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!