A grand day out

I did have a plan, to head down to Gasoline in the middle of Sydney, to act professionally, to ask relevant people relevant questions, and to take pics and have a caption for each. Then I walked in the front gate and got lost in the whole experience. A whole bunch of people, working for a common good, that of the empowerment of all those on two wheels. A community of bikers, looking to build the technical skills of anyone who wants to ride a bike that doesn’t look like it just rolled off the factory floor. Vaughan from MotorRetro working the English Wheel, professional photography for anyone who wanted their bike shot, and so much more.

I’ll be damned if I didn’t walk around the whole time with a big goofy grin on my face at this whole concept, how cool it is, and why ideas like this need to be promoted. However, I did get a whole heap of pics, please enjoy.

Dumb luck

Anyone who tells you that removing the rocker cover from an early 80s GSX250 engine, is a damn liar. After an hour of ‘valve cover jujitsu’, as it has has been put before, I removed the valve cover and found the hole in behind the spark plug goes to nowhere. Nowhere! Like Suzuki knew some goober, at some point, would poke a hole in his cylinder head and it looks like I have been lucky in this.

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So we are good now. After working some metal putty into the hole, following s good clean of the area, the best I could carry out with the access to such a tight area. The main problem with cleaning such an area was that the spark plug was in the way, and if I pulled it out, run the risk of pushing detritus into the cylinder itself.

We are good now though, utilising my Father’s Day putting the fuel tank back on with my little helpers, I have drained the fuel bowls after I have left the bike sitting for so long, and I am ready to fire up this machine that I love and hate in equal amounts.

Stay tuned, video soon to feature me starting the bike.

Or beating it with a big stick.

Something unique

It was still early. The show had only just started, but I had seen what I had needed to see. As I nosed my way out out of the car park, dodging BMW touring bikes and Goldwings, something caught my eye. Low slung and packing a V-twin, there was nothing on the bike which jumped out at me, but it still held my gaze. I knew the bike from somewhere, but couldn’t pick it. Pulling up slowly, I saw the half round emblem on the tank and had trouble believing my eyes. Roughly 200 in the world, asking prices up to the $300k mark, I had come face to face with my first Crocker motorcycle.

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Way back in the day, Albert Crocker was an motorcycle engineer, racer and dealership owner. After dabbling with an Indian powered bike of his own frame design, his inner engineer screamed that he could build a better power plant. In 1936 Albert Crocker released a machine of his own design. Although Harley and Indian parts were utilised in the build, the engineering was all Crocker, and Albert was a man who stuck by his product.

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So sure of his design, Albert Crocker made the guarantee that if a Crocker motorcycle owner should be beaten by an Indian or Harley motorcycle, then the owner could hand his Crocker bike back for a full refund. Not one Crocker motorcycle was ever refunded on those terms. And it’s easy to understand why. Overengineered, the Crocker 61 cubic inch could be blown out to 100 cubic inches. Even in stock form, the V twin put out 55-60 horsepower, twice what it’s competitors were offering at the time.

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And there, on a Sunday morning, on the opposite side of the world to where it was made sat this Crocker motorcycle. I spoke to the rider, it wasn’t his. His Dad brought it into the country from the States in 1989, and the rider wasn’t entering it in the show. He was more interested in the other bikes there. DSC_0242

Each to their own I guess.

The Aussie building what BSA wouldn’t – Doug Fraser

It is a rather exciting fact that one of the world’s leading BSA customisers is from our very own country. I’m not talking customising as in ‘bobber’ or ‘cafe racer’ customisation, I’m talking of a man who builds the BSA engines that might have been, and mounts then in period specific frames. This man is Doug Fraser of Emu Engineering, and he has been kind enough to take the time to answer some questions about his craft.

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So where did it all start, when did you first take part in the world of motorcycling?

I started riding at the age of 13, on a mate’s BSA Bantam. When the time came to getting my own bike I started off on a Bantam as well.

When did your first V twin idea come about?

I had been toying with the idea of building a BSA V-twin for a couple of years. I loved the older BSA V-twins like the G12 and Y14, but they were such fragile engines. Good for touring, not so much for spirited riding. I conceived the idea of the M46, wanting to put my own V-twin motor into a period specific frame, to show what BSA might have been able to produce back in the day.

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How did that first project pan out?

I designed and made my own crankcases, using Harley rods, and put the whole lot in a chassis relevant to the time period I was aiming for. 1400 man hours later I had a bike that BSA themselves might have created, which turned out to be surprisingly fast.

So once you’d finished, you figured that a single one off V-twin wasn’t enough?

Well as soon as the M46 was done I decided to see what I could do with a later model frame. I quite like the layout of the B series model, but I wondered if I could manage to create a V-twin motor to sit inside the frame.

So tell us about the finished product, your one off BSA B66.

I took an A7 chassis and modified it to suit the 1140cc V-twin motor of my own design. The engine has an 88 x 94 bore and stroke, running at 9.25:1 compression, giving a healthy 55 horses at the rear wheel. I created the crankcases, rounding off the cases to give that 50s/60s look.

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So what is it like to ride?

It’s a good all rounder, as much a touring machine as a sports bike. Easily capable of cracking the ton, it’s been clocked at 125 miles per hour on a dyno. Through tight corners, it’s one of the best handling bikes I have ridden. Just ask anyone who has tried to chase me.

Your B66 isn’t a trailer queen though, is it?

We took the BSA to an international rally in America, and took the opportunity to take it touring whilst over there. We travelled through:
*San Francisco
*Yosemite
*Nevada
*Las Vegas
*Arizona
*Mojave
on a 3000 mile round trip. We did get a lot of people walking up and saying ‘I didn’t know BSA made a V-twin like this’.

It’s not like anyone can undertake a project like engineering and building your own engine, so what exactly is your background?

I started out initially as a toolmaker, from there I moved into motorcycle engineering, then into automotive engineering, and now I’m an electrical engineer.

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That’s quite a CV. So where will your engineering skills take you next?

My current project is developing the E120R, a thoroughly modern bike built from the ground up, featuring a quad cam 1200cc engine, cassette gearbox and upside down forks.

From the initial idea to build a V-twin, to being onto his third project bike, Doug Fraser has shown what motivation and passion can produce. Helps if you are a hell of an good engineer as well.

With thanks to Alan Cathcart and Steven Piper for supplying the images.

Quick interview – Zero Engineering

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The term ‘cool’, defined, Zero Engineering is one of the top boutique bike builders in the world today. Based in Japan, but distributed around the world, the bikes showcase the Kimura styling in a more easily attainable form. I caught up with Akinobu Nakamura, one of Zero Engineering’s managers for a few questions about the brand:

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What are the plans for the future of Zero Engineering?

A future plan of ZERO is that all the countries of the world have a
distributor.

Are Zero Engineering bikes coming to Australia?

ZEROEngineering approximately ten are registered in Australia. Unfortunately there is no distributor in Australia now.

What is the most highest selling model Zero Engineering sells?

type9i having a rear suspension is a flagship model.

Do emission controls for any markets affect any aesthetic aspect of the bikes you sell?

It is an always difficult problem to clear the regulation of each country.

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The pictures are all from Zero Engineering’s websites.

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.