Alf Hagon began his racing career on grass track bikes. His first competition machine was a 1933 350cc Rudge that he used for grass track racing in the summer, trials in the winter, and for road racing when Brands Hatch had been surfaced in 1950.
His first sprint was at Trent Park in 1949, again on a 350cc Rudge, but it was not until August 1958 that the sprinting bug bit when he was offered a ride on Gordon Colquhoun’s 998cc Moto-Vincent at Witchford when regular rider Charlie Rous was unavailable to ride. There he recorded quickest time of the day at 11.26secs, soundly beating Vincent legend George Brown. In between the years of grass track and sprinting Alf became a professional speedway rider and was, for 12 years, a member of a British first division team including the London based teams of Harringay, Wimbledon, West Ham and New Cross. Alf also rode for Leicester, Oxford and Poole.
In addition he rode for the Great Britain team on tour down under in the winter of 1958-59. In between all this short oval activity Alf began making bike frames, which a few years later led to a full-time occupation building racing frames for all his chosen disciplines.
Alf went on to build and run a 650cc Triumph-engined sprinter in a grass track-style frame and broke the national 750cc quarter-mile record with an 11.79. Next, he decided he wanted to compete with the big boys, but instead of using the then popular Vincent twin, he went for the lighter and more nimble J.A.P. engine in 1964. Un-supercharged, it was seriously down on power and suffered from a terrible vibration in testing at Silverstone. Abandoning his initial plan of running without a gearbox he fitted a Norton two-speed box and promptly won two of the six Drag Festival meets with times touching 10.5sec at 130mph-plus.
Now with 9s as his target, Hagon didn’t want to go down the supercharged route because of his hang-up about weight; he later gave in and fitted a Shorrock blower the following year. Armed with iron J.A.P. speedway heads, bigger pistons and a well-oiled 4” Avon slick which allowed it to act as a clutch until the oil burnt off the rubber at mid-strip, Alf was well into the 9s.
1967 saw him become the first rider to break the 10-second barrier at Duxford with a 9.93-second blast, and by the following year had set a long-standing record at Santa Pod of 9.432 at 153 mph. His best-ever quarter-mile time was 9.208 at 157 mph. Even then, he still wanted to go faster but to do that he had to fit a three-speed Quaife gearbox. With it all set up correctly, in 1968 Hagon recorded the first 200mph run in the UK at Honington Airfield, Suffolk, where he hit 206mph over the flying mile despite blowing the inlet manifold clean off mid-run, drenching him in fuel.
Soon afterwards Hagon hung up his leathers to concentrate on his growing Hagon Shocks business, but in 1994 came out for one last time to run the mighty J.A.P. ‘V’ twin at London’s North Weald Airfield at the George Brown Memorial Sprint. Demonstrating – or racing, whichever way you looked at it – Alf was pipped by the narrowest of margins by John Hobbs for the Unlimited class win by just four hundredths of a second.
Today, Alf has turned Hagon Shocks over to his son Martin, and his legendary sprinter is on display in the shop’s reception still looking good, if not better, than when it rolled out of the workshop in 1967.
Profile By Jerry Cookson
Photos below from the Chris Illman Collection