Saturday, December 29, 2012

Last week, I somewhat impulsively bought another bike and now I'm going through the various 'Dead Bike Owner' stages.  First, there's the excitement/anticipation stage.
I saw the bike, a 1959 Horex Resident 350, on ebay.  There was about one day to go and it was up by my brother in Cromwell, Ct.  Probably what most attracted me was that it was so obscure.  It was far from original, but didn't look too bad.  I slept on it.  But, the next morning I couldn't shake it.  I called the one person in the world least likely to talk me out of it and asked him to talk me out of it.  He didn't.  In fact, he suggested I call our friend Henry Syphers, who also lives in the area, and ask him to check it out.  I caught Henry on the road and he was able to run over to the seller and found him home.  They  schmoozed for about half and hour while Henry was checking out the bike.  The seller clears out estates and this bike was left behind by someone who died.  It had sat for years.  Henry called me back and said it didn't look bad and was a reasonable candidate for resuscitation and he had an idea of what the seller would let it go for.  He suggested that he go back with cash and see if he could get the seller to end the auction early and take the bike away.  I told Henry to go ahead.  A couple of hours later he called back saying it worked and he had the bike in the back of his van.  I  was elated that I've acquired the ultra rare holy grail of motorcycles.  I told Henry that I'll pick it up in a week or so when I go up to my brother's for Xmas.
Over the next week, some doubts crept in as I told friends about it.  Reactions ranged from 'what the hell were you thinking?' to 'that's the coolest thing in the known universe', but more of the former than the latter.  I did some research on the internet and found that Horex was established in the early '20s, struggled through the depression and hyper-inflation but survived with several models, made weapons during the war, and were among the first to resume making motorcycles after the war and were quite successful in the early/mid '50s, the largest manufacturer of 350s in Germany.  But, by the late '50s, people were affluent enough to VW's and NSU Prinzes and the German motorcycle industry imploded.  In 1960, Damlier bought Horex and shut down bike production.  The Resident came out in 1955 to replace the Regina.  The plunger rear suspension and telescopic forks of the Regina were replaced by a swingarm rear and Earles front suspension.  The motor was changed a good deal, too, becoming fully unit construction and oversquare bore.
Friday, I picked up the bike from Henry and start to feel 'buyer's remorse' when I saw all the details I couldn't see in the photos and hadn't thought to ask Henry.

the '59 Horex Resident 350 as I received it.
 I had known the fenders had been bobbed, that the mufflers were non standard (and, in fact, the left was different than the right), the seat was a Bates aftermarket, the handlebars were hideous 'buckhorn' bars and the tires were too big.

rear tire is a 4.00 X 18 Goodyear Grasshopper
 I didn't know the throttle cable was broken, probably because the slide was seized in the carb and that it didn't have any air filter, and that the sparkplug was finger tight in the head, and the right header pipe had a section of EMT conduit in it, and that the old registration card that came with it, presumably the last time it was registered, was from 23 March, 1977.

a section of EMT conduit in the exhaust pipe
The enormity of the task and financial out lay started to sink in as I took in all the warts.
But, Sat. I dove into it.  I took off the seat and tank to get at the carb and cables.

note that the left muffler is different than the right and neither are original
The Bates seat is in very good shape and looks comfortable, though a bit short for two-up riding.  It could be pretty valuable; I saw one on Ebay with an asking price of over $500.  The tank had liquid gas in it.  Stinky and dark, but liquid.  Could that be from 1978?  The dipstick showed oil at the correct level that looked quite clear.  I was able to free up the slide and get all the jets out of the carb.  After cleaning them in Varsol, I soaked them in Alumiprep.   One fuel tap was totally plugged as was the fuel line from the fuel taps to the float bowl.  I trimmed and re-soldered the throttle cable and made a ferrule for it.  Maybe  it isn't so bad after all.
Sun., I washed out the fuel tank and, while waiting for it to dry, I checked the points.  They seemed tight, but after I filed them and knocked the crud off them, the gap was right on at 0.014".  I had to install lugs and a grommet on the wires in the battery box.  After I hooked up a 6 volt battery, I had spark when I kicked it through and the headlight worked.  So, I installed the fuel tank, fuel taps and lines and put some gas in it.  But, when I held the tickler down nothing came out.  Seems that the fuel line that was plugged and I had cleared out, was plugged again.  And, one of the fuel taps was leaking; that is passing fuel when in the off position AND leaking out of the face of it.  I blew out the fuel line again and got it to tickle.  First kick, I got a bang but, out the carb, not the exhaust.   I kicked it many times and it fired a lot but wouldn't start and backfired consistently.  Was the ignition timing wrong or the centrifugal advance stuck fully advanced?  Was the pilot screw set too lean?  Is there a burnt intake valve.  I ran out of light and these questions will have to wait until tomorrow.
Mon., Doug came up with the idea of hauling the Horex up the hill on the road they live on with his tractor so I could give it a good long bump start.  Nothing, not a pop.  But, I hadn't turned the fuel taps on or tickled it, so we tried it again.  Nothing until it was just about stopped when it backfired through the carb.  The timing has got to be wrong.  I set up a degree wheel and the points were opening at the correct time.  So, I checked the valve timing and it was correct, too.  After much futzing, I notice that sparkplug was firing when the points closed, not when they opened. Strange.  The centrifugal advance is keyed onto the crank and can only go on one way.  There isn't nearly enough adjustment in the points plate to move points closing to just before TDC.  I called a couple of people to see if they had any insight, but everyone was baffled.
Tues. (Xmas day), Douglas came up with the idea that the centrifugal advance could be rotated 180 degrees in relation to the points cam.  I tried doing that and now the plug sparked when the points opened, but this was when the piston was near BDC.  I tried separating the coil/points/condenser from the generator/regulator and jumping directly from the battery to the coil.  It still fired when the points closed.  Then, I tried taking the points cam off the advance unit and fixing it to the crank so the points were closing a bit before top center.  This involved making some spacer shims to lock the cam to the crank.  But, then I had no spark because the battery was dead because I had created a dead short somehow.  I gave up on the ignition and distracted myself by changing the handlebars to some nice low rise Magura bars. and mocked up a Velocette seat I had.

mocked up with low handlebars and Velocette seat

Wed., I put the Horex down in the basement. took the front  shocks off to remove the most egregious overspray and see if I could dolly out the dent in the fork.

dent in fork
I found I couldn't get at the dent from below and would have to remove the complete fork to gain access from the top.  I took the bobbed, non standard front mudguard off and offered up a more appropriate one I had in my pile.

 Now I've ordered the MZ-B ignition, which is pointless, and charging system, which is 12 volt and 150 watts.  And, I've ordered a set of Heidenau tires (3.23 X 18 front, 3.50 X 18 rear).  I guess I'm married to it now.
So, the reality has sunk in.  I think it will be a fun bike, largely because of it's obscurity, but it's going to take more money and time/work than I initially imagined.  Like they all do.

Friday, December 14, 2012

When writing the review of the biography 'Stanley Woods, The First Motorcycle Superstar', I did some research on the sequence of riders with the most Isle of Man TT wins.  From 1907 thru 1909, Charlie Collier, Rem Fowler, Jack Marshall, Harry Reed, and Harry Collier (Charlie's brother) each won one TT.  In 1910, Charlie Collier won a second TT and held the distinction of most TT wins until 1921 when Eric Williams won his second TT.  In 1923, Tom Sheard won his second TT.  In 1924, Jack Porter and Alec Bennett won their second TTs.  In 1925, Edwin Twemlow, Wal Handley and Howard R. Davies won their second TT.  In 1926, Alec Bennett won his third TT, becoming the exclusive holder of the Most TT Wins title.  In 1927, Wal Handley equaled Bennetts three wins, but then Bennett won a fourth, to retain the title.  In 1928, Bennett won his fifth and last TT, and held the title until 1933, when Stanley Woods won his fifth and six TT.  Woods seventh TT win came in 1935, eight and ninth in 1938 and tenth in 1939.  These ten wins were the most of any rider until 1967 when Mike Hailwood passed him with 12 TT wins, which he increased to 13 in 1978 and 14 in 1978.  Joey Dunlop tied this record in 1992, won his 15th in '93, 17th in '94, 19th in '95, 21st in '96, 22nd in '97, 23rd in '98 and 26th and last TT in 2000 at the age of 48, and hold the record until the present.
John McGuinness currently has the second most TT wins with 19.  He potentially could match and eclipse Dunlop's record.  Since his first TT win in 1999, McGuinness has averaged more than one and a third win per year and since 2003 he has averaged 1.7 wins per year.  So, it's very possible, maybe even likely, he would catch or surpass Dunlop's record in 5 years when he would be 45 years old.
I always considered the fact that Dunlop won more than one quarter of the TT races he was in amazing, but if we look at the four most recent riders to hold the Most TT wins title, others are more amazing.  Bennett won 27.8% of the TTs he started; Woods 27%, and Hailwood 40%, to Dunlop's 26.5%.  McGuinness is in this league with 27.5%.  If we're going to try to pick the greatest TT racer of all time, we should consider over what span of years they raced at the TT: Bennett 12, Woods 18, Hailwood 22,  Dunlop 25.  McGuinness could conceivably  catch Dunlop here as he has raced at the TT over a 17 year span and would be 48 like Dunlop if he covered a 25 year span.
I'm going to have to pick Hailwood as the greatest TT racer on the strength of his 40% win record (most riders don't finish 40% of their TTs) and the fact he came back and won a couple of times after a ten year absence.  It has to be remembered that there were many fewer races per year in the good ol' days so riders since the '80 have many more chances to win races than previously.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The best book I've read lately is 'Stanley Woods, The World's First Motorcycle Superstar', by David Crawford.  I spent a long time with this book as it's chocked full of great detail, photos, posters, advertisements, letters, Stanley's handwritten notes and transcribed accounts.
Stanley was born in Dublin in 1903 and lived there until 1974 when he moved to Northern Ireland, where he died in 1993.  Author Crawford is also Irish and became a personal friend to Stanley and therefore had great access to him and his personal papers.
Most people who know anything about the history of road racing know that Stanley was one of the greats, but I had no idea of the breath of his accomplishments.  Besides road racing motorcycles, Stanley was very successful at trials, did hillclimbs, grass track, speedway, ice racing and raced cars.  He was the 'Dick Mann' of his era and clearly loved riding just about anything.  He competed on an amazing variety of marques including AJS, Cotton, DKW, Douglas, Harley Davidson, Husqvarna, New Imperial, Moto Guzzi, Norton, Royal Enfield, Scott, Sun, and Velocette, and probably others.  In addition to being a great racer and loving to ride, Stanley was clearly a good businessman and made a lot of money in his career.  But, he was also a charmer and well loved by his fans and competitors.  So, the tag 'First Motorcycle Superstar' is defensible.
Bitten by the motorcycle bug when he was a teen, he talked his mother into buying him the Sun Vitesse  before he was 16 and this was the first bike he competed on, in a trial.  In 1920, he talked his father into buying a Harley Davidson with sidecar to use in his traveling sales job, with Stanley acting as the chauffeur.  He soon talked his father into letting him compete on this.  He first went to the Isle of Man in 1921 as a spectator with some friends and halfway though the first race he decided he could do that and,  by the time the last race was over, he was determined would race there the next year.  How he accomplished this is a great example of his sharp business sense and self confidence.  He wrote to a number of likely manufacturers telling them he had an entry in another class than they would be competing in and would they supply him a bike for 'their' class.  Cotton fell for the ploy and, while they were aghast when they saw how young and green he was, but by that time they were committed.  He ended up finishing fifth in his first TT after the bike catching fire at his first pit stop, losing a pushrod a while later and crashing at Ramsey hairpin after losing his brakes.  The next year, 1923, he won his first IOM TT race, the Junior, on a Cotton after crashing at Parliament Square.
Stanley didn't finish his next six TTs in '23, '24, and '25.  In 1925, he was racing a Royal Enfield in the Junior TT when he crashed at Ballig Bridge on the last lap while lying 5th, breaking the right handlebar off.  He moved the throttle over to the left side and carried on one handed.  The marshalls at the next post tried to stop him, but failed.  They called ahead to the Bungalow where he was stopped only 10 miles from the finish and he was not happy.
But, he had attracted the attention of Norton and was hired by them for 1926 and promptly won the Senior TT for them.  A fascinating feature of the book is Stanley's handwritten accounting of his winnings from many of the races he was in.  And, the '26 Senior TT is the most money of any of these in the book, 1631 pounds, 16 shillings.  500 of this was bonus from Norton, but 500 also from KLG sparkplugs, 200 from Dunlop tires, 150 from Castrol oil, on down to 5 pounds from Webb fork.  Prize money was 20 pounds.  More than sixteen hundred pounds was a huge amount in 1926 for anyone, let alone a 22 1/2 year old.  He went on with Norton to race at the European Grand Prix, that year at Spa in Belgium, finishing 3rd with the fastest lap after having a flat front tire and losing his brakes.  He quit his day job working for his father and took a position with Norton.
1927 saw the debut of the OHC Norton and while it failed at the TT, Stanley won the Dutch, Swiss, Belgium, 2nd in the German, and 3rd in the Ulster GPs.  '28 and '29 were relatively lean years with reliability problems with the the Norton, though Stanley did win a number of Continental GPs.  He also started his own toffee company, TT Toffee.  In 1930,  Joe Craig redesigned the Walter Moore Norton and things started to turn around by the end of the season with Stanley winning the Ulster GP, the first of four successive wins there on Nortons.  The Norton became dominate and, while he had a good year in 1931, 1932 is arguably the best year of his career.  He was 3rd in the North West 200 after replacing a broken spark plug, 1st in both the Junior and Senior TT ( this made him the rider with the most TT wins, a title he was to hold until 1967 when Mike Hailwood surpassed his 10 wins), 1st in the 350 and 2nd in the 500 Dutch TTs, 1st in the 350 French GP, 1st in the 500 Belgium GP, 1st in the 350 and 500 Swiss GPs, and 1st in the Ulster GP.  However the world wide depression caused him to shut down his toffee business.
The depression was hitting the motorcycle manufacturers hard and in 1933 Norton cut his retainer and eliminated bonuses.  Norton had also instituted 'team orders' where the riders were alternately  predetermined to win and the prize money split between them.  Norton wanted it to seem that it was the bike that was winning, not the riders.  This grated on Stanley and he left the then most successful team at the end of the year.  While this is sort of  reminiscent of Valentino Rossi leaving Honda when it was dominant, Stanley didn't just change loyalties to a rival factory, he became a free agent, riding for many different factory on an ad hoc basis.  He also switched oil sponsors from Castrol to Mobil.  This brought him in contact with Husqvarna, which he had been impressed with at the previous years Swedish GP.  But first he raced Moto Guzzis at the Spanish GP winning the 250 and 500 races.  At the  TT, he rode the Guzzi to 4th in the Lightweight and ran out of fuel on the last lap of the Senior on the Husky while in 2nd.  He crashed the Husky at the Dutch TT and broke his wrist, which put him out of racing for the rest of the season.
In 1935, Stanley won the Lightweight and Senior TTs at the IOM on Moto Guzzis and won the Swedish GP on the Husqvarna and also did some car racing.  He cites this was the year of his highest earnings.
In 1936 he married Mildred Ross, a marriage that lasted 52 years until she died, although she was 11 years his junior.  He started riding for Velocette and won the 500 Spanish GP.  At the IOM TT, Stanley rode a DKW in the Lightweight, running out of fuel on the last lap, and Velocettes in the Junior and Senior.  He DNFed in the former and was 2nd in the Senior, setting the fastest lap, the 4th successive Senior fastest lap on four different marques (Norton, Husky, Guzzi, and Velo).  At the end of the year, He and Mildred sailed to Australia where he raced Velocettes at Adelaide and Phillip Island.  In 1937, he continued to race Guzzis and Velos and rode a Royal Enfield in trials.  In '38, he ran out of fuel while in the lead of the North West 200.  He won the Junior TT and was 2nd in the Senior on Velocettes.  He then crashed at Spa in the Belgium GP and lost a finger on his left hand and this ended his racing for the year.
In 1939, he won the 350 class in the Leinster 200, won the Junior TT for his tenth TT win and was the first 350 at the Ulster GP.  In October, he joined the Irish Defense Forces, Supply and Transport Corps,  motorcycle section, never to roadrace again.  He resigned his commission in the fall of 1945 and became partners in an auto agency.  He continued to be involved in motorcycle racing, managing the Moto Guzzi team at the Isle of Man.  He was tempted to take over the ride of the injured Freddie Firth at the '47 TT, but ultimately decided not to.  In 1956 he tested the Moto Guzzi V-8 and in '57 did several laps in practice at the TT on a 350 Moto Guzzi for an article he wrote for 'The Motor Cycle'.  In '74, he and Mildred moved to Northern Ireland where he sold Guzzi spares.  In '80,'81, and '82 he rode laps of honor at the TT.  Mildred became ill and he looked after her for the last five years of her life.  He had a couple of hip replacements, but stayed quite active until he died in 1993.
This is a special book because of the obvious very close relationship between the author and Stanley and hence the first person accounts of a  truly remarkable individual.  The book is available from and I highly recommend it.