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BRIT IRON takes you behind the scenes
February 16, 2017

February 2017

ABOVE: That’s me, taking video of the Mecum Auction. This was my first time using my new iPhone 7 to take pictures & video. I took a big chance, but I do like the pictures. It’s much easier than carrying a bulky SLR camera.

My wife Pam were in Las Vegas last week for Motorcycle Auction Week. Mecum, having taken over for MidAmerica Auctions last year, returned to the South Point Hotel & Casino with 1,000 bikes in a 4-day auction running from Wed., Jan 25 through Sat., Jan 28. Then Bonhams had their familiar one-day auction, again on Thursday of that sale week, but this time in a new venue for them, the Rio Hotel & Casino. Then, on top of all that, I checked out some very cool carguy sites (I’m not just a bike nut, you know) for my car site I hit the Carroll Shelby Museum which was unbelievable, The Auto Collections, and Count’s Kustoms Car Museum from TV. Add to that dining at some pretty amazing restaurants all week long, cruising the Strip, playing a little blackjack, and a Swedish massage at the hotel spa, and you’ve got one helluva week! And I got to spend it with my favorite person in the world, my lovely wife Pam. How’s that for mushy? Hey, yesterday was Valentines Day. So, here’s a quick tour of the week, and I hope you visit each page. The car stuff is on my website, so don’t be surprised about that. Enjoy your week in Vegas:

Mecum’s Classic Motorcycle Auction

Wed., January 25 - Sat., January 28 at the South Point Hotel & Casino
Wow! What can I say? 1,000 classic bikes sold over 3-1/2 days. Bikes of every kind from every era from every corner of the globe. Stellar prices and some killer deals. Check out all the great pictures.

Bonhams Vintage Motorcycle Auction
Thursday, January 26, 2017 at the Rio Hotel & Casino
Bonhams brought their very-English one-day sale back to Vegas, this time at the Rio, and brought nearly 200 incredible classic bikes. Get the whole story.

Carroll Shelby Museum
This is sacred ground for car guys, because it’s not really a museum at all. Its the actual shop where Shelby builds brand new Continuation Cobras and wicked-fast Mustang Super Snakes. And it’s free! You’ve gotta’ see these cars!

The Auto Collections
This is another museum-that-isn’t-really-a-museum. These 140 gorgeous classic & muscle cars are all for sale! It too is free, and they don’t bug you if you’re just there to look...or take pictures. Check it out.

Count’s Kustoms Car Museum
Ever seen the History Channel TV show “Counting Cars”? Well, their museum is there at the shop where the show is filmed. And it’s full of cars & bikes they built in various episodes of the show, and a few choice items from Danny’s personal collection.

So, to bring you up to date on Yellow Bike, the tank had a small rust stain along the very back seam, where it meets with the seat. I sent it out to be sealed. It had to be welded, so now I don’t have a Yellow Tank for my Yellow Bike anymore. So, I have decided to view this as an opportunity to not only a much-needed repaint, but also clean up my design and fab work on the side covers.

ABOVE: The 2nd-gen Yellow Bike, with new side covers, megaphones & more chrome.

I am now in my third-iteration of the Yellow Bike. The first one ran from about 2000-2004. It wasn’t bad, but parts of it were very crude, especially the tail light/license plate bracket, everything under the seat, the side covers (which were fabricated out of very thin aluminum flashing), it had no mufflers (just the stock straight pipes), and I was running a single Sudco Mikuni on it’s original TR7 head. In this early form, it didn’t run at prime because the exhaust length was too short, but the single carb worked great. In my quest to remove weight, I’d made the side covers and several other under-seat components out of the ultra-thin and very-soft aluminum flashing. It was so thin that it would bend easily. I rode it like this to the Lake Cachuma All-British Motorcycle Rally in 2004, made it there and back. Had one problem when the lightweight aluminum coil bracket I’d made failed due to vibration, allowing the coil to ground against the frame, causing the bike to run on one cylinder for the last 5 miles of the trip to Cachuma. All it all it was a wonderful ride, but after that one, I knew the Yellow Bike needed more development.

ABOVE: Rode it 350 miles, dusted it off & won the show! Cachuma 2006.

The second-gen Yellow Bike was launched in 2006, just in time for me to ride it to Lake Cachuma again for the 2006 All-British Rally, riding it some 350 miles each way, with the Rabers crew, taking backroads the whole way, no freeways. This time, the bike held up well, was much more comfortable to ride the distance, and when I arrived, I wiped it down, put it in the bike show and won the custom class. It is a custom cafe racer, after all. The 2nd-gen Yellow Bike had really been redesigned with the lessons learned in the 2004 Cachuma Run. I made all my brackets stronger. I created a set of risers that allowed me to add 3-inches to the height of the handlebars for long distances, but then when I got there, I could quickly remove them, giving the bike that “low bar-look”. Especially fetching in a cafe racer. I had also added a nice little quarter-fairing, painted to match, that gave me some respite from the wind. A very nice addition in deed on the long ride. And, I cleaned up the under-seat region and fabricated a new set of side covers that were better-looking, and structurally stronger. I also fabricated a new aluminum tail light/license bracket, and added a bunch more chrome. I showed it a few more times, and it was written up in a British classic motorcycle magazine in a 4-page spread. Then, as the story goes, I got bored with it and sold it at the MidAmerica Auction in Las Vegas in 2009.

ABOVE: You can see how the ’79 cover is too long for my ’73 bike. It needs to be shortened 4 inches, as marked with tape.

So, welcome to the 3rd-generation. Last year, I stumbled onto a lead to the guy who bought the Yellow Bike at the auction back in 2009. I tracked him down and bought it back. He’d never even started it in all these years, and all that bad gas was still sitting in it. So, I had the carbs rebuilt, new lines, did the tank (sad story above), and I’m standing at the crossroads. I can repaint just the tank, doing my best to match the existing side covers and front & rear fenders. Or I can paint it all new. Or I can finally change the side covers for something more finished-looking, less homemade. So, I chose the latter. As of now, my decision is that the 3rd-gen Yellow Bike will get new side covers and all that goes with it, a completely rearranged under-seat area (battery, coil, rectifier, wiring, etc.), an all new paintjob, and numerous other detail improvements.

ABOVE: With the side cover cut & the 2 ends taped together from the outside, I prepare to fiberglass the inside to bond it together as one strong cover.

I wanted to end up with side covers that looked factory, not fabricated in some guy’s garage. So, my good friends at Rabers supplied me with an old beat-up set of side covers off a ’79 T140D. I have one of those too, and I like the way the side covers curve around the rear frame tube to hold them in place, rather than the dowel-in-grommet approach used on my bike (a 1973). But, when I got them home and cleared the way to try them on I immediately realized the fundamental difference between the ’73 and the ’79: my ’73 Bonneville head still had the carbs splayed out in an angle, which is very sexy, by the way. Starting in ’76, as some effort to clean up the emissions, the carbs were placed in parallel, much closer together than before. So, the ’79 side covers extend much farther forward than the ’73 side covers did, because on the ’79, they covered the air filter box and part of the carbs. But in my application, my splayed Mikunis and pancake air filters will interfere with the ’79 side covers. So, I decided to modify them. I measured and re-measured, then measured again. It turned out that I needed to remove a 4-inch vertical section from the middle. I taped it off, cut it with a saber saw, taped the two halves together then set it in place to make sure it was right. When I was certain (and I still have my doubts), I fiberglassed the two parts together on the inside. While I was at it, I also removed a large indention that was formed into the stock covers that was for the emblems. I wanted them to be flat, what they call “shaved” in the custom car biz, but I didn’t want to just fill them in with a ton of bondo. I also didn’t want to give up any volume under the seat, because I have plans for that. I’m doing one side at a time, so that if I make a mistake, hopefully I can do better on the next one.

ABOVE: The new side cover from the outside. I also plugged up that hole in the side cover where the emblem used to go. Now to the finish work.

Another goal for YB3 will be to rework everything under the seat. From the beginning, one of my goals for Yellow Bike was to create a large open space under the seat to haul stuff in. Large enough to actually make a difference. So, I reworked the stock steel battery box to drop it from seat-height to the lowest position possible, just above the swingarm pivot. Then I repositioned all the other electrical goodies around that, tucked in low in the space between the low-mounted battery box and the side covers. I mounted the plastic rear fender to the back of the battery box via a custom aluminum mounting plate, and pushed it back closer to the tire. I’d always thought the Brits left way too much space in front of and above their rear wheels. Even at max travel, the tire didn’t come close to my mounting of the fender. With the sheet aluminum side covers that I crudely fashioned on my workbench, all of this combined to create enough space to literally take a grocery shopping bag. So my plan now is to design a new batter box in aluminum, building it around the new-fangled smaller batteries that a bike without an electric starter can use. And I will more carefully mount the other components to create even more usable space, and make it all lighter still and much neater looking. More to come...

BELOW: That’s a lot of storage space! I’m going for even more.

When I started on October 19, 2010, I set out to build the world’s most complete online catalog of classic British motorcycles. Over these past 6+ years, I’ve built almost 400 pages of rich content, covering all the major Brit bikes, by Make, Model and Year. My goal was to cover every one, from World War II on, with excellent original pictures, specifications, history, story, etc. In my haste to build out the site, many pages got built with only pictures, no specs, or history. On November 8, 2016 I went in for shoulder surgery and had a very long, slow recovery. So, I invested that time into finally finishing out every bike page on my site. I went through every one, every make, every model, every year, and if it didn’t have specs, I looked up the specs and laid them all out on the page. If there was no text, I researched that, and added some of my own take on it, and fleshed them out, every last one! Hope you enjoy it.

When I finished up on, I applied the same treatment to my other hobby-site,, and finished up all those pages as well. I did the same thing there, covering every classic American muscle car, by make, model, and year, with eye-popping pictures, specs, history and more. Check out some time, if you’re a car guy or gal, you’ll love it.

ABOVE: The Lotus C-01 is even more stunning in person!

Check this thing out! I was it up close at the Mecum auction in Vegas. It’s one of just 100 built in 2014 by Lotus Motorcycles. It has 200 horsepower and weighs just 398 pounds! Wicked fast in a straight line. But check out that 52-degree neck rake, it’s not going to like the twisties. But with anything so beautiful, who cares, right? And who would ride a $137,000 motorcycle like that anyway? Yow!! Check out the whole story of the Lotus C-01.

I took over 3,000 photos during Vegas Auction Week, and tons of video. Videos of the Mecum Auction, videos of the Bonham Auction, videos of the Shelby Museum, The Auto Collections, (they didn’t allow videos at Count’s Kustoms), and the Vegas Strip. I’ve been so busy sorting, labeling, adjusting and sizing all these pictures from the trip, and writing pages on my website, Facebook Pages, etc. I’m just now getting into the videos and I’ll be editing numerous videos on all of the above subjects. I’ll be posting them on’s “Videos”-page, our Facebook page, and YouTube Channel, and the car-related videos on the same outlets for our sister-site>/a>. And we’ll let you know when we do.

’ In case you didn’t know, there is no big money in owning a website like this. Fortunately, I don’t do it for the money, I have a day job. I do it because I love these old British bikes and want to do what I can to help support their survival. And we’re obviously talking to a willing audience because our traffic has steadily grown. However, even with our 200,000 hits-per-month of traffic these days, the pay-per-click advertising and other text-link ads really don’t add up to all that much, in terms of income. The products that we sell, through our affiliation with Amazon, bring in some needed revenue to help cover the costs of maintaining the site, traveling to events, like Vegas, and to locations like motorcycle museums and private collections, to take pictures and add content. Why am I telling you all this? Because you can help support this site by buying some of your motorcycle stuff here. What sort of stuff, you ask? Magazine subscriptions, shop manuals, tools, your next bike calendar, riding gear, etc. If you’re going to buy it anyway, and you can get the best price and maybe even free shipping through Amazon, then why not buy it here? Your patronage is much appreciated. Below is a list of our various ONLINE STORES, please shop:




God, I love Cafe Racers!

My latest Thunder Roads column is out and it may be my best yet. Have I said that before? Well, if so, this one beat it. It’s all out my love affair with Cafe Racers, and you’re going to love it. Well, maybe you won’t, but I loved writing it, and I love it every time I read it. Am I gushing? It covers the anatomy of what makes a cafe racer, the history of cafe racers and cafe racing, the Mods vs. the Rockers, factory cafe racers and more. As always, you can get your own free copy of the February 2017 issue of Thunder Roads Mid-Atlantic magazine with my Cafe Racer article in it, mailed to your door free of charge. First off, this offer extends only to US mailing addresses. I’m sorry to the rest of you, but the costs of shipping are just too high to offer it for free. But, if you live in the good ol’ USA, EMAIL ME HERE, for your FREE COPY, and make sure to include the following:



And please make sure your address makes sense. Some run them all together in all lower-case letters with no punctuation, and sometimes it’s hard to tell where the street name ends and the city name begins. So, please capitalize and punctuate your address so someone who has never seen it before can absolutely figure it out. Hope you enjoy the story.

Spring is coming. Time to get your bike ready.

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