Project Bike Progress 2019 and Spring Stafford Bonhams Auction - 05/09/2019
Douglas 2 3/4 HP engine is now back together, although still missing some ancilleries. For instance, it still needs valve caps - I wrote a CNC program to machine them almost a year ago, but have not had the CNC lathe free to do the job yet
I know it is difficult to see from this photo - but the re-assembly of the chassis has commenced! Frame/subframe/rearstand have been 2-pack painted and both beaded edge wheels rebuilt - with back one fitted here. I have decided to leave tank with the original paint on it - it is just too good a time warp finish to paint over - I will degrease it and give it a satin clear coat before final fitment.
Build now at a stop until I manufacture new fork spindles
In the last two years I have not had as much time as I would have liked to work on my own projects, spending more time (when not doing the day job) writing new programs and machining them on our CNC 3 axis lathe for new or out of stock parts for our online catalog.
I have a very long list of Norton, Douglas and carb/magneto parts, to work my way through - and 3 years into having purchased the CNC - am already on second and third batch's being required for some of the more popular smaller parts.
Don't get me wrong - I am not knocking this limitation on 'My Bike' time, it is my own doing - and has been a very productive and rewarding element of the RacingNorton parts business, being able to bring in-house some of the smaller parts manufacture, where I can better monitor and amend when first making new items - something that has always been a consideration, even with the best external UK CNC suppliers.
But with all that said - as I write this in September 2019, reflecting back on the last year - I havey actually done work on a wider selection of project bikes than I would have imagined, 5 different bikes if I have counted correctly - but none of it really significant, and very much nagging at the back of my mind - I have not really made much progess on the 1939 M30 Gardengate (pre-war Manx spec competition bike) which I was hoping to have largely together by end of this year. But more of that later.
Douglas Progress at end of 2018
At the end of 2018 I had started to make significent progress on the rebuild of my 1919-20 Douglas 2 3/4hp (in TT rep spec). I had taken the original but corroded early forks back to bare metal - removing all traces of corrosion, stripped back the older paint restoration of the main frame and subframe, and along with a number of other cycle parts had resurrected my old paint booth and 2 -pack painted all of these - first with numerous coats of primer/filler, then 3 coats of gloss black.
Interestingly - in the modern world we live in, since I was last doing my own painting seriously, the modern paint shop world has moved to water based paints, which I gather are less harmful. I am used to the old Acrylic 2 pack paints - which although requiring me to wear breathing apparatus, give a great finish. I found it is still possible to get the acrylic paints - but I had to sign an indemnity to say they are for classic bikes of my own and I am ok of the dangers etc.
Anyway, having spent a couple of weeks last summer rubbing back the chassis parts to bare metal and applying various coats of primer and top coat, most of the chassis is now complete. To be fair - the frame had already been painted by the previous owner - but this looks to have been some years ago and there was now a lots of chips and knocks to it - it really needed re-doing.
Some would say this is a very sad photo - here is me sat on the edge of a cliff all on my own, while it gets dark - and still writing programs on a laptop!
I would say it was just good preperation - we had just finished an evening meal in a restaurant in Cala Blanes, on the west coast of Menorca - and my wife and daughters wanted to go 'handbag shopping' in the local shopping mall . . . that is the last thing I wanted to do!, which is why I always carry the laptop in a backpack - so I went to find the perfect place to watch the sun set over the Med, and picked them up later . . . we were all happy!
By the way - there was a 150 foot drop into the sea 6 feet away from where I was sat - so I took it easy when I got up to go - Health and Safety not big in Menorca
I had also done much other work - both on rebuilding the engine and gearbox, getting all the metal parts that needed it ready for nickel plating (this bike being from a pre-chrome plating era remember) and stripping and rebuilding both beaded edge wheels - a much bigger job than I was expecting, but having done all of it myself, including spoking the wheels - ultimately rewarding. I also stripped and did some work on the engine - although much of it was already in good condition - I think the previous owner had already done some work on it, prior to it coming to me. I would also hazard a guess it had not had too hard a life, as the timing case shafts and followers look relatively unworn. I will cover the Douglas build more in a seperate article
As I write this article in September of 2019 (having started our annual holiday to Minorca - but with laptop in tow!) - I have just written the CNC G-Code programs for the Douglas fork spindles, so am hoping to get them done in the next 4 weeks. If all goes well, I will also knock out some additional sets and offer them on the Douglas forum (footnote - as always, this article took longer than expected and as I finish it off in October I can confirm the spindles have been written and are now available in our Douglas section of RacingNorton catalog:Douglas Parts on RacingNorton
Although following the original profile of the Douglas spindles (using the ones that came with the forks as templates - I doubt they had been removed from new until I stripped them - see my last Douglas article), I am making the diameter of the bearing face of the spindles slightly wider at 11.5mm - this because the original fork blades and yoke look to have had some wear, but are not meaty enough to press in bronze bearings. Therefore I have reamed out the original spindle bores to the smallest possible oversize that brings them to true - that being 11.5mm.
Once these spindles (and castellated nuts) are complete I can recommence the Douglas build and quickly hope to have it as a rolling chassis. I will cover this in future Douglas articles
As mentioned above, I have been doing work on numerous Norton project bikes, but not really making as much progress as I wanted on the bike that is highest priority - my 1939 M30 Gardengate (i.e. pre-war SOHC Manx Norton). This will house the engine I have built to test our magnesium M30 crankcases - but has been much slower than even I was expecting. Apart from anything else, I had been using that engine as a template for M30 engine bolt sizes which took up a number of months (as reported on in previous Newsletter's), but also the frame is with a friend having remedial surgery, and like me, he has had other things stopping him from getting this done.
So although it would be great to get the crankcases tested and a batch made, I know things have changed a bit in the last 12 months and getting these done is likely to be less straight forward that previously thought and keeping the existing Norton parts in stock is going to take priority. Also my machinist mate who did all the original setup and jigs for the mag crankcases has had some very difficult issues in the last year, and has had to put machining of the second set of these crankcases on hold (at about 60% completed - and reserved for my 600cc M30 sidecar engine).
Plans Change . . .
Original intention was to house the M30 engine with our crankcases into my 1938 Racing Inter. But knowing that priorities have changed - and I dont want to mess around with a bike that already has a good working race engine (for methanol and track/sprint work), I have decided I would rather house the engine in its own chassis - and frankly the correct chassis for this engine is a late '30's M30 (Manx Grand Prix specification) frame - Gardengate plunger spec ideally . In the photograph on the left is the new solution - this particular Gardengate project I have had for a few years - but without a suitable engine and was originally well down on my priority list - actually, one of my retirement projects, because I knew the chassis needed a lot of work and some bits were missing.
So instead I have spent some time last year sorting out missing parts - getting girder forks ready for retubing, finding a correct pre-war Manx dolls head gearbox (purchased at last years Bonham sale - although I confess I still have not checked the gears, I suspect they may not be full racing CR gearset - that purchasse was a bit of a risk! - see photo below). Main task was to get the frame sorted, and it has actually been out at a friend having some pretty serious surgery to get it back into shape. I am pleased to say I was able to pick it up a couple of weeks ago and it looks much better.
So a lot of work still to do with this bike - including full renovation of an original pre-war Manx petrol tank that goes with it, but I am sure progress will be faster, now I have the frame back in the workshop.
Other Norton Projects:
A bit of everything really! I have done some work on my Gardengate 600cc sidecar chassis - but only because I had it out to remove the plunger springs for using as templates to hav a batch of plunger springs made - now available on our Norton catalog.
I have also done some work on another project Norton - a 1950 Gardengate Manx, which has one of the rare DOHC frames made in late 1949-50. I was fortunate to acquire this chassis some time ago, and already have a number of the parts that identify the 1950 model - rear conical hub and correct Gardengate brake plate for this hub/frame combination (I will cover this in another article - but that is actually one of the hardest parts to find - the brake plate is very different to normal plunger brake plates - requiring the square pin to locate in the plungers, but housing much wider brake shoes than a normal plunger wheel. I also have the proper alloy oil and fuel tanks for a 50 Manx, as well as some other nice bits, so recently started loosely assembling some of them for trial fits.
Anyway, although having a DOHC frame - I knew I did not have a correct cambox, and was intending to fit a SOHC late '40's Manx engine in it, which was in my 38 Big Plunger (I now have a correct 350 prewar engine, which the Big Plunger would originally have had fitted). but that is where the next part of this article comes in - Quite unexpectedly:
Gardengate frame for my 1939 M30 (pre-war Manx) - sat on floor of my dining room having just come back from a friend where it had had some major surgery. Just one job left to do, then I can start the process of re-assembly
Bonhams Spring Stafford Auction - April 27th - 29th 2019 - Norton SOHC Stuff:
This was the main marquee tent at Stafford where the Bonhams 'Spare Parts' section normally resides. Bonhams is a pretty big operation at Stafford and this one was similar to previous recent auctions I have been to there - there were 'loosely' 3 seperate areas - a main display of auction bikes in an outer area, which is also on view to the public (although only accessable to walk round if you are registered to bid). Then there is the main internal auction room - which also has the main display of bikes for auction. Then there is the third area shown here - which this year - as well as well as being the main display area for spare parts and 'project kits', was also used to display a large display of Off Road bikes from a private collection. In the photograph here is one of the Norton's coming from the collection of parts I was interested in, but also the sprinter chassis appealed to me . . . if I had had unlimited funds and space - which I don't! Norton in the foreground was a @49 Inter and fetched £9,437 with premium, it included original engine as well the one fitted
Looking down the Spares and Automobilia arena tent, from the top end, you can see a number of Totes holding Lots of 'Autojumbler Parts' , then a couple of chassis, and then a number of offroad bikes.
This auction was unusual in that, normally on a Saturday they just sell the spare parts and 'basket cases', but for this auction they also had a large number of off road bikes, so as well as using this marquee tent as a run off area for those off road bikes - I noted that the spare parts auction started early on the Saturday, so they could then move to the sales of these off road bikes on the same day. Then the main historical motorcycle auction took place all through the Sunday.
I only attended the Saturday sale, but watched some of the Sunday bidding online, to see what some bikes I had looked at the day before finally fetched.
At the far end in this photo is the entry into the main auction room. Although not visible in this photograph, there are a number of security guards present to ensure the spares are safeguarded, but it is professionally managed
One of the main reasons for my attending the auction was what looked like a a large collection of Norton Inter/Manx parts - including some basket case projects - which I assume had come from a single collector (probably recently deceased).
The basket case shown here was one of 4 from this collection and was described as a circa 1957 Featherbed 500 Inter - engine had 'M' year stamped on crank case. It definitely looked a worthwhile restoration project - as although needing much work, it looked 90% complete and very original and untouched.
It went for £5,812 (with premium), which I thought was reasonable value for such a rare project.
Note however the top of the wheel rim on the rear wheel - yes that is terminal rustworm!, indicating the bike probably spent many years holed up on its wheels in a very wet outhouse before attending this sale!
A close up of the engine from the same Featherbed basket case. As can be seen - the engine looks just like the archetypal 'Barn Find' - i.e. very complete, but untouched since it was last used - in this case, under years of corrosion is also what looks like many years of hardened Castrol R - dont we all dream of coming across our own 'Barn Find' like this!!
On close inspection, this engine did look like the original engine - it having all the hallmarks for a Featherbed Inter - crankcase sump rounded (not easily visible in this photo - but the sump of SOHC Featherbed crankcases were rounded with two pinch bolts - presumably because of the dual cradle on a Featherbed frame). also, hard to make out, but alloy barrel/head and magnesium cambox all correct for this late model. Unfortunately one of barrel fins broken and heavy with 'R' and corrosion - I expect it would clean up nice with careful restoration.
While looking it over and discussing it with another Norton enthusiast (and RacingNorton customer) before the auction, I was asked questions about it by a potential buyer - who ended up sat behind me in the actual auction and ultimately was the lucky buyer. He subsequently emailed me to tell me that on stripping the engine he found the conrod damaged, and this may have been the reason for the bike being taken off the road - it certainly looked like it had had a long and hard life. I hope the new owner enjoys the restoration
Manx Basket Case In Disguise!
This was one of the main reasons for attending the sale. This basket case was only 60% complete and described as 'A Believed Norton International Project'. Certainly the bottom half of the engine (centre of photo) was an iron Inter lump and the online photos posted before the auction did not look at all inspiring. . . but on closer inspection of them before the auction I could see the frame and forks were the much rarer (and exotic) Gardengate Manx type, as was the petrol tank and head. However, even more tantalising - one of the photographs showing the top tube indicated it was one of the last and rarest type a DOHC Manx Gardengate chassis!
Athough fortunate to already have a chassis of this type - given the vague description and low estimate on it, I could not pass on the chance that it might not get spotted by anyone else - and end up going for a song. Besides which, it was the forks that I really wanted - them looking like genuine Manx forks, and hopefully of the damped type inside. It was while carefully checking this basket case over in the flesh (while trying to look only vaguely interested!) that one of my Norton customers (a really nice gent - but I wont mention names - as auctions are all about anonymity) came over looking a bit worried that I was eyeballing it . .. and asked me if I knew what it was?.It turned out he had also spotted it was a DOHC Manx chassis and was desperate to buy it - having many of the other parts to build a complete bike. What a conundrum . . .
Another view of the same DOHC Manx basket case - with the all important forks prominent in the foreground. Although they were fitted with roadgoing headlamp mounting cowels - it was the large (conical front wheel) brake stop peg on the bottom yoke (on the left in this picture) that gave them away as Manx - probably original to this frame. Also can be seen on the right was a Manx head, although not original to the engine that was put with this kit. There was also a plastic box of smaller parts - but much was missing, and it was the chassis/tank that this lot was all about.
Just before the auction started, I talked to my interested friend, and agreed not to get in a bidding war with him - but with the possible option of being offered the forks, if he was succesful and price was good. Unfortunately that was not to be - clearly a couple of others had also spotted what it was! - bidding was keen and fast! The final hammer price fell quickly at £7,562 with premium- which is a lot of money for an incomplete collection of parts - and left many in the auction room looking a bit stunned, thinking 'what did I miss??!'
That said, it shows that someone knew what this was - and probably had the other parts to make it into a complete and potentially very exciting motorcycle - you do not see many proper DOHC Gardengate Manx Nortons!
As a footnote - I very much felt for my customer/friend. I had not seen if he was the sucessful bidder - but he came over to where I was sat about 5 minutes later and he was bitterly disappointed - he had had to drop out long before the final price was reached - and was also amazed it had fetched so much, but he had made the trip specifically for this kit, so was going to go home without it - I know how bad he must have felt . . . nothing worse than a tantalising opportunity, only to miss it!
P.S. - although not visible in the photo, these items were seperated from the public by a trestle table with Bonhams staff in attendance - to look at any of these in detail you had to ask the Bonhams person, who would then pass it to you - a good idea in my book
Look At All Those Trinkets!
Yes, I know - 30 years ago you may have expected to find all this and more if exploring someones old barn . . . but click on the photo above to see a bigger version - and look carefully at every item on that shelf . . .you will probably agree with me that 90% of those items, you would be over the moon if you had found just one of them in the back of someones garage - they are pretty much all the exotica everyone is looking for. In this case the items I was interested in was the Norton DOHC cambox sat on the middle shelf - but if money had been no object, would have bidded on the majority of them!
I did not take a photo of this gearbox at the auction - but as you can see from the catalog photo - it looked a lovely example of a 3-speed Sturmey gearbox - nice condition and seemingly very complete.
I am not sure if it was the correct type to fit a flat tank Norton but it went for what I thought was a very reasonable £535 with premium.
I know if I had a flat tank Norton project missing its gearbox - I would have been in the mix bidding on this one - an example of how this auction can throw up some real gems
One man's rubbish is another man's gold . . . or something like that. This box, which on the face of it was a load of old tosh, contained many interesting Norton bits - not sure but it might have gone with one of the cammy Norton project bikes
As well as Norton and Velo parts, there were lots of other interesting parts and 'kits' to entice the hardened restorer. Prevelant in this picture are numerous Ariel parts from the 1930's.
It is rare to see Velo KTT parts coming up for sale - so it was interesting to see what the bidding would be like on a number of lots for various KTT parts and project bikes - not surprisingly the bidding was keen to say the least, and the prices fetched reflected the rarity of these true 30's racing bikes
This bike above was one of 4 Velocette KTT project kits - which I suspect had come from the same (pretty serious) collector of competition bikes as the cammy Norton project bikes above (and DOHC Cambox's - see below). This was Lot 91 and was described as a 1934 KTT Mk4. Hard to believe but these large lumps fetched £15,062 with premium! No doubt the complete engine/mag had a lot to do with that . . . just needs forks/tanks/front wheel and a 100 other parts to complete!
Jjust like cammy Norton's from the 1930's I have always had a soft spot for KTT Velo's as well, particularly as old friend Titch Allen had a couple. My only ride on one was a short hop up Titch's lane on his early Mark 1. Nice to watch at the auction, but with the prices being what they were - dont think there is much chance of owning one myself now
Not the kind of fork blades you are likely to find propped up against a trestle table at your normal autojumble! These are strutted Velo fork blades - the lisitng stating of the type fitted to early KTT's. I am no expert on KTT's . . . but remember seeing them on some mid 30's KTT's in the past.
However, what they must surely be is the most expensive fork blades ever - becase they fetched £6.062 with premium! Maybe they went to the same bidder as the KTT on the left - that would bring the total to £21,100 and only 99 more parts needed!
Why Was I There and What Did I Buy?
So, with all the Norton parts available, what was I looking for? Well, as always - when the Bonhams catalog had arrived through the door a few weeks before, I was my normal 'brassic' (i.e. no spare money!) self. A number of big manufacturing jobs going through and all funds directed to these. However, as I started working through the pictures of these Norton parts - I noticed a couple of Lots that really took my interest for one of my project bikes - clearly there was a large collection of Norton parts that looked like they could have come from one collection - and as well as some of the project bikes above, there were a group of items of particular interest - a twin leading shoe DOHC Manx Norton front wheel complete (shown below - which I did bid on, but dropped out on when its price just got too high), some DOHC Manx Norton engine parts - which although interesting, I did not really need - and then finally the two items shown below - two mid 1950's DOHC shortstroke Cambox's.
Why was I interested in these? Well . . . I would be the first to admit, my logic was a bit crooked! I am actually looking for an earlier Longstroke type DOHC cambox, to go onto my 1950 Gardengate DOHC project bike, and I know there is a view that you cannot fit a later shortstroke cambox onto a Longstroke engine . . . but I figured that as original DOHC cambox's come up so rarely, that I could not throw up the opportunity to at least go and look at these cambox's for myself, and check them out 'in the flesh' so to speak.
DOHC Cambox 1 (Lot 149): This was the first of two shortstroke cambox's in the auction - and my main reason for attending. Much of the apparent corrosion was superficial and actually some of it is actually old hardened Castrol R (which can sometimes look like corrosion).
As can be seen from the lower photograph - the reason for being laid up was likely that a previous owner was attempting to remove the pusher bearings - but gave up with one being stuck - but that was not going to put me off!
These two cambox's were seperate Lot's, and were due to come up back to back in the auction - being Lot 149 and Lot 150. In the photographs online they looked pretty rough - but on close inspection the first one looked relatively complete (as much as you can tell without being able to see inside) and had what looked to be the vertical bevel assembly and vertical gear in place as well.
The second one superficially also looked in one piece and reasonably complete. . . in that it had covers on, but I could not see any vertical bevel on this one, and corrosion looked bad - showing signs of having lived in a damp place for a long time - always a concern with magnesium castings.
With both - I would probably only be able to gauge how complete they were inside by looking more closely and feeling the weight - hence why needing to go to the auction in person. My logic was - if they were complete, and it turned out there was not a lot of bidding - because of the risk for those online of not being able to get a close look at them, then I would have been really annoyed to find out they went for a song! This is rare, but it does occasionally happen at these bigger auctions, particularly when there are also lots of other tasty nuggets on offer - sometimes a rare item looking rough or difficult to see can be overlooked and picked up for a song!
And going back to my 'crooked' logic, although it is an earlier Longstroke DOHC cambox I am really after - if I was lucky enough to get one of these, it would give me a backstop for the Gardengate project (even if I find I have to make special guides/head for the 1950 Longstroke engine to make a shortstroke cambox fit - dont know, have never tried!), or even as a spare for my own 1955 DOHC shortstroke Manx, which of course uses the same type of cambox.
DOHC Cambox 2 (Lot 150):t The second DOHC cambox was more of a risk. As can be seen - the corrosion was more pronounced and had definitely bitten through the chromating - also, both pushers were in place, so it was not possible to look inside for completeness at the auction. Unlike the other cambox, it did not have the vertical bevel present, but even allowing for that I had to compare the weight with the other complete cambox to gauge if anything else was missing. I came to the conclusion before the auction started that there were probably some bits missing - but it was definitely not empty!
Original Manx TLS Front Wheel
I did not take a photo of it at the actual auction, but this is the item I had as number one on my hit list - my main reason for attending the auction. As can be seen from the photo, this was an original Manx conical hub and TLS brake plate, of mid to late 1950's period. As per my writeup here - this one was not to be, it finally going for a £2,422 with premium
Twin Leading Shoe Manx Front Wheel - Not To Be
Similar logic applied to a genuine TLS (Twin Leading Shoe) Manx Norton front wheel from the same collection as the cambox's - one of the few items I am missing for the 1950 Gardengate Manx is a correct front wheel.
In 1950 this would have been a magnesium conical hub with large brake flange and a lipped flange on the non-brake side (rather than the earlier iron conical hub with no flange on non brake side - as fitted pre-war and pre-49 (and on my Racing Inter).
However in 1950 it would still have been a single leading shoe brake setup on the 1940's style magnesium Manx brake plate. Very similar to the pre-war type, just a minor casting difference to allow for tele rather than girder forks. Although I have the correct brake plate and shoes - i do not have that type of hub (although if push comes to shove - I do have something similar). I knew that the wheel on offer in the catalog was a later DOHC spec - twin leading shoe front brake arrangement of mid '50's, and the hub itself would have minor differences to the earlier 1950 type (at the very least - the earlier type has less fins if I remember correctly) - but I am not such a purist that if it came at the right price - I could overlook the spec difference and happily fit it into the 50 bike! Besides I know from my own 1955 shortstroke DOHC Manx, that this brake setup is awesome - undoubtedly the best drum brake I have ever felt - and this one looked lovely, unmolested and original, even the correct scoops still in place - which is very uncommon.
As I already mentioned above though, this particular buy was not to be - luckily it came up before the cambox's (I would have been really annoyed to have held off going full guns on the cambox's and then still not got the wheel - I would not have been able to afford both). When bidding started it was quite brisk, but dropped off as the price raised. I think I came in quite late, when it was already well above £1000, but there was at least one ofther very persistent bidder and having already calculated the Bonhams premium and VAT required, I realised it was no longer going to be any kind of bargain, so reluctantly dropped out. The hammer fell at £2,422 with premium/VAT, which is ok if you defnitely need one - it was wonderfully original and complete, but I hope whomever bought it had checked its condition first - I know I did, as buying old magnesium hubs can be a bit of a risk (and for anyone doing this - always look inside the hub and check for cracks on the casting webs behind the brake drum).
They always keep the nice bits on a shelf at a Bonhams auction . . . in this case a number of the nicer Norton cammy bits were held as seperate bids, and were on a shelf behind a trestle bench's at the end of the tent, with a Bonhams person in attendance. I always like to have a look at the items I intend to bid on, so asked the attendent if i could look at the DOHC cambox second from the left. Note the single knocker cambox on the right of DOHC version - it showing all the signs of having just been removed from a working engine, with original type bevel nut rubbers still in place - my own SOHC nuts have long since replaced these type with two modern style nitrile rubber O rings. This SOHC cambox actually fetched more than the second DOHC cambox I purchased!
Bidding on Cambox's:
So, by the time the two DOHC came up for sale, many of the other Norton SOHC/DOHC parts shown above had already sold and it gave me a pretty good indication there were other serious collectors bidding on these items and had spotted the good stuff - so I was not really expecting these cambox's to have gone unseen!
To the same degree - I had also held both cambox's in the flesh and had a careful eyeball of the overall condition. Although they looked rough in the photo's I could see that certainly the first one looked pretty good . . . and holding it in my hands . . . all that weight meant it was either pretty complete - or someone had filled it with old nuts and bolts!
The second one was more of a risk, it was definitely lighter and although it was obviously missing the vertical bevel gear, even allowing for that, it did feel like some ot the internal gubbins could be missing. However, neither did it feel just like an empty shell!
The more complete cambox had one of it's pusher bearings removed, and although the other pusher bearing was still in place (see photo on the right), it was clear a previous owner had tried to remove it - but as so often the case with this bearing, couldent get it out and it was now chewed. Probably the reason the cambox had been stood up - but as both pushers had been removed to do this - it did give me the opportunity to peek inside and see that the camshafts at least were still in place, and looked like the other gubbins was also probably still there.
The second cambox would be more of a lottery - as both pushers were still in place . . . so it did not give many clues, other than the weight was less than I would have expected for a full cambox.
It is worth pointing out at this point - there is always a bit of risk at auctions, but that is partly what makes it fun! However, it can also mean things occasionally backfire - you need to be aware of that and only bid if you are really sure, or dont mind a bit of risk!!
A case in point was the memory of attending another recent Bonhams auction the year before (I dident get round to doing a writeup on this auction) and buying a box of assorted Norton gearbox's because I had spotted what to all intents and purposes looked like a pre-war Manx Norton gearbox (see photo on the right).
It was quite well hidden and not obvious to those walking around the spares area. If I remember rightly, there was no clear photo of it in the catalog and it could have been easily overlooked in the very grotty collection of other gearbox parts for this lot.
Trying to look as nonchalent as possible in the viewing area before the auction - I had a quick inspection of it and gave it the once over. It was definitely pre-war as it had the gearings stamped on the main shell . . . but I confess I did not have my book with me and (shame of it) could not remember the exact gearing of Manx top gear - just remembering it was in the 2's' - and this one was also in the two's - although difficult to rea. It was covered in very old Castrol R and looked like it had been used for either racing or sprinting a long time ago. It also had an unusual 6 spring clutch fitted - (similar to the very early 30s Works clutch).
Now I knew at the time it could easily turn out to be a standard box inside - but due to the old oil all over it, and looking like it had not been touched for many years - I decided it might be genuine Manx and was worth bidding on, particularly if no one had spotted it.
As it happened, at least one other bidder had spotted it - and myself and this other bidder ended up taking the Lot to over a £1000, which raised some eyebrows from those around me at the auction - who had just seen what looked like a plastic crate of grotty road gearbox bits, similar to the previous Lots which had gone for far less money.
In truth, a year later I have still not stripped it . . . but on closer inspection at home I realised the gearing stamped on the shell was the pre-war Std gearings (where bottom was 2.77, not the M30 2.33!), and I have my suspicions that even the very pukka looking Manx end cover may turn out to be a converted road type.
I may be pleasently surprised when I come to work on it, but am not holding my breath - hey ho!
In fairness, as well as this 'complete' 'box, there were also one other complete road going upright Norton gearbox, and a number of stripped gearbox parts - inlcuding what looked to be most of an early '30's Norton 3-speed - so even allowing for the disappointment of this not being a genuine Manx box, I probably would not have lost a lot, if coming to sell all the parts seperately - it is just a reminder we all make mistakes sometime and that is just part and parcel of going to an auction.
Cambox pushers in the more complete cambox were out - and it looked like a previous owner/racer had given up halfway while trying to replace the pusher bearings - a common DOHC issue. It did make it clear though that there was something inside!
No - not from the 2019 Bonhams Stafford auction - but actually purchased by myself at last years 2018 spring Stafford auction, for my 1939 Manx.
See text - but a year later and still not stripped- but memories of needing to check carefully and reading the tell tale signs and hints before buying - not that that would have stopped me in this case!
Back To The Cambox's . . .
Anyway, when bidding started on the first (more complete) cambox - Lot
149, I had pretty much decided it would be all or nothing for this one.- knowing from the previous cammy Norton Lots, there were other bidders who were watching and bidding keenly on the good stuff - I was no longer expecting either of these cambox's to go under the radar!
As expected, there were others who had seen this cambox and the inital bidding was brisk. I did not bother bidding in the first few bids, waiting for it to slow down a bit and wait till it slowed down. As the bidding reached towards £1k (taking into account the premium and VAT - which I expect other bidders would also be doing), it did slow down a bit and at this point I came in and put a bid in. Having done so, I then did my normal bit and immediately counter bid to anyone trying to outbid me. A small flurry of bids between myself and one other persistent bidder followed - but I was not intending to lose it, and the hammer fell at just over £1200 (with premium and VAT) - which was fine with me, having already inspected the cambox and knowing it looked better than the photos.
So at that I let out a small sigh of relief, and sat back in my chair, feeling satisfied to have got the Lot I really wanted - but with no intention of spending any more! As was normal, my mate Andy gave me a sideways glance as if to say - 'wot, £1200 for that piece of grot?!'
It is probably worth pointing out at this point - it is actually possible to buy pretty much exactly the same cambox and vertical bevel gear combination from Andy Molnar brand new . . . I know, because I had checked quickly before coming to the auction, in case I found bits on it missing - I wanted to check before buying they were available. However, quickly summing up - I worked out that a complete cambox/rev drive/vertical bevel combinaton from Andy would come somewhere around £4.5k with VAT, which helped put the risk of this bid somewhere into perspective!
Cambox No 2
So, while getting my breathe back from my first purchase - and mentally calculating what I would have left in the piggy bank in my meagre 'project bike fund' kitty, I saw the picture of the even more grotty second DOHC cambox come up on the screen in the auction room, so sat back to watch how that progressed.
Amazingly though - there only seemed to be a couple of half hearted bids on this second cambox, and it quickly stalled at around £400!. I had no intention at all of spending more money . . . but my ears pricked up when I heard the auctioneer trying to drum up more enthusiasm in the room! Remember, the photographs of this cambox showed it looked rough and very much an unknown proposistion - but I had already had a good look at it, and although I knew it was missing parts .. . I knew it was worth more than that!
So what else could I do - my hand went up, my mate looked at me again with even more of an amazed look and I was back in the hunt! Once I put my first bid in, there was a long pause where it was clear no one else seemed keen to follow, but the auctioneer knew enough about the item and its real worth to not let it go at that - so he asked once again 'if no one in the audience wanted to bid on it as it was surely worth more than £450??!' For my part, menally I was screaming at him 'they know what they want, stop giving them idea's and bring the hammer down!!'. Unfortunately it was not to be - after a few moments more of pregnant pause, someone else came back in the bidding and I had to fight off a couple more bids before becoming the succesful new owner of the second cambox as well - this one coming to me for £828 with premium and VAT - still a fantastic bargain, irrespective of what was missing on the inside - and definitely warranting taking the trouble to look at it beforehand.
These two photos show my dining room table the day after the Saturday auction - as always, I waited until 'er indoors was not around!
You can see here that both cambox's look pretty grotty, but on close inspection arde very original and much of the apparent corrosion was actually the old Castrol R having gone rotten. In the lower photograph you can also see an old 'Smiths FRU' box from the 1960's (Factory Replacement Unit), which contains someof the internal cambox parts and interesting spares that came with one of the Lot's - including a rare DOHC Top Hat mains conversion. This box gave an indication of when the cambox's were most likely last worked on
Footnote and Follow On
So that was about it for my participation in that particular auction - although below I have included a seperate section and photos of some of the other Lots we viewed, that came up in the main motorcycle auction on the following day (Saturday is normally parts and project bikes, with Sunday being the main motorcyle auction).
Unlike in previous years, we did not stick around once these two items had come up - partly because I had promised my mate we would look around the other Stafford stalls - rather than spending all day in the auction, but also because I knew I could not trust myself if something else looked like it was going too cheap!
But as in previous visits - I really enjoyed the visit to the Bonhams auction, and still like the cut and thrust of buying parts this way, so would recommend it to anyone fancying a change to the standard autojumble - just make sure you work out before hand what the difference between hammer price and actual cost will be beforehand (so there are no nasty shocks) . . . and remember the old saying - Buyer Beware!
As a footnote - the last photographs are of the cambox's when I got them home and final one is of the better cambox once the worst of the rotten Castrol R had been cleaned off and sprayed in Duck Oil - much different.
Since attending the auction I have stripped both down and sympathetically restored the more complete one, it will be covered in a future article - but save to say, they were both lovely time warp examples and I am really pleased how both turned out. Still looking for an early DOHC Longstroke for my 50 bike - but it would almost not be a shame to fit the more complete of these - it is such a lovely exampleI
This picture shows more clearly how the old Castrol R on the left cambox had really gone off and gave a much more corroded look to the cambox than was actually the case. In reality, it was the second, less complete, cambox on the right that actually had some serious real corrosion - although almost entirely on the top smooth surface - which was fortunate, because it meant I could easily linish it out, without any adverse affects - there being lots of meat at this point.
As part of a later stripdown and cleanup of this second cambox, as well as thoroughly cleaning it - I removed all corrosion, but have only painted it black for now - at some point I will also re-chromate the shell
DOHC (the more complete) Cambox - Looking Ahead
Sneak preview of what the more complete cambox looks like now - very different from photos prior to the auction! At this stage I had not stripped the cambox fully - that will be covered in a seperate article, but as part of the initial strip down and inspection - I wanted to to remove as much of the superficial corrosion and dirt as possible - and then spray the magnesium in Duck Oil, so as to give some protection. As you can see - it already looks 10 times better, and has the wonderful patina of original Norton grey/blue chromating mixed with some hard crusted Castrol R residue
Sneak preview of next article to follow this - where I cover restoration of one of these cambox's. This photo shows what 50 year old Castrol R looks like inside one of them - the consistency of caramelised treacle!
At least it protects everything though!
Lot 84 was this early Bonniksen - another item I was interested in. It is the more desirable 100mph version, but that was not the reason I was after it - I wanted it because it was the early 'bevelled glass' version with a knurled surround. I already have a restored Bonniksen, but mine is the slightly later version of early '20's and I think this one was 'teens..
Another Lot I was hoping may be going cheap - but £1,083 with premium was a bit too much - given that it would still need servicing and restoration of sorts
Oh, and another thing I did not buy - Bonniksen
Ahh, i almost forgot, there was another item in the auction I was interestd in - An early Bonniksen 0 - 100 speedo. I was interested in this for my Douglas - and found it particularly attractive - not because it was a 0-100 (which are more in demand, I am actually more interested for a 0 - 50 for my 350cc Douggie), but because it was one of the very early type, with bezelled glass and knurled bezel ring, which is just right period for a pre 1920 bike.
As it was a single dial type, not the 3 dial type which are in most demand by Brough owners and such like, I thought it might be a possible cheap buy.
Again, this was not to be - it went for a relatively expensive £1000+, which was far too much for me to spend, when I already had a really nice 1920'ish Bonniksen for my bike, already rebuilt and serviced - see, I can show self restraint!
As a comparision, here is my own Bonniksen - reserved for my 1919-20 Douglas 2 3/4hp TT Rep. This is a 0--50mph of early '20-'s vintage. This one is fully complete and has already been serviced by Steve Kinights. Although I would ideally like one of the early teens bezelled glass type .. .this is probably more correct for my bike anyway - so was only interested in the bezelled glass type if price was right . . . and given I had this - the money was better invested in the DOHC cambox's. Incidentally, the bezel ring on this particular Bonniksen is also very unusual, normally those of this vintage have a double bezel
Bonhams Spring Stafford Auction - April 27th - 29th 2019 - Other Bikes And Stafford Photos:
Lot 616 was this nice 1938 995cc Ariel Square 4 and family Busmar sidecar. Family sidecars like this were common place up until the 1960's when cars became more affordable - I well remember we had a later 'egg' shaped Busmar attached to our Royal Enfield Constellation until the mid 1970's.
This one looked nice, but will need UK registering - it having resided in Italy. It fetched £15,525 with premium
An even earlier sidecar outfit was this nice 1922 8hp Chater Lea Big Twin.Sidecar was another family outfit with a white parasol roof - hence the white saddle. Looking very useful for veteran rides out, this nicely presented outfit went for £26,450 with premium
I am always a sucker for small Italian bevel drive bikes from the '50's and '60's. Lot 418 was this lovely unrestored 1965 Ducati Elite, with wonderful jelly mould tank. Looking all original with just the tank restored, it was not huge money at £3,220 with premium - a great sympathetic restoration project
More exotic Italiana - this being a circa 1935 250 racing Moto Guzzi. This was an older restoration with originally a roadster chassis, but genuine TT250 race engine and in race trim. It went for £18,400 with premium
Ex-Works ex Mick Grant Suzuki XR69 - in iconic Heron Suzuki livery. The colour scheme might lead you to believe there is an RG500 two stroke GP engine behind the fairing - but the XR69 was a big GS1000 based bike, of which a handful were built for TT F1 World Championship - lovely and very special bike, owned and ridden sucessfully by Mick Grant
Another picture of the XR69 Suzuki - which had won the 1982 NW200 in the hands of Mick Grant, and was still owned by him, having being given to Mick by Suzuki, and supposedly the most special of the 6 made.
Estimate was £90k-£120k but it looks not to have sold in the auction, maybe it found a new owner after the sale?
You always know when you are looking at expensive exotica, because the auction description will start 'The . . .'
In the case of this beautiful 1956 125 DOHC MV, it was described as 'The ex-Works Carlo Ubbiali Bialbero Racing Motorcycle'. It had resided for many years in the Fuji museum in Japan. I think the long slender tank makes it look more like one of their 1960's race bikes
No apologies for a second photo of this fantastic bike. Supposedly it was used by Ubbiali in 1956 and helped him win six out of seven world championship events. The purposeful DOHC cambox units and oil pumps look quite different from customer engines. I notice that Bonhams online catalog still show this with its pre-sale estimate (£100,000-£120,00) indicating it did not find a new owner at this auction
This photo shows some of the large collection of race bikes in the auction, in the outer viewing area. Number 9 and bike behind it were both Velocette KTT's and were sold as a pair. No 9 was a replica of a Geoff Duke Reynolds MkVIII while behind it was a more standard looking MkVIII with earlier engine. Together they sold for £46,000 with premium.
Notice what looks remarkably like Sammy Miller eyeing up the Works MV in the background - maybe trying to decide if it would make a good addition to his museum
I could not go past a Douglas 2 3/4hp without taking a photo could I!
Lot 442 was this late 1925 CW Douglas 2 3/4hp - what must have been one of the last of this venerable model. This one looked nicely original and usable, a nice mixture of repainted tank and wheels, but much of it oily rag and original spec. It has the wide valanced mudguards of the early 20's Douglas's and by this time the model had gone chain drive. Its previous owners included Douglas exponent Henry Body. It fetched £7.935 with premium
A whole collection of racing JAP engines came up for sale in the Saturday parts auction I attended. Although I have no current projects to utilise any of these engines - I was still lured towards bidding on at least one of them - having raced a JAP Speedway engine Rotrax in the past, and also also half built one of the first of these engines. I particularly liked the engine on the right and was thinking of bdding on it based on the lowish prices others were fetching. Luckily it seemed others had spotted this one looked a bit special and it fetched a more healthy £1,785 with premium (enough to keep me from bidding!). this one looks like it may have been fitted with a Cooper alloy head as used in F3 cars in the early '50's.
Another lovely looking early Italian bike at the auction - this being a Moto Guzzi 1930 500cc Sport 14. Interestingly, in the same auction there was a similar looking genuine 1926 C2V Moto Guzzi racing version, in the same charasmatic colour scheme - with an estimate of £50k-£70k, but that seemed to have been a non-seller. This road version sold for £10,350 with premium
Vincents at the Auction
As is often the case at a Bonhams auction - there was a good and varied selection of Vincent's up for sale. In this photo are two Vincent singles - Lot 521 in the foreground was a 1953 Comet, built from a basket case many years ago in road trim, but strangely - missing its lights it went for £14,950 with premum. In the background was Lot 520, a 1951 matching numbers Comet with the same owner since 1976 and in very nice and original condition. This fetched £21,850 with premium reflecting that provenance
I was impressed with this sporting and purposeful Rapide/Comet outfit, with Steib S501. It had many mods, including much bigger car type wheels and looks like it had been built with proper use in mind.
Despite it being a hybrid Vinnie, its build quality shone through, as it fetched a healthy £41,400 with premium
Another view of the same outfit - showing some of its features - looking like it was put together by someone whom knew what they were doing.
Interestingly, I have seriously considered fitting a Steib S501 to my own Vincent Black Lightning rep, which may allow for an electric started to be more easily fitted - if anyone has one for restoration/sale, please let me know!
On first glance this looks like another Comet, but interested me because on closer inspection it is the far less common Meteor model (this one being a 1949 version), identified by the Brampton girder forks and lack of front stand assembly under the front sump. There were also a few other minor differences from the more common Comet.
It had been fully and professionally restored, but goes to show that rarity can make a difference as it went for £28,750 with premium, bearing in mind it was the lower spec version of the Comet
And finally . . . Lot 518 was this Black Lightning Replica : No not mine, but similar! This particular replica was restored by Glyn Johnson to Lightning/Shadow spec and was road registered. It looked a nicely presented bike, and described as well sorted. It went for £51,750 with premium.
I notice it had HRD tank lining but the engine looked like a Series C with Vincent logo on the timing cover. Allthough differences between Lightnings were minimal but varied individually (and with any 'replica', which is about giving the flavour of a bike - is pretty much academic) - Just a reminder if you want to compare this with my own HRD Black Lightning rep, which I tried to base on the original 1948 Lightning - here is a screensaver of my own bike: RacingVincent Black Lightning Rep
More racing bikes in the viewing area. The Manx Norton in the foreground had the patina of a bike that had been raced for many years, then stood up - particularly the slightly yellowing fuel tank. Describes as 1954 350, it went for £18,975 with premium. The Matchless behind it was a G45 replica, which looked pretty good, but having a later set of BSA front forks and TLS front wheel may explain why it only fetched a modest £8,625 with premium
I have a soft spot for this uncommon 1950's racer, having a good friend who has a beautiful example of this model with all the right bits fitted
Ahh - memories of my youth! - Lot 597 was this beautifully restored Suzuki GT380J from 1972, which fetched £5,5250 inc premium. I never actually owned/rode one of these, but a mate did and I always liked them a lot. Before getting my first learner 250 (a 67 BSA Starfire), I was also on the look out for the 250 two cylinder version of this bike -in the days of fast learner 250 2 strokes!
I did ride another mate's similar GT550 and that was a very fast beast!
Not a huge amount for a very nicely done restoration. The six cylinder Kwak Z1300 in the background fetched £8,395
I particularly like this 1939 Norton 500 Trials outfit - which went for a very reasonable £6,900 with premium - just the thing for a Sunday morning ride out to the local VMCC Taverners trial! Pre-war trials Norton's are even more uncommon than the postwar 500T model, so this looked a good usable example. As with so many Norton trials (replica's) the frame started life as a 16H open cradle frame - I have one of these myself, and fancy one day building a trials SOHC model, using a similar frame and some nice 500T parts I have
Late 1980's at Mallory, with Sandy (girlfriend then - not wife) and Martin Sibson whom I passengered with on his Triumph outfit. Also solo on my Norton.
Again, taken with Yashica - but I think photo was taken by my best mate Mak, as it was not the kind of camera you could just thrust upon a passer by!
Just before I finish the Bonhams auction photo's here is an interesting comparison: See first the photo above - Wheww!, perhaps the most expensive Vincent RFM ever?, I notice this Comet RFM sold for an amazing £3,562 with premium. Those that have read my previous auction write-ups might remember I visited the same Stafford/Bonhams auction 3 years ago with the intention of purchasing a similar RFM for my Grey Flash rep, but I dropped out at just under £2k. That one went on to fetch @£2.5k, but this one seems to have set the new record! (luckily I was able to obtain a really nice Comet RFM myself privately)
As a comparision, for only an additional £120 at the same auction, you could have picked up this lovely and seemingly very original Greeves Silverstone racer, complete and ready to race demo - food for thought! It reminds me when in the mid 1980's I was looking to buy my own Vincent twin restoration project, I was also tempted by a friend's Greeve's Silverstone racer he was selling. Although the Vinnie twin needed lots of work and the Greeves was a fully sorted bike - even he quietly told me the Vinnie would hold its value better!
. . . and final picture from the Bonhams auction - and for me the best bargain of the day - this genuine unrestored Cantebury Trials sidecar that only fetched £127 with premium - someone got a great restoration project with this one.
As you can see from the listing photo - this was Lot 21 and therefore came up very early in the auction. I fully admit - I was really struggling not to bid on this sidecar, its patina was lovely (look at the mudguard padding - just how you want to find them) and it would be the perfect sidecar to attach the SOHC/500T lookalike I have as a final project bike . . . but when it came up the day was still young and I really was not sure if my mate Andy would appreciate me having to help lug this sidecar across Stafford showground through the crowd to my van! Likewise, with no more room left in the workshop, I was worried that 'er indoors' may not appreciate looking at it outside from the kitchen window - so very regretfully I decided to pass . . .
What else was in the Stafford Bike Show?:
As well as the Bonhams auction, as always, there was a lot going on at the Stafford show - both outside and inside - despite the unclement weather. Without spending all day at the Saturday show, we still got a chance to do a quick lap of the main circuit - below are a few photographs of those that took our fancy in the main arena hall:
I know it may seem strange taking a picture of a rather uninspiring modern 125 cc with AJS badge engineering - but both my mate Andy and myself have daughters who are just starting to ride bikes themselves - and we both thought this pretty yellow AJS looked nicely put together and practical. Since then Andy's daughter has bought a modern ligthweight BMW which looks quality
Until recently I would not have classed myself a follower of old Japanese bikes - but there were a number at Stafford I liked and who could not be impressed by this big Z1 Kawasaki - a blast from the past - I used to have a poster of one on my bedroom wall as a kid.
I never got to ride one - a bit before my time, but did once have an 'eyes on stalks' ride on one of the next generation Kwak icons - the GPz750 Turbo - what a rush that was!
Not the normal thing you see on the Vincent stand - but lovely none the less, and quite rare I think - NSU/Vincent Fox. Notice the tank transfer has the normal NSU badge,with a small Vincent logo tailing away from it.
On the same stand as the NSU Fox was this pretty Vincent Cafe Racer. In truth it was the colour scheme that caught my eye, rather than any particular goodies on it, but it did look nice and I like the joint petrol/oil tank - notice two filler caps
A dealer in the main foyer had this time capsule 1938/39 M30 (Manx Grand Prix Spec) Norton for sale. It was definitely not cheap but was one of the most original pre-war racing bikes I had seen. Take for example the rear bum pad - which is of the correct type as fitted to pre-war racing Norton's and now extremely rare. It has square head, which was first fitted on customer bikes for the 39 year. Interestingly it was also fitted with Lucas NR1 racing magneto - rather than the more normal BTH KD1 (I believe either could be requested - I have one myself to fit to my 48 600 Manx). Although not visible in this photo, it also had the lugs at the bottom of the plunger castings for a 'suicide' (i.e it drops forward) rear stand - again an original feature on the first Gardengate frames. As I am building a similar late 38 Gardengate myself I took lots of photos of this bike to capture all the little details
Another photo of the same bike - showing long competition levers, pressed steel air lever and proper M30 girder forks - i.e. with no side damper and parallel check springs. Interestingly it is fitted with a Bolt-Thru tank.
Prior to seeing this bike, I had supposed that the only bolt-thru tanks fitted pre-war were Works bikes, but as everything else on it was so original - perhaps a few were fitted wtih this type of tank at this time.
There was a sign on it that said - fully re-commisionned. To me it did look well worn and a bit ragged in areas, but no doubting it was the proper thing