Whitham blog: 3
Well, winter is definitely here . . . It is oop-north anyway, and thoughts turn towards spending more time in the workshop instead of out on the road. I’ve had an X7 Suzuki waiting to be minted up for a few years now and I rekon I’m gonna get that sorted over the next couple of months . . . . . Well I’ll make a start at least.
Me and most of my mates have been into the classic Japanese bikes for years now, but if my recent trip to the ‘Classic motorcycle show’ at Stafford is owt to go by, then general interest in that sort of thing is going nuts at the moment.
To be honest I hate the term “classic” . . . . coz it means something different to almost everyone you speak to. Some people think that to be considered a classic, a bike has to be rare, like a one off racing machine with documented history . . . . and others are of quite the opposite opinion, believing that only bikes that sold in their thousands, and that everyone has a story about truly deserve the tag. In a way I think that both schools of thought are valid. Certainly with the Japanese stuff it seems to be the bikes that were once dead common, that everybody remembers, but you rarely see now, that are the most sought-after, like a mint C90 Honda, Yamaha 350 LC, or FS1E. . . . Yamaha sold over 25,000 “Fizzies” in 1973 alone, mostly coz they were available and cheap, the fact is they’re Just as crap now as they were then . . . and yet people get giddy about them. A good one these days fetches over two grand ! . . . I love my one, and I couldn’t tell you why.
A model that didn’t sell so well when they first came out was the Suzuki T125 “Stinger” . . . A quirky little 125cc twin with laid forward cylinders and high-level pipes that were produced between 1969 and about 1973. They sold OK in some parts of the world, especially the US and Australia . . . . but because 16 year old, provisional license holders in the UK were allowed to ride up to a 250cc bike at the time, few people bought 125s and sales figures here were disappointing.
A mate of mine, one time 80cc GP points scorer and fellow anorak called Jamie Lodge was looking for one to restore and through an Ebay add came across a bloke in east Yorkshire who’d become totally obsessed with the things and had been hoarding them for years (I‘m suspecting he lived alone). After some haggling and a few hours on the phone Jamie managed to buy from him more Stingers than I thought were actually imported to this country, two van loads of ’em ! . . . . He ended up with seven complete bikes, all needing varying amounts of attention, and enough Stinger related sh#t thrown in tea-chests to build another three or four. Quite why he did this is still unclear, I myself suspected that he was displaying the early signs of dementia . . . Particularly when he announced he was going to restore six of ’em all at the same time !
Like any mass production system, it’s easier (in theory) to rebuild six at the same time than it is to do six complete bikes one at a time, but still, the patience required to strip them all, prepare and paint six frames, then six swing arms, then six tanks, then twelve sets of forks, etc, etc, etc . . . . is mind boggling.
And it’s not like the lad cuts any corners either. Obviously he gets the chroming and zinc-plating done at local firms, and finishing touches like new cables and rubber parts are sourced from new-old-stock (NOS) but pretty much everything else he does himself in his garage. The most impressive thing for me is the fact that all the paintwork he does with aerosol cans. . . . and an almost unbelievable amount of patience ! When you look at the finish he achieves with what is essentially tins of touch-up paint you have to doff your cap to the fella. He hates “stove-enamelling” or “powder coating” because it’s too thick and he says it hides little features like the welds on the frame so the bike won’t look like it did when it was made. He even moans about the chrome work he gets done locally, because it’s too good ! . . . and you can see the difference from the early Jap chrome. . . or he can at least ! This obsession with originality runs right through all his restorations, even down to getting stickers made for the rev counter to tell the rider the run-in procedure and sourcing the right coloured overflow tubes for the carbs.
You can see from the pictures the results of his work. I’ve seen loads of restored bikes over the years and I rekon Jamie’s are among the best you’ll find. For the last couple of years his garage has resembled a corner of Suzukis Hamamatsu assembly line in the late sixties. All the six Stingers in the pictures, except the one he’s keeping for himself are sold . . . mostly to family or friends, and they’ll all get ridden too. I bought the seventh complete bike off him and have been restoring it myself in parallel to his fleet. It’s been dead easy for me coz Jamie’s done all the hard work, sourcing parts, deciding on paint finishes etc.
I don’t know what he’s gonna do with himself now that they’re all finished . . . start another project . . . . or maybe go and check into rehab !
And a quick update on Ian Hutchinsons condition after the multiple Isle of Man TT winner badly broke his left leg in a big off at Silverstone at the end of September. The operation to put it back together went well and Ian is now scuttling round with ten kilos of mecano screwed to his leg. The prognosis is really good and he should be back on a bike in the spring.
I've sussed why folk spend ages restoring bikes to their former glory, then sell them.
All the time they're being built they're getting better and better until perfection is achieved. Then they can only get worse......especially if you decide to actually ride them.
I've been trying to contract the necessary OCD to have a workshop as neat as this guy, allied with his infinite patience. Failed so far. Decided to concentrate on riding, all weathers as I live in England, and much more fun IMO.
Haven't been to Stafford show since I saw bikes with their exhaust ends painted grey inside. Must be like having your favourite horse stuffed then carrying on with the grooming...
Posted: 13/11/2010 at 19:50
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