On or around April 2022 a discussion was held with head of fiscal retention, vehicle aquisition and custodian of the garage keys, AKA the current Mrs Chowney, over the possibility of getting another bike. Permission was granted to purchase a motorcycle and sidecar as this was a compromise between four wheels (boring) and two wheels (too dangerous).
As I’d already had a Russian MT10 ‘Dnepr’ 650 many years ago and because they were cheap and designed for a sidecar, I thought that this was the best approach rather than some mongrel bike with a chair bolted to it that didn’t match, the bike frame and suspension was not built for it and would in all probability, handle like a crippled pig in wet sand. So I set off down the trusted Ebay route to see if I could find a more modern one to run about on and do a bit of a rebuild if necessary. These now seem to be very few and far between, (i’m blaming natural selection and possibly rust), out there and even fewer with a left hand sidecar. (you can’t run a right hand sidecar in the UK if it was built after 1980).
Got in touch with a nice chap called Dave up in Lincoln and put in the winning bid on ‘Betsey’. This was a 2002 Ural Dalesman with leading link forks the older drum brakes and a very useful trailer.
I borrowed my mates big recovery trailer, hitched it up to the Freelander 2 and headed north. Have to say had a very nice and laid back drive all the way there and back. Lincolnshire is a very nice county to drive through.
Found the place easily enough and it turned out to be right next door (all bar a couple of miles), to RAF Scampton of Dambusters fame. After a refreshing brew and exchange of money, proceeded to load the bike up on the trailer.
I’m sure Dave won’t mind when I describe the bike as a bit ‘crispy’. It has seen a fair amount of service and was certianly going to be in need of a bit of TLC. Never mind I thought, these are nice and cheap to fix and there’s about a million of them out there so spares won’t be a problem.
So this is it arriving back home in Hampshire, still on the trailer. Probably the fastest it’s ever been……
Next thing was to decide what to do with it. The original plan was to run around for a while over the summer and use it as a bit of a hack to see what was actually wrong with it and then to strip it down and do a nut and bolt rebuild on it over the winter if it warranted it.
The bike ran OK-ish, mechanically the engine seemed fine although was in need of a good tune up and general sort out, the exhausts were completely mullered and consisted of holes held together by rust and goodwill. No chance whatsoever of getting them through an MOT so they would have to be replaced front to back. Also occurred to me that they were so bad that they would not have passed an MOT since Gods dog was a puppy so I am going to generously assume that the Lincolnshire MOT manual is a little thinner than down here…..
As you can see from the above photos, it’s all a bit crispy, leaky and a bit of a disgrace, still, plenty of potential as they say….
I did a good few miles on it and came to the conclusion that the gearbox was not really up to it, the changes were truly dreadful and very crunchy. This isn’t a Japanese type gearbox which is like silk and really light, more like a 1940s AEC Mammoth Major crash box with a dragging clutch and yes, I have driven one of these.
There were also a lot of oil leaks coming from it, I don’t mind so much a bike being a bit rough and ready but oil leaks are a no no. The worst one was coming from the left hand side push rod tube rubbers where they join the main crankcases. I thought that I would just deal with these and carry on riding it around. Not so…. to get the rubbers off neccessitated the removal of the cylinder head and barrel. Head came off OK but the barrel would not clear the studs as someone had put a sidecar in the way, so that had to come off….. lots of rusty bolts and knarly wiring. By the time I had got this off and inspected the pistons and rings as well as the cylinder head it was clear that the best thing to do was to keep going and start on a full stripdown and rebuild at that point.
In hindsight I should have removed the sidecar from the frame and not just unbolted the chassis as this made it very difficult to manouver around as it was very heavy on one side. Note the fact that the sidecar is all painted in one colour and is very wobbly on the panels.
Oils a bit gooey and the gaskets were blowing. Worse was to follow on the other side…..
As you can see, the exhaust headers are a push fit into the cylinder heads, when they start off in the factory they are are push fit, however after 20 years of crusty English salted roads, they turn into a rusty / corroded aluminum fit. So when you try to knock them out the above happens. The rust is better quality than the metal and behold, one split cylinder head. Spoke to my mate Paul and the general consensus was that the metal was so poor it was not worth doing even if he could get the metal clean enough to weld back again. In addition to this, the valves were not seating, the guides were very worn and there are no valve guide oil seals either so huge amounts of oil can pass by the valve stem and into the combustion chambers.
This is the valve guide as it comes from the factory, very thin and split down the middle which I suppose the Russians have carefully calculated using their advanced CAD systems that this will close up and be an oil tight seal when it’s inserted…….. These were also beyond help, the valves were really loose in the guides so with that and the damage to the exhaust collar two new heads were needed. For some reason I can’t find a picture of the new heads, probably because my hands were shaking so much when I saw the cost of them. £650 each! I was torn between fitting them or putting them in a display case in the lounge…..
When I had one of these back in the late 1980’s the parts were almost free….. a cylinder head was about £30! Anyway, they came complete with valves, splorings guides and a new two bolt fixing arrangement for the exhaust pipe and as the old system was for the bin, a couple of new flanges (and everything else) was going to have to be fabricated. Of which more later…
That exhaust looks like they recently salvaged it from the Titanic, unless exhaust gas is much thicker in Russia, I dont think much of it was even getting as far as the silencers……
Next task was to strip the entire bike down to the last nut and bolt. This required about 50% spanner usage and 50% grinder…. honestly, they used cheesehead screws with 14mm nuts on them, you had buckleys chance of getting any of those undone after 20 years of rust.
Most of the big cycle parts were stripped down and were destined for the shotblasters and powder coaters. The wheels, brightwork and the chrome bars on the mudguards and the sidecar were going to be rechromed. This would have come out to about £1500 – £2000 just for the chroming, again it’s been a while since I had anything done so I baled on that as the finished bike would not have had enough value in it to warrant the outlay. So the wheels went to the poweder coaters instead. These have now come back in a nice gloss black.
Frame with engine and drivetrain out and back wheel removed.
You can see the state of the original paint, this was I think a Vauxhall colour, just one more reason to get rid of it. The mudguard seams were very rusty and one mudgauard turned out to be beyond repair. It could have been salvaged but the time and cost of doing a full refabrication was in excess of buying a new one. The seats were OK and just needed a good clean up.
The wheels were just about OK but the chrome would not go again. Too expensive to get rechromed (£250 each) so powdercoat it was. I could have bought new wheels but decided not to as the powerdercoat was pretty minimal cost wise when it was all send in together.
The wiring loom…… what is it with home mechanics and wiring? This is about 58 potential breakdowns waiting to happen. I would have just bought a new loom but there are apparently 91 different types for the Urals and not one of them fits…… So I spent a long time remaking pretty much the whole thing.
The right hand picture above. This is typical of the general feckbodgery that i’m having to deal with on this. How in the name of Jehovah’s beard was this ever an acceptable wiring splice? Honestly, this is exactly how it was when I stripped the plastic coating back. I don’t think that this is a factory installed splice although it’s Russian export quality so who knows….. the other things to remember about Russian wiring is that the wiring diagrams in the manual fall into two general categories:
At least they have improved from the 1980s when I seem to remember they did all the wiring in the same colour……
This is supposed to be a fuse box……. what a complete rickets of a design and set of connections. No way this was going back on. These type of fuses were also in the all the Ladas I have owned and they were rubbish on them. Always making bad connections and doing weird things, especially on the charging systems. So I replaced the original unit for a sealed, four fuse, modern box with bladed fuses (as below). Bearing in mind this fits between the front forks and is therefore in the direct firing line of all the rain and muck flying up off the roads, it needs to be a bit more waterproof than the original. I was toying with relocating it under the side panel but to be honest this would have entailed runing most of the wires back and forth to the headlamp which is pretty nugatory and a colossal amount of new string. The side panel, which is the only place it could all go, does not really offer that much more weather protection. I also thought about locating all the wires, relays and connectors in a quick access waterproof unit in the sidecar but that is getting away from the general ethos of the build which was to keep it standard whilst improving the bits that needed to be improved. So I took the view that as it’s done 22 years out in the open, the updated fuse box should be OK. I don’t intend to be out in the rain much so it should be fine where it is. (Checks AA membership is in date…..).
This is the later type fitted. Did consider a 6 way box but I am unlikely to fit anything extra, although possibly a discreet phone charger would be sensible, and if I did, I would probably put a small 2 way box or inline fuse for it under the side panel or in the sidecar.
It sounded fine when I first started it up and ran it for a time. It leaked oil out of everything it could. I can put up with a mechanical issue or two but oil leaks are not tolerable. They make a mess on everything and its embarrassing. (‘Call yourself an engineer, you can’t even stop an oil leak’….) I removed the engine and gearbox and placed it into the special engine frame that came with the bike which, although very simple, and I could have knocked one up in 5 minutes, was a real godsend. Strangely enough it’s also a perfect fit for a BMW 100RS motor from 1980…. This allows the engine to sit on the bench all nice and straight and you can lift it up and down easily. Makes taking nuts and bolts off a breeze as its not trying to twist around whilst you do it.
To start with I pulled both the heads off and as previously stated, they were very worn. I considered getting them re-machined and having the guides remade from phosphor bronze with new seats and reground valves, plus modifying the heads to take valve guide oil seals. I decided against this as this would have meant keeping the original exhaust mounting system (unless I were to machine some other fixing system such as as exteral screw thread or machined flange. As the exhausts were going to be replacements for the newer type (so I thought) I decided that the heads were beyond economical repair and went for new ones. The old type of exhaust fitting was a simple ‘tap in’ fit which is not condusive to good engineering practice or a gas tight seal.This system is fine to keep manufacturing and assembly costs down but it’s very poor from an engineering viewpoint and even the Russians moved away from this in the next set of bike upgrades. I also (foolishly) believed that I could get a nice new set of standard exhausts off the shelf for the new two bolt flange to head system. The exhausts on the bike were competely junked from front to back, were not standard and had been made from cobbled together bits of tubing. It turns out that new exhausts seem impossible to get but you can get lots of old ones to fit the old side valve bikes which is a bit odd.
I removed the sump from the engine expecting that it would be full of old oily crud and metal bits that the factory used to just leave in there after machining things, again I’m harking back to my old bike so this may not be a problem in the more modern machinery. I cleaned up the sump and put it through the blast cabinet just because I could. They do come up quite nice. If I was going to do a complete strip down I would have done the whole engine but this was not necessary so I just scrubbed up the old block when it was all back together again.
This caused a few problems. I decided early on to remove the clutch, flywheel and change the rear crank seal just to add some reslience to stopping future oil leaks as this is a bigger pain when it’s on the bike and I didn’t want to take the engine out any more times than I needed to. The first problem is unbolting the clutch…. sounds simple, undo the six screws and remove the single dry plate unit. Yes, in theory it’s a ten minute job, well it would be if the Russians hadn’t used flat headed countersunk screws made out of high tensile Camenbert and then Loctited them in and just for good measure, proceeded to center punch the screws in twice as well.
It took me several hours to remove the screws as they were really bound in there. I don’t know if they had been out before and had been permanently Loctited in. I was going to change them for hex head countersunks with tapered star washers and Loctite 501 for good measure. The stunbling block to this was that the top clutch plate is VERY thin, literally about 2.5mm so this wasn’t going to work plus the angle of the countersunk was a weird size that no one seems to make. I could have made six screws on the lathe and mill from scratch but I would have a needed to purchase a 5mm allen key broach cutter which was not justified for a few screws. I replaced them with new slotted ones after cleaning it all up but found later (when I tried to adjust the clutch when it was all back together) that that the lever would not adjust to give any free play. After a lot of head scratching and calls to David at F2 Motorcycles (of whom more later), I discovered that the plate that is next to the flywheel was severly bowed and was taking all the available freeplay out of the plates. Initially I just wanted to replace the friction plate but ended up getting a whole new clutch. Would have done this originally but it comes with a faily hefty price tag so went down the ‘minimal’ route first. Once all back to together again it was all fine. Cable was also replaced as well as the thrust bearing.
These are, to say the least, a bit agricultural. they do not do fast changes and you really have to learn how to get the best out of them. The one that I had in originally was awful, even by Massey Ferguson standards. It felt like it was one muffed grearchange away from an explosion. There is a lot of free play in these and when I stripped it all down, although nice and clean, it did have a fair bit of slop in it. This is a video I set to David to see if this was actually worn or this is the normal amount of free play in these boxes. The previous one I had was in what was referred to as the ‘MT10 Dnepr’ the gearlever also operate the clutch and was actully a pretty nice set up, not fast changing but slow, positive and didn’t crunch.
The later models use a far more sphisticated Herzog gearbox but this I think is the thick end of £2k.
Following this I purchased a new set of internals and duly fitted them. All nice and very easy. Very simple gearbox so no issues apart from the knack of getting the kickstarter to locate in the notches at the correct point. Simple enough when you know how to do it but I didn’t, again another call to David for more Yoda like advice. As it turned out the new internals had nearly as much wobbliness as the ones I took out but the gear change was much improved….. briefly…….
I’m going to skip a bit here to the first test ride. I did two runs, first was around 10 miles then the next day I was planning a 20+ mile run around the lanes. I got about a mile from home and changed down into first to take a really sharp, off camber left hand corrner into Bere Hill Road. It went down into first (literally at a slow walking pace) and the back wheel locked up. Solid. Changed up into second to try to get going and the box sounded like a cement mixer full of half bricks, ball bearings and bits of gravel….not good. Went home very slowly in second gear……
The photos below show that two teeth had broken off. One off the layshaft and one off the adjacent cog. This is very strange as they was nothing in the gearbox to make theis jam up. I drained the oil through some very fine filter I have. 240,160 and 60 microns so you can see that there wes nothing in there that could cause the issue. The only bits in it were a small bit of liquid gasket and a couple of bits of dirt which mostly likely got into the oil when I stripped it down again.
Again another call to David as the gearbox was brand new. He sent me a complete ‘new’ box that he had got as part of the inventory when he bought up all the old Ural stock. I’ll explain the ‘new’ gearbox bit…. When the importers fitted the gearboxes back in the day, they did not realise that the gearbox needs to be adjusted by the two locking screws on the back which adjusts the throw of the gearchange quadrant. If these are incorrectly adjusted the gearbox will try to move the quadrant too far or alternatively jump out of gear if not moved far anough. So the new owner would take delivery of his new bike and get 100 yards down the road, realise that it did not have a full quota of gears and bring it straight back to the shop. The importer then put in another new gearbox and put the old one in a corner to be dealt with later. It was this stock of ‘old’ gearboxes that David had and sent me one of the gearboxes with a caveat that it was new but would need to be set up. This is an easy two minute job. So I did this.
One other minor issue I had on the new gearbox had was that I couldn’t get reverse to work. The lever was nice and smooth, bit too smooth as it turns out. The factory had fitted the external reverse lever but no internal parts. Luckily all I had to do was strip it and put the reverse internals from my old gearbox into it and adjust it up.
Note the spacer on the kickstart shaft where a cog should be and the lack of gears on the shaft to the left of it. The reverse quadrant is on the left and should have the engagement pin in the slot which would go up and down the shaft when the level was moved..
Didn’t do much to this apart from making a big steel plate to put the front seat back by about 5″. Otherwise being a bit tall i’m too close to the tank which is not comfortable plus your feet are at the wrong angle to change gear and the carbs are in the way. So all I did on the chassi was replace the head bearings as they were damaged. I did change all the bushes in the chassis, swing arm, sidecar and the front forks. some of these were a bit tricky and a tight fit until I made a tool up to press them in.
Again, not much to do with these. Full strip and clean, replaced the float valves as they were letting fuel past (the new ones took a couple of days to bed in before they stopped leaking past them and flooding the engine). Sprayed the tops and removed the inline fuel filters as these were pressure ones not gravity so were not letting the fuel through quickly enough. All the fuel lines were replaced and so were the clips.
As previously mentioned the original plan was to get the wheels rechromed but this is now a VERY expensive process. There was not enough value in the bike to warrent this so along with all the frame components and sidecar chassis, it all went to the powder coaters. As this neccesitated a complete strip down I also replaced all the wheel bearings and all the spokes and nipples. So just the rims and the hubs went off for coating.
When they came back the next step was to repoke them. Luckily I have a jig to put them of that rotates the wheel on a spindle so it makes them easy to spin round to check run out. Having not done re-spoking before and being a bit nervous on doing it on a bike where there is a LOT of lateral loads on the wheels I had my mate ‘Tiger Cub’ Bob come round to talk me through it. To be honest it is a very easy job if approached methodically. The bike is only going to be doing a maximum of 60 mph so absolute balance and run out is not as important as on a sports bike. The run out was quite bad when we’d done, mostly caused by the welding blob the Russians used in the factory. The spokes sit pretty much centrally so there’s not much chance of pulling the rim out of true so long as you follow the rules for respoking.
Stages of respoking, bare rim, one spoke every four holes then two, three and four to complete. Yes I know the third photo is missing, I forgot to take it. Anyway very pleased with the result. Last one is all the wheels complete (yes four of them….) and new tyres fitted. I may pinstripe these with the body colour and then lacquer over top, not sure yet, I’ll do one and see how it looks.
Brakes…. yes… apparently it has some….. Not brilliant but they can be made adequate. When I got the bike the brakes were almost non existant. I have to bear in mind that the last bike I had was a Suzuki TL1000S with some really good six pot Brembos on it and my daily drive is a Porsche Cayenne that will put you through the windscreen if you stamp the pedal too hard.
The lack of any real stopping power on this bike meant that if you were intending to stop around Cardiff, you really needed to have your braking strategy well in hand somewhere near Swindon…… I think the only way this would have slowed down adequately when I first got it was if you ran it into the car in front to scrub off a bit of speed.
Also bear in mind that the previous owner went camping on this, two up and with a laden trailer…… I genuinely do not know how he slowed it down.
So, first issue was that as I had respoked it, the brake drums were probably now out of true circle and slightly oval. Ideally I could have got these skimmed to return them to true which I may do when everything had bedded in and all the spokes have settled and are tight. My Myford lathe is not big enough to put a full size wheel in. Secondly I should have noted which sets of brake shoes went where as they had to bed in again when it was all reassembled. I don’t think thais would have made a lot of difference to be honest due to the hubs.
I set the shoes up as per Davids tutorial so that they connect over the whole shoe at once to facilitate maximum braking, secondly the levers on the drums were reset and thirdly the brake cable was replaced. This along with the brake lever being readjusted and greased gave a reasonble brake which is improving as it gets used. These only have a twin leading shoe on the front and a single leading shoe arrangement on the back with nothing on the sidecar. The reason for this is that the sidecar brake, with all the linkages and cable stretch would be unlikely to do much in normal use. They changed to a Brembo hydraulic set up a couple of years after this which is probably ten times as good as its fully hydraulic. Doesn’t really matter so long as you ride to the machine’s limits and don’t have any panic stops then it’s fine.
The Build Up
So, with everything back to compenent level, time to start the fun bit of putting all the new shiny and clean bits back together.
First thing was to put the bike up on the bike jack. Wizard bit of kit, you bolt the bike to the correct custom lifting bracket and then raise it up via the screwthread arragement on the top. This is very useful as you can lift both wheels off the ground at once and it makes it really good for installing forks wheels and other bits that are nomally on the ground. slight downside is that access to the other side of the bike is a bit limited unless you turn it round. Also the lift just disappears under the bench when not is use.
Above: Top and bottom yokes in place with new bearings.
The first and second picture below is the swing arm in place. Third & forth is with the newly refurbished and painted shocks in as well. Fifth & sixth is the final drive and propshaft. Seventh is with the wheel back in. Eighth and ninth is the front leading link forks with the nerwly painted (but not polished) shrouds in place.
All of this looks like about 30 minutes work but it’s not…… as with all builds that have been apart down to the last nut and bolt for a year everything went on and off about a dozen times as spacers, bolts and the order of assembly was hunded down replaced with new ones and rethought out as it went. All the bolts on the bike were replaced with stainless steel where possible.
The front forks all went in OK but when I got the to the front mudguard I had forgotten that it needs to be bolted up to the lower yoke before you can assembly the forks around it one half at a time. This took a while but we got there in the end. One weird thing as that the rubber bushes that go on to of the fork shrouds did not ‘snug up’ to the bottom of the top yoke…… bit odd….as everything seemed tight I just put this down to more Russian weirdness and build fit quality. Probably find i’ve left a spacer out somewhere but nothing was left over and the book was also saying that there was nothing missing. I will search out a picture of one and see if this is how they all are.
Next build part was to install the engine and gearbox. This went in and out a couple of times as well….. The clutch was a nuisance and there was clearly somthing amiss with it so this necessitated the whole unit either coming back out as engine and gearbox or just the gearbox.
Next thing to go together in place was the wiring loom. This was a pain in the rear. First fix all went OK and everything seemed to be in the right place so I put a few cable ties in position and put all the connections for switchgear, fusebox, indicator relays and multiconnectors in place so I could see if everything worked before final fix. As usual its all very tight and very messy in a very small space. Why bike manufacturers do this drives me nuts. Every blimmin’ wire crammed into the areas behind the headlight shell and then the headlight wedged in as well. Why not have the wires eminating from a central place with the components on a mounted board and just running the bear minimum of connectors up to the components that need power to them? If I wasn’t trying to keep everything ‘as built’ I would have been tempted to remake all this into a better location. Anyway everyhing went on OK aaprt from a couple of bad earths and one multiblock connector in the main connector behind the headlight. This caused a lot of confusion as I had a one terminal with two wires in and no wires out, plus the indicators were doing strange things. I had placed a bit too much faith in the wiring being as it left the factory and it matching the wiring diagram(s). I had six diagrams, all subtly different and each one claiming to be the definitive article. All were liars to a greater or lesser degree…. After more than one evening trying to figure out what I thought was just one conenction but which turned out to be three that were all interdependent, I called my mate Paul round who used to work as a senior electronics engineer at Honeywell Avionics, it took him a couple of hours to figure it out. Note to self (again) never assume things are as they should be.
The big rubber spacer that the speedo sits in is all cracked, due to time and being over tightened. New ones are expensive. I may make one on the lathe out of brass, aluminium and stainless, easy to do but will take a fair amoung of metal due to the hole size required.
Had to spray up a few brackets etc that I forgot to powder coat so I did them in Tuffcote satin. The narrow strips from the inside of the rubber mudflaps. I didn’t waste time on these, I just made them again from 1.5mm mild. The item in the left hand photo is one of the seat bases.
At this point the two wheels were on the bike with all the suspension, engine, gearbox, drivetrain, loom, battery and handlebars. The next thing was the painted items that Marcus Sadd of 1 Eleven Customs, Tadley did for me. This guy is amazing, it took him about 3-4 months to do everything from scratch, all the paint and metal was corroded, had holes in it and the sidecar did not have a single panel that was not rusty or wobbly or both. It took the poor chap months (beteeen other work) to get to a finish he was prepared to paint and put his name to. All this work is not cheap, nor should it be. The level of finish he acheived was outstanding. He’s done a few bits for me in the past but mostly small repairs and partial paint jobs on fuel tanks. This was a full bare metal respray on petrol tank, side panel, three mudguards (one of which was beyond saving and I had to get a new one) plus the fork shrouds etc. and the sidecar. All of the underside and inside of the sidecar plus the underneath of all the mudguards was done in black wrinkled undersheild paint. This should keep the stonechips and knock damage down to a minimum, plus it looks great. The colour was a random colour (Greenline (CP99) M2-0949.1 Copperhead) which we picked out on the spur of the moment from Paintshop Products of Tadley. I have to say, it is absolutely stunning but I think Marcus could get a mirror finish on Creosote*…… Anyway these are the parts before asembly.
*other caustic and stinky fence coverings are available…..
I don’t know why I don’t have one of the sidecar on its own…. They look a different shade as they were taken in different locations, Marcus’ workshop, my workshop and my hallway, some are under LED light and some not, hence the difference in colours. In fact none of these look like the correct colour.
I can’t remember which end I started the buildup from so this may not be in the right order. Most of the things that went on came off again several times as spacers nuts and bolts, wiring routes and various others things came to mind and better ideas came and went.
Back end reassembled. I was paranoid about scratching the paintwork so a lot of the bolts that went through had rubber washers so that they did not scratch the paint. This gave rise to some ‘interesting’ earthing issues later on and a couple of dedicated earthing wires needed to to be run to ensure that when more than one light or indicator was on that the rest of them still worked correctly when greater demand was put on the earth return..
Rear mudgauard and battery in place. The battery is not the standard size one and is technically a little too deep. It is very closed to the mudguard and if moved further forward tends to foul the clutch release arm. It’s on a slight ‘skew’ at present and I will probably machine off a small amount of the clutch arm to allow it to clear when the clutch is let in. If it fouls it may , over time, puncture the battery or make the clutch slip if the arm is stopped from going all the way back…. or both. It’s OK at present but having the battery on an angle is not ideal even if it is only a few mm. Footbrake is also very close to the reverse lever nut. These are on serrated fixings which means they can be located at almost any point up or down. The trouble is that if you go down any further then it pushes the brake pedal down too low and you can’t get your foot on it. This may or may not be the final position I went with. The rear brake has about a dozen pivots on the linkage so it needs to be as far up as you can get it so that when all the freeplay is taken up you can still push it down comfortably to activate the brake.
What I may well do is to modify the pedal at some point so that the toe plate goes out further to the right (carbs are in the way again and your shin hits it before you get to the end of the brake pedal travel). and to make a new pedal with more ‘curve’ on it so that it can come up higher without fouling the footrest. I am finding that I have to swing my foot outwards to activate the rear brake with my toe at present. I may also look at modifying the linkage.
This shows the headlight and front mudguard in place and the leading link suspension with new bushes and refurbished shock absorbers in place. I originally put the front forks together and in place before realising that the mudgaurd had to go on first. Slightly odd arrangement but I suppose that it all made sense on the drawing board. Again as with all these things, if you’ve done more that one to two of them then all this becomes second nature. The chrome rail around the front along with the rest of the chrome trim that I was keeping awas just cleaned up with some 000 wire wool and Autosol. The price of getiting parts rechromed these days is astronomical. Chrome is a very dirty and polluting business plus the energy usage is very high, consequently it makes it expensive. There is not enough money in this project to warrant it.
This is the bike with the front and back mudguards in place, the seats fitted (with new plate to allow the front seat to be positioned backwards a bit). The front mudguard, headlight and headlight shrouds. At this point all the wiring was done however when it was completed there were a couple of things not working such as the rear tail light and the indicators. This was caused by an incorrectly connected wire in a multiblock that was confusing things.
The steel plate hanging down under the engine is the mounting plate that it bolted on for the bike stand.
Next thing to get some attention was the tank. This was done the same colour as the rest and is going to remain plain without any makers name on it. No particular reason, just thought it looked better and cleaner. First thing was that the rubber knee pads and surround had to go on. The surround just sits on the raised seam that runs round the tank and goes through two square welded on brackets at the front of the tank nearest the headstock. The rubber is then kept in place with two bend serrated bits of metal that wedge it in place……. honestly it’s barbaric…. The perceived wisdom is that to get the rubber back on the tank, you would warm it up and stretch it round and then secure it in the appropriate holes.
You have no chance of doing this, none, neit, nada, zip…..there is no amount of heat I could get into the rubber to allow me to put one side in and then stretch it round the tank. Wasn’t even close. Next plan was to put both ends in and stretch it so that you were pulling it back to the back of the tank and then drop it into the groove. I tried this on my own and failed. May have been a bit cautious with the new paint I suppose.
It took two of us to eventually do this and we’re a couple of reasonably large chaps and fortified with three Shredded Wheat. Tight did not come close to decribing this operation. May have been easier with a new tank rubber……
This is it with the rubber in place and the knee pads on. Lovely.
The rubber is all buffed up with Autoglym rubber polish stuff. Save as the inlet tubes, seats and mudflaps.
Fuel tap and conenctors were polished up and bolted on, for some reason I was expecting them to leak fuel. Surprisingly they didn’t, well not from there anyway.
The existing fuel cap was a complete abomination made out of black plastic. So I made a new one on the lathe. It’s not a complete new cap as it sits over the screwthread of the oold one. I did this purely because the old screw and seal mechanically worked prefectly fine, its’s also completely hidden by the new cap and making large ‘Acme’ threads on a lathe is a royal pain.
I did put a small hole in the top later as I (erroneously) thought that that the system was vacuuming and restricting the fuel flow but it turned out not to be the case. This 1mm hole is now going to be removed by making a brass plug and pressing that into an ‘pressfit’ recess in the cap to make a nice feature and to remove the hole.
Next task, make up an exhaust system!
Having pretty much given up on buying one off the shelf, I went down the bespoke route. It’s quite an easy system to design and do from scratch as it only has one 180o bend on it. I decided to not incorporate a balance pipe on this as I didn’t think that 36ish horsepower would notice any difference. I appreciate that they serve multiple purposes such a quietening the engine down, evening out the exhaust pulses and enabling a smoother tickover. That being said, I can always add it later.
There are a couple of ways to make an exhaust bend, first you can take mild or stainless pipe and sand bend it to shape using a forming tool. Second you can weld taper sections to make the curve, third you can buy mandrel bends (i.e. bend made round a mandrel) to make the desired radii. This was the route I chose because frankly the other two are more difficutly require more tooling and more welding. Plus the tapered welding sections look horrible unless you spend forever on the grinder and polisher.
I bought in 38mm stainless steel, two flange blanks, two 2m straight sections, two 45o curves and two 135o curves.
The photo above is the bare stainless sections in the box.
This is it with the 45o and 135o sections already welded. welds have been gound down and the system polished. The welds are near invisible at this point. These were done on a Clarke 100 amp welder with 6mm stainless steel wire and Argoshield gas mix.Very happy with the result.
The clamps were scratchbuilt in 2mm stainless and polished.
Second step was to put the straight sections plus the the silencers, parallel and in line with with the bottom frame rail and hold in place with a couple of clamps. Then to bolt the flanges onto the head studs and offer up the welded downpipe sections, align and mark then take to the bench and weld the header and straight pipes together. Next, put them back on the bike, check for parrallel and straightness, then tack onto the flanges. The final welding was done inside the flange to give a better rounded edge for the gas and to hide the welding. The external tack weld was gound off and polished.
The pictures above show the exhaust in various stages of production. In hindsight the flanges were a little large and could have been machined down a bit. The welds have slightly discoloured when the metal had some heat cycles put through it after the bike was run due to the different make up of the welding wire versus the stainless pipe but as the whole system has gone to a nice coppery colour, being single skinned, this is not noticable and looks good. Very pleased with the result as it looks better than a standard system, all done in stainless and for very little money relative to a new system and silencers.
The actual silencers used at present are from a 1950’s T110 Triumph and are secondhand but free. I have put some additional steel baffling in them as they tend to ‘bark’ a bit when running out on the road, especially from the sidecar side, as I think the boot area is acting as a sound box a bit. I may change these later on. The noise may also be as a result of no balance pipe but it’s impossible to calculate this before making the system up. Any balance pipe wound have to go in front of the sump but behind the oil filter bearing in mind that the exhaust system would then have to come off in one piece. A project for another day perhaps.
Next item on the agenda was to assemble the sidecar mudguard. Had to replace all the wires on it as it was no longer fit for service. Second job was to clean up all the electrical contacts on the light housings as these were a bit corroded, all OK but much easier to check all the resistance values when its on the bench and isolated.
Had to run a couple of seperate earth wires back to a good ground on the chassis as I didn’t want to scrape any paint off the finished surfaces just to get a local earth. I had also put rubber washers on the mounting bolts to protect the paint and to reduce vibration to the lamps.
Sidecar frame was now fitted to the bike. This was literally a couple of bolts and remembering which adjustable rods went where. This was not a massive issue as I was planning to adjust the sidecar later on when everything was done.
You can see from the picture that the swingarm was aready on the chassis at this point. Shock absorber went on next. Had to get some help putting the bump stop in place as the spring needs to be compressed quite a bit to get the stop in location.
Adjuster rods in place and nominally set.
Mudguard on. Note: I had taken off the front lamp holder off the mudguard at this point again, not sure why…… I think I may have put the lamp units on the wrong way round or I was trying to find the earthing issue.
You can see the matt black stone guard protection on the inside of the mudguard. One of the best decisions I think I made on this project. I think the suggestion was actually from Marcus but as he’s not here to claim the credit I shall do the noble thing and pretend that I thought of it.
The two sidecar rubber mountings can be seen on the floor just to the right of the mudguard.
This is the sidecar chassis, mudguard, and wheel assemblies all in place. The rubber mudflap and new painted steel backing plate is also in place. The wiing is also nominally in the right place although the final routing along the chassis frame and up to the connector just below the tank by the front sidecar adjuster rod will be left until the sidecar is in place and all bolted up so that I can hide it behind the rail and make sure that nothing is going to snag it.
Next job was to install the two rubber shock absorbers on the frame and then to lift the sidecar unit over the top and lower it down onto the locating lugs. I thought this would be a difficult task, assuming that there would be some manuipulating of the mountings to ensure that it went down nice and accurately without scratching any paint. As it turned out it was probably one of the easiest jobs of the whole build, one person at either end of the sidecar and lift it up and over, straight down on to the bar at the front and the studs at the back. 20 minutes from starting to having it bolted in place. Sorted.
These are the boot lid straps in place, could have had them in black or chrome but the orange was the way to go. All new stainless bolts, nuts washers everywhere.
One issue I did come across was the two straps that go on the actual lid are not identical. They fitted perfectly but the boot would not shut properly by a few mm. Had to reverse them to ensure a nice square fit on the weather seal I fitted to stop rain ingress and to protect the paint where the lid closed down. Not sure if they are actually different or are just ‘fettled’ at the factory to make them fit.
For those of you that don’t understand ‘fettling’ this is the old Trabant production line ‘final adjustment’ section…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIAYxWCXF8A
Ran the wiring, cable tied it all in place.
If you look inside the sidecar you can see that they made these with an access cutout on both sides but on the side that was not to be used they put a second skin over the top.
Sidecar with screen and mat fitted. Note the stoneguard finish that completely covers the inside. I have sisnce fitted some temporarly pipe lagging around the metal windscreen bars inside the sidecar so that the passenger does not bang their legs on them.
The top screen plastic finish is not on yet, I think I binned the clips that hold it on….. I fitted this later with a couple of modified cable ties.
Down on the floor to the left you can see the boot rack that came with the bike. I am not proposing to fit this even though I had it powder coated. I think it spoils the line of the bike and I won’t need to use the extra space it provides. I did put the hinge clips on the back of the boot though just in case.
Going forward I may fit a discrete USB and 12v charging point in the sidecar.
The sidecar tonneau needs a few repairs to it. as its gota couple of splits and some bodgery around the mounting points. I don’t intend to have it on the chair very much
Screen, seat, front tonneau cover, interior rubber mat, boot lid and spare wheel fitted.
One more job that had to be attended to was the towbar. The electric socket was on the left of the bar, this fouled the underneath of the sidecar over the bumps.
I took the bar off and ground off the soocket bracket, reversed it so that the curve matched the bar then rewelded it back on the other side. I suspect that this was originally designed for the sidecar being on the other side which would have meant that it would be away from the underneath of the sidecar. Lazy engineering, they could easily have made two sets of towbars to fit different markets. I don’t know if this is a genuine part or an aftermarket as it’s not marked. I’ll be generous and assume a previous owner just bought one for LHD market.
This is the modified tow bar hanging up ready for a coat of primer.
The weld cracks were filled in first obviously and ground back before painting.
One final task was to align the sidecar. I was toying with buying two 3m sections of 3″ x 2″ alloy box but I remembered that I have two straight box bars made out of 5mm mild steel that I use to secure the garage doors. I used a laser line on them and they were as straight as they needed to be.
Clamped to the wheel rims and then distances measured at the rear and front axles. Can’t remember the exact measurement but is was as per the manual.
Same with the lean out, used my digital mill gauge and it was between 1-4o lean out so that was all good.
Finish, MOT and Roadtest.
So I think that was about it as far as the build went. There’s probably a hundred and one little jobs that i’ve forgotten about or were just too dull to bother writing down.
So with the bike all done I went for a couple of shakedown runs. Mostly all good with the exception of the gearbox issue previously mentioned.
Had and oil leak from the sump that seemed very difficult to pinpoint but finally sorted it. Had one of the new tyres split on me which was immediately replaced by David at F2 motorcycles.
Also had petrol leaks from the carbs which seemed to be the new float needles not sealing and causing flooding. In hindsight I should have soaked them overnight first.
It’s quite difficult to find a garage that can do MOTs on sidecars as they can’t use a rolling road and have to use and old ‘wind up’ device on the wall to try to pull the bike towards it with the brakes on. Luckily the nearest one to me does it.
They failed it the first time round as the lights were messing about and were not coming on when they should, was just a bad earth but I had to run a seperate wire back to the chassis to make sure it had a good grounding.
So here we are, all done and on the road. Couple of jobs left to do, I don’t think the carbs are correctly set up, I get a misfire on one cylinder under too much throttle opening / load. So I will do this before it goes out again. Gearlever is not to my liking, it needs a longer ‘throw’ on the heel part and the lever is too short and too tucked in to get at it with boots on. The trouble with this is that the kickstarter stops it being extended any further back. I could ignore this as it has electric start but that’s not good engineering. I could also make a swivelling lever that pivoted out of the way if the kickstarter needed to be used.
Another solution is to make up a hand gearchange on the righthand side of the fuel tank. There is a company in the US that makes one that I could use as a base design. I like the idea of this but I need to fathom out how to do it so that the lever does not move the old gearlever at the same time. This is not too bad but the other way round, i.e. the foot lever moves the rest of the linkage and the hand change, would add weight and resistence to the already heavy clunky gear change. I could just lose the foot change but I don’t want to have one or the other, I want both. More thinking required.
Theres a list of poeple that I need to thank for helping me with the build, some did it because that’s what they do, some did it bacause there was nothing on the telly and some did it baceuse I paid them.
Paul Ralph, for the exhaust welding and a lot of general assistance.
‘Tiger Cub’ Bob (really need to find out his second name)…for help and guidance on respoking the wheels
Marcus Sadd at one 1 Eleven Customs in Tadley for the incredible paint and general advice on finishing. 07986 601063
Ashley at AB Powdercoating in Hannington 07554 499088 for the powdercoating
David Angel at F2 Motorcycles (http://www.f2motorcycles.ltd.uk) for his time, expertise and guidance throughout plus obtaining all the parts needed to complete the bike.
So, this is the finished procuduct…. slide to see the difference from the original….