Martin Neale

Hello, my name is Martin Neale. I'm a Design Engineer and Project Manager with a background in precision mechanical engineering.

I had a keen interest in how things worked from an early age. I would dismantle various machinery and appliances to see how they worked. Some were reassembled successfully, some were not.

On leaving school I secured myself a mechanical engineering apprenticeship with a local Defence engineering company. I won the coveted apprentice of the year award and spent over ten years in the Design & Development department designing and testing optoelectronic sighting systems for armoured fighting vehicles and aircraft. During that time I managed many projects to retrofit old vehicles with new technology to improve reliability and performance. The concept of improving an old design to make it a contender against modern equipment undertaking a similar role was something I found particularly interesting and have used that approach in other scenarios.

As an engineer, I don't just replace a part to treat a symptom, I seek to understand what caused the failure, repair it and improve it so it doesn't happen again if at all possible. I find today's disposable society a challenge at times as it becomes increasingly harder to buy the item that failed without having to buy a complete sub-assembly containing it.

My first motorcycle was found under the hedge in the garden of a house next door to one I was helping to renovate as a pocket money job during the summer holiday. With the help of my father, an experienced mechanic, I soon had the little bike tearing up and down the garden path.

After a year of riding a variety of mopeds and then a couple of Japanese lightweight motorcycles on the road, I bought my first British motorcycle, a Triumph 5TA Speed Twin. This seemed an awesome beast at the time with so much character and the sound it made through its megaphone silencers was truly impressive. It didn't matter that my college mate's Suzuki GT250 could see it off. The Triumph was closely followed by a 1974 Norton Commando 850 MkIIA. Then in 1978 the Norton was sold to fund four wheels and I bought what I thought was one of the ugliest motorcycles I'd ever seen. A complete bike in an awful state, mainly due to an earlier owner giving the entire machine a coat of metallic orange and metallic green paint. Even the cables and tyres had been painted! My uncle, also an engineer, had purchased it to restore in his retirement but found he was too busy so offered it to me. It was a 1956 BSA B31 350 single. The main criteria for the purchase was price.

Martin Neale

After a strip down and repaint with little attention paid to the engine internals because it was 'a runner' it was on the road in standard trim and I soon realised that this was not one of the most powerful machines to come out of the Armoury Road factory. That bike found a place in my heart due in part to its simplicity and immense staying power and is now part of the family. I have added 12 volt electrics and tuned the engine over the years to make it usable on today’s roads.

The B31 is still with me and I have another Commando. I also have a few classic cars in my stable, including an MG Midget and a Triumph Stag.

I believe vehicles were made to be used and the British weather shouldn't spoil the enjoyment of doing that. It's important that if it's going to be used, it must be durable and modern technology and materials can be employed to create a practical vehicle for everyday use. I enjoy the challenge of researching the issues to find a practical solution to keep classics on the road.