At Lunch With… Mick Broom

Mike Broom

by classic-bike |
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He’s an engineer who’s worked on an eclectic range of projects with people like Lord Hesketh, Kenny Roberts and John Bloor, and held multiple lap records too. But that’s not why he made the front page of his local paper…


Mike Broom

I did have a lot more stuff,” says Mick Broom, as he welcomes Classic Bike into his workshop, “but it all got destroyed when the hovercraft caught fire.” For a moment, my brain is distracted by the concept of him having ‘more stuff’ when I can already see a plane, two steam engines, a curious hub-centre-steered bike, numerous machine tools and what looks like a gas turbine around the place. Then the phrase ‘hovercraft fire’ sinks in...

“I’d got a Kohler V-twin for the plane, and to test it I’d put it in a hovercraft that I’d built,” says Mick casually, as if fitting aero engines into home-made hovercrafts is what we all get up to at weekends. “Being lazy, I sprayed Easy Start in to get it going – and it blew back and blasted me right off the top of the hovercraft.

“I was completely on fire, and had to roll round to put myself out – but unfortunately it had burnt my hands so badly that I couldn’t pull the pins out of the fire extinguisher. Then both my sheds caught fire. There were welding gas bottles in one of them, so the fire brigade evacuated the village. I was airlifted to hospital. It was quite serious,” he says, chuckling like a naughty schoolboy.

Chatting to Mick, it soon becomes clear he’s packed a lot more into his 80 years than just his famous crusade to keep Hesketh motorcycles on the road. Besides building hovercrafts, it transpires he came up with a carbon frame for Kenny Roberts’ Yamaha GP team, created a three-wheeled car for Suzuki, built Hinckley Triumph’s first aluminium frame, flew his home-built microlight in the world championships, turned Foggy Petronas racers into road bikes, built his own barge and entertained the crowds at the British GP by riding up and down on a home-made jet-propelled bicycle. Eccentric engineering genius? Oh yes...

It all started with racing, after he saw some photos of the TT and liked the idea of going as fast as he wanted. However, not having any friends or relatives into racing, the first time he ever went to a track was for his first race. “It was Snetterton, and they had to tell me which direction to go round. I borrowed some leathers from an old speedway rider and got some fireman’s boots and I was away.

“I was on a 1926 Big Port AJS – a road bike I’d borrowed. All I’d done was to take the head off and skim a bit off the barrel, put in a high-comp piston and change it to run on dope. That was it – it still had the hand pump on the top to feed oil through. The big end blew up at the end of the straight after one lap, but I liked the feeling and it just progressed from there. Racing vintage bikes was easier then; you had no trouble getting entries because it wasn’t very well supported.” Mick was 18 at the time.

“I used the same bike for the first year, then I moved onto a 1930 works AJS that I borrowed – there were lots of people who had interesting bikes but weren’t riding them and wanted to see them in action. I was getting thirds and fourths, which was good enough for more people to give me bikes to ride.”

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