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Saturday, 31 December 2011

Restoring a Royal Enfield Meteor Minor- The Legacy Update

Restoring a Royal Enfield Meteor Minor-
In my last posting i said i`d try to get another blog in before the arrival of both the new year and my new baby meteorite. New years eve is upon us and Mrs M is bursting at the seams her due date is today, and she says her belly feels really tight,- so i suppose i`d better get on with it.

Xmas in sunny south Wales went without a hitch. Not counting the fact that Jamie Oliver`s timings for cooking a turkey were spot on if you like your food with the same amount of moisture as Ghandis flip flops, And my darling wife having a bump in my car whilst out xmas shopping......

Mrs M: "i was sat in the car in the car park, i lokooked in my mirror, saw her reversing, and just watched her drive straight into me"
Me: "she couldn`t have been going very fast. did you beep the horn?"
Mrs M: "No, i just didnt think of it at the time"


Anyways, on the upside,the wonderful  mrs M did give me a decent wedge of her hard earned cash to spend on the bike. Hitchcocks here i come. Fuel tank restoration part 2 will be posted sometime in January as long as i can steer clear of being knee deep in baby pooh for long enough to put pen to paper.

Legacy Update
Those of you whom have been following this blog from the start will remember that back in November i decided to join the Royal Enfield owners club. i aimed to enlist their help in researching the history of this motorcycle.
About a week went by before my welcome pack landed on the doorstep and i must say i was impressed, i received:-
a) 3 copies of the REOC bi monthly magazine called "the Gun" which contained news about club events, reviews of different rallies, readers problems and tips, and a for sale and wanted section.

b) My membership number card

c) Various branch details

d) List of approved Spares Suppliers

e) A Royal Enfield Owners Club car sticker

but most importantly,
f) The contact details of all the REOC management commitee

My first stop was to contact Jim Millar. He was the machine dating officer for the REOC and i thought  i would send over rubbings and pics of the frame and engine numbers to see if he could throw a bit of light on the legacy of the bike.
Otherwise, i would have to move to plan B, -drive to Llanfalteg and put thumb screws on the mysterious Mr Taylor until he told me what colour the tank and frame were.

Jim Miller
 In my minds eye i had visions of a man in a huge vault of old books blowing dust off a huge leather bound archive of old Redditch Royal Enfield manufacturing logs.

 He would carefully thumb through the pages which were yellowing with age until he found a match to my engine number -SMCA 7591.

As the custodian of this hallowed book, he would then have access to an unfathomable amount of information regarding my particular motorcycle,
-right down to what colour underwear the fitter was wearing on the day he proudly wheeled it off the production line. Mr Taylors thumbs would be able to keep twiddleing for now at least.

Hmmm, that wasn`t exactly how the story went. Jim Miller had just quit his post as machine dating officer.

Fortunately, Graham, the chairman and don of the REOC organization was on the blower to me the next day to pick up the gauntlet with support of new replacement dating officer Tom Bray.
It turns out that he did indeed have a record of all the Royal Enfield Engine serial numbers which were produced at the Redditch factory and he had found mine without a hitch.
The engine was as advertised, a 500cc Twin which did indeed belong to a 1959 Royal Enfield Meteor Minor. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that the integrity of my bike and this blog was intact and eased back in my chair to begin rattling off a list of questions regarding the motorcycles registration details, original spec and colour etc. That was when he dropped the bombshell.......

"i have been populating a spreadsheet with a list of engine serial numbers and matching them up with the frame numbers.....your frame has obviously been overstamped with a second set of numbers, but none of the combinations of these numbers are anything like the original serial number for this particular engine."


He advised me that years ago when men were men and everybody maintained their own motorcycles, people would often go to scrap yards which were full of old bikes, and interchange any unserviceable items. The boys in work were right. Mrs M had bought me a "ringer"
Graham been looking at the pics i took of the bike and the photos of the dodgey serial numbers. The frame certainly looked the part but he advised me could possibly belong to a Royal Enfield Constallation (the frames are identical).

He would need to contact replacement dating officer Jim Millar, and together they would decide on what my actual frame number was, and whether i could be allocated a new number or the records could be updated.
Until then, the tap of information regarding the bike would have to be turned off.

Well folks that was the last i heard from the REOC and it appears my old Meteor is having an identity crisis. i emailed them last week so hopefully the new year will bring some more interesting news. Hey, i may have even got round to doing something on the bike

Happy New Year
Meteor Man

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Royal enfield Meteor Minor Restoration - Fuel Tank Overhaul part 1

Blog 4 of 4 -to read earlier posts, click archive at top of page

Restoring a Royal Enfield Meteor Minor Fuel Tank Intro
For most of my life i had quite short hair. High and tight -marine corps style. I used to put gel through it and keep it trimmed regularly.
You see, a hair dresser friend of mine once told me that "peoples hair are their crowning glory" and that the way that you keep your hair says something about you on a first impression.

That, my friends, was before i met mrs Meteor. 10 years ago, she was a plucky young student full of querky ideals -or as me and my buddies thought, she was mad as a bucket of frogs.
On realising that my hair had a bit of a wave in it, she demanded that i grow it beyond its regulation 2 inches to see how it looked.

In an attempt to woo the young Miss M, and despite being called a "tatty bastard" from many of my pals at the air force base where i worked, i perservered and cultivated the curly indie rock god mop you see below. I now call it "biker chic"!
(above) Me trying to look cool  in a 1965 RAF Vickers VC10  engine intake (2004) -one of my few good hair days

From my earlier writings you will have probably guessed that mrs M rules the roost around my house. There are jelly fish with more of a backbone than me, and so the curly hair stayed. Afterall, she is always right. hmmmn.

However meteorites, i assure you that this fuel tank, the crowning glory of my Royal Enfield Meteor Minor, will not be under the influence of mrs M`s darth vader like rule.
As the most important visual feature of the bike, i intend to restore it to a state more polished than the pitch of a door to door encyclopedia salesman.
Read on......

Stripping the Paint

Apparently Diamonds are supposed to be the hardest thing known to man. I think Clint Eastwood`s "Gunney Highway" in "Heartbreak Ridge" comes a close second
("i eat razor wire and piss napalm, and i can put a round through a fleas ass from over a 1000 yards").

Whatever. Somewhere high up on the hardenist list is Aluminium Sulphate, and a buddy of mine has an aluminium sulphate bead blaster at his work.

I gave him my rusty old tank, and let him go to work on it. A day later he handed it back to me blasted and then soaked in a strong chemical agent. Apparently the inside was dirtier than a tramp`s armpit at a mud wrestling competition
I was absolutely thrilled with the result see below:-

left side "like a new pin"

Right side- hiding a bit of a filler under where the chrome panel sits. Dropped once upon a time?

Lining The Inside of the Tank
With the tank stripped back to bare metal and with no surface finish to protect the steel, i knew  that i would need to get something inside the tank real quick before a new layer of surface rust began to take hold.

I had the outside of the tank primed straight away, but didnt have the first clue in regards to how i was going to protect the inside surface of the tank. A few days had gone by since i had the paint removed, and i kept the tank next to the radiator in my spare room to keep it dry and free from moisture. The corrosion hadn`t started yet, but the letter was definately in the post that was for sure.

Knowing sweet F.A. about motorbikes, i enlisted the help of a seasoned biker i knew named Nige. He`d done up plenty of bikes in his time and even made his own trike. With his barbed wire wristband tattoo and shaved head, he was Biker-cool personified (apart from his secret penchant for tinkering with vintage lawnmowers). I knew he would have the answer.

 (above) me with stangely shiny and concerned face holding freshly primed fuel tank. bad hair day

Nige advised me that lots of people used a special resin called Petaseal which could be poured inside the tank, and would  set hard to form a seal against the elements.  Sounds like a plan i thought, so off i went to see the gurus at LLandow classics.

They did sell petaseal. However, after i talked to them about my plan, they told me that although i was on the right lines, petaseal had become a bit outdated. Apparently, fuel companies nowadays have introduced an ethanol mixture into their unleaded fuel, which breaks down the components of the fibreglass-like petaseal and allows bits to break off and enter the fuel system.
However, they did stock an a new alternative called TAPOX  which was german made and almost twice the price, -£37 bucks. Tapox claimed it would  stand up to this industrial alchohol and llandow classics had not sold any yet, so i was in uncharted territory, a pioneer in the new method of lining fuel tanks.

The xmas edition of the REOC`s gun magazine reinforced this theory regarding the ethanol in lined fuel tanks, so i took it as sound advice and dug deep in my pockets and shoe-horned out the near forty notes.

I rang up old man meteor and he came down to oversee the pouring of the two part mix. I sealed off the petrol tap hole with a plastic rubber blank so that the threads were protected, and used a sheet of plastic and some elastic bands to seal the fuel cap.
I mixed up the two components inside the tapox  box (hardener and resin) and funnelled it into my freshly primed tank.

I sloshed it about as per the instructions, to such an extent that the ever impatient old man meteor threatned to leave and go home if i shook the tank for another second. Afterall, he had waited at least two minutes and the impregnable 12 0/c lunch barrier was fast approaching.

The instructions inside the tapox said that you need to apply gentle air pressure after you have coated the tank. I assume this is to help it set. It warns you not to use electrical appliances such as hairdryers etc as the tappox mixture is highly flammable and it certainly smelt that way.
Chez meteor maybe a decent shed, but it doesn`t boast the facilities of an air compressor and  
I opted to ignore this step. Instead, I whipped off the plastic sheet covering the petrol cap and pointed it down wind atop my patio table for a short time.  This may become something i`ll regret.

I took a sneaky peak inside the tank an hour or two later, the tank was well covered but still wet with the red tapox mix. Mrs M was beckoning me back to my dad-to-be diy duties, so i put the tank back in the shed and awaited the mixture to cure overnight. This was the result the next day:-

(above) the worst of it

Although the Tapox had cured perfectly, it hadn`t seemed to key into the metal with the even coverage i had hoped for.
I was left with what i would describe as wrinkles of untreated areas which looked like a tigers scrotum!

I must admit i was a little disappointed. This was not the aircraft quality result that i expected and so I headed back down to Llandow classics to see what they thought.
To be fair, i was the first guy that they had sold this tapox stuff to, so they didn`t know what to expect either, however, the guy there said that  may be that the resin had dryed this way due to some residual contamination after the item had been soaked in a chemical cleaner. To be honest i think he`s probably right.
I`ve used enough dodgey chemicals in my time to know that some cleaning agents definately leave a film of chemical residue behind after cleaning. Hey, you live and learn.
Besides, the guy reckoned the tank was in pretty good nick anyway and the tapox had covered enough to do its job, particularly at the most vunerable rear end where they are prone to rust.

He advised me to maybe inhibit the tank by maybe pouring in a bit of diesel to keep it free from any moisture damage and i went on my way. reasonably satisfied.

(above) the primed tank. Filler definately requires some rework

Well meteorites, xmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, and so is mrs m`s belly- only two weeks to go and  i absolutely can`t wait! 
i did broach the idea of Enfield as a middle name, but she told me that i needed to get a life.

If the meteorite hasn`t arrived by xmas, she has promised to helped me out with all the extra furnishings i need to finish the tank off as a xmas present such as the badges and petrol tap etc.

hopefully, i`ll get one more blog in by then, but part 2 of the fuel tank will be coming sometime in the new year. if not have fun over the xmas period.

Meteor Man