The Napoleon of mechanics

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through  continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our  freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.”

At least, that’s what Martin Luther King said and I think he knew his stuff.   Mind you, he also said that he had a dream.   His speech in 1963 was a powerful statement against the suppression of civil rights in the USA, specifically in the South of the country.  His words still resonate and even 50 years later it is difficult to read the entire speech without feeling a finger on your spine.   My dreams are usually instigated by blue cheese and not remembered the following morning.  Still, who wants U2 to write a song about you anyway.

Let us get back to change.  Little Project is ready to go on a trip.   It is convenient but complete coincidence that HOAP arrives as the last bits of rusty Little Project are consigned to the ever-increasing pile of “things to go to the tip” and the frame (plus a few select other pieces) take a trip to the powder coating shop to come back glistening, clean and (hopefully) the correct colour.   It won’t break my heart if the powder coaters can’t match the exact shade of “Shiny Orange” that can occasionally be glimpsed through the rust but I shall raise a glass if they can get close (and also supply me with a pot of the same colour for the tank and side panels).   Little Project didn’t go down quietly, there was one more bit to remove; Known locally as the “rusty mudguard bit” and in Honda terms as “Fender, B,Rear (P/N 80102382670)” I’ve been putting off tackling it.   Four nuts hold it in position.   Four sheared nuts no longer hold it in position but the bits in the frame may cause an interesting dilemma. I drilled through the first rusty nut (anybody familiar with Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts?) and inserted my trusty extractor only for the extractor to snap.   I drilled through the second rusty nut with a bigger drill and a view to tapping a new thread in the remains of the hole.  The tap snapped in the hole so I’ve now 50% of the holes that hold rusty mudguard in place contaminated with tool kit.  I reckon that a bit of angle grinding and brazing some nuts on to the frame will fix the joby nicely.   Shame I don’t have an angle grinder and don’t know the first thing about brazing.

What of HOAP?   It arrived on Friday in a fanfare of phone calls and some excitement on my part.   After unloading it from the courier and importing into the “not shed but don’t tell anyone” it looked incredibly like this.

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Now that is exciting enough for anybody.  Obviously HOAP is no longer Honda On A Pallet and that surely means that the name should change.  So please give a warming round of applause to Honda Off A Pallet.  Commonly known as, erm, HOAP.

Sadly, the delivery man forgot to leave one of the boxes of HOAP so I’m not sure how accurate Dave’s (vendor, not delivery man) comment of “it looks like it is all there” is.  I know that the missing blue box contains an engine.  I really hope that it also contains all of the nuts and bolts that hold HOAP together, otherwise we are in for a bit of adventure.

Now that HOAP has arrived,  it is a little like having a three dimensional jigsaw puzzle without a close up of the answer.  There are many bits that I think “I know roughly where that goes” but I’ve found five bits so far that have made me go “?!”.   I’m sure that their purpose will come to light as we move on but for the moment I am baffled.   One bit is so baffling I have sent a picture of it to Honda in the hope that they can explain it to me.  I suspect it might be off a Ford Focus and just in the wrong box.  Somebody will be cross.

I haven’t really mentioned the arrival of Seat.   I’m in awe of Seat!  I have been told that Seat can’t stay in the kitchen, can’t stay in the bedroom and in fact has to go to the shed!   Seat has smuggled itself into the boys room and is hiding under the bed for the time being.  Whatever you do, don’t tell G.

Thank you so much for your time.   I welcome your comments on the story of Little Project.  When you get the time, go and find out where the title of this post comes from, he’s a suprisingly inspiting man!

The Gang of Four

Towards the end of the Chinese Cultural Revolution the Gang of Four controlled much of the power in China. They were led by Jiang Qing, the wife of Mao Tse Tung and the blame was laid on them by the offical Chinese authorities for many of the atrocities committed during the revolution. They all received long prison sentences and the last of the four, Yao Wenyuan died in prison in 2005.

My gang of four are very different. They involve three packages and some vegetables.

Package number one arrived on Wednesday and was the official Clymer manual for Little Project (although I should stress that it does not mention Little Project by name on the cover). I have been searching for one for some time and it never occurred to me until the start of the week that Clymer may have a UK website from which to order their products.

The vegetables were a little bit exciting (for me at least). There’s a bit of a vegetable patch behind the shed and I sowed an Asparagus bed an eternity ago. This year is the first year in which I can harvest and I was somewhat surprised to find several bold stalks reaching skywards. They were rapidly harvested and consumed with some gusto. My only recommendation to other budding Asparagus farmers would be to wash the bloody things before you cook them. Especially if you’ve been covering them in horse poo for the last three years.

Package number three is HOAP. I had a call from Dave the courier of HOAP (not to be confused with Dave the seller of HOAP) who asked if I would be available on Friday at noon to take ownership of HOAP. With a rather undignified cheer I said that I would and would be dancing in the street as the parts arrived. Dave is apparently not going to unload HOAP until I have performed a little jig. That should keep the neighbours amused.

Package number two. Oh, package number two! Can you guess? From afar I could hear the sound of drums and trumpets. An aeroplane flew overhead with a celebratory banner trailing behind it. From the plane jumped a squadron of parachutists who landed in Twickenham stadium. They placed package number two on a golden platter and then the drum and trumpet band marched through the town, preceded by a troupe of scantily clad cheer leaders twirling batons and chanting witty ditties. People lined the streets, cheering and waving. It was just like the Royal Wedding (or perhaps Mrs Thatchers funeral).

The postie rattled the door. The postie knows about Little Project. I didn’t know that he knew, but in idle conversation one day he said “You’re the bloke that’s restoring a Honda”. It seems that he is keen on old motorcycles and had recognised some of the post as being relating to such activities. Remember folk, the postie knows everything.

Anyway, postie rattled door. There’s a parcel. From Queensland. It has been in transportation for 58 days. In comparison, the Cutty Sark managed a best time of 73 days (and didn’t need any diesel to do so).

Seat is here!

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Seat is most definitely brand new. Seat has never been sullied by a bottom, Australian or American. Seat has been unwrapped and feted. I might put Seat under my pillow tonight so that I can be sure that it remains safe.

The big question now is whether to press on with Little Project using bits of HOAP or to dash through HOAP, sell it on and use the funds to finish Little Project.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

50 shades of…

Muck.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your bent), not the E.L. James type of thing, more of a “roadkill, oil and mud” situation.

I thought I would spend the weekend polishing bits. I am holding off on doing anything more technical until HOAP arrives as I can then see what bits of XL125 readily transplant to CT125 and thus save my never ending search for specific parts of Little Project. I decided I would start off with the brake plates, they are satisfyingly dirty and I expected them to come up clean with the minimum of effort.

The back plate was soon responding to treatment. Gunk to remove the crud. Wet and dry 240 to remove the stain marks in the aluminium, Wet and dry 800 to remove the scratch marks caused by the wet and dry 240, fine grade wire wool liberally coated with Solvol Autosol to bring up the sheen and a buffing over with baby seal skin to really make them shine (I may have made the last bit up).

I’ve been putting off looking at the front brake plate. I knew that the screw that holds the speedo cable in needed drilling out but I laugh in the face of such trivia. I wasn’t really expecting the cam that opens up the front brake to be rusted in solid. I’ve put it into the WD40 bath along with the fork stanchion with the rusty spring stuck in it but I fear that I have just added another item to the list of things to purchase.

The fork legs proved to be surprisingly decent once the 30 years of mud had been fetched off them. When I say surprisingly decent, this just means there is a lot of sanding down to do to remove layers of oxidisation but they will eventually come up as good as new.

I also considered (once again) the spraying of the frame. I’ve decided that I will be better served by getting it shot blasted and powder coated. It seems that the cost for this is less than the amount I would be spending on paint and primer to get it done myself.

The question arises, where is HOAP? I had a call from David on Thursday saying that it had been picked up was heading up to Scotland for the weekend (perhaps it wants to do a bit of Salmon fishing and maybe take a look for the Loch Ness monster). I called the courier on Friday and he was in Spain. Not sure if he’d decided that Scotland wasn’t worthy of HOAP and it needed some sunshine or whether he’d left HOAP to its own devices on Sauchiehall Street for a while. He’s going to give me 24 hours notice of delivery and “it should be sometime this week”.

I’ve also received more info from Martyn, owner of the pen pal of Little Project. He’s already stripped down and ready to move on. Tsk. No drilling out involved? No grazed knuckles? Martyn also corrected my error about him rebuilding his bike in the kitchen. I should say that his workshop is better equipped than my kitchen although unlike my kitchen it doesn’t seem to have a three legged cat pooing in every corner.

For any other budding members of the informal CT125 owners club (“owner” may be a misnomer, perhaps CT125 rebuilders club would be better), I shall shortly be putting a link at the top of the page (or bottom if you are a mobile user) to useful things. Please feel free to contribute anything that you feel may be even remotely useful.

A pen pal for Little Project

Have I mentioned that spares for Little Project are hard to come by?   They are (at least in the UK) about as available as horse feathers.   The bits that are shared with other bikes that were sold in our green and pleasant land are a little less difficult to source as NOS providing you don’t mind paying some steep prices for them and second hand parts are thinly available through eBay and gumtree and the like.

What I need is to be part of a buying consortium.   Groupon for Honda CT125’s.   All I need is to find a select group of discerning motorcycle enthusiasts who recognise that big isn’t always better and there are many merits in plodding around at 40 mph on a vehicle designed for rounding up sheep.

It was with some surprise that I received an email from Martyn.   You’ll never guess!  He’s just picked up a CT125 that he is planning to restore.  In his search for information about it he came across the number one blog  (probably) for restoring “Ag bikes” as the Aussies call them.  Martyn is pretty local to me compared to most of the other CT125 owners in the world as he lives just up the road in the Scottish Borders, a mere six (twelve by CT125) hours away.  I’ve shown Martyn mine and he’s shown me his…

P1020516     P1020553

It looks in almost pristine condition compared to Little Project.  It also looks like he is doing the strip down of the bike in his kitchen, but I bet there’s a good explanation for that.   I’m sure that as his restoration goes on I will post some more photo’s and look on with some jealousy as his bike comes together.  Good luck Martyn.

I was worried about Seat.   Strangely, so are several other people.    The most common question asked of me in the last few weeks hasn’t been “Are you okay?” or even “Would you like a pint?”.  It has been “What has happened to Seat?”.   You may remember that it was last heard of somewhere in Russia.   I sent a text to my good friend Vladimir Putin to see if he had any news.  He said “Сиденье был арестован за пьянство. В тюрьме в течение 14 дней.”. 

That can’t be good.   I knew that Seat would meet some dodgy people on his travels but I didn’t expect this.  I shall be expecting to hear in person from Seat shortly.

HOAP springs eternal

There is a pub about ten minutes away from here called Pope’s Grotto.   Named after the slightly famous garden and tunnel built by Alexander Pope in the 1720’s.   I secretly harboured a wish that it referred to nefarious behaviour by a long gone Pontiff but you can’t have everything.    It was Alexander Pope who came up with “Hope springs eternal”, to quote him fully it is “Hope springs eternal in the human breast;Man never Is, but always To be blest:The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,Rests and expatiates in a life to come“.

The observant amongst you will have noted the mis-spelling of HOAP in the title.   Even the unobservant can’t have missed that is all capitalised.   More on that later…

As Little Project is now stripped to the bare essentials, I should be considering the condition of the paint work on the frame and swing arm.  I did mess around with spraying an unseen bit of swing arm (I believe that Honda decided that the colour should be “Electric Orange” or some such similar), but it is still too cold in the shed to contemplate any serious paint work.   Also, I’m rubbish at spraying things so I need to read “A Dummy’s guide to painting your motorbike” before committing too much expense and time into this.  The colour match isn’t too bad though, the unseen bit of the swing arm looks like this…

IMG_0985

It may be a bit too electric orange.  Regardless, I shall wait for warmer weather before moving on with paint.  I decided instead to take a look at Little Project’s engine.

This is yet another “old lady who swallowed a spider” type problem.   To remove the barrel I have to remove the head and to remove the head I have to disconnect the cam chain and to disconnect the cam chain I have to remove the cam sprocket and to remove the cam sprocket I have to undo to the two screws and to undo the two screws I have to remove the base that holds the points on and to do this I have to remove the points and to remove the points I have to remove the points cover.

When it comes to the clutch I will hold a lottery on which bit is rusted, rounded or sheared.  At least then I may be able to claw some cash back to help pay for the repairs.   I got stuck at “Remove the base that holds the points on”.  The lower screw was seized solid.  After three months of thinking to myself “How the bloody hell will I get that out” I am now a bit blasé (off subject, I couldn’t find the bit of my keyboard that copes with accents so I had to cut and paste blasé from Wikipedia.  Twice) about these things so out came the ultrasonic plutonium tipped drills, in went the double-triple-quadruple hardened stud extractor and kaboom! The stud extractor snapped in half, inside the head, which I have to remove to remove the da de da de da de da.

“Oh flip” I cried (The neighbours children were in the garden).  Not even diamond tipped hacksaw could compete with the stud extractor.   The only solution was to saw through the casing and fetch the base off with a big hammer.   Add a “base that holds the points on” to the list of things that need to be purchased.

The head came off sweetly after this although I was confused briefly by some of the residue on the valves.  The confusion was quickly eradicated by a glance into the barrel.   I’ve mentioned before that these bits should be shiny and clean.  They should also possibly be coated by a fine layer of oil to keep things moving smoothly.  In the barrel of Little Project was the remains of a mouse  (the furry type, not the computer type).  Truly.   Very decomposed but definitely mus musculus or one of his very close relatives.    There was a lot of other stuff as well.   After removing Mickey the inside of the barrel look like this.

A Barrel of laughs

A Barrel of laughs

This barrel is not coming off.   There has been some chemical transition involving oil, petrol, water and mouse juice that means the piston is welded solidly to the barrel.   The barrel moves up and down as far as the con-rod will let it and that is it.  Buggeration, as we say where I come from.

This is where HOAP comes in.   I know I need a new engine.   Ebay has one for sale.  £200 for a seized one with no guarantee it will work.

There’s a question that I would like to ask of you.   How many pages forward do you go in a google search before giving up?  I was up to page 6 before I found HOAP.   Dave in Gateshead (5 hours from me) has a little project of his own that he has had enough of.  It’s not a 1983 Honda CT125, it is a 1975 Honda XL125 including just about every bit of the bike and three, yes! Three! Engines.   Dave didn’t want to sell off one of the engines, he wants “the whole bloody lot off my hands”, so after some careful negotiations and a bit of give and take I’ve bought the whole lot.

This means that Honda On A Pallet (HOAP, right?) is being delivered sometime next week.   It also means that I’ve two bikes to put together now.   From Dave’s (somewhat sketchy) description, HOAP “is all there, may need a couple of bits but most of it is good and it has been looked after” so in my slightly bemused state I expect to stick HOAP together in a morning and use the rest of the bits to make Little Project a road legal wonder. There is a small chance that the next post may bring news of another little project being undertaken by somebody else.  In the meantime, thank you for your attention.

Wet and dry

I’ve taken a brief Easter pause in the pursuit of Little Project building to escape from the never ending winter of the UK and head to the far warmer climate of Madrid.   I can thoroughly recommend Madrid as a city for a weekend break.   It is small enough to explore on foot, the food and drink are affordable and the locals are all beautiful and friendly.   It also helps no end when you leave a snowy Heathrow and 3 hours later you are in shirt sleeves enjoying Paella and a bottle of wine in Plaza Mayor.   This square is roughly 450 years old and has been used for bull fights, football matches, public executions and was a scene of some joyous slaughter and torture during the Spanish Inquisition.  There were no Honda CT125’s in sight and there is no record of one ever being there, but then the details of small agricultural motor cycles passing through the square are a bit sketchy.

For some reason it was not deemed appropriate to spend our brief holiday travelling the shadier backstreets of Madrid looking for second hand motorcycle shops that may or may not contain bits suitable for Little Project. But I maintained an internet interest by bidding on and winning a brand new rear wheel rim.   I have been baffled for a while by the term “NOS”, turns out it means “New Old Stock”. So I have a NOS wheel rim that is excitedly waiting for a trip to Coleshill to be joined with a freshly blasted hub by a set of brand new spokes.

Things are starting to look up.  There is nothing more to remove from the frame.  Absolutely nothing. In fact, it has moved from the (slightly oil stained) floor of the shed to a temporary new home on the workbench. Look!

Frame

Obviously it is having to share the workbench with a miriad other bits of stuff but we are into cleaning mode now and that is only one step away from re-assembly.

I took the brave decision to invest in some paint.  Mostly because I’ve become a tad disillusioned with breaking things and wanted to be creative.   The swingarm is slowly edging it’s way back towards its orignal colour.   Remarkably the chain guide came off in one piece with no sheared bolts and just the tiniest hints of rust holes all along it (nothing that can’t be fixed with some creative metal bending) and has magicked itself from rust colour to shiny and probably quite inappropriate black.  Where it wasn’t rusty there were hints of black paint so that’s what I’m going to go with.  I think I’ve found a match for the rest of the frame.   Time will tell as to how whether I can apply paint as easily as I can purchase it.

You’ll remember the forks.   Little Projects forks are proving to be more of a challenge than I expected.  “Take off the restraining bolt at the top of the stanchion and the spring will come out”.  Erm, nope.   Well.  Yes on one side and no on the other.  From this I deduce that one of them is in a much worse state than the other (although I’m not sure which is which).   I have applied considerable pressure to the non-removing spring and it just isn’t coming out. It is currently full of WD40 in the hope that some force of nature will ping it out over the coming weeks.

Regular readers may be thinking “What about the set of forks you bought of Ebay, Just in case?”.   Ha.   They were slightly mislabelled.   I didn’t realise this until I had cleaned them such that they have more sparkly bits than a Liberace convention.  They are just a bit too large for my yokes.   On the positive side, I have possibly the cleanest set of forks in the country for a 1983/4 Honda XL200R (part number Showa KB9003 if you are interested) and new ones are selling for around €650 per leg so I suspect they will be back on ebay before too long.

I haven’t heard from Seat for a long long time.  I visted the remarkable Australia Post tracking website with my handy tracking number only to be told “Sorry Bruce, you can’t track this parcel. Have a stubby instead”.  The site suggests that surface delivery is definitely two or three months.  Ross posted the parcel on 18th Feb which was a Monday in Australia so I don’t suppose I should start worrying until 18th May – That’s a Saturday so I might have a weekend of toment.

One last big thank you to Les Kibble at LJ Motorcycle Repairs Ltd who not only removed my wheel bearings painlessly when I could not but also did it for free.  Whenever you are in the Twickenham area and you need a top motorcycle mechanic and all round nice chap, Lez is your man.