Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Can I restore two motorcycles in 18 months?

My plan is to rebuild two Royal Enfield Motorcycles, starting in January, 2011, to be completed by May, 2012, in time for Oregon Vintage Motorcyclists May Show, which will have Royal Enfield as the Featured Marque.
One bike is my 1966 Interceptor 750, the other is my 1959 Indian Tomahawk (more about Royal Enfield Indians later).

The Interceptor was restored in 1984, and I acquired the Indian as a “rolling basket case” from the Eugene, Oregon Indian dealer, C. R. Saville around 1985, with plans to ultimately restore it.
By 1990, I had done a restoration of the frame and cycle parts from the Indian, but didn't have the financial resources to get the engine rebuilt (one child, and another on the way can put a damper on projects like motorcycle restoration).

I liked the looks of the Indian so much that I decided to sacrifice the Interceptor in order to get the Indian on the road. (one of the nice things about old Royal Enfields is the amazing interchangability of various parts over the entire range of models and years).
So, in 1990, the Interceptor engine went into the Indian frame, where it's been ever since.

Now that my vintage motorcycle club is going to feature Royal Enfield, and since I'm one of the Royal Enfield experts in the club, it's a fairly high priority that I have both of mine in a state suitable for a motorcycle show.

So, on January 12, The Indian was dissasembled. The next day, I went to the storage shed where I have the frame and other parts for the Interceptor, and gathered everything I could find in my driveway for a “before” photo.

Here's what each bike looked like after they were originally restored years ago.

The  Interceptor

 The Indian.

I should point out, that neither bike is "factory original", nor will they be  after I've finished this project. I  do them the way I like them, not the way a concourse judge thinks they should be.

So, here's the plan.
The Interceptor's engine was completely rebuilt from top to bottom nearly 27 years ago, but hasn't seen more than several thousand miles of use in all that time, and it's still pretty sound. It's leaked a lot of oil on itself, and acquired a lot of dirt over the years, so I'm going to get it “media blasted” (a process that uses various forms of non-abrasive materials to clean the metal without damaging it, or risking abrasive crud getting inside)
It will require a bit of internal attention, but I won't have to strip it down and rebuild it.
The Indian's motor has  immaculate, shiny cylinder bores, showing almost no wear on the original pistons. The valves also look good. What's wrong with it is that the main bearings feel like they've got gravel in them when I try to turn the motor over with the kickstart lever. It's going to have to come apart.
I'm hoping that the rod bearings are in good shape, and I intend to determine that just by feel without taking the rod caps off. Doing that necessitates getting new bolts, and considerable risk of things coming apart later. I think if they don't feel loose or gritty when I rotate them, they should be ok to use without any further attention. Enfield twins have always had good quality oil filtration, and that should have prevented whatever grit is in the main bearings from finding its way back into the rest of the engine

Since taking the bikes apart, and snapping the “before” picture, I've completely stripped both frames, and am gathering up all the metal parts that need to be powder coated black, along with the frames.
I've also gone through my stash of old nuts and bolts, and collected everything that originally came off a Royal Enfield. (I've had my Interceptor apart enough times over the years, that I have no trouble identifying stuff like that).
Most of the nuts and bolts that hold stuff like fender stays, license brackets, etc. on the bike will be replaced with new stainless steel parts. I'm not going to waste my time and money trying to find “correct” British Standard or Whitworth items, I'll go to the local industrial fastener supply house and buy a couple of boxes of 100 each, 1/4 NF and 5/16 NF (American National Fine Thread) bolts, nylon locking nuts and washers. That will cover pretty much everything on both bikes. Anything that bolts directly to the frames or engines will have to be original parts, and I think I have pretty much everything I need there. The stainless bolts will each be chucked in a hand drill, and rotated against a belt sander to give them the domed shape that's common on all the British motorcycles from the 50's and 60's. To finish them off, I can use a “wet” drum sander that's designed for gem and jewelry work. They should look just right when I'm done, and few will know that they're not the real thing.

So, that's where I'm at as of 1/19/2011. About 3 hours into the project.  I don't know how often I'll be updating this blog, and for the few out there who may actually find this not to be a waste of their time, just check back once in awhile. I'll update the blog as the project progresses.


  1. If anyone can do it, you can. When you're done you can do my R90/6 for dessert. :D

  2. The complete Indian Enfield shown in the picture may have a Tomahawk frame and engine, but it has many Trailblazer parts on it for example the fenders and toolboxes. Very few Tomahawks were imported into the US during their entire production run. I have never seen a complete original version with matching numbers, except in pictures in Indian collector books, and suspect there are only a handful of "correct" Tomahawks in the United States. I am building a hybrid "scrambler" version using a Trailblazer frame and Tomahawk engine, and agree with you that a custom is the best way to go, since body parts for the Tomy are virtually unobtainable.