Author Topic: Origin of the Species  (Read 2064 times)

Online groily

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Origin of the Species
« on: 25.01. 2008 20:45 »
Far from an original subject, I know, but it would interest me greatly to hear the views of others on this forum on the dreaded topic of originality. Bit esoteric I know, but getting more and more important in the classic world.

I'll say straight away that what I admire is 'as it was made'. What I actually get excited about is 'on the road and ready-to-go'. Yup, a working runner is what turns me on, be it 2 or 4 wheeled. Such a beast can go out after dark, when it's raining, anytime, all year. And it applies to up-market as well as humble playthings.

A lot of us try to keep our stuff broadly as the maker intended.
Some of us try to improve on that in serious areas like electrics, brakes, lubrication, etc etc.
Others try like an Avon Lady to improve on nature superficially, with all manner of facepaint.
Others still are quite happy to do whatever it takes to keep something rolling, without regard for year, model, colour, even marque. Which means they make, beg, borrow or adapt anything they can, dip rarely and grudgingly into their purse, and couldn't give a wotsit what anyone else might think.
 
Some of us have many beasts of the same marque.
Others of more eclectic taste wouldn't ever want more than one of anything (once bitten, familiarity, contempt etc). Some of us are blind to the faults of the favoured marque and are cheerfully (or ignorantly) dismissive of anything else. Yet others of us own stuff in spite of its obvious failings, for whatever personal reason.

There are bits of all these types, except Avon Lady, about me. But, I hasten to add, I admire anyone with the patience and energy to polish anything, including him/herself.

However, what does 'Original' actually mean in our context, once we've gone beyond what's visibly obvious to those who know the marque/model (which largely excludes me I should say at once)?

Yes, 'matching numbers' are nice, they say, and the price reflects it. If a completely new set of upgraded guts in one original crankcase (maybe just a half), plus all new cycle parts hung on to the bit that bears the special number, counts as that. Doesn't do it for me, although it's a happy coincidence when it's the case.
 
Yes, having the unique something that was only made from March 17 to May 8 the year the ISDT was held in Outer Mongolia and the manufacturer's drawing office had a typist called Lucy is nice too, if you're trying to create a reference point for the rest of the world. (Although that works both ways, as the special something can easily be added to something it doesn't live on.)

But how much do most of us actually care? And how much SHOULD we care, knowing as we do that there will always be a few totally correct 'reference machines' for those who need them as exemplars?

The late Denis Jenkinson, motoring journalist in the UK, reputedly refused to allow a pre-war Sunbeam racing car that he had inherited (and which graced the entrance to the Brooklands Museum for many years I believe) to be restored, even though its condition meant it couldn't be run, because . . . . 'it wouldn't be original'. Was he right, was he joking or was he daft? (I'd say joking or daft, by the way, as racing machinery evolves all the time and there is no standard model almost by definition. In any case moving parts wear out whether it's exotica or a Bantam.)

A really good mate with a Vincent often reminds me that the number of some-or other-model (Black Knight maybe?) on the road today exceeds the number the Stevenage factory made. You could probably say the same for rare Bugattis, Alfas and other exotica from the world of '30s-'50s car racing. Without counting the ones that are acknowledged as replicas, like the Auto-Unions Audi built recently. Originality - Bah? Humbug?

But for the humble BSA, that's not our dish. Or is it? How many RGS exist today compared to the number built by the factory? How many fake Goldies are there? A disproportionate number, I bet, all with owners swearing authenticity oaths on their grannies' graves. Which makes it harder for the genuine owner to prove his machine's provenance, fuels the price for the enthusiast who wants one to ride, and fuels the black market by encouraging dodgy re-creations. Originality - Bah? Humbug?

No, honest, always-working, sod-the-'value', listen-to-the exhaust-note classic motorcycling - that's what I like. For which even my best friends mock me sometimes (often actually) - but where are they on a pissy wet winter's day when I'm out having the best fun there is? Or rather, sitting here contemplating my expanding navel and the joys of winter riding the morrow, with glass of something just north of the Caps Lock key? Cheers!

Groily
Bill

Online RichardL

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Re: Origin of the Species
« Reply #1 on: 25.01. 2008 21:39 »
Groily,

I'm sorry I can't respond in prosaic kind, but that was a great read.

I wish the numbers matched on my bike for the dollar value, but that would only benefit my heirs. Having had my bike since '73 and rebuilt it twice, first with money, then with loving attention, I sincerely doubt that I will part with it before this life parts me. OK, if my children need to eat, maybe, but first they will have had to eat their shoes and pets (do you know the story of the Donner Party?)

Even if the numbers matched, there were a lot of parts from other years that were on the bike when I got it in '73 that I didn't even know were not original until I was mostly done with the rebuild.

Richard
Plan on signing up for the world-wide 2020 DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMAN'S RIDEon September 27, 2020 (if it's not cancelled and we are free to move about by then). Watch website at https://www.gentlemansride.com for details.

Online Brian

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Re: Origin of the Species
« Reply #2 on: 25.01. 2008 23:31 »
Excellent read groily and a subject that greatly interests me. I reckon the whole thing hinges on the word "Original". How many times have we all had someone say that this model was only fitted with this or that  etc etc. BSA supplied bikes to markets all over the world and with a lot of variation on specs so who could say for sure exactly what was fitted to what. When a model run finished and they released something new but still had 50 sets of plain ended levers and the new model had ball ended did they throw the plain ended ones in the bin or did some of the first of the new model get them ??? Who knows. I guess what I am trying to say is that I dont think anyone really knows exactly what was was original. I'm with you on the theory of just ride them. I try to get my bikes reasonably correct to look at but are quite happy to do a internal mod if its of benefit.
On the subject of engine and frame nos. I have an example which is interesting. I have a Plunger A7 with eng no AA7 5364 and frame no ZA7S 25961. Now if you look these numbers up in the BSAOC or anyone elses info it will tell you that the engine is a 52' engine and the frame is 51' so I have a missmatched bike [I dont give a rats idiot] but the interesting bit is that the crankcases have 26/7/51 stamped in them. Only factory records could sort this out for sure, something I dont have access to. So the question is should I get a set of cases with a earlier number so the bike can be considered "Original". It is going to stay just as it is.
Personally I prefer unrestored bikes over restored ones and are fortunate to have a very good original plunger B33. I only restore my bikes if they really need it. My motto is restored or not they have to go well, they are for riding not looking at, no matter how rare or expensive, mind you, I dont have any rare or expensive bikes !!!! just a shed full of BSA's that go well and I have a lot of fun on. I have to admit to getting a kick out of passing someone on their ultra expensive/rare bike when I am on some scruffy old heap.
To sum up, restore them as original as you can but at the end of the day remember they were built to be ridden so do what you have to to get them to go and get out on the road and RIDE them..............
Brian.

Online groily

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Re: Origin of the Species
« Reply #3 on: 26.01. 2008 18:09 »
Well, that's 3 of us with a touch of the old mix-and-match.

I haven't even tried to work out what my Beesa really is . . . UK log book said Super Rocket, 1959, so the French one says the same. But it's a s/arm GF motor, flat pistons, iron head, DA 10 something something something with a home-stamped R in the middle somewhere. About the right year. Frame might be about 1960-ish, but the rear end is relatively new as it has every bracket and loop for every permutation of everything. And I couldn't care less. Rear shocks are off an 'Onda I think, and actually work well though they're a bit shiny for me.

By contrast, my other twin, an AMC, is very oily rag but does have 'matching numbers' even though the thing is like the chippie's favourite hammer with 3 new heads and 5 new handles. I know, 'cos I put them there. Still 'original' though. I love them both the same and treat them the same too, all year round. And they don't break down much (you can't see me touching wood and invoking all the patron saints of oily things, but I am). In the 4 wheeled dept, my 71-year-old Riley (the which I've mentioned before) has matching numbers down to its pre-selector gearbox made by Armstrong-Siddeley under licence from Wilson, and is actually quite original bar the paint. But boy would it seriously benefit from some serious rebuilding to stop the ash frame creaking over every pothole, the scuttle shaking like a ***-artist's hand, and the whole thing vibrating like a cellulite-reducing device sold by the Avon Lady's sister? Said rebuild would make it much less original, probably more valuable and certainly more roadworthy! Nice dilemma for some, but not for me - I'm leaving it as is - haven't got any money, and I like it the way it is, the warts especially. It doesn't do the same sort of mileage as the bikes, I have to say.

On the road, that's the thing, as Brian says from the land with climate . . . I well remember taking the above-mentioned car to some club meeting, to be told by some guy that the colour of the wiring was all wrong (not surprising as I'd used up loads of spare harness from a dead Morris I had before). So I said, "yeah, I know, awful isn't it? Could I have a look at yours then, just to get an idea of how the thing ought to be?" To which the response was "well er no, actually, as I'm having mine restored and it's been off the road for ages". Point made IMHO. To be fair, some of these people are receptive to our kind of thinking too - when, for example, I installed a 500 watt modern alternator on the car (30 Euros from the scrap-yard (breaker's/ parter-out), instead of the off-the-front-of-crank dog-driven 110 watt dynamo that didn't darn well dyne, there were many who were interested as they maybe like to go out of a night too . . . excellent mod, although a bit more complicated than anything I fancy trying to fabricate on a bike.

Takes all sorts - but can't someone please tell me I'm a lunatic and shouldn't be allowed to play with our heritage as if it were Lego? Then I could get all uppity and say what I really think!! Can't wait to get my hands on a '34 Panther 600cc single basket case a mate says I can have if I collect it, and see what can be done to get that to work, with total disregard for the niceties . . .

Here's to what the late great Fred Dibner (who he? - Google him) called 'Back Street Mechanicking' (which is what he thought he received an MBE for), something most bike persons seem to do pretty well . . . Groily
Bill

Online RichardL

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Re: Origin of the Species
« Reply #4 on: 26.01. 2008 20:31 »
Groily,

Looked up Fred "Dibner" to find the name as "Dibnah." Thanks for pointing him out, he was clearly an interesting character and I venture to say, "our kinda guy." He has a website in his name at http://www.fred-dibnah.co.uk/

I am very curious to know if he finished the series for the BBC called "Made In Britain." One might guess that it could have covered bikes of our ilk.

Regarding calling you a lunatic, at 6'5" 19 stone, I think I'll go with "you are the sanest person I never met."

Richard
Plan on signing up for the world-wide 2020 DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMAN'S RIDEon September 27, 2020 (if it's not cancelled and we are free to move about by then). Watch website at https://www.gentlemansride.com for details.

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Re: Origin of the Species
« Reply #5 on: 26.01. 2008 20:47 »
I totaly agree.
Nice numbers matching restos are lovely to see but,  really,  how often are they out and about?  It's nicer IMO to ride them and share the comraderie.  Share the memories with people that,  if we didn't do this,  would never see them again.  They are way too cool to keep in the garage for all time.  Never to see the light of day lest they get rained on...

Online RichardL

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Re: Origin of the Species
« Reply #6 on: 26.01. 2008 21:12 »
Yes, a very good point about sharing with people who had not seen nor would ever see or hear such bikes if they are kept in motorcycle museums. A couple of times I have had to apologize for my pride when telling someone they had to see my bike because they might never see another like it.   I'm not claiming to be somehow benevolent because of this, but I know that I appreciate it when someone points out the unique, odd or beautiful. Also, the "wow"s and "nice bike"s are never accompanied by "yeah, but do the numbers match."

Richard
Plan on signing up for the world-wide 2020 DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMAN'S RIDEon September 27, 2020 (if it's not cancelled and we are free to move about by then). Watch website at https://www.gentlemansride.com for details.

Online bsa-bill

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Re: Origin of the Species
« Reply #7 on: 26.01. 2008 21:30 »
I could agree with Groily on many points and indeed my road going A10 is outwardly much as it left the factory ( well there is that third rivet down ), my project will be different however, I guess there will be some Avon Lady about it, the border line will be if I cross into Ann Summers territory  *smile*

All the best - Bill
All the best - Bill
1961 Flash - stock, reliable, steady, fantastic for shopping
1959 Rocket Gold Flash - blinged and tarted up  would have seizure if taken to  Tesco

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Re: Origin of the Species
« Reply #8 on: 27.01. 2008 15:13 »
You know,  I have a couple of projects.  It's my intent to put them back as close to what they were as the parts I have will allow.  I'm not even sure the numbers "match" or not.  But most people that will see them won't know that and may be a little enriched by having seen and heard one.  I think that'd be cool.  I know a lot of kids that ride sport bikes.  Profess to be "Motorcyclists"  yes have no idea which end of a wrench is the business end.  When I first started riding youhad to WANT to go somewhere.  It was going to be a journey.  It was going to be an adventure and you were undoubtidly going to meet some new friends.  That seems to be lost on a lot of new riders.  But those aren't bad things to know.

Online groily

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Re: Origin of the Species
« Reply #9 on: 27.01. 2008 16:42 »
Can't believe I spelled Fred's name wrong Richard . . .I only just read his biography the other week! Imbecilic of me, glad you wee smart enough to unravel it. Anyway, they did finish the Made in Britain thing before he died, but it was close and maybe they didn't manage to do all that Fred wanted. But what a guy - scared of nothing, tackled everything, especially if it had steam up it (which I know nothing about beyond having a small engine when I was a kid). Only wee problem Fred had was he seemed to exasperate his serial wives - couldn't understand why they didn't want a home-made coal mine complete with pithead gear in the back yard I expect!

Not sure whether I wouldn't quite like an Ann Summerised Beesa . . . . Any vertical twin offers many interesting possibilities . . . far better than Avon Lady anyway! Groily
Bill

Offline Pim

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Re: Origin of the Species
« Reply #10 on: 12.02. 2008 22:33 »
Well for me it's quite simple, as Im a student I haven't got the money to make it totally "original". I think it's important that it has to have the right feel to it, some time ago i saw an youtube movie of a a7(or was it an a10) and i't was choped to bits, pink tank and all... just didn't feel right. It's important that the bike is loved, and driven. Matching numers are nice, but has it any different value if they don't? I don't think so. Someone has taken the time to make it work and I say 'make' becouse as far as i reccon parts are only replaced if they are broke. And if your convinced that only unchanged factory products are 'original' than I think the point of the intention of bikes is totally missed. Ofcourse i think that anyone who enjoy's owning a classic has the whits to keep it in a state that the bike lasts. My opinnion is that bikes are made to be ridden, to get somwhere, to show to other enthousiasts, to meet friends, te be treated good but to be lived. Not to be treated as an old lady in a ritirement home...

take care!
Pim

p.s. Avon Lady... tried to search it but couldn't find any relevant infromation, can someone tell me what is means??
Bye!
Slow but steady...

Offline a10gf

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Re: Origin of the Species
« Reply #11 on: 16.02. 2008 12:07 »
Agree with you pim, any well-running vintage bike will always give great riding statisfaction to it's owner, attract attention, interest, admiration, friendly comments and discussions wherever one goes.
F. ex, I did a tour in Italy years ago, the numbers of "Bellissiomo, bellissimo" and people who (tried to-) talk to me about the bike was huge (without any perfectly matching numbers...). Italians have a good sense of style etc, (altough they drive like they are always going to the hospital emergency, the a10 needed all it's (meager) braking power and all it's (good) acceleration).

Avon Lady... something to do with over-the-top use of cosmetics or ?

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Online bikerjohndavies

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Re: Origin of the Species
« Reply #12 on: 28.10. 2012 10:22 »
Hi groily, did you ever get your hands on the 34 Panther ?
1937 Panther M100 Rigid, 1946 Ariel Square 4, 1952 Norton Model 7, 1953 BSA A10SF (WIP), 1954 Ariel VH, 1961 Triumph T120R

Offline cyclobutch

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Re: Origin of the Species
« Reply #13 on: 29.10. 2012 12:00 »
I'm not much enthused by originality myself. In fact of the A10 I'm not keen on nacelles, valanced mudguards and the like. Certainly I consider the model still common enough that there is no need for me to be precious about any recourse to originality on mine; which in fact I suspect was put together from disparate parts in the mid 70s - I've never bothered to get the frame and engine numbers dated. Mine runs with slim chromed guards and a headlamp clamped on to the upper forks (RGS replica? not with an iron head and the softest tune I could put together). I've owned it since 1979, and although I spent a lot getting it back together over the last few years, I wanted it in the style that I bought it in.

Best of all I like oily rag, well used. Sadly mine was too far gone by the time I got to bolt it back together so it wears freshly blackened running gear, new chrome, alloy rims and maroon paint (matched to the colour I bought it in).

She's mine and she's beautiful and I don't care.

Various, including ...
'58 Iron Head Flash Bitza


Online bsa-bill

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Re: Origin of the Species
« Reply #14 on: 29.10. 2012 12:45 »
In spite of owning two shiny bikes, I do believe in their day A's were produced to be used (most of us then were of an age where abused would also fit)
All the best - Bill
1961 Flash - stock, reliable, steady, fantastic for shopping
1959 Rocket Gold Flash - blinged and tarted up  would have seizure if taken to  Tesco