Restoring a barn-fresh 1966 Sears Allstate

Archive for the 'rants & rambling' Category

Anglo-Germanic love affair

I’m dipping my  toe into the into the  world of BMW motorcycle ownership and it seems that I’ve discovered another subculture of motorcyclist. Which leads me to the conclusion that bike owners are like their bikes. British bike owners, (BSA, Norton, Triumph etc.) are used to the engineering idiosyncrasies of bikes made in what was effectively a large scale cottage industry.

I know a guy into rat bikes, mostly I think, because a can of flat black spray paint covers up his complete lack of technical knowledge. ok – I admit this theory is all very loosely based, no empirical research has been done, but BMW-land seems to be a very orderly place.  The forums are organized,  bikes are highly documented and generally it seems a very well organized bunch of owners, verging on anal-retentive, which isn’t surprising for followers of a German bike made in the same high standards factory as aircraft engines until the late 60s.

Check out the video made for Untitled Motorcycles in the UK – they are producing “bespoke” customs and have a noir commercial featuring, you guessed it, vintage BMW motorcycles.

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Mid Ohio 2012

As I was in Indiana this summer, I took the opportunity to drive 3.5 hours west to the  AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. I was mostly interested in what treasures were hiding in the legendary swap meet, and just to check out the festival in general. This year’s theme was Mods & Rockers, so I was hoping there would be lots of British bikes and Vespa/Lambretta kicking around.

The swap meet has 250 odd booths and I was imagining tables overflowing with a cornucopia of exotic parts. I envisioned bikes in boxes, bags and baskets piled in heaps; I expected trailers jamed with  fresh barn finds, crusty Cushmans, bobed Harleys, and Puch Allstates five to the dollar. It’s wasn’t just me that was hyping the swap, here are a few tidbits from the website:”The Worlds Largest Swap Meet”, “the continent’s largest motorcycle swap meet” and ” It features 35 sprawling acres of old, classic and even some new bike parts and memorabilia.” Well it must be good I reasoned.

Just before I packed the family into the car and headed south to Indianapolis, I spoke to George. George is local vintage collector and has a ’58 AJS for sale that I was contemplating, his opinion was that the CVMG National Rally is better than Mid-Ohio; more selection, more variety and less junk. Bah humbug said I, how can our humble event come close to something as big as Mid-Ohio, besides, there are like 300 million people in the USA to our 30 million, Mid-Ohio has to be at least 10 times better! Yes the swap was big, but big isn’t better, like those all you can eat restaurants, quantity does not translate into quality. If I was looking for a milk crate with a turnsignal, brake caliper,

I was only there for 3 hours on Saturday afternoon, from 3-6 so I didn’t get an opportunity to explore everything. Unfortunately the Mods & Rockers tent was cleared out by the time I got there, so was most of the exhibits on the lawn and tents. So suggestion # 1 is:  come on Friday, stay the night.

My photos reflect my particular interest in the swap, they don’t do justice to the whole event. All day there are races on the track and loudspeakers throughout the park are tuned into the announcer, this combined with the wahhh wahhh of the track give the venue a great atmosphere. There are photos on the AMA website that give a good sense of the event.

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Cool Puch

I was at a cabin in the Laurentians last week and I found myself leafing through a 2004 Vanity Fair, as one is apt to do on lazy summer days.  My eye was caught by familiar looking object int he magazine –  the Puch air filter! Lo and behold there was the king of Cool, James Dean, sitting on a Puch/Allstate on the set of Rebel Without A Cause. If you read the fine print the photo has been colourized, so I am not sure it is a green bike, but it looks like the 125cc with the skinny shocks and small headlight.


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Trev Deely museum: Vancouver


This August, I had the chance to visit Vancouver for a week, ostensibly to attend SIGGRAPH. My wife wanted to go to the art museum, I wanted to see bikes, so off  I went with my daughter Sophie and headed for the Trev Deeley Motorcycle Exhibition. Of course being a British bike fan I missed the British Exhibition, End of Empire, by a year. Not as frustrating as missing the Norton Owners Club Rally that took place in Austria. I drove past it on my honeymoon heading from Germany to Venice. By “drove past it” I mean missed it I didn’t know it was happening until I got home and saw the ad in  Classic Bike Magazine. arrgh.

IMG_0132 Sophie and I zipped out to Trev Deeley,  a short drive from downtown Vancouver, located in a nondescript strip mall.  It is a contemporary Harley Dealership, full of halogen lights, branded merchandise, over-the-hill Barbie Doll receptionists, and a few bikes on the floor.
Luckily the museum is at the front door, it was mid afternoon and the dealership was quiet, the museum empty.  I was greeted by a friendly guy and asked for my suggested $5 donation.  It really isn’t a suggested donation, the $5 is suggested amount if you follow me.  I have no problem paying for the exhibit,  I just thought the wording was somewhat confusing.  At the entrance there is a Harley hack with a backdrop for photos, visitors are encouraged to hop on and take a photo. The couple behind me got offers of helmets and photos, somehow the guy with the toddler didn’t.

The exhibition space is nice, with a combination of natural light and professionally created displays. Although the current exhibition Made in America is mostly Harley and Indian, it does include bikes made in Toronto, Canada, such as Indian. The show says “more than 315 motorcycle manufacturers in the USA since 1895”.  The bikes are in varied enough in age and type to be interesting to a casual observer. I was more interested in the other older marques on display like Excelsior, Orient, CCM and Pierce.

I was enjoying the exhibit for about two minutes when Sophie started crying and holding up her index finger. Knowing that the bikes weren’t running I ruled out missing digits and hot exhausts, but it was a burnt finger. The halogen spot lights mounted in the stands are very hot. I spent the rest of the exhibit juggling an upset toddler, licking and blowing on her finger to cool it, trying to take photos all while trying to keep her from crying in the very echo-y hall. It wasn’t an ideal way to view a bike exhibit,  but I guess it was my penance for lack of parental vigilance….

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waste not, smash not

I don’t think of myself as a flag waving eco-green-earth-muffin, but I do recycle and compost (ok, mostly because composting makes free plant food and my ficus benjamina grows like crazy in my home made dirt…) and I like to think that saving old bikes is green in a way, one less (crappy) plastic scooter destined for an early date with landfill. Bit I’m getting off topic, this post isn’t about scooters bikes or sailboats, it’s about strange attitudes I’ve encountered lately.

It all starts with the big air compressor I saved from a fate destined for the bottom of a dumpster. A friend of mine is the last man standing in the wet film developing business and we were retrieving some processing machines from a company that is getting out of the wet part of film (who isn’t digital theses days..!) His mandate was to take anything he needed. I salivated over the compressor and we went back for it. It is a great big old thing from the 80’s. But is works and has a massive CFM rating – perfect for painting and sandblasting!

I left the compressor in my trunk for a couple of days as it was a bit large for one person to mussel out -I was so proud I couldn’t resist showing it off to my colleagues at work – until I let the hatch close and watched the rear window shatter before my eyes. Luckily the tint film kept the window together for a couple of months – it even withstood two car washes, the oldschool ones with the beating brushes! One free compressor, one smashed window. I priced out rear windows and the best quote was $350. I called around the scrap yards and found a rear window or $100. When I arrived I saw a whole hatch sitting beside the trailer-office door. They gave me the whole hatch for the price of the window. It wasn’t too bad, about on par with my old hatch, rust in the same place. I put on the new hatch and took the old one to a metal scrap yard, when I flung the hatch on a pile I noticed a nice Yakima Space cadet top box. I asked the guy in the backhoe how much – he said I could have it for free “they paid to dump it here”. I figure he is happy because I just took his garbage away. He points out that he doesn’t have a key but I can just use a hasp and padlock.

Now in order to use a top box I need a roof rack. Craig’s List and ebay weren’t much help – until I Googled Mazda Protege 5 roof rack and it came up in used car listings. I emailed a local corner lot and asked if I could buy the rack. The first email said no, the second email sent 5 minutes later said yes, $75. When I arrive I discover that there is no key – not to worry, the owner tells the minions that it’s not a problem, just jam a screwdriver into it…

I tell the guy that if he brakes the locks getting it off I am not interested. Sanity prevails and we notice that the locks have a number engraved on them. A call to Mazda reveals that the rack is actually Thule, and $5 later I have a key from the local dealer. I return and get my rack, less $5.

Looking over the box I realize if they have a key for the rack, the dealer probably has a key for the box too. After checking 30 keys, the kid at the store tells me we have a winner.

So to recap, I have a compressor, roof racks, top box. I spent some time and effort, but diverted landfill and saved myself thousand dollars if I were to buy it all new. I am surprised at how ready everyone is to smash, and trash perfectly good stuff?  I can only conclude that we are all too rich, or lacking the skills to do even the most basic maintenance to keep all our “stuff” working.

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