Real Classic - - Concours Champs -

When re­tire­ment came a-call­ing and Bob could stop driv­ing HGVs all day, he de­cided that a ground-up clas­sic bike build would be the ideal project to keep him out of trou­ble. Lit­tle did he know…

Bob al­ready owned an Ariel Huntmaster so fig­ured that fa­mil­iar­ity would give him a head-start. He tracked down a 1958 frame with a V5C, paid £61.17 for it, and so be­gan a two-year un­der­tak­ing, one with quite a few bumps in the road. It took a lot of on­line search­ing and pa­tient phone calls to track down all the com­po­nents, and Bob re­ally doesn’t want to hear that a Huntmaster is ba­si­cally the same as an A10 and all the parts will fit – be­cause of course they won’t.

‘Any­one who thinks so can pur­chase those “same” parts cheap from me!’ he says. ‘I didn’t re­alise in the be­gin­ning how rare the cy­cle parts were.’ Bob rec­om­mends Dra­gan­fly, John Bud­gen, Vale Onslow and C&D Au­tos for en­gine spares, and re­ceived as­sis­tance from Dan Du­tra and Thor Faber in the USA. His ad­vice to any­one look­ing to re­store a sim­i­lar Ariel four-stroke is to ‘make sure it has all the cy­cle parts, like the air fil­ter, na­celle, and the two-piece rear mud­guard.’

Any avail­able orig­i­nal tin­ware was fre­quently in such poor con­di­tion that Bob taught him­self how to MIG weld along the way – a skill re­quired to trans­form scrap metal into mud­guards. And many items listed for an Ariel 650 twin turned out to be some­thing en­tirely dif­fer­ent; ‘I bought the pri­mary cases from eBay but they turned out to be for a sin­gle; one part doesn’t sit on the crank­case re­cess and it’s 8mm thicker than the Huntmaster item.’

Re­con­di­tion­ing the ma­chine’s en­gine wasn’t any eas­ier. ‘ The only way to check the sludge trap is to com­pletely strip it down for peace of mind,’ says Bob. ‘ This mo­tor is 60 years old and had been apart ear­lier in its his­tory. I ended up fit­ting new drive side bear­ings and big end shells. I only had an oil leak to start with!’

All of this ef­fort = a lot of ex­pense. The Huntmaster might’ve cost sixty quid to start with but turn­ing the bare bones of a bi­cy­cle into a fully func­tional mo­tor­cy­cle turned out to be slightly more ex­pen­sive: Bob stopped count­ing as the costs ac­cel­er­ated to­wards £6000. How­ever, he saved some pen­nies here and there – Bob found an old Craven top­box for a fiver; re­paired it and se­cured it to a car­rier he fab­ri­cated from scrap tubes. The front crash bar is an­other home-made item, us­ing £12 worth of stain­less tube.

Even­tu­ally, the ma­chine was com­plete and ready to roll. On the Ariel’s first proper ride af­ter the 18 month build, all was go­ing splen­didly. Bob stopped to fill the tank and, as usual, the Huntmaster started first kick. He’d done about 80 miles, and felt con­fi­dent enough to open it up to 50mph on the A46… Which was, of course, when the con­rod bolt snapped.

‘It threw the rod through the case,’ he ex­plained. ‘ Then the bike high­sided, and then it landed on top of me!’

Crikey. This is ex­actly what ev­ery road­tester dreads (and this is ex­actly why we treat our test bikes with con­sid­er­able cau­tion). Bob could’ve been for­given for bury­ing the re­mains of the bike in the back of the garage and tak­ing up a dif­fer­ent hobby… but he’s made of sterner stuff than that. Six weeks later he rode the Huntmaster – re­built for a se­cond time – into the Na­tional Mo­tor­cy­cle Mu­seum. And we reckon that’s def­i­nitely worth an RC con­cours award!

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