The Ruggerfield - Bringing a lost Diesel Motorbike back into the fold.

I originally started to help promote the manufacture (both private and commercial) of the eco friendly, diesel powered motorcycle, a vehicle that I felt, was long overdue. But one of the most enjoyable aspects of running the website is uncovering machines that the majority of us just didn't know existed. This is the story of one such discovery and how I decided to do a little more than just put details of it up on the website...

I've now owned my 350cc Hatz powered diesel motorcycle since the year 2000 and, although I love it to bits, I've always hankered after something with a little more 'grunt'. The 170mpg figures are to die for but I've been seeking
a better balance of mpg to power for a while now. You can imagine my reaction when I received an email telling me that a machine capable of giving me that little bit extra was due to be sold after the owner, a talented engineer by the name of Colin Clarke, had sadly passed away.

The email in question came from a friend of the family, Julie, who was enquiring on their behalf as to what the possible value might be. "It really depends on how badly someone wants it," I replied. "You could expect to get anything from £500 to £2000 in my view." Already the hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end! The next email had several scanned 35mm photographs attached which allowed me to determine that the bike was indeed a Royal Enfield Bullet. But the detail was still hard to make out. I had to see it in the flesh!

The Ruggerfield under construction

There followed a series of phone calls to Graham, Colin's brother, who told me all he knew about the maker and the machine. When I heard that the builder, Colin, had worked at Loughborough University and was responsible for
engineering critical parts used on things like satellites, I started to get a very good feeling as to the kind of build that could be on offer here! There followed a period in which the Clarke family decided to put the
estate of Colin up for auction and Graham lost no time in telling me where the auction itself would take place. After getting an advance copy of the catalogue which told us two estates were to be sold off, I set about
planning the route and arranging to borrow a van for the day.

On this front my brother kindly came through and leant me his Ford Transit Connect while a workmate, Nick, decided to come along to after seeing all the machine tools
that were also up for grabs. Come the day of the auction we met at our place of work at 6am and headed
north through Gatwick and onto the M25. The journey was uneventful but it was the first time I'd done any real mileage in this van and I wasn't very impressed with the fuel economy. Two and a half hours later we found the
Manor Fields Farm entrance at the 2nd attempt. We were so prompt that the auctioneers had yet to put the signs out.


We drove down the long entrance road and parked up in the farm courtyard next to a temporary toilet. Jumping down from the van we walked over to the nearer but left-hand side of a huge facing barn where two swing doors were
partially open. On entering we saw the signing in table immediately to our right and before us, all the items from the estates laid out in numerous, neat rows. Overhead large lights, still in the process of warming up,
attempted to fill the void with their faltering light. One could see that the air itself was filled with dust particles swirling around and the smell of stored grain, piled high in an adjoining space, filled the air.

On the right-hand side, behind the signing in table were the vehicles, two of which were motorcycles. The smaller of the two was a small capacity belt driven Kawasaki whilst the other was clearly the bike I had travelled all
those miles to acquire. There, painted black, covered in a fine layer of dust and cobwebs was the 'Ruggerfield' in all its subdued glory. For a passing second I felt like an adventurer of old who'd stumbled into a darkened place only to be confronted by a beast of unknown potential. But there was only a moment's hesitation on my part before I went in for a closer look.

Colin Clarke stands next to his 'baby', The Ruggerfield.

With my heart doing a good impersonation of an old diesel pump, I approached her faster than the proverbial speeding bullet (!) and set about examining the build in detail. The first thing that struck me was the neatness of the weld around the outside of the primary cover. Indeed that itself slotted onto a base that I still believe today is better than an original Enfield one. There were no oil patches under this bike! Looking forward at the down-tube I could see immediately that the builder had taken his time and got it right. ¼ " steel had been used to fabricate one of the strongest looking fixings I'd ever seen. Just the thing to keep that Ruggerini 850cc twin in place.

Looking to the back of the engine I glanced up under the tank and past the fuel down and return pipes to see the head steady had been milled precisely from a block of aluminium. Again, another block had been machined and fitted
to where the Bullets battery would normally sit, only this served as a holder for the fuel filter.
All in all I was satisfied that this was a motorcycle worth bringing in from the cold and lost no time in registering as a bidder. But this was the beginning of my troubles!

After approaching the payment booth I was told that they did not take plastic! I was stunned! I'd had just had my credit limit raised (not easy in this day and age I can tell you) to prepare for any eventuality but just didn't consider that it might be cheques only thank you. After a quick 'pow wow' Nick and myself decided to drive rather rapidly into Leamington Spa to raid my bank account. We figured we had time to do this before the auction started and anyway, the bike was lot 235 and so wouldn't be coming up for a while after the start. On walking into my branch I saw to my horror that the tills were all closed! There wasn't a staff member to be seen! I was confronted by a queue of people standing before a cluster of shiny, flashing cash machines. Faced with no other choice I withdrew a total of £750 using both debit and credit cards before Nick kindly helped out by raiding his own account and handing me 500 quid.

Armed with that we sped back to the auction site and this time parked just inside the entrance along with the majority of the other potential buyers. After a brisk walk down the long drive we again entered the barn and continued to look through everything that was on offer. In amongst the many items we spotted a petrol cycle-motor (later bought by a student I'm told) a Royal Enfield front wheel (which maybe I should have bid on), a lathe, milling machine and many other machine tools (some of which Nick eventually bought). This was only the second time I had attended an auction (the last one being to buy a laptop) and it was interesting to watch the process again in all its detail. The auctioneer himself was mike'd up and linked wirelessly to a remote loudspeaker system. His assistant held a metal pole with a circular sign (very much like a Lolly-Pop ((road safety)) Lady). This pole was moved from lot to lot as the auctioneer rattled through his prices at an astounding rate. These two were, in turn, surrounded by the crowd of potential buyers all eager be at or near the centre of the action.

Nick and myself killed time by watching the frenzied bidding and looking over the rest of the items until the reamers and drills he was after came up. He was successful there and after nodding myself on a welder I decided, wisely I think, not to bid anymore because of the money situation. It was interesting to see that the Clarke family had put out their brother Colin's photograph albums on the signing in table and these were an excellent record detailing many of his projects. As well as the diesel bike build there was a table size Spiro graph built for demonstration purposes and many pictures of the early hover crafts he worked on. But what stood out for me was a page showing Colin's work ethic, something which he had pinned up in his workshop and would always build everything to.

The 8 'P's. Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Personal Performance.

How could I not want anything built with that ethic i mind? Eventually they got around to the vehicles and the first one, a diesel car, was started up for all to hear. It sold, I think, for about £2800. Then it was the Kawasaki's turn but it turned out to have no ignition key and so little could be done. I later heard that it was given away. And so to the 'Ruggerfield'. A slight moment of panic then followed as I found myself away from the centre of the action. It was no time for niceties
and making some apologetic noises I shouldered a few people (including a woman I recall) out of the way as I squeezed to the front of the crowd and into the view of the fast-talking 'hammer man'. After a brief description of the bike and how rare an example it was he launched into his thing.
"£100, £100, £200, £200, £300..." The bidding was off and I was immediately in there! For days before I'd been contemplating various strategies regarding bidding but being no expert all the best laid plans flew out of the window straight away "...£300, £400, £400, £500, £600.." The bidding was frenzied and heads were nodding all about. As far as I could make out three others were interested in the bike. Two were situated in front of me, one of those to the auctioneers right, "£700, £700, £800, £800, £900..." The other was behind my left shoulder, "£1000, £1000, £1100, £1100, £1200, £1300..." The was a slight lull in the bidding here and the auctioneer did his best to keep the price going up (Grrrrr) " £1400, £1500, £1600,.." From the corner of my right eye I was aware that one of the onlookers was looking at me with a large smile on his face as if to say 'this bloke is determined'. I can
tell you now I bloody was!! "£1600, £1700, £1700.." Another lull and I again curse under my breath as another bidder was coaxed back into the action... "£1800, £1900, £2000!.." This was a critical marker for me as I'd set a limit as to how high I was going to go. That limit wasn't £2k but we were getting close to it at a fair rate of knots! At this stage I think I
even confused the auctioneer by nodding out of turn, I was that desperate to get the bike.."£2100...£2100...any advance on £2100?..."I was frozen to the spot, my eyes locked onto the face of the hammer man as he himself scanned
the crowd for other bidders. "Any advance on £2100? Any advance on £2100? Going...going...Sold!" It was all over.
I'd got it!

The crowd melted away to the next item leaving me somewhat dazed while someone, I'm not sure who, shook my hand. I was then approached by one of the guys I'd been bidding against who shook my hand and said he'd been after the bike because it was unique. As I recall he had an interest in electric vehicles as well. After Nick had also congratulated me I was tapped on the shoulder by Charlie West (from Northumberland) who asked me if I wanted another one! He then went on the say he had built his own diesel motorcycle around a BSA using a Kubota engine (I hope for more info on this bike one day). He also pointed out several things on my newest purchase saying that only quality parts had been used for things like the Speedo and air filter. With over four hundred lots to sell it was a while before the auctioneer had completed his task. Indeed he eventually handed over to his female assistant towards the very end. At this stage I 'hot footed' it back up the drive to collect the van and bring it back down to the courtyard.

At this time I had the pleasure of meeting Colin Clarke's sister and other family members. They said they were pleased that I'd won the bike and offered me some snaps taken as the bike was actually being built. Unfortunately, because of our rush into Leamington Spa, I actually missed meeting Graham Clarke who had helped me so much in the weeks leading up to this sale. He had turned up only for a short time but had talked to several people who had shown interest in the bike thinking they were me. When I found this out I phoned him to tell him I'd won the machine and I think he
was surprised at the eventual sale price. True I thought. Some may think it a little high but an auction is a proper measure of how much something is valued by those present and wanting. As far as I'm concerned it would have
cost me a lot more to build a bike to this standard and I'm certain that Colin Clarke was a far better engineer than I or many others will ever be.

When the auction finally ended I queued up at the Office booth, which had been set up in the courtyard and paid over all the money I (and Nick) had. Luckily the auction house accepted my guarantees for the remainder and I promptly got a cheque off to them first thing Monday. On top of the bike price I had to pay just over £200 in auctioneers fees as well.
With the right paperwork in hand we were able to re-enter the barn, retrieve the bike and wheel it out to our van past the numerous other vehicles and trucks busy loading their purchases. Mini cranes and groups of men manhandled the milling machine and lathe up and way to a more active existence.

After lining the bike up with the rear of the van I opened the doors and slid out the plank I'd brought along. I'd put three new ratchet tie down straps up above the cab and lost no time in deploying them once we'd got the bike up the plank comfortably into the van. I thought we might have to remove the front wheel but no, we simply poked it forward between the driver and passenger seats. With the bike on it's centre stand and firmly tied down, we rolled gently out of the courtyard past the temporary office and burger stall. Before us, the long, concrete driveway which stretched out
across an adjoining field to the main road was peppered with people making their way back to the car park situated next to the farms entrance. After negotiating this track we pulled out from the entrance marked Manor Fields Farm and started the long journey home.

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