Ron Fellowes famously rode his 1910 FN four cylinder 14,606km from Nepal to Belgium in 2012. You can buy his book about the trip here. I’ll have a review of the book in a few days, but first I wanted to share his notes about making his own spark plugs! He mentioned in the book that he had a little bit of trouble with the modern plugs he carried on his trip and decided to make his own when he returned home. Fascinated by the idea of home made sparking plugs, I asked him for more information…
“During my journey I met Michel Bovy, who had original spark plugs fitted to his FN4. I admired them, took lots of photos and said I would like to replicate them. Next day, Michel brought me working drawings that his friend had made the night before.
I used hex steel to make the lower body which I threaded to 18mm and an internal taper of 2 degrees was machined to form a seal between the mica washers. The mica washers were purchased from India. These were of .2 + .1 thickness, mounted on a mandrel and ground with a matching 2 degree taper. I drilled cooling holes in the appropriate places.
The top cover was originally made from Bakelite or ebony, but as I did not have either material, I made my top cover from Tufnol, a manmade compressed fibre. The centre electrode is turned from a Grade 8 bolt.
To adjust the gap (firing point), mica washers are either added or subtracted from the centre electrode.
When I used the mica spark plugs I was happy with the performance, but I found the heat range a little high. I’ve been studying the drawings closely and feel I need to remove some of the mica washers in the cover end to make them run a little colder.
It’s not time consuming to adjust the electrode gap but I do need to put a dummy centre electrode in from the spark plug terminal end to keep the two degree taper in order. I am running .018inch gap.”
Ron is continuing to test the new plugs with rides in Australia. I’ll ask if he has any new comments in the coming months.
Above photos are copyright 2014 Ron Fellowes.
The latest VMCC Journal arrived today with the sad news that Tony Held has passed away.
Tony was a very friendly face to all who rode on the Irish National Rally, and to many events near his home in Southern England. We had loads of fun; here’s a few pics from last year’s Irish. He always was joking around! And his old Norton Manx was not the shiniest bike, but I seemed drawn to it and took pics of it every year. It is sad to think that he won’t be attending anymore and pulling my leg with his tall tales.
Tonight we’ll have a toast to Tony. RIP my friend.
The 76th Pioneer Run was held Sunday March 22nd, departing Epsom Downs near London and travelling south about 45 miles to finish on sunny Madeira Drive, Brighton. The Mayor of Epsom was kind enough to start us off with a wave of his flag and his counterpart in Brighton & Hove greeted the finishers as we turned onto the seafront. The Pioneer Run is the largest event in the world for motorcycles made before WWI, with about 350 starters this year and a few less than that at the finish line.
After last year’s run on the 1913 Veloce, I didn’t plan to attend the Pioneer Run again so soon. But the VMCC generously allowed me to ride the club’s most outstanding machine; Harry Karslake’s 1904 Dreadnought. Much has been written of the bike before. Click here for some notes. The short story is that Karslake built the bike to get the performance that he was after for the trials and tours of his time. The 400cc BAT motor was customized with an additional exhaust port and cooling fins before being dropped into a frame that fit his 6’4” stature. He continued to develop the bike for decades, and was still competing in trials like London to Edinburgh, trips to Lands End, etc. and he and the machine continued to be competitive against much newer machines. George Brough famously started in the #1 position on the machine in the very first Pioneer Run of 1930. Shortly before Karslake died he bequeathed the Dreadnought to the VMCC and it is used on special events like the Pioneer Run and an occasional Banbury Run, typically ridden by the club President. Knowing the history of the machine, I jumped when given the chance to ride it. Now I must publically thank my wife and my credit card company for allowing me to fly 5000 miles for the long weekend. And I’m eternally grateful to Tim Penn, Mike Wills, Harry Wiles and the rest of the VMCC officials for their help in my endeavor.
Note the additional exhaust pipe and the new old stock AMAC carb. The latter was fitted recently and does wonders for the low speed tractability of the motor. Starting and low speed riding was simple with no worn carb parts to influence the idling speed.
The drive side view shows that the machine is long and tall. The footboards don’t quite scrape the roadway, but float just above the tarmac. Being 6 feet tall myself I had to trouble scrambling onto the bike during bumpstarts.
Previous riders of the machine had written that it was a tough ‘bike to manage. But I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it was pretty simple once I learned the various controls. The bike has been adjusted, tuned and engineered over the decades to provide sufficient power and reliability. The fixed gearing does require the pilot to jump on and off the bike at every stop, but it was an easy starter. Once underway a thumb’s push on the lever throttle gave a comfortable cruising speed of approximately 25mph I’d guess. Whatever speed it achieved was fine with me, as I was in no hurry to finish the ride!
Uwe came up from Germany, with about 25 of his countrymen. Here he stands with his 1904 Peugeot 330cc. Be sure to say die grüße if you see him at the cement track races in Bielefeld Germany later in the year.
As a mechanical design engineer, I just love these De Dion Bouton three wheelers! I should blame my father for that, since he bought me a Honda ATC 110 threewheeler for my 10th birthday. Oddball vehicles have fascinated me ever since then.
The aftermarket stands are a nice addition to the Quadrant, and allow the rider to pedal-start the motor on the stand to warm it up. A close look shows the contracting band brake on this end of the hub.
Multiple American Excelsiors attended again this year. I counted four or five. Here are a 1912 and a 1913. Both are chain driven 61” 1000cc twins. The 12 has a lot of accessories, including an acetylene tank, spare tube holder, pillion seat, spare spark plug holder, klaxon horn, clock and speedometer. Manfried brought it up from Germany, while the 13 lives in Hadstock, England.
This Douglas looked brand new! Note the curved links on the front forks, and all the shiny nickel plating on the motor. We stopped at the school in Handcross for tea, but I never had a chance to find the owner and congratulate him on his fine restoration.
Stay tuned for Pioneer Run parts #2 and #3 coming soon.
STOLEN MOTORCYCLE ALERT: Over the weekend, this 1920 Indian Board Tracker was stolen in Gardner, Kansas. The machine was recently on display at the AMCA Santa Fe Chapter bike show in Lawrence, Kansas. The engine serial number is 77R010. If you have seen or know the whereabouts of this motorcycle, please contact your local law enforcement agency. You can also find out more information about the machine by contacting Jim Sneegas at 785-766-8963 or Jerry Juenemann at 913-938-4554. PLEASE SHARE this post and help the owner get their prized machine back!
Geert sent in these photos of an old c1912 watercooled Indian single cylinder motor that his father bought in Florida in the 1990s. The seller claimed that the motor came from Cannon Ball Baker. It has horizontal rotary sleeve valves atop the head, à la the Cross layout, but with two spinning valves instead of the more common single valve layout. The history of the motor is not known to Geert other than what the seller had mentioned.
Ed Youngblood wrote of Baker’s work here. But it seems that he started in 1929. Is there any chance that this old Indian could be tied to Baker? If you have any info, please post in the comments below.
The valves were driven by chains on the timing side of the motor. The chains are gone, but the sprockets can be seen in the first photo. The sleeves are still in the head (shown in the middle pics with two drive dogs each and their rectangular ports). And the drives with their two engagement slots can be seen in the last pics.
Rotary sleeve valves were promising in the 1920s as they are today. But they have always been hindered by the difficulties in sealing the valves during operation, due to thermal expansion. There may also be some issues with valve timing, but likely the issues could be solved with some modern numerical modeling, analysis and materials. Ceramic seals are an option that Baker could only have dreamt of. We’ll see what the future holds.
Mark you calendars! There are plenty of rides in 2015 so that you can enjoy your pre1916 motorcycle the way its maker intended.
1. Steve Wright & Bud Ekins Memorial Tour: Atascadero, CA. April 16-18.
2. King City Tour: King City, CA. April 23-25.
3. Modoc Small Car & Pre16 Motorcycle Tour: Alturas, CA. June 29-July 2.
4. Minden Tour: Minden, NV. date tbd September?