Mechanical Archaeology


I won’t be battling foes from blimp to pyramid, cracking a bullwhip like ol Indiana Jones, nor discovering some millions year old dinosaur skeleton. But a motorcycle with a few decades behind it – one careful owner (and a string of super reckless ones!) – now that is grounds for discoveries never before seen… The thing with old bikes is, we never know what we’ll find until its found. Some of the rattiest, mud crusted falling to bits bikes have scrubbed up and turned out to be pristine under all that, preserved perfectly and hiding away some rare and desirable parts inside. On the other hand, some of the most well presented examples have been hiding a dirty secret under the shiny exterior, polished up for a quick sale ‘too good to be true,’ no take backs once the new owner finds out the crank is stuffed… I’ve seen mismatched pistons, very very mismatched, an attempt was made to match their very different weights by taking a drill to the heavier piston, making swiss cheese of the underside. It would have ran, for a short time, maybe… I found half a parrot in a bike once. Just the top half. And of course we are in Australia, so there has been a lot of redback spiders, a few snakes, a scorpion one time, the odd wasps nest and plenty of rodent damage of course, they’ll do a real number on a wiring harness.
I’ve lost count of how many “freshly rebuilt” engines turn out to be, in fact, “freshly taken apart and put back together again, with some new rings at best” (Hint: this is not a rebuild…) Lovingly hand-crafter carby parts – a file taking chunks out of the slide here, a random drilled hole to enlarge a main jet there. All sorts of glue, sealant, bog, silicone, putty, superglue, devcon and heck knows what else, valiantly attempting to fix leaking fuel tanks, broken crankcases, drippy carbs and whatnot. Electrics? Let’s not even go there, the possibilities for mischief and misguided attempts on the electrics are a world of their own. Let’s just say that if the clutch cable glows red hot when you hit the starter button, you may just have an earthing issue, and by the way, No, the tail light should not flash in time with the indicators!
We do our best, we try to find as many of the pitfalls and surprises up-front, but nothing can prepare us for taking apart a motor and finding a hand made jarrah cam chain guide, getting the carbs off to discover the mangled remains of jets that are now in no hurry to leave the carb, or worst of all, the dreaded intermittent issue – can’t often diagnose a fault you can’t observe! When a well meaning mate of a mate said he knew a thing or two and gave it a crack, three owners ago, who knows the current consequences of what seemed like a good idea at the time. You wouldn’t believe some of the things found once we get started into an old bike, I bet you lot have some stories of your own too…

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Retro Moto

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