It begins

Many times I have traversed the internet and stumbled across niche automotive groups that honour vehicles which would have otherwise disappeared into the ether of history. Fanatics of the most passionate kind, worshipping machines which back in their day were known to have faults. Today I have become one of those fanatics. 

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A sidevalve 250cc engine of around 1950 vintage, this beautiful piece of the puzzle is only the beginning of a long and frustrating time. And I have already started.

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Armed with my handy 50s motorcycle guide, I have all the knowledge of the period to help me with getting started. On top of that, within the last week I have made two new contacts who can help with parts supply. Which is important when we are dealing with a sixty year old engine. 

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Easy to lift, agricultural in design and a challenge to source parts for. It’s the perfect project for me. 

Stay tuned. 

 

There’s no need to resort to a Kluger.

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6am: Alarm goes off, hesitatingly climb out of bed.

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8:30am: School run, drop the kids off while dodging manic SUV captains.

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11am: Park in Woolworths carpark, well away from everyone else.

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1pm: Park time for the pre schoolie kid.

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3pm: School pick up, Hemi is running hot sitting around.

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5:30pm: Prepare dinner for fussy little appetites.

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7:30pm: Kids to bed, dinner with the mrs.

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9:30pm: Head out to the garage with car polish and ensure you maintain your position as owning the coolest daily driver in the suburb.

With thanks to Grant, the owner of this amazing every day kid hauler.

Into the spotlight – The Brough Superior Motorcar

It is an unfortunate aspect of history that certain siblings are relegated to the shadows of their much brighter offspring, no matter how brightly they shine. The Brough Superior automobile is one such example of this, having no chance against the solar beacon that was the Brough Superior motorcycles it shared it’s nameplate with. Nonetheless, with relativity put aside, it’s time to take a closer look at the lesser known member of the Brough Superior vehicle range.

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Over a short period between 1935 and 1938, the Brough Superior Motorworks produced approximately 85 motorcars. Rolling chassis were brought to England from the Hudson factory in America, and delivered to the Atcherley bodyworks in Birmingham. Here they were fitted with coachwork of George Brough design, the majority of the bodies being of the Dual-purpose (drophead) design.

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The first series of the Brough motorcar, for model year 1935-36, were fitted with a 4.1 litre ‘straight eight’ cylinder powerplant. Good for 114 brake horsepower, the motor could motivate the Superior car up to 90 miles per hour. The Brough Superior cars featured design cues borrowed from the motorcycle range, including the fitment of a reserve fuel tank. At the end of 1936 the Hudson Motor company dropped the ‘straight eight’ option, so the rolling chassis were instead fitted with a 107BHP 3.5 litre engine. It was at this time a forced induction engine was produced, with a power output of 140BHP thanks to a Centric unit.  The 3.5 litre chassis sat 4 inches short of the 4 litre chassis, so the beautiful lines drawn by George Brough were not lost in the transition.

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The final hurrah for the Brough Superior motorcar was the XII, a single motorcar produced in 1938 using outsourced componentry fitted to a Brough designed chassis. A Lincoln-Zephyr V12 put the power to Ford sourced axles, the vehicle being pulled up by Girling Brakes. With only one example being produced, the mammoth machine had an overall length of 5.6 metres, and a girth of 1.8 metres. With the quality of the motorcars being as high as that of the motorcycles, it was the stellar reputation of the two wheeled Brough variants that pushed the car out of the limelight. With Brough motorcycle prices reaching astronomical figures, it might be time to consider moving to four wheels in order to be able to own something with a Brough Superior nameplate.

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Today’s feature car comes courtesy of an avid Brough collector, who isn’t scared to take the drophead coupe out for a spirited run.  With reports of an amazing torque range, the big coupe’s top gear is able to be engaged at 20kph and wound all the way out to the car’s top speed of 150kph. This performance comes at a cost, with the Brough machine being described as ‘thirsty’. This has not stopped the car from travelling as far afield as Belgium, as well as rallies in Yorkshire and Devon. A testament to the owner’s devotion to the Brough marque, the car shares garage space with two Brough Superior motorcycles.

Many thanks to you my friend, you know who you are. 

You’re in control – if you remember which is which

You're in control - if you remember which is which

Today we have it so easy as motorcycle riders. Before the advent of the throttle roll hand control, before the ‘point & squirt’ bikes we have today, riding a bike was an incredibly involved task. Just controlling the engine and keeping it running was a job in itself, with oil, fuel and air measures being set as the rider desired. These are the true motorcyclists’ cycles, where total control of the machine was in the hands of the rider. However, by noting that these bikes feature lacklustre brakes and woeful power output, it allow us to appreciate how far we have come, and what the first riders had to endure. I’m sure they’d get bored riding the reliable low maintenance machines we have access to today.

Passion & Practicality – High miler Laverda 3C

In Australia Laverda motorcycles are rare, customised Laverdas are even rarer, and customised Laverdas that are ridden on a regular basis are almost unheard of. Today’s bike falls into the last of these categories, an Italian beauty that’s not afraid to put miles under it’s tyres, and it comes in the form of Marty’s 1974 Laverda 3C. After twenty years ownership (including three as an everyday rider), and showing no fear in riding it on a regular basis, this bike shows that you can have something special as your daily transport. It helps to have bitchin’ mechanical skills as well.

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The heart of this machine is the one litre engine the 3C left the factory with, although much modified by now. The cylinder head has been worked, now sporting steeper angles for the inlet and exhaust ports, while nestled in the head sit a pair of custom cams. A set of Keihin carbs from a Honda have replaced the factory setup, the airbox a custom job to work between the Jap and Italian engineering. An IIS ignition sytem brings the spark, Ross racing pistons bring the noise, and a larger capacity oil pump helps stop the engine from blowing itself to pieces. With the engine now running at 12:1 compression, octane booster is utilised to stop pinging. At the exhaust end of business the silencers are stock units, with personalised touches in the form of slight bruising from having to put the bike down at speed.

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The ability to stop and handle is as important as the ability to go fast, something that hasn’t been neglected on the Laverda. The stoppers on the front end are Ducati full floating discs, with Brembo four pot calipers doing the clamping. Marzocchi is the choice for the front forks, the original Ceriani ones being given the flick, and a Tarozzi forkbrace fitted. Sitting in the forks are cartridge emulators, to boost the performance of the damping rod system, and 5w oil. At the back end sit Koni Dial-A-Rides, also fitted with cartridge emulators. To maintain a façade of a factory looking bike, the original Borrani wire alloys have stayed on the bike.

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In the looks department, the bike stands out too. And not just because the Laverda’s Marmalade paintwork is retinally searing. A Ducati SSD front fairing envelopes the front end, hiding the 38mm Ducati clip-ons in it’s super brightness. The front guard comes courtesy of a Laverda SFC, and the factory rear guard has been retained, although it has lost 8 inches of it’s length. Due to Marty’s tall height, and an injury from an off he had a while ago, the rear sets are an inhouse arrangement. A set of ground down spanners, flanked by Tarozzi pegs, make for a custom heel-toe gearchange, allowing for a better riding position for the big man.

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Marty is a guy who knows what he likes, and two decades of ownership have allowed him to customise the bright orange machine to exactly how he wants it. This bike doesn’t just cover road miles, with it doing a year in post classic historic racing, it’s failure to get podium positions being described by Marty as ‘fast bike, slow rider’. The miles it does on the open road is no small figure either, with the bike doing a yearly trip throughout the Australian Alps, on top of the interesting bike routes dotted around Sydney. A fast bike, albeit with a ‘slow rider’, this Laverda has so much passion and time put into it by the doting owner, that you can see why it is still going strong. It does pretty damn well to go against the idea that a Laverda can’t be an everyday bike.

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Superior by name, Superior by nature

Some things in life don’t stand up to being described in words. A tropical sunset, a new born baby, you will find the sum of the words do not give a fitting description to the experience being felt by whoever is doing the describing. In the motorcycle world, the equivalent of this is attempting to put the Brough Superior SS100 on paper. The sleek lines and beautiful chromework do not lend themselves easily to descriptions of a literary nature, always equaling something less than the whole. I’m willing to give it a try though.

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An almost mythical creature in the cycle world, the Brough Superior is the stuff of legends. It is the granddaddy of today’s breed of superbike, from a time when 100mph was fast, and cork was the substance of choice for helmet padding. That is, if a helmet was worn at all. Long and low, with flowing lines, the SS100 is the perfect paradigm of a motorcycle. From the leading link forks to the swing arm rear suspension, it can be hard not to admire the leading edge technology of it’s time. With every SS100 coming with a written guarantee it has reached over 100mph during the testing stage, the bike was bound to attract those riders with a more sporting bent. Today’s feature bike is one such bike, having cut it’s teeth in competition and moved onto a more sedate lifestyle of touring. With many interesting miles behind it, FGX5 is a beautiful example of the Brough Marque and it’s story does need to be shared.

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First registered on the 13th of December 1938, the SS100 was placed in the showroom of Godfrey’s of London. Sold the same month, the first owner took part in several trials over the course of 1939. Five years later, the bike appeared for sale in a 1944 edition of The Motorcycle magazine. After that it disappeared for some time, reappearing in 1956 in Stroud, then in 1964 having had two separate owners during that year. In 1997 the bike was purchased by Bob Shapiro, an American living in London. On his passing in 2000, the bike was passed onto another owner from across the pond. The SS100 was kept and maintained in the UK, under the watchful eye of another Brough club member. The new owner made annual trips to England to take part in rallies, or to visit the bike during the Club’s August rally. The bike was by no means UK bound during this time, with the new owner taking the gleaming machine to the continent, his wife perched upon the pillion seat. The magnificent machine passed to it’s current owner in September 2010, with the bike being kept in regular use. Rallies in Germany, Scotland and England ensure the Brough does not collect any cobwebs on it’s gleaming chromework.

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FGX5 is definitely a bike with a full and interesting history. Commonly referred to as ‘The Show Bike’, it is a duplicate of a Brough Superior that was featured at the Earls Court Motorcycle show in the autumn of 1938. Unsure as to whether it was one of the two bikes featured at the show, or simply an understudy of sorts, the bike has all the accessories one would expect on a show bike. Chromium plating, crashbars and special paint work add up to an eye catching motorcycle. It was this lavish bodywork, and beauty of the machine that led to George Brough’s own claim that the Brough Superior was the ‘Rolls Royce of motorcycles’. This raised the ire from those at the top of the Rolls Royce organization, and a tour of the Brough factory was scheduled for the top brass from Rolls Royce. Upon seeing the bikes were assembled by workers in white gloves, permission was given to use the Rolls Royce name to advertise the Brough marque. The workers outfitted in white gloves were doing so in preparation for the 1938 Earl’s Court, with the show bikes being specially prepared, but the Rolls Royce ambassadors weren’t to know that. Brough Superior, the Rolls Royce of motorcycles. A term coined over 75 years ago, but an analogy fitting so well it has stuck since.

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The best things in life are free

It has often been said that the best things in life are free. Love, tropical sunsets, and now Suzuki GS motorcycles can be added to the list of what can be had for nothing. Today’s feature bike, a 1982 Suzuki GS1100E, started out as a clapped out gift from one friend to another, and ended up a restomod show-stealing superbike. The journey even took the owner, Joe, all the way to having his own bike workshop VJ Motorcycles. With the bike as the flagship of the VJ workshop, Joe won’t suffer from a shortage of interested customers.

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After a friend lost interest in the big GS, Joe put his hand up to adopt the neglected machine. A few weekends of workshop tinkering, and the bike was running like a GS should. Happy to keep the bike in stock form, Joe kept the bike standard for the first few years of ownership. Soon though, Joe had a bad case of spanner itch and knew he couldn’t keep riding the bike in it’s then current form. In the words of the builder himself; ‘as with any vintage machine, the stock suspension was down right scary when paired with the engine’s capabilities’. It was time for a restomod.

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Parking the bike up in the shed, the whole machine was stripped back to a bare frame and Joe got to work. The main priority of this build was to remedy the suspension issues, and bring the bike up to show spec. With a design brief to swap out the lackluster factory suspension, the GS had it’s entire suspension replaced with later model components. The factory front end is gone, in it’s place sits a GSXR1100 forkset with Racetech 1.0kg fork inserts fitted. This more sporting setup is strengthened with an ABM top clamp kit and Jay’s custom forkbrace. The front brake set is also courtesy of the GSXR1100, with SBS pads fitted and CORE MOTO carbon brake lines bringing the pressure. To pull the big bike up both front and rear are GSXR1100 EBC XC series contour units.

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At the rear of the GS sits a Bandit 1200 swingarm, the Bandit also donating both front and rear rims, wrapped in Michelin 2CT rubber. All that power from the 1100cc motor needs to get to the ground efficiently, so a SuperSprox 48t is fed DID Gold brand o-ringed chain. Keeping all that power grounded is a set of Ohlins SU1430 piggy back shocks. To keep with the sporting aesthetic, and more importantly to be able to ride in full race position, a set of ZX12R rearsets have been fitted.

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In the engine department, Joe felt the 1100cc powerplant was adequate for the bike’s purpose. Due to this, the engine itself has not been fettled for more power. Instead, some thought has gone into the longevity of the engine and some smart mods made. With the 82-83 model GS bikes known for having oil issues in the head, Joe utilized a fellow GSResources forum member’s fix. Greg’s top end oiler mod is an upgrade that pushes the flow of oil directly onto the cam area, allowing for better lubrication and cooling. To complement this, a GS1150E stock oil cooler and lines have been fitted for better cooling ability. The engine has been treated to a fresh coat of high temp gloss black, and a stainless bolt kit fitted.

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The fuel system has been given a bit of a touchup, the factory and carburetors long gone. In their place sit a set of Mikuni BS36SS from a GS1150E, packing K & N pod filters. All that air going in has got to come out somewhere, so a MotoGP Werks custom 4-1 exhaust has been built for the bike, mounted on a modified Rometech stainless hanger.

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Aesthetically, the lines of the bike look as good as when the GS rolled out of the factory in 1982. However, the muscular bottom half of the bike looks like it rolled out of the factory and rolled straight into the gym. The complete body is as Suzuki intended, freshened up with a new set of decals. The Rizoma parts bin has been raided, with a set of gold bars, mirrors and end caps bringing a bit of flash to the build. The stock brake master cylinder and perch have been ditched, in their place sits a unit from a Yamaha FZ8N. To keep a proper eye on the speed, an 83 model 140mph meter cluster has been mounted, beneath the stock headlight is flanked by Oberon LED directionals.

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From an unloved lump of high quality Japanese steel languishing in a shed, this GS has found a new lease on life. The average factory suspension has been swapped out for something a little more stable in the twisties, and with a showbike finish there is no chance of this bike changing owners for free ever again.

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A million thanks to Joe from VJ Moto for taking the time to provide the info and pics on this awesome bike. A quality build from a quality builder, get in touch to see what VJ Moto can do for you. You’ll find them at http://www.vjmoto.com

For more info on the GS series of Suzuki bikes, head to the fountain of knowledge at http://www.GSResources.com

7 questions for…you

7 questions for...you

It was the beginning of the mainstream motoring age. No longer would the ownership of automobiles be restricted to the upper classes. The future of cars was here, and the people needed to be informed. To do so, in 1911 a book was published to address this need. It was called ‘Questions & Answers for automobile students and mechanics’.

Here are 10 questions:
1) in relation to the engine, what is the ‘two to one’ shaft?

2) what practical use is a ‘hydrometer’ to a touring driver when it comes to the issue of fuel quality?

3) What are the principles of a dynamo?

4) Describe the system known as ‘hot tube’ ignition.

5) Describe the ‘Franklin’ air cooling system.

6) What is the better option; a live axle or fixed axle with two chain drive?

7) what is the difference between a ‘knock’ and a ‘pound’?

First person with all seven questions right scores a copy of ‘The Halcyon Days of Motoring’, all for a little google work.

Good luck.