Issue 17 Jul-Aug 2008
Back Issues

Scrapheap Challenge

Blackpool MAG like a bit of scrap

Hi, I am Captain Coxy a.k.a. Tony Cox, NW Regional Rep for MAG, and member of the "Dark Riders" a.k.a. Blackpool MAG. Our first appearance in Channel 4's "Scrapheap Challenge" has already been aired and hopefully you will have seen it, but for those of you who have not, here is a short account of events.

It all started over a year ago, when Blackpool MAG was approached by the show's producers, who were looking for a group of "Bikers" to appear in their next series. After much discussion, three team members were elected, and I was named as standby. This was until one of the chosen few announced that he would have to be taught how to weld, grind, use oxy-acetylene and all the other basics, at which point I was promoted to full team member.

We sent off the forms, attended an interview in Liverpool, produced a video of our team doing biker build type things, and low and behold, out of 120+ teams that entered, we were selected for the series.

Choosing the team name caused a few problems, as we were not allowed to use MAG in the title, it being viewed as too political. Other amusing quips were quickly discarded due to the repercussions they may have caused, and we were running out of ideas. The show's producers then suggested that we use the name of a notorious London MC who, when they found out, were less than happy at having their name used and kindly informed me on the phone that bones would get broken and people would get hurt if we were to use their name. So, it was decided that we would be the "Dark Riders" comprising Grobo, Tony and me, Captain Coxy.

Our first challenge was to make a dune buggy in which we had to race around a sand quarry in Milton Keynes, in fact the very same quarry that they filmed "The Mummy". Our opposition was an excellent bunch of guys who are VW camper van fanatics from the South West, aptly named "The Happy Campers".

Our expert who joined the team on this challenge was a chap who went by the name of Beady. His specialities include building vehicles to compete in the Lisbon-Dakar rally, and what a top bloke he turned out to be.

We all pretty much agreed on what the build should be based on, and Grobo and Tony set about looking for a donor motorcycle to power our buggy. One was soon found, and we began to build our machine using a Yamaha 750 Genesis engine&gearbox driving through a Subaru rear axle via the original sprockets and chains, with the whole shebang being steered by a Volvo rack of all things.

We achieved "fiddle" braking on the rear axle by means of keeping the bike handle bars and hydraulic actuators piped through to each of the rear brake slave cylinders, independently. All the donor parts were cobbled together with copious amounts of stock box section steel, which was found on the heap. Things went well, and we managed to complete the build within the ten hours. We then decided to drive round to the Happy Campers garage, just to cheese them off, and it worked. In the ten years the series has been running, this was the first time this had ever happened, and we were well chuffed, It was then back to the pub where we were all staying to have a few jars and contemplate the day's events, and the race ahead.

Race day was soon upon us and on arrival at the quarry the enormity of the challenge became apparent. The course they had set us was immense, but very tight in places, and it became apparent that we may have chosen wisely in our light and nimble build. The Happy Campers had gone for power and 4WD, but their machine looked quite hard to manoeuvre and we were feeling quietly confident that we could beat them around the course as long as we could achieve sufficient traction. It had been decided by the producers that we would both do two runs, the quickest individual time winning the contest. After winning the toss of a coin, we decided to put the campers in first so as to clear a path for us. We were then shepherded away so that we could not witness their run.

From our hide-away, we could not view the opposition's run, but we could assess the time they took to complete the course from the sound of their engine, and it seemed very quick. We decided that our first attempt at the course should be made by Beady and Grobo, Beady controlling the power and steering, and Grobo controlling the fiddle brakes.

The buggy was wheeled to the start line, but it was obvious that something was wrong with the engine which was miss-firing. It was too late to do anything about it and as the hooter sounded, Beady powered our machine off the line and the buggy launched from the top of the quarry and around the first bend, skating over the soft sand. It careered down the hill and spun on it's axis to power up the other side of the course, to cross the line in, what seemed like, a fantastically quick time. We were all very jubilant as we were led away, so as not to be able to witness our opposition's second attempt at the course. Once again, the length of time we could hear their engine powering around the course seemed minuscule.

It was time for our second run, and as I climbed into the co-drivers seat next to Tony, I noticed this strange glazed mad red mist look in his eyes. I was worried!

The engine was still miss-firing, only running on three, but just as the hooter sounded for us to go, it came on song and was firing on all four, Tony floored it, and we took off... literally! I began to realise that no matter how hard I pulled on the brakes, they would not work whilst airborne. We landed in one of the sand banks, and that was the end of our run as no matter how hard we tried to get going again, we had to admit defeat.

So it was all down to whether our one successful run was quicker than either of the runs of the Happy Campers. We all gathered at the base of the course and listened to the round ups from the presenters, Robert Llewellyn and the lovely Lisa Rogers. Tensions were high, and yes we genuinely did not know who had won until they made the final announcement that the "Dark Riders" were the victors!!

What a fantastic feeling, knowing that we had made it through to the next round, and another adventure on the heap.

Channel 4 has decided to split this series again into two parts, so our second appearance will be shown later on this year when the series returns. Will there be a third appearance of the "Dark Riders"? Watch this space...?

Tony Cox NW Regional Rep


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