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Alvin 'Spike' Rhiando - my grandfather


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#1 Romayne Lewis

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Posted 21 February 2002 - 18:06

I am trying to trace the career, and early life, of my grandfather, Alvin "Spike" Rhiando, when he was in America around 1930-1944, or thereabouts and possibly even after World War 2. He was born in Saskatchewan, Canada (so I believe, at around 1917) and raced in America (with a possible reference to Mexico) in speedway, dirt track and midget car racing. He came to England in the late forties and was well known here in his various motor racing exploits at Silverstone and other racing circuits.

When he arrived in England he was known as the "American Dirt Track Ace". I wish to know how this came about. I would love to solve this mystery and to know what things he got up to in America and Canada in his first 30 years of his life.

Other information about him would also be fantastic to have as well.

I look forward to hearing for anyone who knows him or has information on him.

Yours
Romayne Lewis (nee Rhiando)

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#2 Doug Nye

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Posted 21 February 2002 - 18:23

The spectcularly self-promoting Spike Rhiando is very well remembered by many here in England. His gold-lacquered 'Banana Split' Cooper 1000 and his loud chequered shirts established the persona - the general public often believed him to be American, an impression he did not dispel - his Trimax 50cc F3 car was a pioneering stressed-skin monocoque-chassised racing car, years before the epochal Lotus 25 introduced that type of construction successfully to Formula 1... and so much more. As a self-publicist his origins became a subject of grave suspicion for many less impressed by his antics than some. At least one motor racing authority always confided to me that 'Rhiando has never been further west than Greenford Stadium' - in west London, doubting he was from the Americas at all!

Spike Rhiando was said to have made some money hiring our earth-moving machines to HM Government in the controversial West African ground nut scheme - a splendidly batty British Government colonial cock-up of the early 1950s - but you as part of his family will probably know far more of that. E-mail me direct and I can give you names and addresses of a number who associated with him in his racing days.

DCN

#3 Romayne Lewis

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Posted 21 February 2002 - 20:46

Dear Doug Nye

Got your e-mail about my grandfather, Spike Rhiando, and read it with great interest. Everything I am receiving about him is very entertaining. He certainly was a very colourful, and yet mysterious, person! I am aware of the West African ground nut scheme, through my father. He remembers alot about it. Both he and I are keen for names and addresses of anyone which we can get into contact to piece together his life history. Any help you can give me would be very much appreciated.

Many thanks for getting in touch.

Kind regards
Romayne Lewis

#4 bpratt

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Posted 21 February 2002 - 22:50

Romayne,

Don Radbruch had forwarded your request concerning Spike Rhiando. I do have a photocopy of a series of articles written by Spike for Topical Times in February, 1939. All I can really offer is photocopies of photocopies but they are readable and entertaining.

Part one is called Round the Wall of Death on Roller Skates!

Part two, Thrown Out of My Car Into the Crowd!

Part three, Adventures with the Stars in Hollywood

and Part four, Dodging Snipers on a Motor-bike

You might already have these articles. If not email me a bpratt@paralynx.com to arrange for me to mail them to you.

cheers,
Brian Pratt
Burnaby, BC, Canada

#5 rbm

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Posted 23 February 2007 - 12:55

a tad after the fact but :Posted Image
the picture shows what is claimed to be Spikes 1948 Cooper mk2 (chassis 7) Banana Split with the 1948 ex-Kenya mk2 (chassis 10)

#6 petefenelon

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Posted 23 February 2007 - 13:00

Originally posted by bpratt
Romayne,

Don Radbruch had forwarded your request concerning Spike Rhiando. I do have a photocopy of a series of articles written by Spike for Topical Times in February, 1939. All I can really offer is photocopies of photocopies but they are readable and entertaining.

Part one is called Round the Wall of Death on Roller Skates!

Part two, Thrown Out of My Car Into the Crowd!

Part three, Adventures with the Stars in Hollywood

and Part four, Dodging Snipers on a Motor-bike

You might already have these articles. If not email me a bpratt@paralynx.com to arrange for me to mail them to you.

cheers,
Brian Pratt
Burnaby, BC, Canada


Can't add anything re: Mr Rhiando, but they're some of the best titles this side of Smokey Yunick's autobiography!

#7 RS2000

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Posted 23 February 2007 - 14:07

Wasn't Marcus Chambers involved in the "Ground Nuts" saga - and returned to become Competition Manager of BMC?

#8 fuzzi

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Posted 02 October 2008 - 10:51

Yesterday I was doing some research at the British Library Newspaper archive at Colindale. While working my way through some Light Car & Cycle Car Magazines I came across several references to Spike Riando.

In March 1934 Sports Jottings by "The Blower" (who I think was Rodney Walkerley) 'Spike Rhiando arrived from the States a few moths ago with ideas of starting Car Dirt-Track racing on American lines. He has made Greenford his headquarters and contacted the LC&CC to tell us things were nearly ready for the first meeting on 24 March. The races are for cars with no capacity limit and he has gathered Vernon Balls, the Conan Doyle brothers and R.G.J. Nash. Spkike's own 1.5 litre Miller is due in a few weeks, the Conan Doyles are to run a Dusenberg and Nash has a Fronty Ford. More anon.' There was more: On 16 March 'Met Spike and a few of his supporters at Greenford among them Miss Cynthia Sedgwick, Adrian and Dennis Conan Doyle and John Eason Gibson. I gather the opening meeting will be on 30 March and Spike's Miller arrives next week.' The next week on 23 March entries were invited for the event at Greenford.

Then on 30 March 1934 ' the RAC intervened to stop the Dirt-Track Race Meeting. Practice alone will now be allowed at the Greenford Track which has been converted into a replica of Ascot Speedway, California.'

While all this was going on Car Dirt-Track racing was happening at Crystal Palace organised by Mr Jean Reville for modified fwd BSA four-wheeled cars. Offering races over four laps totalling 1796 yards with "apprecialbly banked" bends. And on Good Friday the meeting took place with three teams of three drivers contesting the 20 races. Crystal Palace Captained by Jean Reville used Palmer Specials (fwd BSA) Wembley Park led by Victor Gillow used Rileys and Wimbledon Park captained by Tommy Sulman (the "New South Wales Champion") drove the Sulman Special. A field of three cars began each race (it maybe only 3 cars raced with different drivers) and the Riley proved to lap fastest at 38.48mph. Dick Nash brought along his supercharged Frazer Nash Special "The Spook" and in a demonstration set a 1500cc record at 45sec an average speed of 40.81mph.

On 11 May 1934 there was an account of the meeting at Greeenford held by the Speedway Racing Club. Five 5 lap races took place, the first two won by Arthur Baron (Bugatti) with a best average of 56mph). The next race was won by V.W. Derrington in his supercharged Salmson at 52.66mph and AJ Mazengarb (Lea Francis) took the third at 53.78 and R.C. Clerk (Austin 7) won the last at 50.34mph. Dick Nash again made demonstration laps (with no time recorded) after which Baron, Mazengarb and Conan Doyle (Mercedes Benz) had a go at the lap record with the Lea Francis coming out on top with a 35 4/5sec lap at a speed of 59.28mph. Next a 30 lap race took place and was won by T.P. Cholmondley-Tapper (Bugatti 1.5litre) at 55.31mph and the last ten lap race was won by J.F. (that's what it said) Sulman in the Sulman Special at 52.16mph. 'Spike Rhiando came over specially from the states and closed the meeting with a dashing lap in Hodge's Singer.'

I stopped taking notes on Dirt Track stuff after that, but it's another thread in the Rhiando story.

PS Yes Marcus Chambers was involved with the Groundnuts Scheme - it all in his book "With a little bit of Luck" which is a cracking tale of his life.

#9 Vitesse2

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Posted 02 October 2008 - 11:19

Cholmondeley-Tapper devotes about a page and a half of "Amateur Racing Driver" to the Greenford meeting. He found it "dull and uninteresting" and seems to have been the only person who actually got any money out of Spike for it: gate receipts had been "not up to expectations" and it was proposed to roll over the prize money to the next one. C-T had no intention of competing there again and managed to extract £20 from Rhiando. He never did get the other £10 he was owed!

Fuzzi: 'The Blower' was firstly Rodney Walkerley and then Harold C Hastings. I haven't established when RW moved from Light Car to The Motor though:

http://forums.autosp...518#post2774518

#10 HiRich

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Posted 02 October 2008 - 11:44

Originally posted by Doug Nye
The spectcularly self-promoting Spike Rhiando is very well remembered by many here in England.

Though frustratingly everyone seems to just take a puff on their metaphorical pipe, say "Aah, Spike Rhiando..." but never actually fill in the details.

Whilst no-one seems to have either spotted or photographed it, the restored Trimax made an appearance at the Revival this year (it was due to race, but pipes & wiring installation weren't finished). The chassis is quite superb - way ahead of its time. And I think we may have an inkling now of why it was not successful - the wide engine bay has no integrated engine mounts. As a result, restorer Tony Steele has constructed a massive sub-assembly for the drivetrain that must weigh half as much as the bare chassis (and that's not to insult Tony, owner Duncan Rabagliati tells me it's much smaller than what was installed when he bought the car).

Hopefully we can convince Duncan and Tony to have it ready for the season finale at Mallory. I have a red lumberjack short and am on the look out for a beret so we can get Romayne a suitable "rebirth" photo.

#11 P. Dron

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Posted 02 October 2008 - 12:58

Originally posted by Vitesse2
I haven't established when RW moved from Light Car to The Motor though:

http://forums.autosp...518#post2774518


Rodney joined The Motor in early 1934, I believe. Nearly half a century later, I was Features Editor of Motor, which had by then lost its definite article. I arranged for a four-car group test we were running to Wales to stop in Tewkesbury, where we (well, IPC) treated Rodney to lunch. He was by then very frail and he died within a few months. I cannot recall the year precisely, but it was around 1980. Maurice Rowe, Motor's Chief Photographer, and I attended the funeral. Rodney's coffin was placed in the hearse, which headed off towards the crematorium. "Oh, that'll be far too fast for Rodney!" said Maurice, who added how amused some colleagues had been about the nom de plume Grande Vitesse , because Rodney was renowned for being a very slow driver.

#12 HFJ Drifter

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Posted 02 October 2008 - 13:14

Posted Image

Heres a picture from the revival.
Bodywork by Roach Manufacturing, mechanical by Tony Steele.

#13 David McKinney

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Posted 02 October 2008 - 13:21

Originally posted by HiRich
Whilst no-one seems to have either spotted or photographed it, the restored Trimax made an appearance at the Revival this year

We all spotted it, Rich, but the real excitement had been when we first saw it tin 2007 (or was it 2006?)

#14 Sharman

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Posted 02 October 2008 - 15:22

It's hard to imagine John Eason Gibson at a Dirt Track Meeting, he always struck me as being above "that sort of thing"

#15 fines

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Posted 02 October 2008 - 16:49

Originally posted by P. Dron
Rodney was renowned for being a very slow driver.

And a good bloke, he! :smoking:;)

Does anyone know if that Miller ever got to the sunny shores of Britain?

#16 Milan Fistonic

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Posted 23 February 2009 - 03:19

This photo appeared in the February 1955 edition of an Australian magazine titled CARS.


Posted Image


Does anyone know if he went ahead with the trip, and if so, was he successful in reaching South Africa?

#17 RStock

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 01:20

Originally posted by Milan Fistonic
This photo appeared in the February 1955 edition of an Australian magazine titled CARS.


Posted Image


Does anyone know if he went ahead with the trip, and if so, was he successful in reaching South Africa?


I found this about it at the 500 site .

Spike’s mind was now on other things, and his racing programme reduced. He had become interested in the new glass fibre material. He came up with a very neat scooter concept and built a prototype.

To prove the concept, he decided to ride it from London to Cape Town. In typical Spike-style, preparation basically involved packing a small bag and setting off! Somewhere in the Sahara, he was found in a very poor state, resting in the shade of a large rock, by a patrol of the French Foreign Legion. The scooter had worked fine, and may still be by that rock.


A story there on him . Might help fill in some unknown details .

http://www.500race.o...ike Rhiando.htm

#18 Milan Fistonic

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 07:53

Thanks for that Robby.

#19 Squire Straker

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 10:43

There was a very good article about Rhiando by Guy Griffiths in The Automobile in April 1999. This also mentioned the construction of the Shamrock car Ireland in the late 1950s.
SS

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#20 terry mcgrath

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Posted 01 June 2010 - 10:10

Spike Rhiando - updated
I have copied this from the new thread http://forums.autosp...howtopic=130068 onto this old thread to keep it all together
I personally am trying to find out more on the SS100 that Rhiando raced can any help
terry


Romayne Lewis
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There are quite a few of you who have helped me in trying to find out about the origins of my grandfather, Alvin James 'Spike' Rhiando, over the years. All comments, thoughts and ideas have been greatly appreciated.

I am extremely happy to say that I am about 85% there, and thought I would share my findings with you:

Spike Rhiando was born on 6th April 1910 in Berlin, Germany. His birth name was Albert J Stevens.

His father was called Albert John Stevens (the juggler Rebla) who performed in various theatres and was born in Highbury, London..

His mother was Elizabeth Albrecht who was German and born in Leipzig, Germany. She came from a circus background.

When young Albert was 1 year old, he was living with his parents in Highbury/Islington area of London - then went to live in Lewisham, London. Elizabeth lived in London until she died in the 1950s. Rebla emmigrated on his own to Melbourne, Australia in 1940 (and died there in 1963).

Rebla was a very naughty boy and had an affair and in 1927 Elizabeth divorced Rebla. The Divorce Petition States that Elizabeth and her son were living at 38 Lewisham Park, Lewisham. Young Albert was 17 year's old at this time.

So that covers upto 1927. So from 1927/8 young Albert Stevens completely disappeared and in 1932/3 Spike Rhiando appeared!!
So there is a missing piece in the jigsaw for the years between 1928-1933.

Between these years there was speedway racing in Norwich. There were two mysterious riders who appeared during this time - and disappeared again soon afterwards. They are Alvin James Franchetti and/or Spike Antonio Riando. Has anyone got any information or any photos of these riders to confirm if they all the same person?
Help with this final missing piece would be great to know.

For those of us, including me, who thought Spike was born and travelled the world, was completely wrong (save for the fact that he spent the first few month's of his life in Germany!). In fact I have traced his paternal family further back and they all came from Chertsey in Surrey in the 1800s!!

Spike died 9th November 1975 in Marylebone, London. His name entered on the Death Cert was Alvin Maxwell Rhiando.

All the best, Romayne :-).




Doug Nye
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Congratulations Romayne - so much of the jigsaw now resolved. Glad to have been able to help just a tiny bit. Albert Stevens, eh? Who would have thought it...

Interestingly, both juggling and racing motorcycles and cars demand fine coordination. Take a look at Rebla's capabilities here - http://www.britishpa...rd.php?id=36937 - perhaps 'Spike' inherited the gene?

DCN


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QUOTE (Doug Nye @ May 28 2010, 09:55)
Congratulations Romayne - so much of the jigsaw now resolved. Glad to have been able to help just a tiny bit. Albert Stevens, eh? Who would have thought it...

Interestingly, both juggling and racing motorcycles and cars demand fine coordination. Take a look at Rebla's capabilities here - http://www.britishpa...rd.php?id=36937 - perhaps 'Spike' inherited the gene?

DCN


People with this standard of timing, co-ordination, spatial awareness and anticipation are quite remarkable. How do they do it? I could not do something like this if I lived to be a thousand years old. Juggling is rather taken for granted but done to this standard it is something special. Even more pertinently in this age of CGI where the unbelievable is created onscreen here we have the real thing without any camera tricks performed by a middle aged man on a stage with no other assistance. What a fascinating thread and thank you Doug for turning up something so redolent of the period.


Simon Thomas
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QUOTE (Paul Parker @ May 28 2010, 18:17)
People with this standard of timing, co-ordination, spatial awareness and anticipation are quite remarkable. How do they do it? I could not do something like this if I lived to be a thousand years old. Juggling is rather taken for granted but done to this standard it is something special. Even more pertinently in this age of CGI where the unbelievable is created onscreen here we have the real thing without any camera tricks performed by a middle aged man on a stage with no other assistance. What a fascinating thread and thank you Doug for turning up something so redolent of the period.

Spike was heavily involved with the Shamrock car in Ireland in the late 1950s/early 1960s. Will post more details later.
Simon


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Rather wonderful!


--------------------

Oh! time was, when as the sunrise nobly spurred me, so the sunset soothed. No more.


ReWind
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@Romayne: Considering the time gap you mention (1928 – 1933) what makes you sure that A.J. Stevens is identical to your grandfather?

Did you find out anything about how the name change from Stevens to Rhiando happened? Being such an unusual name there must be a story behind it, I assume.

And is there an explanation for Alvin Rhiando’s middle name changing from James to Maxwell?

PS. Why not stick to your former thread?

Edited by terry mcgrath, 01 June 2010 - 10:19.