December 2017 Print E-mail
Whitehawk Engineering
Now, not a lot of people know this! During the 1970's there was an engineering workshop in Banting's Yard, East Street, which manufactured the frames for trials motorcycles. The company, Whitehawk Engineering, was renowned for the quality of its products and was well respected in the trials biking community. The proprietor of Whitehawk was Mick Whitlock, of Stewarts Green.
Mick began his career in the Dockyard as an apprentice and qualified as a coppersmith. He learnt the skills of working with metals and became an accomplished welder. Outside of work his main interest was in trials motorcycles. At the age of sixteen he began to ride and quickly became a local star, winning many competitions. Mick's skills at welding and his experience of
riding on trials bikes came together and soon he was thinking about building his own machines. He used to hang around Bob Gollner's motorcycle showroom in Denmead and realised he could
improve on many of the designs on show. In 1966 Bob offered Mick a job and together they built a new trails machine called the Cheetah. A new Cheetah in kit form was sold for £219 and
they were enormously successful. But eventually the supply of engines dried up and the project had to wind down.
However, Whitehawk's reputation as a supplier of high quality engineering continued to grow and Mick received commissions to build machines from many in the trials bike community. Not the least of these was Phil Read with whom Mick worked on a new frame for Read's Yamaha machine. Read went on the win the 1971 World Championship.
Mick had sufficient work now such that he moved to a new workshop in Cowplain. As the volume of work grew, Mick moved in Horndean. However, an opportunity arose in the mid-seventies which would require the building of 25 frames per week, and that is when Whitehawk moved into Hambledon and set up in Bantings Yard. Suzuki were having trouble selling their trials machines and had a stockpile of unsold bikes in America. The local Suzuki importer Beamish, based in Brighton, decided to address the problem and brought in a small batch of the stock. It was Mick Whitlock who was invited to build new frames and other parts for this trial run.
These Whitehawk machines were evaluated within the trials community and were an immediate success. Mick went into full production in his Hambledon workshop and over 1000 frames
were assembled and dispatched. Alas, Beamish's competition department was then taken over by the Heron organisation and it decided to terminate the Whitehawk contract.
This was a major blow for Whitehawk but, undaunted, Mick sought new opportunities. He switched from Suzuki to Yamaha, building the new Whitehawk 80, based on Yamaha but greatly
improved. This became a very successful machine, popular with younger trials riders, and soon Mick was again on the move to bigger premises in Horndean. He later realised there
was yet another opportunity in building frames for the new craze of BMX bikes and he opened a shop in Horndean where the frames were made and the bikes sold.
Mick did not wish to retire when he was 60 or 65 and carried on supplying his world class products, eventually retiring just two years ago at the age of 73. His final machine was finished in 2014. 
Mick has lived in Hambledon with Rose, his wife since 1963, and it came as no surprise to learn that there is still a Welding kit in his garden shed!
Our thanks go to Ken Jones who captured Mick's story as part of our aim to record local histories for our Archive — Hambledon Yesterday and Today. We always looking for stories,
photographs and memories so do please contact us if you can contribute.
Last Updated ( Saturday, 11 May 2019 )