St Ro­nan’s School

Classic Dirtbike - - Legend 400 Cross -

I have to say that this school is by far the most in­cred­i­ble lo­ca­tion for a pho­to­shoot CDB has had for many a year, and of course we didn’t just turn up and start pho­tograph­ing a mo­tor­cy­cle in its su­perb in­te­rior. The Husq­varna’s owner, Will Ben­nett, is a teacher at the school and it is thanks to him I had the sur­real ex­pe­ri­ence of wheel­ing a 1970 MX bike through the oak-pan­elled en­trance, cor­ri­dors and li­brary to the lan­guage rooms over­look­ing the rugby pitch.

St Ro­nan’s School is lo­cated in Kent and is housed in what used to be the home of the Gun­ther fam­ily who, among other things, were be­hind the OXO brand.

Look­ing at the school’s web­site www. sain­tro­nans.co.uk and its his­tor­i­cal sec­tion in par­tic­u­lar, both the school and the build­ing which is now its home have had an in­ter­est­ing life with the es­tate be­ing listed as early as 13th cen­tury and the school be­ing founded in 1883. The two came to­gether in 1945 and the es­tate is now in trust for St Ro­nan’s School. CDB ex­tends its thanks to the head­mas­ter and staff of St Ro­nan’s for al­low­ing us ac­cess.

rather than a dec­o­ra­tive, process and in­volves ac­cu­rate grind­ing and pol­ish­ing of the stan­chions af­ter plat­ing. The thick­ness of the plat­ing can be ac­cu­rately con­trolled so it is pos­si­ble to take up wear in slid­ers with­out re­place­able bushes.

Okay, frame and forks sorted, rear sus­pen­sion re­placed with new Gir­ling dampers, next up were the wheels. For 1970 the 400 Cross came with Akront al­loy rims and when the wheels were stripped at Sid’s Wheels the rims were deemed okay so re­pol­ished, the hubs and brake plates only needed blast­ing, stove enam­elling and new bear­ings be­fore Sid re­spoked them with stain­less spokes. The orig­i­nal brake shoes were fine and went back in. Tyres and tubes are Mi­tas and while mod­ern are sort of pe­riod.

One of the most eas­ily iden­ti­fi­able fea­tures of any Husky is the petrol tank and its bright red finish with pol­ished side pan­els make the bike recog­nis­able even be­fore see­ing the name. Will handed his over to J P Tanks who knocked out a few dents be­fore pol­ish­ing and chroming the steel tank. Once plated, the red finish – us­ing Husky Club rec­om­men­da­tions as to the ex­act colour – was ap­plied over the chrome, while leav­ing the side pan­els clear and it seems there are tem­plates avail­able to make sure this is ac­cu­rately done.

The name and model de­cals on the tank are new old stock (NOS) – orig­i­nals. Com­pared to the tank, the seat was a dod­dle and needed only the base blast­ing, brack­ets reat­tach­ing and the orig­i­nal foam re­cov­er­ing for it to look su­perb.

With a rolling chas­sis to look at, Will was itch­ing to get the en­gine sorted and de­ter­mined the mo­tor should not leak oil at all. So, with grind­ing paste and a truly flat sur­face, he lapped the case faces un­til they were flat so when he as­sem­bled them, with a light smear of joint­ing com­pound, oil would stay where it was sup­posed to.

Nat­u­rally, all bear­ings have been re­placed and the crank­shaft has a new con rod kit in, a new over-size Mahle pis­ton was found and the bar­rel bored to suit. Once all the engi­neer­ing bits were out of the way the cases, head and bar­rel could be stove enam­elled to the clos­est match Will could find for the orig­i­nal finish.

This meant the ma­jor en­gine assem­bly could progress and the unit fit­ted into the frame be­fore all the other bits were added, such as the pri­mary drive and clutch. Will showed me the draw­ings and photos of the clutch, point­ing out the bush on which the clutch bas­ket sits. De­spair­ing of find­ing one, Will went into the lo­cal bear­ing fac­tory look­ing for ma­te­rial to make one; they took a look at the orig­i­nal, mea­sured it and said how many do you want? Will got a small batch for not a great lot of cash. Once it was pressed in place the clutch could be as­sem­bled with new plates – Sur­flex ones – and orig­i­nal springs… all 16 of them!

Now then, no mat­ter how good a restora­tion is, with­out an ig­ni­tion sys­tem it won’t work. Husq­varna used a Femsa sys­tem and with new points and con­denser fit­ted there was a nice fat blue spark. Will even man­aged to find the cor­rect grey sheath­ing for the wiring har­ness.

As I’m scrib­bling down his words (and any­one who’s seen my notepads will con­firm, ‘scrib­ble’ is the right word), I’m fran­ti­cally try­ing to re­call if I’ve asked him ev­ery­thing. “Can’t think of any­thing else,” he says. We look at the bike again… “New ‘bars?” “No, the orig­i­nals rechromed,” he says. Af­ter a few mo­ments pon­der­ing: “Oh, the only thing I’m not sure about is how the front brake ca­ble would be held in place un­der the fork seal boot. If any­one knows, or can sup­ply a pic, I’d like to see what it is like.”

As we stood look­ing at his bike, Will ad­mit­ted he was pleased to have been given the ac­co­lade of win­ning best MX Ma­chine at Stafford, but said he hadn’t done it with that aim and had only de­cided to en­ter at the last minute.

That said, it is a wor­thy win­ner and dou­bly so as the theme of the show was On Any Sun­day where the iconic 400 Cross was rid­den by an iconic movie star.

Fork stan­chions have been rechromed at HCP, who asked for the slid­ers as well so they could make sure the chrome was the right thick­ness. Will sourced a gen­uine Renold chain just as would have been sup­plied in 1970. Ca­ble ties were alu­minium that year… Tank leg­end is cut from a sheet, the Husq­varna club used to pro­vide size and font de­tails. What d’you mean you didn’t know there was a Husky Club... Stove enam­elling the en­gine cases pro­vided the best match to an orig­i­nal finish.

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