Friday, June 17, 2011

Reply to Montoya's several comments.

When I first read your comments, I was a bit put off by your tone. You come across like one of those Concours afficianados who won't even put oil or gas in their trailer queens for fear they'll hurt the resale value or points scoring ability of their bikes. I plan to ride both of these when they're done, so "correctness" as determined by concourse judges or auctioneers is just not a concern for me.

But since you took the time and effort to compile your critique and suggestions (appreciated despite our difference in opinions), I feel that you deserve a reply, and since this is my blog, it seems easiest to reply in a new post, rather than cluttering up the comments section with more comments.

I'm not a purist, and never have been.  Both of these bikes were acquired by me with missing and incorrect parts on them, the Interceptor particularly so.  I originally put them together the way I wanted to, with limitations due to lack of knowledge at the time, serious lack of availability of parts, and lack of personal wealth.
I bought both of them back when very few people had any good information about them, and parts were almost impossible to obtain. They also both suffered from the typical period "modifications" of previous owners, removing front fenders, hacksawing back fenders, throwing "unnecessary" parts away.
The Interceptor was wrecked at least twice before I got it, and it had a set of Triumph forks installed (very, very badly).

I bought the Interceptor in 1972 (hard to believe it got to the state it was in after only 6 years), as a pile of parts. I was friends with the current owner, who took it apart to restore it.  It had the Triumph forks on it when he bought it, no front fender, a standard Dunlop rear fender with homemade stays, a Bates solo saddle, and numerous other aftermarket parts.  At the time, I was just a young kid who wanted the biggest bike I could get for the least amount of money. I simply put it back together with the parts I was provided with, and rode it around for several years like that.
Replacing all the missing parts wasn't an option at the time, although in hindsight, I probably could have. Since that time, I've purchased several stashes of old R-E parts, although tinware has always been very uncommon in such parts stashes.

The Tomahawk was purchased around 1982 from the original Indian dealer who had sold it new. I had no idea what it was supposed to look like at the time. It had no front fender, a chopped back fender, JC Whitney mufflers... It did have the original gas tank, front forks, engine, gearbox, toolbox and seat (not on it in the picture in this blog). When I put it together, I purchased a front fender from a Domi-Racer sale catalog that was listed as for an Indian Enfield, and given the low price (plus at the time, not knowing what the original front fender should have been) I snapped it up.
The toolbox on the bike is actually from my 1966 Interceptor, the original Tomahawk toolbox had been modified by a previous owner, who drilled four large holes in each side cover, and at the time, I didn't know if they could be fixed, so I just used the Interceptor toolbox. I've since then, gotten the holes repaired, and plan to use the original toolbox during this project.
For the record, this is one Tomahawk that does have all matching numbers, confirmed by the REOC-UK who has the original factory records. The frame, engine and gearbox all match for a Tomahawk that was shipped to the US in November, 1957 .
As for the nuts and bolts vs "resale value", like I said before, I don't care about resale value, I'm not in this for the money. As anyone who's ever restored a motorcycle knows, you're not going to make your money back on a restoration project, so you're a fool if you worry about things like resale value. I've restored other British motorcycles using SAE stainless fasteners altered to look like the original Whitworth or BSF fasteners, and nobody's yet gone over my bikes with a thread guage to determine if the fasteners are "correct" or not.
If/when these bikes are passed on to another owner, replacing the nuts and bolts, should the new owner care about that kind of thing, won't be difficult to do.

Regarding the Suzuki front forks, I'm putting them on for no other reason than because I want to. If you look at the picture I photoshopped, you'll note that I show an Enfield "casquette" headlamp/fork crown on it. I'm having a machinist friend modify the Suzuki forks to fit the Enfield part (which I purchased new from an Enfield dealer a couple of years ago). It's a "because it's there" kind of thing (and I have a really cool mod for the brake calipers which I'm not going to reveal until I've got the forks ready to install), plus, no matter how bad the Suzuki forks/brakes are compared with modern Japanese forks and brakes, they've got to be better than original Enfield parts, this is a cafe racer build, after all not a restoration. The only parts which will be irretrievably altered are a pair of old Suzuki fork legs. (now I'm going to recieve the wrath of Suzuki GT 750 fans!)
I am not planning on throwing the original Enfield forks away, and putting them back on the bike would take maybe a couple of hours of work if I decide I don't like the Suzuki forks.

Given the purpose of this project; to have two complete, presentable bikes for display at a motorcycle show which features Royal Enfield, I'm going to be making compromises, up to and including putting the Tomahawk back together with all the incorrect tinware if money and time prevents obtaining original parts.
I'm going to aim for having it completed with correct tinware if possible, but if I can't, as time and money permits,  I can continue to acquire more appropriate parts for the Tomahawk and return it to original specification.
My point here being that no future owners of either of these bikes will be cursing me for putting them together the way I did.  No changes to the original bikes are being performed which can't be easily changed back to original specification, and all the unused original parts which I currently have are going to be kept with each bike if I pass either one on to someone else.

Since my most recent post was a distraction, I guess I should conclude this one with an update to that distraction.
I've finally had a chance to use those cheap tires for what they were intended. (concours purists, you may want to close this page now to avoid damage to your sensibilities!)
I can report that they perform amazingly well on both pavement and dirt. Two of my friends who also own vintage BMW's bought pairs of these for their own bikes and we took a trip in Eastern Oregon which consisted of 50+ miles of somtimes very rudimentary dirt road, including two stream crossings, and the tires worked beautifully. These are by far, the best tires I've ever had on my R69S.

For anyone who's interested, these are Shinko 244 "Golden Boy" tires (made in Korea) in 3.50x18 size, and these old beemers handle both on and off road like these tires were made for them.
I may even put a pair on my Tomahawk, should I be able to restore it to original configuration within my timeframe. From looking at pictures of original Tomahawks, I get the impression that they were intended for light offroad use.


  1. No problem, I did not intend to sound like a "purist", I don't care for them either but you have to admit those matching numbers are important. :) Anyway my Tom-y will be a custom too as a "street scrambler" and will not have matching numbers. Heck these bikes were "customs" when they were made. In my opinion Brockhouse was an asset stripper and they cared little about the bikes, only about selling the old Indian (Springfield) company's property for the best bucks available, so it is amazing any records survived at all. The same thing happened with Aston Martin and a number of other UK companies, including Bennett-Beck meters and the old GEC Plessey Marconi company which I once worked for. Today the US has out-sourced most of its civilian industry based on the old English model of asset stripping. Anyway, thanks again and I posted another comment about the frames. Rgds, Steve

  2. I do have one polite question though: if originality does not matter, then why the obsession with matching frame and engine numbers?

  3. There's no obsession here, but matching numbers are a far larger issue than whether the bolts I use to hang the fenders are 28 tpi instead of the proper 26 tpi.

    Matching numbers are a good thing if you have them. Otherwise, I don't really care.
    Trust me, if the numbers for my Tomahawk didn't match, it wouldn't bother me a bit. I'd still be restoring it, and it makes no difference in terms of a usable motorcycle.

    As for the VAX Interceptor parts, matching numbers are essential in establishing authenticity for anyone who wants to buy the parts I have and build a bike around them. With them, they're worth at least $500 (best offer so far), without them, they're maybe worth a couple hundred at most.

    One last comment. I don't feel that originality doesn't matter, it just depends on what you intend to do with the motorcycle, plus what you started with.

    I want to build a cafe racer out of the Interceptor. Originality isn't an option with that goal in mind.
    The Tomahawk is going to end up as close to original as possible, but I also plan to ride it, so I'm doing upgrades to some of the weaknesses that these bikes left the factory with.

  4. Try to avoid getting sand on the bike chain, and/or on the gear sprockets.
    The sand will cause friction on the chain and the gears and will cause more wear and tear on your cruiser.

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  5. Certain parts of a cruiser will rust if left out in wet conditions, especially the chain, and if the chain rusts you cruiser will not ride as smooth as it should.
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