"BRIT IRON" takes you behind the scenes at

January 2012 - Issue #20

NEW PAGES - Just published something I'd like you to see.
BSAOC ANNUAL MEETING - ...and lunch, don't forget about lunch.
PROJECT ROYAL CLONE - ...sorry, I couldn't think of anything better to call it. Got any ideas?
WEIRD STUFF - ...not so terribly weird.

This may have to be a new regular column on Brit Iron. I'm building so many new pages these days that I should start telling you about them all first. I just finished the page about my trip to Las Vegas Auction Week & it's loaded with cool pictures & fun details of the trip. And I just started an ongoing page on the winter teardown of my next project, the T140D Royal Wedding Clone bike. Check them both out. The latter will be constantly being updated as my project commences.


As you may know, I am a member of the BSA Owners' Club, Northern California (BSAOCNC) & every year we have an Annual General Meeting (AGM) as required by law to satisfy our 'non-profit' requirements. And that means lunch! This year it was held at the Lake Chabot Golf Club in the Oakland Hills. They do a good job of dispensing with all business in a very organized manner, while keeping things light & lively.

I'm starting to make a habit of this. At Raber's Christmas Party I gave away 50 11X17 color posters of a gorgeous '62 Bonneville we had shot at the last Clubmans Show. This time for the BSAOC group, I made up a special poster (it had to be a BSA, after all) of this year's Clubmans Raffle Bike (to be given away at the Show & tickets are just $1.00!), this pristine 1957 BSA Gold Star. They went over quite well too, as almost 50 of them were snatched up by BSAOC members, whom I hope will hang them up in their shops, & most importantly visit my site from time to time & tell their friends about it.

I don't know, what do you think? "Royal Clone"? Get it? I'm turning my '79 T140D Bonneville Special into a sort-of lookalike of a UK-spec '81 T140LE Royal Wedding Edition, the ultra-rare (only around 200 built) Special built to commemorate (& cash in on) the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer. So, it's a clone of a T140LE Royal Wedding. Gorgeous bike, with mag wheels, silver frame, and blacked-out engine & front end. Mine won't look quite like the real deal, because they all had electric starters, which are painfully obvious on late-model Bonnevilles, and mine doesn't. But, I needed to rebuild my bike anyway, it was winter, so it really just came down to the choices I made in colors. A silver powdercoated frame instead of black. A black engine instead of bright. A trick paintjob on the tank & voila! A Royal Wedding!

To begin with, I tore the engine down all the way, even split the cases, then took most of it down to Rabers. The cylinders got bored, new pistons & rings, the crank got ground, new bearings, then the whole thing got sent out to be dynamically balanced. Still waiting for that. Meantime, I had the head done with new valves, springs & guides. And I sent my frame & all the cycle parts off to be powdercoated, some in silver, some in black, per the design theme of the UK-spec T140LE Royal Wedding. (The US-spec Royal Wedding, even fewer built, wasn't nearly as handsome, basically all black with a silver engine...pretty normal-looking).

So, I pick up my frame, which with the head & about $100 worth of parts, came to about $1100. It's been powdercoated in silver & it looks good enough to eat! It's wrapped in plastic. I soon discover however that powdercoating is not the tough, durable surface that I thought it was. In the process of unwrapping it, I've already put a scratch in it. How am I ever going to shoehorn an engine in this thing without tearing it up completely? But, I must say, it does look nice!!

Well, not entirely. You learn something new on every build, and one of the things I learned on this project is how easy it is to screw up powdercoating. After all the hooplah, its not all that its cracked up to be. Here you can see what happens when impurities (oil & road grime) trapped in the pores of the metal seep out during the oven-baking process, and it leaves a permanent stain in the final finish. It can't be sanded out either, this is powdercoating, remember? I never noticed it before because most right-minded people have their frames powdercoated in black, myself included when I did the frame for the Yellow Bike. But with silver, everything shows. It's even worse than the bright nickel of the Rickman frame I just finished. At least you can polish that. But there isn't anything you can do with a stain like this except powdercoat the entire frame again (no guarantee it won't happen again somewhere else) or hope that it doesn't show. This one is fairly conspicuous. So, I'm going to get some silver model paints & a little brush & touch this up, along with a myriad of other booboos.

I learned another lesson, and this one hurts. When working on one end of a powdercoated component, oh lets say a swing arm for instance, watch what the other end is doing, no matter how harmless it may seem. While installing my swingarm bushings, just the movement of the shock bracket on the other end resting on my workbench (covered with cardboard for this very reason) was enough to mar the surface finish at this high-profile location. I could kick myself!! Oh well, more model paint.

You can't put a nice bike together with old rusty bolts, right? So, I sent every nut, bolt, washer, screw, fastener & bracket off to be bright zinc plated. All in all, it was $190 for everything. Now I just need to be exceedingly careful not to scar a bolt head with an errant socket. I must take my time with this one.

So, after several painful lessons, I decided that discretion was the better part of valor here, so I wrapped my fragile prize up in foam wrap using minimal amounts of blue masking tape, so as to be easy to remove later. I plan to put the bike together with most of this protective wrapping in place, removing it only as needed for assembly, or when done.

As you can see above, I've begun the careful assembly. I've installed the cool new oil sump with built in oil filter; the triple clamps, centerstand, swingarm, rear shocks & the rear brake master cylinder (a real bitch to get to normally, but a snap when the frame is inverted like this).

I've always liked bikes with silver frames, and always wondered why more bikes don't come this way. I'm beginning to see why. Silver shows everything. When I was prepping the frame for powdercoating, it was still black, and everything looked good enough. I'd filed down a few sharp edges & removed a little welding slag here & there, and it looked OK. But now that I can see it in silver, the frame is literally covered with knarly welding slag & even a piece of welding rod fused to the frame. It all shows up nicely now. I wish I would have looked more closely & dressed them all out with a file. I just have to keep telling myself, I'm building this to ride, it ain't no show bike!

While at Vegas Auction Week recently, I was parking in the parking garage of the South Point Hotel & Casino, where we were staying & the home of the big MidAmerica Auction & I probably walked into the casino & out to my car a few dozen times over the course of the week. On the day we left, I happened to look up at the ceiling & was quite surprised to find footprints on the ceiling. Not A footprint, not a few...hundreds. Every overhead beam, made of cast concrete had dozens of footprints on them, and not all the same shoes either, a variety of many different shoes, in many different sizes. So, I asked myself, how did this come to be? Was it done during the construction process somehow? Probably not. So, my best guess is that people, not a person, lay on the roof of a van or camper then as they pass under these beams (and hope they don't get crushed in between), the van stops & they stomp a footprint or two on there, oh, and they have several of their friends doing the same thing. And not just here & there, willy-nilly, everywhere, on every beam. I mean this was a truly dedicated effort done by probably more than a dozen different pairs of shows. Was it one person slapping dirty shoes on the roof beams as he passed underneath? And, as long as this must have taken, and as many times as the vehicle had to stop (and remember, the footprints go the width of the driving lane, so one pass in a van wouldn't do it), how come hotel security didn't pick them up on a camera? Is this weird? I don't know. It's hard enough to figure out how they did it, but even harder to find out why? I mean, these aren't crop circles, right?

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...