Sunday, April 30, 2006

It’s Not Easy Being Green

(Where else but America can a guy turn two buttons and a green sock into $100M?)

The latest addition to TJs Toy Box is this 1973 Triumph TR6. I bought it car in October. It was posted for sale in the company news letter and since I have some experience with old British cars so I figured I’d go take a look. When I got there I found a solid, original, 54000-mile car.

It’s probably the only major purchase I’ve ever made where I was thinking about selling it before buying it. (Whether or not that actually happens has yet to be seen. I have a bit of a pack-rat mentality.) It needs some TLC: new tires, interior work, paint restoration, etc. The last owner let some of the basic things go, but he did keep it indoors. There's no rust and the few minor body wrinkles should be simple to deal with. I think there’s a solid collectible TR6 not too far under the surface.

I don’t want to get into this project too far until I finish the bike. (It’s embarrassing to admit that the reason the part doesn’t fit is because you’re trying to put it on the wrong vehicle.) One of the main questions about this car is whether or not the paint is salvageable. I want to avoid repainting partly because it would never be ‘original paint’ again, and partly because it’s not cheap. So I’m hoping to restore what’s there.

Not having a paint buffer, 2000-grit sandpaper, polishing compound, or any real skill I decided to see how far some standard cleaning and polishing products would take me when mixed with some elbow grease. So I washed the car and spent about an hour working on one half of the hood.

The good news: the paint on the car looks much better.

The bad news: not all the paint stayed on the car. I’m not sure if this is just what happens to seriously oxidized paint when there isn’t a clear-coat, or if something more sinister is going on.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

So Close I Can Smell It

The history …
When I was in college I bought a 1987 Suzuki Intruder 1400. It was loud and obnoxious and matched my leather jacket. I had to have it. In 1995 I was living in Rhode Island and I rode the bike to NYC to meet a friend. On the ride back it started burning oil at a spectacular rate. It wasn’t so much a motorcycle as the center of a blue cloud.

It was soon clear that the problem was internal to the engine. On that bike any significant engine work means pulling the engine. Ever since buying it I wanted to customize it. Lower, narrower, simpler. Around that time CycleWorld magazine had a cover bike that I thought was a good direction to head (except for the orange paint).

So I had a bike that needed major disassembly to fix a real problem, and a desire to make some changes. In other words: a recipe for disaster.

I started wrenching. Methodically removing the engine according to the manual. Carefully sorting and labeling all of the parts I removed. Things went well for a month.

Then I had a bad day at work. (I don’t why.) I went home and vented my frustration on the bike. I launched into the disassembly with gusto. By 3am I had a bare frame hanging from the rafters in the garage and the motor was on a table in the guest bedroom. (Shhh! Don’t tell my landlord.) The parts were randomly scattered around the garage.

The bike was never the same.

6 months later I moved to a new house. In another year I was in Arizona. 5 years after that I moved to Seattle. Most of the bike was in milk-crates around the garage. More than once I considered giving the whole thing away.

After moving to Seattle the Suzuki project started getting the attention it needed. (It’s amazing how much more free time you have when you’re unemployed.) After 3 years it's almost done. It has a modified tank and frame, a new rear fender, new paint, forward foot controls, new hand controls, new wheels, etc.

(Disclaimer: I have a limited skill-set. I don’t do paint or fabrication. I order parts. I wrench. The skilled tasks were done at local shops.)

Believe it or not, after over 10 years in boxes and several cross country moves, the Suzuki moved under it’s own power a few weeks ago. It ran like a pig but it did run.

Current status …

Here’s the problem: It won’t shift gears if the motor is running. … (Go ahead and re-read that sentence. I’ll wait.) … Start in neutral, shift into first and ride off. As long as you don’t need 2nd gear and never have to stop you’re all set.

It turns out that the after-market clutch doesn’t push as much fluid as the stock one, so it doesn't fully disengage. When the motor is running there’s too much force on the clutch to allow the transmission to shift.

A few days ago I ordered a new master-cylinder. Identical to the one I already have except it has an 11/16” bore instead of 9/16”. It should push 50% more fluid and hopefully that will do the trick. If not, I’m considering leaving out one pressure plate and slip plate.

Once the clutch works the only thing keeping it off the road is a major tune-up.


I’m a guy. A recently married guy. A recently married guy who used to have (what I like to think of as) The All-American-Single-Guy life. Why do you care? You probably don’t. But it’s the left-over bits of that life that are the subject of this blog.

When I say “The All American Single Guy Life” I don’t mean drinking until 3am every night, always eating out, watching ESPN incessantly, a stereo with speakers shockingly reminiscent of Stonehenge, and living in a house that most people wouldn’t feel comfortable in even if they wore a class-4 bio-hazard suit. (Some of that may very well have been the case, but that’s not what I mean.)

I mean I had toys. Big toys. Toys with bells and whistles and gadgets but, most importantly, toys with wheels and motors. During my single days you were just as likely to find me in the garage poking at these as in the house. (In the case of some of the motorcycles I’d actually bring them into the living room so I could watch TV while I wrenched.)

My wife has made significant progress in vanquishing many things from my All American Single Guy Life. But, for the most part, the big toys have survived. They don’t spend time in the living room anymore, but they are still around.

Anyway this blog is about those toys.