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PUB sufff­fered an em­bar­rass­ing ‘al­most break­down’, and pro­vided the mid-day en­ter­tain­ment at her club’s an­nual rally

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PUB suf­fered an em­bar­rass­ing ‘al­most break­down’, and pro­vided the mid-day en­ter­tain­ment at her club’s an­nual rally

PUB has been fairly busy in the work­shop, but mostly on clean­ing up jobs, which she hates. The pre-war project has var­i­ous gear­box parts – al­most enough to as­sem­ble two boxes with. All parts, how­ever, were smoth­ered with 80 year-old grease, and the cas­ing was packed with the stuff. Very messy to clean off – nei­ther does PUB have a parts washer (some­thing she should per­haps have ac­quired?). The rear sus­pen­sion spring­boxes (this is a Vin­cen­tHRD, so of course it has rear sus­pen­sion) were also greased, but they are un­sealed so that grease was filthy to boot. Pre­vi­ous owner was of that breed who dis­man­tled ma­chines com­pletely, down to the last nut and bolt. He did some­times keep bits to­gether in bags and boxes, but much of that regime has failed to sur­vive a num­ber of moves and suc­ces­sive own­ers. He also owned and dis­man­tled a num­ber of sim­i­lar bikes, re­sult­ing in PUB’s jig­saw hav­ing many pieces from other puzzles, and a lot of pieces lost along the way. So it turns out that one gear­box is miss­ing a 33t sleeve gear and sundry smaller bits, whilst the se­cond has a se­ri­ously un­der­size layshaft (this, it would ap­pear, ever since new!). Nei­ther of them has the strange sized Bur­man out­put bear­ing (orig­i­nally Fisher 61207, 72mm OD and 1½ inch ID!). How­ever Dra­gan­fly list th­ese, as well as some of those smaller parts so PUB is cur­rently await­ing de­liv­ery. Then she must de­cide whether to fur­ther mix-and-match to make up one clus­ter, or await find­ing those miss­ing parts.

It is ex­pected that this will hap­pen a lot, so progress will be slow, and only in lit­tle spurts when a bit of en­thu­si­asm re­cov­ers. Mean­while Nor­ton John has found that his New Im­pe­rial speedome­ter does not work and had given it to PUB to look at. As out­lined in some past col­umns (eg. RC131, March 2015), PUB is fa­mil­iar with the in­ter­nals of the Smiths/Jaeger ‘chrono­met­ric’ in­stru­ments, and can oc­ca­sion­ally re­pair them if she is lucky enough to pos­sess the re­quired spare part. How­ever, not all speedos are chrono­met­ric (or even ‘isochronous’ as Bon­niksen de­scribed theirs).

The most com­mon type on later ma­chines is mag­netic – in which the ca­ble spins a mag­net close to an alu­minium disc to which is at­tached the nee­dle. When the mag­net spins close to the con­duct­ing alu­minium it gen­er­ates cir­cu­lat­ing cur­rent within that disc. That cur­rent (known as an eddy-cur­rent) pro­duces its own mag­netic field (like any other elec­tro­mag­net), which in­ter­acts with the spin­ning mag­net’s own field (ba­sic physics of ac­tion and re­ac­tion). The re­sult is that the alu­minium disc, al­though of non­mag­netic metal, is dragged around against its re­strain­ing hair­spring. Eddy cur­rents, by the way, are also why dy­namos and al­ter­na­tors utilise ‘lam­i­nated’ iron­work, which is per­me­able to the mag­netic field but presents a re­sis­tance at each lam­i­na­tion in­ter­face to elec­tri­cal cur­rents. The re­sult is much smaller eddy-cur­rents, and cor­re­spond­ingly re­duced power loss and heat­ing. PUB has only bro­ken into mag­netic in­stru­ments once or twice (they are usu­ally pressed to­gether, not screwed).

How­ever John’s New Imp speedo is not one of those ei­ther, but be­ing a vin­tage bike it sports a ‘Wat­ford’ in­stru­ment, made by S. North & Sons. From the bul­bous cas­ing this was rightly judged to be a cen­trifu­gal type, some­what like a minia­ture of the fly­ball gov­er­nor one might see on a traction en­gine. As speed rises the balls tend to fly out­wards (against grav­ity and/or springs), with links pulling an ac­tu­a­tor sleeve on the spin­dle. This sleeve, in turn op­er­ates gear­ing to a nee­dle in the case of a speedome­ter (or a valve in the case of the steam en­gine gov­er­nor). When

PUB ini­tially looked at the in­stru­ment she felt some­thing fall onto her knee, which a search proved to be a ball bear­ing. This and the pres­ence of ob­vi­ously loose parts in­side was not an en­cour­ag­ing start. PUB had never seen in­side a Wat­ford type be­fore, but agreed to take it away and see what could be done.

At home the first prob­lem was how to get it apart once the bezel and glass were re­moved. It looks as though the brass case should slide off the zinc al­loy cast­ing, but such force as wis­dom sug­gested might be ap­plied re­fused to budge any­thing. Given that zinc al­loy has a habit of ‘grow­ing’ with time that ap­proach was stopped, and likely screws in the face un­done. Sure enough, that brought most of ‘the works’ out, but with­out re­veal­ing how the main spin­dle, which was rat­tling around loose, was sup­posed to be re­tained. One more 1/8-inch ball­bear­ing was sit­ting in a re­cess at the bot­tom, and first im­pres­sions were that sig­nif­i­cant parts must be miss­ing. How­ever, when a speck of de­bris was spied down a hole and in­ves­ti­gated, it turned out to be a minute 1/16-inch ball­bear­ing. Even­tu­ally six such balls were found stuck in var­i­ous cor­ners – un­for­tu­nately sig­nif­i­cantly less than there should have been.

As may be seen in one of the pho­tos the cen­tral spin­dle car­ries an in­clined weight, on its own pivot. When the spin­dle is spun by the ca­ble, the un­re­strained sides of that weight tends to fly out­wards, and a link pulls the brass bush down. That mo­tion is trans­ferred, via a slid­ing joint, to a gear quad­rant and the pointer. But how was the spin­dle sup­posed to be sup­ported? Even­tu­ally PUB recog­nised that the castel­lated item at the bot­tom must be the outer of a bear­ing, and should have been filled with 1/8-inch balls run­ning di­rectly on the spin­dle bot­tom cham­fer. Sim­i­larly, at the smaller di­am­e­ter pointed top, the spin­dle did not lo­cate in a bush­ing, as it ap­peared, but in a tiny in­verted cup

The ‘guts’ of the Wat­ford speedome­ter mech­a­nism. Ta­pers top and bot­tom form the in­ners of two ball­races. Castel­lated item is the bot­tom cup, in­hab­ited by 1/8” balls, whilst the tiny top cup is held in its ad­justable mount, and ac­cepts equally tiny 1/16” balls. The in­clined weight flings out to­wards hor­i­zon­tal (like the balls of a fly­ball gov­er­nor) when spun round. A link from the weight pulls and pushes the brass sleeve up and down – even­tu­ally trans­lated into the speed in­di­ca­tion which should have been filled with 1/16-inch balls. In­ves­ti­ga­tion re­vealed that both cups were threaded in place and so ad­justable, but with the bot­tom one not ac­ces­si­ble af­ter assem­bly. Ad­di­tion­ally, one or other cup must be up­side down dur­ing assem­bly, or trial assem­bly, mak­ing re­ten­tion of the balls tricky. It only re­quires about 1/16-inch (60 thous) end float for those tiny balls to be able to fall com­pletely clear.

In any case, PUB had no such balls, al­though her spares box did pro­vide some of the 1/8-inch size. So to make some progress, she bent up a small ring from a piece of 1/16-inch brass rod (pos­si­bly braz­ing rod). This trick was learned from Titch Allen, who fre­quently used it on the bot­tom race of his side­car out­fits, where the ex­tra fric­tion sub­sti­tuted for a steer­ing damper. Not only would this sub­sti­tute for a ring of balls, but it would be much less li­able to fall out dur­ing trial as­sem­blies – a num­ber of which had to be made. This was nec­es­sary to es­tab­lish a bot­tom bear­ing ad­just­ment (and then lock it into place) which would sat­is­fac­to­rily align the lit­tle gear at the top of the spin­dle. Then a fine ad­just­ment of the top bear­ing could be made as its cup is threaded into place, with a lock­ing screw, clearly for the pur­pose.

A few other mi­nor is­sues needed to be di­ag­nosed, all ap­par­ently the re­sult of the unit hav­ing been apart pre­vi­ously (a pre­vi­ous cus­to­dian, pos­si­bly even more puz­zled than PUB, ap­peared to have ‘shov­elled’ the re­mains back in, and just re­fit­ted it). Sur­prise, sur­prise, op­er­ated from a bat­tery pow­ered drill, the in­stru­ment reg­is­tered speed and mileage again! PUB has sub­se­quently bought some 1/16-inch balls (off the in­ter­net) – two or three of which she promptly lost just get­ting them out of the packet. How­ever, with some dif­fi­culty, the brass ring has now been re­placed with the cor­rect balls, and the fine ad­just­ment re­set to suit. The ring trick would prob­a­bly have been fine for a vin­tage ma­chine never des­tined for big mileages, and was def­i­nitely eas­ier. How­ever John will be get­ting a prop­erly re­paired and work­ing speedome­ter back.

Mean­while sum­mer is here (al­though the ex­ces­sive heat of June is long gone, re­placed by show­ers), and PUB has been out on the road. On a longish trip down Bris­tol way, to a rally, the PUB Vin­cent seemed to go OK, as it has done on shorter trips over the win­ter. If it could do the same all the way up to the Lake Dis­trict for the VOC An­nual Rally, then last year’s hic­cups might be con­sid­ered gone, not­with­stand­ing that PUB would not know quite what had done the trick. How­ever, remembering last year’s con­ges­tion on the M6, which made typ­i­cal M25 traf­fic look like an F1 Grand Prix, a route up the western side of the coun­try by A1/A1M fol­lowed by cross­ing

over from Wetherby to Kirkby Lons­dale was cho­sen, as it of­fered more op­por­tu­ni­ties for a change of route if nec­es­sary.

In fact the trip proved to be straight­for­ward, and mostly dry al­most to the des­ti­na­tion. At In­gle­ton, just be­fore jour­ney’s end, PUB took a de­tour up the B6255 to see the Rib­ble­head viaduct. Built for the Mid­land Rail­way in 1870 to 1874, it is 440 yards long and rises 104 feet above the val­ley floor. The work cost the lives of ap­prox­i­mately 100 navvies killed by ac­ci­dents, fights, and small­pox, such that the rail­way com­pany even paid for an ex­pan­sion of the lo­cal church­yard! No long ex­ploratory stop was made due to con­tin­u­ing show­ers, and the 200-plus miles al­ready done, al­though the viaduct and its sur­round­ings cer­tainly war­ranted it.

The rally or­gan­is­ers had made a spe­cial ef­fort to show as many Vin­cent-HRD mod­els as they could at­tract, to mark 90 years of the Vin­cent HRD (not in­clud­ing the HRD years un­der Howard Davies). Their ef­forts were well re­warded, for in all her years PUB has never seen such an ar­ray, start­ing with a 1926 Howard Davies built HRD (and not PUB’s own, but a well re­stored model be­long­ing to Arthur Far­row). An­drew Walker had one of Phil Vin­cent’s ear­li­est mod­els, with a ‘See­ley’ type tri­an­gu­lated frame on show, in ad­di­tion to a num­ber of other rare and con­cours mod­els (for which he won awards). In the ‘in­dus­trial’ cor­ner, where Vin­cent-pow­ered prod­ucts such as ‘Bul­lows’ com­pres­sor, and a fear­some look­ing ‘Ver­sa­tiller’ were ex­hib­ited, there were also the re­mains of a Pi­cador en­gine. Un­like the in­dus­trial en­gines, which were small two-strokes, the Pi­cador was a full blooded Vin­cent twin, adapted to power an ML-made drone (for mil­i­tary tar­get prac­tice) by re­plac­ing the mo­tor­cy­cle gear­box with a bevel box to drive a pro­pel­ler. Fac­tory tun­ing pro­vided an­other 20bhp over the stan­dard Rapide fig­ure, but con­sid­er­able de­vel­op­ment and beef­ing up of the bot­tom end was re­quired to per­mit con­tin­u­ous op­er­a­tion at this rat­ing. At the other end of the scale the most re­cent ‘spe­cial’ on view was a Black Shadow con­verted to a trike (no parts butchered, and all re­versible) – a real con­ver­sa­tion piece.

On the fol­low­ing day the nearby vil­lage of Clapham were hold­ing a fête and clas­sic car show, so the club had agreed to take their ride that way and ex­hibit the Vin­cents

for the day. How­ever, come morn­ing it was buck­et­ing with rain, and many, in­clud­ing PUB, con­sid­ered stay­ing in the rugby club bar for the day in­stead. How­ever, the rain eased, and most then opted to go by the al­ter­na­tive short route – but PUB was too slow get­ting ready, and had to puz­zle out her own way. The day was rounded off with a fine meal in good com­pany cour­tesy of the rugby club staff, with no need to break out the camp­ing stove all week­end.

Al­though a Sun­day night stopover was also avail­able, poor weather was fore­cast again, so a ‘dash for home’ seemed like a good idea and PUB, in com­pany with Morini Alan, set off for the M6 south (less traf­fic ex­pected than on the Fri­day). How­ever, af­ter a top up at the lo­cal fill­ing sta­tion, the PUB Vin­cent started to hes­i­tate, and grad­u­ally de­te­ri­o­rated into sig­nif­i­cant mis­fir­ing. Nat­u­rally first thoughts were that last year’s is­sues had re­turned, and an ex­ploratory stop was made just be­fore join­ing the mo­tor­way. Noth­ing ob­vi­ous be­ing found, PUB did not dare start the long mo­tor­way route home. Morini Alan waved as he left her there (to be fair he did check that she had a phone, but not that it was charged, which it of­ten is not). As the bike was still run­ning, it seemed a good idea to creep back to the rugby club, where help, spares, and tea/cof­fee would be avail­able. It con­tin­ued to run very badly, lead­ing to a con­cern whether the ‘top up’ had been with diesel! How­ever, re­vis­it­ing the garage, where they traced the sale, elim­i­nated that pos­si­bil­ity.

Back on the camp­site PUB then be­came the mid­day en­ter­tain­ment for those who were not out rid­ing for the day. First check was of the carbs for wa­ter, in view of all the rain show­ers, but there was no prob­lem there. Hav­ing once had a nee­dle es­cape from its clip, this was checked with a fin­ger up the bell­mouth, ex­cept that at the rear the fin­ger wouldn’t go in. On ex­am­i­na­tion the choke slide was seen to be down – no won­der it ran badly! The han­dle­bar choke lever, by con­trast, was in its cor­rect place, but a closer look re­vealed that the ca­ble outer was not in its abut­ment. PUB al­most never uses the chokes, lead­ing to ca­bles now be­ing ‘set’ and a bit stiff, so that op­er­at­ing the lever is as likely to re­lease the outer as it is to drop the slide. Pre­sum­ably some­one (not ex­clud­ing the in­com­pe­tent owner) had moved the lever and done this, the slide only slowly pro­gress­ing down­wards over the next few miles of vi­bra­tion. At any rate, the prob­lem was hope­fully re­solved (al­though the points were also checked just to be sure), and PUB’s em­bar­rass­ment made pub­lic.

With the weather de­te­ri­o­rat­ing, but sup­pos­edly less soon to east and south, a re­turn back down the western A1/A1M was cho­sen again, al­though it would be a few miles ex­tra. As it turned out it was slower too, mainly due to Sun­day traf­fic on the A65. Nev­er­the­less, there was no se­ri­ous holdup, and the rain just about held off, so it made for a good run home, and 500 miles done over the week­end. Apart from that silly scare, a very re­ward­ing trip.

Top: Mileome­ter wheels of the Wat­ford speedome­ter, which show through holes in the face

Above: Speedome­ter mech­a­nism (up­side down in this view) is housed un­der the mileome­ter plate, and is op­er­ated by the in­clined weight ‘fling­ing out­wards’ to­wards the hor­i­zon­tal when the main spin­dle is spun. Un­for­tu­nately none of this is vis­i­ble, or ac­ces­si­ble, when as­sem­bled (al­though it might be if the brass case could be de­tached)!

Above: One of the early Steve­nage built Vin­cen­tHRDs, this Rudge en­gined model fea­tures PCV’s orig­i­nal frame de­sign, with its steer­ing head to swing­ing fork pivot tubes (like a See­ley frame). Nu­mer­ous mod­i­fi­ca­tions were in­tro­duced to im­prove its func­tion, but with lit­tle ef­fect on the pub­lic re­sis­tance to its looks. Only when a more con­ven­tional look­ing frame (by Phil Irv­ing) was in­tro­duced did sales be­gin to take off. Back­drop is a fac­tory view of en­gines ready for assem­bly

Be­low: Vin­tage Wat­ford speedome­ter from a 1929 New Im­pe­rial. The barely vis­i­ble bulge be­low the brass outer cas­ing is where the cen­trifu­gal weight mech­a­nism op­er­ates

Top: Re­paired Wat­ford speedome­ter, work­ing. Sorry about the fuzzy pic, but it was tricky hold­ing the camera in one hand, the speedome­ter in the other hand, and op­er­at­ing a drill in the …er… other other hand!

Above: Just prior to jour­ney­ing up to the Lake Dis­trict, PUB suf­fered an al­most flat tyre. Rather than risk it just be­ing slow de­fla­tion from stand­ing (and not check­ing be­fore the ride), she fit­ted a new tube. In this shot can be seen the plas­tic dust­bin which she uses to sup­port the wheel when wrestling with the tyre

In the ab­sence of any 1/16” balls PUB bent up a piece of sim­i­lar di­am­e­ter wire into a ring – pos­si­bly for per­ma­nent use as the top bear­ing is lightly loaded, but in any case much eas­ier for trial and er­ror as­sem­blies

Right: Af­ter com­plet­ing the re­pair, PUB lo­cated this di­a­gram of the ‘Wat­ford’ speedome­ter in an old book. It might have helped – al­though as it only shows the speed mea­sur­ing part and omits the mileome­ter and top bear­ing ar­range­ment it would have been of lim­ited help

Be­low right: The cen­trifu­gal prin­ci­ple for speedome­ters is only met on a few vin­tage bikes, hav­ing been re­placed by the Smiths chrono­met­ric, and then the mag­netic type whose prin­ci­ple is il­lus­trated here

Above: The Rib­ble­head viaduct, built by the Mid­land Rail­way in 1870 to 1874, is a mag­nif­i­cent piece of pe­riod ar­chi­tec­ture – and still in use (al­though its clo­sure in 1980 was con­tem­plated). To­day it is a listed build­ing and a tourist at­trac­tion, to­gether with its sta­tion and inn

Above right: This fairly fear­some look­ing ‘Ver­sa­tiller’ is pow­ered by one of the Vin­cent small two-stroke in­dus­trial en­gines. The Health & Safety bri­gade might have some­thing to say if it was pro­duced to­day!

Above: This al­ter­na­tive view of the Rib­ble­head viaduct does lit­tle to show its grandeur, but does il­lus­trate its bleak lo­ca­tion. This is how it would have been for the many Navvies who laboured might­ily to build it (and of whom around 100 lost their lives)

In this rally view are some very rare Vin­cents. Fore­most is a model PS, fea­tur­ing a (Rudge) Python en­gine, to ‘Ul­ster’ spec. with a bronze head. Fur­ther back MV4433 is a sim­i­lar, but less sporty, bike with an iron head. A rigid Wolver­hamp­ton built HRD 350cc ohv com­pletes the pre-war set, amongst the more com­mon post-war mod­els. Shad­ows show that this photo was taken dur­ing one of the sunny spells

Be­low: This rar­ity was not seen at the VOC rally, but at a more lo­cal meet. It is a se­ries D Comet, of which only one was orig­i­nally sold (a se­cond 500cc was sold as the fully en­closed ‘Vic­tor’ model in which form both were orig­i­nally as­sem­bled). Af­ter the 1954 Earl’s Court show (where 1000cc Black Prince and Black Knight, plus 500cc Vic­tor mod­els were on show) a de­ci­sion was made not to put the 500s into pro­duc­tion.

Left: A sur­pris­ing spe­cial seen at the VOC An­nual Rally was this Shadow trike. Far from the op­pro­brium that might have been ex­pected, it was met with great in­ter­est and con­grat­u­la­tion for the owner (Glynn Bax­ter). No doubt many club mem­bers can per­ceive the day com­ing when they can­not han­dle a solo any longer, and not ev­ery­one favours a side­car

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