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5th April 2005

Opinion: The RealClassic Restoration Guide

All you need to know about restoring your classic bike? Or, more like, PaulG80's tongue in cheek look at rebuilding old nails...

OK, so you've bought your rusting hulk / burned out wreck / pile of boxes (delete as applicable). It's now time to formulate A Plan and to start dreaming of hitting the highways aboard your classic.

Firstly you will probably need to join an owners' club. This will enable you to spend long winter nights down the pub with like-minded others, swapping stories when you should be in The Shed working. Also this will give you access to used parts and expertise in your favoured model.

Next you will need to set yourself a budget. Ideally you will work out what you need to buy, what you can swap and factor in a little for emergencies. Now take this figure and double it, then, add a quarter of the doubled value to the final total. This will be more like what you are likely to spend.

A time frame is always a good idea too. To work this out take the next spring date of your choice when you would like to be on the road, and then move it on by two years. If you are lucky this is more realistic.

When addressing the working space in The Shed, this area needs to be as cramped and as poorly lit as possible. Ideally you should be tripping over bits of bike and catching your overalls on the one you are (attempting) to work on. Failing that, the doorway should be just narrower than the handlebars and footrests to make manoeuvring in and out as difficult as possible.

90% Complete. If two different 45% complete bikes counts as one 90% bike, that is...

The hunt for spares is something to be planned next. To do this properly you will need calendar of all the local autojumbles. Then you should fail to attend most of them due to family commitments.

Right; all the groundwork is laid down so the build can start. It's always a good idea to take photos of items as you strip them out. However do make sure that you use a digital camera. This is because otherwise the film will languish in the camera and only be developed when the build is finished and you no longer need the photos for reference anyway.

As you strip the various parts of your machine you will notice two things. Firstly, how bad the previous owner was at caring for the machine. Secondly you notice that all the parts that are most worn are the most rare for your particular machine. This is probably why it is a rusty / burned out wreck or a pile of boxes in the first place.

Philip Rashleigh's B31 Scrambler... nearly finished now.

Having made A List and acquired all the items on it (yes, even the parts made of unobtanium), you will find that an item called a 'pingsodit' will make an appearance. These items are designed to cause maximum heartache and delay to any restorer. They usually manifest themselves as the really hard-to-acquire clips and pins that hold important structural items together. They will always rear their head at night or dusk when the poor lighting is in operation, and will only reappear when a replacement has sourced, after few weeks of hunting, and fitted to the machine.

While you are at the rebuilding stage, the opportunity to spend yet more hard-earned drinking vouchers rears its head. This comes under the heading: upgrading to enable your classic to exist in the hostile climate called 'modern traffic'. Upgrades manifest themselves in many different ways, things like 12-volt conversions, LED rear lights, electronic ignition kits and larger, more powerful engines.

Whoops! 'How did that happen?', you say to yourself but it's true -- it happens. Suddenly your ordinary, workaday grey porridge bike for everyman grows the largest engine fitted to the range. Then comes the performance air filters and sports exhausts, etc. This upgrade is very important in the great scheme of things as it will give you something to do while the painter has your tinware...

Painting is next huge hurdle to get over. Usually, it's done by a mate of a mate who works in a spray shop. This means you can reasonably expect a fuel tank, two side panels and two mudguards to take at least six months. Of course, you accept this, as you don't want to pester the sprayer because he is doing you a favour for a cheap rate.

Notice large tub of Enthusiasm in foreground. Random Rebuild Stuff on

Refitting bodywork is the next hurdle. Firstly all the mounting holes are too small after many coats of thick, high quality paint. Secondly you can't quite remember where you put all the nuts and bolts all that time ago. Anyway you persevere and first fitment is the tank. I don't know why but a fitted fuel tank somehow always seems to be the top of the last downhill slope. Suddenly the thought occurs; 'well, the tank is on so I might as well put some fuel in and see if the engine runs.'

This is known in the trade as A Big Mistake.

The immediate problem will be 'it didn't leak before it was sprayed'. You guessed it -- another six months with the painter stripping off all his hard work, then sorting the leak and repainting it. If you are incredibly lucky and you don't have a leaky tank then the next three weeks will consist of trying to get the engine to run right. During this exercise you will discover that meticulous fault-finding of all the really complex things that could be wrong will come to nothing. Until you then swap the plug leads so they're the right way round -- whereupon it fires up and idles straight away as if there was never a problem in the first place.

The bike will be smirking at you at this point.

Suddenly, here we are two years down the line and ready for the road. You proudly wheel the bike out into the road. It basks in the light drizzle which will inevitably be falling. You clamber into your bike gear and purposely stride towards the machine in which you have invested much money, time and effort.

After kicking it over for 20 minutes you remember to turn on the ignition.

You clamber back into your riding attire and roll it off the stand and set off to the MoT station. Upon your return from the MoT station, to fix the brake light and horn which refused to work, you notice just how well the bike runs. You congratulate yourself on a job well done, and after it has passed the MoT at the second attempt, you start riding it to shows. This can be a very bad thing, as while you are there you will lose your heart to another rusty / burned out wreck or pile of boxes. So you sell the machine you have toiled over, for a quarter of what you have spent on it, and the circle starts once more.

Are we mad?

Only a lot, I think!

A bench? Seats? Tools on a rack? This all looks a bit too organised for me. Full story from issue nine of RealClassic Magazine onwards.


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