2/22/09

John Waters Memories

My friend John from Wellington New Zealand sended us some memories. Born in U.K he emigrate in the late sixties leaving behind him the Rock N'Roll scene and his love for Brit irons bikes.

Hello Vincent, you asked if I had any photos you could possibly add to this story. Well, to be honest, and I know this sounds like a tall story, but the whole time I rode with the boys back then, I cannot remember ONE, ever carrying a camera. I did meet some interesting characters though after I left England in 1967 and immigrated to New Zealand. Over there I rode with a small, but a very good bunch of guys. Bikes were mainly Triumph, but there was the odd the odd Norton. Those were the days where you could buy a nice, tidy, running 650cc Matchless twin for about 200 dollars. I have to say dollars here, because if memory serves me rightly, New Zealand changed it's currency about then and went over to dollars and cents. I did meet one eccentric character that worked on the Triumph 500/650 pre-units and the 650 unit engines.

He smoked like a train (or chimney, if that description fits better) and it was facinating to watch him roll a cigarette around in his mouth with the constant halo of smoke over his head while he worked. I never saw anything defeat the man. He was a machinist by trade and worked for one of the larger companies in the area back then. He always said that the British 650 twin was a good engine, and many of them survived at the hands of some of the most appalling butchers in history.
I loved to hear the "proverbial" history lesson from him, as I was then a budding teenager and eager to learn anything and everything. And his head would go up and down to punctuate his words, and his glasses would wind up dangerously perched on the end of his nose! He told me that Triumph's that leaked oil was a misconception, and the problem was that when "backyard mechanics) as he referred to them, would tackle these engines with great gusto, leaving in their wake behind them, engine internals strewn from one end of the yard to the other.

Pushrod tubes being put back in the wrong holes, pushrod sleeves ommited, tappet guide blocks put back in the wrong places (mixing parts up) and he drummed into my head that NO engine component, over time, wears the same as the next. He told that properly assembled the Triumph will not leak oil, drag it's clutch, or idle unevenly. he did some work once on my old '58 Triumph Thunderbird, and when I got it back, I have to admit, the old girl did not leak oil. I consumed workshop manuals from there on, they became my so-called bible. There was a character that we rode with that had a Norton 500. There was nothing he enjoyed more than changing out rear wheel sprockets in an attempt to achieve the ideal gearing for all intents and purposes. He was quite fanatical about it, seriously! We ribbed him about it once over a cup of tea and he got quite cut up about it. I tell you, rear wheel cog swapping had become a religion to the guy. I had to admit that he had it down to a fine art. It took him no time at all to remove the rear wheel, smack on another sprocket, slide it back in, adjust the chain and he'd be flying off down the road accompanied by the thrilling, and thunderous sounds of a roaring Norton 500 single. They really were the days, you know. I still so much enjoy your 'trip Triumph vs Norton' on video.