Classic Motorcycle Mechanics
Wow, she’s coming along! Stan’s awesome homage to the pre-war heroes and their machines continues apace!
Stan Stephens’ bike looks amazing.
Ihave been writing articles recently in CMM about the project bike I have undertaken to build.
Most of my specials over the years were high-revving two-stroke screamers but this project couldn’t be more different! I am building a bike in homage to my heroes of pre-war days that raced around the Brooklands banked circuit on lethal-looking spindly framed bikes, with the quickest using the biggest V-twin engine they could lay their hands on. The lap record stood at 135mph; that’s faster than the TT and all the Motogp circuits currently being used! Now then, to re-cap, the biggest V-twin engine that I could lay my hands on was a 1700cc push-rod, air-cooled Yamaha Warrior Road Star engine from the big cruiser. The old Brooklands racers would have approved of it I am sure! In building the bike, I wanted to show that all the old skills from that era are still available and that there are skilled workmen in Britain still using those old well-proven methods. I have covered the spoked drum-braked wheels being built by Candy Wheels and the tank being made by AMR, I also bought a set of dubious looking new Ariel Red Hunter front forks from India. It was then time for the main act, the frame build! I knew just the man, Terry Mead. Terry epitomises everything that I wanted insomuch as all his work is carried out by hand. In fact a visit to his workshop is like going back in time. All his tube bending is done on a manual pipe bender, all the tube joints are shaped by file and they are bronze welded, no Tig here! The machining and making the engine plates are carried out by Terry’s wife Allyson, they have been building frames for nearly 40 years. I first used Terry to make the engine cradle and to fit the special 535cc Banshee engine into an Aprilia RS250, the Yamarilia. The next work I did with Terry was the frame modifications and strengthening of an F2 350YPVS Yamaha frame which I fitted a 400cc Banshee engine into and built the Superbike 400 Racer, so they have a well-proved record.
I descended on Terry and Allyson with my tank, forks, wheels and engine and a vision of what I wanted. I wouldn’t say they were over-keen on yet another special project, I think like a lot of people they would like to have some steady work and a steady income. Actually no, they wouldn’t, they would get bored. I know, I have been there! When speaking to Terry the list of one-offs they have built is amazing, a 1970s Commando-engined board racer, a modern Norton Commando engine into a replica of a Manx Norton. Road race frames for Classic Gold Stars, BSA B44s and B50s, Classic sidecars, the list goes on. They actually race a Classic MX sidecar outfit themselves! Terry and I chatted about what I wanted. My vision was of a Brough Superior racer, I had visited the Brooklands Museum and taken some pictures of one. I wanted a single top tube, no cradle under the engine, obviously no rear suspension, in fact nothing that was not around in the period between the wars, it had to look dangerous and crude. The Brooklands Special was not going to be a replica but a true reflection of the machines that those daring riders battled around Brooklands back in the day. The engine had to be the focal point of the bike, there was to be nothing attached that wasn’t needed to go blasting around a speed-bowl. Although my bike isn’t going to go around a speed-bowl it will be ridden in some sprints by multi-british champion Alan Tinnion, I haven’t told him yet, I’ll get him kitted out with some gear from the period, I think their idea of safety was a leather cap on back to front, so that’s easily sorted, then!
Having talked over all the main points, I left Terry scratching his head and looking at the 1700cc V-twin engine. “That’s a bloody big engine!” he muttered. I left it a few weeks before I rang Terry, I said “How’s it coming along?” There was a pause and Terry said: “Well I’ve been thinking about it, come down and see what you think.” He showed me what he had been thinking of and it was what I had in mind as well. For my next visit there were tubes around the engine and I could see where the engine was going to hang. We decided to have the two-inch bore top tube as close to the rocker boxes of the engine as possible, note inches, no metric here! With no cradle under the engine, to work on the engine the bike would be have to be lifted off it. For my next visit the main-frame was completed. The obvious problem that this showed up was that with the top tube so close to the top of the engine the tank was too high, it looked all wrong. Terry doesn’t claim to be an alloy welder but he agreed to modify the underside of the tank to miss the engine. The tank is having petrol in one side and oil in the other so it meant welding the outlet bosses in a different place as well. All Terry’s welding was underneath the tank so Alf of AMRS welding still looked impressive. One of us came up with the idea of a leather belt to retain the tank. When I sold my workshops at Brands Hatch and semi-retired to just build two-stroke engines I sold all my welding equipment as well, so I said to Terry if there are any other things that you think of that need welding can you do it while it’s there! Cheeky, I know. Over the next few weeks I kept getting calls from Terry saying there needed to be brake anchors, footrest hangers, handlebars, wheel adjusters, loads of bits and pieces, I just said go ahead. I build engines, Terry would make a better job of it than me. Then Terry phoned and said: “It’s finished.” I went to pick it up and it was just how I had imagined it, only better. It looked dangerous! It looked powerful and that’s all without the engine even running! There’s still a huge amount of work to do. Engine-wise I have some special pistons arriving from the States and maybe the cams from an MT-01 also I will porting the heads and altering the oil system. Before I strip the engine out I will need exhausts made, if any exhaust maker is interested give me a call!