Three months to live – but Gordon gets some travel life
In 2005, at age 57, Gordon North learned devastating news: he had about three months to live.
A cardiologist told her that, despite a previous surgery, her atherosclerosis – the thickening or hardening of the arteries caused by a buildup of plaque – was so severe that there was nothing that could be done.
So instead of going to bed feeling gloomy, he got out of one of his vintage Panther motorcycles, strapped in his wife Pauline’s sidecar and drove off towards sunset.
The couple didn’t limit their road trip to the British shores – they took a ferry from the North Sea and set off on a trip through Europe.
They had a great time traveling through Belgium and later France where they met other Panther owners during a rally.
“Pauline really liked it, except in Belgium where it never stopped raining and where the sidecar was an open-top model,” recalls Gordon, now 73 years old.
Having received a bad hand, he was determined to have fun. “Taking Pauline on the international journey was a defining moment for me, as I was determined to live life to the fullest – what was left of it – and not be worried about minor inconveniences like death,” says- he.
He survived the trip and – surprisingly – still enjoys rides on his Panther. “Quacks are just very bad mechanics,” he says wryly. “Their prediction was that I would die, and I obviously will at some point, that’s just the timescale they got it wrong on. I’m sure the trip rekindled me.
Gordon became interested in the Panthers while working as an apprentice printer at Heckmondwike, not far from the Cleckheaton factory where the iconic bikes were made. He would pass there to pick up spare parts for the motorcycles he was repairing.
“They had a spare parts store where I could buy things like spark plugs, nuts and bolts. I used to repair motorcycles part-time and later opened a motorcycle shop in Dewsbury when the Panthers were still popular as a form of transportation for family and work.
He bought his first Panther, a red two-stroke, in 1999. “I bought it at Bailiff Bridge. It was an unfinished project but the man who restored it died, and I bought it from his son. I bought my first four stroke from a Scholes man – it was a 1948 – the same age as me at the time.
He has four Panthers – “the ideal number of Panthers to own is one more than you already have” – and loves their character. “They have old world charm, they are fun to drive and will always get you home (if you don’t polish them, hence the saying ‘chrome won’t bring you home) so sometimes on a fender and a prayer. ”
He has traveled most of the UK and Western Europe. “But I’m not the globetrotter that some of the other members are – Slovenia, Finland, Norway and East Germany are recent international rallies that I haven’t been to because I don’t like camping these days New Zealand and Colorado were in the recent past, but I couldn’t afford these trips.
The sound of a Panther is very distinctive, says Gordon, as he explains how Richard Moore, who produced Panthers in partnership with Joah Phelon, was a steam engineer, “and the Panthers have a lot in common with steam engines. – they get very hot, sometimes dribble oil, are very slow in revving and the fable is that the engine turns on once at each lamppost. When most bikes would need the gearbox to shift a gear , the Panther will shift into a higher gear and you will be able to hear every loud beat.
It is impossible to say how many are left in the world. “Nobody knows, but in the UK there will be maybe three or four thousand. ”
The Panther Owners’ Club (POC) has approximately 900 members. “almost everyone has three or more Panther’s and there are a lot of Panther owners who are not POC members – more to fool them as the POC spares system means that all important spares are always available for you. members only. ”
Gordon had another health problem in 2012 when, at a Panther rally in France, he had a heart attack. He was taken by helicopter to hospital and treated urgently.
This year, Gordon traveled to Germany for the Monschau rally, where riders roam the Eiffel Mountains. “I took my bike in my van so I could take part in the breathtaking ride through the mountains, zigzagging in and out of the border between Germany and Belgium. It was the last Monschau Rally that my friend Georg – who has at least six Panthers – will host, as his health is deteriorating, ”says Gordon.
Gordon has spent many years editing Sloper – the POC’s monthly magazine, named after the tilted cylinder featured on various models – the POC’s monthly magazine, and has written about the Panthers for various publications.
* In September, an information board was unveiled at the Home Bargains store site in Cleckheaton, which once housed the Phelon & Moore motorcycle factory, which made the Panthers. About 30 Panther owners, including Gordon, came to the event with their bikes.
* The Yorkshire section of POC meets at Commercial in Cleckheaton – near the factory site – on the first Sunday of the month starting at noon. New members are welcome.