Restoring a barn-fresh 1966 Sears Allstate

Ameliasburg 2016

After getting the engine back from Herb Becker, it sat in the garage.  As the Quinte CVMG rally in Ameliasburg approached I quickly got my 750 Norton Commando together, only running the day before heading out to Ameliasburg.

Paul and I left Toronto taking my favorite route out of the city. Up the DVP/404 to Elgin Mills, north on Warden to 19th line and then following 19th till it ended at York Durhan Line, north to Uxbridge Pickering Town Line. The corner has a great 1920’s garage across from a looming subdivision. We followed that until it ended at Glen Manor Forest and took Concession 7 north to Goodwood Rd (#21) till it hooked up with 7a. We then followed it to Cavan to pick up Malcom. Here’s the route https://goo.gl/maps/dZ77vWiaHTk

We left around 11 and got to Cavan Hall just around 1. At Malcolm’s house I noticed that the oil return line was slipping off so I put in on properly. Unfortunately I pulled the hose loose at the oil filter end and it slipped off 5 min down the road. At first I thought my clutch was slipping as the engine revved when I gave it throttle – it was the back tire spinning. I was in the middle of figuring out what was going on when Paul pulled up and motined to pull over. Poor guy was covered in oil, from boots to fairing and helmet, he even tasted it. At least it was nice new oil on a rebuild…  I got the hose on properly on the roadside, Malcolm eventually doubled back and found us.
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750 Norton Commando rebuild

Phil and Herb Becker

Herb, of Herb’s Garage

This winter I took my lump over to Herb’s Garage. Herb Becker that is, engine builder of the bike that won first place in the 2003  AHRMA’s Formula 750 races in Daytona.

I managed to talk Herb into a full rebuild on my engine. I was concerned about the off-idle knock, the general leakiness, and occasional smokiness of the engine. Perhaps he felt somewhat responsible for the bike as I bought it from him as a rolling basket!

Good news was the pistons and barrels were in great shape, they are already .020 over from some previous owner. It needed a crank grind and I had the dubious distinction of having the worst crank wear that Herb has seen. it was an even 30 thou down from what is normally a thou. The wear was even, not oval (?!). The shells were worn down to copper, barely a trace of Babbitt left on them.

I joked and said “I guess I shouldn’t have been taking it up to 6500!” Herb’s response was “You shouldn’t have been riding it!”

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Pinakothek Der Moderne – Munich 2009

I visited the Modern Art Museum in Munich in 2009. I was pleasantly surprised to find the museum is a great mix of art gallery and modern commercial design. Of course being in Munich there was a heavy BMW presence.
The streamlined Tatra 87 was a highlight. The Czech built car was influential on Porsche’s KdF Wagen (VW beatle) designs. So much so that Tatra was in the process of suing Porsche, but that was dropped when Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia. In 1965, the matter was settled when Volkswagen paid Tatra 1,000,000 Deutsche Mark in compensation; you can see the two cars up on the shelves in the second photo.

Tatra 87, powered by a rear-mounted 3.0-litre air-cooled 90-degree overhead cam V8 engine that produced 85 horsepower and could drive the car at nearly 100 mph (160 km/h).


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Open heart: open wallet

Puch_head_off_pistonsI pulled the head and barrels to see what damage has been done – alas it is the front piston that seized and the rear piston has evidence of oil film loss and scraping. Interestingly these are on the sides that face each other.

I did some research online and it seems that there are four possible culprits:

  • lean jetting
  • low/no oil in mix
  • air leak (causing localized lean/hot spots)
  • timing

I can pretty much rule out air leak and I’m going to go out on a limb and rule out jetting as I believe it is stock.

A mechanic saw the photos and opined that it is most likely timing. This could be so as I haven’t touched the timing since I got the bike. I did reduce the oil to the minimum setting, as I was using modern oils and assumed I could get away with less smoke. Perhaps at open throttle it needs more.

So, clearly a bore or hone and new pistons are in order. The question is why did it seize. I would like to have some confidence in diagnosing the problem before slapping in a new set of pistons and twisting the throttle again.logo_koenig

Clearly this isn’t a unique experience. I found this photo on the net, clearly toasting pistons is a Puch thing. I was hoping to get away with a hone an a set of rings but, clearly, new pistons are needed. So open heart surgery has led to opening my wallet. Those pistons ain’t cheap.

It seems Elko/Konig is the only game in town for replacement pistons.

To think she was so happy just a few days ago….

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Been a while since this plate was used – shame to cover up the sticker.

I guess expecting reliability from a 49 year-old un-rebuilt engine is unrealistic. I was happy so far as I’ve only addressed cosmetic issues and suspension. My luck has run out.

I was on my way from the licensing office to work on my first “legal” drive. Was doing about 60-65km when I lost power and then the rear wheel locked up. Pulled the clutch and pulled over, the engine turned over but it feels like compression is down, although there is compression. With two cylinders and a shared space it is difficult to tell which cylinder has an issue.

Question now is, full rebuild? Source of the problem? Lean carb, oil delivery – cable or pump? The bike was running great a few days earlier and did the same stretch of road no problem.

This page might come in handy when I get the head off, it shows how to read the piston damage from a seizure.


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