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It had hung around for more than 10 years. Rusty, incomplete, long past its sell-by date, an eyesore really. Always in the way. Never any use. The subject of endless when on earth are you going to get rid of it? comments from the first lady. A real pain when moving house (which we had done at least 3 times). Even I began to wonder what on earth persuaded me to bring it back from a car boot fair so long ago. This 1952 New Hudson autocycle definitely had something and it had seemed a good idea at the time but what it was Id really rather forgotten.
And then something happened.
Dont ask me what, because I dont know, I didnt win the lottery. There were no violins playing. I hadnt gone mad (any more than usual, anyway). One day I just unscrewed a bit. Then I took off another bit; then some more and soon I had a frame, an engine, two wheels and a couple of cardboard cartons of bits. Now it was time to get serious. Spurred on by other tales in august journals such as Buzzing, I started the grisly business of cleaning everything off. I wont go through a detailed account of every little thing because Im sure youve probably done it many times and if you havent, you can imagine what goes on,
Perhaps its worth making a few points though. I knew that if I didnt keep going, I might drift off and abandon the rebuild when something else caught my eye, so I determined to complete the rebuild in as short a time as possible (it took 3 months). I made a list of all the things I needed to do and arranged them by time (estimated) so that the things with a longish lead time were started first and the smaller jobs kept as fillers when a time gap appeared. A typical example of a filler was the refurbishment of the headlight. A classic example of a long job was the re-chroming. Although I decided to do everything myself; clearly this was a specialist job that took three weeks. The wheel respoking was the only other job that I farmed out.
I took all the metalwork down to bare metal, principally using wire brushes on an electric drill, but also employing scrapers, wire wool, emery paper and some chemical paint stripper. It was dull and dirty work. This is where the fillers came in. After a couple of hours of dirty, dull de-rusting and cleaning, you could take a filler and completely restore it within about an hour, after which you had a bright, shiny thing which was carefully wrapped up and put into the restored box for bolting on when the frame was ready. Hey presto, enthusiasm restored. Once everything was stripped and clean, it was time to condition the parts and make a final list of what additional bits would be needed from elsewhere. Acquiring the parts was fun but a bit frenetic as it all had to be done within the time limit. Luckily the work coincided with a couple of large local motorcycle and autojumble events and I made up most of the bits from there. Some parts I had to fabricate (the chain guards and a rear number plate) and these, whilst not spoiling the appearance now, will obviously require replacement in due course when the real thing turns up. (Any offers?)
Rebuilding was helped significantly by reference to various documents and pictures. One of the best documents I got hold of was a photocopy of the original parts list. This was of enormous assistance when making up bits; when putting things together and particularly, for identifying small components and a myriad of little brackets. Photos from books and magazines collected over the years were also invaluable. I even managed to track down an original sales brochure through a specialist supplier (at a price!). Having mentioned price, it began to dawn on me that this restoration stuff is not a cheap exercise even if you do almost everything yourself. Quite apart from ones own time and effort, I can now see why the restored bikes in the Buzzing small ads cost what appears to be plenty of money. I reckon I spent nearly £350 in total. The paints (cellulose), thinners, etch primer, etc accounted for nearly £60 by themselves.
Starting the re-assembly, I re-sprayed all the cycle parts in a deep maroon colour that I had found traces of on the frame under many layers of household goo in a variety of different colours. I made a mess of the tank (I had not sprayed anything before) so I just had to start again on that bit and even then, after the transfers had been applied, the top coat of varnish did funny things to said transfers. Im afraid there is a limit to my patience and I chose not to go back to square one again, so the finished product is not perfect but its certainly better than when I started. The transfers (from the Club) are superb and brilliant value. Whilst on the Club: I wrote to the marque specialist (Michael Flood) for a little advice and received a most interesting and helpful letter back together with the loan of some photos of his machine. Thank you, Michael. The original mudguards did not survive the cleaning process and fell apart when the many layers of paint were removed. Luckily there is a firm that produces pattern mudguards for motorcycles and after two attempts I got something that with a bit of fettling would pass muster in the mudguard department. The rest went together without too many problems.
The engine had seemed OK. It appeared to have good compression, the magneto gave a spark so I just lifted the barrel, de-coked everything, replaced some gaskets and screwed it all back together. Since then, it has started and run sufficiently to get me to nearly 30mph unaided (according to her following in the car) but it is an absolute b******d to start. I think I should have replaced the crankshaft seals as the old ones may not be maintaining the crankcase fuel pressure sufficiently. The symptom seems to be that there is not enough fuel getting through. Any advice would be most welcome here from anyone with the knowledge.
So thats it really. 10 years waiting followed by a manic 3 months and its all (apart from the engine problem) done. Hugely satisfying; a lot more expensive than I imagined; now a thing of beauty and a joy to look at (although sadly I am not allowed to bring it into the house yet!). High point - standing back after final assembly and the first polish. Low point - buggering up the varnish on the tank. So, its just that engine thing and then you wont see me for dust in the new millennium, if the chancellor doesnt try and stop me, but as the brochure says:
New Hudson - makes petrol rationing rational
First published - December 1999
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