The Old Grey Mare takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'
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I snapped these pictures before taking OGM to the car wash today.
 
Believe it or not, these are before pictures. You should see the bike now. Today's ride was probably the last one before I leave for Tunisia.
It was a good ride in spite of strong wind, rain, snow and cold. I enjoyed every second of it! The bike is presently dirtier than it's ever been, but tomorrow I'll blast it off at the car wash.
 
What more could you ask for? (Keeping in mind, there are nine more Edsels on the premises.) Okay, how about an M72? Or an R71... or both?!
 
Decent weather—finally! Some of the roads I was on today were pure mud. It left a "patina" on the bike that I'm just gonna leave for now.
 
The old lady and I did a couple hundred miles on back roads yesterday. You can just see the map I had taped to the gas tank. As we were coming home, the skies opened up. We stopped under a big maple tree next to an old cemetery and waited out the rain.
 
I finally had enough of replacing rear spokes after every ride, particularly when my new stash of spare spokes were threaded differently from the nipples. I broke two spokes off in the nipples, and that did it. OGM now sports a pair of Jimbo's M5 wheels, powder coated black, spokes and all. I doubt we'll ever see another broken spoke on this bike.
 
First item on the schedule today—the paint shop.
The triple-tree top is ready to go on the grey bike and the headlamp bezel is ready to go on the tan one..
I finished up the jugs and heads today. Here's a look at those chrome head bolts I told you about. (They didn't snap off.) We'll see how well they hold up during this year's riding season. In years past I'd give the heads a good shine on the wire wheel, but this year I only sand blasted them.
Those new cream-colored plug wires weren't compatible with my bike. The distributor ends are for modern type terminals, and I didn't like the black plastic plug terminals anyway. I ended up chopping them and using some old-style bakelite terminals instead.
I made rubber sleeves (circled) for where the plug wires pass through the engine as this had been a source of oil seepage in the past. Some old automotive spark plug boots were a perfect fit. I don't expect these wires to stay looking nice for long by virtue of their light color. I really need to get my hands on a few sets of the older style yellow ones.
 
The cylinder-sides of the heads have been polished. They are now ready to go back on the jugs, but I'm just waiting for some black stove paint to dry. I touch up the jugs with it every year. It makes an amazing difference in the overall look of the bike.
Time to renew the plug wires, too. I'm all out of those excellent yellow ones and will be using these cream colored ones instead. I like the yellow ones a lot better.
The new visored headlamp bezel got primed today. Tomorrow—paint. This is actually for the tan bike, courtesy of Jim Bryant at Jimbo's Classic Sidecars in Beijing. The flat bezel that originally came with the bike was just too flimsy, like it was made of foil or something.
I also primed the triple-tree top piece. The one this replaces had a really irregular surface, something that always bugs me whenever I ride the bike. Not any more. The steering bearings are about to be changed so it will be an excellent opportunity to take care of this as well.
 
It's decoking time once again, and here are the heads after bead blasting. I will also polish the inside surfaces to make them less prone to carbon build-up.
I came across this hardware while shopping for some stainless head bolts and figured I'd give them a go. The heads will go back on with these fancy chrome plated bolts and brass flat washers underneath. I like brass because it's soft and conforms to irregular surfaces on the head which helps stop oil from seeping through the bolt holes.
This head is just laying on the workbench, but it gives you some idea how good this hardware will look. How long will it stay looking good? And will these bolts snap?
BEFORE
AFTER
I've got some chrome stuff to paint. The visor is for the tan bike and the triple-tree top is for the grey one. If you're going to paint over chrome, sand blasting is a must, and so is good primer—zinc-chromate if you can get it.
 
This unusual January heatwave took care of our snow, but now the temperature has gone back down. Since the roads were clear today, I hauled the bike out and rode it all afternoon. The last stop before going home was the car wash. And, of course, I took pictures.
 
One of the best detail items on a CJ is wiring that uses fabric insulation, especially the plug and coil wires (with Bakelite terminals.) This is technology straight out of the 1930s and they are still readily available for low prices.
But don't take them for granted. Once the stocks are exhausted there's no telling what they'll be replaced with. In the lower pictures is a batch of excellent wires I just got from CJ Sidecar.
As you can see, they still use the fabric covering, but the Bakelite has been replaced with plastic (and the fabric is cream colored, like the other wiring used on a vintage CJ.)
Even so, they still keep with the pre-war Beemer tradition. My advice to you is to stock up while it's still possible.
 
I leave for Texas tomorrow and had OGM out (in the rain) in order to get the mower to where my wife could get at it while I'm gone. So what the heck, here's another picture. Saying goodbye to my wife and our pets is easy, but with the bikes, well, we just need to be alone for a few moments.
 
Carriage bolts to the rescue... again. We learn from our mistakes and one that I made was having a sidecar cover custom made for the grey bike. It snapped on so I ground off the orignal tabs and studs, then drilled holes for snaps. But, I never used the cover, ever. I eventually removed the snaps and used tiny painted screws to fill the holes. Yesterday I went a step further and replaced some of those screws with carriage bolts.  
 
 
People sometimes ask what oil I recommend. Well, I'll use just about anything I've got on hand—10-30, 10-40, 20-50, SAE30, SAE40, etc. I don't use lightweight, detergent or synthetic oils. I strive to use Valvoline VR1 SAE50 racing oil. It may not be much better than other oils but it sure does provide a sense of security.
 
The rain is coming down in torrents today so OGM and LBB are tucked away in the garage—snug as bugs in a rug.
 
Odd place for an ignition switch, that I know, but why? That I don't know. It's from our old lawn tractor. Nothing goes to waste around here.
 
I just mounted three Russian 4x19 tires on stock CJ rims. When I took her for a test spin I discovered that one of the rims (that was previously true) is now elliptical. Funny, but I don't remember reefing on it that hard. Anyway, since I had two of Jim Bryant's M5 wheels (but not the brake parts I need) I decided to use one on the sidecar. It's perfect.
But wait, there's more. I recently wrecked the Model A Ford taillight I had on the sidecar so the old NAPA taillight was retrieved from the old parts bin. I'm sure glad I saved it.
There's the old girl and best of all, no more sidecar brake light to maintain.
A couple people have asked to see the battery cutoff switch. Here it is, mounted on the side of the sidecar where the battery resides. It's a 20A switch, only good for a 6V machine since they use only light gauge wiring. I cut the battery out once it's running.
This baby set me back $2.99 and took about 20 minutes to intsall. I hated drilling another hole in the sheet metal but have since come to grips with it.
The one on the black bike is mounted lower. Why? I dunno.
I swapped the sidecar taillight lens and bezel with one that matches the one on the rear fender of the bike. They're both from antique cars but I don't remember what make.
 
Yep, she's a solo once again.
She also has two brand new Russian 4" tires and a new glass taillight lens with an amber upper half.
Oh yeah, and the toolbox is back.
 
You know me by now. I'll use just about any excuse to take a bunch of pictures of my bikes and post them and today, it's the turn signal arrow on the grey bike. This is a non-functional installation which required one hole and a carriage bolt through the top of the triple-tree. I can hardly wait to see peoples' reactions and to hear their questions. Surely, this is the only one like it in town, maybe in the entire state.
 
The 2007 riding season hasn't involved any repairs or big projects yet, just riding and plenty of it. The only time I've had my hand on a wrench this year (aside from pre-season maintenance) was putting the sidecar back on the black bike and swapping it over to straight pipes. I've got a beautiful set of M5 wheels waiting to be installed but fabricating longer brake actuators is the detail that's holding me up—that and the heat. I'm also looking for some empty fishtails so I can make a second set of noisy mufflers (as below) for the black bike. (Can anyone in PRC supply these?)
 
Loud exhaust and fishtails are no longer mutually exclusive. I just love that John Deere tractor sound produced by a sidecar CJ with straight pipes hauling a passenger up a steep grade. It's music to my ears.
But to my eyes, straight pipes on a CJ look like crap. But how can you have that beautiful racket while preserving the vintage look? Well... I got two sets of fishtail halves that I had welded together without the guts. Then I got some CJ headers with straight pipe extensions. I hacksawed openings in the ends of the empty fishtails, shoved them over the straight pipes, did a little grinding and had a buddy weld the seams. They look pretty good (considering who made them) although there's a bit more finish work to be done.
 
Since I had the camera out in the garage today I couldn't resist taking a few pictures of the bikes. And as soon as I was done, I rode the black one to Hammondsport (via the scenic route) for some hot soup and sandwiches at one my favorite greasy spoons near the lake.
The grey bike received a new gearbox this summer. It's unusual for a riding season to go by without some sort of major malfunction with this bike, but since the big wreck a couple years ago most of the bike has been replaced with NOS PLA parts.
Since then the bike's reliabilty has been improved about a million percent. (The gearbox was one of the few parts that didn't get replaced after the wreck.) The black bike is once again in solo mode. It has the fourth gear upgrade and a solo final drive it scoots right along.
This season has been just like the rest—absolutely no problems to speak of, just minimal routine maintenance. This bike was built by Shao Yiqi. It has performed every bit as good as it looks, and it looks terrific.
When retirement finally arrives I can easily foresee myself spending much more time in the saddle and, of course, tinkering with this web site. Maybe an extended visit to China is in the cards as well.
 
Back in the saddle again. A new gearbox. This time around I'll be running stock ratios in the gearbox as well as the final drive. Hey—what's the rush? Many, many thanks to Freddie B., Shao Yiqi, Gerald Gardebled and Laotou.
 
She's down for the count with a trashed gearbox.
This time I need to replace the whole thing. Thankfully there's another CJ in the garage.
 
The old girl now has chrome headers and fishtails in place of the black straight pipes. I
haven't decided if I like this yet. The rear tire is a new Russian 400x19. I get two seasons out the driver tire when the sidecar's attached.
I bead blasted the cylinder heads to subdue the polished look. A satin finish looks better.
The jugs were repainted and the rusty square head bolts were replaced with these fancy schmancy hex-heads.
 
A lunatic, a CJ750, -6C...
Let's ride.
 
A lunatic (with cigar) and his wife in the rain.
 
Here are some of the goodies that came with my latest load of spare parts. In the first picture you'll see a 'donut' joint that connects the driveshaft to the gearbox. There's also a pair of carbs, some short-skirt pistons, a set of vintage PLA cylinder heads (with sleeved spark plug holes) and a Guiyang 10 amp generator.
This blue number tag is on the generator.
I now have a lifetime supply of spokes and nipples. The nipples are the ones we've seen here before—adorned with, that's right—PLA ornamentation.
 
The carbs are marked K37 with Chinese characters underneath that mean carburetor.
Also, the float bowl is marked with a trademark I have never seen before.
And last, the labels from the boxes these carbs were packed in. They use the traditional Chinese character for Long instead of the simplified character that we are familiar with.
 
This is something I've always lusted for although I won't actually use it. Instead it'll be a decoration in the shop. It's a genuine CJ750 windshield.
The plate says Made by the Hongdu Machinery Factory.
 
What is this thing? It looks like a skateboard.
As a matter of fact, the axles and wheels are from a skateboard, but the rest is scrap lumber.
Oh, now I see. Sure makes it easy to move the sidecar around.
Yes, the winter project is now dragging on into spring. When I pulled the bad jug off the starboard side I discovered that there's also a problem with valve guides. All this oil came in via the intake valve. I pulled the head off the other side expecting to find the same problem, but luck prevailed for a change.
 
All dressed up with nowhere to go. It's the first sunny, warm day since I've been home. The winter project is complete, but the bike can't do anything except pose for pictures while we wait for a jug coming from China on the slowest ship afloat. The jugs that came a couple months ago were poorly packed and one got wrecked. I took a chance and installed it anyway only to have that fact confirmed. It's cracked and leaks oil. So for now, I just roll the old girl out and look at her while waiting for another jug.

What's different since the last batch of pictures? The sidecar frame has been straightened and sprayed black. There's also a new matching Model A taillight on the sidecar fender. A PLA reflector will soon be joining it. Sure is a pretty bike. Too bad all she can do is sit there... for now, anyway.

 
 
 
Stone chips and scratches galore, but not for long. I salute whoever invented red oxide body putty.
Wet sanding. The other day while I was doing this the water kept freezing.
There, all done with the sanding. I should really shoot another coat of primer but I'm all out.
So I shot it with paint instead. The sidecar is officially done now.
 
One side buttoned up and ready to go.
On the other side I still need a jug, not to mention I also broke a piston ring...
So in the meantime I'll be doing some more refinishing on the sidecar bucket while waiting for parts. The bucket won't go on until the other jug is in place. The sidecar just gets in the way.
 
I had to roll the old girl and the winter jalopy outside in order to make a further mess of the sidecar bucket paint job. (I was successful.) But with paint you can keep doing it over until it's right. The jalopy is a 1959 Edsel station wagon. In the enlarged image you'll see the infamous "horsecollar" grille.
 
Getting the sidecar bucket to sit level AND having the fender brace line up with the fender meant manipulating some leaves. On the right side I took three short leaves from the bottom and moved them to the top.
Now everything lines up perfectly and the bucket is parallel with the frame.
 
Since my charging system has a history of frying batteries or not charging them at all, I've decided to take a precaution. Here's a battery that won't overcharge and can provide hundreds of miles worth of back-up juice if necessary. But it's not much good for riding solo.
 
Those new short skirt pistons are on the bike and we're just waiting for the jugs to arrive. Installing the rings and pistons took all of 15 minutes. I wish every task was as easy. Here you can see the difference between the new guys and the old.
 
Another excellent day here. The short-skirted pistons arrived today. These are the babies we've been heared so much about and now I'll get to see for myself how great they are. Yes.
 
Well, she's almost done—just waiting for jugs and pistons. I won't put the sidecar bucket on the frame until I mount the jugs.
It makes life easier to do it that way, believe me. Check out the matching Model A Ford taillamps. Both have amber brakelight lenses.
Also, you can see the black final drive pretty good in these images. I like it. I'm also pretty happy with the way the frame turned out.
It used to be Panzer Grey. Now all I need is another fender reflector for the sidecar and that'll be it for now. Anybody out there have one?
 
I'm now putting things back together although the sidecar frame paint needs to be redone, so I'm also in the process of stripping it.
Meanwhile I took a couple shots of the black final drive and left rear axle mount. They're not very good images but they do show the overall look of having these two components painted black. I'm really pleased.
When I can roll the bike out into the sunshine I'll get better pictures.
 
I made a couple more brackets for Model A taillamps.
 
What a mess, but I've managed to get a lot of the work done ahead of schedule.
The sidecar frame gets some welding work done on it on Wednesday. Meantime take a gander at this piston. When my bike got smashed up it laid on its side running for about 10-15 minutes.
The skyward cylinder was starved for oil. It did a number on the piston, but the bore survived intact.
Ironically, I broke off one the tabs yesterday so the jug is junk now regardless. One step forward....
 
The Model A tailliamp for the sidecar is done.
I whipped up a bracket using hardware that cost all of $2.30.
It was primed with zinc-chromate, otherwise the paint never would have stuck to the stainless.
And, as always, I used carriage bolts to mount it on the fender.
Those plain heads just look a little nicer than hex heads, but you need to prep the holes by squaring them off with a small hand file. The first brackets I made like this didn't have that and eventually vibrated in two. This baby will outlive the bike.
Otherwise the carriage bolt will just spin as you try to tighten the nut. The second piece of steel, by the way, is for strength.
 
Part of this winter's CJ project will be the installation of this Model A Ford taillamp on the sidecar fender. It had a two-color glass lens with the upper part being amber.
The stainless steel looks good but I'll paint it grey to match the bike. Zinc-chromate primer will make the paint stick to this slippery surface. I'll be showing you how to make a great little bracket as well—using less than $3 worth of parts available at your local hardware store.
 
Before we get to the tinkering part, take a look at these pictures the police took of my wreck back in June. See that broken windshield? I did that. Leather saved my ass.
It absolutely amazes me that the car owner's insurance company (State Farm) expects me to assume partial liability for the accident. We haven't received one dime in compensation.
Another Model A taillight lens—just for giggles. I like the amber part but expect the police won't. This lens fits the bezel perfectly.
I replaced the broken axle support today.
 
My left rear axle support broke a couple days ago. Here's the temporary fix until I get a replacement. No motocross until it's properly repaired.
Another temporary solution to another problem. The oil seal for the gearbox output shaft is leaking big time. So, for the time being, I whipped up this little housing for the rubber donut. This prevents it from slinging oil all over the sidecar and whoever might be riding in it.
And last for today, the fishtails have been replaced with straight pipes. They don't look as good but they sure sound great. Each one has a restrictor pressed inside in order to maintain back pressure.
 
Yep, the sidecar's back on. And what a huge difference.
The high-speed final drive is on the shelf for now. And again—what a difference.
Mounted on the sidecar fender (until the cops say otherwise) is my beloved black BJ license plate that Don Miller gave me a couple years ago.
God that's a pretty bike...
...well, I think so, anyway.
A short time later... Hey. Where's the toolbox? It's in the garage. Since I've got the sidecar I don't need it. And this bike looks better without it.
Vintage Sidecar Cruisers provided the initial inspiration for using a Model A Ford taillight. Tony Linz was the one who told me about the terrific Whitney lamp and Dan Mullins came up with the excellent idea of using a STOP lens which you see here. (It came today.)
My friend Dave Walczak made the red star emblem on the front of the sidecar. I have extras if anybody wants one.
 
This sticker was on the new headlamp body says Registered Trademark, Jiangxi Vehicle Light Factory.
The new handlebar levers have these stickers on them. They came from eBay.
 
Carriage bolts are the way to go. Here's a couple on the rear rack. They sure are an improvement over hex-head bolts, at least in my opinion.
These are the allen-head machine bolts I used in place of rivets on the rear fender bracket.
Same as what was used on the front fender...
...and the front fender brackets where they attach to the fork.
 
Two things to report on today, both of them very exciting. First, the horn bezel is now black. Oh yeah. And second, that rear fender bracket I've been talking about—well, here it is.
Now isn't that nice? Look at the way it bends out under the taillight. I had to drill out the rivets to remove the old one from the fender. This one was installed using allen-head machine bolts like the ones used to mount the front fender. Not quite as clean as carriage bolts but almost.
 
Hey, what's up with this California bobber? The front fender was off to see if it was causing the forks to bind... and by golly it was. The handling problem is history. As Dan Mullins predicted, it did indeed turn out to be something simple. By the way, Dave Finlay and Rich Hahn both nailed this one right on the head. Good detective work.
 
Here's the rear fender bracket salvaged from the wrecked parts pile. It's now on the forth primer coat between wet sandings. Maybe it'll go on the bike tomorrow if the weather's bad.
Notice anything different? The parcel carrier is off for painting. Looks pretty good without it I think.
Rack's back on only now it's grey. See anything else a little different?
The front brake housing is now black. Also tidied up the taillight wiring.
I love this bike. But I swear it must hate me sometimes.
 
Well boys, here she is without the running lights. Can't say we didn't try. In this batch of pictures you'll see that the headlamp, taillight, levers and front brake doodads have all been adjusted. The seat was also adjusted after the pictures.
I think hex hardware on sheet metal looks cheesy so I'm a big fan of carriage bolts. That's what I used to mount the headlamp. I painted the flat washers black for no particular reason. What I should have done was grind the numbers off the bolt head. And someday I will.
So what's the problem with the rear fender bracket? It looks like a fallen down sissy bar. Too bad because otherwise it's a great fender. That's an old PLA reflector.
Here's the old one for comparison. See what I mean? The part above the license plate bends out to a horizontal angle. The sides have nice bends too—not like an inverted V. Anyway, this bracket is being repaired for installation on the new fender the next time it rains. It's just a matter of drilling out a few rivets. Thankfully it's not welded.
More pictures.
This'll do it for today.
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