Backtracking to 1970. I bought a 1957 Jawa 250 in pieces for $40. The seller delivered it to me on the back of his Bedford tray truck. I spent the entire school holiday assembling this bike and doing repairs and by the time I had to go back to school it was running and rideable. I spent a lot of time riding up and down the tracks beside the Moonee Ponds creek. A huge learning curve for a 15 year old. I sold this for $135 so I made a profit and this money went into my next bike.
The next bike is what you might call the beginning. It was a 1958, A10 650, BSA. This cost a whole $185 with a new tyre thrown in. I had to rebuild the engine and fix up a few things and then I had it going fairly reliably. This bike took me through my learners licence and probationary licence. It taught me even more about mechanical work and fixing things. The sad end for this bike was it “chucked a conrod” with me trying to “crack the ton”, which it was never ever going to do anyway. You can see the trophy of this crankcase and conrod in the workshop today as you enter the door. This started me learning about BSA’s especially the Gold Star and Rocket Gold Star.
I had a short break from English bikes and bought a Suzuki T350J. This little bike was a real goer. I raced it in a couple of ride days at Calder Raceway and did a few drag meetings. It was good fun but I was always hankering for the big English four strokes. I also met my future wife Jan while out on this bike one day and that love affair still continues today.
I bought a 1972, 750 Norton Commando. It was a combat engine, red fastback. It was a life changer. I think it really changed my preference for the bikes that I liked. It’s now 2017 and the Commando is still with me and never to be moved on. It has become a family member and sits in the workshop for everyone including myself to see each day. Jan and I travelled many miles on the Norton, two up with luggage even going to the Bathurst motorbike races at Easter time on a few occasions. It was also my main means of transport in those days. Hail, rain or shine and always reliable. In 1984 the engine seized and ripped the back off one of the pistons. (I still have the piston too!) I was pretty busy with the race cars so the bike was left up the back of the workshop for a number of years. I eventually got back into it and did what you would call a personal restoration. It is still very much the bike I had back in the mid 70’s and in pretty much in the same trim. Yes, it is still ridden and ridden the way it should be. It is my main rider.
I have saved this for last and please do not get this wrong. My passion for the BSA Gold Star is as strong as the first time I ever saw one in 1973. At this sighting there were two bikes. One a Velocette Venom Thruxton and the other a BSA Clubman Gold Star. Seeing this Gold Star was like love at first sight. I had to have one but being an apprentice on very low wages meant that it was out of my league. In those days a good Gold Star fetched $3500.
I acquired the remains of a 1955 BSA DB34 Gold Star around 2005. The bike was rebuilt to Clubmans trim with all the hard to ride (and find) parts like RRT2 gearbox and big 1.5 inch Amal GP carburettor. I did not want it any other way. It had been a long time before I acquired the bike I really wanted but so glad I did acquire some of the parts along the way. They went into the rebuild and restoration of the bike I have today. Ironically, when applying for a dating certificate for this bike, it worked out that this Gold Star was just two weeks older than I am, so maybe it was just a way of the bike finding me and not me finding it? And YES - of course - it goes like the clappers.
The current restoration is a 1963 BSA Rocket Gold Star. This bike will be completed in the near future during 2018. The remains of this bike came out of Gloucester in UK and had also spent part of its life as a chopper! I acquired this project in 2010 with a lot of work to do. It’s coming along rather nicely being restored in its original Clubmans trim.
I worked part time from 1975 to 1985 for my brother-in-law’s race car team. His name is Martin Power. I worked alongside Martin and his dad Andy during these years. Andy was also a Fitter and Turner so we got on extremely well. The cars progressively consisted of a Holden Torana XU1, RX3 Mazda and a Triumph Dolomite Sprint. This took us all over Australia and even the Hardie Ferodo and James Hardie at Bathurst during that time.
In 1982 I bought the remains of an historic race car named the Essenkay. It was a 1960 GroupM Formula Junior. Over the next year I rebuilt this car and drove it at various historic racing events and hill climbs. This also overlapped with my commitments to Martin Power so it was race cars a lot of the time in those days. This went on for the next ten years until I decided I had had enough and stepped back from driving. The Essenkay was sold to a new owner in England and is now residing in Italy with very nice people name Bruno and Nico. The car is still pretty much in the same state as I sold it some years ago and can honestly say that it still goes very well and is easy to work on. I’ve actually been to Italy to see the car and owners and they let me have a drive of it too! I felt quite honoured.
I learnt a lot from working and making parts for these cars. One important lesson learnt was to make sure that the cars were always good, fast and reliable. It is not much fun driving and towing interstate with a car that fails during the practice session. This did happen a couple of times but I certainly do not let it creep into the work I do these days!