Back when I was a little boy, I was fascinated with Machines....lawn mowers, pushbikes, cars, tractors, mechanized potato peelers.....(yes really) !
There was a mechanic who worked at the local Esso service station (which became Martin Jonkers Toyota at Scarborough on the Redcliffe penninsula. His name was Ray Keeble. I spent a lot of time around Ray watching him fix stuff....He could fix any thing. Grind valves, weld, bore and hone engine blocks, expand piston skirts to quieten "slap". He could pour and scrape white metal big end bearings, Machine things on a giant Hercus lathe, punch gaskets out of sheet copper and "olenoid" (I think was the name for this thick paper sort of gasket material) for inlet manifolds, rocker covers and all sorts of other gaskets. He would work on side valve ford V8's and wet sleeve Peugeots.....and most importantly...he had time (well, most of the time anyway) to talk to and explain "the way of things" to a PITA kid like me.
I remember him pulling a chassis straight one day with chains and block and tackles. He was a true motor engineer...There used to be a man from REPCO who would come and "mike up" crank shafts and the like and advise Ray on what could be done (from grinding to metal spraying) to make them good again. In the early 1960's "In house" meant done right there in the workshop.
Time passes and things change....no more do you buy a tool for a life time. One that costs you about a month's wages (unless it is a Warren and Brown torque wrench or some Stah Willie spanners) and no more do people have the machines or the skills to carry out specialised and precise engineering repairs "in house". This little story was prompted in part by some visits to my shed today by some old school Airhead riders and the conversations that we had during those very pleasurable visits.
The picture below is of a dolly I made on a lathe at the Jondaryan Woolshed more than 10 years ago. It is for inserting or removing needle roller bearings from rocker arms.
When I made it, it was to size and a bit coarse in the finish but it did a lot of work. The other day I went looking for it to install a new set of bearings in my own PD....went to test it and it was too big....the new bearings have slightly bigger rollers in them. I don't have access to a lathe just now so I went to see my mate Jeff at Solo and gave him the new bearings and my old dolly....about 10 minutes later he gave it back.....the dolly is resized and the picture says it all (LOOK AT THE FINISH). COST? 3/5ths of 5/8ths of stuff all.
So the point of this discussion?
In this day and age, no small shop can afford the cost of machinery and tooling to do the specialist welding, machining and other work that is required to restore or rebuild your average airhead. No big shop could specialise either because there are simply not enough Airheads about to justify the massive cost involved for the volume of work available.
And that is why I out source and use the very best of the best specialists available when working on my customers airheads....welders, fitters, frame specialists, brake specialists, upholsterers, hard chromers,painters, instrument repairers and so on and on. They have the gear and the expertise to do the work quickly and efficiently and well. They warrant their work and stand by their quotes. ULTIMATELY: this delivers the best and most cost effective result to my customers. Repairs, restorations and upgrades which will endure.
I wonder what Ray Keeble would thing of all this? ;)
The picture in the dodgem car is of me in about 1963 or 64.....machine fanatic even then (look how far forward I had to sit to reach the pedals....OH and note the crash helmet and safety harness as well)