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1936 Velocette 350cc MAC

Figure 1. One of the pics of the bike sent to me.

I was getting bored of jap bikes and went to look at a 1930 VL Harley, as a general runaround;-) I realised for the same money a basket case VL was going to cost I could probably get an old Sunbeam, or Velocettes; The type of bike old blokes told you about, "When I were a lad" and all that shit. So I started looking for a single, yes that was my only requirement, 500cc and OHV were also requirements at this stage. The main problem was people asking more than a few quid, "YOU WANT A GRAND FOR AN M21!". In the end I realised I was going to have to stump up the dosh, I was looking specifially for an MSS, Model 9 sunbeam or an ES2 at this point. I missed several cracking bikes cos I couldn't decide to buy them or couldn't get to see them before they had been sold.

Figure 2. A clip of an ad from a bike magazine.

I phoned about this "nicely restored" Velocette MAC after seeing the advert, I had been looking for a bike quiet seriously for quiet a while and even though I didn't want a 350, I decided a ridable 350 was better than nothing. I wanted a bike I could get on and ride by now. I could always keep looking for a basket case MSS or whatever. The MAC was available and the description on the phone sounded great. The description in the ad is to the point, "Nicely Restored". The telephone description I was given was along the lines of: "very tidy bike, owner selling it from a collection of Velocettes, it has had a major gearbox and engine rebuild and general tidy up, which cost thousands". It was not yet in the dealers possession, but he said he would let me have photographs as soon as possible. I was assuming the bike was good mechanically[believing him!], so if the photos looked OK I decided I would buy it. I wanted to do some riding. It was some time after the first contact that the photos arrived; the top picture is one that was sent to me. The bike looked quite good, so I agreed to buy it and arranged delivery. I was tempted to get a coach down and ride it back;-) When it was delivered I gave it a quick once over and it looked fine. I planned on riding it to get it MOTed that afternoon, I think it was a month or so out of MOT.

Figure 3. Clip of his email when he sent the pictures of the bike.

I started it and went a few hundred yards up the road, it missed and felt really bad, not at all what I was expecting. I looked at the engine and oil was generally dripping from it, after going 200 yards! The front brake was non existant! I hold my hands up, I hadnt' had a really close look at it. There was a repair to the crank cases with a splodge of epoxy on it, I guessed that at some time something in the timing chest had made a break for freedom and the epoxy putty was an attempt to keep the bits in, or seal a repair. Obviously it had to be repaired. At this stage I was going to ask for the dosh back, but when it comes down to it I would prefer to know how the motors been put together. So I got mugged but all's not lost I have quite a pretty little bike.

Figure 4. The crankcase repair.

A few days later, when I wasn't as pissed off, I tried starting the bike to make a better assessment of the motor, but the clutch slipped like hell. I checked the clutch and the corks were no thicker than the driven plate! So a trip to Bob Metson's and I got the clutch re-corked. With the clutch rebuilt the bike started first kick. I decided to change the oil and check the front brake which didn't even do anything at walking pace. Then see if I could get it running well enough to see if there was any hope of using it at all, before I had to strip the engine; I bought the bike in the summer and would prefer to do a rebuild over the winter and it would give me an opportunity to collect parts. I drained the oil from the tank, engine and box so I could have a look at them. The oil in the oil tank looked worse than anything I have seen in diesel Land Rovers, really was black gunge, with that burned oil smell and a hint of petrol. The oil tank had plenty of metal in it, hardened steel swarf[camshaft or flat tappets?]. The gearbox oil came out like mayonnaise, looking at the clutch cable I could hazzard a guess why that was, the dealer washed it and filled the box with water. So I have a lot of metal being pumped around the engine and a gearbox with water in!. So that means all the engine bearings will need replacing, the crank cases need repairing and all the gearbox bearings probably need replacing! I put a cover over it and thought I would get it sorted in the winter.

I pulled the cover off it in May 2009, on a Thursday. The plan of attack was simples strip the motor and clean and inspect all today. Order any new parts needed tomorrow. Hopefully over the weekend repair the cases and get it ready to reassemble. I had no idea of what was to come.