“Salt” follows Ted and Gary from the shop in Alonsa Manitoba to Utah’s iconic Bonneville Salt Flats, where they push the limits of their big twin flathead Harley in pursuit of a vintage world land speed record.
Filmed and directed by Ted’s long time friend and past business partner Bill Fraser. Indeed a moment in history as you see the fabrication, and hear the stories that have pushed them to the salt flats for over 15 years.
The movie premiered at the Park Theater in Winnipeg in September 2020. You can still purchase either a DVD or Blu-Ray disc directly from Bill from his website at https://www.navionco.com/
Most restorers reach the stage where the freshly painted centre stand has to be replaced, most likely with a new strong spring. And most restorers have battled to stretch this very strong spring to fit over the fixing points with some sort of lever mechanism, skinned knuckles, much tongue work and less-than-polite expletives!
Here is an easy way- – – –
The bike has to be lifted so as to have easy access underneath where the centre stand fits.
Bolt the stand loosely on to the pivot lugs on the frame and hanging downwards. (Don’t forget to grease the pivot points)
Put the end of the spring in your vice and bend it over sideways.
Then put washers into the gap between the coils.
Bend over the other way and put more washers in the other side.
The spring will now be longer.
Remove spring and try and see if it now fits easily over the fixing points.
If not put back in vice and slip in more washers.
After the spring fits the washers usually fall out when the stand is retracted to the folded up (riding) position.
If not they are easily pulled out with pliers or vice-grip.
I needed a glass headlight lens for a 1974 RD 350 Yamaha. Kim Houde gave me an old 5 3/4-inch seal beam that was burnt out. I just needed the lens but didn’t know how to cut the seal-beam. I ended up using a tile cutter (with water) just holding it freehand over the smooth diamond blade. Two minutes and the job was done.
This wasn’t a glass lens glued to a plastic shell, it was your typical automotive round seal beam. One of those jobs that I kept putting off because I was pretty sure it would end badly. I was more surprised that the seal-beam didn’t shatter in my hands than how easy the job was.
I went to Winnipeg in 1992 to visit my 81-year-old father, who’d ridden and raced Indian motorcycles on and off for 56 years. He rode his 1936 Sport Scout every day, everywhere — the man knew how to ride.
Dad was the secretary for the Manitoba Antique Motorcycle Club. At a meeting not long before my visit, members of the club told him you were required to have a motorcycle-specific license to operate a bike. Dad disagreed. “No, all you need is a driver’s license.” That law changed in 1963, they said. A grandfather clause had been established so those who were already riding could get their motorcycle license by filling out a form — no road test required. But the expiry date to fill out the form was the end of 1964. Dad had missed the cutoff by 28 years. I arrived in Winnipeg on a Sunday night and asked what was on the agenda. “I’m going to get my motorcycle license,” he said.
We headed down to the motor vehicle department on Monday afternoon. Dad hopped onto his Indian and told me to follow him in the station wagon. Downtown traffic was heavy and I had a hard time keeping up. He had fought as a fighter pilot in World War II, flying Spitfires and Thunderbolts; he knew what speed was. I arrived — long after him — and parked beside the Indian. A youthful driver examiner came over. “That’s a beautiful motorcycle. Is it yours?” “No, it’s my Dad’s. He’s inside getting his motorcycle license.” We chatted for a while, and then I saw Dad emerging from the office. I looked at his face and laughed as I said, “You didn’t get it, did you?” “Those bastards don’t know anything,” he said. “Who do they think they are, giving a motorcycle test when they don’t know anything about motorcycles?”
Dad disliked Harleys, probably going back to the ‘30s and ’40s when he raced against them. He once said to me, “The only parts of a Harley that are any good are the pistons — they make good shifter knobs for Indians.” (He actually melted down a Harley piston to make a gearshift knob for his 1919 Indian Powerplus.) One of the main differences between old Indians and Harleys is the location of the throttle; a Harley’s throttle is on the right and an Indian’s is on the left.
I asked Dad what happened at the motor vehicle office. “He asked me to show him how you signal for a left turn, a right turn, and for stopping. I showed him, and then he said that I was almost right, but that I used the wrong hand to signal. That’s when I told him that I rode an Indian — and not a damn Harley — and you can’t take your hand off the throttle to signal. I also told him he shouldn’t be giving anyone a motorcycle exam.”
The examiner who’d come over to admire the bike was still standing next to me. Overhearing all of this, he looked at me. “Do you have a motorcycle license?” I nodded. “You’ll have to ride the bike home,” he said. “Your dad doesn’t have a license.” “Good luck telling him that,” I said. The examiner walked over to Dad while he was preparing to fire up the bike, put his hand on Dad’s shoulder, and broke the bad news. Dad turned his head and looked at him, but I didn’t hear what Dad said. The examiner straightened, then slowly backed away. Dad fired up the Indian with one kick and left in a cloud of dust.
I went into the office and got the motorcycle handbook. I convinced Dad to read it so he could answer the questions on the test. A week later, after I’d gone home, I phoned and asked if he’d passed the written test. Yes, he said. I asked if he took the road test. Yes, he said. And then I asked how it went.
“They drive behind you in a car, and when they want you to turn, they put their turn signal on,” he said. “But the guy had a hard time keeping up with me. I think he signaled left. But my mirrors shake a lot. I turned right and went home and had a cold beer.”
Dad never got his license but kept riding his 1936 Indian until he had a stroke in 1997. He died two years later. I’ll never forget that day in the parking lot. That examiner likely won’t, either.
Irv’s early Motorcycle and WW2 days
Dad and Ken Butterfield rode their bikes from Winnipeg through the states to Mexico and across to Los Angeles (stayed there a while) and back to Winnipeg. They left Dec 7th, 1934 returning on March 3rd,1935.
He rode his bike solo to the World’s Fairs in Chicago and New York (will check and see if I can unravel the years).
In January 1937 he traveled to Daytona Florida for the first Daytona 200 motorcycle race, Sunday January 24th 3250 Km. There were several other riders from Winnipeg there. He got back to Winnipeg a week before getting married Feb 13th, 1937. The average January temp in Winnipeg for 1937 was -25c.
He was also at the 1938 Daytona. Apparently by himself.
During the Second World War, Irv enlisted in the Air force on the 21st of Dec 1940 (J7449) in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He took Initial Training School in Regina, SK and graduated the 26th of April 1941. Elementary Flying Training School was at Portage La Prairie, MB. His Service Flying Training School was in Yorkton, SK. There he received his wings and commission on the 11th of Sept. 1941. He left for England on the 4th of Oct 1941 and was assigned to the Royal Air force Training Command as a flying instructor. On the 13th of Sep 1943 he was promoted to Flying Officer and joined the Royal Air Force’s 134 Squadron near Cairo, Egypt, as a fighter pilot. The 134 provided defense for patrols along the North African coast.
With Hurricane fighter planes they helped push the German army and Field Marshall Rommel along the North Africa coast and out at Tunisia. During the summer of 1943 while on patrol over the Island of Crete, Irv was shot by a sniper on the ground. Luckily he was looking out the side window (he said to me) as the bullet went through this thigh and out through the top of the canopy of his airplane.
He managed to control the bleeding and return to the airbase. After a few days in the hospital, he was back with the Squadron. On November 14th, 1943 the Squadron moved to India and flew its aircraft to the Burmese frontier area.
Dad told me, “We flew our Hurricanes as a squadron to Burma. I read a Readers Digest cover to cover flying formation on that trip.”
Ground attack missions against Japanese positions in Burma were carried out with P-47 Thunderbolt fighters.” We gave the Japs a rough time with our 20mm cannons.” Irv.
“After the Monsoon, we came back with P47’s. They then hung a 250 lb. bomb on each wing and instructions “How to Bomb” – (written by a Spitfire pilot I think). However, we developed our own system. Approached target at over 8 thousand feet, closed throttle, pulled up sharply. Did a stall turn, prop in fine pitch – dropped the eggs as soon as lined up in the vertical dive and then pulled out. With practice, it was very accurate and only a short blackout.” Irv.
Promoted Flight Lieutenant, 13 September 1943 Irvin Lawrence Lowen was awarded the Mentioned in Despatches [a military award for gallantry or otherwise commendable service] and published in the London Gazette 14th Jan. 1944. Repatriated 12 April 1945. To No.2 Air Command, 22 May 1945. To No.5 Release Centre, Winnipeg, 6th August 1945. Retired 5 September 1945.
All the 750cc Norton Commando’s and the earlier 850cc models were fitted with a more-or-less rectangular air filter with two shaped rubber hose connectors from carbs to the filter front plate. Restorers will know what a difficult job it is to assemble the carbs, connecting hoses and filter between engine and frame, and then afterwards how difficult it is just to change a filter element. Only in 1974 with the MK2A 850’s, did Norton’s change to a much simpler and easy-to-get-at pad type air filter which could be changed in minutes.
Setting up and tuning carburetors with BSA or Triumph twins with their dual easy-removable “pancake” air filters was easy, enabling one to get into both carb intakes to “finger feel,” or the other trick of inserting two same-sized drill bits shank first under the slide cut-away’s, and watch to see them dip evenly as you tweak the throttle.
Final carb setting is not easy on a Commando because it is NOT a five minute job to get into the carb intakes to adjust the all-important simultaneous slide lift. Much easier way is to use two pieces of straight wire inserted through the top cap usually blanked off holes for choke slide, and watch the tips rise together. Easer to see if you glue a piece of white board on top of the wire. This all assuming of course that you have as most British bike owners of Amal carbed bikes have done, and discarded the choke mechanism, and again what many Commando owners have done and replaced the original air filter with K&N cone filters. If my carbs still had choke slides I would have drilled small holes in the carb tops to take the wire, then blocked them up again, rather than battle with taking that #@?!! air filter off and then on again!
One of the most important jobs on any restoration is to re-build the carburetors, and before a re-build they need a thorough cleaning. There are numerous expensive acid-based carb cleaning liquids on the market, but a cheaper method that works is as follows ;–
1) Get hold of an old saucepan (pot) that is big enough to enable the carb components to lie on the bottom without being on top of each other. I have commandeered a pot that was going to be thrown out because it had been allowed to cook dry at some stage..
2) Fill it enough to just cover the carb parts with a third each of water, white vinegar and lemon juice, ( the kind you can buy in a plastic bottle at the grocery store called ReaLemon)
3) Wait till she has gone shopping, and boil on her stove for about 20 minutes. (It must be bubbling and it stinks!)
4) Tip out the hot liquid and rinse several times with cold water.
5) Blow out excess water with an airhose through all the airways and lay out on a clean cloth and allow to dry.
6) The parts and air passages are beautifully clean but everything will be covered in a very fine grey powder which is easily brushed off with an old tooth brush or similar. If you want a nice dull shine, a soft brass bristle brush works fine (I bought a whole set including the brass bristle one, from Dolarama)
For the un-iniated, Classic British motorcycles are prone to wet-sumping after an extended lay-over period, such as Canada’s long cold winters, and in some bad cases even after a couple of weeks. Because of their dry sump design where oil is stored in a separate tank, then fed through the engine under pressure from the oil pump and returned to the tank from the bottom of the crankcase by a “scavenger” pump or return pump, oil tends to leak through the oil pump and collect at the bottom of the crankcase. The more worn the pump the worse the bypass leak is. Gear type pumps (Norton and AJS/Matchless Twins) are worse than plunger type pumps (Triumph/ AJS & Matchless singles) Whilst slightly worn pumps will deliver pressurized oil satisfactorily and not be in need of an expensive overhaul or replacement, the wet-sumping problem is a tiresome nuisance on start-up after lay-over, and in extreme cases can cause excess crankcase pressure with oil leaking all over and even blown gaskets, before the scavenger pump has time to pump the excess oil back into the tank.
Not to mention clouds of blue smoke until the oil is cleared. My neighbour came running one spring start up thinking my garage was on fire!
There has been much written about solutions for curing wet-sumping. Commercial parts suppliers offer various types of anti wet-sumping valves with prices varying from $35 to $300. The simplest and cheapest consist of a steel ball closing on a seat under spring pressure and rely on the pumps suction to draw the ball off the seat and allow the life preserving oil to flow to the pump. The internet is full of stories about what happens when these valves DON”T open and the spectacular melt-downs that take place between the riders legs shortly afterwards and not far down the road!
The simplest of all is to install an on/off valve on the hose between the tank and the pump. This of course relies on the rider/owner remembering to turn it off before lay-over and most importantly, to turn it ON BEFORE RE-STARTING!
Therein lies the problem. Murphy always intervenes and there are as many internet stories about how he forgot and trashed a first out restored beauty that he had been restoring for the last five years!
The most expensive valves incorporate some form of fail safe device that does not allow the bike to be started until the valve is opened. The other option is to go the expensive route and rebuild or renew an oil pump which is still giving a more than adequate oil delivery. It is also not unknown for some rebuilt pumps to still leak oil past.
Always on the look-out for a better and cheaper way I bought a ball type lever valve with hose barb on both ends from Rona for under $10 and a Honeywell model WWG24A302 3 terminal limit switch from Acklands Grainger for $4.63 I drilled two small holes in the brass valve body and tapped them to accept two machine screws. This has to be done like porcupines making love ie; CAREFULLY! Not too deep so as not to interfere with the stainless steel ball or the teflon seals. A small bracket was made using 1″ aluminium angle cut to size and drilled accordingly, with slotted holes so that the switch could be positioned so that the heel of the valve lever would actuate the switch arm/roller. With one ground terminal and two other make and break terminals it was possible to wire the limit switch to cut out the ignition switch or ground out a magneto through the stop/grounding button. Thus the bike will not start until the valve has been opened and that life-preserving golden liquid is flowing to that oil pump and giving a finger to our old friend Murphy!
The 2014 Bison Classic Motorcycle Rally was a great success and some thank yous need to go out.
Show N Shine- John Thompson
Photography-Erv Peters, Gord Peters
Prizes – Tim Klassen
Regalia-Rick Peters, Mike Baraschuk
And the many more that stepped up and helped a little or a lot and also to all that attended.
If you are interested in a DVD slide show of the Rally weekend contact us via email or at a meeting to order a copy. Cost is $5.00 and all the money goes to the The Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Manitoba.