Pipe dreams

Old Bike Australasia - - OUT’N’ABOUT - Story and pho­tos Stu­art Fran­cis

Tucked away down a nar­row al­ley­way in the back streets of Bournemout­h (a quiet UK South Coast sea­side re­sort) is the world’s largest man­u­fac­turer of Vin­tage and Clas­sic mo­tor­cy­cle ex­haust pipes and si­lencers. Started in 1972, Ar­mours has grad­u­ally grown into the premier sup­plier of mo­tor­cy­cle ex­haust sys­tems. They also sup­ply a wide range of other restora­tion prod­ucts like con­trol levers, cy­cle thread nuts and bolts; the list goes on. With over 400 dif­fer­ent ex­haust pipes and si­lencers avail­able, Ar­mours ship over 1000 ex­haust pipes and si­lencers a month to cus­tomers around the world. The seem­ing chaos of the des­patch area and the hun­dreds of tea chest stor­age bins be­lies a very con­trolled, ef­fi­cient sys­tem. The bulk of the ex­haust pipes and si­lencers are HD (High Den­sity) chromed steel with about 5% of the out­put in stain­less steel. They can also sup­ply un­plated items, make pipes and si­lencers to pat­terns, and pro­vide a fit­ting ser­vice at the fac­tory. The Dick­en­sian fac­tory and shop, em­ploy­ing 8 and a half peo­ple, smelling of ground steel, weld­ing ozone and form­ing oil, equipped with only a small num­ber of power tools, pipe ben­der and weld­ing equip­ment, pro­duces ex­cel­lent repli­cas of orig­i­nal equip­ment. All of the ex­haust pipes and si­lencers are made in-house and are copied from good pat­terns. HD chrome items are shipped to a spe­cial­ist plater 200 miles away, the near­est that could meet the com­pany’s ex­act­ing stan­dards. High turnover items for pop­u­lar ma­chines are made in large batches and shipped straight off to the plater; low vol­ume items are still made in rea­son­able batches but only a few are sent off for plat­ing, the most ex­pen­sive part of man­u­fac­ture. Pro­duc­tion takes about six weeks with plat­ing tak­ing the great­est time. A few ex­haust pipes come with fit­ting in­struc­tions like the WLA Har­ley David­son sys­tem sup­plied with an over­long rear pipe that has to be trimmed to fit. Most of the ex­haust pipes and si­lencers can be sup­plied in Stain­less Steel ex­cept for those that re­quire stamped shapes. They also make stain­less steel sys­tems for 1970s and 1980s BMWs, Guzzis and Du­catis. They do not make pipes and si­lencers for Ja­panese ma­chines as the sub­tle year-on-year changes and dou­ble skin con­struc­tion are im­pos­si­ble to repli­cate. De­spite be­ing over­loaded with day-to-day pro­duc­tion they still find time to de­velop new pipes and si­lencers. Re­cent ad­di­tions are pre-war Pan­ther 100 and Pan­ther 50 pipes and si­lencers, Tri­umph TSX si­lencer, a Coven­try Ea­gle si­lencer, and a uni­ver­sal, strip­pable, si­lencer for smaller 2-strokes. The owner, Peter Rutins, in­tro­duced a new web­site ar­moursltd.co.uk last year which has proved a great suc­cess, pos­si­bly too suc­cess­ful as they are strug­gling to keep up with or­ders. The big is­sue for an­tipodean cus­tomers is the ship­ping cost - be­ing large and heavy, inevitably it is go­ing to cost. Peter has tried many ship­pers to get a bet­ter deal but keeps com­ing back to Royal Mail as they pro­vide the best ser­vice. If you are vis­it­ing check the web­site for open­ing times.

ABOVE LEFT Owner Peter Rutins with an un-plated Nor­ton “peardrop” si­lencer. BELOW RIGHT Peter in the Out­wards Goods depart­ment with a Ve­lo­cette Si­lencer.

ABOVE LEFT A uni­ver­sal, strip­pable, si­lencer for small 2-strokes. LEFT A Coven­try Ea­gle si­lencer.

ABOVE The Dick­en­sian Fac­tory.

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