26 November 2014

Peking to Paris - 1907

A few months ago I picked up the book German Racing Silver, and then it's sister book Italian Racing Red. Both pretty excellent, encyclopedic books concerning the automobile history of their respective countries, the former an excellent complement to a book I read about Hitler's racing program (essentially the Mercedes and Auto Union silver arrows) and the latter to complement a disappointing biography of Enzo Ferrari that I recently finished reading. When I got the the Itala section of the Italian book, the author quoted one Luigi Barzini who documented a race from Peking, China to Paris, France in 1907 aboard an Itala. He claimed the story was so good that one could write a book about it, and Barzini did just that. Immediately after reading that statement I went to the book sources, found the book and was able to locate a used copy online (it seems the book is no longer in print, at least in English).

What a fantastic story it wound up being. I've often remarked to my wife that I wish the world was large again, where cultures remained in somewhat isolation of one another. Where you could travel to the other side of the world and find traditional dress and customs in tact, with no signs of Western dress, music, food, etc. It bothered me a little when I went to Amsterdam on my first trip to Europe and found the Dutch to speak English so well, almost American sounding, see the same crap music on TV, see McDonalds and all the other stores I'm accustomed to seeing on the East Coast of the US. I felt that if it weren't for the canals and architecture, I could have been in any US city. Having gone to Germany and couple times after this I can say that I definitely felt like I was in Germany at all times and loved that , but that's another story. Reading Peking to Paris, you're presented with a world that may as well have existed 500 years ago. People were afraid of cars, some thinking them to be some kind of animal being piloted by demons (at least during the parts occurring in China, Mongolia, and Siberia). Cultures remained so different from one another, and there was no google, GPS, or auto translators to help along the way. News came by telegram, when it existed, not instantaneously via email. To really appreciate this, pick up the book and give it a read, I can't do it enough justice in my brief blog entry.

Now, about the race:

The concept of the race came about in a Paris Newspaper (Le Matin) as a a means of proving the durability of the newfound automobile:

"What needs to be proved today is that as long as a man has a car, he can do anything and go anywhere. Is there anyone who will undertake to travel this summer from Peking to Paris by automobile?"

Of 40 entrants, only 5 teams actually committed to the race by providing a deposit and shipping their vehicles to Peking. Due to the vast disparity between original entrants and actual participants, the race was going to be called off, though Prince Borghese (heading the Itala team with his mechanic/chauffeur Ettore Guizzardi) refused to accept the cancellation and sent a telegram to Paris stating his intentions to go to Peking to participate no matter what. His team was joined by a journalist, Luigi Barzini, who was sent by an Italian newspaper to document the race. The other teams consisted of a Dutch team using a Spyker (finishing 2nd), 2 French teams driving DeDions, and another French team using a Contal three-wheeler cycle-car (the only participant not to complete the race).

The Itala 7.0 liter 4-cylinder. Unlike the DeDions this car used a driveshaft instead of chains to power the wheels.



The Itala not only won the race, it did so by a margin greater than a week. During the race it was pulled by coolies through the hills of China, sunk in mud due to the complete absence of roads, and even flipped over and fell due to a bridge collapsing under it . Yet in all instances human power was able to free the machine and put it back on course. At one point a carriage maker built the team a new front wheel, and another made them new leaf springs. With all of our modern conveniences, I don't think my car would fare nearly as well.

The introduction to the book claims that Barzini's story was a standard gift to Italian children graduating school. I guess to supply them with an adventurous spirit, or maybe to keep alive a 20th century Italian triumph. I really think that this sort of tradition should continue, especially over in the US. Here it seems like we're too caught up in playing victims about things, harping on social struggles (real or imagined), obsessed with a world focus, but with no idea of what our own culture really is. Our culture is obsessed with our shortcomings and failures and none of our triumphs. 

Our kids need to read about something nice like this, about going on adventures into the unknown, about ingenuity and hardiness conquering every setback. Like I said earlier, I really wish the world was big again, we're so connected to everything nowadays that we have no concept of who we even are anymore.

16 November 2014

Speaking of hipsters

My buddy Shane von Cycles (see blog) just made this little ditty to remind everyone to drop the aesthetics and posing and take a real ride



Destroy All Hipsters from Asphalt Redemption on Vimeo.


14 November 2014

hipsters...

Even my 4-year old can spot one and color appropriately (note the yellow seat and blue suede boots)


04 November 2014

major parts deliveries

I'm still waiting on a major order to come in from Max BMW, namely bottom end spacers, bearings, etc., and I still need to get the crankshaft rebuilt, but I'm beginning to see signs of a complete engine after the parts delivery today.

+2 Timing gears, 30 degree - new style


Remember that $50 box of parts I got way back when? Well, a couple things I was able to salvage for this build was a new type oil pump gear wheel and crankshaft lower timing gear. The lower gear was kinda strange because it's a 0 and the correlating timing gear in the box was a -3 (these early BMW engines don't use timing chains, they use precision gears sized to the crankcase and ranging from -10 to +10). My case is a +2 so that was a no go, but I kept the lower gear as cases shrink over time and figured I may need it when I buy +2 gears and find that they fit too tightly. Now I have +2 gears, so we'll see what happens.

These gears are the new style, meaning 30-degree (so they work with the new-style oil pump wheel I kept), and they'll accept the new style breather plate (much improved from the pin-style) which also came with the box that keeps on giving. I got these from S.Meyer in Hillesheim, Germany and they were about 30% cheaper than what BMW was asking. I was a little concerned about the price being so cheap, but they look and feel OEM and seem to be very high quality. Now I can completely cross the cam-shaft parts off my list, and with everything else for the crank on order, that'll be complete as well. Once I get the parts in and the crankshaft rebuilt I'll finally have a complete bottom end.

Concerning the top-end, I'll admit that I was kinda stressing over things. I was able to get the cylinders no problem, even got em for a great price, but good heads are somewhat difficult to find. One of the big reasons is the most commonly found heads are ones from the early to mid-1960's. The issue is heads in the 60's were prone to bad metallurgy (due to environmental concerns, the alloy used in the casting was changed) causing, exhaust threads to melt away like butter and rocker posts to literally sink into the head. Duane Ausherman actually coined the term "butterheads" to describe them.

BMW Bulletin #244 dated 7 Apr 67 claims:
The material of the heads was previously changed to avoid the use of chloric gas required to clean the equipment that handled the former "hydronalium" alloy. 
Going on to say: "it has been found that the new alloy does fully equal the hitherto used alloy concerning its resistance to heat"

They also developed cracks in the combustion chamber and tended to launch their spark plug inserts. BMW's solution was Lange Kerz (long spark plug) or "LK" heads that used an entirely new alloy. My choice was essentially either find really early heads with the quality, pre-pollution laws, that don't crack or melt, or find LK heads. I wound up getting a great deal doing the former.

1952 R51/3 Heads + Rockers



I'm pretty stoked about these heads. You may be wondering why I'd get R51/3 heads for an early R60, but the R51/3, R67, R50, R60, R50/2, and R60/2 all shared the same heads and valve sizes (with varying metallurgy as mentioned previously). Note the 2 different valve springs (per valve) and the thick cooling fins that identify this as an early head. I know a rebuild of these will occur somewhere down the line, maybe even convert to rotating valves, but once my bottom end is together I'm going to bolt these right up and test the compression. If found to be within spec, they are staying on, at least until the next winter...

30 October 2014

restless with the R60

It'll be about a month before my timing gears arrive from Germany, along with the new bearings and spacers to complete the R60 bottom end. I'm getting so anxious to build this engine that I put together the camshaft with the bearings I was able to source locally.

How impressive...


Expect a lot more updates in a month or two

29 October 2014

Lucky Cat Garage Sprintbeemer

I know this is pretty old news (I think I read about it in BMW Motorcycle Magazine at the beginning of the year), but still pretty damn cool.

Lucky Cat Garage from France built this excellent BMW conversion drag racer, when I first saw it in the magazine it looked like this:


Now, it looks like this:


There's so much coolness about this, the dustbin fairing, the Dellorto 40mm "pumper" carbs, the moped tank, the machined out hubs, electronic ignition, extended sump, the custom rear struts, the list goes on and on and it's probably just best to read the linked blog above. So many little hidden details and character. I like the old school trick of using the lower fork clamp as the upper brace, the conversion swingarm and corresponding spacer to connect the d/s to the trans. This would be a terrible bike to ride on the street, but that's not the point is it? If I had money and time to just own a drag racer, I'd build a conversion like this.

I took a lot of work to make this work, although that might not be apparent to people unfamiliar with BMWs. So kudos Lucky Cat Garage, seeing this makes me want to turn my R60 frame into a conversion bike, if only I weren't so deep into it already...

16 October 2014

Oil Analysis - BMW Performance 20W50 vs. Porsche Classic Motor Oil 20w50 (PART 2) - Conclusion

Well, results are in. I'm very surprised.

Besides just getting a test on the Porsche oil, I wanted to compare the new BMW formulation (blended by Castrol/BP), with the old BMW blend by Spectro and the Castrol 4T conventional oil (to see if all the BMW oil is now is just re-badged Castrol 4T - a theory I was pretty certain was going to prove true). Here are the old results Kurt got for BMW and Castrol a few years ago for the BMWMOA (approximates based of his charts).

BMW Conventional 20w50 (Spectro Blend)
Zinc: 1375ppm
Phosphorus: 1100ppm
Viscosity at 100C: 18
TBN: 7.5

Castrol 4T Conventional 20w50
Zinc: 950 ppm
Phosphorus: 750ppm
Viscosity at 100C: 20
TBN: 8

Here's the new results. NOTE: Although TBN was requested for the testing, I can only find the TAN on my test results, so for now that will be omitted...

New BMW Conventional 20w50 (Castrol Blend)
Zinc: 1207ppm
Phosphorus: 1014ppm
Viscosity at 100C: 18 .7
TBN: n/a

Porsche Classic Motoroil 20w50
Zinc: 883ppm
Phosphorus: 927ppm
Viscosity at 100C: 19.1
TBN: n/a

Based on these results, it appears that BMW does indeed have a different formula than Castrol 4T, which I was pretty surprised about. It also appears that the Porsche is lacking in the ZDDP area - so maybe the Germans really do believe Americans are the only ones concerned with ZDDP. The one thing Porsche had going for it was the Calcium level - 2026ppm compared with 636ppm in the BMW oil. BMW oil was also full of Magnesium and Porsche had almost none. That being said, I will not be using the Porsche in my airhead.


Attached are the full analysis results for the new BMW oil:


  
 
And the Porsche oil:


11 October 2014

Attack of the Spaghetti monster, i.e. new headlight switch, projects, and Autumn Skies

After 40 years of service, the headlight switch on the R90/6 bit the dust. As far as I could tell, the contacts were just completely worn out. I retained the switch in hopes of trying to rebuild it someday as the new switch BMW makes is a little different (also, if anyone knows the diameter of the ball bearing used in the headlight switch to hold positions let me know, after dropping it during it five times, I finally lost it). For one, it has 8 wires instead of 9. The red wire is now omitted which means that you can no longer flash the high-beam when the keys are out of the bike. This was a feature I never used, unless hitting it by accident, but was kinda neat, Max BMW described it as being there to give a signal to a submarine like in an old war movie and I'd like to think that's what it was actually intended for. Something else a little different is the absence of a brown ground wire, instead the green/black wire goes to the ground - I don't know why they did this, but I'm glad I heard about that before installing the new switch as there was an open green/black terminal on the board.

When you go to mess with the /6 electrics this is what you're presented with


Needlenose pliers are essential when working in this area. The wires coming into the headlight at 1 o'clock are the ones related to the headlight switch.

Old switch - note the red wire which is absent from the new switch and the brown ground wire which on the new switch is green/black


New switch. Glad to see it's still being made in Germany by Hella. I was fully expecting to see Made in China or India stamped on it like other new parts bought from BMW.

The new switch is actually designed for low bars (and was $30 cheaper), which is nice. The PO had euro bars on the bike when I bought it, but retained the long, high-bar electrics. Then when I went to even lower clip-ons, I also kept the high-bar electrics which forced me to loop the wiring from the switches back and around the SJ triple clamp. It looked a little weird, but it worked, now I have the smaller headlight switch with great looking wiring and the high-bar ignition/kill switch on the right with the long wiring, even weirder. Hopefully that's it for electrics for awhile on this bike, they are the bane of my existence and so far the only problems I've had with this bike.


Kacie Marie knows how to approach working with electrical gremlins



As far as the 1957 R60 goes, I attempted to order new bearings and spacers for the bottom end so I can start getting ready for the engine build. Turns out just about everything I had to order is NLA, not just for North America, but also Germany. I also noticed that BMW now provides a parts search, similar to the microfiche Max BMW offers, but unfortunately only goes back to 1967. I'm hoping this doesn't mean they are going to discontinue making parts for the older bikes. As it stands now I'm faced with hoping Max BMW or Blue Moon Cycles can find me the parts I need, or actually just buying a completely different engine to swap into my case. Either way, I'm not really that psyched. In the meantime, I think I'll start some work on the frame. For one, I have to re-weld the center stand lugs as one has a stress crack and the other is broken off. Once that's out of the way I can take the frame for powdercoat, then get the adapters and new bearings to use a telescopic front end and begin to assemble as somewhat rolling chassis.

Now that fall has reached the northeast there will be plenty of time to work on all these things. The R90 will go back to commuting duties and I'll have more time to dig into the projects. Including fixing my wife's 1954 Chrysler.

Music for the season


03 October 2014

VAG-COM services in Central NJ

I just picked up a VAG-COM (for VW/Audi cars) and can now provide VAG-COM services in the Central NJ area. Message me for info.


29 September 2014

Classic Cycles Picnic 28 September 2014

I think the ride over to Classic Cycles' picnic in Kingwood, NJ yesterday is going to be the last long riding day before the weather changes and I go back into full commuting mode with the bike. Weather was sunny and dry, albeit a little bit too warm for my tastes, but all in all a great day. The Classic Cycle guys really can throw a good party.

Obligatory pics

First stop, Bayhead - Surf Swap Meet. I don't know anything about boards, but it was a nice ride down. Dave is looking suave and Chris is talking shop. For the first time in history some guys were interested in my bike. One guy used to have an R51/3 Polizei bike, R75/5 toaster, and '74 R90/6, another has an Isetta and an R65. I spent about the whole time at the swap meet talking BMWs which was nice, because about all I could comment on the surfboards was their shape and color.


Vintage surf car, with hot rodded engine. I'm so used to seeing Nomads this was kinda nice.


Arriving in style and taking the VIP parking by the Pirate Cupcake truck. I really should have gotten a Maple Bacon cupcake before leaving, but I still have tons of cake from my daughter's birthday party that needs finishing.


Pretty good turnout, and about 8 guys left upon arriving.



Complete with rockabilly band. These guys were pretty excellent, but no one seemed to care. 


Race winning flat/dirt trackers. Other than the Norton and Velocette pictured next, these were getting the most attention at the show.


This Velocette (rear) was awesome. Apparently the guy who bought it found it in Europe and was a pilot. The whole bike was said to be too heavy to stow in cargo, so he took the engine out, loaded the everything else, and then took the engine on as carry-on luggage. When confronted about it he claimed that it's his plane, so either they let him get on with his carry-on or the plane doesn't leave. Whether or not this is myth or fact, it's a great story.


exposed rockers and carb detail


Italian bikes were also present. Excellent MV Agusta 750GT (w/drive shaft) and MG V7 Sport. There were actually a few more Guzzis, a 70's El Dorado and a brand new California that took off before I could get pictures. I wound up talking a bit to the owner of the BMW R90S behind the Guzzi. Years ago I remembered seeing that at the local BMW dealership and finding out that they had just took it in as a trade and immediately sold it off. I wasn't interested in buying it at the time, but the green tint and pinstriping left an impression.



Factory accessorized H-D shovelhead. The big license plate bracket on the back is actually a vintage factory alarm system. Apparently it had weights that sensed when the bike was taken off the side stand and put in a vertical position which then triggered a switch and engaged the alarm. Other than looking like ass it's not a bad idea.


A number of Enfields were present, but I dug this one.


This BSA is supposedly bone-stock and super-rare. I don't know enough about BSAs, but what separates this one from more common ones was the white-frame. I guess this is sorta like finding a /2 in the US with original factory paint other than black.


I always appreciate seeing an R69S


26 September 2014

Oil Analysis - BMW Performance 20W50 vs. Porsche Classic Motor Oil 20w50 (PART 1)

If you ever get bored and want to witness an epic battle between old BMW enthusiasts, bring up oil.

The crux of the argument really stems from this mysterious compound called ZDDP (Zinc dialyldithiophosphate). In a nutshell, ZDDP protects the internals in our flat tappet engines and modern oils lack it.

As far as BMWs are concerned, I used to use BMW conventional 20w50 (SG/SH) rated when it was blended by Spectro, then I switched to Liqui Moly Racing 4T, and then back to BMW as a result of Kurt from the BMWMOA's excellent Oil Analysis Project. While Airhead gurus recommend Golden Spectro 20w50, the test results actually showed that BMW and Spectro 4 were excellent conventionals (no surprise since they were blended by the same company) concerning ZDDP levels, and Mobil 1 V-Twin and Redline topped the synthetic list, Golden Spectro was actually fairly consistent with the conventional Spectro oils which was disappointing considering it's semi-synthetic. All this being said, every oil tested met minimum BMW specs and unless you are extremely anal, like most BMW owners, any oil would get the job done.

Since the testing was done back in 2012, BMW has dropped Spectro as a blender for BP/Castrol, and Porsche has come out with their own "Classic Motor Oil," intentionally designed for old, flat tappet boxers. This is unique because all of the oils tested in Kurt's run were one-size-fits-all concerning motorcycle use. The BMW bottle (when it was Spectro and even now) says it's OK for "all" R-bikes - a very bold statement given the various engine configurations over the years. So who cares?

Well, back when Kurt got his test results, Castrol 4T SG rated conventional was on the lower end (but still meeting BMW specs) of the spectrum concerning ZDDP, although quite good concerning TBN and viscosity. Coincidentally, when BMW changed from Spectro to Castrol oil, the API rating went from SG/SH to just straight SG which matches the Castrol 4T rating. The question concerning this oil is whether or not the new BMW oil is a unique formulation or just a rebadge of Castrol 4T; if found to be the latter then it could save people some money since Castrol is about half the price of BMW oil. But what about the Porsche oil?

Porsche oil tells you nothing about it except that it's designed for old engines. You won't find any API rating and as far as I can tell, no ZDDP levels. It also seems that no one has yet had this oil analyzed (based on extensive google searches), so there are no proof for BMW (or Porsche for that matter) owners that this oil is any good other than Porsche's word. If their word is good, and since this oil is priced similarly to BMW's oil, this may prove to be an attractive oil to use for our old classic boxers.

So let the analysis begin.

Kurt used Bently Tribology (now Cashman Fluid Analysis) back in 2012 for his Oil Analysis project. I opted to use the same labs, with the same equipment, so my test results could be directly comparable to his. The cost was exactly the same as Blackstone Labs, and like Blackstone, their services include a free kit that they mail you.

Here's the two oils being analyzed.



And here's the sample kit.


Pouring out the oils into the kit revealed quite different appearances, but what this means I really don't know.


When Kurt had his testing done it took about 2-weeks to get results. As I sent mine out today, I should be expecting results sometime around 10 October. Will update with the results on here and the BMWMOA once they come in.



22 September 2014

BMW Fender Eliminator

Way back in March 2013, when my 2nd stock BMW taillight bit the dust, I decided to go aftermarket, lost the stock fiberglass fender, and make my own bracket with painted mild steel. This would have been all well and good, but since I ride all year, a few things became readily apparent.

The first was that although my Giuliari replica blocked all the wash from the rear tire from getting on me, its seat pan was suffering. I don't know why I waited this long to correct the issue as I was constantly cleaning off dust and dirt from it. The second was that lightly painted mild steel doesn't last very long once NJ road salt gets at it.

This is what is left of the homemade carbon steel bracket, besides all the lost paint and rust notice the stress crack near the larger hole (for wiring). This was 16 gauge steel.


The solution was to make a hidden fender + built in bracket out of stainless. This has been done a million times by others, so no biggie. I used 14 gauge 304 stainless, which was probably overkill. I didn't realize that stainless hardens with heat until I melted 2 regular steel drill bits - forcing me to go buy titanium ones which cut through it like butter. The finished product.


It's still a little rough around the edges, but only in the places you can't see when the seat it down. The taillight area benefited quite a bit with the 14 ga. as it no longer vibrates during riding. I still have 2' of stainless sheet left, I may make up another one (a finer one) and put it up on eBay or something or maybe I'll try my hand at hammering out a stainless fender for the 57 R60.

20 September 2014

Ocean Grove Brits on the Beach 20 September 2014

My wife and I have been going to Brits on the Beach in Ocean Grove, NJ for the last 4-5 years or so and every year the weather seems to be perfect, the amount of interesting cars plentiful, and the atmosphere fantastic. This year, barring a light scuffle prior to the show, was probably one of the better ones of the bunch. Although much of the usual cast from prior years was present, there were still some interesting cars I hadn't seen at prior shows. I'll let the pics speak for themselves:

beautiful OG, NJ


A more intesting 3-wheeler than the more commonly known Morgan. This is powered by a front mounted boxer-twin. Didn't get much information on it, but I doubt the displacement could have been any greater than 650cc.
V12 Power!

I think this is my favorite little detail from the car show. If you don't get it, you haven't known enough people with English built cars/bikes. See HERE

 Note the Supercharger ^