TALES FROMTHE SHED
Frustration. A familiar word to all shed dwellers, and especially to Frank at the moment…
Frustration. A familiar word to all shed dwellers, and especially to Frank at the moment…
Iwas in ruins. Destroyed at a stroke. Months – nay, years of work wasted. Gloom set in as I wasted a disconsolate half hour wondering how to move stuff around to put the B25SS back onto the bench. I’d already replaced it with the G80 Matchless, but when The Boss demands better service it is a braver man than this one who considers delay. But consider it I did. Bravely. Briefly.
If you have a better memory than most elephants, you’ll recall that last month’s most exciting feature bar none oh yes was Rowena’s first ride on her BSA B25SS since about 1997. Of course she broke it. Worse was to come. She wanted it fixing better. This was bad news. What I’d anticipated as a brisk blast around the place, followed by dewy-eyed admiration and maybe a special romantic meal à deux at a trough of my choice at her expense, and then…
What actually happened was she made several comments along the lines of ‘It’ll probably be all right when it’s finished…’ and ‘Shouldn’t it have brakes?’ and ‘Why won’t it start properly?’ Sometimes I think I should change my name to Job. It has a certain ring to it. I wheeled the (very hot) BSA back into The Shed and observed with some wonder that in her brief but rapid ride The Boss’s bike had managed to loosen a remarkable proportion of its minor components.
This is irritating, especially as I’d tightened everything properly. And it shows up a little problem: some pattern parts are not made of such stern stuff as the originals, and that some parts are simply not available. Well … not available to non-anorak rebuilders. Like me. I can be entirely anorak about AMC kit,
especially the 1964-on bikes, check out this issue’s mighty Matchless missive if you’re in doubt about this, but for rare limited run BSAs I am no expert. Rare? Relatively yes; rare for a BSA. Limited run? Yes, built for less than a year. That is but a passing instant in BSA terms.
Nothing vital had loosened itself, happily. The biggest – and horribly visible – offenders were the lighting fripperies. All the indicators had begun the BSA boogie, twirling merrily around on their stalks. At least … that’s what the rear ones had done. At the back, the stalks had remained fixed while the lamps had gone whirlaround. Which is understandable: the stalks are metal and can be tightened to their bracket with appropriate force; the lamp bodies are chromed plastic, which is even less robust than Lucasmetal.
Things were a little more interesting at the front. At this end, not only had just one of the lamps come adrift from its stalk, but the entire headlight / indicators assembly had rotated on its brackets. Those brackets, as you know, aren’t brackets at all; they’re pieces of nice shiny chromed bent wire. These are formed into a pair of slots into which the headlamp fits, being held tightly into place by the indicators, acting as bolts, which screw into the headlamp shell and are tightened by a big nut on the outside. The is all metal-tometal, so how had they come loose?
As with the rear indicators, the answers lie in pattern – or simply replacement – parts. As well as the most noble BSA B25SS, The Shed is a happy rusting ground for a Triumph T25SS, which although of course different in every way <ahem> has the same lights. It’s also never been restored, merely kept going, approximately, and still has its original Lucas indicators. Whereas on the replacement items on the BSA, where the metal indicator stalks simply screw into the plastic lamp bodies, on the Triumph’s original 1971 items the stalk : lamp interface is tightened by a nut which works against the lamp body. These have conspicuously not rotated. Nor have the threads in the plastic lamp bodies stripped.
So we tip a toe into the murky waters of the ‘genuine’ spares world. I’m going to replace all four indicators. ‘Lucas type’ assemblies are freely available and cost typically around £12 for a pair; ‘Genuine Lucas’ are also available and cost maybe 3 times that. The lights on the BSA are pattern ‘Lucas type’, so I’ll order a set of ‘Genuine Lucas’ to see whether they’re any better. I’ll let you know.
The problem at the front is a little more interesting. Given that the BSA vibrates enough to loosen its fastenings, and given that the entire headlight / indicators assembly could come loose and simply fall backwards out of the ‘slots’ in the wire brackets, it would be reasonable to assume that BSA took steps to prevent this. They did. BSA were a bunch of decent engineers.
The way they did this was to fit a pair of washers with ‘ears’, either side of the wire bracket. The inside eerie washer butts up against the headlight while the outside effort has the tightening nut clamped against it. These are rare, and when we originally rebuilt the Beezer I could only find two of the four needed. I used round plain washers as substitutes. They didn’t work – this where the rotation took place.
Happily, in this internet age I was able to find another pair. NOS but pretty scruffy. I care not about that.
Even more excitingly – and probably inevitably – while surfing the airwaves searching for mysterious washers I stumbled across a brand new MCH66 headlamp shell of the exact type fitted to these bikes. Life cannot be more thrilling than this, surely.
Once again, pattern parts are occasionally available, although I’ve not found an MCH66 shell with the correct holes in the correct places, so when I put the bike back together I used the best secondhand one I could find. It’s not actually very good. However, in the meantime a batch of MCH66 shells has plainly emerged from the mystic east, as I said, and are almost sensibly priced. The holes are wrong though and they’re a slightly strange shape. And then, there among the online clutter, was a UK-made item. Guaranteed to be the right sort, with the right curvature to the shell – some of the pattern variety are a little imaginative here. The snag? The price.
However, as we all know, life is short and is hardly worth living unless your BSA has the correct headlamp shell, so I ordered one, wincing only a lot when Paypal extracted the dosh from a seriously depleted bank account. It’s arrived and looks exactly right. Let’s see how it fits and works.
But none of this was removing the G80 from the bench and replacing it with the BSA. I’d managed to do most of the jobs on the Matchless … bar one. That one is a RealMystery
– all helpful suggestions welcomed.
AMC had an interesting way of mounting their rear mudguards. The biggest bolts involved also provide the top mounting for the rear shocks, which is sensible enough. As well as the shocks and the mudguard, these two bolts – one on each side – also mount the rear lifting handles, the design of which changed a little in the 1960s, although that’s not really relevant here.
What the bolt does is conventional enough: it passes through the frame bracket, through the eye at the top of the suspension unit, then through the other side of the frame bracket. Then it passes through a hefty spacer and is gripped by its nut. The spacer and the nut are the important items here. The spacer is cylindrical, as you’d expect, and has a hole at one end to accept the bolt. All normal so far. At the other end, the spacer’s hole is much bigger. It matches the nut, which is a sleeve nut of sorts. The hex head lives inside the mudguard, near the rotating mayhem of the back tyre, while the sleeve part passes through a hole in the guard and protrudes into that cylindrical spacer. All fine, all simple, all neat design. And it works well. Except...
Except that on the G80’s right side the nut refuses to start on the bolt’s thread. How can this be? They fit together absolutely perfectly when off the bike, but refuse to mate while in place. The other side works perfectly, both on and off the bike. How? Of course I immediately understood that this is an alignment issue, so I loosened every other fastener involved in rear mudguard excitement and waggled the whole guard in an enticing way while attempting to start the nut onto the bolt’s thread. Nothing doing.
Plainly I need a new bolt. I ordered a pair from eBay. They don’t fit. A lesson learned. I’ve built loads of AMC bikes, this is the first time I’ve encountered this mysterious problem. Answers, anyone?
While I was kicking things and cursing – which is plainly the result of the BSA being a bad influence – I browsed the ethers some more, like you do at times of frustration, and discovered a new sump bash plate for the B25SS! Made in the UK, too, so not cheap, but plainly worth every penny. Ordered, arrived, and out with the Smoothrite to give it a little protection from Atlantic spray.
Finally, I gave up with the Matchless’s idiot rear suspension bolt, wheeled it from the bench and…
…hold on. Will it start? Been stood for a while, but, maybe, if I just see… Two kicks! I like Matchless engines. Far better than that BSA junk.
With a truly huge sense of defeat, mingled with despair and seasoned with a soupçon of foreboding, I parked the BSA back on the bench and gave it a heavy dose of serious
staring. First things first. The starting. It had been OK before the Better Third treated it to its very own baptism of fire, so I’ll just give it a single kick and…
…nothing. A lot more kicks. Nothing. Lights light, horn honks. Sparks? No sparks. How can previously reliable sparks transform into no sparks at all? It was running fine – if very loudly – when we scooted it back into The Shed, but now? No spark.
Off with the points cover. No spark at the points. How? Observe with some grim feeling of inevitability that when I switch on the ignition the rear light lights. It’s done this before, then it fixed itself. However, always creative, now the indicator repeater in the headlamp shines a bright orange when the ignition’s switched on. None of the actual indicators light, and waggling the handlebar switch has no effect at all. Only BSA can do this.
Disconnect the low tension lead. Brand new when I put the bike back together because somehow somewhere the original had gone AWoL. As soon as I disconnect the LT lead the orange glow from the headlight is extinguished. That is seriously heavyweight mysterious. Ghosts in the shell? Could be. I flick the lead to earth against the engine. Nice crackle of sparks, so all is well that far. Maybe the lead is somehow shorting against the inside of the points housing? Reassemble with special care to keep the lead’s connector away from the alloy of the engine. Switch on. The orange light in the headlamp shell lights. There are no sparks.
Drastic measures. I order up a new lead and a set of new contact breakers, complete with a new insulating ‘top hat’ to keep the lead away from the points. I shall crack this. It must be simple. Surely…
Paint is cheap. And no one can see the thing underneath the engine, so Smoothrite can do its stuff
Meanwhile, hijacked by BSA enthusiasm <sigh> FW found a new sump bash plate. Really new, too. Also unpainted
Here we go again. The BSA’s back on the bench – its favourite place
Getting to the point… There appears to be nothing wrong here. All the working parts are new. Except there is no spark. There was previously a spark, now it has left the room
Try again. A new lead. Nice and neat. New ‘genuine Lucas’ contact set. Observe with a smile how the lead’s connector is far too small to accept the nice new insulator
Never mind. Frank was able to fit a sticker. Makes all the difference, apparently
The seriously frustrating rear suspension bolt and its nut. Not only do they refuse to work together – but only when actually on the bike – they are also unavailable. Huh
It all looks so simple, too. Except that the nut inside needs to get a grip
Matchless in name and nature. Mostly. Back on the bench but only for a short while
An irritating thing. There are a pair of panels between oil tank and toolbox on the post-63 machines. These fitted properly before they were painted. Now … less so
Below: Meanwhile in other news, The Better Third has decided that the B25SS needs a smaller, slender, more stylish fuel tank. She has a smaller tank. The small tank needs a different seat. This is just as well, as the original is a little tired....
The mysterious washers which prevent the headlight rotating. There should be a pair here, and soon there will be
Meanwhile, the vast expense continues. This is a genuine new pattern MCH66 headlamp shell. We may have no sparks, but at least we have a shiny shell