SOME­THING SPE­CIAL

Take a BSA A10 frame and a Har­ley Sport­ster en­gine. Add a cus­tom-built side­car chas­sis, a lot of en­gi­neer­ing ex­per­tise and out­right in­ge­nu­ity and you have all the cru­cial com­po­nents to build a bit of a beast. Odgie meets the (vin­tage) rac­ers of the third

Real Classic - - What Lies Within - Pho­tos by Odgie Him­self

Take a BSA A10 frame and a Har­ley Sport­ster en­gine. Add a cus­tom-built side­car chas­sis, a lot of en­gi­neer­ing ex­per­tise and out­right in­ge­nu­ity and you have all the cru­cial com­po­nents to build a bit of a beast. Odgie meets the (vin­tage) rac­ers of the third wheel…

We don’t get many side­car out­fits in RealClas­sic. On the one hand that’s not sur­pris­ing, as within the clas­sic niche they form a small niche all of their own. On the other hand, you’d think there’d be loads, since al­most with­out ex­cep­tion side­car out­fits tend to be Rather In­ter­est­ing...

Rather In­ter­est­ing is cer­tainly a suit­able ep­i­thet for Dave Sykes’ Har­ley-en­gined, BSAframed (Harbsa? Beesley?) ex­am­ple of three­wheeled in­ge­nu­ity. As you might ex­pect, the story is a joy (and I’m in­debted to one of the co-builders, Tony Banis­ter, for the notes he sup­plied be­fore I went to pho­to­graph the bike, which turned out to be a well-writ­ten story in them­selves so in many re­spects I’ve just added in the de­tails). But first, a word from our spon­sor...

OK, I know, no spon­sors here, but everyone in­volved with the bike was at pains to say they wanted to help pro­mote clas­sic side­car rac­ing, and we’re noth­ing if not help­ful at RC. The BHR (Bri­tish His­toric Rac­ing) is a sec­tion of the all-per­vad­ing VMCC, and the side­car bunch are, well, the Side­car Bunch. Classes range from Pre-59, through Pre-72 (two cylin­der / two valves to rule out the Jap fours and Wes­lakes), and Cy­cle­car, which in­cludes Mor­gans, along with Wes­lakes, Imps, Honda Fours, etc. There’s also a BEARS side­car class, from Pre-59 all the way through to 1986 to in­clude Evo Har­leys, etc, al­though cur­rently the class is dom­i­nated by BMW K100s, with a soli­tary Guzzi Le Mans and an un­ex­pected MT500 sin­gle – they’re noth­ing if not slightly ec­cen­tric, the clas­sic side­car bunch. Dave’s Harbsa com­plies with both Pre-59 and BEARS reg­u­la­tions, so two bites at the cherry.

Dave had al­ready raced a Tri­umph out­fit which, with its light crank and larger than life cams, had proved to be some­thing of a hand­ful. That, along with its ten­dency to not last an en­tire meet­ing, led him to think that it was per­haps time to look else­where. That else­where was to Amer­ica, and a Har­leyDavid­son iron head Sport­ster. He reck­oned that the V-twin 1000cc en­gine should be strong enough to stay to­gether so that his en­gine build­ing skills would not be called upon, and it would also have more than enough grunt to get him out of trou­ble should he need it. That po­ten­tial, cou­pled with the rea­son­ably priced and plen­ti­ful sup­ply of spares and tun­ing parts from the States, con­vinced him it was the right way to go.

Dave promptly set to and built him­self an iron head Sport­ster side­car out­fit to race with BHR and else­where. He started with a more or less com­plete bike, and used the stan­dard frame. The re­sult was good but not great. As Tony Banis­ter puts it; ‘ The weight of the mo­tor cou­pled with the heavy and – let’s face it – less than satisfactory frame made the thing a gen­uinely lardy lump that could out­wit any brake you dared to show it.’

Mmm. So, what to do? Well de­spite its weight the en­gine it­self was good. The gear­box was not quite so, the ra­tios be­ing a lit­tle too wide apart for rac­ing, even with all that torque. Clearly what was needed was a lighter but strong frame to start with, and it had to be pre-1959 and not Ja­panese. A Nor­ton feath­erbed would have been nice but was out of the ques­tion due to price. Dave didn’t have un­lim­ited funds and the whole build had to be done as cost ef­fec­tively as pos­si­ble.

At this point Dave had a bit of luck. His good mate John Lor­ri­man, him­self a side­car racer with a long his­tory and plenty of spares from a life­time of col­lect­ing what­ever came his way, had the re­mains of a BSA A10 frame. Some­one in the past had chopped it about. The sub­frame was miss­ing, the front down­tubes had been short­ened and the swing­ing arm was long gone, but on the plus side it was free.

Dave dropped the en­gine, com­plete with gear­box (the Sport­ster is unit con­struc­tion), into the frame then took it to PB Me­chan­i­cal Ser­vices in Lan­cashire (or God’s own county, as Tony puts it) to have a sub­frame and swing­ing arm made. The swing­ing arm was in fact from an Ariel Hunt­mas­ter. PB did the work for him, but then the project fal­tered as these things of­ten do.

Tony takes up the tale again. ‘You know what it’s like when you drink beer and loads of stupid ideas get tossed about? Well that’s what hap­pened next.’ Dave was in the pub with Adam and Lue, own­ers of PB Me­chan­i­cal Ser­vices, along with Tony who works for them. Some­how it was sug­gested that they fin­ish the project for Dave and get it out on the track, pro­vid­ing ‘we do it how we see fit.’

The deal was done, and PB got to work. I should men­tion that PB are one of those quirky lit­tle com­pa­nies that we all love to find. Os­ten­si­bly they ser­vice and main­tain canal nar­row­boats, in­clud­ing day hire, but in prac­tice, they take on any­thing ‘old and

in­ter­est­ing’. While I was there, the work­shop (it­self an ab­so­lute Aladdin’s Cave, stuffed to the gills with ran­dom en­gines, parts, crankcases and gen­eral mem­o­ra­bilia and para­pher­na­lia) was hous­ing a Ford­son Trac­tor for ren­o­va­tion and a Tri­umph Stag ditto, along with sev­eral BMC1500 diesel en­gines (a pop­u­lar choice for nar­row­boats), from the fully re­built to the ‘let’s just see if we can get it go­ing’ projects. Fabby.

PB, in the shape of Adam and Tony, de­cided the first thing to do was take a long look at the Har­ley-BSA out­fit and come up with an idea of how to go about it. Bear in mind all they had at this stage was the en­gine, the rem­nants of a bare A10 frame and a front wheel. It was de­cided to try and make it look as much like a BSA A10 as pos­si­ble, al­beit with a V-twin en­gine, and also to ad­dress the gear ra­tio prob­lem at the same time. To this end, the clunky old HD gear­box was re­moved us­ing an an­gle grinder. Sounds easy if you say it quickly, but as Tony said, ‘It makes you a bit nervy when it’s up there on the bench and you have to make the first cut...’

Yep, I reckon so, mate. It was orig­i­nally go­ing to be re­placed with a BSA gear­box, but fate again lent a hand, and Dave was of­fered a Petty five-speed box from a See­ley G50, for a not-to-be-sniffed-at price. This was fit­ted to the frame and lined up with the en­gine, us­ing heavy steel en­gine plates man­u­fac­tured by PB to help counter any vi­bra­tion. A rear wheel from an Ariel was found, lined up with the gear­box and fit­ted, along with BSA front forks and front wheel which got the bike rolling, al­beit with­out any tin­ware or pri­mary drive.

The pri­mary drive was again made in­house. It’s a belt driven Nor­ton di­aphragm clutch with the front pul­ley made from the spline of the HD en­gine sprocket ma­chined down and then at­tached to a belt pul­ley with the cen­tre ma­chined out. PB are noth­ing if not re­source­ful. In­deed, most of the tin­ware came from scrab­bling around at au­to­jum­bles (the rear brake pedal is from a Jawa 350, sim­ply turned up­side down), apart from the petrol tank which again came from John Lor­ri­man’s col­lec­tion of bits.

An ex­haust sys­tem needed to be made and the guys de­cided that a two-into-one set up would suit it best. Everyone kept telling them they needed big-bore pipes, but the guys reck­oned that the big bore pipes usu­ally fit­ted to Har­ley en­gines were for noise only at the ex­pense of per­for­mance, and that in fact any­thing big­ger than a 1½” bore was a waste as the ex­haust ports are only of that size to start with. Good think­ing, peo­ple who

ac­tu­ally know about en­gines also know gas speed is im­por­tant. And any­how twin pipes into a sin­gle si­lencer would look good...

With most of the bike to­gether, the en­gine was re­built with higher lift cams and a raised com­pres­sion ra­tio, and the valve gear was also light­ened a lit­tle.

Now it was time to build the side­car. That’s not a sim­ple task in it­self, and all the more so if you would ac­tu­ally like it to han­dle – al­ways a bonus in rac­ing – in which case you need the ex­per­tise that comes with time and ex­pe­ri­ence. PB Me­chan­i­cal have built sev­eral side­cars for rac­ing, and both Adam and Tony race side­cars of their own. In­deed, they built a lovely look­ing Moto Guzzi Le Mans out­fit which won the BEARs side­car cham­pi­onship in the hands of Adam and his ex­tremely ca­pa­ble pas­sen­ger John in its very first sea­son.

Dave had in­sisted on the large di­am­e­ter, thin-wall tub­ing for his out­fit, which looks about right for the large en­gine of the Har­ley even though it ap­pears a lit­tle heavy com­pared to the norm. Much mea­sur­ing, de­sign­ing, tube bend­ing and painstak­ing con­struc­tion later, the plat­form was fit­ted. With the paint­work com­plete, the bike was ready for a test. With the col­lec­tion of var­i­ous bits that make up the drive train, the gear­ing was a com­plete un­known – well, a slightly ed­u­cated guess – so once the clutch was re­leased there was no know­ing what would hap­pen. As it was the out­fit spun the rear wheel the en­tire length of the yard. As Tony says: ‘Re­sult!’ At the time of writ­ing, the bike is still in shake­down mode. It had an out­ing at Mal­lory, tainted by a new bat­tery that showed charge but didn’t ac­tu­ally sup­ply any, fol­lowed by a ses­sion on track where the en­gine dis­played all its mon­ster torque by break­ing the gear­box. Once the box is re­moved and stripped, de­ci­sions will be made whether to re­pair it, or re­vert back to the orig­i­nal plan of the rel­a­tively in­de­struc­tible BSA gear­box. I say ‘rel­a­tively’; Tony has man­aged

to break sev­eral, but then that’s by throw­ing his own out­fit so hard into the bends that the bike back wheel comes off the ground then re­con­nects at full chat. You can make a gear­box id­iot-proof, but you can’t make it an­i­mal-proof...

The out­fit has also been to the odd show to help pro­mote the BHR… which proved to be an ex­pe­ri­ence in it­self. Plenty of peo­ple were fooled into try­ing to work out which model of BSA it was! To be fair, the guys at PB have suc­ceeded very well in their aim of mak­ing the bike look fac­tory rather than spe­cial…

but the most en­ter­tain­ing guy was the self-ap­pointed Noted Ex­pert, who went on at great length telling Tony all about BSA V-twin en­gines and who he should get his spares off and telling him in great de­tail what he re­ally needed to know to be able to re­build them prop­erly.

Tony lis­tened quite pa­tiently un­til the Noted Ex­pert fi­nally fin­ished and then said qui­etly, ‘You do know what it is, don’t you? You do re­alise it’s a Har­ley en­gine...?’ Which again didn’t prompt any sort of hum­ble re­treat, or in­deed recog­ni­tion of the frame it­self, but in­stead en­gen­dered a haughty, ‘Huh, well why did you put BSA on the tank then?’

‘Oh, that’s for peo­ple like you,’ Tony said with a smile. We have a way with words in Lan­cashire...

One truly pur­pose­ful ma­chine, and the H-D en­gine looks oddly at home in the (mostly) BSA frame

Right: Pri­mary drive is by belt, fi­nal drive by chain. Ob­serve the Com­mando-type di­aphragm spring clutch

Above: What it says on the tin, right? Well … not en­tirely!

Odgie reck­ons we don’t see enough out­fits in the mag­a­zine. Here’s one now!

Left: When rac­ing a se­ri­ously grunty out­fit, stay­ing on the level de­mands lots of strength in the chair / bike joints, as well as lots of se­cure hand­holds for the heroic pas­sen­ger

Above: An­other view of the con­sid­er­ably ro­bust side­car mount­ings

Har­ley’s Sport­ster en­gine is unit con­struc­tion, but the builders boldly chopped off the gear­box and re­placed it with a Petty rac­ing de­vice

All the com­forts of home. A chap could doze off with com­fort like this…

At a guess, this BSA sls drum will have its work cut out han­dling the weight!

Ev­ery lit­tle bit of brac­ing helps: lat­eral forces on a rac­ing out­fit can do ter­ri­ble things to forks

All that fancy mud­guard­ing is ac­tu­ally to pro­tect ath­letic pas­sen­gers, who need to fling them­selves around hero­ically to pro­vide crowd-pleas­ing en­ter­tain­ment

Left: Wide bars help con­trol the busi­ness end

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