Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Horex lives

After picking away at my '59 Horex Resident 350 for over two years (picked up Christmas, 2012) intermittently when I visited my brother and sister-in-law, I finally got it on the road.  Over Easter weekend we pulled the bikes out of the basement and I took the Horex for only maybe a two mile ride, as it wasn't insured or registered.  It wasn't shifting correctly, but ran well enough for me to register it.  

So, last Thurs., I called Dairyland's 800 number to add it to my policy with my '53 Moto Guzzi Airone and '68 TC 200 Suzuki.  They couldn't find a manufacture's code for Horex, surprisingly enough, and therefore they couldn't insure it.  I asked "why not?" and was told "company policy".  I asked to speak to a supervisor and she told me the same thing.  But why?  They only insure bikes for sale in the US and some vague talk about knowing the specs.  But, I'm just asking for liability insurance.  Company policy.  
I called my brother and asked him who he insures his bikes with and he tells me Dairyland.  So, I called his agent and the agent tell me this is ridiculous and says he'll look into it.  He calls me back and says he just talked to Dairyland and they said no problem, but he couldn't actually do it for me for some reason.  I call Dairyland back, and I'm told the same thing, that they can't insure it because there's no code for Horex.  I speak to the supervisor again and tell her what the agent told me.  She doesn't budge.  I tell her that my brother has a Jawa insured with them; does that have a MFG code?  She starts to waver a bit.  I call my brother back and get his policy # for his Jawa and Norton Electra.  I call back the supervisor and ask why, if they can insure these bikes and my '53 Airone, can't they insure the Horex.  She says she'll have to speak to the underwriters, but it's not going to happen today.  
In the meantime, I've called Progressive, Allstate, and Geico and they're more than willing to insure the Horex, but for a good deal more money and it would mean another policy with a different expiration date.
Fri. morning, I speak to the Dairyland supervisor again and she tells me the underwriter says they can insure it by calling it a 'custom', but they need photos of it and a valuation.  I tell them it's worth $1000 but it will be several hours until I can send them photos as it in Ct. and I'm in N.Y.  So much for my plan of registering it on my way up to my brother's.  But, I ride up there and and take and email photos.  After some delay, I speak to the supervisor again and she says she doesn't see any turn signals on the bike.  I remind he that it's from 1959 and they didn't have them then, nor does my Airone and Doug's Jawa have turn signals.  She finally caves and agrees to insure the bike and I get the insurance ID cards emailed to me just before 5p.  When we printed them, sheets and sheets came out and I thought 'how many copies do I need?'
This meant trying to register the bike Sat. morning.  My brother warned me that when he last went to DMV on a Sat. morn, he got in line at 7:45 for the 8a opening, got in the building at 8:30 and got out at 11:45.  Maybe things have improved a bit as I got there at ten of 8 and got in the building with the first group.  When I showed the clerk who gives out the numbers my paperwork, she look at the insurance card that I handed her and saw that it was for a Suzuki, not the Horex.  Oh no, they send the wrong card.  Then I remembered the three sheets we had printed out and, sure enough, the third was for the Horex.  They had sent ID card for all three bike on the policy. Phew.  
So, I got a number and settled down with a good book, 'From the Race Shop Floor' by Hedley Cox.  After two plus hours, my number was called and I got my second scare when the clerk took the last registration certificate of the Horex, from April of 1977, and showed it to another clerk.  Then they both showed it to another clerk, who gave me the thumbs up.  Phew.  Everything was going swimmingly until I swiped my credit card to pay for this privilege, and the computer froze up.  After a wait and much button pushing , it unfroze (melted?), but then she had to go to the supervisor to make sure that I wasn't charged twice.  I got out of there at 11:30 after another character building experience at DMV.

Fri., after I realize that I couldn't register it to the next day, after replacing the left side engine cover, I took it for a short test ride and found that I could not select 4th gear.  So, I pulled the cover again and found that I had indexed the selector incorrectly.  I moved the pawl carrier what seemed like one spline on the shaft and notice there was a line on each which seem to line up.  Sat,, after I got the license plate on, I took off to visit a friend in Mystic, a little over 40 miles away.  As soon as I left I realize that I now couldn't select 1st gear, but decided to carry on anyway.  The motor is quite torquey and with a little clutch slip and patience, I seemed to manage fine starting in 2nd.  I was pleasantly surprise by how well it handles and how decent the suspension is.  The brakes however and very underwhelming and the motor does vibrate some.  I missed a turn and ended up going through Bozrah, probably making the 40 mile trip 50 miles.  In Norwich, I noticed the nuts on the front engine stud spinning loose.  And, I was gaining clutch freeplay and it didn't want to disengage fully.  At my friend's house, we tightened the engine nuts and readjusted the clutch cable and discovered that I had a slight gas leak from one of the mounting tabs on the fuel tank, despite the fact that I had coated the tank with POR-15.  Jim took me over to a neighbor he had met who I used to race with in the good ol' days, Tom Silva.  I raced Tom's H-2 Kawasaki once at Bridgehampton, and it seized on one cyl., but was still pretty fast.
I headed back at maybe 6:30 and it started to get cool.  I had replace the ignition/charging system with a cheater Powerdynamo, a 12V, 150 watt system with pointless electronic ignition.  So, I plugged in my electric jacket liner and gloves and enjoyed a toasty vintage ride.  I drained the tank when I got back, but didn't get anything else done before dark.
The next morning, I refilled the tank and rode to the British Iron Association breakfast in Colchester, an 18 mile ride that I managed to make at least 20.  The thermometer read 40 degrees as I rode through Haddam, but again, I was plugged in and warm.  Most of the guys had never seen a Horex before, but Ad Coppens had almost bought one when he was a lad back in Holland, but he bought the Matchless instead and now he's an AMC repair and parts specialist.
When I got back, I took off the side cover again and finally got the selector indexing right.  I took off the fuel tank and the tank had been previously been epoxied where it was now leaking.  I removed all the epoxy to see if I could see exactly where it was leaking.  It looked like it had been soldered before it was epoxied, but even putting some compressed air in the tank and spraying soapy water mover the area, I couldn't see a leak.  I put the tank back on and put gas in it and there was no sign of leaking.  Go figure.  
Yes, I did lube the chain after taking this photo
Amy Roper photo
With the left side cover in my lap, figuring out the indexing.  Amy Roper photo
Brother Doug getting his Benelli ready for the ride.  Amy Roper photo
My brother and I went for a ride, Doug on his 250 Benelli.  After we had gone several miles, I looked down and saw that my fuel cap was missing.  We turned around and retraced our path, looking for it.  I was thinking that I was never going to find it and that it was well off in the woods somewhere.  But, a mile back at the last intersection, there it was, laying in the middle of the road.  I'm the luckiest guy in the world.  We carried on with our ride on great roads in ideal conditions, warm and sunny by now and with the leaves still off the trees so one could see deep into the woods and around corners.  After a while, the barrel pulled off the end of my clutch cable, so we headed back.  I was very glad that I now had use of 1st gear and only had to come to a full stop at one traffic light.  I was able to waddle in neutral and kick it in gear and make it back without too much abuse and we got in about 40 miles.  I soldered a new end on the cable before putting it away.  
All together, a pretty successful debut for the Horex, successful enough to justify investing some more into it.  I need sprockets, exhaust head pipes, a speedometer that works, and a few 7 X 1.0 X 40mm oval head slot head screws (where do I get those?).

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Hugh Anderson and Ernst Degner

I recently read Hugh Anderson's autobiography 'Being There'.  Hugh is a New Zealander who rose to top of motorcycle competition in N.Z., then went to Europe to make his mark on the British short circuits and the Continental Circus as a privateer racing British singles.  He did well enough to attract the attention of the fledgling Suzuki road race team and was one of the early contracted 'Western' riders. He ended up winning four World Championships in the 50 and 125cc classes.  He then retired from roadracing and pursued Motocross or, as it was then more commonly known, scrambles.  After a few years of this, he retired from competition and returned to N.Z., with his Dutch wife, who he had met in the Hospital in Assen, and their daughter.  After some years, he got involved in establishing Classic racing in N.Z.  After dominating the Classic racing scene in N.Z., he started making regular forays back to Britain and Europe to road race the classics there.  He continued to race into this century and his description of a life of racing at the highest level is fascinating.
I got to know Hugh when we had several encounters first at Circuit Paul Ricard at a Classic support race at the '86 French GP, then at Donnington Park at the CRMC Classic Race of the Year, and two years at John Surtees SuperPrix at Brands Hatch in '89 and '90.  I also visited him at his home in Hamilton, N.Z. In '89 while on holiday with mt parents.  I recognized him then as the consummate racer, intense and serious while also being friendly and outgoing.  Reading his autobiography only increased my respect for him and the other survivors of this rapidly changing and extremely dangerous period in the sport.
I was struck with the parallels between Hugh and another 'colonial': Michelle (then Mike) Duff.  Both became proficient in their home country, then left for Europe in 1960 with British singles.  Both raced for Arter Bros.  Both got coveted contracts with fledgling Japanese manufacturers of two strokes.
At the end of 1965, only 5 people had won more GPs than him: Redman, 43; Hailwood, 40; Ubbiali, 39; Surtees, 38; and Duke, 33.  Hugh had won 25, but in only 4 years, therefore averaging 6.25 wins per year, only behind Surtees at 6.33/yr., Hailwood at 6.66/yr, and Redman at a remarkable 8.6/yr.
Hugh's decision to quit roadracing at the end of '66 seems to be based in part on feeling that he had nothing else to prove and a changing atmosphere in the Suzuki team.  He was having less control over the set up of his bikes as decisions were being made more in Japan than at the races by the riders, and therefore they were having less reliability.  Plus, he had always really enjoyed riding in the dirt and was looking for a new challenge.  In '67, '68, and '69 Hugh raced motocross on the National and International level with the occasional MX GP and the odd grass track event.  Though he wasn't the GP star that he had been in roadracing, he had a good deal of success considering that he was in his 30's and his left knee was deteriorating.
One thing that struck me in Hugh's book was his depiction of Ernst Degner.  Some years back, I read an excerpt from Max Oxley's book 'Stealing Speed', about Ernst Degner defecting from East Germany and the MZ roadracing team, and taking the secrets (and some hardware) of his mentor, the genius Walter  Kaaden, to Suzuki.  I got the impression that Mat painted Degner as the Bad Guy.  Some time afterwards I saw Mat at the Isle of Man (Mat is a TT winner) and I suggested that he was being a bit hard on Degner.  After all, Degner was escaping the despotic, corrupt, grey life for him and his family for freedom in the West.  Yes, Mat said, but from his interviews with Degner's widow, son, colleagues and friends, he got the impression that Ernst wasn't a nice man.
So, I was struck when I read in Hugh's book "Over time Ernst became my mentor, and we often worked into the night together on our bikes when the other team members were out on the town.  Even the fact that his help meant I was able to beat him on the track did not change his willingness to keep giving me advice."
"Very few sportsmen are capable of such a selfless attitude.  It was a sad day when injuries forced Ernst to retire and then he lost his life, far too soon, from a heart attack.  To me he was a special person and a man who always seemed in good spirits."
Reading this cause me to get a copy of 'Stealing Speed' to get Oxley's full picture of the man.  This is another fascinating book which illuminates the relationship between Degner and Kaaden, but also the changing technology and Coldwar politics of the era.  As I read it, Oxley portrays Kaaden as a genius who was an innocent victim of the politics of his homeland, first the Nazis, then the Commies.  Degner he portrays as a capable racer and technician, but someone who was self centered, greedy, and perhaps shallow.
Oxley captions a photo "Fifteen-year-old Walter Kaaden in his Hitler-Jugend (Hitler Youth) uniform in 1934.  Kaaden was no Nazi, but six years later he was working on Hitler's top-secret rocket programme.  It's not like he had any choice."
During WWII, Kaaden worked on rocket technology at Peenemunde where the V-1 Buzz Bomb and V-2 rockets were developed, until the Brits flattened it in August of '43.  Rocket development was then moved to the Harz mountains in central Germany, underground in an old gypsum mine.  Kaaden worked on a air-to-surface guided missile launched from bombers, then on the Me 262 jet fighter, and along side the group working on the V-1, arguably the first cruise missile.  the V-1 was powered by a pulse jet engine, and that's where Kaaden first learned about pressure waves, which he later applied to two stroke exhaust and induction.
While Oxley is painting Degner as the rat who stabbed his mentor in the back for his own personal gain, he paints Kaaden as an innocent victim was was apolitical who was just interested in knowledge and who had no choice.  I'm sure there's some truth to this, but I suspect the reality was less black and white and that both men lived with contradictions.
Oxley contends that Degner was vain and filled with avarice.  "It seem like Degner was getting greedy.....Other friends also noticed that a fat factory contract had changed Degner.  'He was a vain man, but when he was at Suzuki he became a bit of a prima donna,' says Gitti Stoepel.  'He had a nice contract, maybe that brought it out more.'"  Gitti Stoepel was the sister of Degner's and Anderson's teammate, Frank Perris' German wife.
But, on the next page Oxley quotes Perris: "Ernst was a super friend, a wonderful person", recalls Perris, who holds a higher opinion of the man than most" (but not apparently than Hugh Anderson who evidently Oxley never interviewed).  "I like to feel I'm a gentleman and Ernst was the same.  I can't imagine anyone disliking him, quite honestly.  He was a pal and then he was a team-mate.  He was a fabulous team-mate until he had that accident."  Perris is referring to the final GP of '63 at Suzuka where, after finishing 3rd in the 125 race, he crashed on the first lap of the 250 race, was knocked unconscious, and engulfed in burning fuel, and suffered severe burns that required many skin graft operations, and kept him out of racing for almost a year.  And, terribly disfigured a handsome and vain man's face.  And, caused great pain, which may well have gotten him addicted to painkillers.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

AHRMA Roebling Road 2016

As the first race of my 2016 racing season approached, I was hoping to race my 350 H-D Sprint ERTT and my 1946 Moto Guzzi Dondolino, but both were in doubt.  I had dropper the ERTT motor off with Bill Himmelsbach on my return from my last race of 2015 to see if he could determine the reason for all my missed shifts and a mysterious cutting out (more than a misfire) on the Daytona oval, but not on the infield.  And, inevitably, there were delays and I was starting to wonder if Bill would finish it in time to make the 27-28 Feb. Roebling Road meeting.  So, I finally got off my duff and started putting together the Dondolino, after it had been apart since October, 2014.  Ken Rosevear had made me a new crankshaft assembly, and that had been delayed by the flimsy excuse of his triple bypass heart surgery.  And the assembly was slow going in part just locating parts that had been moved around for a year and a half.  In the end, parts arrived and Bill finished the Sprint motor a week before I planned to leave for Ga.  Bill met me part way on I-78 in N.J., and we transfer the motor from his van to mine.  The next day was unseasonably warm and I was able to install it working outdoors.
  But, as usual, things took longer than plan and I ran out of time to finish the Dondolino.
Aleksey Kravchuk of Works Manufacturing and his 350 Honda came with me.  We left Brooklyn around 8p and drove through some intense rain and stopped for the night in south Jersey, just short of the Delaware Memorial Bridge.  Thursday's ride was smooth and we got to the track in the evening and did a partial unload to grab some turf, then drove into Savannah to have dinner and spend the night with a good friend.  

When we got to the track the next morning, the temperature was right around freezing, but sunny, and there was a pretty stiff wind from the west.  I didn't intend to go out for Fri. practice, but I did start my bike and throughly warm it up and all seemed good there.  Aleksey had a very successful day, completing every practice session on his Honda and as a passenger on Brian Carroll's BMW sidecar.  Everything worked well and he didn't lift a wrench all day.  This was in stark contrast to last year when he struggled with oil leaks on the Fri., then the motor died the next morning, with me in the saddle, because of the top end being starved for oil.

Sat. morning, it was again around freezing when we got to the track, and practice was postponed a half hour to let things warm up a bit.  I went out in group two practice and, on the second lap the motor started mis-firing and died completely a little ways into the third lap.  I found my battery was at 5.5 volts (the bike has a 6V, total loss, points ignition) and I put it on charge.  I couldn't find anything else wrong, so re-installed the battery, now reading 6.5V, though the smart charger hadn't yet gone to green.  In the second practice the bike ran well and after I got in, I put the battery back on charge until it did 'go green'.
My first race was my bump-up race, the 500 Premiere and I was gridded on the front row with the only other entry in the class, Tim Joyce, probably the fastest classic racer in the Americas, on Maurice Candy's 500 Manx Norton, probably the fastest 500 Premiere bike in the Americas. 

On the grid with Tim Joyce on Maurice Candy's 500 Manx Norton.  Terry Dremel photo
Behind us were the 500GP,and Formula 500 classes in the first wave and the 500 Sportsman and Vintage Superbike Lightweight classes in the second wave.  Tim shot into the lead, but immediately Buff Harsh, on his Todd Henning Racing  F-500 CB 350 Honda based machine, came by me and kept Tim honest.  At about turn #5, Mark Morrow, on his RD 400 Yamaha F-500 bike, stuck a wheel in on me, but didn't make the pass.  I expected Mark back any second, but didn't see him again.  Apparently he had seized in practice and did a frantic top end swap with used cylinders, but failed to tighten one of the carbs and it was falling off.  So, that's how we finished: Tim, Buff, then me, second of two in class and third overall.  Brad Phillips, on his 500 BMW Sportsman bike was closing from the second wave and finished about 11 seconds behind me with a fastest lap that was almost 0.7 seconds faster than mine. I was happy enough with this result and didn't do anything to the bike before my primary race, the 350GP.
I started my bike for the 350GP race, but there was quite a delay.  After several minutes of blipping the throttle, the motor died.  Someone helped me push it a couple of times, but it didn't start.  I put it on some rollers as the field was gridding up after completing their warm-up lap, but the motor still wouldn't start after several tries.  I ran and got a new sparkplug after the field had left and Dave Hollingsworthworth installed it.  The bike started right up, and I joined the race as the half way flag was out.  I got half way down the straight and the motor died again.  
After I got a ride back to the paddock from the pick up crew., I checked the battery and it was 5.5 V.  I fiddled around and checked for spark, then checked the battery again and it was 3.5V.  My battery was bad.  I borrowed a battery from Pete Talabach, and the bike started right up.  No guarantee, but that was looking like my problem.
Terry Dremel photo
Sunday morning it was even a little colder and again they delayed practice a half hour.  When I got out,
the motor ran well and I did 6 or 7 laps.  After I took the checkered flag for the end of the session, near the end of the straight, the bike lost power and almost seemed like it was seizing.  I backed out of the throttle and the motor seemed free, so I putter back to the pits.   My tach had stopped working in the session and I found that my sorry mechanic (me) had failed to tighten the bolts on the points cover, which holds the tach drive.  And, the ground lead on the battery that I borrowed was loose and fell off when I went to disconnect it.  I thought one or both of these might explain the loss of power, though I was clearly grasping at straws.  The spark plug looked lean, so I went one bigger main jet size.
In the second practice, it immediately lost power when I gave it full throttle, so I came right back into the pits.  It still looked lean, so I went up another main jet size.  I checked the fuel flow, the fuel tank vent, and took the float chamber apart.  I changed the ignition coil with a new one.  One theory was that inadequate oil  was coming out of the big end onto the cylinder  causing the piston to over heat and start to tighten up, but when I backed out of the throttle and reduced the load, it cooled and freed up.  That's a bit farfetched, but I took off the oil line feeding the crank and spun the rear wheel in gear, and the oil seemed to pump normally.
Al Hollingsworth ponders.  Terry Dremel photo
I did a 'scrub lap' on the warmup lap of  an early race, and it was the same thing; the engine would slow with full throttle.  I decided to go up another jet size and start the 500 race to try to analyze it further, but if I thought that I was hurting the motor, I'd pull off.
I took off gently and was immediately swamped by a gaggle of bikes.  By the time I got to turn #3, the red flag was out.  Someone had been clipped and knocked down at the start and Aleksey had nowhere to go and hit the fallen rider and then gone down himself.  Aleksey was a bit beat up, but OK.  The guy he hit was taken away in the ambulance.  But, Aleksey's bike was trashed enough that he couldn't  race it anymore 
We restarted and I realized the motor ran fine if I kept it to 1/3-1/2 throttle.  It would rev fine and I decided that I wasn't hurting it, so I stayed out and once again finished 2nd (of two) in class, but
this time 14th overall, not 3rd, with a fastest lap almost 8 seconds slower than Sat.
For the 350 race, I went up two more jet sizes .  At the start, John Stephens came past me, but then missed the 1st to 2nd shift, so I was just about able to stay with him.  
Chasing John Stephens.  Terry Dremel photo
I was able to get by him in the twisty bits and then just about draft him down the straight.  My bike did seem to be running a bit better and John and I started to close on the group in front of us.  Then Ake Smith came by on his 350 Sportsmam bike from the 2nd wave and I had another bike to draft and the three of us closed more on the two in front of us.  
Ake Smith joins John and me.  Terry Dremel photo
Unfortunately, the race was reduced to 5 laps, and we didn't quite catch them, but 3rd through 7th finished within a half sec., 0.478".  Ake, John, and I had a faster lap than those in front of us except the winner, Jack Parker.  So, it was a fun race, but a bit frustrating and I'm left wondering what's the problem.  Erik Green came up with the theory that some debris gotten by the main jet, but not the needle jet, and this would effect mixture mostly when the needle was fully out of the jet. I took the carb totally part when I got home and found no debris any where, but it almost seemed that the problem passed right at the end of the last race.  My fastest lap in Sunday's 350 race was more than 8 seconds faster than Sunday's 500 race, though still almost 2 seconds slower than Saturday's 500 race despite having good bikes to draft and feeling like I was riding harder.  We may not know until the next event.
The 500 Manx Norton's of John Lawless and Dick Miles.

Hall's Custom Vintage Classic 650 Bonneville