IN 2005, aged 57, Gordon North was given devastating news - he had around three months to live.

A heart specialist told him that, despite previous surgery, his atherosclerosis - the thickening or hardening of the arteries caused by a build up of plaque - was so bad there was nothing that could be done.

So, instead of taking to his bed feeling morose, he got out one of his vintage Panther motorcycles, attached the side car for wife Pauline and rode off into the sunset.

The couple didn’t limit their road trip to British shores - they took a North Sea ferry and set off on a trip around Europe.

They had a great time, journeying through Belgium and later France where they met up with other Panther owners at a rally.

“Pauline really enjoyed it except in Belgium where it never stopped raining and the sidecar was an open-top model,” recalls Gordon, now 73.

Having been dealt a bad hand, he was determined to enjoy himself. “Taking Pauline on the international trip was make or break time for me as I was determined to live life - what was left of it - to the full and not be worried by minor inconveniences like death,” he says.

He survived the trip and - amazingly - is enjoying rides on his Panther to this day. “The quacks are only really poor mechanics,” he says wryly. “Their prediction was that I would die, and I obviously will at some point, it’s just the time-scale which they got wrong. I am sure the trip revived me.”

Gordon became interested in Panthers while working as a printing apprentice in Heckmondwike, not far from the Cleckheaton factory where the iconic bikes were made. He would pop along there to pick up spares for motorcycles he was repairing.

“They had a spares shop where I could get items such as spark plugs, nuts and bolts. I used to repair motorcycles part-time and later opened a motorbike shop in Dewsbury when Panthers were still popular as family and ride-to work transport.”

He bought his first Panther, a red two-stroke, in 1999. “I bought it in Bailiff Bridge. It was an unfinished project but the man restoring it died, and I bought it from his son. My first four-stroke I bought from a man in Scholes - it was a 1948 - the same age as me at the time.”

He owns four Panthers - “the ideal number of Panthers to own is one more than you already have” - and loves their character. “They have an olde-worlde charm, they are fun to ride and will always get you home (if you don’t polish them, hence the saying ‘chrome won’t get you home) if sometimes on a wing and a prayer.”

He has ridden across most of the UK and Western Europe. “But I am not the globetrotter that some other members are - Slovenia, Finland, Norway and Eastern Germany are recent International rallies which I didn’t attend as I don’t like camping these days. New-Zealand and Colorado were in the recent past but I couldn’t afford those trips.”

The sound of a Panther is very distinctive, says Gordon, as he explains how Richard Moore, who produced Panthers in partnership Joah Phelon, was a steam engineer “and Panthers have much in common with steam engines - they run very hot, sometimes dribble oil, are very slow revving and the fable is the engine fires once every lamp-post. When most bikes would need the gearbox dropping a gear, the Panther will go into a higher gear and you can hear every loud beat.”

It is impossible to tell how many are left in the world. “Nobody knows but in the UK there will be three or four thousand, perhaps.”

The Panther Owners’ Club (POC) has around 900 members. “nearly everyone has three or more Panthers and there are many Panther owners who aren’t POC members - more fool them as the POC spares scheme means all the important spares are still available to members only.”

Gordon has another health scare in 2012 when, at a Panther rally in France, he had a heart attack. He was flown by helicopter to hospital and given emergency treatment .

This year Gordon travelled to Germany for the Monschau Rally, where riders travel through the Eiffel mountains. “I took my bike in my van so I could take part in the breathtaking ride through the mountains, zig-zagging in and out of the border between Germany and Belgium. It was the last Monschau Rally which my friend Georg - who has at least six Panthers - will host, as his health is failing,” says Gordon.

Gordon spent many years editing Sloper - the monthly magazine of the POC, named after the sloping cylinder featured on various models - the monthly magazine of the POC, and has written about Panthers for various publications.

*In September an information board was unveiled on the site of the Home Bargains store in Cleckheaton, which was once home to Phelon & Moore motorcycle factory, which made the Panthers. Around 30 Panther owners - including Gordon - turned up to the event with their bikes.

*The Yorkshire section of POC meet at The Commercial in Cleckheaton - close to the factory site - on the first Sunday of the month from noon onwards. New members are welcome.