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John Bonham's motorcycle at auction


sam_webmaster
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Now I find I can definitely post photos, I'm posting the reversed photo from the internet I mentioned. Along with the same photo flipped. The correct image has the front wheel on the right side. It was the front wheel and brake plate that I first noticed looking wrong. Without that I doubt I would have ever noticed the engine issues.

It shows the single cylinder engine quite clearly and the siamesed exhaust can be seen too. The exhaust arrangement and the engine details match the chopper in the film and not the auction bike. Have I said that before?

The third photo is the auction 650 twin and the fourth the film still 250 single from the same angle showing the respective exhausts and engines.

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jb1.jpeg

jb2.jpg

jb3.jpg

Edited by vivian james
Two more photos and corresponding text.
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It turns out the engine of the film chopper was being talked about on the internet way back in 2008.

https://www.imcdb.org/v159408.html

They were discussing what the engine was with no pre-conceived ideas about what it might be. They decided it was either a BSA B50 500cc or more likely a BSA B25 250cc, both single cylinder engines. They also spotted the siamesed exhaust pipe (one in two).

BSA and Triumph were the same company and used the same 250cc engine in various road and off-road bikes. BSA also made a 500cc version of the engine which looked pretty much identical to the 250. A tape measure would be needed to tell the difference. The Triumph version - which the John Bonham chopper likely has as it was built by Triumph of Burbank -  is designated Triumph T25 250cc. Apart from the engine # it's indistinguishable from the BSA B25 250cc version. I think it's called badge engineering.

They nailed it.

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So Viv, as I alluded to in private message could you, for the benefit of the forum, recap the state of play at this point? Do you agree the bike sold as the one used in the film is the bike used in the film? Do you still believe additional bikes were built and if so what evidence supports that belief? I understand there is now some doubt that Bonzo's motorbiking at night was filmed in Blackpool, but aside from that anything else remain up for debate? 

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Yes, I have more.
 
A Led Zeppelin chopper with a Triumph 250cc engine is still around and I'm surprised that hasn't come up before on this thread. It turned up in East Sussex on the south coast of England a while ago, not complete but with the main constituents there - a numbered frame, a numbered Triumph T25 250cc engine, some parts and an original green UK log book with a Led Zeppelin name in it.
 
A few days ago when I made my first post on this thread I had forgotten about the night-time riding sequence in the film. After watching it again I found a SteveAJones post on this forum from 2007 mentioning that the riding was filmed near Blackpool so I pm'd him to ask if it was definitely Blackpool or if that was just assumed due to the background illuminations. Steve kindly pm'd me to say that Blackpool is not confirmed, although he didn't say why not. He did mention that a fair amount of the filming for the other sequences was done in and around East and West Sussex on the south coast of England.
 
By now I was wondering if the night riding sequence was filmed somewhere such as Brighton in West Sussex on the south coast, well known for its seafront lighting. This is circumstantial although the bus seen in the film sequence does look a lot like a '70s Brighton bus and not at all like a Blackpool bus. The rider is wearing a full-face helmet and his face isn't visible, he could be anyone.
 
Would John Bonham have made a night trip to either Blackpool or Brighton for 15 seconds of anonymous film? I can see that Led Zeppelin performed at Brighton in December 1972. The closest they got to Blackpool was Liverpool and Preston in January 1973 on the same tour. I think the chopper sequence was filmed in late 1973.
 
As before, I have no doubt that John Bonham had two choppers, his own 650cc with his symbol on the sissy bar and another unidentified 250cc chopper. The 2015 auction chopper still doesn't match the 1976 film chopper and I don't see that changing anytime soon.
 
It's documented in the 2015 auction promotion pasted by sam_webmaster on the first page of this thread that there were four choppers built for Led Zeppelin, mind you it's documented in the same place that the pizza bike is the film bike.
 
Two choppers are accounted for, two are not. Maybe there were only ever two choppers?
 
 
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2 hours ago, vivian james said:
A few days ago when I made my first post on this thread I had forgotten about the night-time riding sequence in the film. After watching it again I found a SteveAJones post on this forum from 2007 mentioning that the riding was filmed near Blackpool so I pm'd him to ask if it was definitely Blackpool or if that was just assumed due to the background illuminations. Steve kindly pm'd me to say that Blackpool is not confirmed, although he didn't say why not. He did mention that a fair amount of the filming for the other sequences was done in and around East and West Sussex on the south coast of England.
 
By now I was wondering if the night riding sequence was filmed somewhere such as Brighton in West Sussex on the south coast, well known for its seafront lighting. This is circumstantial although the bus seen in the film sequence does look a lot like a '70s Brighton bus and not at all like a Blackpool bus. The rider is wearing a full-face helmet and his face isn't visible, he could be anyone.
 
Would John Bonham have made a night trip to either Blackpool or Brighton for 15 seconds of anonymous film? I can see that Led Zeppelin performed at Brighton in December 1972. The closest they got to Blackpool was Liverpool and Preston in January 1973 on the same tour. I think the chopper sequence was filmed in late 1973.
 
As before, I have no doubt that John Bonham had two choppers, his own 650cc with his symbol on the sissy bar and another unidentified 250cc chopper. The 2015 auction chopper still doesn't match the 1976 film chopper and I don't see that changing anytime soon.
 
It's documented in the 2015 auction promotion pasted by sam_webmaster on the first page of this thread that there were four choppers built for Led Zeppelin, mind you it's documented in the same place that the pizza bike is the film bike.
 
Two choppers are accounted for, two are not. Maybe there were only ever two choppers?

I have not personally confirmed John's night riding sequence was filmed in Blackpool, and I can no longer recall who said it was. It could well be they too made an assumption based on the illuminations. I do think it's something we can get sorted once and for all. As for all assertions regarding the bike itself, and the possibility of more than one having been manufactured, I defer to input from sam_webmaster or Jason Bonham. Meanwhile, the thought occurred to me that Richard Cole was also a motorcyclist, though I can't say how familiar he may have been with Bonzo's motorcycles.

Richard Cole.jpg

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10 hours ago, vivian james said:

Entirely coincidentally having just inadvertantly posted the photo of the aircraft above, I then went to an aviation forum on other business and found this looking at me:

https://simpleflying.com/led-zeppelin-boeing-720/

Yes, it was scrapped. Imagine the revenue stream it could have generated as an aviation museum attraction!

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19 minutes ago, swann said:

around the 3:40 mark, there's a picture the guy who visited Plumpton Place took of Page's chopper..does this help in any way to narrow down the missing bikes...also, Plumpton isn't far from the seafront at Brighton/Eastbourne..doubt it was Pagey riding it though!

It's possible your post will be pulled as it contains a You Tube link which may benefit the person who took those photos without Jimmy's permission. That said, here is a still image of the motorcycle you are referring to.

 

Screenshot 2020-11-30 083530.jpg

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I missed the post made by swann, thanks to SteveAJones for saving the photo.

The Jimmy Page chopper has a Triumph 250cc engine matching the day-time film chopper but there are some differences, the big one being the metalwork sprouting out of the top of the seat. If its not something stuck on the wall I would say its the Zoso symbol. Each of the four choppers had the symbol of the owner on the back of the sissy bar.

The gas tank has a chrome finish although supposedly all four chopper tanks were painted as Union Jacks. It has a UK registration number on the front but I can't read it, the last letter might be M. The number plate looks yellow but should be white.

I wondered if it could be the night- time film chopper but the sissy bar can be seen in the sequence and it doesn't look like a Zoso symbol.

As I said, I didn't see swanns post and I can't find the youtube clip. Is there any dating information? The chopper frame is not in good shape, not at all shiny compared to the two John Bonham choppers, they all have a nickel plate finish. It looks as though it's been parked up for a while.

I'm attaching a photo of the frame and the Triumph 250cc engine of the chopper found in East Sussex a while back. Speculatively and geographically it could be Jimmy Pages, it could also be John Paul Jones chopper for the same geographic reason. I have no doubt that it's one or the other.

Using the same geographic speculation, the second John Bonham chopper could be Robert Plants as they were approximate neighbours.

st1.jpg

st2.jpeg

zoso.jpeg

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I signed up for this thread with the hope of finding out more about the four choppers built for Led Zeppelin in 1972.
 
Before joining up and posting I knew a bit about the choppers and I've picked up a bit from the thread. The idea that the TSRTS film chopper is not the John Bonham chopper sold at auction in 2015 is pivotal to the big picture but not of any special interest to me.
 
What is Indisputable:
 
John Bonhams own 650cc chopper survives and has an unbroken trail back to the builder in Burbank.
 
There are photographs of John Bonham on a chopper that looks the same as his 650cc engined bike but on inspection has a smaller Triumph 250cc engine.
 
The film chopper matches the 250cc engined bike.
 
A Triumph 250cc engined Led Zeppelin chopper survives as found in East Sussex.
 
What is Speculation:
 
In one of the Led Zeppelin biographies it's written that John Bonham gave a chopper to a childrens charity. Clearly not his own 650cc chopper, so if this happened it was another one. Maybe it's crumbling in a shed in Kidderminster.
 
The other three Led Zeppelin choppers had Triumph 250cc engines but they have exhausts that are dressed up to make them look superficially like 650cc engines. (Probably built to comply with learner licence legislation in the UK in the 1970s restricting unlicenced riders to motorcycles of 250cc or less).
 
The 250cc engined chopper photographed with John Bonham is actually Robert Plants bike. This appears to be the chopper in the film, in the day-time sequences anyway.
 
The night-time riding sequence was filmed in Blackpool. If so, the chopper is the same one as used in the day-time riding sequence. Or...
 
The night-time riding sequence was filmed in Brighton. If so, the chopper is more likely to be local to West Sussex. It doesn't have Jimmy Pages sissy bar symbol so it would be John Paul Jones chopper. Anybody could have been riding it.
 
Background paraphernalia seen in the night riding sequence tends to support Brighton over Blackpool and some of the other sequences were filmed around Brighton. There's no obvious connection with Blackpool.
 
The more recently surfaced East Sussex 250cc chopper is most likely to be either Jimmy Pages or John Paul Jones chopper, or less likely to be Robert Plants chopper.
 
Thanks to SteveAJones. Without his input the thread would have stalled.
 
 
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9 hours ago, vivian james said:
Thanks to SteveAJones. Without his input the thread would have stalled.

You're welcome. I remain optimistic most if not all of the conjecture presented here can be resolved in due course if the right people chime in either directly or indirectly. I don't know if I'm up to the challenge of convincing them why they should, and I was also counting upon sam_webmaster's input and assistance. Generally speaking, when he stays out of a Led Zeppelin fact finding discussion I take it as a tacit indication the topic, for whatever reason, is a waste of time.    

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The text accompanying the video photo of Jimmy Pages chopper dates the photo to 1982.
 
With this new (to me) information and along with some other data I've got, I think the chopper found in East Sussex would be John Paul Jones chopper and not Jimmy Pages.
 
The same data source recollects that in the 1970s, JPJs chopper was stored at Peter Grants house, Horselunges Manor, along with the Triumph motorcycle that John Bonham rode around the lobbies and corridors of a hotel or hotels in the US. Apparently, this Triumph motorcycle was brought back from the States along with trucks, cars and the four choppers.
 
Richard Coles Triumph motorcycle pictured in an earlier post of this thread has an unusual feature that matches the Triumph motorcycle that was stored at Peter Grants place. With a bit of luck Richard Cole will surface and he can confirm this one way or the other.
 
 
In earlier posts I've referenced a biography with mentions of John Bonham giving a chopper to a children's charity and riding a chopper through a hedge during filming of TSRTS.
 
I've tracked down the biography, it's - John Bonham, The Powerhouse of Led Zeppelin, written by his brother Mick. The Blackpool filming comes up there too:
 
Chapter 23, Scramble On, 5th paragraph:

"At one of these events he would raffle his chopper bike he'd used in 'The Song Remains the Same' to raise even more cash."

The charity was Superkids, the biography timeline suggests it was 1978. Then...

Chapter 16, Down on the Farm, paragraphs 7 & 8:

There are mentions in these paragraphs of John Bonham riding a chopper through a hedge that was 'fortunately' not caught on film by the film crew and Blackpool being the location for a filming sequence with the police stipulating that John Bonham should wear a crash helmet.

 

Edited by vivian james
Addition of italics to the quote
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4 hours ago, vivian james said:
riding a chopper through a hedge during filming of TSRTS.

I'm almost certain the hedge sequences featured in the film are in the immediate vicinity of the Old Hyde Farm, his home at the time that is also featured in the film. I've driven through that area a few times and it seems to be the backroads adjacent to and overlooking the property.

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From a search

Melody Maker journalist Chris Welch interviewed John at the farm in June 1975. Part of Bonham's fantasy sequence for the 1976 film The Song Remains the Same was filmed at the farm in late 1973. The sequence features Bonham with his wife Pat Bonham, his son Jason Bonham on a miniature drum kit, and John driving a Model T Ford Ice Truck as well as a chopper motorcycle on local roads outside the New Inn (other motorcycle footage was shot in Blackpool). John and Pat were also filmed riding on a cart with their farm's horse 'Old Sam' along the poplar-lined farm road. The snooker scene was shot at the local Conservative Club in Studley. There were also brief cameo appearances of family and friends, including Mick Bonham.

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Sorry, I'm really trying to keep the BS at a low level and the conjecture as informed as it can be.

How about - the unusual z shaped handlebars seen in the photograph of your (Richard Coles) Triumph motorcycle match the handlebars of John Bonhams hotel riding Triumph motorcycle which was imported from the US and kept at Horselunges Manor for a time in the 1970s. Is it the same motorcycle?

The handlebars are unusual but not unique, so it is conjecture.

I would understand if he wasn't interested after 45 years.

I don't know where the hotel Triumph motorcycle is, but it's very likely to still be around with an unknowing owner. Without the handlebars though as they are with the East Sussex chopper which was kept at Horselunges Manor with the hotel bike. The East Sussex chopper and the hotel Triumph were taken from Horselunges Manor as a pair by someone who kept the chopper but fixed up the hotel Triumph and sold it on in the 1970s without really thinking too much about it's history which he did know about.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 12/3/2020 at 5:26 AM, vivian james said:

The East Sussex chopper and the hotel Triumph were taken from Horselunges Manor as a pair by someone who kept the chopper but fixed up the hotel Triumph and sold it on in the 1970s without really thinking too much about it's history which he did know about.

I'm sorry but this seems to be fish story that gets bigger with every retelling. Unless you're prepared to name names and documentation exists linking either bike to Horselunges Manor I'm bowing out.

 

Horselunges Manor 001.jpg

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  • 1 month later...

Excuse the time lapse since my last post. Other stuff got in the way, but I did get time to read Richard Coles autobiography. On page 282 he wrote - "In 1970, my Christmas present from the band was a Triumph Chopper motorcycle." I guess that's likely to be the one in the photo of Richard Cole posted in this thread by SteveAJones.

 
So far as the documentation for the two motorcycles sold by Peter Grant from Horselunges Manor goes - I have sight of the original green logbook for the Sunset Tripper chopper and I'm in no doubt that it connects the chopper to Led Zeppelin but it does have what might be a big typo.
 
On the 2nd August 1973 the owner is recorded as Peer Grant Ltd, 4 Grays Inn Sq, London WC1. So, is Peer a typo for Peter? Or did Peter Grant have a company named Peer Grant at that address? Grays Inn Square is a long-standing legal profession address in the City of London. Maybe it's the address of the band's lawyers. That information will be out there somewhere. More often than not, when I come across these old hand written vehicle log books, they have one or two typos and my feeling is that a T has been dropped and the logbook should read Peter Grant Ltd.
 
I first came across this Sunset Tripper chopper at an address in Eastbourne, just two streets and a few hundred metres away from where Peter Grant was living at the time of his death in 1995. I didn't know that at the time of my visit and I think it's just a coincidence as the owner particularly said that Peter Grant sold the chopper to him directly from Horselunges Manor back in the late seventies. The owner had no connection with or any special interest in Led Zeppelin, he was a local motorcycle trader and Peter Grant had approached him to arrange the sale of the two motorcycles. There are more details to this story but as SteveAJones suggests, it's going to sound more and more like a big fish tale. Anyway, I would say the Sunset Tripper chopper and the logbook tell their own story.
 
Is this enough to get SteveAJones interested again? Or to get Jason Bonham to comment? When he sold it to the pizza place, he probably did think the Bonham chopper was the TSRTS film chopper, but I'm sure I've filed enough evidence on this thread to show that the two motorcycles do not match each other.
 
If so, the film chopper is still out there somewhere. It might be the Eastbourne chopper, that one does match the film chopper, but I think it probably isn't.
 

Here's a scan of the logbook. I've removed the registration; it has lapsed and it's not recorded on the current DVLA database.

suntrip.jpeg

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