Chef’s Spe­cial

When a French chef is pas­sion­ate about SWM and En­duro he cooks up some­thing like this su­perb 370 SWM TF1.

Classic Dirtbike - - Contents - Words and pics: Tim Brit­ton

We meet Philippe Van­der­walle, a man with pas­sions for cook­ing, en­duro and for SWM – we look at the lat­ter two.

1980- 81 SWM 370 TF1

It would take quite a ta­lented chef to cook up some­thing tasty from in­gre­di­ents from such di­verse worlds as those of food, en­duro and SWM. Luck­ily, there is such a chef and any­one who spends mo­ments – sec­onds ac­tu­ally – with him soon cot­ton on to the fact Philippe Van­der­walle is a man packed full of pas­sion for many sub­jects. The three sub­jects just men­tioned have cer­tainly been a large part of the French­man’s life since he took his first ten­ta­tive steps in both cui­sine and en­duro when he was a mo­tor­cy­cle-mad teenager in his home city of Bordeaux.

Philippe’s work­ing world of cater­ing in­volved long hours and low pay, which is some­thing any­one who has served any kind of ap­pren­tice­ship will be fa­mil­iar with and it is the pas­sion that keeps such mo­tor­cy­cle ob­sessed young­sters go­ing. So, the fire roads of Bordeaux were a mo­tor­cy­cle play­ground for not just Philippe, but oth­ers in the area too. “I started when I was, oh, 11 or 12 with a Mobylette,” he laughs at that and man­ages to get in “not the most fa­mous off-road mo­tor­cy­cle eh?” No Philippe, not the most noted ma­chine for a bud­ding en­duroista… how­ever this meant Philippe was mo­bile and learn­ing. He was able to take to the roads aged 14 with a moped un­til the pas­sion for off-road be­came too strong and he com­bined the on and off-road trans­port prob­lem with a Fan­tic Ca­ballero. “It was my first ‘gear’d’ mo­tor­cy­cle, I was 15 and in­vin­ci­ble,” he grins… yes Philippe, we all were at 15.

Although the Fan­tic pro­vided the start to his com­pe­ti­tion ca­reer, it was the Aus­trian KTM mar­que that was rid­ing high at the time and do­ing a lot of win­ning with stun­ning look­ing ma­chines that took Philippe into en­duro proper. All seemed well un­til ‘The Mo­ment When…’ a magazine re­port of the 1977 Mi­lan show fea­tured an SWM. “Well, I don’t mind ad­mit­ting I was, oh what is the word?” Smit­ten? “Ah, yes, ‘smit­ten’ pff! Your lan­guage has so many words,” he grins. The SWM had such an ef­fect on Phillipe that no ar­ti­cle or feature es­caped him and he de­cided that an SWM had to be the ma­chine for him. It wasn’t easy to ac­quire an SWM and pretty much all of 1978 was spent build­ing up a pot of cash to af­ford one and even then his fa­ther had to as­sist with a loan, but even­tu­ally he bought a 125 SWM. “It was a rev­e­la­tion – so easy to ride, so good in all ar­eas… then a year or so later I got a 240 model. Our au­thor­i­ties had de­cided any mo­tor­cy­cle over 240cc was to be taxed at a higher rate, so all the mak­ers re­duced their ca­pac­ity by 10cc, but of course ev­ery­one who bought one got the big­ger pis­ton and bored out to 250 again!” Philippe com­peted on this 240 un­til 1982 or early 1983 when his culi­nary skills were on the rise. “I had to make a de­ci­sion for a work­ing life and I am pas­sion­ate about cook­ing too, so mo­tor­cy­cles had to be halted for a while…”

Philippe’s ca­reer in the food world rock­eted to the point where he was, un­til re­cently, ex­ec­u­tive chef at the Ritz Casino in Lon­don. “It was a fab­u­lous place to be in charge of food. They wanted only ex­cel­lence and cost was not a con­sid­er­a­tion. We had a good rep­u­ta­tion,” he sighs. A change in own­er­ship and some ‘im­prove­ments in cost­ings’ saw

Philippe head for self-em­ploy­ment but not as a chef… in­stead he went full tilt into his mo­tor­cy­cle pas­sion.

“I had never lost my pas­sion for SWM, but work and life had to come first, un­til I got to the point where I was more com­fort­ably off and I thought I would find a 250, as I had in 1980. The prob­lem is once one SWM comes along an­other fol­lows it…” There is a wry grin from Philippe. “It was the first of a 36-bike col­lec­tion,” he says. It was also the be­gin­ning of a busi­ness, as these bikes needed parts and restora­tion and once Philippe started finding such ser­vices, other peo­ple asked him to do the same for them, to the point now where Philippe is able to com­mis­sion parts that have been out of pro­duc­tion for some time and he of­fers im­proved parts too. This grew into the Old Knob­blies busi­ness for older off-road mo­tor­cy­cles, although ma­jor­ing on SWM.

Join­ing Philippe on one of his Trail Chal­lenges last March there was a chance to pho­to­graph sev­eral of the SWMS he uses for this trail ride ex­pe­ri­ence and one of the bikes was a 370 TF1 from 1980-81. This is Philippe’s per­sonal ma­chine and few peo­ple other than him get to ride it.

When it ar­rived at Philippe’s place the 370 was com­plete but not in pris­tine con­di­tion cos­met­i­cally. As my pen flashed over the notepad in an at­tempt to keep up with his out-pour­ing of words I gath­ered the 370 was new to SWM’S range in 1980 and started out with opaque plas­tics and tank, but for 1981 there was a more or­angey feel to the ma­chine, as the mud­guards and fuel tank were now a solid colour.

Sadly, although in phys­i­cally good or­der, they were too faded for the full-on restora­tion the bike was to re­ceive, so white guards from the Acer­bis range were sourced and an ex-works fuel tank, which is the same as the stan­dard one, ex­cept that it had been fit­ted to the fac­tory team bikes. Per­son­ally, and I told Philippe this at the time, I think the 370 looks bet­ter in this scheme than all or­ange, but that’s just my opin­ion. Maybe orig­i­nal plas­tics could have been found for the project, but Philippe wanted to ride the ma­chine at the ISDT cen­te­nary event at Carlisle in 2013, so per­haps a com­pro­mise had to be made.

Most peo­ple will know Ro­tax en­gines were fit­ted to all sorts of ma­chines and when we did up our Can-am project some years ago I seem to re­call the list of makes ran to 20 or so. What is less well-known is Ro­tax two strokes are not all disc-valve en­gines and the big­ger ones, like this 370 and Michael Sim­mons’ 440 we fea­tured re­cently, are more nor­mally as­pi­rated with the car­bu­ret­tor feed­ing straight into the crank case through a reed valve. “I went right through the me­chan­i­cals of the en­gine,” says Philippe, “it was a mix­ture of ‘okay’ and ‘need­ing

re­plac­ing’,” he says. Once inside the en­gine he found the crank­shaft to be good enough to re­use as it was, but the lit­tle end bear­ing was worn out.

“I also re­placed all the bear­ings and seals through­out the en­gine and it needed a new pis­ton too.” Philippe tries to find orig­i­nal SWM pis­tons but if not he will use the ELKO make and the one in this en­gine is a sin­gle-ring type.

The gear­box was in good con­di­tion and it is pos­si­ble the bike had had lit­tle use and the five-speed clus­ter was vir­tu­ally per­fect, but as a pre­cau­tion Philippe re­placed the bear­ings in the ’box too.

Some­thing that had to be changed was the clutch case. It is an ear­lier type with a three-ball bear­ing ac­tu­a­tion. “The orig­i­nal cases are not avail­able any more,” says Philippe, “so we have to ac­cept some un-orig­i­nal­ity.” Once all the me­chan­i­cal work had been com­pleted, the cases were pow­der coated to a high stan­dard by one of the con­tacts used by Old Knob­blies.

With the en­gine unit sorted and parts such as the kick-start and gear lever away for plat­ing, at­ten­tion could fo­cus on the cy­cle parts.

There was lit­tle dam­age to the frame and swingarm them­selves, though the steer­ing head bear­ings needed re­plac­ing while the swing­ing arm bushes were good enough to re­use. The cen­tre­stand did need a lit­tle at­ten­tion, as the bike piv­ots on it when wheels are re­moved, so cer­tain ar­eas are stressed. Philippe re­paired this one and added 3mm into the length, which doesn’t sound a lot, but it does ac­tu­ally make a dif­fer­ence. All that was re­quired was to ap­ply some coat­ing to make it look like new.

Again ev­i­dence of light use was ob­vi­ous as the yokes were in ex­cel­lent con­di­tion, as was the chrome on the Mar­zochhi fork stan­chions. In fact, the forks only needed new seals, springs and oil, plus a coat­ing of or­ange on the slid­ers, to see them in tip­top con­di­tion.

Once the chas­sis was sorted and back from coat­ing, the en­gine slipped in quickly and Philippe used all new fas­ten­ers through­out, as there was no point in try­ing to re­store the orig­i­nals. The fi­nal task be­fore the wheels went in was to fit top-of-the-range YSS rear sus­pen­sion units, some­thing Old Knob­blies rec­om­mends and sells too. The wheels them­selves were in good con­di­tion with un­dam­aged rims and once new bear­ings and tyres were fit­ted they were good to go. It was the same with the back­ing plates for the brakes – new brake shoes sorted them out.

With the bike look­ing like a bike, there was time to per­son­alise a few things. There is no hid­ing from the fact Philippe isn’t the tallest of chaps and in or­der to ease the rid­ing for him­self he had the seat foam re­duced in height and the seat re­cov­ered. He also prefers Ren­thal bars, which wouldn’t be

There should be­more ‘or­ange’ about the bike but the orig­i­nal plas­tics – tank and­mud­guards – were too badly faded for Philippe’s ex­act­ing stan­dards, so non- or­ange re­place­ments were found.

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