Brit bits from California
On a recent trip to America I visited Raber Parts Mart, 1984 Stone Ave, San Jose. I had a chat to the proprietor, Bob Raber whilst he took a lunch break from a busy work schedule, and I soon formed the opinion that this bloke was a gentleman from ‘the old school’. He was only too happy to speak with me and fill me in on his background. He commenced working in the motorcycle trade at the age of 18 and has continued up to the present age of 74 years. It became apparent that he is passionate about both the machines and the trade. He served a lengthy period of time in another business nearby, Brooks’ Motorcycles. He commenced his own business in 1984 and has never had a dealership. He stocks large quantities of Norton, Triumph, BSA and some Ariel items. He owns and rides a number of machines including a Mk 11 Square Four Ariel. Stock has been acquired over the years when others in the British motorcycle trade have closed down as well from the usual wholesalers in the UK. He outlined one unusual event which took place in the late 1980s when a former trader from Kuwait arrived and asked if he was interested in purchasing Triumph and Norton parts. He showed some interest but made no firm agreement. Then about 18 months later he received a phone call from this fellow’s son to advise that the parts had arrived. He went and had a look and there was a considerable amount of early 1950s Triumph parts including complete nacelle assemblies. However he needed to sort through it to determine a price which had not been agreed upon prior to the arrival of this consignment. The crates contained other items such as bicycle parts. He recognized that he had to act with a degree of diplomacy as price negotiations could have easily offended the seller. Bob ended up with a good deal that came by way of the most unusual circumstances. Bob has a total of nine staff about half of which are employed in the workshop undertaking repairs to British machines. He explained that there is a constant demand for those services and jobs have to be booked in months in advance. One interesting issue arose was that before a client leaves after an engine rebuild he provides them with a set of written guidelines and obtains a signature acknowledging that they read and understood what care and caution is required during the “running period”.
His web site is www.rabers.com and when I was there one of the staff members was engaged in updating the system so as to have a “shopping cart” and photos which he hopes will include approximately 20,000 parts. Speaking of staff I observed his counter salesman Richard and soon concluded that he had a thorough knowledge of various machines when in discussion with customers. He and others have been with Bob for many years and this again must be a reflection on the type of person that he is.
Whilst I am not suggesting that readers ignore our home based traders such B.J.s in Brisbane, Modak in Melbourne, Trojan and Eades All Parts in Sydney I am merely opening another door to obtaining parts should they not be available here in Australia. Freight from overseas can be expensive, however it you are unable to locate a part and something worth $50 prevents you from being able to complete a $10,000 machine then there is no alternative than to look elsewhere. Email address is [email protected] See you next issue, Pete