Within a ten kilometre radius of where I live in Bairnsdale, Victoria, south eastern Australia, there are three other Indians (not counting the ones in sheds that I don't know about). That's quite a cluster when you consider that there are only around 15 thousand people living in that area.
One, the 344 Chief I mentioned earlier, was originally restored by Dad and is now owned and regularly ridden by our friend Rodney.
One of the other locals is my mate Les, who has just finished restoring his 1928 Indian Scout Police Special (short frame 750cc). It has been in his posession for many years after inheriting it from his uncle. Les is a retired engineer who is a very talented and a creative thinker. He has helped us a great deal since we met.
Having taught himself the nickel plating process, Les was able to do most of the plating on both of our bikes. His skills with a lathe have also been a tremendous help. We were able to help him with the spray painting (Dad's old trade coming in handy again) and gave him a rear hub from a 741 Scout which he was able to modify to produce a front brake hub for his bike. Another local is Glen who has a restored 750cc 101 Indian Scout.
Our own front hub was from a 741 Scout and needed an inch cut out of the centre to fit the 101 forks. This was performed by a local engineer sleeved and re-welded it. Unfortunately the two halves were put back together slightly out of rotation, so that when I tried to lace the wheel, the spokes going one direction were too long and the others didn't reach the holes. We fixed this by removing the brake drum and drilling new holes to rivet it back on, but I laced it before drilling so that the drum would find its correct position. We had to pull it apart to drill and rivet the drum onto the hub but after re-lacing and tightening it up, we discovered what should have been obvious. Narrowing the hub meant that the nipple holes wouldn't line up and some of the nipples cracked. Dad made a tool to re-align the holes with a little help from the oxy torch. Finally that wheel went together and I'm in no hurry to lace it again.
This photo which I call "The Three Stooges" was taken at the first starting of the engine. As you can see, it wasn't going anywhere. That's me in the middle with Dad leaning on the front guard and Les in the Indian overalls. After much kicking and a lot of laughter, the engine fired and ran quite roughly for about 30 seconds. This brought huge cheers from the crowd but I wasn't able to restart it again that day. In fact, I could hardly walk. It was the following weekend that we discovered we had the spark plug cables mixed up. The front cable on the magneto goes to the rear cylinder and not the front. Seems logical I guess?? I'm amazed that the engine actually ran! Do we really deserve to be let loose on such a valuable project?
I was waiting for an order to arrive from the Czech Republic which contained many of the parts to complete my bike, and was told by Australia Post that the parcel could take three months. Well it finally arrived almost three months to the day. The quality is excellent and the prices made the wait worthwhile. Normally their delivery is much quicker, but this one was sent surface mail because it included a bulky luggage rack. Check out his website - www.reno.indianmoto.cz it's well worth a look. It is all in Czech and there are no prices, but every item has a picture. The guys' names are Petr and Josef Koupil.
I had been planning to put her on full registration for the first year, but the realisation that I would have to pay $8 stamp duty for every $200 of current value has put me right off. The bike originally cost Dad and Grandpa $75. Since then we have invested a huge amount of our own labour and dollars on goods and materials including GST. Why should I pay well over $1,000 for stamp duty on our own effort and contribution. I believe that the removal of stamp duty was one of the promises made as compensation for the introduction of the GST, however the State Government seems in no hurry to remove it. I have decided to go for cheaper club permit which doesn't include stamp duty, and hopefully the mooted "Club Permit Log Book" will be established soon so I can make use of what is expected to be a very flexible option for vintage vehicle enthusiasts.
Yesterday we had her running again and can see no reason for a roadworthy to be refused. She has developed a new oil leak at the shaft of the generator drive pulley. I have the belt as loose as possible and recently had a new bush made up. I just realised that I have started calling the Scout "Her" and "She". Am I losing it? I have booked the roadworthy for tomorrow. We haven't fitted turning indicators, but because it was manufactured without them, they are not a requirement.
I have been saying that the restoration is finished but I think that with these old things, you never do finish. It is a constant job to maintain them and I guess that is part of the fun of owning one.
The bike now has a club permit. I took it out on the road for the first time with Dad following in a car loaded with tools. It was running quite roughly because the mixture was a bit rich and I was too busy getting used to riding with the unfamiliar configuration of the controls, to be fiddling with the carby at the same time. Very little power, lots of backfiring, and generally making a spectacle of myself. I could also hear a fairly loud scraping noise while the bike was moving; even while coasting in neutral. Our first stop was about five kilometres down the road just to make sure nothing was coming loose. There was oil all over the gearbox, battery box and rear tyre. Time to turn around and take her home.
During the following week while I was at work, Dad replaced the generator drive bush which was faulty, and using an original Indian factory "service shot" (regular updates supplied to agents), he blocked the hole in the casting which feeds oil to the shaft through a hole in the top of the bush, and drilled a new hole from the bottom which drains oil away via two radial grooves he made just inside the outer end of the bush. That leak is now history. I am grateful to Beddo, a Sydney based Indian enthusiast, for supplying a copy of these instructions. I hope to meet him on the 2008 Gypsy Tour. We also loosened the chain which I suspected to be the cause of the scraping noise. I did a few runs up and down the street confirming that the noise had gone, and with some fine tuning on the carby adjustments, had her running very nicely.
I just took her for a 25 km ride. Just a little tweaking to do, and also I need to become familiar with the advance and retard on the right hand grip. The bike is quite stable (I can take both hands off and it just cruises on in a straight line), although the long English style handlebars make cornering a little awkward and tend to tangle up with the gear lever in first gear, and my body parts in that region. I will have to keep an eye out for an American style set. I now have to get out and do a heap of miles to run this motor in before the Gypsy Tour next year.
The bike developed a painful reluctance to fire until I had kicked it over fifty or sixty times. Spark from the magneto was weak. Dad has learned quite a lot about these mysterious contraptions and after pulling it apart, discovered that the original condenser which had tested OK, was now getting past its use by date. Probably about 60 years past it. A 50 cent capacitor was fitted as a replacement and the spark is now impressive.
While the exhaust pipes and timing cover were off (necessary when removing the maggie), we decided to make another modification based on another factory "service shot" from 1929 (also provided by Beddo). This described how to go about relocating the crank case breather tube from lower left side, to high on the timing cover on the right of the motor. This is the standard location on later models. A fairly simple operation, it involved making an aluminium disc to block off the original hole, removing the internal flapper valve between the crank and timing cases, and drilling and facing the new position directly in line with the centre of the magneto drive cog. A longer tube was required to run down under the motor. This whole exercise is designed to prevent the unsightly splat of oil on the driveway which would blow out of the lower tube.
Still not starting easily, but reading emails from others with similar problems, we thought we might have a leaky intake manifold. We put new brass cones in when we put it back on, but didn't anneal them. After cleaning off some daggy bits of plating and refitting the annealed cones with a bit of teflon paste, the manifold pressure tests without blowing bubbles on the joins. At the same time we noticed that we had a new leak in the bottom of the fuel tank. Again with advice from fellow enthusiasts around the world, I have ordered some 3M 766 Slosh Sealer which is used by the aviation industry to seal tanks. The general feeling is that aircraft regulations are very stringent, and if it can resist aircraft fuels, it should cope with the unleaded petrol and Flashlube I put in the Scout.
The 3M sealer arrived and did the job well. Now it's back on the road to rack up some more kilometres.
Finally I had her running nicely doing a half hour test run when about five km from home, riding up a steep hill, she coughed and spluttered to a halt. It turned out that the points fell off the peg and were sitting in the bottom of the magneto case. There is supposed to be a little insulated spring which reaches over from a nearby post and hold the points on. We obviously forgot to fit that spring and it took 300 miles for the points to work their way off the peg. Each time I am stuck on the side of the road, I am never without offers of help from passers by. People want to know all about the bike and many photos are taken.
A week later, I was asked by my employer to lead the Barry Sheene Tribute Ride out of Bairnsdale, so I took the bike for another test run and on exactly the same hill, an exhaust tappet bolt broke. We also had to fit a pole to the bike to fly the Shire flag. Dad had a busy few days getting it repaired and ready. I have devoted a separate page to the Barry Sheene Tribute Ride.
Gradually we are reducing the oil leaks. I decided to order a gearbox seal that I had seen Keith Klippel selling at the Bendigo and Ballarat swap meets each year. The seal fits behind the chain sprocket and worked a treat. While I had the chain guard off I also fitted a new sprocket. When we were putting the bike together I had five different sprockets ranging from 20 tooth to 16 tooth. The 16 tooth sprocket was hardly worn, and the rest were useless, so I used the good one. It soon became obvious why that one had hardly any use. Indian only made them from 17 to 21, so this was very low geared for a sidecar or for farm use. I ordered a 20 tooth sprocket from Murray Morell in Western Australia. My cruising speed and economy have increased dramatically.
Last weekend I rode the Indian out to see my mate Les who has been unwell. He dragged his bike out of the shed and we parked them side by side for the first time. Actually the only other time they had been side by side was when their frames were hanging together being spray painted in Dad's backyard, which seems a long time ago. It was interesting seeing the difference between the two models which were built only months apart.
His son-in-law Philip was visiting at the time. His is a professional photographer Photosmith, so out came the camera. I love this top photo with Les and I in the background looking at his bike. The way Philip set this one up with the sun shining from behind the bikes really shows off the true colour. We chose a nice deep red because it was as close to the original colour found under the toolbox lock of Les's 27 Scout. It has a nice antique look about it but for some reason it normally photographs much brighter than it actually is.
Philip is also a classic motorcycle enthusiast and suggested he take his 1950s AJS out with me for a test ride. We went about forty miles on some lovely winding back roads and it was very enjoyable. In fact, apart from the Barry Sheene Tribute Ride when I rode with over 850 bikes (more of a procession really), this is the first time I have gone out for a ride on my Scout with another motorcyclist.
I just received some repop handlebars from the Czech Republic. They are the correct American style for my model and will make riding much safer. I'm off to the Bendigo Swap this weekend, so the fitting of the new bars will have to wait. (DW 13/11/07)
The new handlebars are on and the old ones were sold at the Bendigo Swap. The difference in riding is amazing. I can now control the bike properly. The left grip doesn't get caught on my knee when I am operating the clutch on a tight left hand turn, and I can now properly counter steer to avoid unexpected potholes. She handles much more like a normal bike and riding pleasure has increased substantially. (DW 16/12/07)
After repeated head gasket blowouts, we had the heads planed and Dad cut some gaskets out of sheet aluminium. This seems to have fixed the problem, but a test ride showed that I had another problem. Loss of power and rough running which we discovered was caused by one of the collets excaping from its little groove in the valve stem. These were new valves which arrived too long. I had ordered them for the 600cc but received the 750cc length. Foolishly, impatience resulted in us getting them shortened and a new groove put in. The engineer somehow didn't manage to put square shoulders into the grooves and there is not much meat between the groove and the end of the valve stem. The best solution is to order the correct valves.
The Gypsy Tour is only weeks away and my bike won't run until the valves arrive. What to do in the meantime? Well there are plenty of jobs needing to be done on the house! We might also have a go at making a banner like the one in the original photo, although that might be a bigger job than it sounds. (DW 10/03/08)
The valves arrived and after they were fitted we stripped out our second thread in the top of the cylinder. Back to the machine shop to have another helicoil fitted. After reassembly, she would start but run very roughly. It wouldn't idle and ran mostly on the front cylinder with the rear one firing every now and then until it reached high revs and then the rear one cut in properly. We needed to get it idling properly to get the needles set right.
Both plugs were sparking and I swapped them over for good measure. We also put another cable to the rear. We have tested the condenser, points and coil in the maggie. The brushes seemed to be OK. I did hear from a friend Eddie here in OZ, that a problem he had was too much carbon in the brushes. I didn't think that was the case for me because they were the same brushes back when it was running like a dream. The carby has been pulled apart and reassembled about five times in one day. We tested the inlet manifold for leaks. The head gaskets were sealing perfectly and all the gaps were right. A couple of frustrating days were spent in the shed at 38 degrees celsius (over 100 degrees Farenheit).
After posting a question on the Virtual Indian List, I received heaps of advice. I tried quite a few without success however many were improvements anyway. My mate Beddo even offered to send me his spare M741 carby on loan for the rally. They apparently just bolt straight on. I accepted his offer and will hand it and the postage amount back to him as well as some ale when we meet up at the Sydney end. Sadly he is unable to participate in the rally.
Results came finally after a phone call to Murray Morell in Western Australia. He instantly recognised my symptoms. "Electricity flows a bit like water", he said. Sparks might look fine in the open air but in the cyclinders the higher compression gained from head planing and new valves was reducing their intensity. He suggested removing the magneto and re-magnetising it as well as reducing the spark plug gaps to 15 thou. This is not a small job, but off it came and in came an old mate with his re-magnetiser. We had done this before but didn't know about sliding the magnet off the machine onto a keeper and then sliding it onto the magneto. We had used a keeper but just lifted the magnet off and tested the magnetism by feeling how hard it was to pull the keeper off. This apparently weakens the field substantially each time you do it.
Our old mate's re-magnetiser is a different one to what we used previously. His runs off 12 volts and has steel blocks so that you don't even have to remove the magnet from its base. You only have to remove the brass cover and sit the whole magneto on the magnetiser, making sure you have the North and South poles the right way around. Then you slide the blocks up against either side. One or two jabs on the little button and the difference is unbelievable. Removing the blocks required much more effort, and when turning the shaft, you can feel much greater resistance. All back together now and she is running perfectly.
I went for another ride with Philip yesterday and while riding over a crest found that I couldn't back the throttle off, so I rode home operating the butterfly by hand. Indian restorers will probably already have guessed that the small screw holding the end of the cable in place in the shuttle which runs up and down the twist grip worm, had fallen out. It was floating loose in the end of the rubber grip. We found another screw with better thread and stuck it in with Loctite. Loctite is such a great product I'm thinking of soaking the whole bike in it overnight to stop bits falling off.
I have three clear days until heading to Healesville for the start of the Gypsy Tour and it is finally looking like the bike will be a starter. I'm not saying any more than that for the moment.