Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Flint, Michigan Auction….20th and 21st October 1992.

Extract from “The Flint Journal”, Thurs.22nd Oct.1992. “The smell of leather and money was in the air
Wednesday at
Flint Indian Sales as hundreds of motorcyclists and dealers turned up for an estate auction at the N. Saginaw Street business. The event, billed as one of the largest auctions of rare and antique motorcycle parts in the U.S., included the sale of a 1941 four-cylinder Indian motorcycle, along with many other old motorcycles, some still in their original shipping crates. Herbert L. Kunze, who owned the combination bicycle/motorcycle dealership for decades, died Feb.26. His father opened the business in the 1920s.” Around Friday before the auction I received a fax from a UK supplier…” "Was I going to the Flint Auction?”..
"What auction "I faxed back.
By the Sunday night Sydney time I had a good idea there were lots of items for sale, including instruments and a telephone call to Bob Schanz, prop. of Domiracer asking if he’d bid on some items for me elicited the reply that he was there to buy and I could in turn later buy off him…!
By late Monday I’d secured a flight ticket from Sydney to LA, on to Chicago and then to Lansing and a rental car booked and arrangements made with my bank.
Tuesday on the way to the airport I called into the school my wife taught at and said "see you in a week"… Flying into Chicago the weather looked ominous and a further delay landing at Lansing due to Air Force One being on the ground as the President was in town for the great debates in Michigan State University, meant I was real late into a motel.
The quietness the next morning turned out to be from a big dump of snow during the night & I was not prepared from this coming from Australia.
The auction site was an eye-opener…two large buildings, a shop and warehouse, were like a maze, which proved to be full of motorcycles…over 200 were on offer of which 60 were new & many still in their crates and parts.. man I’ve never seen so many.
Inventories of Matchless/AJS parts, Norton, Indian, Moto Guzzi, Greeves, Zundapp, Sachs parts, shelves of Smiths, Lucas ( I’m pretty sure there were 2300 sets of ignition points for example…), Amal parts, bags of Metzeler tyres…the list went on.
Rooms with used partly dismantled motorcycles and parts.
The next surprise was having to pay US$500 to get into the auction…refunded when you bought something or later on (?).
…..Some 200 bidders registered, eager for the over 800 lots listed and the motorcycles mentioned..
Major players were British Only from Detroit and Domiracer Distributors Inc, from Cincinnati, with some UK dealers, myself from Australia and many smaller US dealers and individuals.
Many of the lots were large in quantity and this annoyed some smaller buyers…the AJS/Matchless inventory was in seven lots, actually auctioned off as one large lot…the auctioneer, Jerry Wood commented… ”Whoever buys this will be the world’s largest Matchless distributor..”…it went for US$110,000 to Domiracer.
There was a room called aptly “The Indian Room”… heaps of pre-war Indian Parts, including new crankcases etc for singles and the four cylinder motorcycles…. lots of bidding activity there. The three damaged Corbin speedos I was interested in made US$1300, my proposed max. bid of US$1000 was left in the dust. There were six new Norton Commandos, all but one had been riffled for some parts to sell in the past and were variously incomplete. The one complete bike went for US$9750…a BIG price then.
AJS Motorcycles from the UK were over to purchase the stocks of later two stroke AJS Stormer motocrossers ( thirteen new ones, seven still in crates, for US$26,500) and inventory US$15,000 . Zundapp inventory US$18,000;Smiths inventory US$22,000;Lucas inventory US$43,000; Amal inventory US$21,000; Ducati inventory US$21,000; Greeves inventory US$1000; Norton inventory US$57,000; Moto Guzzi inventory US$28,000;Ducati factory tools US$2,100; Seven new Greeves motocrossers US$13,700…the list goes on….
Who was Flint Indian Sales….?
Seems Herb Kunze, the owner who had died in the Feb. before was a quiet man and operated the Flint dealership that had been in operation since 1928, being started by Herb’s father, “Speed” Kunze.
Herb took over in the late 1960s. When Indian Motorcycles went out of business in the early 1950s the shop turned to other machines such as Norton, Matchless, Zundapp & Penton, but Kunze chose to keep the name Flint Indian Sales.
Herb was well known for sponsoring champion enduro riders. He bought the store from his father as mentioned, then bought the entire building next door and sold Schwinn bicycles from it.
He remained in the buildings even while most of the North Saginaw Street area businesses around him pulled out.
So did I justify the time and expense of the trip, which started out as a business venture?
The answer has to be yes…I’d never been to anything like this before and I’d been to my share of auctions…
I spent some US$500 of a few items, made more friends and acquaintances, but the Smiths inventory for which I’d actually travelled over for, ended up with a twist….
Remember I said before that I’d asked Domiracer to buy for me?…well soon after I arrived I met up with Bob Schanz…”Your here “ he exclaimed…. “You bet “ I answered. Then we moved on apart amongst the many

items to view…but about 30 lots before the Smiths stuff came up, his RH man, Jonathan White came up to me, pulled me aside and in a quiet voice said…”Just what are you after?”…”I’ll settle for half” I replied ( fingers crossed)…. “Deal done…don’t bid against us…”. I didn’t and some months later we divvied up the Smiths instrument proceeds.
A brief visit to British Only in the few days left saw me homeward bound and looking back now, with a warm feeling inside to have been involved in this fascinating part of Motorcycle history.
Photos above show;- The front page of the auction catalogue; New 1950s Matchless frames wrapped in hessian sacking strips from the factory; Shelf of Dellorto carbs and parts;Boxes of new Norton Commando cylinders;Shelves of Smiths instruments;A shelf from the "Indian Room" with new 4 cyl.crankcases etc.
Left click on photos to enlarge.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


The Chronometric speedometer is a principle commenced by the Jaeger speedometer company in Paris, France, in the 1920s and as such is a METRIC instrument, that is the dimensions, screws, threads etc are metric and not imperial as generally thought.
For example on the motorcycle instrument, considered to be 3” dia., with a 26tpi thread, the bezel is 80mm dia. x 0.9mm thread. Sometime in the late 1920's, Jaeger Paris set up a company in England, Jaeger Ed., with two British directors and one French director. Around 1927, Smiths Motor Accessories purchased this company and re-named it British Jaeger.
For a long time the dial faces, either with the British Jaeger or Smiths logo on them, also had a credit to Jaeger …”Jaeger patent”. Smiths often badged their instruments Jaeger or Smiths.
The movement of a chronometric speedometer is strictly an integrating mechanism, the controlling factor being the time base, a conventional ‑ or near conventional-escapement unit as used in every watch and clock mechanism. In this instrument there is no free movement of the pointer since at any instant it is, either rigidly locked in a given position or geared direct to the driving, cable. The escapement is mounted on the left hand side of the movement. The escape wheel is mounted rigidly to a small camshaft. and is driven through a spring loaded clutch between it and the driving gear at the base of the shaft. This gear is directly coupled to the speedometer driving cable, and provides the motive power to maintain the oscillations of the escapement. The speed of the camshaft is, of course, maintained at a constant figure according to the timing of the escapement. The clutch being caused to slip when the driving speed exceeds this figure. Next to the camshaft the main wheel assembly is seen. This consists of the three wheels known respectively as the integrator (at the bottom), the recorder wheel (in the centre) , and the stabiliser (at the top).

To the last named the pointer is attached. All the wheels are loose on the spindle and free to rotate independently of each other. The recorder wheel is driven, in one direction only, by the integrator wheel through the medium of two pins. The recorder wheel in turn drives the stabiliser and pointer, through the medium of a single pin, but this time the drive is in both directions. The integrator and recorder wheels both have toothed edges on which leaf springs as a on‑return device. .When as will be explained later. The leaf springs are lifted, a robust hair spring causes the wheels to spring back to their starting position. On the extreme right of the movement is a gear, permanently engaged with the driving member and mounted on a shaft., in the shank of which teeth are cut forming a very small position.
The top bearing for this shaft is formed in the extreme end of a rocking lever, the movement of which causes the pinion to, engage with the edge of the integrator wheel. On the Camshaft are three small cams controlling the rocking lever, and the two leaf springs for the integrator and recording wheels.
The sequence of operations Is as following.
1. The top cam on the camshaft moves the rocking lever, causing engagement between the pinion & integrator wheel for a fixed period of time. In that time the wheel will turn through a definite angle proportional to the speed of the driving flex, carrying with it the recorder wheel and stabilisator wheels and of course the pointer.
2. The middle cam raises the leaf spring controlling the recorder wheel. On this occasion no movement will take place.
3. The lower cam raises the leaf spring controlling the integrator wheel, allowing it to return to its starting point but leaving the recorder and stabilisator wheels in their new position.
4. The sequence in repeated. but at this point the speed of the vehicle my have dropped. In this case the integrator wheel will not reach its original position. Hence on the second operation of the sequence, when the recorder wheel isn released it will fall back to the new position of the integrator wheel. Taking with it the stabiliser wheel and pointer. On the other hand the speed may have Increased. If this is so the deflection of the integrator wheel will be greater and it will therefore pick up the recorder wheel etc, and carry it to its new position. Each sequence takes 0.6 seconds whilst the actual time of engagement of the pinion is 0.3 seconds.
To ensure the accuracy of recording, certain refinements are necessary. The integrating wheel has mounted below it, and coupled to it by a friction spring, what is in effect a small flywheel. This section of the wheel is to prevent any bounce which may occur when the integrating wheel is returned to its zero stop, Bounce would of course result in a false zero, any such error being cumulative upon the next reading,
The second important point is the connection with the escape wheel and camshaft. The movement of this wheel is naturally not continuous and uniform; it is in fact in a series of jerks.
It is possible, therefore, to reach a position of indefinite engagement between the pinion and integrator wheel both at the point of engagement and disengagement, To overcome this two teeth are omitted from the escape wheel thus ensuring positive engagement between the two.
The stabilizer wheel has two functions. The first and lesser of these is to ensure an accurate zero position of the pointer.
In the edge of the wheel a niche is cut, into which a small V shaped spring falls when the pointer returns to zero. In its more important function it is in effect an averaging device. There are 135 useful teeth on the edge of the integrator and recorder wheels, a factor which limits the accuracy to one part in 135 as far as the two wheels are concerned. Quite obviously, for a given speed the final position of the recorder wheel will vary on each cycle dependant on the exact point of engagement between the pinion and integrator wheel, and between the recorder wheel and its retaining spring. By careful choice of the size of the hole in the stabilizer, in relation to the size of the driving pin in the recorder wheel, these variations average out.
The mileage recorder is a separate part of the instrument and not involved with the speed registration.
It forms a robust and compact unit capable of withstanding the severe vibration met with on motorcycles. The system employed gives high torque, thus permitting generous proportions for parts such as pivots etc., usually so fragile in nature.
The scale of the instrument is of course linear, and it is virtually independent of temperature errors.
There is a certain minimum figure for accurate recording i.e. the figure at which the clutch commences to slip and at which the camshaft is driven at its proper speed.
This figure is very low – is in fact less than 5% of full scale, but it does make it impossible to start at a true zero.
Information supplied to Dennis Quinlan, as a leaflet, from Smiths Industries in London during 1970s.
Left click on photos to enlarge.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Origins of the Velocette swinging arm frame

Looking at the 1936 works Velo racer frame debuted in the Ulster GP, IOM TT and other continental races that year and the Mk.8 KTT frame which was its derivative, you can’t help noticing that it was the same as the twin shock frames used up to and still often today…..
How did this occur?
Ivan Rhodes and I have discussed the matter on numerous occasions and in correspondence and the consensus between us seems to be that either Harold Willis, Charles Udall, possibly Phil Irving and others or all in discussion came up with the idea of removing the rear fork section of their current rigid frame, welding a steering head casting across the rear down tube and fabricating some arms that initially were internally splined and slid onto a splined trunnion shaft ( some accuracy needed here to here to ensure the axle slots at the end of the forks were dead in line…). The “bearings” were the actual cup and cone steering head races.
Ivan has the one of the first frames made, designated SF2 and the picture clearly shows all the above.
The oleo rear struts were needed to form the other vital part of the change and as Harold Willis flew his own aircraft a DH60 Moth known by him as “Clattering Kate”, he obviously read the flight magazines of the day, “Flight” and “The Aeroplane”, as well as technical society papers and according to Charles Udall in an interview with Ivan late in Udall’s life , Willis was the one who came up with the idea and visits to the Dowty company in Glostershire, presumably with Percy Goodman, and perhaps Udall followed.
George Dowty, later knighted for his services to the British aviation industry, worked initially at A.V.Roe and then in the mid 1920s at Gloster Aircraft Company. He presented a paper in 1922 to the Royal Aeronautical Society on the subject of oleo undercarriage design and then in 1926 a second paper “Aircraft Alighting and Arresting Mechanisms” and followed with articles in Feb.1929 in “The Aeroplane” and others in “Aircraft Engineering”.
He was unable to convince aircraft manufacturers and others of the time to take up his ideas and in Jan.1931 formed a company “Aircraft Components Company” and from this the huge Dowty Organisation followed which is still a major player in aviation today.
Willis and Goodman obtained from Dowty experimental rear oleo legs which were used on those early spring frames in 1936. Eventually Dowty went into limited production with the rear units for the Mk.8 KTT and following WW2 supplied front oleomatic forks as replacements for the Webb girders to Velocette, Scott and Panther.
The top photo is Ernie Thomas on his 1936 350 DOHC TT machine. Thomas was a comfortable 2nd during the race until he fell on the 5th lap, remounted and finished 3rd..a nice debut for Velocette for their new DOHC engine and swinging arm frame.Photo credit to S.R.Keig Ltd, Douglas, IOM.
The photo in the centre is Stanley Woods 1936 500 SOHC factory Velocette seen in IOM at the TT, it shows one of the prototype rear oleo suspension legs. The photo credit is to "MotorCycle"/Mortons Media Group.
In the lower left photo the cup and cone bearing are clearly visible as is where the rear part of the original rigid frame was cut off.. Photo credit.Ivan Rhodes.
The lower right pic is from a prewar Mk.8 KTT I had, showing the name plate...Aircraft Components Ltd., "The Dowty Oleopneumatic Strut". Poor quality pic, but the struts are gone....
This item in part was originally written & published by me in FTDU330, p.24, Summer 2004 edition & published by the Australian Velocette Owners Club.
Left click on photos to enlarge.

Who am I....

My Velobanjogent site is a place for me to publish the many archival photographs collected over the years, relating to motorcycles and more specifically Velocette motorcycles. As the title indicates, there is some banjo in there somewhere...I'm a 4 string jazz banjoist, playing regularly in groups from 2 to 7 in number. My interest is in Vegavox banjos..but more of these later in a blog.

As a member of several Velocette Owners clubs throughout the world, I come in contact with many like minded folk, currently am the editor and have been for the last 5 years of the Australian Velocette Owners Club magazine, Fish Tail Down Under ( FTDU ) and much of my literature and photographs find their way into this publication.
What of the photo above? Yes I'm an eccentric..who else would ride a motorcycle in the winter, even in Australia?..pic shows DQ and Mrs DQ, the long suffering Judy throwing the snowball and our 500cc BMW R50/5 to right rear..the very bike we rode overland to Europe from Australia a year later in 1974. That tale for a later blog....

Finally for over 25 years I ran my motorcycle instrument business...KTT Services, catering for a worldwide clientele...regrettably all good things come to an end and I no longer take in work, however I still make special motorcycle instruments to what...?

5" Vincent Black Shadow 150mph/250kph speedos, Indian 741 100mph replica Stewart Warner speedos, Smiths ATRC 80mm dia. competition tachometers in anti-vibration rings in scales from 9,000rpm to 22,000rpm to name some.
I think I must be eccentric...but then aren't we all in some way...with my above mentioned long suffering wife ,Judy, a daughter Felicity who is an archeologist, 6 banjos, 6 motorcycles and the messiest office you've even seen, I am sure I'm eccentric!
Left click on photo to enlarge.