WHAT I DO
There are very few bent frames or dinged cast wheels Maidstone Motoliner cannot straighten or true. They’ve been at it long enough to have fixed mostly anything on two wheels
Tom Palmer straightens frames at Maidstone Motoliner
Maidstone Motoliner is one of those firms you might not hope to call on too often but when you do, you’ll be glad they’re there. For over 40 years now the Kent company has been straightening frames, not just to sort accident damage but also to correct poor manufacturing tolerances for racers and fussier riders.
Established in 1975 by Ray Palmer, father of current main man Tom, Maidstone Motoliner puts right not only frames but also yokes, forks and dinked and buckled wheels. Ray, a keen and competitive grass-track racer, set up the firm with 50cc racer Maurice Thomas and it was originally called Molray. Their first Motoliner, replacing one of Ray’s own design, was installed in 1977 at the insistence of insurance companies and Molray also started developing techniques for fixing cast wheels, then becoming increasingly popular on bikes. The original partnership was dissolved in 1987 and Ray set up Maidstone Motoliner, first in Dover Street, Maidstone then moving to the current premises in Aylesford in 1990, the year before Tom joined the company. Ray still clocks on for work a couple of days a week. Working for the family firm gave Tom the time and flexibility to pursue his own grasstrack and speedway careers.
There’s a little museum above the workshop containing not only Ray and Tom’s old competition bikes plus a selection of restored and mostly original Italian lightweights. There’s also a recently arrived and very rare Ducati MT50TT and a pair of Honda RS125 racers.
There’s certainly no shortage of work at Maidstone Motoliner. Tom reckons they sort an average of one frame per day and there are two Swedish-made Samefa jigs in the workshop allowing Maidstone Motoliner to correct everything from the ancient to the modern. When we visited there was a Yamaha TZ250 nestling alongside a Norton Atlas, a 1922 Scott, a brace of recent Harleys, a Yamaha RD400 as well as a couple of very recent sportsbikes. “There isn’t really anything we can’t straighten,” says Tom, leaning on a jig containing the frame and engine from a Kawasaki Z1300. Frames, forks, yokes and wheels arrive from all around the UK and continental Europe. A Kawasaki Z900 frame had been straightened and sent back to Norway the day prior to our visit.
Wheel straightener George Thomas is plying his craft on the other side of the workshop, restoring a recent BMW wheel to circularity. “Soft wheels and heavy bikes,” he says, lighting the gas torch. George is bike daft too – he races a Yamaha TZ350 in the Lansdowne series. The wheel he’s working on is one of at least four or five he might sort out in the course of a typical working day.
“Our current potholed roads are bad news for riders but good news for business,” says Tom. Indeed it’s an ill-wind that blows no good.
We take a closer look at the Samefa jig containing the Z1300. Tom points to the graduated indicators that show how far out a frame is. The now sorted Z1300 shows absolutely zero deviation from the straight and narrow. “That’s how we do them,” says Tom. We work to absolutely zero tolerance. Everything has to be millimetre perfect.”
Left: Nice little Honda RS125 Centre: George Thomas works on trueing a wheel Right: trueing stand and dial gauge the defining tools
Big ding, but recoverable Mini-museum on the top floor houses this Bultaco TSS125 Beautifully restored, but beautifully bent too