The Phantom that is ‘different’? When we began this adventure in 1919 (there ‘we’ go again), Enoch, Titus and I decided that we would not try to compete with the mass production companies that were in vogue at the time. Everyone we knew at the time who was running these companies spent more time with bankers than they did with their products or customers. We have vowed never to let that happen to us. We would rather shut our doors than do such a thing. So our company remains small, our machines are still hand built – often by commission, to a very high standard. As a result, our machines are priced significantly higher than any machine you can buy out of a high street dealer.
The machines that these dealers sell are all much of a muchness as far as we can see. Go from one to another and you will see that this is true. These large conglomerates cannot afford to be different. They have huge quantities of capital and huge numbers of shareholders that demand growth in the volume of sales and profit. We are small, but it is only our own money at risk. We answer only to ourselves and our customers. If we keep both of these groups happy then all is well. In fact, if we continually satisfy the customers, we will be rewarded in the end.
As a result of all this we must and will be different to all the other brands. We have our own distinctive strengths in design and manufacture. And we feel we have, dare I say it, a spiritual connection with our customers, and the machines that fire their imaginations. Our customers recognise this and that is why they stand by us year after year, generation after generation, regardless of the price of our bikes or their scarcity.
And then again, maybe it is all true. So here we are, ladies and gentlemen, a 1929 bike, brand new after 80 years in the making. This is … what the world calls… A Time Machine!!!
Engine -750cc, air-cooled, four-stroke, OHV, push-rod parallel twin
Bore x Stroke - 73 X 89mm
Carbs - Sneezer Ulysses (Amal Type 2) carbs
Ignition - Magneto
Clutch - Multi-plate diaphragm
Gearbox - 4-speed
Chassis - Steel tube BRS frame
Suspensions - Girdraulic front suspension & leaf-sprung saddle rear suspension
Brakes - Integrated Speed Retarding (ISR) brake disc system –six-piston front, two-piston rear, rear ‘sprotor’ disc
Top Speed - 120mph (claimed)
Maximum Power - 56bhp
Weight – 136kg, 300lbs
Wheelbase - 1778mm
Saddle height - 787mm
Fuel capacity - 5.9-litre
Story, pictures and information sourced from The Phantom website
Source of photos – Gallery of South Siders M.C and August 2009 edition of Classic Bike Magazine


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