Obituary: Bert Greeves
Wednesday 06 October 1993
BERT GREEVES, invalid carriage and motorcycle manufacturer, was an original thinker who made his mark in two quite distinctive spheres of transport.
Born in France in 1906 to English parents, Greeves began his engineering career as an apprentice in the Austin factory before running a garage business in London. It was there that he built his first powered wheelchair for his disabled cousin Derek Preston Cobb, using an engine from a lawnmower. From that humble beginning grew Invacar, founded in 1946 and destined to become the dominant supplier of transport for the physically disabled through the 1950s and 1960s.
A motorcycle enthusiast from youthful days, Greeves built two prototypes in 1951 and by 1953 production began in his factory in Thundersley, Essex. Using lessons learned at Invacar, he adapted rubber as a suspension medium, predating Issigonis's Mini system by five years.
The Greeves range of motorbikes, always of small engine size and physically light, proved very successful in competition against the established giants of the industry. Greeves himself had an eye for riding talent and in 1957 he recruited Brian Stonebridge from BSA to ride in motocross. That year, at Hawkestone Park in Shropshire, Stonebridge rode a 200cc Greeves to second place in a leading 500cc cross-country race, beating all but one of the bigger factories' heavyweights. It was the death knell of traditional heavy machines in what was becoming an international sport.
Before Stonebridge could apply his talent fully for Greeves, he died in a road accident, a passenger in Greeves's car. His place was taken by Dave Bickers, who brought the company the European 250cc Moto Cross Championship in 1960 and 1961; it was the world title in everything but name. Another youthful recruit was Bill Wilkinson, who stunned the motorcycle world in 1960 by winning the British Experts Trial on a Greeves with his 'L' plates attached.
Bert Greeves had a wry sense of humour. When the factory entered road racing with the 250cc Silverstone model and twice won the 250cc Manx Grand Prix over the TT course, he encouraged his drawing office to sketch a design for a 125cc world championship contender. It was intended simply to set the rumours flowing. When the news was leaked, Greeves sat in the rocking office chair he designed (it used a motorcycle suspension unit to control the motion) and savoured the speculation.
Derry Preston Cobb shared Greeves's sense of fun, and at one time his Invacar was fitted with a 250cc racing engine that reputedly gave it a top speed of 80mph. He drove it with scant regard for his own safety and more than once had to be rescued from underneath, after turning it over.
Greeves was appointed MBE in 1972, in recognition of the work he had done for the disabled through Invacar. Ironically, it came when motorcycle production at Thundersley was ending, as an ingenious David was finally overwhelmed by Goliath.
Oscar Pistorius trial: Defence witness contradicts athlete version
Oscar Pistorius trial: The case against Oscar Pistorius – and why the prosecution claims his story doesn't add up
South Korea ferry: Captain Lee Joon-seok could face criminal investigation as over 280 remain missing
Peaches Geldof dead: Private funeral for the family and friends of the socialite will take place next week
Shropshire criminals ‘using unmanned drones and infrared cameras to find illegal cannabis farms’ – and then steal from the growers
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
- 1 Poveglia: 'World's most haunted island' up for sale...is anyone brave enough to buy it?
- 2 The Hobbit: There and Back Again set for possible title change
- 3 Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'
- 4 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 5 Andre Johnson: Wu-Tang Clan-discovered rapper severed his penis and jumped from LA building
£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SharePoi...
£80000 - £95000 per annum: Charter Selection: A leading Global organisation Ja...