TALES FROMTHE SHED
There comes a point where the only sensible thing is to declare victory and run away. Frank understand this. Completely…
Frank Westworth has been desperately avoiding his new BSA project by fixing up an older Matchless 650 twin. Things were going swimmingly. If by ‘swimming’ you
actually mean ‘drowning’…
Praise the lords for the genuinely expert among us. They walk, largely unrecognised, in a permanent sunshine of admiration – at least from me. And here’s why…
Frustrated beyond belief by the endless wrestling with some of the parts fitted to the Matchless CSR I’d originally intended to take for a ride on the very last day of last year, and completely bewildered by the discovery that its carb should be held on by bolts, not studs, and that the plainly stock bolts on a replacement inlet manifold I acquired were correct – and that the threads were not BSC – I faced two stark alternatives. Seek expert advice or imbibe strong drink in large quantities.
After a pleasantly short but fraught hangover I recovered, and dropped a begging email disguised as a simple query to Steven Surbey, Resident Expert at AMC Classic Spares. You can work out for yourself what that fine concern does for a shilling. There is a handy acronym, beloved by we young-at-hearters who infest social media, which reads WTF? You can work that out for yourself too. And that’s how I expressed my bewilderment to Steven. It’s dramatic, possibly.
I wondered about the bizarre carbattachment arrangement. Bizarre to me, that is. I’ve not rebuilt an AMC machine for a couple of years, and that was a single, which is different, and before that it was a 650 twin, but a 1959 and not a 1965, and as you know already, they are surprisingly different. I say ‘surprisingly’ because we all know that the old British bike factories never changed anything, which is why Keeway and Mash now rule the roads.
Because I am proud of my AMC anorak, I quoted part numbers as part of my query about carb fixing. By return of mail came the reply: ‘Sounds like you might be using an older spares list – all 1960s twins should be using 026749 bolts to hold the carb to the manifold because they recognised the lack of space here. These should be BSF, as they follow the AMC rule of coarse threads into alloy, so you probably have the right bolts.’ The right bolts being the bolts that came with the spare manifold. And I had of course recut the threads in the original manifold to accept BSC not BSF. Despair.
But why? Why despair? It’s not difficult to swap over the manifolds. Even if it would involve removing the carb. Again. Because I’d refitted it. Again. Then Steven’s reply appeared. Afterwards. This is always the way, no? The despair is because in my eagle-eyed way I had observed that instead of there being four studs and nuts retaining the manifold – which is what I’d expected – the two top fixings are bolts. Not a problem, really, except … what threadforms were the bolts? I’d need to order another set and… The will to live coughed, sneezed and expired on the carpet.
But at least I do have the spare manifold and its correct bolts. I just need a return visit from the will to live. Why did I not simply order some new studs and paper gaskets for the manifold? Because I had just ordered a whole pile of other stuff and wished to avoid feeling even more prattish than usual. I had decided in a momentary lapse of reason that I had suffered from the red cables for quite long enough thank you. I had also had enough of the very wide, very comfy but very silly extra-extra wide handlebars, as I mentioned a couple of issues ago. So, deciding that if I replaced all the red cables with stock black items at least it would be easy to order new items because they’d be stock. Easy! Except…
From my rats’ nest of spare NOS cables, I’d extracted a throttle cable – nice and new – and a new front brake cable – ditto. Hurrah. As I may have mentioned already (and apologies for this: my mind isn’t exactly turning to putty, it’s just that it somehow tries to block out memories of former stupidity) the carb top’s holes are not what I’d expected, and indeed not what I’d discovered by trawling the many manuals – including a very fine one supplied FOC by a very nice man. The throttle cable simply fell clean through the hole, which was unthreaded to accept an adjuster. OK.
The very same very kind man also supplied an adaptor for that very hole – except it didn’t fit. Another kind man had supplied an adjuster, but there was no thread for it of course. The silly red throttle cable had its own built-in adaptor which fit the carb top perfectly – but it was non-removable without removing the nipple, and I’d need to remove the nipple from the new cable to fit the adaptor, and I lack the courage to do that, so…
…so I fitted a threaded adjuster, just loose as there was no thread for it to thread into. Then I took up my twistgrip and discovered that the nipple on that end of the cable simply did not fit the twisting part of the grip. By a long way. So that was a useless throttle cable.
Moving swiftly on, as a chap should in times of stress, I attached my nice, new and seriously robust front brake cable. An area where the CSR is commendably non-stock is the front brake, which is a Commando 2ls device replacing the sls system fitted as standard. Good brakes, these, and they look nice too. Two minor snags. The cable didn’t fit the handsome alloy handlebar lever. I grumbled to myself, but figured out how I could make it fit, probably. Meanwhile, down at the business end of things, I made another discovery: the cable attaches to the Norton operating arm by a clevis, with a pin sliding through both legs of the clevis and the operating arm. It is retained by a split pin, usually with a small washer resting between the split pin and the clevis. Except… the clevis on the cable would only let the pin through on one side – the other side was too small because it was threaded. I was bewildered (again).
Hence the order of parts from Steven. I expressed my recurring bewilderment. He of course knew the answers: ‘No problem with the cables, including the brake, but there are a couple of queries. In theory the little adjusters (4/035) were specified for the top of all carbs for the cables to sit in but in practice they seem to have fitted a lot of 1960-on 650s without these adjusters due to lack of
space, so the holes were just unthreaded and plain. If you go fitting a normal throttle or air cable in here, they’ll simply fall down into the carb with nothing to stop them. So rather than do yet another variation of cable, I’ve sourced little top hats with a slot to fit in the hole to act as a stop. They’re separate from the cable and can be re-used. So can you confirm if you have threaded adjusters or plain holes in the top of your carb?’ I did that. One of each, slightly wonderfully. There was more: ‘Also – nothing’s ever simple – can you measure the size of the hole where the cable goes into your twistgrip? Your bike is very original and may have the original twistgrip. This was quite petite and as such had a smaller nipple hole on the twistgrip rotor, so you can’t fit normal throttle cables to this twistgrip. The easy way to tell the difference is that the “normal” twistgrip has a 5/16” hole where the cable goes in, whereas the small nipple version has a 1/4” hole where the cable goes in…’ So now we know.
The parts arrived, including a pair of AMCspec levers for both brake and clutch. I really have learned about custom parts. When they’re available, I’ll use original pattern bits. Hang the expense. In any case, once the Matchless is off the bench and on the road again, I’ll replace it on the bench with the BSA A65T which I am of course intent upon mildly customising. I shall then sell it and revel in the distant delight of someone else trying desperately to unravel my creativity. Or not.
The clutch side of things worked perfectly. Mostly. You may be able to see the bizarre sight which met my eyes when I removed the gearbox’s little cover to replace the cable. This is entirely a problem of my own making – I ran the bike through two winters and put it away without cleaning it properly. But it’s all right now. Hopefully. At least the clutch works.
Next, the front brake. New lever and new cable went straight on. The mechanism has got very stiff after standing for several years, but I’m (almost) sure it will free up with use. The correct cable clevis fitted the operating arm correctly, and the bar end fitted the new lever. Hurrah.
Now to the throttle. You might be excused for thinking that these are all simple jobs and should take maybe an hour altogether at most to accomplish. And you would be entirely correct to think that. I’d allowed an afternoon. An afternoon in February. Today is March 24 (which also reveals how long magazine lead times can be!).
Of course the new handy adaptor failed to fix the carb cable woes. I have no idea why, but the inner cable was miles too long. More irritating is – think about this – every time you change the throttle cable you need to strip out the carb. This is hardly difficult, but there is an exponential increase in the likelihood of those famous pingsoddit moments, when previously inoffensive and useful tiny components inexplicably launch themselves into the shadowy corners of the shop, demanding hours of searching or … replacement. More time wasted finding throttle needle spring clips, for example. All of this is character building.
Happily, the new throttle cable’s nipple fit the twistgrip perfectly. Maybe I do indeed have a rare original 1965 AMC twistgrip. That said … the inner cable is far too long, as I said, far too long for the slack to be taken up by its adjuster. Even the bodged-on extra adjuster on the carb top failed to take it all up. In my boxes of spares I do of course boast several of those tiny adaptors which can fit between the cable’s ferrule and the twistgrip itself. I dug them out. None of them fits the special 1965 AMC original twistgrip. I wonder what they’re from? I would ask St Steven, but fear his derision would be too crushing. I’ll buy another twistgrip, anonymously.
Whatever, most of the thing is functional again. Just a case of refitting and connecting the fuel tank, checking for leaks (ha – all the fittings are new!) and firing up the old bird. What could be simpler? Then I remembered that I had actually been forced to remove one of the old tank mountings with a hacksaw. This is not entirely the approved AMC way, but I dug out a pair of new fittings, left over from the not-sovery recent rebuild of another 1965 Matchless, a G80, which has the same tank, as you’d expect.
While I was digging around for those sparkly new fittings, which at first of course I could not find, I ordered another pair. And on the day they arrived of course I discovered the ones I already had. Two complete sets. So now I have three sets. One day I swear … one day I swear that I’ll have an autojumble stand and will sell off all the stuff I didn’t know I had. Only this very day, taking a break from the unimaginable stresses of writing this very story, I tarried for a while at an online auction site and discovered that there’s not only a fuel tank for this very Matchless for sale, but there’s also the lower half of the considerably rare pair of panels which bridge the otherwise unsightly gap between the oil tank and toolbox. Such glories! Of course I need them. The fuel tank on offer may be somewhat rotted out, but hey, I know a man who can fix that, and there is of course nothing wrong with the tank on the bike. Minor details when it comes to insane acquisitiveness, as I’m sure you will agree. Shall I bid? Who can tell…
Anyway, the mighty pliers extracted the remains of the old tank mounts, and I paused for a second. Should I lube the new ones before sliding them into their places inside the tank? Or would that actually stop them working? Maybe I should lube one and not the other and compare results? Sometimes strong drink seems like the only cure.
Impatient with my own lack of patience, I just rested the tank on the frame and connected it up to the brand-new, hand-made fuel pipe and opened the tap. Great news! The new pipe does not leak fuel. Less great news! The carb pours fuel from somewhere. Every seal is new and every gasket is new. Fuel drips merrily onto the engine plate cover above the gearbox, from where it splashes enticingly onto the magneto. I cast my mind back (a neat trick if you can master it) to late last December, when I hit upon the idiot notion of taking out the Matchless for the last ride of the old year. I failed to do this because the ancient, perished fuel pipe leaked fuel all over the cover above the gearbox, from where it splashed onto the magneto. Which is where we came in – it was how the bike ended up on the bench in the first place.
There is a mysterious symmetry about this. I stepped back and stared. I believe there may have been a subtle hint of bad language drifting along with the fuel fumes. As The Shed is nowhere near a convenient canal or a high cliff, I decided that immolation was the only answer, so I wheeled the bike into the watery sunshine and kicked…
Handsome bars, which actually came off a BSA B25SS. Much more comfortable and sensible than the awesome others
Right: Best laid plans, seen here coming to naught. Yes, fuel is dripping all over the place. Yes that is the magneto. Yes magnetos do produce sparks to ignite fuel
Above: Fresh oil, the worst of the horridness has gone. Admire how much adjustment the new cable needed
AMC preferred to use separate brass nipples, rather than soldering the things directly to the cable like almost everyone else
One ol ld and one new tank mountting. The old one was so rub bished that it had to be sawn off. It’s s important when fitting these expan ding rubber mounts that you rememberb to iinsert theh extra rubberbb washer beforeb the mounting itself. This...
Left: Curious clutch cable routing. Observe the adaptor on the end of the cable to help it fit
Left: FW’s spare heavy-duty front brake cable features a threaded clevis. This can’t be right!
Below: What a sight! This is the first time the gearbox inspection cover’s been off for quite some time. Last time FW topped up the oil, the aliens had not moved in Right: Replacement bars, shiny new levers and cables
Right: This is the correct cable, retained by a simple pin with a split pin holding it where it should be. Crazy cable angles on these Norton brakes
And so, after considerable inconvenience and messing around, the carb is rebuilt and back on. Observe how it’s retained by bolts, not studs…
Right: For no obvious reason., FW has declared war on the reds. The red cables, that is
Below: After several removals, FW finally realised that it’s possible to free just one side of the carb to replace its innards
Left: This is the very useful adaptor which stops the throttle cable outer falling into the carb body, thus being utterly useless as a cable
Above: After several rebuilds, FW finally accepted that the little adaptor worked fine, but the cable inner was so long that it needed masses more adjustment than it came with. So … back in with the (temporary) extra adjuster. The adaptor has been...
Every picture tells a story…