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Shane - Superlite (#43)

Project B33

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For over 30 years my father has had a BSA B33 sitting under a sheet in a partially restored condition. It hasn't run since at least 1987 (the date on the newspaper that was taped over the petrol tank) but was in the process of being restored before that so it wouldn't have run for a fair while before then. So, unfortunately, this bike has spent the vast majority of it's life in a partially disassembled state.

The history of this bike is that it was originally owned by my fathers uncle, Henry. When he was getting on a bit and not riding much he passed the bike onto one of his daughters husband, Manny. For years Manny punted the BSA around, clocking up lots of miles on it cruising all around the country. Eventually Manny decided to move on so he passed the bike on to my father. Unfortunately, my father wasn't really a rider, besides which he had a young family and didn't want to tempt fate. So the BSA was started occasionally and taken for a quick trip up and down the road before going back in the shed. Even though he didn't really ride the bike he wasn't going to sell it for sentimental reasons so it languished under a sheet.

Sometime in the early 80's somebody voiced an interest in restoring it so my father sent it off to him to get started. Things started off fine but after a while the guy lost interest and eventually the bike was returned in a partially restored state. Unfortunately, some bits weren't returned and they've now been lost so it definitely won't run.

Since that time this bike remained under a sheet, just waiting for something to happen.

I knew that my father wanted to eventually get the bike restored and seeing as my wife's God Father spent the majority of his 76 years working on, restoring and racing motorbikes of this era we thought it'd be a good idea for him to take a look at it and see what needed to be done and if he could recommend someone that would be able to do the work.

We arranged for Paul to meet us at my parents place and together we went over the old girl to see what was needed. After much poking, prodding and discussion we eventually decided that we would initially work towards getting the bike running with a full restoration being a long term goal. The problem with getting it running is that it wouldn't be road legal, even using very loose interpretations of the term "road legal". So that any work done wouldn't go to waste the bike would need to be run regularly. Seeing as I do regular track days it seemed perfectly logical that we could take it to the track and give a run there.

So we had a short to medium term goal of getting it running again and taking it to track days with the odd Classics race meet just for good measure. The only problem was who would do the work to get it running. I'm handy with tools, as is my father, but neither of us has the tools or knowledge necessary to get an old girl like this up and running again. However, Paul volunteered to get it running again although he didn't want to do a full restoration on it. This was an excellent result as I'm never really keen to hand over bikes to people I don't know.

The main problem we had now is that the Magneto was missing and without that the bike will never, ever start. Paul made some enquiries and was able to source a fully reconditioned Magneto for $800.00. The Magneto is the single most expensive part on these old BSA's so $800.00 wasn't all that bad. A fully reconditioned Mag-Gen would be $1400, but that would only be needed to get the bike back to a road legal state, the generator being required to power the lights. Seeing as we only wanted to get the bike running for now a Magneto is all we need. Besides which, the generator parts can easily be added to an existing Magneto to convert it into a Mag-Gen.

My uncle had heard that we were keen on getting the bike running again and mentioned it to a mate of his. Sonny used to race a B33 and apparently had a Magneto that would fit so my uncle talked him into donating it to get things rolling. He picked up the Magneto on his way to Wanganui and dropped it off to Paul who had a good look at it and found it to be in good condition.

Now all we need to do is get the bike to Paul. I plan to trailer the bike down to him sometime, spend the weekend helping him pull it apart and fix things and while we're at it I can make a list of parts we need.

Here's some photos.

On the trailer being moved
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A fully restored B33 and the eventual goal for this bike

I think this is a more realistic future for it though, but I'd have to convince my father

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  1. Grumph's Avatar
    The B31/33 series is a very basic and strong motor. Plenty of manuals around too. All motor bits including upgrades available. From what I can see it wouldn't be impossible to get it up to WOF std. Even if you've got to power the lights from the battery.
    I've owned & built a number of these and they're dead simple - if the standard pom could maintain one they're obviously not hard.
  2. Mental Trousers's Avatar
    Thanks. I've heard they're dead simple and after poking around the bike for a while it's an accurate statement. A hard tail, aircool single is almost as simple as it gets. Can't wait to get it running and take it out for a run. It'll be interesting getting used to a right side gear shift but that should only take a couple of laps to become second nature.