The realm of vintage iron encompasses a wide spectrum of interests. On one end the ownership and presentation of near perfect examples at Concours and museum exhibits brings a sense of pride and achievement. At the other end is the same level of pride and achievement derived from just hoarding rusty parts of old vehicles with no intent to show anyone anything. In between there is owning and operating a vintage machine, survivor custodianship, restoration where the thrill is gone once the machine is complete, vintage racing, daily drivers, hot rods, social clubs, etc. Thank goodness we don’t all like the same thing. While this blog covers a good part of that spectrum, this entry focuses on wrenching.
How can you spend an entire day in the garage with just parts of a vehicle, and some tools, and end that day dirty and tired but with a rewarding glow of satisfaction? Here is one way to do it…..
First, get a few vehicles that need work. In this case, a 1974 Honda CB360, a 1971 Mercedes 280SE, and a 1973 BMW R75/5. The Mercedes had not been running for about a year and a half due to a bad fuel pump and plugs. The fuel pump had been acquired via eBay in the winter of 2012, and I had planned to get it installed by spring….the Honda had been awaiting attention as well, as it needed a petcock, air filters, plugs, exhausts, battery, and some electrical work. All the parts were in the garage, but available time had eluded me…..The R75 needed the rusty luggage rack I had sitting in the basement to be installed, and the sticky throttle to be addressed….
7am There is something magical about having a good cup of coffee in an unseasonably cool perfectly silent garage containing old cars and bikes. The rising garage door reveals the rising sun and they bring a work day that I am looking forward to. Packages waiting to be opened, parts waiting to be installed, and tools waiting to be utilized, join the sun in the promise of a good day.
9am The R75 luggage rack is sanded down, and is just sprayed chrome silver to protect the bare metal. Anyone who has sanded down such an item by hand, knows that it is most beautiful in bare metal. I agonized over painting it, or chroming it, or powder coating it. In the end, I opted for the instant gratification of a rattle can, and left it hanging by a coat hanger. I removed the remainder of the hoses from the new-to-me fuel pump for the big Merc. I needed the help of the vice to do it as one hoses (the last one of course) was reluctant to leave its longtime home. The tank was off the Honda, and i had removed the headlight to get to the wiring in the bucket. Surface corrosion on the grounds, hhhmmmmm……
11am Second coat of paint on the luggage rack, and it is drying. The R75 throttle cable is disconnected at the handlebar, awaiting some lubricant down its sheath. The old fuel pump is off the car, and the new one is in position. Note: there is a surprising amount of fuel in the line on a big car! The decision is made to do a mild cafe racer treatment on the Honda. All of the old auxiliary lighting wiring is removed, the headlight nacelle is painted silver chrome and now hangs beside the BMWs luggage rack. Ground terminals are lightly sanded. In the run position, I now have turn signals!
1pm Cleaned and painted the fuel pump carrier black. The pump itself produces a satisfying whirring when the key is in the ignition position. Points on the Merc are gapped, a new cap and rotor are on, and park plugs are ready for install. The tail light and turn signals are unbolted so that the rack can be installed on the R75. For those that have done this, you know that there is a way to do this without removing all of the wiring, but it involves precision gymnastics with the rack and light assembly. The slightly corroded Honda handlebar is hanging limply, and the new petcock is installed.
3pm The Mercedes is running! It fired up immediately, and is sitting idling outside. It is amazing how well internal combustion engines work once they have fuel and fire. The wiring is pulled back through the handlebar on the Honda and it now hangs along with the switchgear. This was a slow process so as not to stress 40 year old wires. The sheath was a lot more supple when they installed it in Japan back then. The R75 rack is on the bike, the seat is back on, and the rear lights all work.
5pm 5 gallons of ethanol free fuel is in the Mercedes and it has completed a 5 mile loop (see the Theory of Concentric Circles). No issues…..well other than the speedo issue, no horn, only right side turn signals, etc, but those were not on the menu for today. The R75 throttle cable is back in its normal position and throttle now moves much more freely. A brief test ride confirms that I now have just-off-idle control. The rack looks pretty good. The Honda is now more apart. Old rusty exhausts are off, seat is off, handlebar is off, tank is off, front turn signals off, etc. the headlight bucket has a dry second coat of silver. A bottle of Amstel is open.
7pm The Mercedes has full turn signals, but still no horn and an erratic speedo. The Honda is completely apart, now missing both wheels, and the airbox in addition to everything else. The R75 needs nothing. Everything is back in the garage, and it is quiet again. The sun descends at the same rate as the garage door…..there is something magical about a good beer on an unseasonably cool evening in a perfectly silent garage containing old cars and bikes.