Restoring the World's First BSA Spitfire Scrambler ("Rocket Gold Star")
This thread describes the restoration of my 1957 Spitfire Scrambler. It's going to be in two parts, possibly with an extended intermission between them. The first part will take events in chronological order as best I can reconstruct them, from my acquisition of little more than a butchered frame and an engine in 1994, through the process of identifying what I had purchased and how it had been originally configured, up to it being a nearly complete machine that is ready for restoration. I will include all of the material I have been able to find to date on this poorly-documented model, as well as describe an approach to restoring a motorcycle that not everyone will want to copy. The second part, once it starts, will continue through to the final restoration.
A Lucky Purchase
In the Fall of 1994 I was given the opportunity to buy an incomplete A10 based on only a few photographs. The machine looked to be in wretched condition (which later proved to be all too accurate), but the asking price was very low so I decided to buy it for the parts. When the box arrived at a friend's motorcycle shop there wasn't much in it, and what was there clearly had led a very hard life:
Inside the box were an engine in a frame, front and rear wheels and hubs, fork tubes (but no top yoke), an unidentified seat, a Std gearbox and an A65 frame:
Loosely assembling my purchase, what I had sort of resembled a motorcycle only if viewed from at least 20 feet away:
Although it would be silly to try to restore a fairly common BSA A10 starting from something this incomplete, even more critical than the many missing parts was that the headstock had been crudely hacksawed from the frame and even more crudely reattached in a very clumsy attempt to make a chopper. The "workmanship" was unbelievable, with short sections of galvanized iron water pipe stuffed in the downtubes to help rake the head, and with the entire assembly held in place with aluminum pop rivets and globs of poor welding. Evidence of all this was hidden beneath deep layers of epoxy body filler, some of which I removed before taking the following photographs:
However, the machine never could have operated in this form since the first modest jolt would have snapped the flimsy pop rivets and separated the front end from the rest of the machine. In spite of this, as I was to find once I had the production records, miraculously this particular engine and frame had managed to remain together since leaving the factory forty years earlier.
Delivered to me was only an engine, dangerously butchered frame, wheels, hubs and forks (minus top yoke), and Std gearbox. Still, I was happy enough, because I had paid very little for it.
Almost immediately after opening the crate I saw that the engine number ended with 101 which meant it was the first in some series. It turns out I have an unusually large library of English-language motorcycle books and manufacturers' literature, including indexed sets of a dozen magazine titles, so I assumed that as soon as I got home from my friend's shop it would be easy to find what year and model BSA this CA10SR101 engine came from… (to be continued).
MM, I will look forward to watching your progress with this restoration . The amount of mutilation to the frame really is unbelievable, I have seen several bodges on motorbikes, but what I see here certainly beats all. The first bike of a series is rather unique indeed. Anyway, the restoration of this bike will surely keep you out of the pub for the coming months. Good luck
Last edited by Peter R; 07/07/137:40 pm.
Peter. 1974 Commando 850 1972 Trident T150T 1961 Goldie DBD34 1969 Benelli 250 sport special
As I recall reading in an earlier post, your pictures were on slides that you were planning to scan.
I started this restoration long enough ago that the media those images were made on no longer exist -- the slides are Kodachromes and the less-saturated third photo is a Polaroid. Kodachrome and Polaroid no longer exist (Kodak itself barely exists), and slides are so obsolete that slide scanners are nearly obsolete. Just about everyone who was worried about transferring slides to digital with the highest possible quality bought slide scanners a decade or so ago and since then the market for such scanners, and thus the introduction of improved ones, has pretty much gone away.
Originally Posted By: GrandPaul
What we have here is certainly a top contender for the best-ever "before" photo!
The reasons why will become clear (although the title gives it away), but I felt compelled to proceed despite this condition.
After removing enough paint and bondo from the headstock to reveal the frame number I then looked in all the books in my collection to try to identify it and the engine, but without success. The following letter shows why that was the case, and nicely illustrates the state of knowledge of these machines in the mid-1990s:
Roy Bacon handled technical inquiries sent to 'Classic Bike' magazine at that time and the above letter, dated only a few months before I got this BSA, was sent to me sometime later by another owner of one of these machines. Records from several manufacturers were held by the Science Museum Library in London (subsequently transferred to the owners' clubs) so my next step was to write to the librarian asking for whatever information they might have. As can be seen, the first letter I received back from Mrs Taylor dated it from 1958.
However, additional clues that I continued to find made me believe the information in her letter was incorrect so a few months later I wrote back to her again.
Historical aside for younger readers: although the first fairly broad email networks had been created in the early '80s (e.g. Bitnet, that I had been using since 1982), the mid-'90s were still the Dark Ages of the internet. The first bug-ridden browser, Mosaic, had been released only a year earlier so there were very few pages of any kind on the nascent web. Believe it or not, most people way back then still got essentially all of their information from books and communicated with each other by writing back and forth on pieces of paper that were placed in mail boxes.
A few weeks after I wrote to her a second time about this motorcycle I received corrected information from Mrs. Taylor saying it was a 1957 model:
That summer I happened to be in London so I visited the library in person. That would have been at least my third or fourth visit there to study various production records so by that point Mrs. Taylor must have recognized me a serious person because she started giving me direct access to the records for my searches. What those records showed was that my inexpensive purchase was the very first Spitfire Scrambler manufactured. My motorcycle was the first one of an initial batch of 65 machines dispatched to BSA's West Coast distributor on February 13, 1957 (a Hap Alzina bulletin I will include later in this thread shows that deliveries of these to dealers in Southern California began March 29). The fact the very first one to roll off the factory floor was still with us (albeit in butchered form) a half-century later was truly remarkable. Later I obtained a full set of the production records that let me determine other interesting things about the production practices that I'll discuss later in this thread.
Unfortunately, I now had a problem, not unlike that of a dog chasing a bus. What does the dog do if it actually catches the bus? Although I was lucky enough to find I owned the very first BSA Spitfire Scrambler ever produced, it was in horrible and incomplete condition. What to do? Had it been the second Spitfire it would have been easy to just cannibalize the parts for other projects. But, it wasn't the second one…
Most post-WWII British motorcycles are relatively common and well documented. Although it might be difficult to find certain parts for a, say, 1950 Vincent Black Shadow, and expensive to buy them when they are located, at least the parts book tells you exactly what to look for. My problem with this BSA was quite a bit more difficult. What I needed to do was to locate a large number of parts, some of which had been produced in very low quantities, without a parts book ever having existed that would tell me what to look for. Sort of like being given a haystack without even knowing I was supposed to search it for a needle. So, for this restoration my first task was to locate whatever information I could find on this poorly-documented model (actually, this is the first task of every restoration; it's just that in this case it was for a bike that in the 1990s "no one" even knew existed).
Having determined my BSA was from 1957 I went through my collection of motorcycle magazines to see what I could locate, and quickly found the following in the April issue of 'Motorcyclist':
And the following in the May issues of both 'Cycle' and 'American Motorcyclist'. The identical photo and text indicates both magazines copied the story directly from a BSA press release so we can regard this as "official" BSA information:
To digress for a moment, production of BSA's 1957 models began at the end of August 1956, immediately after the factory's annual holiday break. A two-page story in the February issue of 'Cycle', "BSA Announces 1957 Models," describes the complete range of motorcycles for the new year, including a discussion of specific differences between versions destined for the East and the West coasts. However, no mention of a Spitfire is made. BSA would have had to have material for that issue in the magazine's hands by December, nearly four months after production of the 1957 models had been underway. Neither the East or West Coast edition of the 1957 catalog, "Printed in England" and then shipped by boat to the U.S. in time to arrive by early spring, mentions the Spitfire, nor is it in the initial East Coast 1957 price list issued to dealers at the start of the selling season. I infer from the content and timing of these pieces of literature that the decision to produce the Spitfire came very late and outside the normal planning process. Major changes to BSA's management took place in 1956, so perhaps my Spitfire is the very first tangible result of pressure from the U.S. for the new management to do something about a range that had changed very little since 1949. The only new sporting model introduced in all that time had been the Road Rocket.
These magazine articles gave me the first useful information to go on as I started tracking down parts. Also, my AMAL literature for 1957 gave the specifications for a "650 c.c. American Scr. Twin." so I knew to start looking for a 376/89 carburetor. Just the way this particular model is listed in the AMAL literature as a description of its intended use, rather than as a model name, also indicates it was a last minute addition to BSA's lineup. A year or two later I found a 376/49 at the Beaulieu autojumble (used on 1955-66 Velocette MSSs). Although the numbers after the '/' are irrelevant for functioning, this first Spitfire really does deserve a proper 376/89, so if someone reading this has one they want to sell please send me a PM or email to email@example.com.
My persistent hunt for information slowly began to pay off, eventually turning up the following BSA literature:
The following sheet from Hap Alzina was particularly valuable since it lists the parts for this bike that are not in the standard BSA spares catalogs:
The parts I highlighted in yellow are from Gold Star spares catalogs, showing that for 1957 the Spitfire was the same hybrid that BSA re-introduced five years later as the Rocket Gold Star Spitfire Scrambler. Note, though, that this bulletin was issued a year and a half after the initial batch of machines was delivered to the U.S. I will come back to this point again later.
OK, one more post to get through about my approach to this restoration before some cutting, welding and bolting begins. As I located literature about 1957 Spitfires I was able to use it to begin creating an extensive "want list" of parts I needed, which in turn allowed me to start the slow process of tracking them down. Buying a motorcycle piece-by-piece certainly is the most time consuming and expensive way of building one, but I had no choice.
Well, actually I did have somewhat of a choice. It turns out I have a 1963 Matchless G15/45 that is also waiting for me to find the time to restore it. It came to me many years ago missing all of the sheet metal and since only 212 of these were made the problem of spares is somewhat like that of the Spitfire. However, in the case of the Matchless nearly all the cycle parts are the same as for their other bikes of the time so I found a complete 1962 G12 with blown engine to serve as a "donor bike." This was a lot cheaper and more convenient than tracking down the missing items piece by piece as I've had to do with the Spitfire. However, the same approach for the Spitfire would have required finding both appropriate A10 and Gold Star donor bikes from which I could strip parts. But, even then, there are enough differences between a Spitfire and standard A10s and Gold Stars so this wouldn't have been as helpful as it can be for other machines that are missing a large number of pieces.
Once I had my want lists, my process was to mail or fax them to suppliers in the U.S. and England, order the parts that they had, cross them off the lists as I received them, and then contact the next set of suppliers with my updated lists. However, I never sent the same want list to two suppliers at the same time because I don't feel it right to do this. For example, I might have tried SRM or C&D for engine parts at the same time I tried Len Haggis or Draganfly for Gold Star cycle parts. Once they sent me what they had, and told me what they didn't have, I would update my lists and send the revised lists out to the next set of suppliers. And so on, and so on.
Also, some parts I found at the Beaulieu and Netley Marsh autojumbles that I visited a couple of times during the 1990s, and others came to me through various contacts I had. The latter included, among other things, the proper top fork yoke, skid plate, exhaust pipes, ASCT scrambles gearbox as a "temporary" (for nearly 20 years) placeholder until I found an SCT2, and a dual carburetor head (that I probably won't end up using on this machine, for reasons I will discuss later in this thread). Although for many people ignorance can be bliss, I've always felt it better to know as much as I can about whatever it is I'm interested in so I've kept a running total of how much I've spent on all of this.
As an historical aside, even prior to September 11, showing up at Heathrow with 20 lbs. of mysterious pieces of metal in my suitcase always got me a personal interview with airline security personnel.
Custom Restoration Manual
Since there isn't a parts or workshop manual for this machine, during this time I put together one of my own from all of the relevant literature I have on A10s and Gold Stars:
I make these manuals for every bike I rebuild or restore by gathering all the information I can find and organizing it in appropriate tabbed sections in a large binder (or several binders). I couldn't find the file on my computer with the section headings of my Spitfire's manual, but the ones for my Gold Star are nearly identical:
___INDEX TO BSA GOLD STAR MANUAL___ PARTS manual Parts manual Part Numbers
ENGINE Engine Disassembly Engine Assembly Rocker Cover, Rockers, and Valve Clearance Head and Valves Timing Chest; Timing, Magneto Removal, and Breather Cams Oil Pump; Lubrication System Barrel and Piston Crankcase and Main Bearings Crankshaft, Flywheels, and Connecting Rod Primary Drive Clutch Gearbox Carburettor (G.P. 1&2, Monobloc, and Standard) Exhaust System
CYCLE PARTS Frame and Seat Forks and Steering Head Shocks and Swing Arm Wheels and Brakes Speedometer, Tachometer, Tools, and Special Tools Controls, Levers, Cables, and Miscellaneous Fuel Tank, Mudguards, and Other Sheet Metal Paint, Transfers, Finish, and Fasteners
ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT Magneto Lighting System (General) Magdyno Voltage Regulator Battery Head Lamp, Lighting Switch, and Ammeter Horn, Tail Lamp, and Stoplight Switch
GENERAL General Data and Specifications Misc. Information Initial Startup after Rebuild
The information comes from spares lists, workshop manuals, dealer bulletins, club newsletters, books and magazines, i.e. from everywhere I can find it. Whenever I come across something relevant for one of my machines I make a photocopy and add it to the appropriate manual. Although this always results in a given section having information that is redundant or contradictory I don't spend any time trying to resolve these issues when I'm assembling one of these custom shop manuals. When the time comes to work on the, say, the timing chest, I go through all the material in that section and decide at that point what information to use and what to ignore. I've found that even when a particular piece of advice is wrong there are times when it still can provide a useful insight into a way of improving the right way of doing some task.
Even though all the information in a major category like "Electrical Equipment" might be the same for two different machines I duplicate the content for each manual so it's all in one place for each machine. That way when I'm working on a bike I have everything that is known about that particular machine in front of me. Since each of these manuals is almost certainly the most complete shop manual in existence none of them fits in less than a bulging 2" binder (i.e. ~500 pages), and the largest requires four 2" binders (~2000 pages). If I can't find what I'm looking for in a manual I know there is no point to stop work and search elsewhere in the hopes of finding it.
Such manuals are particularly useful for the way I have to work, which is to rebuild or restore a bike in stops and starts, often with extended periods between sessions, and often while working on a completely different bike or bikes in parallel. I'm able to abandon jobs before they are finished and return to them days (weeks, months, years…) later with the minimum amount of wasted or duplicated effort.
Beyond identifying (and then locating) all of the missing parts there was the troublesome issue of the butchered frame. The frame had to be dealt with before I started to order parts since if it proved impossible to restore that would have been a sufficient reason to abandon the project before getting in any deeper.
The first step was to sandblast the frame without degrading the numbers stamped in the headstock. Then the headstock was removed from the frame and the latter bolted to a rigid platform for subsequent work.
The following diagram from a BSA manual shows the required frame geometry:
Although I had brazed and gas welded for years up to that point, and had full access to a 20 kW TIG welder, I had never taken the time to learn how to use the TIG. So, I turned the frame over to a friend to rebuild for me. He had owned a motorcycle shop in the past, built various Honda dirt track racers over the years, and then ran his own motorcycle machine shop for two decades before retiring a couple of years ago. However, he moved everything to a shop at his house after retiring so f you need work like this done send me a PM and I will put you in touch with him.
Before starting to reconstruct the front he pulled all the sections into their proper positions according to the above diagram and tack welded braces to maintain that alignment during subsequent welding:
Using the BSA diagram, plus donor segments he cut from the A65 frame that came with the bike, my friend re-attached the headstock at the correct 27-deg. forward rake (and 0-deg. side-to-side with respect to the swinging arm pivot):
Although I used a large analog protractor with a magnetic base for the above photograph, my friend used my digital level with 0.1-deg. resolution for the actual work (as can be seen placed across the frame in the previous photograph).
After extracting tubes of the necessary lengths from the A65 frame my friend machined short stubs from other tubing whose OD was the same as the ID of the frame tubes to provide strength (i.e. these are not butt joints), TIG welded everything into place, and then smoothed the welds:
He then fabricated the appropriate half-height headstock brace as was used on these 1957 frames:
Having reattached the headstock and restored the frame to the correct geometry my friend then removed the braces he had tack welded into place to maintain alignment throughout all of the above and smoothed those welds. All of this work was by no means cheap, but I had dropped by his shop daily to watch progress so I knew how much time (and skill) he had put into it. Not that it matters, but he fit this work in during slack time between "real" paying customers. Still, given how much time was involved there was no question he seriously undercharged me, but he insisted he couldn't make me pay the full cost.
At this point I had a good-as-new frame and could proceed with the restoration. The bike was still in his shop but some of the work was transferred back to me. We removed the swingarm, replaced the bushings, and painted the frame. However, this was just a quickie paint job, basically to keep the frame from rusting, so I will be giving it a proper coat of paint when the time comes.
My approach to such a restoration is to do a trial assembly of everything to make sure all bolt holes line up, sheet metal doesn't touch where it shouldn't, etc. There are always problems to be resolved at this stage. Only after all parts have been made to fit correctly (which, of course, first requires having found all those parts) do I take it all apart to actually rebuild, polish, paint, send out for plating, etc. Doing it this way minimizes the number of disturbing discoveries of brackets or holes that have to be moved by ~1/8" in parts that already have been beautifully painted.
For reference, the following photograph taken directly from the front shows the location and layout of the frame numbers on these machines.
The bike was sold to me with a bill of sale only but I now had enough information to get a proper title for it. Someone from the motor vehicle department actually would do on-site inspections by appointment, and since it was still at my friend's shop it couldn't have been easier. I left a pile of documentation and references to this model that I had found up to that point for him to consult if he felt like it (which he did). He dropped by to inspect it during the shop's normal working hours and shortly thereafter the title for my 1957 BSA A10 Spitfire Scrambler arrived in the mail. At that point I packed up everything and moved the machine to my own garage to continue work.
How sweet it is to have amazingly talented friends! It is so much better to be able to step in and observe/help as the work is in process. That way there are no surprises and you got to be involved throughout. Also, congratulations on progressing from a bill of sale to a title in your name.
'64 TR6R Plus some Twins from other countries (U.S., Germany, Japan)
How sweet it is to have amazingly talented friends! I
Originally Posted By: Redmoggy
Your friend does lovely work and is obviously a talented man.
Indeed. His skills came to my rescue more than a few times over the years.
Originally Posted By: TR6Ray
It is so much better to be able to step in and observe/help as the work is in process.
I always very much appreciate the opportunity to learn new skills, or improve old ones, from someone who knows more than I do. There's no way I would have known how to repair that frame 15 years ago but, thanks to him, I wouldn't hesitate to do it myself today. My goal is to be able to do all aspects of a restoration myself (rebuild engines, repair magnetos, weld frames, etc.), but there are still limits I haven't overcome (e.g. chrome and CD plating -- real CD plating, not simulated with Zn).
Luckily, as literature earlier in this thread shows, most of the non-A10 cycle parts on this machine are standard Gold Star items so, after having had the frame reconstructed, over the next two years I was able to locate the majority of the missing items. With one significant exception. Unfortunately, though, the one missing piece was major: an SCT2 gearbox. What made this such a serious problem is the gearbox was only used on 1957 Spitfires making it much rarer than its fraternal twin, the treasured RRT2 used on the Clubman Gold Star.
The following two photographs from 1996 or '97 show that by then I had the major components loosely bolted together in the reconstructed frame, with it now looking remarkably like an actual motorcycle. The Std gearbox that came with it is still in place in these photos, but in late 1997 I bought an ASCT from a 1962 Gold Star Catalina to use as a "temporary" scrambler gearbox until an SCT2 turned up. I also had the oil tank, mudguards (and stays) and seat so I essentially had all the makings of a complete machine by this time.
Comparing these photos with the ones at the start of this thread shows that I had made considerable progress on this restoration, although clearly much remained to be done. However, it sat in basically that same condition for the next fifteen years as other things kept coming up to occupy my time. Still, I kept chipping away at the remaining items on my want list, locating such hard-to-find items as the 1" carburetor spacer from the 1958 Alzina parts list (which I probably won't use after all, for reasons I will give in a later post) and the plates for covering the holes for the dynamo in the motor mounts. I also picked up a rare dual carburetor head, a set of crossover high pipes from a later model Spitfire, and an alloy scrambler tank (none of which I now plan to use on this bike, again for reasons to be given later).
As an aside, the dual carburetor A10 heads that were offered as a speed kit accessory at the time are now often missing the small inlet manifolds. You can find information about these heads and manifolds on the web, for example at:
Interestingly, a pair of these manifolds appeared on eBay last month, attracted 8 bidders, and sold for a rather remarkable $355. Given how hard it is to find these manifolds, without which the heads are useless, it's worth pointing out that the moderator of the Norton Forum, Dave Comeau, offers reproduction manifolds for less than a third of this.
Although plenty of other motorcycle-related things took my spare time over the past fifteen years, other factors also could have been involved in the lack of additional progress on the Spitfire (sloth, laziness, ...). But, the missing SCT2 gearbox certainly affected my motivation to start actual restoration work. This was a significant deterrent because even had I fully restored the machine using the ASCT it would have taken quite a bit of work to swap gearboxes later. Plus, no matter what, an SCT2 gearbox is one of the key defining elements of this machine so it just wouldn't be a "properly restored" 1957 Spitfire Scrambler without it. Unfortunately, despite finding nearly all of the remaining bits needed for the restoration, in all that time I did not see a single SCT2 for sale.
Finally, an SCT2
Finally, a little over two years ago I got a notice from eBay that an SCT2 had just been listed. Obviously, I had to have it. Although 15 other people bid on that gearbox over the next week, none of them was nearly as desperate as I was to own it, and when the auction ended it was mine. What those other people didn't know was they were just wasting their time bidding because there was no way I wasn't going to have it. However, as these things seem to happen, after not seeing a single SCT2 for many years, two months later another one appeared on eBay. Although that one was in quite poor condition, 17 bidders ran the price up to 15% more than I paid for mine. I suspect a few people who had lost out on "mine" realized they were very lucky to be given this second chance and tried hard not to let it happen to them again. Out of curiosity I left my eBay search in place, but no further SCT2s have surfaced.
As a point of information, the number 423084 is stamped in 1/8" numbers on the back face of their middle casting of this gearbox, above the raised casting number '67-3345'. I have seen it stated that scrambles boxes should be stamped with 423083, but both my SCT2 and ASCT are stamped 423084.
Appeal for Parts Needed to Restore the World's First Spitfire Scrambler
Although there is much more material to come in this thread, I'll pause for a moment to make an appeal. The only significant pieces still missing today that are needed to return this machine to its original condition when it was the first one to roll off the assembly line are:
2-gallon Gold Star tank Exhaust pipes (42-2797 right; 42-2799 left) Competition Number Plate (65-6616) AMAL 376/89 carburetor
Clearly I could fabricate the pipes and number plate, and having the /89 suffix on the carburetor isn't critical for functioning. But, given its "historical significance," this particular machine deserves to have the highest percentage of original components on it as possible. So, if you have any of these taking up room in your garage and would be interested in selling them to aid this "historic" restoration please send me a PM.
If you would rather trade (or just want to buy it outright), the fairly rare ASCT I bought as a placeholder 15 years ago is now surplus to needs and will just continue to collect dust on the shelf as long as I have it. This was used only on 1962 Catalina Gold Stars but it has the same ratios as the ARRT of the 1962 Gold Star Clubman and 1963 Rocket Gold Star, as well as the ASC of the 1963 Rocket Gold Star Spitfire Scrambler (why BSA used so many codes for the same ratios is speculation for another day). If you think you ever might want to build a RGS replica, this has the right ratios for you…
After the SCT2 showed up I fabricated a rolling work stand for this machine that lets me pull it into a central position in my garage when working on it, and then shove back into "storage" when I need the space for working on something else. As the following photograph shows, two other bikes also are parked on these rolling stands waiting to be restored. One is the 1963 Matchless G15/45 mentioned in an earlier post and the other is a… well, I'll try to get to that in a future thread.
I have an hydraulic lift that is very handy for maintaining my bikes that are already running, but I don't want to tie it up for years on a restoration like this one. And, even if there were ample space for more of these lifts it wouldn't make much sense to have its capabilities but just leave it locked in the elevated position for years at a time. Anyway, wood rolling benches are perfect for my purposes as well as being cheap to make. It's easy enough to do "one-time" lifting of a bike onto one of these benches with my customized engine hoist (discussed below), and then to lift the restored bike off again the same way months or years later when it's done.
I make these stands from 4x4s (legs), 2x6s (cross pieces at ends and in the center), and 2x2s (support for lower shelf) with surfaces of 1/2" plywood, all of which are cut for free by Home Depot to the dimensions I specify. Then it's just a matter of drilling pilot holes, bolting them together with 1/4" lag screws, and adding eyebolts at the corners for tie down points and casters for moving them around. The casters I use are rated for 150 lbs. ea. so are ample for this, and I paint the tops with white gloss enamel to make it easier to see small parts as well as to make it easy to mop up oil spills.
I make these stands 25" high and 2x6 ft. For what it's worth, these aren't "random" dimensions, but are ones that I actually gave some thought to before deciding on them. The top of my hydraulic hoist is 3" wider and 15" longer, but that additional surface area isn't needed for any of my machines and only results in it taking up additional space in my garage (my stands are shorter so the front and rear edges of the wheels overhang, but that's irrelevant for function). Also, in its highest locked position the hydraulic hoist sits 1-1/2" higher than my wooden ones. While taller is better for working on the engine, it's worse for working on the top of the forks, so no matter what height is used it will be a compromise. Obviously, someone 6 ft. 4" would want one a different height than someone 5" 4" (I'm 5" 10"), but these dimensions have worked out very well for me. The next photo shows a motorcycle being installed on one of these stands (this stand is slightly different than the one for the Spitfire since I built this one using a heavy duty cart I already had).
This photograph also shows my customized Harbor Freight 1 Ton engine hoist. I increased its height by 15" using 1/8" wall steel pipe (not water pipe; along with two 15" sections of 2" square steel tubing) and its lifting capacity to a full 1 T with the boom fully extended (1.6 T with the boom at the shortest position). The increased lifting power is due to replacing its hydraulic cylinder with one that is 6000 lb. (3T) which gives 1 T at the hook thanks to the 1:3 leverage. Since the boom assembly has been raised by 15 in. the 2" x 1/4" Al pieces at the back raise the stabilizing straps by the same amount. Although the boom is almost certainly strong enough as-is, 2" square steel tubing is an excellent fit inside so I inserted a full length piece to roughly double the strength. Two pieces of 1" square steel tubing at about 45-deg. keep the raised "foot" of the lift from trying to move backward, and two lengths of braided aircraft cable keep it from trying to move forward. I estimate such forward/backward forces are less than a few hundred pounds even when lifting the maximum weight so these braces are much more than sufficient to deal with these forces. I constructed it this way, rather than by welding, to allow experimenting with different heights. But, I've been quite happy with its 15" additional height and don't feel any need to replace the "temporary" braces with welded ones so the current configuration shown in the above photograph likely will be the permanent one. I used this modified hoist with the boom fully extended to lift an ~1800-lb. milling machine on and off a trailer without it showing any sign of distress so I don't have any concern using it with 400-lb. motorcycles.
As can be seen from this photo the height and configuration of this modified hoist makes it easy to lift bikes on and off these stands (motorcycle obscured for dramatic purposes, since it will be the subject of another thread I may be starting before too long). The reason I chose to customize a 1 T hoist rather than just using a standard 2 T version is because my modifications give me one that is both taller and takes up quite a bit less floor space when in its folded configuration than the 2 T, while providing the same lifting capacity.
Additional lifting help is always nice to have, especially for jobs like maneuvering an engine into the frame single-handed without scratching any paint. Although the engine hoist would work for this, I made a "jib crane" from Unistrut along with a Unistrut trolley rated at ~425 lbs. This crane bolts to the side of these stands and, along with a ratchet-operated 40"-travel chain hoist, lets me lift and position heavy items. It is very handy for such tasks even where it isn't "essential," like holding a wheel in position at the correct height in order to measure the length needed for a spacer. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of it attached to a stand. It's attached to the mill as I write this where it does triple duty with it and my lathe as well.
The lower shelf on each of these stands lets me keep most parts for a given restoration with the bike itself so (almost) everything is all in one place. In the case of this Spitfire the exceptions are a "donor" A10 engine I bought in 1997 in case I might want to cannibalize parts from it, seat, a beautiful alloy scrambler tank (which I now don't plan to use on this restoration), crossover high pipes from a later model Spitfire (again, I don't plan to use them), mudguards and oil tank.
After extracting tubes of the necessary lengths from the A65 frame my friend machined short stubs from other tubing whose OD was the same as the ID of the frame tubes to provide strength (i.e. these are not butt joints), TIG welded everything into place, and then smoothed the welds:
Just curious why this method is not considered a 'Butt-Weld' when there is no evidence of a 'half-lap' scarf or even drilled holes for 'plug' welding?
Pardon the insolence here,just a self-taught student of welding science that only graduated to the oxy-acetylene variety. . .
Just curious why this method is not considered a 'Butt-Weld' when there is no evidence of a 'half-lap' scarf or even drilled holes for 'plug' welding?
I was only able to photograph the frame when I dropped by after work so, at a minimum, there is a full work day (or two, or maybe even three) between the "before" photograph showing a piece that had been cut from the A65 frame being fit to size, and the next "after" photograph showing the frame after all the prep work for the welding had been done, as had the welding itself, and the grinding down of the welds so only the appearance of smooth tubes remained. My friend would have to be a very poor welder indeed if any evidence of his welding were visible in the "after" photograph.
To add something on the subject of alignment and welding of the frame, there were four tubes that had to be reconnected, and the lengths and positioning of all four of them is fairly critical. Consider just the two down tubes. These are ~3" apart at the bottom of the place where the new sections have to be added. If one of the replacement sections were only 1/16" longer than the other the headstock would be twisted sideways by ~1.2-degrees. Since it's ~36" from the headstock to the road, this means the tire would be offset 3/4" to the side of the proper track. Further, even if these two tubes were of identical length, but they were either too long or too short (with respect to the other two tubes), the rake of the headstock would be wrong and/or the headstock would be too high or too low. Because all four tubes come into the headstock at a variety of angles the geometry is quite complex.
Because of the above, what was required of my friend was a fair bit of "cut and try" fitting to get the lengths to what they needed to be in order for the final frame geometry to be correct. Then he had to tack weld each section into place, re-measure to determine what movement/distortion had resulted from each tack weld, adjust for that, and tack the next section into place. And so on. If you look back at the first few photographs in the post showing the welding you will see a jig my friend made to hold everything in proper position. Although that jig isn't in the later photographs, he still was moving it in and out of position as he pieced the frame back together.
Before returning to my particular restoration, a few posts with relevant information about this model in general.
How is this BSA different from all other BSAs? The answer is, the 1957 Spitfire Scrambler was a hybrid consisting of a modified Road Rocket engine (including type 357 "full-race" camshaft and 8:1 pistons) housed in a Gold Star Catalina-style scrambler frame without passenger footpeg loops, and with Gold Star cycle parts, including the front and rear mudguards, hubs, and forks. Supplied without lights, speedometer, or mufflers, it was intended strictly for off-road competition. Reflecting the reduced cost of producing it in this form, the Spitfire was priced $102.38 less than the Super Rocket.
Similar to what was done with the Catalina and the later Rocket Gold Star, the frames were given their own numbering sequence ('CA7Axxx'). Spitfires soon began winning races in the U.S., taking three out of the top four positions in the September 1957 Peoria National Championship T.T. The machine was even popular enough for several companies to advertise aftermarket accessories specifically for it. However, after producing just over four hundred of these disguised "Rocket Gold Star Spitfire Scramblers" in 1957, the next year BSA switched to using standard A10 cycle parts, thus putting the idea for a hybrid on hold until its time came again six years later.
As for how the Spitfire was configured, a 27 March 1957 press release from BSA's West Coast distributer Hap Alzina says, "Original projection on the Spitfire Scrambler was that a special scrambles camshaft would be most applicable for the basic purpose of the machine. However, careful dynamometer and road testing disclosed extraordinarily satisfactory performance with the full-race camshaft and hence this fitment has been adopted as a standard component, an engineering accomplishment that will be welcome news to 'drag-race' enthusiasts as it confines the necessary alterations from drags to scrambles to the top-end of the engine." It goes on to say that the owner need fit only a few components, rather than some previously-announced "Drag-Kit," and gives those components as "S&W Special High-Rev Valve Springs," along with sets of "special" valve collars and keepers. An October 1958 bulletin issued by Alzina itemizes 31 special parts for the 1957 Spitfire Scrambler that are not listed in standard parts catalogs. The principle defining ones are 67-1127 for the head, 67-357 for the camshaft, and SCT2 for the gearbox (separately listed from the 31 other parts, although on the same bulletin).
How many of these unusual racing machines were made? The first batch of West Coast machines are listed in the "equipment" column of BSA's dispatch records as A10RS, while the initial East Coast machines shipped a month later are listed as A10R/S. Despite this, my engine is stamped CA10SR. However, hand written and circled on the page of the dispatch records with the listing of my machine, above the engine number column, is CA10SR as is stamped on my engine, although this notation isn't on any of the other pages. There also are A10R/RS, A10RRS, A10R/R and plain A10 machines listed as having been shipped to North America between February and September of 1957. Before concluding that some of these are not Spitfires, all are sequentially numbered with the frame prefix CA7A. The unique final 'A' continued to be used in subsequent years on Spitfires -- EA7A in 1958, FA7A in 1959, and finally GA7A from 1960 through the end of production in 1963; as far as I can determine there was no DA7A -- but not on other A10 models, apparently indicating use of the Gold Star Catalina-style frame without passenger footpeg loops.
The records show that only after the last of the U.S.-bound Spitfires had left the factory on September 17 did any find their way elsewhere. My count of the BSA's in the frame series CA7A shows that 364 machines (~87%) went to the West Coast, 53 (~13%) to the East Coast, 5 (1%) to Canada, and 1 each to the U.K. and to Japan. That makes a total of just 424 1957 Spitfires (although the engine number of the one sent to Tokyo was "recycled" from a machine shipped to the U.S. three years earlier, so there really were only 423.5). This relatively small number of a special purpose machine should be seen in the context of AMA homologation rules at the time which called for a minimum of 25 to be produced to qualify for Class C racing. I have to wonder if this model represented a short-lived effort to enhance BSAs presence in American racing that management reconsidered after one year, reverting to "standard" A10s for this model. In any case, relatively few of these Spitfires were made over a half-century ago, and only a fraction of those would have survived the rigors of off-road racing, making any of the ones still around today rare indeed.
It is clear from the dispatch records that Spitfires were assembled in order of engine number. My motorcycle with engine number 101 left the factory on February 13 but frame number 101 wasn't dispatched didn't until March 20. That one was sent to BSA's Nutley, New Jersey distributorship. Although there is a very high correlation between engine number and dispatch date, and poor correlation between frame number and dispatch date, the factory's practices sometimes resulted in minor variations in the sequence. This is to be expected since six separate assembly lines were operating in the factory at this time (twins, Gold Stars, M20s, etc.). After each machine came off the assembly line it was turned over to one of about a dozen riders for a road test, after which it pulled aside long enough for any problems to be rectified. After any necessary repairs had been made it was moved to one of the packing bays for the major components to be removed and wrapped (handlebars, front wheel and forks, silencer, seat, etc.), and the machine crated for shipping. Only then was it taken to the dispatch department. Because the factory's entire production was taking place in parallel, each step in this process provided an opportunity for any given Spitfire to slip by another in shipping sequence. However, the Spitfire with lowest engine number 101 also has the lowest "Tally No." and "Consignment Note No." in the dispatch records, leaving no doubt it was the first one manufactured.