Back in November 2011, I published an email from my mate Andy outlining his refurbishment of his Norton Commando fastback. That post can be read HERE
After a bit of nagging from me, he has put together this summary of his current projects. It would be great to start a trend of guest writers on this site. Anyway, Andy takes up the story ……..
BSA A7 1949
Purchased as a ”basket case” in about 1987, laid under the bench in boxes until I took on a “love job” doing up a BSA B33 for a mate (Jack) in about 2007.
Thought to myself, “I’ll just throw that old A7 together to get my head around BSA’s”. Should have known better, once one bit gets shined up you gotta do it all!
I wound up making nearly every bolt and fitting myself in stainless steel, around about the time I finished it repro stuff was beginning to come onto the market quite well priced.
Doing a job like this is a bit like pissing yourself in a dark suit, – you get a lovely warm feeling but no-one else notices.
1974 Suzuki GT380
Aint e-bay grouse?, this one was a shed clearout, guy was moving and wanted to unload a shedful.
Paid 380 bucks for the lot, The short version is , there’s a complete bike, plus two or three spare engines.
The silver tank on the frame in the photo, I just got at the Ballarat Swap meet, NOS, $40, didn’t really need it but for that sort of money I couldn’t leave it behind.
The guy with the tank also has exhaust systems he’s willing to part with, so I got his number. (mine has an aftermarket 3 into 1 which I’m told sound great but steal power)
It’s lower on the list than the T500, but since it’s all there I may as well “just throw it together”.
This one used to be a trail bike, I bought it in about 1976 off a workmate who found out its shortcomings in the bush and moved up to a Yamaha XT500.
It really was just a streetbike with trailbike handlebars and a bash plate. It even had a low exhaust pipe???
I ran it around on and off for a few years as a street hack, and it was alright except that if you wanted to do highway speeds, you needed to make a dentist appointment for after, because your fillings will all be rattled loose.
Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of its early days, shit happens.
It lunched the timing pinion one day, too much end float on the crankshaft, whilst idling, I leaned it onto the sidestand, it then stopped with a loud “CLUNK!”
In a fit of despondency I sold it (as was) to another workmate, who later worked out he didn’t have the money/skills/time/marital goodwill etc, to deal with it, and offered it back to me along with another worthy project (Panther), so I re-aquired it.
A complete engine / gearbox re-build followed,(circa 1990) I spent two weeks re-shimming all the gearbox and bevel drive shafts, the end result was the only one of these I’ve ever heard that you can’t hear the valve gear from 200 yards away.
It then got put away with no more than about ten minutes running, various other projects took over, including but not limited to marriage/children/ several other bikes (Yamaha XS650’s, BMWR75) marriage break up etc, before I knew it ten more years had got behind me (good line that, someone should put it in a song)
I had decided at some point in the timeline that it needed to be a pocket rocket, but didn’t want to pass it off as a silver shotgun , which it never was.
Someone gave me some Yamaha XS250 forks and wheels, I thought at the time that would be good to set it apart from the ‘real’ Desmo’s.
I’ve since changed my mind, the mags look crap so they’re going, but I’ve now decided to graft a set of lower frame tubes into the frame and mount the engine/gearbox in it with a set of Norton Isolastic mounts.
If I’m lucky It will be rideable & different enough that no-one will think I’m trying to pass it off as a proper desmo, if it doesn’t work, well that’ll just give me something else to work on.
Yep, you guessed it, e-bay again!, ad said it didn’t run, but had compression.
I took a punt on it, when I picked it up the guy said he thought it was crank seals, because it used to run but didn’t any more. I felt the compression and knew straight off it wasn’t crank seals.
Took about five minutes when I got it home to work out it was the ignition module. $26 for a monkey bike CDI kit at the local electronics store got it running.
The rear tyre was bald but my Norton Commando rear was half down, so Nora got a new tyre, Suzie got a good enough one.
Right hand fork leg had a big graunch in the hard chrome about an inch above the fork seal which had buggered the seal, resultant oil leak had buggered the front brake pads. Rear guard was a bit ratty, swapped one for a tub of wine grapes I had an excess of, and had cost naught.
Fork staunchions aren’t cheap, re-doing the hard chrome is about $600, so a bit of hard thinking was called for.
I had a spare Commando fork tube picked up at the Ballarat swap meet only owed me $10, so I welded up the oil bleed holes in the commando tube, turned down the welds, then re-drilled the bleed holes the same as the Suzuki tube, made a new upper bush (Commando tube is 0.5 mm smaller), made a fork top nut with british thread but same hex as the Suzi, fitted new seals, and bob’s your uncle!
It goes like shit off a shovel, very tourquey, owes me bugger all money and goes well alongside the others. To make it dead original I only need a seat, sooner or later one will show up, I just keep looking.
1972 Suzuki T350J, T250J
My first road bike when I got my learners permit in late 1973 was a T250R, I put quite a few miles on it in only four months before trading up to a GT550 (emulating Jules who had also just bought a GT550).
I always had a soft spot for this little twin, so when one appeared in ‘Just Bikes’, at the right price, I couldn’t resist.
The guy I bought this bike from didn’t know a screwdriver from a spanner, and had paid various people to completely refurbish the bike from stem to stern, then sold it to me for about a third of what his cost was! (and no it isn’t stolen), I have all the receipts for the work he even paid someone to tune the horn!
First thing I did when got it home was fit a set of ‘ace ‘bars, just the same as when I was a youngster. Once around the block, I realised that I’m not as “bendy” as I was way back then, don’t know how the heck I ever managed to ride like that, anyway the bike now has flat bars, much better!. A set of chromed pipes sourced from opposite ends of the country helped make it look much tidier.
T250 sans Ace bars
The sharp – eyed among you will note that it has the T250 fuel tank and sidecovers, this is about to be changed, I had acquired a set of heads from a T350II, they had straight fore and aft fins like the 250, so no-one would be able to pick up on the bigger engine capacity, however I have recently picked up a T250, so the 350 will become a proper 350 with the correct tinware.
This 250 was a project picked up on e-bay for the right price, no-one else bid on it, the seller wasn’t real happy, but rules are rules.
The frame has been beautifully painted in 2-pak in a very tasteful charcoal colour, not quite standard but such a good job , I’m not going to change it. Rims are in good shape, a quick re-spoke and a spruce up of the hubs, new seat cover (a repro from Thailand – excellent product for $60), tinware will come off the 350
By the time this spiel gets posted I hope to have it back together, It had lunched the right hand rings, so I sourced new 1st oversize pistons and rings, crank bearings were a bit ordinary so I fitted new bearings and seals, took me most of a weekend to make a jig to part the crank halves and about twenty minutes to do the job!
I sent all the bolts to be plated some weeks ago, found out yesterday why the plater stopped answering his phone, the bastard’s had his power cut off. Sending a “mate” round to get my stuff back later this week.
Once the 250 is done I have a T500 basket case I acquired (e-bay can get a bit addictive can’t it?), there was no crankcases or crankshaft or wheel hubs, the seller said he couldn’t remember where they went, anyway, I knew a guy who had a complete engine that someone had thrown away the entire gearbox (ain’t people weird?), I’ve found hubs, have all new seals, pistons & rings ($92 a set delivered) once the 250 is done I’ll “just throw this one together”.
Suzuki T500 Titan basket case
1952 Panther Model 75 350cc
This is a bit long winded, but bear with me…
I had a Ducati 450 road/trail that lunched the timing pinion one day, in a rush of blood, I sold it to a workmate.
In 1990, I had the job of house minding for Mr & Mrs Tarsnakes whilst they did a round Aussie trip in their Campervan.
Whilst living in Tarsnake Towers, said workmate offered me back the Ducati, I was actually happy to have it back (I know – it’s a sickness), he also offered me his 1952 350 Panther which he said he would never do anything with, so it may as well go to me.
Deal gets done, suddenly I notice there’s no more room in Tarsnake’s garage, boxes of Ducati and Panther everywhere, and homeowner is on the return leg of his trip!
A great effort was put in, the Panther, upon examination turned out to have flogged out the drive side crank case bush (yes, bush – not really a high performance engine this!).
A visit to a mate who’s a tool maker ensued, Frank found the centre of the now oval crankcase bearing hole, bored it back round, and made a new bush.
The panther was then re-assembled from the boxes, which yielded sufficient garage space to pass muster. It fired up and ran straight off, only time it gave trouble was when I gave it a bit of a squirt it kept “nipping up” the piston. Eventually I realised that I was actually retarding the ignition at high speed (that’s a relative term) as the advance lever worked the opposite way to my old AJS!
There’s always something to learn in this game.
The long and short of it is , this bike hasn’t been touched since then, is still a fist kick starter and whilst it’s not fast is a delight to ride. Now if only I could get those air forks to hold air for more than ten minutes, I’d ride it far more than I do. I could spend more than its value making it pretty, so she is what she is. (She’s a sweet thing. Tarsnake edit)
Panther in 2012
Thanks for the words and pics Andy. Now we will work on Steve for some history on his bikes!
OK, so that’s part of the story of Andy’s stable. Here’s a few pics of his previously owned motorcycles that I’m adding – just because it gives some more context.
Yamaha XS2 650
Commando fastback (AKA Canoe)
GT750 Ducati at right of this pic
Can’t find it now to scan, so you will have to wait for a pic of the Bridgestone 90 on its back wheel.