Monday, March 29, 2010

What if Bugatti made a motorcycle?

What if Bugatti had made motorcycles? I can only imagine the landscape of vintage motorcycling. Would Brough-Superior or Vincent be the top dogs? I don't know but it is nice to consider. Nice to think about if only that another top designer would have applied  his artistry to two-wheeled locomotion. We will never really know what Ettore Bugatti's efforts would have been if he had been interested in the endeavor but there are some notions if we take his T-72 bicycle motor as inspiration.

T-72 Bugatti Cyclemotor on a Peugeot Bicycle

I'll admit that I was immediately taken by this engine. Granted it's not a motorcycle but it's a start. The design of the T-72 engine reveals a great deal of the ideas and mechanical concepts going through Ettore Bugatti's mind during World War II. The T-72 cyclemotor was part of a package of engines concieved for a post-war Europe in which the Nazis were considered to win. Bugatti understood the reality of what a post-war life would be like. He knew that there would be rationing, high taxes, and a need for economical modes of travel.  The cyclemotor was joined by 370 cc T-68 mini-car and the 1.5 liter T-73 to fulfill those needs.

How would like to be the machinist?

This was not a simple engine in the mold of the Ducati Cucciolo, Velosolex, or BSA Winged Wheel. The T-72 was a 12.7cc, supercharged, twin cam engine capable of revving to 10,000 RPM. The engine was completely self-contained constructed of a single alloy casting with bosses specifically made to fit on the Peugeot bike shown above. The solex carburettor is visible on top behind the cyclinder as is the magneto at the rear. The whole system relied on the gearing of the bicycle's epicyclic hub.

It's complexity cannot be overstated. In fact, the amount of detailed machining required to produce the engine would have made this a very expensive little bike. Perhaps as some surmise, this little engine was an attempt at camouflaged luxury made to conform to the societal norms of post-war reconstruction. Unfortunately, no one will know since it never went into production.

For more detailed technical information, please go here.

Special acknowledgement goes to the Bugatti Revue and DucCutters for the pics and backround information

Sunday, March 28, 2010

1000 Readers!!!!!!

Never really thought that I would hit a 1000 this quickly. Thanks to all of you who stop by and take a look. I hope that my posts are both interesting and entertaining. I work hard to find interesting subject matter in addition to the articles chronicling my relationship with my Model 7. To the 8 followers, I really appreciate your committment to my blog. Hitting this mark has given me motivation to do even more. Thanks again.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday's Pin-up

I have seen a bunch of blogs that have a "motivational" pic on Fridays. Normally, these are pin-ups. While I have nothing against those beautiful ladies, it's not my style so here's an alternative. Enjoy.

H-D Factory Boardtrackers

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Happy 80th, Mr. McQueen

Today there are going to be many tributes to Steve Mcqueen. He would be 80 years old if he hadn't been stricken in 1980 by mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer almost exclusively attributed to asbestos exposure. So, here's a quick biography and a few interesting facts. Steve Mcqueen as we know him was actually born Terrence Steven McQueen on 24 March 1930 in Beech Grove, Indiana. Abandoned by his stunt pilot father, Mcqueen was sent to his maternal grandparents by his alcholic mother to live in Slater, Missouri. At the age of 8, Mcqueen was taken back by his mother to live in Los Angeles. This period was marked by familial unrest that no doubt contributed to his rebelliousness and involvement in petty crime. At the insistence of his stepfather, his mother sent him to the California Junior Boys Republic where he began to turn his life around.

Incorrigible even at the age of 42
1972 DUI mugshot in Alaska

At 16, McQueen left reform school to meet up with his mother then living in Greenwich Village. The reunion didn't last long and he left to the Dominican Republic as merchant mariner. Tremendously indisciplined, he was unable to fulfill that committment and found himself in Texas wandering from job to job working as a towel boy in a brothel, a carnie, a roughneck, and a lumberjack until his enlistment in the marines in 1947. His military career started rather inauspiciously with multiple reductions in rank and 41 days in the brig for being AWOL. That event provided the motivation for him to get his life in order and he developed into a model marine to the point of being assigned to an honor guard aboard President Truman's yacht. Upon discharge, Mcqueen used the GI Bill and the winnings from motorcycle racing to fund acting lessons and the rest is history.

Steve McQueen as Bullitt

While his filmography is well known, the roles he turned down are quite surprising. McQueen decided not to star in Ocean's Eleven, Dirty Harry, Apocalypse Now, The French Connection, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and even Close Encounters of the Third Kind after telling Steven Spielberg he couldn't cry on cue. The issue with Butch Cassidy was an inability to solve who would get top billing with Paul Newman.

So why do we love Steve McQueen so much? Our collective nostalgia resides in what McQueen represents. He embodies those manly virtues that we cherish and so rarely find especially in many of the new breed of actors. McQueen was a man of principle and conviction. He was a diehard Republican and supported the Vietnam War when both positions were extremely unpopular amongst the Hollywood set. McQueen was also very patriotic carrying the flag at the International Six Days Trials and hanging a giant American flag from his house when he found out he was on Nixon's enemies list. Tremendously generous, he never forgot those who helped him. His acting contracts were considered demanding to the extent that he requested bulk items such personal hygeine articles and jeans which he quietly donated to the reform school he attended when he was young. He frequently returned to the California Junior Boys Republic to encourage the young men; he even played pool there. His motorsports exploits are legion harkening back to an era of the true gentleman racer. He was a physical fitness fanatic despite his drinking and smoking. A martial arts master, McQueen was one of Bruce Lee's pallbearers with Chuck Norris. Exremely ingenious, McQueen even had two patents for a racing bucket seat and a transbrake. In short, Steve McQueen was a modern renaissance man.

Here is little gallery of Steve McQueen in action:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Willie G.'s Factory Custom Attempt

I went to the South Texas Motorcycle Show this morning mostly to get out of the house. I am genuinely interested in all bikes but really partial to Brit Iron. I was under no illusions that this was going to be a pure Harley fest but I was disappointed to see that it was all new stuff. Nothing vintage. Well except for this bike that was for sale.

1971 H-D FX Superglide

Motorsports history is replete with well-intentioned designs gone awry and the 1971 FX Superglide undoubtedly falls into that category. The bike was concieved by Willie G. Davidson in an attempt to  capitalize on the customization craze. It's a cross between the chassis of the FLH Electraglide and the smaller forks of the XLH Sportster.The design was then topped off with the boattail of the sportster. The result was not particularly well-received. I am sure many felt like I did upon seeing it- a little nauseated. It really looks ungainly with this massive fiberglass blob at the rear with puny looking forks. The bike lacks balance and is devoid of the iconic lines associated with Harley-Davidson.

H-D's attempt at a factory custom highlights a common mistake made by many corporations and that is deviating away from what one does best. Certainly, evolution is important but that can be achieved within the successful historical context of the organization. A good example is Porsche or Ducati. You can't be everything to everyone. You have to stay true to yourself. Besides, leave the customizing to the customizers.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A movie star, well perhaps not so much.....

There are tons of iconic vehcles out there. Bullit's Mustang. 007's Aston Martin. Fonda's Panhead. Mcqueen's Triumph. I could go on forever but there are two unknown actors who had the joy of riding a 1949 Norton Model 7. Their good fortune is forever though briefly part of cinematic history!

1949 Model 7 in Le Corniaud

Le Corniaud filmed in 1965 is a franco-italian comedy featuring the famous French comedian Louis De Funes. Interestingly this plunger framed bike features a two person seat. It is feature that I have never seen before.

The second movie appearance of a Norton Model 7 is in another but more obscure french comedy called Le Distrait. The movie was filmed in 1970 and it features what I think is the exact bike used five years earlier in Le Corniaud. If it's the same bike I am sure its reappearance is due to its classic beauty and unwavering reliability.

1949 Norton Model 7 in Le Distrait

This still photo from Le Distrait I consider very important in that within Model 7 circles there is a great debate regarding the silencers. Some believe the tailpipe exits from the top of the silencer body while others believe it exits from the middle. There are few period pictures that definitively confirm one way or another. In this case we can see that it exits from the middle. I personally have Triumph tailpipes for the moment. Anyway, I have always felt like a movie star riding mine!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fender Work Progresses

After finding all the little "imperfecions" in the fender  with simple hammer and dolly work, I decided to go ahead and strip all of the surface rust off. I can't tell you how much I detest stripping paint, rust, whatever. The term "surface rust" is a loose one and highlights the vagaries associated with buying stuff on Ebay. I will say that Ebay is much maligned and with some justification. But considering where I live and the total inaccessibility to autojumbles, Ebay is really the only option and I have developed a bit of savvy in sorting the proverbial shit from shine-ola.

Before stripping and after....


Anyway the plan from the previous fender post has changed a bit. For starters, it has given me the excuse to buy a new toy- my own welder.  The wife will love that but the reality is I have two petrol tanks and an oil bag that need work as well. Rather than bronze braze the repairs, I'm going to do a proper welding job first. The pitting means that a skin coat of filler is necessary and that will help smooth out the metal work. I'll then spray heavy primer after sanding the filler as low as possible. If it doesn't look like crap, I'll go ahead and paint. Simple enough. Right?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Another Great Artist Very Much Worth Supporting

When I first started this blog, I didn't know what direction it would take me. I hoped to develop friendships and meet people from all over the world while exploring the hobby of classic motorcycling. I have been pleasantly surprised and the experience has broadened my vision of the classic motorcycle world. Most recently, I have had the pleasure to meet, at least through Skype and emails, Antonio Merinero. Antonio is from Madrid and works as a graphic artist. He is an avid motorcyclist and owns a 1972 Harley Electraglide, a 1972 BSA Lightning, and two Vespas. Antonio has ridden in such exotic places as India, Morroco, Nepal, Thailand, Malasia, Portugal, as well as all over his native Spain. His artistic endeavours take him to Mumbai every year where he has cultivated a relationship with Indian classic motorcyclists. You can see more at Antonio's blog.

Antonio in India

Indian Mechanics keeping classics on the road.

A treasure trove of classics hiding in India's alleys

Mahmood can fix bikes from any era

American iron on the Indian Subcontinent

Indian biker style

Antonio's art draws heavily from his backround in the graphic arts. He uses multimedia techniques, grafitti style, and stencilling inspired by advertisements of the 1950's to produce prints that truly capture the spirit of post-war motorcycle culture. He works out of his mother's garage in the suburbs of Madrid. Take a look at Antonio at work.

Here are some of Antonio's pieces that are available for purchase at his webshop.

This post really doesn't do Antonio or his art justice. Antonio has some major projects in the works to include a collaboration with Harley Davidson in Madrid. I can't wait to see the results. If you want to see more, please go to Antonio's sites below.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

More Motobilia

I went out of town for a couple of days and was happy to see that the mail carrier left a couple of more surprises while Kate and I were gone. I am totally immersed in my Norton Model 7 and I collect anything related to my bike including advertisements and literature. I love the graphic art of the period and I am fortunate enough to have wife that let's me decorate with it a bit. Anyway here is my latest acquisition.

The cool thing about this one is that my office is decorated with a large sized color reproduction of this very ad. It's not a coincidence that I bought it. If there's anybody out there with more of this stuff, let me know I would be very interested even if we just posted your collection as a galler on the site.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

One more for the collection

I always love seeing brown mail envelopes in the mailbox. It's a sign that my collection of motobilia is going to expand a bit.This time it was the arrival of a Norton sprocket puller stamped with the marque's name across the front. I'll give it a gentle cleaning and into the tool box. My vintage tools are for using and there are two bottom ends needing some attention. Nice little surprise for the weekend.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The joy of being a beginner

Well, I got a precious day in the garage with many more to come since I will be on vacation for the next 2 weeks. Good feeling. I have been fettling the carburettor for a while and have gotten it pretty well tuned but decided to buy new jets after reading an article on how cleaning unscrupulously with wire may change the orifice size. I was milling around the intake when I noticed something I hadn't seen before. I had always known that the rocker oil feed line was partially shrouded in plastic tubing.

But I didn't realize that one of the previous owners had incorporated a sight  window of sorts which is just perceptible in the center of the picture. What really concerned me however was the kink at the base of the feed line. I started the bike and flow was visible but my concern is that swarf may eventually clog it . Relieved that I had not been riding around while the top end was dry, I ordered a new feed line from Norvil. The question is whether or not to include the sight window as the previous had. If there are any opinions out there please let me know.

After dealing with the rocker oil feed line, I turned to the subject of a previous post---my front fender project. Clearly the fender had been the victim of some accident and some basic repairs were done. These repairs were mainly brazings of some cracks done prior to dealing with some dents and wrinkles. A few strikes of the hammer and dolly shattered those repairs and now it looks like I am going to learn how to weld.

So with a plaintive cry, I am asking for advice as to how to proceed. My inclination is to continue grinding down the previous welds, reshape the fender, then reweld with a MIG rather than braze. Let me know what you all think. Thanks.

Monday, March 1, 2010

How much would you pay?

1925 Bugatti Brescia Roadster

A close cousin of above

I was researching a post on an Ettore Bugatti subject related to motorcycling when I came across this story. On the 25th of January, Bonhams auctioned the severely corroded 1925 Bugatti Type 22 at the 2010 Retromobile Show in Paris. The vehicle was estimated to sell for 70,000 to 90,000 pounds and ended being the subject of a bidding war topping off at 260,500 pounds. Experts agree that it is impossible to restore the vehicle since only about 10% of the parts are usable. The new owner will most likely leave it in state as an exhibit for a new automotive museum in California.

The real value of this wonderful piece of  early automotive engineering rests in the story of this particular example. This 1925 Bugatti Type 22 "Brescia" was pulled from Lake Maggiore after 70 years of resting in over 50 meters of water. The rumor of a submerged Bugatti had been passed around until the August 18, 1967 when Ugo Pillon discovered the car laying on its side. For the next 70 years, the Bugatti was a popular dive location of the Centro Sport Subacquei Salvataggio Ascona.

Why the car ended up in Lake Maggiore is more a story of practicality than intrigue. The car was initially purchased by a gentleman in Nancy, France then sold to an architect in Paris by the name of Georges Nielly. In some manner or other it may have come into the hands of Marco Schmuklerski, a polish architect, around 1936. The legend is that the import duties were never paid  and the local taxman knew it. As was the custom, the vehicle had to be destroyed  and that is perhaps how it ended up at the bottom Lake Maggiore.

The story of its return to the surface however is decidedly more tragic. The Bugatti was raised from the depths by the local dive club to raise funds for the Damiano Tamagni Foundation. Damiano Tamagni, a dive club member, was brutally beaten to death by three youths in Ascona. The exhibition of this Bugatti is a fitting tribute to Damiano Tamagni and the proceeds from the auction will definitely help his foundation do its work.

For a more in depth version of this story go here.