Saturday, 26 March 2011

Klamfoth restoration part #1 - a twin amongst the singles, a swinger amongst the rigids

Previously  I wrote about my involvement in Project Daytona that involved a team of researchers in Florida and Scotland restoring a 1954 BSA Daytona Gold Star and Shooting Start in-time for the 2004 50th anniversary of BSA’s historic first five places sweep-up in the 1954 Daytona 200 mile race.

The most obvious and defining characteristic of these bikes was that they were rigid framed, at a time when BSA had just introduced swing-arm frames. The research element alone for this project took years and was difficult enough at time to feel more like archaeologiy than restoration but we managed to tie-up most of the loose ends, or enough to make us happy enough to parade the bikes in 2004.

We also decided to build a replica (or a restoration if we ever find more original parts) of Dick Klamfoth’s 2nd place bike but if the specification of the rigid bikes had been a big puzzle to solve, then Dick’s bike was an even bigger one because it alone amongst BSA’s works team was fitted with a swing arm. 

We had only a few poor photos to work from but reckoned that an incorrectly captioned photo in the Bert Hopwood book ‘Whatever Happened to the British Motorcycle Industry? was the same bike or at least the bike in prototype form.  This blog entry explains why we think so.

Obviously, the first thing we did was ask Dick -  but he wasn’t sure.  Dick remembered that BSA thought that amongst the riders he would be best suited for a swing arm because he had ridden a plunger Manx Norton in the previous 2 Daytonas until a regulation change made them ineligible. Dick also thought that the bike was a lash-up from spare parts that BSA had when the bike he was first given went bad in practice. Other riders Gene Thiessen and Kenny Eggers (see link) seemed to remember this too, but Kenny Eggers also thought that it had been put together using a spare Daytona engine and the rolling chassis from a roadster swing-arm Shooting Star that had been sent by BSA for dealers to evaluate before these were officially launched in the UK.  More doubt was spread when we saw what appeared to be a spare or wrecked rigid frame in a photo of Thiessen't trailer as he was preparing to drive home to Oregon after Daytona.

Post race photo taken around Gene Thiessen's car - with the 'spare' frame. Left to right are BSA engineer Cyril Halliburn, kneeling Bobby Hill, standing Kenny Eggers, kneeling Dick Klamfoth, unknown standing in white, Gene Thiessen and Al Gunter.

We wondered what kind of accident would be bad enough to need the whole frame and a spare engine to be used, and if it had been that bad you'd wonder why they didn't need a spare rider as well.  The testimony was confusing and uncertain but on the basis that neither you nor I will remember much about this blog in 50 years time, we couldn’t be too hard on the guys to remember much about the bikes they last saw 50 years ago.

So we decided to look for evidence elsewhere and went first to the BSA dispatch records. Did BSA send a Daytona bike with a swing-arm frame? Was there an early dealer evaluation swing-arm Shooting Star? Service sheets and the the despatch records show that BSA did, and produced a couple of spares engine for UK dealer Fron Purslow but I couldn't find any record of a Shooting Star being shipped either with the Daytona bikes or before.

Detail taken from a BSA service sheet

Where next?  I had looked at the pic in the Hopwood book in the past before I was ever involved in Project Daytona and regarded it as a bit of a curiosity, but didn’t think about it much more. Now I looked at it again but this time with the benefit of the research we had done to determine the specification of the rigid Daytona bikes, I saw things I hadn’t before.  For example, the Daytona barrels, the Vokes filter, the Daytona front mudguard, stays and reversed front brake lever were all fitted only to the Daytona bikes but what we had to do was date the Hopwood bike to late 1953, or very early 1954.And there are two features that let us do that.

Image used on dealer promotional poster after the race shows the Daytona pattern front mudguard, pipes and megaphones
First, we knew that the alloy front mudguard was only fitted to the 1954 bikes, in 1955 this was changed to the standard roadster arrangement to placate the AMA’s regulations for homologation after they questioned some of the special used by BSA in 1954 and threatened to ban them. This was only averted at the 11th hour by the counter threat of an injunction from BSA West Coast distributor Hap Alzina that might have prevented the race taking place at all. The AMA capitualted.

Klamfoth's bike in '55. Also a swing-arm bike but shown here to show use of standard mudguards to keep the AMA happy.

Second, the fat girlings fitted to the Hopwood bike were only used very briefly between late 1953 and early 1954 – slimmer Girlings were fitted from late spring onwards.So we had a photo of a bike that was made around the same time as the Daytona bikes and was fitted with all the Daytona specific features.

We also knew that a swing arm bike was made and shipped to Daytona. Unless this was a pic of the bike sent to Fron Purslow, we couldn’t think of any reasons why this bike would be anything other than Klamfoth’s bike or perhaps the prototype of it – and decided to use this as research material for the planned bike build. Now as a quality check, we decided to take the Daytona film we had and blow-up some freeze frames of Klamfoth going round the South turn.As you can see, quality is lamentable, though it does allow us to confirm the front pipe and megaphone location and dimensions.

Still from the '54 film showing the arrangement of pipes, megaphone and number plates
What it also shows, though is a different seat. On the Hopwood pic there is an example of one of the Feridax –like (in 1955 they used actual Feridax seats) racing seats BSA made in-house for the 1954 bikes. In the blow-up pic, a completely different seat has been fitted with what appear to be rivets round the edge of the seat base. Until we know better, we’re assuming that this was a piece of ‘localisation’ applied to Klamfoth’s bike, either because the original was damaged (perhaps the accident Thiessen and Eggers mentioned?) or replaced to satisfy rider preference.

Still from '54 film showing the seat rivets
 We do know that the others bikes had changes made to them once they had arrived in the US to suit the rider’s preference and the most obvious example being the rear brake lever on Egger’s twin which was mounted over the top of the brake plate, rather than underslung.

There are still some details we can only guess at, like the brackets and positioning of the float bowls for which we really need a good close-up shot from either side. But otherwise, we have enough of a blueprint to start work on the bike. In the next feature, I’ll pay attention to some of the Daytona specific parts and how we worked-out dimensions and specification, managed to find them or in one case – persuaded a manufacturer to resume production again just for us.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Project Daytona, August 2003 – Technical Challenges

As mentioned in the previous update, bikes raced at Daytona had to comply with AMA class ‘C’ regulations - basically production bikes with a few permitted modifications.

These rules did allow for some special parts, as long as they were deemed to be modifications that were within the scope of owner-modification or had been made by BSA in quantities of 100 or more for homologation purposes.

Within these restrictions the 1954 bikes were prepared in the BSA competition shop under the guidance of Roland Pike. Given the green-light to proceed by Bert Hopwood in the Summer of 1953 he prototyped a Daytona special Gold Star using one of the Bill Nicholson designed rigid trials frames but fitted with lightweight cycle parts that could be fitted to either a twin or Gold Star.

The class ‘C’ regulations meant Pike had to use existing parts as much as possible – something that made our restoration task easier. For example, the low-slung triangular oil tank is actually two pre-unit toolbox halves welded together. The shrouds around the rear wheel to protect it from sand are simply alloy sheets pop-riveted to an alloy mudguard blade.

But there were some parts that were more difficult to replace, some whose purpose were difficult to understand… and some we had difficulty even seeing,

DificuIt to replace the Vokes filter challenge.
The Daytona bikes were fitted with Vokes oil filters. In their day, these were fitted to everything from GP Triumphs to racing Ferraris, diesel trains and anti-aircraft guns. So you’d think finding one would be easy, but no! We even resorted to calling round MOD quartermasters but no luck. On a whim we called Vokes who are still in business and by a stroke of luck spoke to a man who restores old cars. He looked around, couldn’t find any filters and decided to make us a batch from scratch after rescuing the original drawings from a periodic clearout – as simple as that. It became a restoration project in itself and required making tools, jigs and short-run alloy casting. But a year and a half later – victory!!

Difficult to understand – the slim barrel challenge
We were mystified by the barrels on our ex- Al Gunter twin since they looked like the slimmer profile type fitted to earlier twins – why would BSA do that? They also had a smaller number of fins and we wondered BSA had secretly deployed a short-stroke engine since they had experimented with these at the time? All was resolved in a conversation with Dick Mann who asked if we had the special thick flange barrels on our twin. We had overlooked the important difference - a thicker, stronger base flange.

Difficult to see - the Gold Star engine challenge
Our ex- McDermott Gold Star has a BB type engine but some of the internals are not BB type. By late 53 BSA already had the later big fin CB type engine ready but as was usual at BSA, didn’t plan to have this ready until the TT. We wondered if our engine was a BB with CB internals (where the scrutineer couldn’t see them) but looking at the parts we had, this didn’t stack-up.

So, back to the project archive and Roland Pike’s unpublished biography (which you can read on our web site) and here we found the answers. Pike made some heads for 1954 Daytona models using 350 castings machined to suit 500cc. He found these gave more power than the normal 500 heads due to better down-draft. He also used oval flywheels, a short 350 con-rod necessitating shorter push rods, larger valves and a timed breather. So basically, the Daytona Gold Star engines were Roland Pike specials.

The Great Cosmic Motorcycling Force
It’s been quite a journey so far - and we’re not finished yet! We’ve learned a lot on the way but two things are worth presenting.First, we learned not to discriminate when collecting information. If it didn’t seem relevant at first it often turned out to be so later - sometimes you don’t see the treasure until you’re looking for it.

Second, we’ve had some things that stumped us but each time we got lucky and an answer fell out of the sky just in time. The moral of the tale - the Great Cosmic Motorcycling Force provides for those who are truly in need.

Project Daytona, June 2003 – “More like archaeology than restoration…”

Up until the early 70’s almost all bike racing in the US had to comply with AMA class ‘C’ regulations - basically production bikes with a few permitted modifications. So you’d think that would make restoring our Daytona bikes easy – they would be bog-standard catalogue bikes with a few permitted modifications, right?

Wrong! Apart from the special rigid frames used at Daytona that were the most visible identifier of a Daytona bike we found many other differences that made the research phase of the project long and difficult. It was in one of many late-night phone sessions to the US that team member Don Bradley remarked that as restorations go, this had been more like archaeology so far. Let me give you some examples.

In any research you go first to existing books, articles, documentation and records. But we have chosen a subject and period that is almost entirely absent from these. Forget the 70’s – this is the real ‘forgotten era’ of racing. If we suspected we might have a hill to climb this was confirmed when Gold Star technical authority John Gardner admitted he’d be learning from us, not the other way around.

We were drawing blanks all round so decided to find any BSA competition shop staff still alive – there aren’t many. A bit of detective work found Arthur Lupton, better known under his pseudonym ‘A. Golland’ as the author of the red ‘Goldie’ book published in the 1970’s. Arthur was a stalwart at BSA for many, many years who worked with competition shop staff. We were very fortunate to correspond at length with Arthur over a period of 2 years before he died.

The real star find would be Roland Pike who was in charge of developing the Daytona bikes in ‘54. We knew he lived in the US but had been suffering from Altzheimer’s disease in the last few years. We almost made it - he died 2 weeks before we got in touch with his daughter. However she gave us a copy of an unpublished autobiography from his BSA years that not only helped with the Daytona bikes but also provided a goldmine of information about other interesting BSA projects and working in Small Heath at the time.

There were also mysteries about the riders. The surviving works riders have been supporting us since the project started but there was one we couldn’t trace – Cliff Caswell. Last month we found him using one of those dodgy ‘we can find any person’ websites in the US!Recording and keeping track of all this information would be difficult in any circumstances. We were additionally handicapped by having a restoration team composed of people in both the US and Scotland.

The answer was an online web-based archive and project management tool. Documents, discussions, notes, images, details – all were stored on a web site so that team members could access it anywhere, anytime. Access was restricted to the project team or people who were helping us – we could do without the more militant Gold Star owners misinterpreting our speculations as gospel and taking us to task over them. But at the same time a public access section of the website was developed that would be used to publicise the project and provide information for BSA enthusiasts. This part of the site was launched at Daytona 2003 and can be found at

Beezagent's Note:- this website was replaced in 2006 by

Project Daytona, April 2003 – 1 year to go

Last month I wrote about the project to restore and parade the 1954 Daytona winning BSAs at Daytona speed week in 2004 as part of a 50 th anniversary event. Daytona 2003 has just finished and we now have one year to prepare the bikes and organise the event itself. Let me tell you a bit more about both.

The Bikes The Daytona 200 was the most important race US calendar - equivalent to the TT. At that time the race was run on a large oval circuit that had one straight on sand, one on tarmac. In 1954 BSA sent both Gold Stars and Shooting Stars to Daytona. Both were fitted with rigid frames as it was felt that the reduced weight was of greater benefit on sand than swinging-arm suspension. We are restoring examples of both machines for 2004 - Tommy McDermotts Gold Star and Al Gunters Shooting Star.

Although US regulations of the time required these to be production bikes in a future update Ill tell you about some of the very non-production (!) details we found while working on these and the difficulty we’’ve had researching them before restoration work started.

The Event Our event is intended to celebrate BSAs win in 1954, the original riders and BSA in general. It is actually a series of activities that will be held within the larger Daytona speed week, a motorcycling party that eclipses the TT in both scale and scope. Our smaller ‘party will consist of::-

Friday, Saturday & Sunday - Antique Motorcycle Club of America Concours event spotlight on BSA at Eustis
Monday and Tuesday – Parade lap with restored bikes and riders at Daytona Speedway
Thursday – Concours display and ride-out to Jerry Woods action and swap meet at Deland
Thursday evening – Banquet and ‘meet the riders event at Stetson University.

The project team, the surviving riders and other BSA luminaries such as Jeff Smith, John Gardner and Dick Mann will attend the banquet to talk about the race and answer questions. Others have been approached and are still to be confirmed – watch this space

Project Daytona, February 2003

This was originally posted as a blog style entry on a website, documenting the progress of Project Daytona through research and restoration of two BSA Daytona racers in 2004 as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of BSA's historic win in 1954.

In March 1954 BSA won the 200 mile expert race at Daytona Beach, Florida. Bobby Hill won on a Shooting Star, heading a field of 107 riders to complete the 200 mile race in 2 hours, 7 minutes and 22.70 seconds at an average speed of 94.24mph.

The next 4 places were also BSAs, with the nearest American bike being Don Hutchinson's Harley in 10th place.This was the most important event in the US racing calendar, comparable with the TT.

Although this was one of BSA's greatest sporting achievements the event passed largely uncelebrated at the time and has been barely mentioned in books and magazines since.In March 2004 a multinational group of BSA restorers hope to rectify this injustice by celebrating the 50th anniversary of the win at Daytona 2004. Restored bikes - a Gold Star and Shooting Star - will be paraded by the original BSA riders, Bobby Hill, Kenny Eggers, Dick Klamfoth, Gene Thiessen and Tommy McDermott.

The event will be supported by the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association, will be attended by various luminaries in the classic bike scene and the intention is to make this a big event with lots of press! While I'm sure this news will interest the BSA nuts, club members might also be interested to know that the Scottish member of the restoration team is club member Myles Raymond.

Myles and his buddies in the US have been working on this project for the last 2 years on an epic journey that has at times been more like archaeology than restoration but is now.Myles will be posting progress reports in the newsletter as the project moves into the last 12 months before the big event in March 2004

Project Daytona, February 2003 – In The Beginning

This was originally posted as a blog style entry on a website, documenting the progress of Project Daytona through research and restoration of two BSA Daytona racers in 2004 as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of BSA's historic win in 1954.

Why are some people who have never met and who live in different continents restoring bikes via the internet?

The story starts in the 1990s when some BSA enthusiasts in Florida wonder if it would be possible to find and restore a Daytona BSA, a bike that has always fascinated them. But there are two problems - they can't find a bike and can't find anyone who knows anything about them.

Although they don't know it at the time, another BSA enthusiast in Scotland is researching twin carburettor kits sold for BSA pre-unit twins in the USA. His research also touches on the Daytona twins, as these were fitted with twin carburettors. He puts the result of his research on a web site.
One of the Florida guys, Don Bradley sees the reference to Daytona bikes on the site and emails the Scottish BSA guy Myles Raymond asking for any information he has about these bikes. Myles doesn't have much so asks what Don has. Neither has much but both agree that this is important information and that they should keep in touch and share whatever they find.

Myles Raymond - research and website, Scotland
A year later they get in touch again - things have moved on. Don has unearthed more parts, more information and has decided to restore the bikes in time for the 50th anniversary of BSA's 1954 in 2004. He wants this to be a big event and plans a celebration attended by the original BSA riders. By this time Myles has more information too, has some leads on UK contacts who may know even more about the bikes' history and is planning to create an online archive for the information.

Things have now reached a critical mass. Myles offers to help the project any way he can but thinks that because he is in the UK, he is best placed to find information or ex- BSA staff who might help. Don will head-up the restoration partly because he has the bits of bike that have been found so far and partly because Myles is by his own admission is a poorer mechanic than Don.

They decide that the only practical way to share this information is to keep it all on a website where it will be available to anyone regardless of location or timezone. Myles will build the website partly because he's done one already and partly because Don is by his own admission, a poor typist.

Don Bradley, Bob Birdsall - BikeRestorations, Florida

So a website is built and used as an online archive and project management tool. Early in the research stage while the team is still uncertain about the specification of the bikes the web site contains much information that is speculative. To protect against the more militant BSA enthusiasts who might interpret the web site contents as gospel and take issue a decision is made to keep the site private. The URL is only circulated among the project team members or trusted individuals who are helping.

In practice the website works spectacularly well, bridging the difference in distance and time and the restoration proceeds.

There are still problems to solve and questions to answer but by April 2003 the team is confident enough that they can complete the bikes to the original specification and the website finally goes public in April 2003.