This story was taken from the very 1st issue of HOG magazine published in summer 1989   Crew1.gif (977 bytes)

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Southport is a nice, quiet, seaside town, just across the bay from bustling Blackpool. People retire to Southport. take their daily constitutionals along the seafront, or stroll gently through the Victorian cast-iron and glass shopping colonnades. Southport is Lancashire’s equivalent of Palm Springs. It’s also where Albert Emmet lives. Albert doesn’t believe in growing old grace­fully. When you meet him you get the impress­ion he doesn’t believe in growing old at all. At a time of life when less hardy souls prefer to spend their days pottering around the allot­ment, Albert is still riding Harleys. Not only that, he’s one of the prime characters in the infamous Harley Wrecking Crew, a group of hard riding, hard drinking Harley freaks loosely based around The Rabbit public house in down-town Southport       


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What’s in a name, do they destroy Harleys? I had to ask.‘Nah,’ says Albert, ‘it’s ‘cos we’re always friggin’ wrecked.’

The group have been together in one form or another since about 1969, although the name’s a more recent introduction, coined a few years ago when they were all much the worse for wear at a rally in Holland. It’s a very unofficial gathering; there’s no club politics. If you want to go on a run you turn up if you’ve got something else to do nobody bothers, and there are no set weekly meetings, (everyone’s always in The Rabbit anyway). No-one was even able to tell me how many of them there actually were, but in a world full of regulations and restrictions that’s probably no bad thing. One of the guys filled me in on the spontaneous nature of the gatherings.

‘We were all in this club one night, an’ Billy had to go to London the next day. So someone says they’ll take him on their bike. Then Lord Lucan (so called because no-one ever knows where he is true to form he was missing the day I met them) says he’ll go, an’ Albert says we’ll all go. The guy who originally thought of the idea goes home for his bike, forgets, and falls asleep, and the rest of us set off. This is eleven-thirty at night in November. We were back by three the next day but it was a bit bloody cold in Epping Forest!’

In a bunch of such crazies, Albert is some­thing of a leading light. He doesn’t mince words, says what he thinks, and doesn’t suffer fools gladly.

‘I went to one of those Harley owners’ things once.’ he says,’Thev were looking around me bike and asking about the ‘personal’ number plate. It’s bloody N reg, and they were asking how I got it on a ‘new’ bike. Never noticed the hand-change, only the friggin’ number-plate. I got back on me bike and pissed off.’

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Albert’s bike is a ‘74 Electra-Glide, with a hand-change and foot-clutch he fitted up him­self. He’s also fitted a manual advance/retard, worked by a left-hand twistgrip.

‘Read in a book somewhere that Harley said you can’t make it fit to this engine. So I went out and bloody did it. Mate of mine turned up the parts on a lathe. Always ridden with one it’s what you get used to.’

I asked Albert what he thought about the new Harlevs?

‘They’re okay I suppose. Wouldn’t have one meself. They’ve only got a pissy little bearing to operate the clutch, you couldn’t convert them to foot-clutch. Mine’s got a bloody big taper-roller, you could slip the clutch to Scotland. So I’d have to have a hand clutch and I don’t fancy one of them after all this time.’

His views on the new Springer?

‘Anyone who buys a new bike with springer forks needs his head examining. Yeh okay, they look nice. Couldn’t wait to get shut of mine, friggin’ bushes always wearing out.’

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And tuning?

‘Some of the guys are into it. Bloody big carbs and you can’t get your foot on the footrest. Great big cams and solid lifters that smash the needle rollers in the cam-bearings. Oh yeh, they say, I get so much power at such and such revs. But if they’re in front I get there right behind them, and if I’m in front I get there first. My Bendix has let me down once in fifteen years, little speck of muck in the jet, and a quick poke with a strand from a wire brush and it was like new again.’

In forty-two years of riding, Albert’s only had three bikes. The WLA he started on in ‘47, which he kept until ‘79, the Glide he has now, which he bought in ‘74 when it was six months old, and a ‘58 Duo-Glide.

‘Bought the Duo-Glide for five-hundred quid, and had it seventeen years. Got two and a half grand for it when I sold it.’

Albert gives you a friendly punch on the shoulder to emphasise the humour as he tells this tale. It would have floored an elephant. The laws of the land and decency forbid me from telling you much more of the tales I heard, but I really did enjoy meeting Albert, and the rest of the crew for that matter. With that I guess I’ll leave the last word to Billy.

‘It’s like this with Albert. We were going to the Isle of Man one year, an’ we’re late for the boat. Bin stuck behind this cop car. So when it stops at the lights Albert rides up alongside. Top brass are in there, gold braid around the hats, you know the sort of thing. Albert pounds on the roof with his fist, and down comes the window. ‘Look, we’re late for the ferry, an’ if you buggers stay in front of us we’ll be later still. Turn off somewhere will you?’ What happened? They only bloody turned off didn’t they?’

Life with Albert and the Wrecking Crew seems to be a succession of such incidents. If you ever get in The Rabbit, and spot a guy with a guitar who looks like a silver-haired Johnny Cash, with a laugh you can hear above every­thing else, buy him a pint from me will you?