Waste not, want not.

Us­ing com­po­nents col­lected over many years, Tony Fitz­patrick has built a stun­ning and po­tent mo­tor­cy­cle with a rare and un­usual pow­er­plant.

Old Bike Australasia - - FITZPATRIC­K NOURISH 850 - Story Jim Scaysbrook Pho­tos Jim Scaysbrook and Ray Smith

The Fitz­patrick fam­ily have a strong mo­tor­cy­cling pres­ence in the New­cas­tle re­gion. Fa­ther Cliff, who passed away in Fe­bru­ary 2018, raced on the lo­cal speed­ways and was a pro­lific col­lec­tor of mo­tor­cy­cles from an area that has al­ways been a trea­sure trove of clas­sic ma­chines. Tony Fitz­patrick, whose BSA/Nour­ish spe­cial is the sub­ject of our story, was a for­mi­da­ble com­peti­tor in the fe­ro­ciously com­pet­i­tive and of­ten ruth­less side­car ranks of the lo­cal dirt track scene, which at one stage boasted around half a dozen cir­cuits in the Hunter re­gion alone. Since his rac­ing days ended, Tony has re­stored sev­eral of the in­com­plete ma­chines res­cued from early graves by his fa­ther. His broth­ers Peter and Terry are sim­i­larly en­trenched in mo­tor­cy­cles, the for­mer with a shop in Mait­land and Terry with an en­vi­able col­lec­tion of solo Dirt Track and Speed­way bikes. There was no hot­ter bed of com­pe­ti­tion than the New­cas­tle/Hunter area post war, with a breed of hard-as-nails rac­ers on two and three wheels ply­ing the tracks, which ranged from the speed­way style cir­cuits like Hed­don Greta and Salty Creek to the vast Muswell­brook one-mile hill­side cir­cuit, as well as nu­mer­ous oth­ers. Such was the depth of the sport that there was a meet­ing on some­where in the re­gion al­most ev­ery week­end, and the lead­ing rid­ers like Norm Fraser, Dave O’Brien, Herb Jef­fer­son and Jack Davies col­lected con­sid­er­able prize money. In the side­car ranks, the ac­tion was even more fren­zied and ag­gres­sive. Jack Pearce, John Dun­scombe, Gor­don Hel­lyer, Ge­orge Wat­son and Joe Cox all

ex­celled in this of­ten rough-and-tum­ble form of the sport. In the early ‘seven­ties, per­haps the most con­sis­tently suc­cess­ful of all the ‘chair­men’ was Alan Rae, known to his friends as ‘Ra­di­a­tor’, an­other Hunter lo­cal who raced a lurid or­ange out­fit with Rob­bie Keev­ers and later Peter Trap­pel in the side­car. The Rae out­fit, a de­vice hardly knee-high, was con­ceived and built by Alan in con­junc­tion with a bunch of mates and lo­cal en­thu­si­asts, no­tably Stan Watkins, who built the 650cc Tri­umph en­gine. Run­ning on al­co­hol and with care­ful but not ex­treme prepa­ra­tion, the en­gine was fast and very re­li­able. Tony Fitz­patrick says, “It was a bit of a com­mu­nity ef­fort. Stan did the mo­tor, Bill Rawl­in­son built the frame, Gor­don Hel­lyer (Tony’s fa­ther-in-law and the 1960 Aus­tralian Side­car Cham­pion) cut down the BSA forks and fit­ted a 12-inch wheel from a scooter, and Alan Rae made the tank and mud­guards.” To get the plot as low as pos­si­ble, the top sec­tion of the BSA swing­ing arm frame was sim­ply lopped off and the steer­ing head repo­si­tioned. Rae and Keev­ers won the 1971 Aus­tralian Ju­nior Side­car Dirt Track ti­tle at Ipswich (Qld) in 1971, then both the Ju­nior and Se­nior ti­tles the fol­low­ing year at Ama­roo Park in Syd­ney.

When Rae re­tired from rid­ing, the out­fit passed to Stan Watkins who reck­oned an in­crease in power was needed to stay com­pet­i­tive with the new breed of out­fits pow­ered by multi-cylin­der Ja­panese engines. Fol­low­ing a trip to Eng­land to take in some rac­ing from the boom­ing British grass track scene, Watkins re­turned with some rather over­weight lug­gage. Packed in­side sev­eral suit­cases was an 850cc Nour­ish/Wes­lake twin en­gine. This power unit was ac­tu­ally con­ceived by the Rick­man broth­ers, who had Wes­lake Engi­neer­ing de­sign an 8-valve cylin­der head con­ver­sion for the ven­er­a­ble 650cc Tri­umph en­gine. The Rick­mans planned to use this en­gine, which gave a healthy 20% in­crease in power from 700cc ca­pac­ity, in their road go­ing Metisse chas­sis, but the early ver­sions were chron­i­cally un­re­li­able – the Tri­umph bot­tom end re­peat­edly fail­ing with dis­as­trous re­sults. Rick­mans aban­doned the idea but Wes­lake pressed on, pro­duc­ing their own engines in 500cc and 750cc form from 1971 with their own bot­tom end. These units proved strong and re­li­able, and later an 850cc ver­sion was added, with the choice of 360 or 180de­gree crankshaft­s. In 1977, with Wes­lake con­cen­trat­ing on their suc­cess­ful 500cc sin­gle cylin­der speed­way engines, Dave Nour­ish took over pro­duc­tion of the twins at his fac­tory in Le­ices­ter­shire, and the 850, now called NRE (Nour­ish Rac­ing Engi­neer­ing) be­came the power unit of choice for British grass track rac­ing. It’s an im­pres­sive unit, with a one-piece bil­let crank­shaft ma­chined from heat-treated ni­trided steel, forged al­loy con-rods with EN24 steel forged end caps, and lightweigh­t rac­ing pis­tons. Stan Watkins planned to re­place the age­ing Tri­umph en­gine in the Rae out­fit with the NRE, which was com­pleted in time for the Aus­tralian Dirt Track Cham­pi­onships at Sey­mour, Vic­to­ria in 1979, where it was rid­den by Mick Far­rell. Tony Fitz­patrick takes up the story. “It just wouldn’t run right, would not rev. Ge­orge Wat­son rode it and hacked around with it, but he couldn’t get it to go ei­ther. Jim Gil­bert fid­dled with it and changed the cams. No-one wanted to ride it, they all said it was a heap of crap. I had a bro­ken leg at the time and I was start­ing to come good, and Stan knew my old man re­ally well. He said. ‘What’s your young bloke do­ing, tell him to come over and get the bike’. So I brought it home and I had a pretty good idea what was wrong with it, so I asked him if I could cut the muf­flers off it and put a new set on be­cause I reck­oned there was too much fi­bre­glass in the muf­flers and that was what was wrong with it. He said ‘I think you’re bark­ing up the wrong tree but do what you want be­cause I’m over it’. So I cut the muf­flers off it and took it to Cameron Park and it went like a rocket, so Stan says, ‘It’s yours now,’ and I’ve had it ever since. Once we got it go­ing it just over­took all the four cylin­der bikes”. The ex-Alan Rae out­fit was mod­i­fied to stay com­pet­i­tive, with lead­ing link forks and larger wheels, but as Dirt Track rac­ing waned in pop­u­lar­ity, it was re­tired to the shed. Then when Rae’s for­mer rac­ing pas­sen­ger Rob Keev­ers passed away, Tony Fitz­patrick was asked to dis­play the out­fit at the fu­neral, and de­cided to put the Tri­umph en­gine back in the frame to make it as orig­i­nal as pos­si­ble. That left one NRE 850 en­gine sit­ting in the work­shop, and a plan was hatched for its sec­ond life, a less stress­ful one away from the race track. Tony’s well equipped shed con­tains a trove of BSA com­po­nents, so he de­cided to build a ‘Spe­cial’ to house the NRE en­gine. “It was built out of what I had – it’s just a bitza re­ally. It has a stan­dard A7 BSA frame, with a swing­ing arm from a FT500 Honda. I cut the end off the swing­ing arm and short­ened it to achieve the same wheel­base as a Red­line flat tracker. The rear hub is from a late model Tri­umph hub which I widened to suit the wider swing­ing arm. The rear disc ro­tor is from a Suzuki with a small Ja­panese caliper, but I tried not to use much Ja­panese stuff. The front forks are Ce­ri­ani from a Laverda, the rear shocks are Koni, and the front brake is a rac­ing Lock­heed which I got from Ian Cameron, for whom I worked for 20 years in Mait­land. This brake came out from UK in a Rick­man rolling chas­sis that was built to take a Honda 4. The tank is fi­bre­glass in a Gold Star pat­tern. I bought a fi­bre­glass seat base and had it up­hol­stered lo­cally. The en­gine has the 180 de­gree crank which makes it sound weird com­pared to nor­mal Tri­umphs and BSAs with 360 de­gree cranks. It has 36mm Mk2 Amal Con­cen­tric carbs and it makes 85 horse­power at 7,500 rpm. The Nor­ton AMC box has a belt drive pri­mary. I did the paint­work my­self and the chrome was done by Hamil­ton Chrome in New­cas­tle.” When the NRE en­gine was in the dirt track out­fit, it ran a Lu­cas Rita ig­ni­tion sys­tem with a to­tal-loss bat­tery, which would see it through a day’s com­pe­ti­tion on a sin­gle charge. In Tony’s cre­ation, a Lu­cas Nor­ton al­ter­na­tor was fit­ted in­side the Nor­ton pri­mary cases to pro­vide a re­li­able charg­ing sys­tem. It bolted straight on and has been trou­ble-free. Tony’s ‘bitza’ was com­pleted in time to be dis­played at the an­nual Coal­fields Clas­sic Mo­tor­cy­cle Show in Greta in 2015, where it col­lared a ma­jor award. In fact, Tony has made rather a habit of win­ning tro­phies at this char­ity event, hav­ing won six years in a row with six dif­fer­ent mo­tor­cy­cles. These in­clude two vin­tage Har­ley-David­sons, a Rudge Speed­way bike and a 1929 Dou­glas that he re­stored for a friend. And there are plenty more to come from the Fitz­patrick work­shop – watch this space!

“It was built out of what I had – it’s just a bitza re­ally... stan­dard A7 BSA frame, with a swing­ing arm from a FT500 Honda.”

Alan Rae and Peter Trap­pel on the orig­i­nal Tri­umph-pow­ered Dirt Track out­fit. The Alan Rae out­fit as it is to­day, fit­ted again with Tri­umph en­gine. Tony still has the orig­i­nal front forks and wheels.

Paint is all Tony’s work. Fi­bre­glass BSA style tank.

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