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.

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