Renovation - Where to
You are the proud owner of a motorbike but you would
like it to shine a little more, get rid of that rusty rim or do up that
faded scratched paint work. Where do you start? It seems an impossible
task! Can I do it myself? Over the years I have seen many restorations,
some from a box of rusty bits, others professionally done at a cost to
their owner. So I thought I would put down a few words to help the owner
who is asking these questions.
Firstly take a good long look at your bike, your bank
balance, your family and your work commitments.
Know your bike
Next get whatever books and photo's you can of the bike
you have. You will find a parts book invaluable. The workshop manual is
also high on the list and there are several books about on the market,
which tell you what you need to know. The key here is to get to know your
bike and the bit's that make it work. Make a list of suppliers for the
various parts that you will need and talk to other owners who have
restored their bikes before you. There is nothing new under the sun, so
learn from the experience of the years. Find out where the shows and
auto-jumbles are, as you will not be able to buy all the bits brand new
(Remember the Star is a good source of knowledge for suppliers and the BSA
Set your goal
Now decide what you want to achieve. Are you a purist,
who wants every detail restored back to its original state? Are you a
practicalist who wants a good looking bike that can be used on the road
and is reliable? Or do you want to build yourself the Perfect bike by
changing the few details that made your BSA not quite perfect and adding
an alloy tank and clip-on's for style. Remember rule 'e' you will not
please everybody, which ever route you take.
What tools do you need? Well you will certainly need
spanners, screwdrivers, allen keys, old cloths, small plastic bags,
labels, etc. But there are some special tools, which will hopefully be
identified in the Workshop Manual and you will find that you cannot buy
them all (remember BSA when under some 30 years ago and made their own
tools as well as bikes), although quite a number are now available. A
couple of tips, buy good quality tools, as they will last and also do less
damage to your precious parts and get the right tools for the job in hand
(A hammer & chisel should be a last resort, not a universal device).
Set out your stall
Where are you going to do the work? The dinning room may
be a bit contentious, although the rationale that it is convenient as it
is next to the kitchen where the parts can be cleaned is understood. Maybe
a garage or garden shed, with lighting and heating for the long cold
autumn & spring days (most people give up in the winter) and power for
the electric tools, which make light work of some tasks. Remember that you
are going to need at least three times the area that you bike normally
What shall I do first?
OK, ready to go. Well there is another decision you have
to make. Which order? Do you do the engine or the chassis first? Also are
you going to do the whole job or part? You may decide to renovate the
chassis and send the engine off to a specialist for a rebuild maybe with
some technical improvements (which is OK providing you are not a purist).
Take lots of photos.
Oh, one last thing! You will need a camera if you are
wise. Take as many photos' as you can. Every angle you can think of. Every
detail, however small. These should include Front, side, rear, other side,
close-ups of the tank, petrol tap, pipe to the carb, front brake, cable
runs, mudguard, stays, exhaust brackets and pipe, brake pedal, brake light
switch, centre stand spring/mechanism (both up and down), side stand,
decals on the oil tank, rear brake, chain guard, foot pegs, headlamp
nacelle, speedo mounts. These are just the start. You should take a photo
whenever you remove parts like the tank and the seat, which will reveal
the coil & battery positions, also the oil tank mountings, etc. You
may think I am mad, but I guarantee that in six months time you will be
looking to find out how the centre stand mechanism worked or where the
clutch cable went?
Upon commencing the restoration tell the family and friends which is the most important. They are sure to ask once you have
Always triple the money you estimate the restoration will need.
Always quadruple the time the restoration will need.
Remember that the man with the part you most desperately need will have disposed of it last week.
Accept the fact that however good the finished product, an ‘Expert’ will always find fault.
Courtesy of the Birdwood Museum in South Australia.
Further Restoration Rules
If you add on parts to make up a minimum order, the company will have the extra parts, but not the
bit you desperately need.
The date of your bike was manufactured will be dead on the change over date for the part you
If you need a gearbox part, your machine will turn out to be one of only three ever fitted
with the 6-speed, slick-shift, pre-select, auto synchromesh, delta hypoid gearbox.
No other machine of your type was ever fitted with electric's that yours has.
Upon stripping your engine you will find that your cylinder bores are in perfect condition.
Unless they have already been bored to maximum oversize.
If you have 12 critical holes to drill, the first eleven will go fine, the drill will snap off
deep in the 12th.
The seized bolt you have just snapped off turns out to be a left hand thread for no reason at
The guy not only disposed of the part you most desperately
needed last week, but he actually scrapped it.
Take loads of photos before you pull apart. 4
years later you won't even remember what the bike looked like!
George Gerc & Mark Flett
learnt from Bitter Experience.
- If it can go wrong or get worse, it will.
The part you drop will always fall down a drain or into a crack.
- If all else fails – Start from scratch
and try to remember where you went wrong, and
learn from your mistakes, because your going make a stack of new ones
- No matter how many times you have removed and
refitted your parts they never seem to go back on in the order you put them
on last time.
- That special tool you see in the same place every
day will have disappeared the day you most need it, only to turn up a
fortnight after you have completed the job.
- Buying a ‘Basket Case‘ because it was cheap, is
going to cost you more time and money to restore than going out and buying a
concourse bike that’s on the road.
- We never learn …. A week or two after our
nightmare re-build is completed we go out and buy another ‘Basket Case’.
Because it was cheap and it will be in mint condition inside a fortnight at
no more cost than a few fish & chip dinners and a tin of Hammerite.
- The Wife wants to know why there are engine-cases on
the draining board, oily sludge in the sink, what happened to her favourite
tea-towel and her new family sized bottle of Fairly liquid.
- The day you buy that very expensive rare part you
will find it a lot cheaper else were, or more likely, you find the same part
in the bottom of your parts box, even though you have emptied it 3 times and
not seen it before.
- No matter how good your memory is, you go to an
auto-jumble and completely forget what you went to buy.
More Renovation Laws
- Murphy’s Law -
If it can be fitted the wrong way round at some time or
another it will.
- Sods law -
It it amazing that whatever you drop on the floor, immediately takes the
colour of the floor.
- Engineers Law -
The relative distance of the toolbox to the job equates
to the amount of wrong size socket chosen to do the job.
Words of Hope and Encouragement
- Some blokes just settle down into a life of drudgery
with only a few well chosen phrases to get by , like, ‘Yes dear’ and ‘Wonderful
your Mother is coming to stay’.
- REMEMBER ! No matter how bleak the outlook is,
'There is always someone worse off than yourself' .
- Things generally look better in the morning.
- When you look at the finished bike, it will all have
been worth it.