Richard Joseph (Dick) Ifield
Influence of Motor Cycles
Although motor cycling was never more than an educational hobby for Dick, he said that, more people in Australia remembered him for his motor cycling achievements, than for the more important achievements of his life. Whereas, they remembered his brother John for his riding achievements, they remembered Dick, mainly for his achievements in improving the performances of standard motor cycles. These achievements were important to his subsequent career, because they increased his confidence in his engineering talents and they caused him to concentrate these talents on prime movers and transmission systems.
In his seventeenth year, his brother John and he shared in the purchase of a second hand 1923 model 350cc A.J.S. This partnership was a failure, because John wanted only to ride it and Dick wanted only to pull it apart and improve its performance. They sold that machine and thereafter owned separate machines.
Because it was the cheapest machine available, Dick purchased a second hand 1918 model twin cylinder Harley Davidson, which was a heavy clumsy thing to ride, but it offered plenty of scope for performance improvements. He won an invitation competition event and then joined the organising motor cycle club. This enabled him to test his future improvements, in competition with other riders and machines.
He replaced the Harley Davidson with a new 1928 model 350cc A.J.S., which he used mainly in reliability trials with moderate success, but with increasing riding skills.
Later, he replaced the A.J.S. with a new 1930 model 350cc Calthorpe, which he said, was a delight to ride and gave him plenty of scope for improving performances, because the Calthorpe Company had not developed their machines for competitive work. He modified the Calthorpe engine in many important ways and he replaced the gear change with a device of his own design and manufacture.
This gave him advantages over other competitors, especially for small circuit road races and other events necessitating frequent gear changing.
Dick won several trophies on the Calthorpe; he established new hill climbing records and a new Australian Record for the two way quarter mile standing start. He received a letter from the Calthorpe Company, congratulating him and seeking information on his tuning techniques, because they wished to achieve similar performances. This gave a boost to his engineering ego and it was a factor influencing his later decision to take his ideas to England, because there were no motor car or motor cycle manufacturers in Australia.
In 1932, Dick replaced the Calthorpe with a 490cc International Norton and he soon regretted doings so, because he then had insufficient funds to make worthwhile improvements and he could only compete on even terms with more experienced riders on similar machines. This was his last motor cycle and he sold it when he married in the following year.
Long after he left Australia, his brother John continued to compete successfully in motor cycle events. In a discussion, after his return to Australia, they realised that if they had combined Dick's tuning talents with John's riding talents, they would have become a formidable partnership in motor cycle competition, but this would not have given Dick the satisfaction he gained from his chosen career.
Several motor cyclists asked him to make and fit his positive foot operated gear change device to their machines and this led to the beginning of an independent career, which will be discussed later.
Many one time motor cyclists believe that Dick's gear change device was his invention in principle, but this is incorrect. The principle had been employed for the Isle of Man T.T. motor cycles in the previous year, however Dick's design was more simple and more readily adaptable to machines of different makes; also for application to Harley Davidson and Indian machines, he included the clutch lifting and re-engaging function with the pedal movement, but he sold few of these, mainly because they were more expensive.
Dick's work in tuning motor cycles, caused him to realise many of the shortcomings of internal combustion engines and step change transmissions so he began evolving new designs to avoid these shortcomings. During that time, he took out his first Provisional Patent on engine valves, to provide increasing breathing capacity and he evolved a scheme for an infinitely variable transmission. He discussed these ideas with the manager of P.& R. Williams, who could only recommend that he should submit his ideas to overseas manufactures.