Green T, Perkolilli Special, Part IV

Green T, Perkolilli Special, Part IV

Things in Graeme’s shed have been developing rapidly since last we spoke: we have life.  Sure, it was only a momentary wail in response to a Bendix slap on the buttocks, but just like a parent hearing the first cry of their child, it gladdened the heart of all those present.

The skeleton, with it’s beating heart, is ready for the body.

There was no cranking, and no extra priming of the twin Stromberg carburettors.  The electronic fuel pump chattered for a few moments as it pressurised the system then, as soon as Graeme hit the starter, the engine instantaneously burst into life, surprising all those in the shed.  That surprise was replaced by deep satisfaction as the 3-litre side-banger, four settled into a contented purr.  Presently the exhaust is exiting the collector pipe without any hit of muffling.  This is how the car will run at Perkolilli however the beautiful burble will be too much for road use.

Holden six nostalgia comes flooding back with these twin Stromberg carbs.

With no radiator, the experiment was brought to a close very early to avoid cooking the engine, but not before we captured a second burst on video for posterity purposes.

Of all the stages of a build, there is none as significant as a start-up.  A major developmental signpost has been passed and the project can move to the next phase.  In our case the body was reintroduced to the chassis.  This can be achieved by two people, however, there were three of us and we got the body on without causing any scratches.  It was at this point where the contrast between the black, heavy-metal chassis and the green of the tinware body, each perfectly complimenting the other.

The newly-painted body is wheeled into the work area ahead for being lifted back onto the chassis.

With the body permanently back in place (LOL), we set about test fitting other body items and within an hour the skeleton and its beating heart were transformed: a stunning green racing machine was revealed.

Recall, we touched on the tuned state of the engine in the last piece on Green T?  The mods included an early veteran T high-compression head.  Well, as Graeme says, you can’t always trust 100-year-old cylinder heads.  A few days ago, whilst working on the engine, Graeme noticed an unusual mark on the side of the head.  Instigation and a bit of digging revealed a large rust hole.  The head was removed and replaced with a very special, and very rare Ward’s performance alloy racing head, cast in Perth by Allan Ward.  Graeme has been saving this one for a special occasion.  Evidently, its time has arrived.  As Graeme says, “that should make this puppy really go.”

Ward high-performance alloy head created and cast in Western Australia.

Finally, before we leave this piece.  For some years I have frequently mentioned Lake Perkolilli in the context of a motor racing circuit.  I recently came across a passage written by WA Police Pioneer H.E. Graves, who, in 1929, came across the lake on one of his patrols out of Kalgoorlie.  Graves describes Perkolilli as, “Surely one of the world’s smaller wonders.  Imagine a country dense and chocked with that low, grey-green growth; bridle tracks worming through, an occasional lizard the only company. Out of all this the lake suddenly breaks.  It is a huge, roughly circular area of clay.  At its edge most unaccountably all vegetation sharply ends.  The land becomes dead.  The surface of the clay is utterly flat, glass-like, smooth like a mirror.   Painfully it reflects the glare of the sun, so that the beholder blinks from its sheen. There must be salt or poison in the land to produce that shining sterility” (Graves, p. 117-118, 1937).

For a more contemporary description, we turn to the Gold Region Tourism Organisation, “Lake Perkolilli is a unique, rock hard claypan which has been the location for many Australian speed records. It was almost forgotten until vintage motor racing enthusiasts returned to bring it to life once again. Lake Perkolilli comes to life before dawn when the coffee p ots start boiling and the smell of frying bacon starts wafting across the camping areas. There is always someone who starts an unmuffled car or bike engine to break the silence. Aah, the music of motors to wake the late risers!”


The Red Dust Revival 2022 medallion has been cast and is proudly displayed on the dash of Green T.



Green T, Perkolilli Special, Part III

Green T, Perkolilli Special, Part III

Out little race special is rapidly taking shape at the hand of master body-builder and engineer, Graeme Lockhart.  In fact, it has actually taken shape – past tense.  There will be no more cutting, welding, persuading or moulding of the body because it now has a lush coat on British Racing Green – again, by Graeme.  Added to this, the chassis has also been treated to a protective coat of POR15. 

The engine is back in the chassis and will remain so for now as that too is finished and, barring catastrophes, it will be a goer.  Twin down-draft Stromberg carbs, increased compression and custom-made (ie Graeme-made) headers will see the one-hundred-year-old engine produce almost twice the original horsepower.  Although, I should add stock was only ever 20 horsepower.

I’ll let Graeme describe what he’s done, “It has high compression pistons and is fitted with an early veteran T high compression head, up from 4:1 to probably 5.5:1.  The engine now has 0.030 over-size bore and 12 kg off the flywheel.  The crank, rods and pistons have been balanced.  Ignition is by distributor and the camshaft is fitted with an aluminium timing gear – advanced 7 degrees.  But, apart from that, it’s all stock.”

The heavy Model T flywheel has been relieved of some 12 kilograms.

As I said previously, the trick will be to use the extra power without breaking the crankshaft, the Achilles heal of any hot Model T engine.  Then there is getting the power to the rear.  The transmission has been rebuilt with new bushes and, where possible, modern materials that will add a touch of reliability, such as kevlar clutch bands.  The flywheel has oil slingers added to force oil back to the front of the engine (recall these old engines didn’t have an oil pump, they were lubricated by the crank splashing through the oil in the sump).  Graeme has added an external pipe to transport the captured oil forwards and thus aid in keeping the moving parts moving.

In this state, the Model T transmission looks much more modern than its 100-plus years.

The final drive has been rebuilt using a high-speed, racing crown-wheel and pinion that raises the final ratio to 3:1, instead of the standard 4.4:1.  This sounds counterintuitive but essentially, the lower the number, the higher the ratio.  With a higher ratio the engine turns less per revolution of the wheels and we go faster.

So, what does all this mean? In a nut-shell, this will be a period race car that goes as good as it looks.

The following montage will run from most recent to early stages of the build.

High compression pistons protrude into the combustion space and will add some much-needed horsepower to the ancient engine.


The first coat of the lush British Racing Green has been applied and looks amazing. It will almost be a shame to cover it in red dust!



The engine is back in the chassis and there it will stay, subject to continued good running.


Rear view.


These four massive slugs displace 3 litres.


Twin down-draft Stromberg carbs and hand-made headers are just a couple of mods that will add to the power output. A distributor has been fitted, negating the need for the old Ford trembler coils.


Early veteran high compression head.


Just to revise where we’ve come from.



Seats have been fabricated completely by Graeme.


An early graft of the body, prior to it being widened – twice.


The Motorshed Rocket Part III

The Motorshed Rocket Part III

Back in October last year I helped out as a marshal at WA Veteran Motorcycle Rally hosted by the Indian Harley Club.  I enjoyed my roll as Clerk of Course, not least because I got to spend a whole week touring the South West of Western Australia on my ’48 Vincent HRD – which is by no means a veteran motorcycle

Subsequent to the event, my friend, and fellow IHC club member, Des Lewis released a very good quality video of the rally (WA Veteran Motorcycle Rally 2021 – YouTube).  Such is Des’ prowess with the camera, at the end of his video, my wife turned to me and said “you should get one of those.”  “Okay, challenge accepted.”

Veteran motorcycles rarely come up for sale and, when they do, they generally cost a few bob.  An added complication is I have a particular hankering for a v-twin.  The ones I have gravitated towards start at about $75k (AUD) and go up from there.  It may surprise a few readers that I don’t have a lazy $100k waiting for the right veteran motorcycle to come available.  I do however have the connections and ability to rebuild a project machine. A machine that will still start at about $20k for a v-twin.  If I am going to get onto a veteran Excelsior, Yale or Pope, I will need a fairly decent starting wedge.  I will need to sell something.  I resolved to swing back to the Rocket 3 project (part 1 can be viewed here and part 2 here).  That job has been parked up whilst I have been busy elsewhere.   The fly in this ointment is: I am telling myself this is a rebuild that will be offered for sale. 

Long before Triumph named their 2.3 litre behemoth the Rocket 3, almost 6,000 BSA’s Rocket 3 motorcycles had made their presence felt on the racetrack and in the boardroom. These bikes were manufactured from 1968 to 1972.  Their Triumph stablemate, the Trident, lasted a little longer into the mid-seventies.      

My once grand 1971 Rocket 3 came to me as basket case of forgotten dreams.  A relic of its former self, certainly not something befitting the victory in the 1971 Daytona 200 or the machine that was able to conquer Agostini’s MV at Mallory Park in the same year.  Two frames were thrown into the deal, from which I was be able to salvage one.  The bike had clearly been crashed, big-time.  Despite being an obvious write-off, the assembled parts arrived in Australia with a title and import approval.  It had been uncovered by a friend who lived and worked in the US for about seven years.  Like me, Steve has an unhealthy attachment to triple cylinder British bikes, namely, Triumph Tridents and BSA Rocket 3 cycles.  Every time Steve saw a triple come on to US the market for under $2,000USD he would snap it up.  During his seven years, Steve amassed some 14 motorcycles, two of which now reside in my shed (you will note I’m referring to the basket case Beeza as a motorcycle).  Alarmingly, he still has a container full of bikes in West Virginia awaiting dispatch to Australia, some of which will no doubt end up my shed.  Back to the pile of rubble.     

During some cut and tuck between the donor frame and the crashed one, we had cause to cut the head stock from the frame.  Only then, one can see how thick the metal tubing is.  It’s massive.  Looking again at the bent tubes and thinking about the forces that would be required to bend it are a little bit mind boggling.  I doubt the person who crashed it would have survived.  There was some serious impact there.  

Two frames become one. Note the bends around the head stock. This frame should have been grey, instead, it had been repainted in a blue metallic finish. It also had the two down tubes replaced at some time, causing me to suspect it had been crashed twice.

The repaired frame has been resprayed in a lush black paint.  I did consider powder coat but paint much closer resembles the original without the chunky, plastic-coating quality powder coat produces.  Whilst the frame was in the paint shop, I turned my attention to the guards.  The later Rocket 3 incarnation, starting in 1971, has acres of chrome, including the tank and guards.  The chrome and bling came out of BSA Triumph recovering from a design misstep.  Actually, history shows there were quite a few missed steps. 

During the frame reconstruction, we had cause to cut the top tube. This is how thick in is!

The BSA and Trident 3-cyclinder, 750cc engine is almost identical.   The engine was originally a Triumph design however, BSA had acquired ownership of Triumph a dozen or so years earlier and, whilst they were separate entities, operating out of separate premises, BSA decided they wanted a piece of the triple action.  Prototype machines were being tested in 1965 and could have gone into production for the 1966 model year.  Simple badge-engineering should have done it however, not content with sharing the design across the two brands, BSA insisted on making a triple of their own and this is where things get a little ridiculous. The Triumph triple cylinder engine was built in the BSA factory at Small Heath, it was, for all intents and purposes a BSA engine. In following naming conventions of the day, engines destined for Triumph were stamped with the prefix T150. BSA engines were stamped A75. That’s easy, no problem there, except to see the difference between the engine prefixes one almost needs to get down on the ground to read the stampings.

The engine that started it all: the Triumph T150 750cc triple. Designed by Bert Hopwood and Doug Hele. Photograph supplied by Leonard Johnson.

It was decided the BSA engine would need a distinctive look so the barrels on the BSA unit were canted forward by 13 degrees, which (kind of) dissociate them from Triumph. The right-side timing and gearbox outer cases were also altered to provide another individual touch to the BSA item. Think of designing something that is basically the same yet requires re-tooling, casting, machining etc and the simple act of making minor changes becomes a major undertaking. Luckily, the internals remained the same between the two engines, as did just about every other piece of the triple.

My BSA Rocket 3 engine prior to stripping. Although not immediately apparent, the barrels on this engine are canted 13 degrees forward (as opposed to the Triumph T150 engine). Subtle changes to the timing case are also evident, otherwise both engines are essentially the same.

With the engine (almost) uniquely styled to BSA, it became apparent the Triumph duplex frame would not support the forwarded slanting engine so the BSA would need a new frame too. Conveniently, Triumph would later use the same set up to allow inclusion of an electric start behind the barrels of their 1975 T160, which would become the last of the triple cylinder Triumphs.


The finished product would add two years to the release of both bikes and BSA Triumph missed the opportunity to unleash the first mass-produced, multi-cylinder superbike onto the world market.  Instead of releasing their world-beating machine in 1966, it was released in 1968, mere weeks before Honda came along with their new 750/4.  The Honda Four was almost as fast as the British triple but was less expensive and would prove to be more reliable than the BSA Triumph offering.  The Brits had been caught resting upon their laurels. They were the motorcycle super-power of the time and probably expected to remain as such.  As touched on earlier, Triumph and BSA triples went of to win production racing around the world, including the two most famous races of the time, the Isle of Man and Daytona. BSA dominated the American AMA competition well into the 70s but sales of the Japanese bikes sored, whilst sales of the British machines stagnated.  Aside from the expense of the British machines, they had a distinctive style that did not go over well with the buying public. 

To celebrate the release of the new machines BSA/Triumph engaged Ogle Design Company headed by David Ogle.  Ogle Design were known for creating the Raleigh Chopper bicycle, toasters and an odd little three-wheel motor car by the Reliant Motor Company.  In 1968 they entered the two-wheeled world when contracted by BSA/Triumph to put the finishing touches to their new triple cylinder motorcycles.  It was a disaster.  The famous lines of the Triumph twin, one of the most iconic motorcycles of all time, were lost.  In its place was a slab-sided fuel tank, massive side covers and futuristic mufflers – referred to these days as ‘Rayguns.’

The Ogle Designed first incarnation of the BSA Rocket 3. Quirky at the time of release, these machines are now highly sort after.


Note the ‘Raygun’ exhaust. Considered a bit odd at the time of release, there mufflers are now very much sort after. Photograph by Tim Hesford.

The new machine was a hit with road-testers and racers but it failed to win the hearts and minds of Triumph owners, and potential owners.  Motorcycle journalist Bruce Main Smith described the Rocket 3 as: “Biggest and most beautiful hunk of reciprocating machinery ever built.”  It would take two years before the Ogle hoodoo could be undone and BSA/Triumph returned to the tear-drop tank, high bars and megaphone style exhausts.  The new machines were released in 1971, predominately to the US, gaining unofficial title as ‘Export’ models.  It is this variant of the BSA Rocket 3 that I am bringing back to life. 

By 1971, BSA Triumph began to offer an alternative version of their machines designed to appeal to US buyers. The machines were dubbed ‘export’ models. This motorcycle is owned by Warren Hodder in New Zealand. The photograph has been supplied by Warren Hodder.

Note the Dove Grey colour of the frame. This wasn’t received all that well and by the end of ’71 BSA had gone back to a black fame. Photograph by Warren Hodder.

As each gleaming piece returns home and is stored or, in a few cases, refitted to the bike, I become just a little more attached.  It’s like getting a kitten.  The attraction is based first at a cute, superficial level but grows each day until the kitten becomes a cat and is loved very much as part of the family.  Similarly, the BSA is starting to edge its way into my heart.  It is going to be a special motorcycle and, as such, I throw only the best quality parts at it, such as forged steel conrods and chrome-plating that seemingly has no end.  I could get cheaper, knock-off items from India but I want to retain the original items, even if it is more costly (just in case I end up keeping the bike). 

Paying for the re-plating of a motorcycle that was lavished in chromium is arduous.  I send parts to the platers piecemeal, so as not to shock the wife with too large a debit in our bank account.  The guards cost $500 to replate. It sounds like a lot of money but the finished product is magnificent.  The new chrome guard tucked in the black frame looks splendid.  The next instalment of pieces for the chrome-plater are on their way. 

Also on their way to the platers are all the fasteners and ancillary pieces that I had previously re-finished in zinc.  This was a mistake.  As the project has been parked up for a couple of years the zinc has discoloured and cannot be put back on the bike in the present state.  I will now have them re-plated in cadmium (like I should have done in the first place).

This lot are going back to the electroplaters to be redone in cadmium. Which I should have done in the first instance.

On a final note, and going back to chrome, the Export model fuel tank was chromed and painted – not unlike the Ariel I have just finished and reported on in last month’s Classic Vibrations.  Organising a union of chrome and paint is difficult in WA.  Platers charge enormous amounts and they can take months to be finished.  For some years, whenever I’ve needed chrome and paint, I visit John Berkshire, the former owner of Vintage and Modern Motorcycles.  Vintage and Modern had a premises in the same block of units as K & D Metal Finishers and John has maintained his connection with Kerry from K & D.  The result being, I have a one-stop service that turns out first-class paint and chrome products.  To this end, I now have a beautiful orange and chrome tank waiting to go back onto the motorcycle.              

The second lot of chrome has been completed. The first being the fuel tank, the third lot was the guards and the fourth is about to be sent off to the electroplater.


The fourth, and hopefully final, lot of parts are off to be re-plated. In most cases these items could be obtained as reproduced pieces out of India but I feel better using the original items – even if it does cost a bit more.


Fresh chrome on lush, black paint.







Special thanks to Tim Hesford, Warren Hodder and Leonard Johnson for supplying photographs of their motorcycles.




Taking the Square Route, part II

Taking the Square Route, part II

When we left the Square Four project last month, she was about to be reduced to hundreds of pieces.  A lot of those pieces necessitated individual decisions on preservation, restoration or substitution.  Preservation is good.  I use the term here to simply indicate a clean and polish then set the part aside to be reunited with the motorcycle at some later point.  Stainless steel, alloy and brass components come immediately to mind.  Restoration is more complex.  It includes machining, painting and plating.  Substitution is a murky swamp with quicksand just below the surface.  Your hand can disappear into this mire with a wad of money, only to come out covered in regret.    

Before we go any further, please note, this is not a treatise on motorcycle restoration, it is an informal collection of loose threads that includes some of the highs and lows of such a project.  I’m happy to say the lows were kept to a minimum, due in a large part to the previous owner’s deft mechanical skills, for example, the engine was running sweet and strong so there was no point in pulling it apart this time round.  But it did look quite grubby so I was compelled to give it a clean-up.  I thought I would use baking soda and give it a blast.  That’s mistake number one.  Mistake number two was attempting to hose it off with water.

My first attempt at soda-blasting didn’t work out so well.

I’m not sure where I picked up the idea to clean the engine with a soda-blast but the end result was a white compound caked into the most inaccessible parts of the machine.  I’d made a hideous mess of it.  Fortunately, in the back of my mind I knew the bike would be coming apart and having it covered in the dirty white discharge of Frosty the Snowman only served to hasten the pull down.

The pull down on an old British motorcycle can be a messy affair (primarily as they are known to lose a bit of oil) but, remember, grease and oil preserves metal and whilst having your arms covered in black grime is inconvenient, the motorcycle can be remarkably well preserved below the crusty exterior.  An acid-bath and cadmium plating will have even the grimiest fasteners looking like new.  Better still, you can replace them with stainless steel.

Stainless is an extravagance reserved for the rich or foolish, and I don’t have a great deal of money.  There is a lot of hardware at the rear of an Ariel that can be placed by stainless steel.  I was introduced to the work of Mr Clay Jones, a UK-based gentleman who owns an Ariel, as did his father before him (sounds familiar).  Clay trades under the name of ‘Acme’ stainless steel and writes, “we strongly believe that is not our place to change history and therefore we machine out parts to the correct profile of genuine and original parts we have sourced from and customers over the years” (Acme Stainless).  Once you’ve seen Clay’s high-quality pieces fitted to an Ariel it’s hard to contemplate using anything use.  Cad-plated steel will not hold the same allure.  To this end, I spent and enjoyable evening some 18 months ago loading my virtual shopping cart with an assortment of Clay’s finest machined Ariel parts.  I’m happy to say the goods arrived safely in Australia and are now festooned around my motorcycle – it’s the best $1,000 I’ve ever spent on nuts and bolts.

Armour Exhaust and Acme Stainless Steel are two excellent British companies churning out high-quality spares for the motorcycle restoration market.


Some of the stainless steel fasteners I received from Acme in the UK. Beautiful stuff.

Speaking of securing UK hardware, there’s some fine specialist manufacturers at work over there.  Armour exhaust delivered a complete four into two exhaust system, manufactured and chromed in the UK, to Australia for less than the price of having the old one re-plated here.  The work is first-class and fits perfectly.  Unlike a lot of the products coming out of India.  Which brings me to the Indian product.  Reproduced motorcycle parts out of India is a massive industry.

Recall my previous discussion about reverting to a sprung saddle?  The accompaniment to that is a fuel tank from the era.  The era was paint and chrome with a large brass cap at the top and an oil-pressure gauge holding court in the middle of the tank.  The oil-pressure gauge is a particularly nice touch.  It begins to bump up the scale with a few prods of the kick-starter.  During times of recalcitrance, I can generally get 50 psi out of half a dozen swings on the kick-starter.  Ernie had fitted a Repco-style gauge to the handle bar but the modern instrument looked way out of place. However, having lived with the security of an oil-pressure gauge on a vintage motorcycle I really couldn’t live without one, so I sourced a period-correct, Smiths item from Gumtree.  Evidently it was out of an old Jag but it looks perfectly at home on the Ariel.  Now, back to the tank.

My Indian-made, chromed and painted fuel tank arrived at my door in rural Western Australia for under $500. It’s a very good piece of work.

I had obtained an earlier Ariel fuel tank but it was too far gone, the swamp swallowed $400.  I then took another gamble on an Indian tank.  This time it paid off and for less than $500 Mumbai’s finest manufacturing has curried favour with Turner’s creation (there goes another mouthful of the purist’s dark ale, all over their computer screen).  The chrome and paint are first class but the tank did leak when fuel was added.  An epoxy liner has plugged up the leaks and I now have a gleaming chrome tank, with black inserts and gold pinstripe.  The polished brass fuel cap sets things off nicely.

By the nineteen fifties, brass was so last year.  It was associated with old vehicles so manufacturers went to great lengths to cover it up, lest their product looked old.  These days, when I notice there is brass under rusty chrome, I do a happy dance because I know it’s going to add a golden touch to my machine. Ariel fuel caps are a complicated, three-piece, item that is made of brass and looks splendid when stripped of the chrome.

Stripped of chrome, brass shines like gold.

One of the most important things I do when rebuilding a motorcycle is to upgrade the electrical system.  The Ariel was no exception.  Elsewhere in my shed, Trispark electronic ignition and a modern BTH magneto reside in my Vincent and Triumph respectively.  They provide healthy sparks through iridium plugs and give me great peace of mind.  In the case of the Ariel, with its Lucas distributor borrowed from an Austin, I was forced to turn to car mechanics for increased reliability.  This included changing my old 6-volt system to 12-volts and sending my aging dynamo to England to have the guts changed out for a 12-volt, 300-watt Nippon Denso alternator.  There was no replacement unit.  One must retain one’s own unit because, in their wisdom, Ariel put the distributor right through the end of the generator.  Anyway, Bennet Longman of Iron Horse Restorations does a marvellous conversion and now I have enough electricity to power a small town.

My Iron Horse alternator conversion in situ. Note the provision for the distributor drive at the right side of the unit.

Bennet asserts a lower kick speed will fire up the engine and, once running, the alternator will balance the charge of the ignition system and modern 12v headlamp bulb at around 25mph. He also bench-tests each unit before it is returned. Back home, during an early test run, and having muddled up the wiring, my kill-switch wouldn’t shut the engine down so I disconnected the battery however the bike continued to idle, powered only by the alternator. I’m guessing it will balance the charge system from the get go.

Another item, which would have been novel in 1954 but not so much these days was the inclusion of an oil filter.  I used one that was originally made for a Citroen 2CV. It seems these items are being churned out (again, most likely in India) for use in the motorcycle industry.  Back in the eighties I spent some time travelling through Europe with a German in her 2 CV, our lubricant of choice was pilsner (we’ll leave that right there as this is family-friendly forum after all).

The oil-gauge taking centre-stage is a welcome addition to a vintage motorcycle. This one was sourced from an old Jaguar motor car.

Back to mineral oil, and the evolution of the internal combustion engine, Doctor John Ellis, decided crude oil would likely be better at reducing friction than lard, which was the lubricant for most of the 19th century.  Dr John was onto something and mineral oil became the saviour of moving parts everywhere. During the early part of the 20th century, dumping oil onto the earth was becoming uncool so engineers started to turn their efforts towards saving and cleaning the engine oil.  Oil tanks became a thing and gravity aided in keeping the circulatory system clean with the heavier particles sinking to the bottom.

The oil filter has been borrow from a Citroen 2CV. I’ve tucked it away in the tool box because, after all, who needs tools when you’re riding an Ariel?

Another way of removing contaminants from oil was to centrifugally trap it.  Of course, the main centrifuge in an engine is the crankshaft, so early engineers resolved to filter oil in the deepest, hardest to get at part of the engine. To assist mechanics keep these troublesome journals clean, a tube was inserted into the middle of the crankshaft, its sole purpose being to catch particles and grime.  These tubes are called sludge traps and they do an excellent job of trapping circulating debris.  Eventually, when they’ve caught enough, nothing will get through the journal, oil will cease to flow and the engine will explode, or best case scenario, it will grind to a hault.  So here’s a tip.  Should you buy an old bike, see if you can find out the state of the sludge trap.  My ’56 Thunderbird looked brand new when we got it.  Ten years later, I had cause to pull the engine down and a significant amount of sludge was removed from the crankshaft.  Disaster averted.

Gunk pulled from the sludge trap in my ’56 Triumph Thunderbird.


The Ariel remains an unknown but I do trust the previous owner’s judgement and hope there’s not too much gunk in the two cranks.  In the meantime, I am hoping my nearly fitted oil filter, a powerful new Morgo oil pump and some good quality detergent oil will help clear the plaque from the arteries of the Square 4 engine.  For me, a good oil pump is de-rigueur and the best for British motorcycles is the British made Morgo.  In 2019 I visited the factory to pick up one of their big-bore kits for a Triumph and I must say I was very impressed with their outfit.  The downside is demand often relieves Morgo of stock and you need to go on a wait list until they do another product run.  But it is worth it, a good circulatory system is crucial to the wellbeing of multi-cylinder engines, any engine in fact.

The original Ariel oil pump was removed and replaced with a modern Morgo rotary pump.


The Morgo rotary oil pump is a modern, reliable piece of equipment that has been used in many machines in my shed.

So, there you have it.  Everything old is new again. Ariel’s attempt at post-modernism didn’t really work for me (nor did BSA/Triumphs for that matter), so I’ve taken the machine back to its roots.  There is another longer story out there about the Ogle-designed Triumph Trident and BSA Rocket 3 of 1969.  They were fine machines but, in terms of sales, they flopped. The Americans were having none of it and BSA/Triumph were forced to revert back to the more traditional lines and classic fuel tank in what became colloquially known as ‘export’ models.  I’m sure, had Ariel remained liquid, they would have done the same thing.  In this case I’ve done it for them, successfully – if I may be so bold.

Now, I must go and sift through my slides for one of a Frau and her quirky little French car.

Aside from stainless steel, regular items look new again with a good coat of cadmium.


Paint, powder-coat, chrome and cadmium. Everything is either painted, polished or plated.


Back home and ready to go back onto the Ariel.

Rewards in stripping off a bit of paint are evident.

Green T, Perkolilli Special, Part II

Green T, Perkolilli Special, Part II

It’s over six months since we introduced Green T to the world.  Standing in front of the car this week I couldn’t help but marvel at how Graeme has made the body wide enough for two grown humans whilst, at the same time, expressing an aerodynamic flow that was only beginning to evolve with the race cars of the twenties (that’s the nineteen-twenties by the way, 100 hundred years ago).

Recall Green T’s body first saw service on a 1922 or 1923 Aston Martin.  The chassis on that car was numbered 1927, which is not the actual year of the car.  It’s believed to be one of only 11 ‘short-chassis, Aston Martin race cars, which naturally makes it an extremely valuable piece of world motor racing history. That said, the car is believed to have had some four bodies during its lifetime in Australia, the one used by Graeme being removed when it was brought to WA in the early eighties. The original body would have been aluminium and the car has since been returned to such.  The steel body, that was removed from the car continues to be molded by Graeme as he grafts it to the 1921 Ford Model T chassis.  Graeme has shaped the metal according to his own design, aided along the way with lengths of plastic conduit, cardboard and a healthy dash of creativity.


The bonnet is so long a straight eight could go in there.

Quietly sitting in a corner of Graeme’s shed, the engine sits waiting to be introduced to the chassis.  Graeme estimates the rebuilt Canadian four-banger, with its twin Stromberg carbs, extractors and high-performance head, will be pumping out twice the original allocation of horses.  It won’t exactly pin the ears back, but we’re quietly confident 130 km/h will not be out of the question. If that sounds slow, remember front brakes weren’t really a thing in the twenties, nor were seat belts or roll-bars so 70 or 80 miles per hour will be plenty-fast enough.  Furthermore, we’ll be racing on the slick red dust of Lake Perkolilli so top speed will likely be limited by my in-built sense of self preservation (and a wife punching me in the arm).

The ancient Ford Model T Four-banger has a new lease of life. Note the custom made exhaust system, distributor conversion, and twin Stromberg carbs.

With the body nearing completion, Graeme has begun preparation for the paint.  I must say, one could almost seal the raw metal and present the car as she currently stands.  The old sheet metal, free of paint and rust gleams like is was rolled just yesterday. In a nod to the famous 1921 Aston Martin GP car “Green Pea,” Green T will be finished in British Racing Green.  One can’t imagine any other colour that would be remotely suitable.  Not only does British Racing Green look stunning, it has linage in that it is the international motor racing colour of the United Kingdom and has been the livery of Lotus, Cooper, Jaguar and, of course, Aston Martin.  It is the Aston Martin hue we are going for.

1921 marked Aston Martin’s entry onto the World Grand Prix circuit with a 1500cc, supercharged, all alloy engine that was lithe and powerful – for the era.  Green T, on the other hand, has twice the cubes with a 3 litre, normally aspirated, cast iron engine.  In typical American fashion, it pits size and muscle against technical sophistication, and comes off second best.  I will, however, challenge any casual observers to pick the multi-million-dollar car from the one created in a shed in Western Australia.  Such is the finish of Green T, it looks every bit the racing car it pays homage to.

This early picture of the project shows just how far Green T has come since Graeme first grafted the body onto the Model T chassis.

I would love to fit a supercharger to Green T but, the truth is, such a device would likely snap the crankshaft, which is already the Achille’s heal of warmed up Model T engines.  I suggested to Graeme I should perhaps invest in an aftermarket, forged steel, Scat crankshaft.  I had a bit of cash hidden away for a rainy day but then it rained cats and dogs.  My newly purchased kitten fell ill and consumed the greater part of my rainy-day fund. Any upgraded crank will have to wait until we break this one!  Challenge accepted.

Introducing the Aston Martin body to the Ford Model T chassis. Note how incredibly narrow the driver’s compartment is.


This was Graeme’s first go at making the body wider.


Attempt number two, and there we have it, a car wide enough to fit two grown-ups. Subsequent to taking this photograph Graeme has gone to considerable lengths to lift the plenum and shape the mid-section, whilst retaining and even improving upon of the sleek lines of the Aston.