No more trudging. Rick’s latest restoration fires into life (see left), but he’s not entirely happy…
Getting the project running is usually a time for rejoicing but Rick hasn’t found the path to this stage quite so enjoyable…
This is a moment to savour; oil in the tank, petrol in the carb and the Project Rudge fired up on the fourth kick. I’m not sure if the ‘Noise Abatement Society’ still exists but if I don’t fit the exhausts soon I suspect I’ll find out. Hearing your project roar into life is a great morale boost and that’s just what I needed after the struggles I had this month. While the smoke clears from the shed, I’ll tell you all about it. I should have known something was up when our return home from a week away was greeted with a neighbour’s skip blocking my drive, a leaking stopcock and a wasp’s nest in the cavity of the kitchen wall. But there was more to come.
Last month you left me ordering rocker spindles and bushes so I could fit the Rudge cylinder head. Well, the Rudge Club didn’t have the spindles after all. There was a spare top-end with the bike and I was pleased to find the rockers and spindles were only a little worn; in fact, apart from a severely burned out exhaust valve, the head was maybe better than the one on the bike. Hang on, this IS the one off the bike. The clues are all here – the barrel has no piston oil feed, a 1937-only omission that allegedly led to seizures and sure enough there’s a broken piston in the box. The top-end I’m using is the replacement.
So now what? The later, lubricated cylinder is worth keeping but it would be good to go back to the original head. Well, the timing plug was so seized that it broke off in the hole and had to be drilled out and I spent a lot of time with the seat grinder cutting back the valve seat to clear the burn damage, but it came out pretty well with just one tiny mark proving stubborn. Unfortunately, closer investigation in the sunlight revealed that the tiny mark was actually a crack running into the valve seat, presumably the cause of the valve burning out in the first place. This head’s scrap and I’ve just wasted a whole day. I needed to set the ignition timing before fitting the other head but noticed another problem. Pulling the ignition lever retarded the magneto cam ring but it wouldn’t spring back to the advance position. It was the same with an alterntive cam ring so the housing was the problem meaning I’d need to remove the mag for attention. But having elected to abandon the naff brass band that Rudge use to strap the magneto down in favour of bolting it securely from beneath I’d created a problem for myself: accessing these bolts would mean completely dismantling the primary drive.
It’s usually best to walk away from situations like this and do something else until the cloud passes, but I’d committed to getting the bike running for the next feature and the deadline was looming. Like swallowing horrible medicine as a kid, you have to quit squealing and get it over with, so I compromised and took a tea break. Just as well I did – thinking more calmly I realised I could detach just the cam housing, leaving the magneto on the bike. It was back together and timed up within an hour.
Hoping I was through the bad patch, I fitted the head and tightened it down. But there was now a nasty rattle coming from the top end of the engine. It could be the valve gear, but since the rocker cover can’t be removed in the frame, the only way to find out was to remove the pushrods. The noise persisted – but went when I slackened the head bolts. So despite my barrel shimming efforts last month, the piston was still hitting the head.
‘THIS HEAD’S SCRAP. I’VE JUST WASTED A WHOLE DAY’
‘THE BIKE READILY BURST INTO EARSPLITTING LIFE’
I stripped the top-end and fitted a slightly thicker base shim but the noise was still there. So I started again – this time dropping a nut which fell deep into the timing chest. Thank heavens for pencil magnets. This time I removed some metal around a shiny patch in the head and after reassembling, everything was quiet. When I hooked up the valve lifter it wasn’t working and, yes, it’s fitted to the rocker box that you can’t remove. I managed to winkle it out by lifting the rocker box as far as possible and taking out the pushrods, but there was nothing wrong with it. Turns out that although doweled, the rocker cover can move and it needs to be positioned carefully to keep the lifter engaged.
Next job was soldering up the oil pipes and a loose lug in the oil tank. That done, I buried myself in trying to work out how the oil tank and battery carrier go together; it’s one of those irritating jobs where everything has to be positioned and tightened up at once needing several tiny hands and even more patience. Fortunately there’s a complicated but very helpful diagram on the Rudge Club website. It’s weird; Rudge seemed to hate providing brackets on their frames so everything is held on with a selection of clips and clamps. Getting the oil tank in just the right place to avoid the gearbox ‘mechanism cover’ on one side and line up the mountings for the battery carrier on the other was a horrible faff that would seriously discourage taking the oil tank off regularly to wash it out. Good job there’s a proper filter! I didn’t have to worry about these issues building my own Rudge because all this stuff is missing – and after this, that’s how it will stay...
I needed an ignition and throttle cable to start the bike so I made up all the rest while I was at it, then I could bolt the tank in place.
The carb is just as it came out of the boxes. It’s the original but needs a flange repair – even so, with a bit of fuel, the bike readily burst into ear-splitting life and suddenly all of the week’s misadventures fluttered away into distant memory.
There’s still a few things left to do: wiring for a start, and the exhaust pipes that came with the bike don’t exactly fit but hey, it can’t be any worse than this month… can it? The next really big headache will be trying to mate the bike to the sidecar chassis Ben dumped in my back garden. Hopefully from now on it will all go comparatively smoothly. Well, you have to try to be optimistic don’t you?
Loud and proud, the mighty Rudge breathes at last!