"BRIT IRON" takes you behind the scenes at

December 2011 - Issue #16

* MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM CBM - and my whole family.
* RABER'S CHRISTMAS PARTY - I went & had a blast!
* MY NEW TOY - I buy a blast cabinet.
* PROJECT T140D - The tear-down continues.
* MORE WEIRD STUFF - Of course.


From CBM and the entire Tallone Family, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! From left-to-right, posing with my Rickman: Andy (that's me), my wife Pam, my older daughter Sky holding our Cat, and my younger daughter Sierra; and in front: Otis the Wonder Dog.

RABER'S CHRISTMAS PARTY For those of you who aren't familiar with Raber's Parts Mart, it is THE premier Classic British Motorcycle shop in Northern California, if not the entire West. If there is one better in L.A., I don't know about it. Rabers has been in business for decades, and offers new, used & aftermarket parts for all the Classic British Marques: Triumph, BSA, Norton, Matchless-AJS, Ariel, Royal Enfield, Vincent, Velocette & all the rest. They also provide expert service, with a complete machine shop and a comprehensive service department. But what has always impressed me most about Rabers is that everyone who works there, and I mean everyone, knows more about Classic British Motorcycles than anyone should know, and they are universally generous with their time and advice. Let's face it, if you own a classic Brit bike, you're going to need some advice. They also have a booming internet parts business, check out their website at www.Rabers.com.

So, every year Rabers has a Christmas Party, open to all. The bikes line up outside, the people spill into and out of the building, the food & drink flow freely, and everyone has a great time. This year was no exception. I got there around noon, when it officially started & things were already jumping. Several of my fellow BSA Owners Club (BSAOC) members & board members were there & we actually held an impromptu meeting, planning the upcoming Clubmans All British Weekend motorcycle show on Saturday, March 31, and the subsequent giveaway of this year's Raffle Bike, a drop-dead gorgeous, fully-restored 1957 BSA Gold Star. Tickets for this raffle bike are only $1.00, by the way. In the process, I mentioned not being crazy about the photo of the Raffle Bike that they were using to promote the Raffle, and next thing I knew, I had volunteered myself to take a nice set of studio photos of the bike, similar to the Elgi Vincent Poster you got when you subscribed. You know: white background, gobs of detail, perfect lighting. So, first thing Tuesday morning, I will travel to Rabers with my photo studio setup and shoot the bike.

It was a great party, with lots of nice folks who liked talking about the same thing as me: Classic British Motorcycles! What could be better? The food was great (potluck), there was plenty of beer, and lots of brilliant conversation. My contribution to the party was my Poster Giveaway, which I plan to make a tradition at future Rabers parties. I blew up an eye-popping photo of a '62 Bonneville that I had taken at the last Clubmans Show, to make a full color 11" X 17" poster, which I made 100 copies of, rolled them each up individually, then placed them in a nice Christmas display with a sign that said "FREE - Take One". And they did, 45 of them to be exact. Everyone was very pleased with & appreciative of the offer & the poster. Of course, CBM's logo & info were prominently featured, so its a great form of marketing for my site. And apparently it worked, because that same day (yesterday) was the second-biggest traffic day I've had yet.

Another nice treat for me came in the form of several people who came up to me to tell me that they visited my site regularly and many were subscribers to this newsletter. One fellow told me he looks forward to each issue of the newsletter & actually made me aware of an error in issue #14. That's dedication. Several others told me how much they enjoyed the site & were regular visitors to it. Even Mike Raber, son of the great Bob Raber, had something very nice & surprising to say. He told me that a few weeks ago, someone came in to the shop looking for a seat for his Bonneville. Mike wanted to show him the differences between the styles & shapes of the seats year-to-year, but didn't have the seats in stock to show him. So he Googled 1963 Triumph Bonnevilles, looking for a photo to show him of the seat. CBM came up first on his Google search. Then he searched 1964 Triumph Bonnevilles, and CBM came up first again! He was very impressed, and so was I, to be honest with you. Maybe we really are well on our way to becoming the world's greatest website on Classic British Motorcycles.

As you may know, I've been working on my '79 T140D, and my mission this go-round is to do the mechanicals right, but save on the cosmetics by doing it myself. In keeping with this, I have been price-shopping everything. I took my frame & all the ancillary bits to a local shop that does media blasting & powder coating. They quoted me $800 to powdercoat the frame & the rest. I had been considering painting it all myself, but this pushed me over the edge. So, next I asked them what it would cost just to strip it all via media blasting: $300. So, I gathered up all my crap, went home, got onto Craigslist & found a nice used blast cabinet for just $80, right in my home town. I picked it up & plan to put it to good use. I've always wanted one of these things, ever since I worked at Hanford Auto Supply as an apprentice automotive machinist in the early 1970s, when I would blast blocks & head clean prior to machining. I'm looking forward to using it, which will happen very soon. I just don't want to strip these parts until I'm actually ready to prime them, or they'll start to rust. But, I think it will make my job on Project T140D much easier & more fun.


As you may already know, I am stripping my '79 Triumph T140D Bonneville Special with plans to rebuild the engine, fix all the needs fixing, then restyle it to look like an '81 T140LE Bonneville Royal Wedding Commemorative. Check out Issues #14 & 15 of this newsletter for details. So, I have stripped the frame down as far as it will go, I've taken everything off the bike, labeled & organized everything in boxes & taken lots of detailed photos as I disassembled it, to make sure it goes back together right (I learned this from the TV show "American Restoration").

I have now disassembled most of the engine. The top end came off right away & the barrels are down at Rabers getting bored out .020 over. The head seems fine (Rabers replaced it for the previous owner), but I need to check it more closely anyway. I've removed everything on the primary side, the outer gearbox cover & the timing cover. Now I plan to split the cases, so that I can rebuild the crank, replace bearings, etc., and upgrade the stock 'smog dog' cams for a hotter grind & R-type tappets. I've already spotted a broken tooth on my kickstart gear & tightness in the tach drive. Fun, fun, fun...

I already had plans for this week's weird stuff column when I saw this at Raber's Christmas party:

This is the connecting rod from a 1975 Norton 850 Commando. I had wandered into the service department during the party & joined a chat with one of Raber's expert mechanics, Lucky, who had just split the cases on this Norton. He had conducted some postmortem forensics to determine the cause. Here's what he came up with. The owner was probably over-revving the engine. First, it spun a rod bearing, probably from inadequate oiling. Once one bearing shell half slipped under the other, the rod beat itself up so badly that it bent. The bend then shortened the rod and changed its geometry. This allowed the bottom of the piston skirt to meet with the center flywheel on the fast-spinning crankshaft, which literally ground a relief in the bottom of the skirt. At the same time the bend in the rod put the rod in contact with the camshaft which ground a smooth pocket into the face of the rod itself.

What makes this so weird? Considering that the piston & connecting rod are both made of fairly soft aluminum, its amazing that it stayed together. I would have expected this engine to grenade on contact. Think about all those fast-moving parts flying around the hostile & tightly-packed environment of the crankcase. Things are so tight in there that, in ideal conditions, the camshaft just misses the rods by a few thousandths of an inch. And the pistons almost graze the crankshaft in normal conditions. This very slight change in shape of the rod caused all these parts to hit one another, weird enough in itself, but nothing shattered. Normally, engines explode into hundreds of tiny pieces of shrapnel when something like this happens. Lucky's explanation: The Brits have a long history of good metallurgy, dating back to Roman times, and they just knew how to build things right, and out of the right materials, so that even when met with catastrophe, they somehow hold together. Not always, of course...but this time, at least.

And while we're on the subject of buying things & spending money, please consider doing some of your holiday shopping on this website. I'm sure you have plenty of people in your life who love motorcycles as much as you do, right? Well, how about giving them a year's subscription to a Motorcycle Magazine, or get them a cool Classic Motorcycle Calendar. And of course we have tons of awesome Motorcycle Books in our bookstore. Or, if you feel like really turning it on for someone, how about a Motorcycle GPS System or a Helmet Cam. Think about it. Check it out. Thanks...

Hope you enjoyed this issue of "BRIT IRON" as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please tell your friends about it, and my website, Classic-British-Motorcycles.com. And please urge them to subscribe to this e-zine. It is my hope that the right people will discover this website & tell the right people, who will then pass it along to more of the right people, and...well, you get the ideal.

Thanks for all your interest & support,
Andy Tallone,

PS: I'd love to hear from you, get your comments, ideas, suggestions, criticisms, whatever. Please contact me.
And above all, enjoy the ride...