There comes a point where the only sensible thing is to de­clare vic­tory and run away. Frank un­der­stand this. Com­pletely…

Real Classic - - Contents -

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…

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