softail conversions
Part 3..At the salt!


Thursday 2nd August , we arrived in LA...Me, David Dickerson & Chris Ireland (who'll be running his Indian Scout).
Spent a few days doing stuff you have to do  there...swap-meets, junk-yards etc!

Monday 6th
 We, along with the 4 other teams we shipped over with...Oz, Team Page, PJ & Dave friend, Steve French & Dave Branch, all met up at the shippers & collected the bikes. A quick stop at the Bell Helmet store and we headed for Las Vegas and then Wendover, Utah.

Thursday 9th
Got our pits set up on  and got the bike thru Tech inspection & registration. Pleased it went straight through.

Friday 10th

Got there about 8.30am. Overcast.
Discovered  that I had made a cockup with the gearing. it'd be theoretically going 271mph at 9500rpm in top! 
So the first thing we did was to swap on the biggest sprocket - 45t from 40. Still to high so top gear will be 4th or 3rd.
Got the air/fuel gauge wired up and fired it up. looks like its running pretty close to optimum. Might be a different story under load.
David & I went exploring and found loads of amazing stuff; almost eveything is unusual & not what you'd think. Ingenuity abounds.
Then the storm came in. Slowly. Winds first - Team Pages gazebo buckled up before we could do anything but we saved Steve & Daves.
The BritChopper tent withstood the onslaught!... with a little extra rigging. Not vast amounts of rain, but enough to make much of the salt look more like a lake. When the storm abated later on we took the covering off the tent frame and vamoosed.
Rain definitely stopped play today so we're glad to have got the tech & registration over yesterday.

First day on the salt.
Didnt all go to plan but its a start.
We all got up early and were at the salt for about 8am.
Made it to the drivers meeting at 9 and then to rookie orientation an hour or so later which went on for an hour or so.
That done we went over to course 4 - a short track of 3 miles with timing between mile 1 & 2.
The queue was short so we unloaded the bikes and got ready; first time I had worn the full kit! a bit warm but Jim held an umbrella over me.
The starter motioned for me to go and I did. I got about 10 yards and the bike shut off.    I had flipped the switch with my leg as I raised them to find the pegs!   The starter said it was fine to restart so I set off. I remember thinking "fuckenell'! I'm riding at bonneville"!
Went well until the first mile marker but it wouldn't rev past about 4750rpm. This would have been about 120mph but the revs died off down to about 2500 so the average for the mile was only 82mph.
Meanwhile Chris set off and managed 71mph.
David Shaun & Jim did well as crew so we were deemed to have made a clean pass and thus no longer rookies.
Back at pits we puzzled about what was wrong. Thought it was fuel at first but the plugs read OK. Started it again and it dawned on us that it wasn't revving
past 4750. And the rev limiter is set at 9500. Some problem with the limiter then.
We then had much malarkey with a sticking float in the rear carb getting fuel into everything and preventing restart.
Then we ran the battery flat and had to fit the spare.
By this time Chris had returned with another mph - 72! The BBC had fitted cameras all over the bike and this made proceedings a bit lengthy.
Need to install software in the laptop to alter the ignition module tomorrow. hopefully we can get some RPMs
What a day!.

Ready to run!
The heat out on the salt is unbelievable!  
Suited up & waiting to run, you need to be in an air-conditioned vehicle!

You tube vid

We got there early and soon got to the front of the line. But suited up & ready, the bike would hardly start at all; it was clearly flooding badly.
Cursing, we returned to pits (about 10 miles). It became evident that the rear carb float needle was to blame. Starting it up, we found that engine vibration at any RPM was severe, enough that you couldn't keep your finger on the carbs. We tried wedging bits of wood (fettled by team carpenter Shaun) under the carbs to dampen vibes, and once Chris returned, we went back to the course.
Waited about 30 mins to run, got it started but was rough.
It seemed to clear so the starter motioned to go, but I got about 20 ft out of the hole and it flooded up again.
By this time I was ready to dynamite the feckin' thing!
The BBC were smart enough to stay at a discreet distance and we buggered off for lunch.
We decided that the carbs needed to be rubber mounted; not an easy task to do in the normal manner with tubular rubbers due to manifold configuration.
David stolidly set about dismantlement whilst PJ & AJ grabbed me & headed off to the Monster energy drinks stand (free drinks & pretty girls).
I Felt better after a bit of a laugh & a chinwag.
Back at base a plan was hatched & with the help of Team Page who came up with some thick rubber sheet we cut heavy rubber gaskets. These caused some frame clearance problems which was solved by some serious savagery including the use of PJs sledge hammer!
We couldn't complete the task as we needed some longer bolts and the weather closed in a bit.
Try again tomorrow.
Everyone here was really great and helpful as hell. We all did our best to help each other out.
Has to be said that we wern't the only ones suffering; just about everyone had problems, some pretty insurmountable. Steve French & Dave Branch were pretty much dead in the water after a catastrophic blower failure, Dave Friend & PJ  lost some significant equipment, Oz was unwell and Team Page had gearbox problems and couldn't get it to pull in top gear. Ol' Despo was the exception; making steady progress - hit 80mph today.
Bottom line; great times with the people, bad times with the machinery.

Things went better. The work done Monday paid off and the carbs didn't vibrate anything like as badly.
We leaned out the jetting too; we first ran the smallest jets we had, an odd pair - 160s & 165s and went 95mph.
We then discovered that the carbs on Team Pages Triumph had the same type jets so we blagged some 142s and ran 111mph.
Leaning it to 140s later on it went 104mph, but it was hotter and more humid at that point.
Thanks to PJ for running us out to the track for that run - Despo was making laps at the time.

All done now. Tuesday turned out to be the best performing day.
We all got up early Wednesday to make a run in the cool morning air, but the engine crapped out earlier than before and didn't even make it to the return road. Wouldn't restart.
Spent all day checking & puzzling over a problem which turned out to be slipped timing; the ignition rotor had moved on its taper.
Odd because theres no load on it.
Retimed, we did the same today. Set off up course 2 but I felt the engine tighten up and pulled off & shut down.
Earned crew David & Shaun a bollocking from steward for delays caused. 
Not good. Stripping & rebuilding the top end is a days work on this so I retired it from the procedings.
111mph was the best it did. Not the worlds fastest Weslake at all
For all the poor performances, we had a fantastic time there; its was almost non-stop laughs and we learned a lot. This kind of racing is no cakewalk, almost no-one really got to grips with running in these conditions.
Dismantled the pits Friday and reloaded the van for the run back to LA on Saturday. Had to clean half a ton of salt off the hire vehicles!
Have we got the salt bug? Probably!

The Post-Mortem
With bike back home, and with some work out of the way I decided to delve into the race bike. See whats what.
Soon as it was back, I left it out in the rain for a day or so to wash some of the salt off - well, it was raining anyway!
First, I  tried to start it up. Had to refit the UK jets first. Carbs were seized solid! so a liberal soaking in WD40 later. Refitted, I turned the ignition on. Nothing. Turns out the ignition switch internal contacts were terminally corroded. Cut it off and twisted the wires together. Cranked it over - no spark.
Took off the ignition cover, cranked it again - the rotor wasn't turning. SO....thats what screwed it on the last run. It had come loose the day before but this time it must have slipped more slowly giving the impression the engine was seizing up ( I swear!).
Retimed it & got it going. Running OK; but still making a good deal of clattering, same thing happened on the salt, the clattering was awful at the end of a run.
Pulled it apart:
No shrapnel in the oil, just some slight ally-dust sparkle caused by the camchains contacting the castings (no chain guides on the tension side).
Stripped it down... apart from splitting the cases:
All looked well in the top end.
No sign there of anything amiss except witness marks on the rear piston where the intake valves have made slight contact. More an imprint in the carbon than any real metal-to-metal.

Inside the timing covers looked well - at first! Until I touched the crank pinion. Not only was it free-floating (should have been an interferance fit), but you could rotate it on the pinion shaft by almost a tooths width.
That much backlash would certainly have caused the clattering as the valvetrain went thru loading & unloading cycles.
Would have caused havoc with cam timing & ignition timing too and explained the valve/piston contact.

Took it off; the crank nut (which is also the oil pump drive gear) wasn't doing-up enough to clamp the gear.
Not only that but the woodruff keywas never a good fit and had been rocking in the keyway and had worn itself a bit round, allowing all the backlash.

Sods law; it couldn't be a normal key, it was stepped and the bit which located in the crank was narrower than the bit in the pinion by about 20 thou.
Also, the crank keyway was radiused at the ends and was longer than the pinion bit! 

I found a bit of 3/16" gauge plate and spent over an hour machining a new one up, making sure it was big enough to fill all the gaps - about 30 thou deeper than the original.
I'd noticed that behind the intermediate pinion there was 2 shims, and one was noticeably wrong for that location. Measuring, it only needed the thick one. The thin one was clearly meant to go behind the crank pinion, and in that position it allowed the crank nut to properly clamp the pinion.
A bit of wrong assembly there by Brian Valentine, way back when.
The crank pinion is smaller than the ID of the main bearing so once installed it shouldn't need to come off again. So I refitted it all with some killer strength loctite.

While it was all apart, I took the opportunity to lap the ignition rotor into the taper in the pinion shaft. It also occured to me that the weight of the rotor might have a bit of inertia and try to unscrew the centre bolt on accelleration. So I drilled a load of lightening holes in it.

Despite it all being pretty much OK, thats the end of the line for the Weslake engine.

We want to go back to Bonneville, but this engine, even without all the bugs is never going to be competitive against modern Japanese engines.

I sold the complete drivetrain in December 2012.

At that stage, it looked like a Buell XB engine was to be the best bet; running in pushrod classes,  a Buell could get a record.
But I couldn't really get enthused by the idea.
Stay tuned for a different direction......