They’re back!

Today is Tuesday 14th September, I got back from walking the dogs this morning to find a note poked in the back door.

It was from ParcelForce telling me they’d tried to deliver a package while I was out and that I could pick it up from the local post office “after 1.00 pm”.

I went and picked it up and sure enough it was the LE cylinder barrels back, they’d been received at 3.01pm on Thursday according to the ParcelForce tracker and here they were back on the Tuesday morning, now that’s service!. It also shows how having the correct tooling to do a job can make it quick and easy.

Unfortunately I’ve not yet heard back from the LE Velo Club about my membership and until I have a member number I cannot use their Spares Scheme, I’ve a shopping list here ready to go as soon as I have that number!, mainly gaskets but I need those to re-assemble the engine.

In the meantime I’ve been having a look at making a fixing strap for the battery. The pukka strap is a piece of bent steel strip. I’d measured up and got as far as making the proverbial cardboard template when I had second thoughts, “Why not pinch the idea from BMW and secure the battery in place with a rubber strap?”.

I can remember that on my old R50 BMW there was a rubber strap over the top of the battery to secure it and I’d never had any problems with it so let’s have a look and see what’s needed.

I’ll need two frame anchor points, well there are the two points where the maker’s strap was fixed so it just means making up a pair of anchor hooks for the strap, not difficult, so what about the strap?.

The strap can be made from bands cut from an old inner tube, if I put them through a length of electrical braided sheathing that will give a more “professional” look to the job and anyway since it is under the saddle, while it can be seen it’s not out on open display as it were.

Details? A double hook is needed on the bike, one on either side of the battery. The ends of the rubber strap are looped over a short length of 4mm rod so the hooks go over the rod, on either side of the strap. I’ll need to glue the strap to get the correct length but I can either use “Super glue” or the glue from a puncture outfit for that.

When I took the barrels off I found that it would have been easier if I had had some “LE specific” tools, a 10mm plug spanner, a 2 BA box spanner and a 2 BA open ender, and a “special” for the cylinder base nuts.

While the special will have to come from the LE club I’ve been “on web” and sourced the others, while I don’t have any 2 BA spanners a 1/8 Whitworth is very near on size, close enough if the nuts are not too tight.

I’ve also found in my stash a 1/4” drive socket that will fit the base nuts and if I trim the length a bit and use a wobble bar it will do the job of the special base nut spanner nicely.

I’ll also need some ¼” BSF taps and a die to clean the cylinder head studs and nuts, better get some 2 BA as well so a call to Tracy Tools is on the cards as well.


I sent the two barrels off to have the water stubs replaced middle of last week, Parcelforce tracker says they were delivered Thursday afternoon, so it’s now a case of waiting for them to come back.

I’ve sent off for membership of the LE Velo Club so I’ve now to await their acknowledgement to be able to order up some spares.

Among the gen I got with the bike however was a spare parts book so I’ve been sorting out what I need, but I have to wait for their official order form before I can send the order in.

The little beasty is currently sitting in the garage minus her cylinders and there’s not a lot I can really do until I get them back.

One thing to sort out is the battery though. The LE has a 6-volt system. Originally the battery would have been the old rubber-cased type but these are not readily available now. The usual trick is to use a smaller modern AGM battery inside the case of one of the old type batteries and I’m in luck here in that I have such a case “on the shelf”, a bit battered but useable, and the battery the bike came with WILL fit into it.

I’ll just need to make up a top strap to secure the battery in place under the saddle so there is a job that needs doing.

The battery that came with the bike may be a problem however as it was stone flat when I got it. I have charged it up however and it’s been standing a couple of days now to see if it holds it’s charge, running a battery right down is an acknowledged way to knacker it after all.

Problems With Watercooling (2)

Next thing is “Just take the barrels off”. Sounds so easy – BUT first you need to drain down the cooling system, on both sides!, next remove the water hoses to get some room to work, labelling everything so it can go back in the same place.

Next is to remove the carburetter, relatively simple job but space is limited, followed by removing the inlet manifold, 4 small nuts, each placed close to the manifold tube and easy to drop!.

Now it’s just remove the exhausts, but these are not only held onto the barrels by 2 small bolts each but the pipes have to be persuaded to come out of the silencer box as well.

All this went to plan, no problems.

So start with the easy one and take off the left cylinder head.

The heads are each held on with 6 studs, ¼ inch BSF, nothing fancy so ease them of a little at a time till they spin off free. Book now says to take hold of the head and slide it off the studs but the head has not read the book!.

The head will not budge, first thing is to try jarring it off with a rubber hammer, no joy so try with the hide/copper mallet, still no movement.

Before getting violent I decided to remove the head and barrel as a unit so it’s undo the 5 barrel hold down nuts and slide the barrel off the piston, remembering to catch the piston as it drops from the barrel!.

Now I have the barrel and head in my hands I can get a bit more “creative”. Using the shaft of the hammer down the barrel I try to knock the head loose with no apparent effect till a closer look shows that the head has moved a little down the studs and that whoever rebuilt the engine last time had used a gasket cement on the head gasket. Not only had this stuck the head to the barrel but it had squeezed into the stud bores and glued these as well, I’m afraid the air went a little blue at this discovery and the previous mechanics ears must have been burning!.

Once I finally had them apart I had to clean the head joint faces of the remains of the glued on gasket. As the cylinder head is aluminium alloy I had to be careful not to damage it while scraping off the old gasket, I wound up taking the blade out of a Stanley knife and using that almost as a plane to peel the gasket off the alloy, certain blessings were pronounced while doing this but eventually the joint face was clean.

The barrel was easier to clean because it’s made from cast iron and so is less liable to damage when cleaning it. To make the job easier I removed the cylinder head studs, or anyway the 5 of them I could get to come out. (On both barrels the stud nearest the exhaust port would not come out.)

This was the barrel with the bad water pipe and I could now get a good look at it, it was a testament as to how corrosive water is and it showed just how little overlap between a stub pipe and the water hose is needed for a watertight joint, there was only about 1/16 inch of it left on one side!

I decided to call it a day and finish the job later, Mañana after all.

Here’s a look at the barrels to show you the water inlet and outlet stubs.
And this shows the inlets in close-up , these stubs should stand 3/4 inch proud of the barrel

Next job is a repeat performance on the right hand side, only difference is that the oil filter has to be taken off the head first.

Once I’ve got this head and barrel cleaned up then I just have to parcel the barrels up and post them off for repair.

While I’m awaiting their return I can clean up the joint faces on the crankcases ready for the repaired barrels and order up the new gaskets etc that I’ll need for the job.

Problems With Watercooling (1)!

A problem I was aware of when I took on the LE was that there was a water leak.

When I investigated further I found that the problem was not simply a badly made connection but that of a corrosion damaged water inlet pipe on one of the barrels, after all the bike is around 60 years old now.

There are four of these stubs, an inlet and an outlet on each barrel.

Fortunately these are not cast as part of the barrel but are simply a short length of tube, made as a press fit into the main barrel casting.

Having found one bad stub I checked the other three and found that “If doing one better do them all”.

While it is quite possible for you to replace these yourself there is an LEVelo club member who offers this as a service at a very reasonable price, in fact when I ‘phoned him for more information he quoted me a price for doing both that I thought was for fixing just one barrel!

This means its not worth going to the trouble of making the tooling necessary for the job and turning up the new stubs.

It does mean however that I’ll have the bike standing in the garage with the engine open for a while, not the best of ideas. The easy way round this is to make up a pair of blanking plates to cover the crankcase mouths and keep any muck out. Not only that but they can support the pistons in place while the barrels are being refitted rather than me having to support the piston with one hand, the barrel with the other and using a third hand to compress the piston rings into place in the barrel as I slide it into place.

To get the material for these plates I went down to Maxwells DIY in Birtley, had a rake in their offcuts box and came away with a nice piece of 4mm plywood.

Once I got back home I dug into the bits and pieces that had come with the bike and found a cylinder base gasket.

This was laid onto the plywood, drawn round and the holes marked out. I then set to and sawed the required two plates out of the plywood.

The hold down bolts for the cylinders are ¼ inch diameter so I drilled the holes in the plates out to 8mm, near enough 5/16 inch.

I then marked the centre of the bore and drilled a 12mm hole there and opened that up to the top edge so that I had a slot running from the top edge to the bore centre, this was to take the connecting rod, idea being that with both plates in position, by turning the engine I could bring both pistons down to lock the plates in position against the crankcase and seal the cases shut while the barrels were away being fixed.

That was the easy bit done, next comes the grovelling to the machine gods.

The “New” Bike

I’ve now got the little Velo back home, here’s a look at her.

As you can see she is in very nice condition.

I’ve had a closer look at her now and it seems that she is a hybrid, a MkIII power unit fitted to a MkII chassis so she has the earlier front forks, wheel and headlamp married to the later engine, gearbox and rear end.

This means I’ve a full-width rear and a half-width front hub fitted. The front wheel is a 19inch diameter while the rear is an 18 inch but the front tyre is a 3.00 inch and the rear a 3.50 so that evens up ok.

Her battery is shagged so that means a new one goes on order, I can’t pinch one from one of the other bikes because they are all on 12 volt systems and this old lady runs on 6 volts.

As about the only source of spares is through the owners club I’m going to have to sign up to it, well that’s the same situation I have with the old Panther so it just means that I’ll be a member of yet another club! So I’ve downloaded the membership application form from their website, filled it in and posted it of.

I can also get the workshop book, owner’s manual and spares book through the club so that’s going to be useful as well.

Addition to the Stable

Well, I’ve been and gone and done it, I’ve got myself a “new” bike.

About 40 years ago I had an LE Velocette, yes, a “noddy bike”.

I know they are not fashionable and can be the subject of derision but that little beast proved itself to be a solid little bike and one that had the quality of build and handling you expect of a Velocette.

So why did I sell it?, quite simply someone made a stupid offer for it, one which I at that time could not afford to turn down but it left me with an affection for the little beasts.

For a while now I’ve had the yen to get another and when I recently heard of one available near me I decided to look it up.

I’ve been over and had a look at it and it appears to be in a better state than I expected, even than I had hoped!.

It’s in very nice condition. According to the book, to start them you turn on the fuel, turn the engine over a couple of times to get the fuel through to the cylinders, yes it’s a twin!, switch on, press down on the starter and it should start and that’s exactly what happened!, despite it having a flat battery that had only been on charge for some 10 minutes.

It looks to be an early MkIII model as it has the later 4 speed gearbox with footstarter. This came in with the MkIII, earlier models having a hand lever starter and a three speed hand-change gearbox so it’s a pretty good indicator as to the Mk.

However the MkIII has the speedo mounted in the headlamp shell and this one has it mounted on the top of the left leg shield, as was done on the Mks I and II and it has the earlier fork assembly so it may be one of the transition bikes.

Lighting the Way

Last time I was out on the Velo I found that there was no charge registering. Once I got back home I found that the problem lay within the generator.

I still had the original generator on my Velo, a 6-volt Miller dynamo, which is very similar to the Lucas units more commonly fitted to most British bikes in the immediate post-war period.

These were a slightly upgraded version of the units fitted back in the late 1920’s which put out all of 36 watts at 6 volts!. The newer dynamos put out a nominal maximum of 60 watts reducing to about 45 watts at town riding speeds. This means that even with the newer unit the standard lights are low powered and give, at best, a 6-volt 36 watt headlamp!!.

Miller Dynamo

They are normally a fairly reliable unit but mine is now over 50 years old and has given up on life so I decided to bite the bullet and rather than having it rebuilt I would upgrade and fit a more modern unit.

There is a French made replacement for these old style dynamos which is a direct replacement dimensionally for the old dynamos and so will fit in the existing dynamo cradle and use the existing drive and give double the output. While these units are not cheap, nor is the cost of a rebuild of a dynamo and when you take the benefit of decent lights and add that to the cost of a dynamo rebuild then things seem much more reasonable.

Alton Generator

So I contacted my Velo parts supplier and ordered one of these “Alton” units, because it is an alternator rather than a dynamo it also requires a regulator/rectifier unit but this came as part of the package and is a standard “Podtronics” unit rather than a special so that fact may be useful later as I can also use it on the big Panther by changing the drive pulley.

Despite the postal hold ups it was delivered within two days, now I’ve just to get round to fitting it!!.

Owing to monsoon conditions this was put off for a while but did not prove difficult.

First thing was to disconnect the battery before starting to remove the old dynamo.

I removed the drive belt cover (for those not familiar with a Velo the dynamo is driven by a V-belt off the engine shaft shock absorber). Next was to slacken the nut on the end of the dynamo shaft before removing the drive belt.

Next off was the dynamo drive pulley, this has to come off because otherwise it blocks the removal of the belt drive inner cover which is next to come off, and then there’s only the dynamo clamping bolt to loosen off and the dynamo can be slid out of its cradle, not forgetting to undo the wiring cables from the dynamo.

The ‘Alton’ unit can now be slid into the cradle in place of the Miller and the belt inner cover fitted and the drive pulley fitted.

It is important to get the drive pulleys in line, otherwise you’re liable to have the belt jump the pulley or, at best, wear badly. Simple way to do this is to take a length of 6mm round bar and put a right-angle bend a couple of inches from one end.

If you now hook this into one of the pulleys then the free length gives straight line along the required drive line and so can be used to line up the two pulleys.

Once the pulleys are in line then all that’s left here is to fit the belt and set its tension by rotating the generator in its cradle.

Now we get complicated, it’s time to fit the reg/rec unit.

On the later Velos such as mine the regulator is fitted onto the rear mudguard, under the saddle and, nicely out of the way.

Looking for somewhere unobtrusive to mount it I settled – – – – on the rear mudguard under the saddle, where the original unit lived.

This has the advantage that I can utilise the existing cabling to connect the reg/rec into the bikes systems.

There are a pair of leads from the generator which match up to two of the leads from the reg/rec.

Of the other two leads from the reg/rec, one goes to the main ground point, which is under the tank anyway and the other is the power lead going up to the main switch.

Once everything was connected up and checked all to be working that was it and I now have the advantage of being able to run a decent headlamp rather than having to rely on just a time-served glow-worm in a jar.

Why did I go for the upgrade?. Well the Velo is still a practical road machine, it was about the top rated sports bike of its generation and is still well capable of coping in modern traffic. Its weak point was the low powered 6 volt lighting system.

With this new generator I now have a 12 volt system with good lights, in fact because the bike has a magneto and so no power demand to run an ignition system, I have power and to spare to run a spotlight as well if I so wish.

Before the conversion, if I was out with lights on I needed to really be above 40mph to keep the battery charged, riding at lower speed, as in towns, meant the loads did not balance and the battery would gradually drain down. Not only that but the lights were low powered, now I happily run a standard QH headlamp and can SEE where I am going after dark.

A Bit More Support.

A downside of using the Panther as a solo is that, being a rigid-framed machine she does not have a centre stand, any time you stop it’s a case of working your way to the back and heaving her up onto the rear stand. While this stand does have a “Roll-On” foot it’s still a hassle.

Unfortunately Panther never supplied a side stand for their machines and because they do not have an underframe it is not possible to fit one of the after-market “clamp-on” universal fit side stands.

However, between the wars there was a stand available that could be used and there is now someone manufacturing these once again.

The stand in question is the “EsWay” and a modern version is available as the “Vintelle”from Mick Hall Engineering in Otley.

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1928 Advert for Esway stand

I made contact with him to enquire as to its suitability for an M100 Panther and discovered that his first one had actually been fitted to an M100 so I ordered one up, this was late on on Tuesday so the order would be processed on Wednesday. It was delivered on Thursday morning!

Packed stand kit

The stand came better packed than just about anything else I have bought on-line, putting the standard Ebay and Bangood efforts to shame, along with a comprehensive fitting guide, so it was out to the garage and get on with it.

The stand fits across the rear sub frame, as far forwards as is practical, about level with where a centre stand would fit. It comes with various fittings to suit a wide variety of machines so first thing is to sort out the best ones for your purpose, then a re-read of the fitting instructions before lifting the spanners!.

As the Panther has an exhaust on either side I selected the lower mount with the greatest stand off and assembled it loose onto the lower chain stay and attached the stand to it.

Lower bracket mounted on bottom chain stay

There’s a choice of two upper mounts in the kit so next thing was to see which was needed.

I extended the stand to make sure it would clear the nearside exhaust and made my selection to suit, fitting it round the upper chain stay.

All that was left to do was to snug everything up and make sure the stand foot had clearance and that it was clear of the ground when the bike was laid over into a corner, not a good idea to have it fouling!.

Upper bracket goes onto upper chain stay and stand mounts across the brackets.

The only criticism I have is that the mountings supplied for it are slotted pan-head set screws, I would have preferred to see Allen cap screws or even just simple hex head bolts, a minor niggle when all is said and done.

A Bit Off The Side.

With the way things are at present I’ve taken the sidecar off the R12 to ride it as a solo for a while.

This is not a difficult job, worst part is manoeuvring the detached sidecar around.

All it takes is to slack off the two bell clamps, remove the bolt through the upper clevis of the upper brace, unplug the lights and I can wheel the sidecar away, not even a ten-minute job!.

When it comes to replacing it things are just as easy, and because of the design of the sidecars fittings I will not have to re-align things, it literally just plugs straight back on.

However, taking the sidecar off brings with it another problem, but it’s one I would have had anyway, Tyres!

Both tyres on the old lady are a bit worn and are well past their “use by” dates, so it’s been onto the Internet to see what is available.

With the old girl having been built back in 1940 she runs on the old imperial sized tyres. While these are still available choice is a bit limited.

Strangely enough, if I wanted sidecar use tyres it would be easy because suitable tyres are still in production because they are used on pre-war cars such as the Austin Seven. Being a sidecar tyre though they have a flat profile and that does not give good handling on a solo machine.

A rake around the Web turned up some options using modern tread patterns, not ideal for use on a vintage bike, and then I found a MITAS tyre in the correct size and with an older profile, one more suited to the age of the bike.

These are of East European manufacture and while possibly not really suitable for use on a modern “crotch rocket” they are perfectly adequate for use on an elderly side-valve machine like the R12, so it was out with the card and order up a pair, along with new tubes and rim-tapes.

Even with current hold-ups delivery only took a couple of days and now it’s just a case of fitting them and now is an ideal time as the current heat wave heats up the new tyres and make them more supple and easier to fit.

When it came to removing the old tyres they showed their age, you could just about strike a match on their side walls they were so stiff and hardened!, I was glad of the extra tyre lever I had bought some years ago that’s almost half as long again as the standard ones that came in the R80 BMW’s tool kit!.

I fitted new inner tubes and rim tapes while I was at it, after all the old ones had been in there for some 30 years now, I checked the date code on the old tyres, 1984! they were well time expired even if they did still have reasonable amounts of tread left.

The new tyres went on easily as they were warm, I cleaned up the rim bead areas, soaped the tyres beads inside and out and did not need the levers to mount them, the one bead slipping on with hand pressure and the other being “walked” on. As soon as the new tyres were fitted I put about 40 psi of air into them and bounced them all round their perimeter and the beads snapped home without any problems.

Then it was just a case of adjust the tyre pressures and refit the wheels.

What’s New?

It’s been a while since I posted anything on this blog, too long! But there’s not been much happening with the bikes as they’ve been running well. However I’m feeling in need of a change now so –.

I’ve taken the sidecar off the big Panther, not the easiest of jobs when working on your own, but do-able, the body is now up on a pair of trestles in the shed and the chassis is in the back yard.

The Panther now stands as a solo in the garage, but she’s not on her own as the old BMW has been brought out of storage and is standing beside her, they make a good pairing, the 600cc 1937 Panther M100 and the 750cc 1940 BMW R12.

Although the Panther has the smaller displacement engine of the two she is the more powerful at 26bhp to the BMW’s 20bhp, but the BMW is a twin cylinder side-valve with a heavy external flywheel so is possibly the better slogger of the two, still neither was intended as a sports bike.

Anyway the BMW is set up with a full set of Steib quick release sidecar fittings so once I have the chair set up for her I can drop it on and off in around five minutes work, useful!!

Now, what does the BMW need doing to get her in commission again?

Well her battery is an AGM sealed unit and has survived her spell in the storage unit. It was still showing about half-charged when I put it on the charger. She is magneto ignition and that’s sparking well but I’ll treat her to a new pair of plugs.

How about oils?, well oil is cheaper than metal so it’s new oil all round, and owing to her age it’s an old-fashioned non-detergent type oil. Equally I needed new drain and filler plug gaskets.

On a machine of this age these should be the hollow rolled-copper type rather than the solid aluminium ones BMW now supply. A quick rake round on ebay soon found a supplier of these in the necessary 14mm and 18mm sizes.

Rather than run her up to hot on the old oil I let her drain out overnight and then it was just a case of fill the engine to between marks on the dip-stick, fill the gearbox and final drive until the oil reached the bottom of the filler hole threads and that was that.

Now the acid test! I put a half-gallon of fuel into the tank, no leaks visible! GOOD!!, turn on the tap (which way is “ON” and which is “RESERVE”??, I can’t remember!! ).

OK, the carbs filled up so a good tickle on each carb, crack open the throttle and turn over the engine several times to prime the cylinders, then it was just switch on the ignition and kick her over.

While she fired she didn’t pick up so a tad more throttle and try again and the old girl was running again! Tick-over balance is a bit off but I’ll need her warmed through to set that up so it will have to wait.

Now I know she’s a runner what else needs doing.

An immediate obvious is indicators!. Last time out she was hauling the chair.

I know it’s non-original, but on modern roads an outfit NEEDS indicators and now you can use LED units without overloading the electrical system so she was fitted up with lights on one side, the others being on the chair. So it’s get another pair of indicators and fit them.

I had to make up (and paint) a set of mounting brackets for them, run in the wiring and then tap it into the circuit to the sidecar indicators, a quick check and they were working..

Next thing was cosmetics, the front mudguard needed some serious touch-up where the paint has been badly scarred and had started lifting while the old lady had been in the storage unit.

Fortunately it can be redone while still on then bike as it would be serious hassle to remove it and then a dose of “T-Cut” after about a fortnight’s curing and then a polish job should see things OK.

As I’m writing this she’s standing in the garage with the first top coat on the guard giving it time to harden off before she’s put away for the night, another coat tomorrow should then see it ok.

I can’t really complain as both guards were in a bad state when I got the bike back at the beginning of the Eighties and they needed serious patching to be made usable, and she has seen some serious mileage since then!

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

When I had a look at things the next day I was very happy as to the finish, the “Craftsman” paint I was trying out as a replacement for my old favourite “Tekaloid” came through with flying colours.

Only trouble was the contrast with the old paint, this had weathered over time so the new paint stood out like the proverbial on a barn door!.

So I broke out the “T-Cut” and gave the guard a good rub down and that did the trick, you no longer noticed the repair unless you looked closely, snag is I now have to do the rest of the bike to get it to match the front mudguard!.

The R12 is quite heavily pinstriped so this repair has left a gap in the lining on the front guard that I’ll need to patch, so I now need to break out the lining brushes.

Lining is properly done free-hand and the difficult bit is getting a tight curve without smearing. My way round this is to mask out the line so that any smear goes onto the masking tape, problem is that with the BMW double line I’ll need to do one line and let it harden off before I can mask off to do the other.

I’ve also had the old girl out on the road for a run to see how things were.

I found that while she was willing to start and run, the start-up from cold was not as willing as it used to be and she was very reluctant to start from hot.

What I’ve done today is to treat her to a pair of new plugs, the old ones had been in for a long time now. I’ve also had the carburetters off and stripped and cleaned them, they have been standing for a couple of years and what fuel had been left in them had dried out and left a “varnish” of crud inside the passages and jets.

Fortunately she’s running on a pair Amal 276’s and these are an easy carb to strip down and clean.

I’ll need to synchronise the slide opening before I take her out again and while that’s a fiddly job it’s not that difficult.

I’ve also offered up the sidecar chassis to the bike, before I actually fit it I’m wanting to rig a sidecar brake. I had a sidecar brake on the Panther outfit and found it useful, after all the bikes brakes are from the 1930’s and brake technology has come a fair way since then so every little helps.

The rear brake on the R12 is with a heel operated pedal on the right-hand side. What I’m doing is to mount a pedal onto the sidecar chassis with a lever coming straight across to the bike and level with the rear brake pedal so its pad lies alongside the bike’s one. This means that when I apply the bike’s brake I’ll also apply the sidecar brake as well, and by rocking my foot I can vary their relative pressures.

However I’ll also be able to apply either brake on its own to give differential braking which can be useful to assist in cornering.

Only thing is that while I’ve the brake pedal set up I’ve still to arrange the cable fitment at the drum end of the system, as a “By The Way” the chassis I’m using is from an LS200 Steib. The wheel us from a Ural/Dneiper, a half width hub that looks in keeping with the R12 and the brake mechanism is an Enfield type from a rigid-framed Panther.