Back Street Heroes
Ibought the bike from an eBay seller in October 2017 – it looked a cool bike, and I’d been toying with building a bobber for a few years. Most of the major things’d been done for the seller by a bloke who worked in a hotrod shop. It was advertised as all-new, but turned out to be pretty worn out when I got it, blowing fuses all the time (especially if you used the lights or back brake), and the number-plate fell off; the ’plate itself actually broke – where it was welded to the frame was still intact!
Then, while I was up the garage, I noticed there was a leak on the tank which’d lifted all the paint. I did originally think I’d just have a go at respraying it but, one fateful February day, I came home from a night shift and decided to take the tank off. Then I looked at the number-plate hanging off and, by about 11am, it was all stripped down to its bare bones. I went to bed for a few hours, and then set in motion what’d been floating about in my head.
First thing was the engine. I didn’t have to do anything much to it, other than change the oil and filters; tighten the cam-chain; have a look at the clutch (the last owner said it dragged in top gear so I took it apart, and did the old trials bike trick of cleaning all the glue from the friction plates – it took a few hours with a needle file, but was totally worth it as, with 20/50 oil back in, no clutch slip; it’s since had a new one-piece pushrod and a new nylon cable, and is now lovely and light); and check/set the points (it’s running oldstyle points with a PMA charging system), but it’d previously been rattle-can’d… and by that I mean all of it – barrels, head, cases, nuts, bolts, washers, pipes, etc. I decided to take everything off to degrease and polish, and then spray properly. In fact, I didn’t just do the motor, I did the fork legs and, basically, anything I thought should shine. I rebuilt the brakes; fitted a new speedo drive; drilled the front disc to get more bite, and to vent it (didn’t like the solid look); replaced the mismatched levers with ASV stubbies; sorted two new coils; ran new wiring wherever I could; and tidied up the battery box. It now doesn’t blow fuses!
The carbs are Mikuni VM 34s with extended boots to stick them out away from the engine, ’cos I think that looks cool, made from pieces of pipe tubing welded on to the flanges, and drilled/tapped to 5/16 UNF to be able to balance/sync the carbs. The exhausts look to be the originals, but cut to look like slash-cuts, but were badly rusted so I took them off, wire-wheeled them, polished the tips, and wrapped them.
I then went about putting my own ideas on to the bike. I’d already bought a cheap spray gun but, starting in February, it was a task unto itself – it was freezing, and the paint kept reacting, and I had to rework the tank and tinware three times due to problems, but I learnt along the way. I like the old ’70s-style paint schemes so decided on a stipple and lace effect so laid down silver, then black, then mother-of-pearl lace which’s so subtle you can see it up close, but just blends into black and silver from a distance. I finished it, and it looked good but, while being transported in the van, a mate’s BSA slipped over and scratched the tank
right down to metal. I stripped it, and the front mudguard, and then saw that the rear mudguard, which’d been welded on at some point previously, had cracked, so that had to be cut off, dressed back, rubbed down, and repainted, too, to fall in with the rest of the bike. I wanted to keep it along the lines of what it was like prior to the damage, but also to better the design, so I went with what I felt at the time, and the result is what it is now.
I also took it, after a year or two, to a buddy, Dave Norris at Wired Iron, who does a lot of new looms (and repairs an’ stuff) for British bikes and Harleys, as the old loom was probably the original, sliced and spliced to death, and really needed to be renewed to accommodate the new
12v Boyer electronic ignition unit – the new, blue, Boyer box just caused trouble after trouble (basically a massive pain in the arse), so I sent it back to be replaced with the older red one and, with a new regulator/rectifier, and battery, it now fires up first kick, even after being laid up.