"BRIT IRON" takes you behind the scenes at

January 2012 - Issue #18

* OUR GROWTH CONTINUES - and we break some new records.
* VEGAS IS ALMOST HERE - Rickman's ready, we leave on Wednesday.
* PROJECT T140D: COSTS MOUNT! - what else, right?
* WIERD STUFF AS USUAL - It's a scooter, dog-on-it!

That's a bit over the top, but our growth in traffic has been strong & steady. Last month (Dec) we were solidly in the 1100-unique-visitors/day-range & we even hit 1200 a couple of times. We had a total of 71,133 page-views in December, that's up from 60,392 in November & 53,781 in October. Clearly we're gaining almost 10,000 page-views per month right now & that's very encouraging. It's been my goal from the beginning to grow this site & its audience as big as I can make it, for the rest of my life. And while its fun (a blast, really), it's always better when other people can appreciate it also. In this case lots of people who share the love of this crazy old Brit Iron we ride & work on & fuss over.

I haven't put on an issue of "BRIT IRON" since before Christmas, crazy time of the year. Plus I've been sick. And now I'm leaving for Vegas in a few days. So, this issue is going to be short & sweet. See ya' in Vegas, BABY!

Las Vegas: 3 major Auction Houses, 3 days of Auctions, 1,000+ Classic Motorcycles being sold to the highest bidder. This can only be Vegas Auction Week & the excitement will start on Thursday (Jan 12) & won't stop until Saturday night (Jan 14), when the last bike is sold!


MidAmerica Auctions invented the Vegas Auction & are now in their 21st year here. The world's largest Classic Motorcycle Auction is held at the South Point Hotel & Casino, starts on Thursday night with their Dinner Auction, then all day Friday & Saturday, with over 500 bikes to sell. They're good at what they do & they're sales are always great fun.

Bonhams is one of the oldest auction houses in the world, having been established in 1793. They sell everythere, not just cars & bikes, but recently they've been building up their Classic Motorcycle Auction business & followed MidAmerica to Las Vegas for the first time ever, last year. They held a one-day sale at the Imperial Palace with around 100 bikes, they started on Thursday morning & were finished up before MidAmerica started their Dinner Auction that night. While I'm sure it made Ron at MidAmerica itchy, it may have actually worked in his favor. Either way, it worked well enough for Bonhams to bring them back this year, again with a one-day sale on Thursday & again at the Imperial Palace Hotel & Casino. (There's an incredible car collection there also, by the way.) But that's not the bad news...

RM-Auctions America, famous for their classic car auctions, have also been moving heavily into the classic motorcycle arena of late. And they're coming on strong in Vegas. They should have over 400 bikes, and they're selling them over the same 3 days as the MidAmerica sale. Thursday through Saturday. Ron must be livid. This is really going to complicate things, not just for MidAmerica, but for everyone. Buyers may be at the wrong place at the wrong time & miss something good. Sellers won't like the buyers being spread between 2 sales.

And me, what about me? I'll be running all over Vegas like a crazy person trying to cover all 3 events & photograph all the Classic British Motorcycles. And that's not all.

I'm not just a journalist this year, I'm also a Seller! As you know, I purchased a sweet '73 Rickman 250MX vintage dirt bike last year for an undisclosed amount, cleaned it up & plan to sell it at the MidAmerica Auction. It is Lot #335 & will run on Saturday morning. If you go, look for my bike on display. I probably won't be far off & I'm easy to spot: I'm the guy taking all the pictures of the Brit Bikes. Please don't hesitate to introduce yourself. I'd love to talk to you.

Here's a shot of my bike as it appears on MidAmerica's website.

To bring you up to date: I tore my '79 T140D Bonneville Special down for the winter with plans to do the engine & cosmetics. But instead of taking it back stock (Bonneville Specials are a dime a dozen) I'm going to style it like the ultra-rare (only 250 made) UK-spec 1981 T140LE Bonneville Royal Wedding Commemorative Edition, built by Meriden Triumph to honor (ie: cash in on) the wedding of Prince Charles & Lady Diana Spencer. It's an absolutely gorgeous bike with silver frame & running gear, a completely blacked-out engine (right down to the covers) & front forks. I've wanted one ever since I first saw it on the 2004 Classic Triumph Calendar (below). But they are so rare that I've never seen one, nor have I spoken to anyone else who ever has. And even if I did, I probably couldn't afford the price. But even if I could, I'd have to be insane to ride a bike that rare on the street. And as much as I love gorgeous bikes, I buy 'em to ride 'em (other than the quick-flipper investments like the Rickman).

I had originally approached this project thinking I could cut some corners & maybe do the engine & cosmetics for $1,500 to $2,000. After all, the head was fairly new, I had just done the carbs (and the F&R brakes, tires & chain), I was going to paint everything myself. Well, let's see how we're doing:

Originally I thought I might strip the frame & parts & paint them myself to save some money. But by the time I added up a new spray gun, paint I can use in the City (expensive), setting up a spray booth, a good mask & suit, & all the other crap I would need, it started looking like I wasn't going to save much money. And the quality of the finished product would probably suffer. So I opted to powdercoat the frame, swingarm, triple clamps, brackets, etc. in silver, and the headlight shell, upper fork covers & fork sliders black, to match the Royal Wedding's color scheme.

Now, you can't very well put your nice shiny newly-restored motorcycle back together with a bunch of rusty old bolts, right? So, I took everything, and I mean everything, down to Rabers for their advice. Joe helped me & walked me through my options: Dull Cadmium for that hardware store look at around $150; Bright Cadmium for the same price; Zinc for around $200; and Nickel for around $300. Of course, the prettiest, and toughest were the most expensive. But, in the end, balancing all the factors & cost being paramount at this point, I chose the Bright Cadmium finish & it should look fantastic & hold up well.

This price includes a full crank rebuild including new big-end bearings & sludge trap. The job that they do on this crankshafts is amazing. They don't just balance them in simple rotation. They balance them side to side, check for trueness & straightness. In the end, the bike should be much smoother for it. I'm not looking for a powerhouse, just a strong-runner that is also reliable & easy to ride. The Meriden was famous for shoddy workmanship & some of these later cranks weren't set up right from the factory, so some bikes vibrated worse than others. It was generally found that when these twins (and even more so for the Triples), were set up to proper specs, in other words 'blueprinted', they were quite smooth, powerful & reliable. I think the investment will be worth it.

This price also includes resurfacing the head surface & a new set of pistons & rings.

Yep. You read it right. Just about every part you can replace in that head needs to be replaced. The surface is warped, the valve stems are worn out, the valve guides are worn & all the springs are 20-25 pounds too low. I don't what what could have happened to it all so quickly because Rabers installed that head new just a few years ago. Even they are baffled. But those later Bonnevilles came with notoriously soft guides that wore quickly & took the valve stems with them.

The exhaust cams that came on 1978 & later Bonnevilles were choked down in an effort to pass US Smog Checks. Now that the cases are split open, I'm planning to put in a nice healthy midrange came. More details on this later.


Nothing too weird, this time, sports fans. Just this serious dog guarding his master's scooter. I saw him up close, and he was balanced on that seat (not very big & not level) & we wasn't moving a muscle. He obviously must ride on the bike somehow, but how? There doesn't seem to be anything on the bike that would facilitate the carrying of a dog.

I am a member of the BSA Owners Club (even though I don't own a BSA, they're the biggest Brit owners club in the area & are very active) & every year they sponsor the world's greatest classic British motorcycle show, called the Clubman All-British Weekend at the fairgounds in San Jose CA, on the last Saturday in March. This year that falls on March 31. It's an incredible show with 150 gorgeous Brit bikes, all indoors & it's only $5.00 to get in! How can you beat that?

I'll tell you how. By giving away one fully-retored Classic British Motorcycle each year in a raffle, the tickets for which are only $1.00 apiece. This year is no exception. The Raffle Bike is a fully-restored 1957 BSA DBD34 Gold Star 500. And it's a real head-turner.

Look at this baby! It's absolutely perfect! Rabers Parts Mart (my favorite motorcycle shop) & many other contributors donate the parts, labor & services that it takes to get these bikes done & they always do a fine job. This one is especially nice.

I bought a fistful of tickets at Raber's Christmas Party, where the bike was on display. The drawing will be held at the Clubmans Show on March 31. Plan to attend. Go to www.bsaocnc.org for more info and/or to buy raffle tickets. The money helps support BSAOC, which is a very worthy cause in my view. They put on one great motorcycle show that you shouldn't miss, if you can possibly avoid it. You will rarely see so many pristine Classic British Motorcycles in one place. And as an added bonus, other Owners' Clubs have come along, in recent years, taking up separate buildings at the fairgrounds for an all-European motorcycle show & a Classic Japanese Motorcycle Show as well. Loads of fun & cheap to boot! See you there.

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, Classic-British-Motorcycles.com

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