St Ronan’s School
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.