Friday, December 31, 2010

Datsun 1200 with a 440 or Youthful Folly

When I was a younger lad many an hour were spend pouring over pictures in car magazines. I'd dream of owning cars like Butch Leal's California Flash or Jack Chrisman's Mustang funnywinder.  All fine and good but clearly beyond my financial standings for a 14 year old with no job.  As my father bought more mature magazines such as Car & Driver and less of  HotRod my tastes too did change.  Being a 'if you can't buy it-  build it type' I began to plan to build my car right then and there. Soon I was using up all the 2 inch masking tape in the house to layout chassis plans on the porch floor to build my very own BMW M1.  It really didn't figure into my plans that being 100 year old wood floor and a narrow 3 foot opening that it was not the ideal building location if all. But I'd heard tales of cars built in penthouses of New York only to be airlifted out at a later time.  I could sit in my taped up crime scene and kid myself for hours keeping the dream alive knowing that it could be airlifted too.
After the winter snow shoveling and spring rains had all but destroyed the adhesive qualities of my BMW, I spotted my new dream car in a family friend's yard! The son of the owner (friend of my brother)  was standing on the hood;  he called the little car Christine, though it looked harmless to me.  A deal was made and I bought it for a dollar!  It cost me 20 dollars to have it towed back to my house but now my parents could see this treasure! She was a 1971 Datsun 1200 with 260,000 miles. A minor setback for my Dad who later told me that he was planning to buy a Duster for my first car that summer. 

The work began with evicting all the critters that used my as a personal urinal stand. A new battery and a set of fog lights for the bumper came from the local shop that week. Fog lights make everything go faster even if more important things like the passenger's floor and the brakes, exhaust, fenders, wheels, etc needed fixing first.  Several tries make my way up and out of the driveway under the car's own power proved evident  that the clutch was in order too. For many years the hulk of the once proud Datsun sat in my parents driveway as a eyesore and back stop for my father's pickup until my second car prove too that it was more work to fix.

And then it occurred to me why fix when you can.... MODIFY.

What follows next are horrific pictures of youth gone astray. These are the things that happen outside of adult supervision. The little Datsun fell victim to the misguided body repair lessons given to me by a local drop out.  His logic was if you didn't have the proper tools then hack at it and he began to show how to hack at my car with a meat cleaver. Shortly there after I purchase a pair of tin snips and did a more proper job removing the rusted sections.  As more of the chassis came apart the lighter it became until you could get in and lift the car off the ground.  In the end all that was left was a trunk deck, roof, two doors and the hood.  Now to start rebuilding..... slowly. As the sanding dust and bondo filled my lungs and nose my mind became just as clouded as the air in the garage.  All the dreams cars began to morph into one conglomeration of mechanism. Nothing would quite be the same again.

 This is the fiberglass wing found in a junk yard; might have come from a Dodge or Plymouth Station wagon.  I sanded down the ends to mate it up and bolt it on the trunk deck. 
 An over head view of the wing.  also, you can see that there is not much of the car left. Had to remove all the rusty parts and make way for the new frame to fit the missing floor pan.

Time passes and soon enters my second car.....
 This was my grandfather's 1970 Chrysler New Yorker.  After its beauty was marred by a telephone pole it became mine. All mine and near my workshop for repairs

After pulling the front clip off the New Yorker it occurred to me that the engine/ frame unit could be unbolted with great ease and mated up to another frame.  Hmmm,  it was at that point in my mind that East meets West and the dream of building my own car gets really ugly.  A  frame made from scrap steel water, a tube chassis if you will, was made to take the rear end of the New Yorke'rs diff and also allow me to bolt the engine assembly on the front

Here is the much morphed/ modified Datsun 440.   It was soon evident that the wheels were going to be much wider than that of the minimal Datsun chassis. Since I didn't have the resources or money to narrow the rear diff and front suspension I did the next logical thing.
I had seen pictures of the old racing BMWs with beautiful wide wheel well chassis and figured it was an easy to just tub out the wheel wells.  Extra money was used to buy sheet metal from the local speed shop after telling them my plans of  installing a 440 in a Datsun.  I have to admit there has been many year, even to this day, of people with looks of great disbelief in my dream car project
As proud as I was of my self taught metal work and frame building, no pictures of the scrap water pipe frame welded together with angle iron exist. The car was not to be.  The first and only running prove that the 440 was more power than a novice misdirected frame/chassis could handle.  A youthful blast and full throttle revs turned all my hours of pop rivets and bondo dust into a scrap man's twisted nightmare.  Somethings we try to forget.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

1966 BMW R60/2

A few pictures  of the project R60/2. Engine and frame match;  but missing parts are replaced with what ever works.  The purple is a nice period touch.  I rather like the patina, maybe show bike?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Some of the shops where I hang daily

Every day is a day within a garage. Be it Automotive repair, Motorcycle repair or home shop.  Hanging out to me is a worthwhile way to spend my life. I will not be a rocket scientist or the President. Some of these environments are hazardous to your health, but the machines; history and an ebb of  the human passion for travel and the people that own them.  It is a vision of motion and time wrapped into one.

 Shine's Foreign Car Care is a wonderful place to ingest the world of German automotive.  Here is where Porsche is number one.  The is no better engineering firm than Porsche, ask the Owner of Shine's.  VW, Audi, Porsche, Mercedes Benz, and BMW can always be seen. A common sight is the older Vw as early as the early 60's.  But its not just German cars but other exotic European machinery;  Fiat, Triumph and the occasional MG can be seen.  Some of the most memorable machines are a 1976 Porsche RS and a DeLorean.

           Another establishment is Duncan's Beemers in Maynard, Mass.  for over fifteen years this has been a not so local hangout for me.  Here's a place where you can spend hours feeding the addiction for an old time motorcycle shop.  There are few boundaries within these walls. In later posts we'll give a more detailed view of the inner sanctum of Duncan's Beemers, but let it be said Duncan's Beemers is and always will be an education center.  As it has been established for over twenty years it is also an education of what an old motorcycle shop was and is its own living breathing history. Mind your step those that enter here,  its a time warp and you could get lost for a few hours.

This is my personal workshop for three seasons of the year.  For over forty years this place is hallow to my mind.  It is was here that I began this mechanical journey.  At the age of four,  my father would bring me here to watch him and his friends rebuild and work on Triumphs and MGAs.  This is the place I would first smell gear oil and feel  the cool fall weather of new England in my bones.

The Forth season, the basement hold out;  when all workshops are too far away.  This too is a place deep within my mind.  Many a night I would lie awake with nightmares of machines sitting lonely and neglected in the dark, forgotten. I rather like to keep the past alive as best I can. Please enjoy the pictures.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Godfather of Motorcycles

This is Floyd Garrett, without him I probably would not even be writing this blog. Many people have helped in my journey through the motorcycle community. There are countless individuals before Floyd and many enablers that came after. But Floyd is a Rosetta stone into the world of motorcycling for me. Without Floyd I'd just be another motorcyclist, biker or nothing.

In the beginning he introduced me to Jim Fraser, a fellow Velocette Owner that also rode BMWs. At Belknap he introduced me to Dave Roper and countless others. Wherever I rode with him, I was amazed at the people he knew or introduced me to. Whenever I had a mechanical question or just wanted to talk to a person with sage advice, Floyd was there. Fondly I can hear him say to me 'oh?..... you've got ROCKS in your head!' When I would do something foolish without forethought. And the truth is that I do have rocks in my head! But that's another story....

Within the first years of knowing Floyd, with his help, I became a motorcyclist and a mechanic that some might even say is first rate. Many a night I would call and ask about how or what or even who, if he didn't have an answer he knew who I should talk to. Every phone call is always the feeling of the student talking to the master. Not a mastery of just motorcycles but how to live as a peaceful human being. My spirit of motorcycling grew and the knowledge came to me. History and knowledge are always the central theme. Even as I write this, I know that Floyd will hear what has been said and I will know he has!
Also central to my education is Floyd's 1946 Velocette MAC. Floyd had done several road trips across America with his 46' MAC. His Velo has been there mile after mile; many a tale can be heard over a coffee or a ramblings at a show. MAC is the central motorcycle in all of Floyd's tales. I would spend many hours examining MAC and the patina that has developed. It's not everyday you can ask the owner where every dent, scratch or whatnot came from. This is a rare experience that few can stop to absorb in daily living. My first motorcycle road trip out of the U.S. was with Floyd. We had gone up to Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia to the Vintage TT at the Atlantic Motorsport Park on 2004. The races no longer run, but I can say that I've gone and been there.

At my first ride with Floyd to Auburn Elks motorcycle show, I was so excited to join in a ride with Floyd that I rode 60 miles in the rain to his house even though the show was about 18 miles from my house in the other direction. It was my first real ride with other motorcyclists. The rain came down steady on that first ride ; as I rode on to be at Floyd's by 7:30AM. When I arrived at Floyd's house, we waited for the other riders. I must have looked like a drowned rat! But to be part of this, my first ride, was just a slice or rapture and sublime; rain was all part of it and the true experience of the ride. After a few minutes of standing around the chill set into my bones. I'd stand in uncomfortable positions to keep the wet clothes off my legs. Floyd looked at me and asked if I'd like a rain suit for the ride. But to show that I was a true biker and that I was worthy, I declined. When the chill got good and damn cold, I asked if I could use the suit (it be warmer in a rain suit than just wet clothes!). Floyd went into the house and shortly appeared with a bright yellow rain slicker that a fisherman might wear. Upon seeing this Bright visible monstrosity appear from the depths of the house I rescinded the decision to use it. Floyd looked at me in a calm and gentlemanly way and said 'John, put the rain suit on'. A turning point within my motorcycling experience. Always wear the appropriate riding kit!
There are many other like tales; Floyd always could do so much with so little. He could make that little MAC look effortless. He may have been riding 55mph in a 60mph zone but in the twisty roads he could keep MAC at 55mph in the 30's mph! Always a consistent in his meter. At his camp in NH, He could make a stew that would chase the chill right from your bones. Floyd is my Godfather of Motorcycling, a educator, a true New Englander

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Autumn Autobahn

There's alot to be said about New England driving and riding but when it comes to the best season autumn wins hands down. You really feel alive rolling down an uncharted back road, top down and just enveloped in the moment. Fond memories of gear oil and Triumphs and MGAs as the leaves were falling in the crisp woodsmoke scented air. Watching stonewalls and oak trees glide by as the glorious engine drones a power note.

Here are a few pictures of the perfect modern all around autumn roller. This is a 1994 Mazda Miata that belongs to a good friend of mine. It'll get you all the sensations a crisp British sports car of the day- without all of the niggling British problems. With a 1.8l engine- bolt action, manual steering for crisp response at all times:, a basic no trouble machine. All of the mods he's decided on have been spot on; suspension, brakes, sway bars, extra gauges and nice sneakers.
These pictures are right after I installed his Hard Dog roll bar. The install took a bit longer than I thought it would, but some things just can't be rushed. Hard Dog could used a little more time with a tech writer for their install PDF. On the other hand they definitely took good time to create a solid product. Welds are spot on an fit is right on, allowances are good too (nothing is perfect in every chassis). If you install measure three times and cut slowly. You really need to have a small 90 degree drill setup and good sharp drills.
Its too bad that I'm not as good with working with the carpet material. Would love to make it perfect in every way. He'll get it right, he always does! enjoy the pictures! And if you like the pics, try your hand at a Miata just a great little machine!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Getting to grips with Clip Ons

Its taken a few years to get to this point, but the first sets are done! Living in a hole in the wall and in New England modified BMW parts are not very accessible. If you want it, then you've got to make it. These are my home made Bars for any 1970 to 1988 BMW twins with nickel plating rather than chrome. The nickel gives it a more 'traditional' look of old world BMW quality. Not that any of the post 1970 BMW have any similarity with the hand built pre 1969 BMWs.

This is theR75/5 Woody bike sporting the original prototype bars [P1]. The drop was fine but the offset caused the original BMW switches to strike the tank. Not a real big problem as the first machine was a run and bump but it would get your attention when the horn would sound!
Another, but not great view of the prototype set. The wing nut?, that was the ignition switch for the Woody bike.
This is the Hot Rod sporting the second prototype bars [P2]. As you can see from this picture, the posture is not as radical as one might think. I'm 5'6" and the bars are quite comfortable for the good 150+ mile ride. The drop is the same as the [P1] bars but the offset is just forward of the fork tubes. This gives the clearance for using Stock BMW switch gear.
A side view of the Hot Rod with [P2] bars. I'll be starting on the next Hot Rod machine for the Nickel plated bars!