So, here we are. I was born in 1949 and am consequently xx years old when I (finally ) decided to build my own vintage solo road racing machine. I feel a need to justify or explain such a decision being at this point in life.
At the age of 12, I found a Swedish motorcycle magazine called MC-Nytt which had some pictures in it of American flat trackers and Italian ITALJET mopeds and from then on I was hooked. Motorcycles, and more specifically motorcycle engines was what a big part of my life was to circulate around.
When I got confirmed, at the age of 13, I had convinced my dad to buy me a 50 cc Monark moped with pedals. We kept this at our summerhouse and I illegally drove it on the dirt road for 2 years, much to the dismay of the neighbours.
At 15 I got a street legal moped, a Mustang with a 50 cc 3-speed Zündapp engine. This thing kept me busy for the next 2 years and on this machine I started to develop my skills for tuning two stroke engines. This was limited to cut a window in the piston skirt adjacent to the inlet port as well as filing off sections of the piston top adjacent to the exhaust and transfer ports. I managed to get a lot more power out of the poor thing and made it simply more fun to run around with.
My dad had bought himself a Crescent 50 cc scooter to commute to and from work. This thing had an engine made by Fichtel & Sachs in Germany. I dismantled and reassembled the engine now and then, over weekends, to understand how it was built but stayed away from tuning attempts for a while. One day, however, I was going through the scrap bin at the local moped garage and found a Fichtel & Sachs cylinder that had been confiscated by the police and simply thrown away – undamaged. And this thing had the power reducing restrictor plug removed from its inlet port, which was now boasting a diameter of maybe 15 millimetres instead of the “standard” 8 or 9. The conversion on the Crescent was done in 15 minutes and the scooter suddenly made 60 km/hour instead of the standard 30. Dad got home the first night after the “conversion” and his only comment was: “This thing is a lot more alert than yesterday”!
At 16 I bought an unserviceable Ducati 125 cc. This was something that the Co-operative company KONSUM had decided to offer to the public. It was originally an 80cc engine that had been bored and stroked to reach 125 cc. An increase of 50% and naturally the thing would not stay intact. At MC-Centralen in Örebro one could find spare parts. The old fart that ran the place was called Sandberg, a cigar smoking goat-bearded unfriendly midget, but he had the stuff needed. I got the thing to run but never properly. This was a 4 stroke engine and I just did not have the knowledge to set it up properly so I sold it on to a guy who discarded the Ducati engine and stuck a German 200cc Ardie 2 stroke in instead. Turned into a rocket.
Next, and I was probably 17, was another wreck, a BSA 500 cc Shooting Star. A twin parallel cylinder job that was built like a tank. Heavy metal indeed. I stripped the thing to the bones, painted it red and white and put on aluminium mudguards and some other cheap customizing parts and it did not look too bad. I never liked it though so I sold it to Sven Gustafsson who was in my group in the military service. He finished the work and one Sunday we set off from home for a 300km drive to
our Regiment. Me on my newly acquired Velocette Thruxton, a single cylinder 500 cc black beauty. Sven had forgotten to set the timing on the BSA and so after 50km it managed to burn a hole through one of the pistons. The trip continued with the two of us on the Velocette.
I had bought the Velocette off a local newspaper junior reporter, Torgny Ivarsson, and the thing provided me with enjoyable riding for a few years. In the meantime, a local Houdini called Rolf Rydh, had put up his racing sidecar outfit for sale and somehow I had managed to scrape enough money together for a purchase. It cannot have cost me much since I basically had no money.
I got my first “real“ job in an engineering position at the government facility in Arboga, in the department that repaired and overhauled the Air Force jet engines. I started there on January 19 1971 and only a few months later had I, together with another chap, rented a room in an old small factory. I brought my sidecar there and started to prepare it for serious racing. The first thing that went out was the pre-unit Triumph 650 engine and in went a standard Norton Commando 750 and, unfortunately, the Triumph 4-speed gearbox stayed in. I went on to acquire the “rookie” racing license and so we made our debut on the Anderstorp racing circuit on May 6, 1972 – my 23:d birthday. Training did not go too bad although the gearbox kept throwing me out of gear and upon entering the grass paddocks I hit a hole and broke the gear change mechanism. That was the end of my debut as a sidecar racer.
Back home again I managed to locate a Rod Quaife 5-speed close ratio gearbox in Gothenburg. This was fitted in no time and we went for the next few races which proved that not only me but also the bike was not up to face the competition. I think our best result was in the local gravel road hill climb where we ended up as number 7 in a field of maybe 12 or 15.
The winter was spent doing two things. First I entered an evening class learning how to weld and solder using an acetylene/oxygen torch, so that I would be able to undertake frame modifications on my own. Secondly I set out to increase the power output of the Commando engine. I had consumed tons of literature about how the big guns went about this and I was going to follow them. The most complex operation was to change the inclination angle of the inlet valves. I needed to go from 32 millimetre valves to 36 ( I believe it was ) and the only way this could be done was to move the valve centreline 2 millimetres away from the exhaust valve and so give me a total of 4 mm increase. The angle change was only 1,2 degrees ( again if I remember right) and since the valves were not in parallel with neither each other nor the cylinder bores but rather in a radial arrangement, this was going to be a tricky operation. My father, luckily, worked at a precision machining shop owned by the husband of one of my father’s sisters, and as he was an old motorcycle racing pioneer he regarded me as his second son and would lend me his machines on a Saturday or Sunday. He had a Jig Bore machine placed in a temperature controlled room and this is where the surgery took place on the Commando cylinder head one wintry Saturday afternoon. The Jig Bore machine operator had volunteered as surgeon and I was an impressed spectator. The next job was to make up and install new, oversized, inlet valve guides and then cut new pockets for the equally new and oversized valve seats which I think were made out of bronze. Then the inlet ports were opened up from the standard 28 to 32 millimetres. A tedious job involving rotating files and hours of hand work to get the ports roughly in the shape I wanted.
Then I packed my SAAB 95 combi with the cylinder head, drove to Gothenburg and took the ferry to Felixstowe in England. First I got up to see Terry Windle in Sheffield where I bought the damping element and shock absorber for my new rear wheel design. These units were from the Austin/Morris Mini. The trip continued down to London and a visit to Gus Kuhn Motors. I handed in the cylinder head and had them do the final porting and gas flowing to make sure I had the latest and the greatest cylinder head and I also bought a set of 32 mm Amal Concentric carburettors, a Boyer & Bransden ignition system, a set of high compression pistons, a Norvil 3S camshaft, racing valve springs and a couple of exhaust megaphones and then set off for home again.
The remainder of the winter was spent welding a new rear sub frame to the frame, putting in new suspension and a new 10 inch rear wheel & AP Lockheed brake and a Renault R4 disc and brake caliper on to the front wheel. The engine was assembled with all the new/modified parts, an exhaust system put on and we were ready to take on the world. Power output was supposed to have gone from the standard 52 HP to the same as that claimed by people like Paul Dunstall & Gus Kuhn, i.e. 73 HP. Be that is it may, we had no means to measure the power but the thing made enough to scare the hell out of me and my passenger.
We participated in some races during the summer and managed to finish in the top 10-15 in fields of 25-30 sidecars and the best was again in our local gravel road hill climb where we made it to 4:th place. Bottom line was that in spite of all efforts during the winter we really had not made any progress. The other guys must have worked through the winter as well. Now this was also the time when more guys had scrapped their Triumph’s, Norton’s, BSA’s and BMW’s and turned to Honda 750 four cylinder and Kawasaki and Suzuki 3 cylinder two stroke engines. We farmers that were still battling with our British engines were left hopelessly behind. Not to mention Börje Björk from Stockholm on his Harley-Davidson powered outfit. Börje was a story for himself. He was the Harley Davidson importer in Sweden and thought very highly of himself. There was a pecking order in the paddock where Stockholmers would (rather) not speak to farmers from the countryside and Börje Björk would not speak to Stockholmers, and not even look at farmers.
So, if you wanted to keep up with the crowd there was only one way to go: move up and spend more time and money. I sold my rig in bits and pieces, sold my Velocette and drove up to the Stockholm area to pick up a Honda 750 powered all 10 inch wheel job that had been fast enough during the past season. I was blinded by the engine and did not mind that the frame consisted of a heap of water pipes welded together. The first season it was run “as is” and the results were about the same as before, although we made it to 3:d place in the local hill climb. The following winter saw me making another cylinder head surgery along the previous lines, the addition of a 1000 cc cylinder liner/piston kit, twin double Dell’orto carbs, a Russ Collins high lift/long timing camshaft and some other bits and pieces. It was the fastest 4-stroke machine on the racing circuit at the time but what does that help when you have 15 two stroke powered bikes ahead of you, screaming like wasps? Again we made 3:d in the hill climb and then I decided to give it up, having exhausted my financial resources, my hope of ever beating the two strokes and certainly also reached my driving skills limits.
The following 40 years were spent keeping my lawn mowers in shape and reading motorcycle magazines. Plus in the last few years owning and sporadically riding, mostly Sunday mornings, a Kawasaki 900 GPR, a Kawasaki E-R 650, a Triumph Speed Triple and currently a Triumph Rocket III.
And now I have made up my mind to build a vintage racing solo machine. Let us see if it ever gets finished and if the two of us will ever appear on a race track. In the process I also had the idea to document my progress (?) on a website so at least my wife knows what I am doing down in the garage at night. And, maybe I can inspire some more lads to do the same. Don’t come to me to buy anything though! That is not the idea with this. Check what I have done and copy the good stuff and ignore the bad!