Monday, August 26, 2013

What do I have?

Once I was finished dissembling the Hornet I had to assess what was still good and what needed to be replaced. Some things, like the lower fork legs, were pretty obvious. Others, such as engine bearings and the gearbox would take more inspection. I was a tool and die maker in a past occupation and still have, and know how to use, precision measuring tools. I also work for a tier one automotive supplier where I manage their rapid prototyping systems. I have access to machine shop equipment, welders, and measuring tools in our shop. I am a list maker, which probably comes from my die making experience. A plan is needed for everything I do. It drives some people nuts, but it is the way I am wired. I made an initial list of sub assemblies to focus on so that I could keep the rebuild moving. I broke it down to the power unit, painted parts of the frame, wheels, chrome bits, tank and side covers, and hardware. I also noted things I could not do myself that had to be sent out. The tachometer fell into this category. It was sent to Joel Levine Co. in Atlanta, Georgia. Although it had broken glass and a wasp nest inside of it, he sent it back looking like new. I will use him again. I also sent the carburetors out to be bored and sleeved as they were in really bad shape.  Detail on the carburetors will follow in a later post. Engine bearing replacement and cylinder boring was also sent out, which will be in another post. 


And After.

Breaking it down & getting things cleaned up. 

Parts staged for rebuilding & refinishing. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Breaking it Down

The first restoration I did on my Firebird was done without much of a plan and knowledge. Since then I have learned a lot about the operation of British bikes and have a better idea of what I should do verses hiring out. As a starting point I looked for an original spares manual, but could not find one. I settled on a reprint for 1967. I purchased this from British Only in Garden City, Michigan. Shortly after purchasing this I found a set of BSA manuals on CD in PDF format. Awesome! I would recommend purchasing a set of “Kim the CD man’s” manuals. I bought mine from British Cycle Supply Company in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. They also have US operations. Although I buy parts from many sources I find these guys very good to work with. I have been buying parts from them for 25 plus years. Before taking anything apart, and while dissembling everything, I took a lot of pictures. Thank god for digital cameras. I am not sure how much value some of these pictures will be since the bike was so messed up, but at least I have a reference point to start with.

It didn’t take me long to figure out how much was wrong with the Hornet and what it would cost to get it back together correctly. Most of the hardware had been replaced with UNC course thread bolts or had been rounded off by using the wrong wrenches or screwdrivers. The front forks had been cut off, shortened, and welded back together. Why?  If you cut off your fork lowers and your damper rods are too long how do account for this? It looks like a great solution is to cut them off and use door springs to keep the forks from coming apart when you do a wheelie. I’m not making this up. Check out the picture below. I will ask the guy I bought this from why he made these changes when I run into him again. He also liked lug nuts. What do you do if the brake rod nut strips out? Weld a bolt on and use a lug nut to achieve the correct spacing. What is easier than replacing a stretched primary chain? Weld a lug nut to the adjusting bolt. No kidding. It actually works, but is not good for the long term life of the bike. Valve adjustments appear to be a waste of time too but that is for a later posting. You have to give the guy credit though, he kept it running well after most would have given up on it. At the time he made these modifications it had no collector value. 

Before breaking down the bike I had to clean it up. It had been run through clay which was baked on to everything. I tried power washing with minimal success. Simple green didn't touch anything and neither did engine de-greaser. I put on rubber gloves and scrubbed it down with gasoline. I ruined the gloves and the brush in the process, but it came out relatively clean. When all of the baked on clay was off I went back to simple green, it still didn't work, and engine cleaner, which did.  Components were cleaned off in a tub of kerosene, which worked quite well. Below are pictures from my tear down.

Baked on clay. Nothing but gas would touch this stuff.  

The guy must have painted cars where he stored this. It has traces of various colors.

Check out he lug-nut spacer for the brake.

UNC castle nut was threaded on the rear brake pedal pivot. 

Creative use of old nuts for clutch spacers. 

Who needs two of the same shocks when they are on opposite sides?

If you put on a bigger tire just cut and re-bend everything until it fits. 

The fork legs were cut off and welded back together. 

Creative use of screen door springs in place of damper rods. 

No ferrules? Electrical tape appears to work just fine. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Finding a Hornet

While showing my BSA Lightning at a local “bring what you’ve got” event in the small community in which I live, an old truck driver asked me if I wanted to buy another one. He invited me to his place to see what he had. What I found was a very thrashed BSA Hornet laying on a pile of old clothes in the front of a semi trailer where it was stored in the early 80’s.  It was dark but I could see high pipes and no headlight, which told me it was a Wasp or Hornet. He didn't want much for it so I told him I would take it and showed up the next day with cash and a trailer. When I first saw it in the light I wondered if I had paid too much but figured I could part it out if necessary. It had matching numbers so I decided it was worth restoring. I have been disassembling and refurbishing it for the past year. I am posting a couple of photos of my Hornet “As Found” for you to see what I started with. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Getting Started

I am the owner of several British motorcycles; two of them are quite original and solid riders.  A couple of them are in boxes. The first rider is a 1974 Norton Commando which I have worked on quite a bit, mostly routine maintenance stuff. The second, and my favorite rider, is a 1970 BSA Lightning. I am currently sorting out pre-ignitions problems and will report what I find on my Lightning page when I get it sorted out. This section of my blog is to report the restoration I am doing to my 1967 BSA Hornet. It is being broken down to its smallest components with everything being refinished or replaced. I did this once before to a 1969 Firebird scrambler that was in a similar state. Being much younger, less patient, and holding no knowledge of BSA’s I did not do real well with it. It ended up as a solid runner with mediocre looks. I am attempting to do this one right. Most of my methods have been learned through books on bike restoration, through other BSA enthusiasts, or is based on what I did wrong last time. There is also a wealth of information on the internet which I have attempted to sort out. Most of this information is very helpful, but some of it is wrong. I will try to keep my information in the helpful category. Feel free to comment on my methods or the information I am posting. I look forward to learning from anyone who has something to contribute. I have messed up enough things over the years to know there is much for me to learn and that I should draw on all resources. A couple of pictures of the Firebird I rebuilt and a Victor I brought back to life follow. 

1969 Firebird Scrambler 

1969 441 Victor Special