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A Christmas Wish

Getting the most out of Christmas

suzuki hayabusa - Hannibal

Dec 25: You slip the turkey into the oven, and maybe have a celebratory snifter of caffeine.
Then sneak out to the shed. Ted the Triumph Daytona 1200 and Hannibal the Hayabusa will be slumbering under their covers. It’s a toss-up, but Hannibal needs a proper run...Travels with Guido column - see more here.

Local firm has solution to asbestos roadblock

USA imports now look viable again

Indian Chief 1947

Dec 23: A Queensland-based shipping business, Dazmac, has set up a viable work-around for importing vehicles under the current crackdown on asbestos across the border.

Managing Director Daryl McIntyre told us that his business slowed when Border Force recently suddenly started applying a hard line approach to vehicle imports, including classics.

“Our business stopped for three months and we decided we had to get into it and sort it out,” he said.
Several importers – both business and private – report expensive inspections that have rejected brakes, clutches and even gaskets, with the result that some dealer importers have simply stopped bringing in cars.

The Border Force attitude has been uncompromising and the department was unable to provide any risk assessment of the new regime. (See this May 2017 story from Unique Cars magazine.)

The general belief is the change in process was brought about by scandals where large quantities of asbestos-ridden building materials were imported and used, despite a ban being in place since 2003.

At least two new vehicle makers have also been caught out.

Dazmac meanwhile says it has been consulting with Border Force to find a solution and believes it has succeeded. The company’s prime concern at this stage is USA imports and it has set up a process at its depot in Los Angeles to deal with the issue.

There, vehicles are cleaned (brakes are the primary area of concern for asbestos), and are inspected. Any suspect brake components are removed. Other components are dealt with on a case-by-case basis – for example mechanics are hired to replace gaskets, where necessary.

“The most common item is rear drum brakes,” McIntyre said, “We have also removed and replaced engine gaskets and removed hood liners, at customer cost.” He was speaking primarily of cars, but much of this applies to motorcycles.

At the end of the process, the vehicle is given a NATA (National Association of Testing Authorities) certificate, which meets the Border Force requirement.

As McIntyre points out, nothing is 100 per cent and the vehicle may still be inspected at this end. If that happens and there is an issue, the owner can at least demonstrate they have done everything possible to mitigate the problem.

However the experience so far is the NATA certificate is generally accepted.

McIntyre quotes $3300 for a single private import car depot-to-depot from Los Angeles to Brisbane or Sydney. Motorcycle rates are quoted on a case-by-case basis. That rate assumes there is no major remedial work required and includes:
Export Clearance including title clearance vehicles;
30 days of storage at origin depot;
Freight depot to depot;
NATA approved asbestos testing;
Two hours of cleaning;
Approved quarantine inspection;
Port charges both ends;
Container drayage both ends;
Insurance up to AU$30,000 per consignment;
Photos for gate in survey/gate out survey;
Customs clearance;
Dunnage disposal;
Three days of storage at destination.

McIntyre says that they use specialist motorcycle mechanics for any involved work, such as gasket replacement. They generally charge more than a car mechanic.

The company offers lower rates for regular and volume importers.

What it has done is provide a workable solution for importing a vehicle from the USA which has the potential to revive an industry that was being starved of its livelihood.

Dazmac also ships between Australia and the UK and Japan and is working on solutions for those routes.
You can find the company at

Classic MXer has a great story

Chassis designed by talented racer

cheney ducati

Dec 21: It's not a name you hear often today, but during the sixties and seventies Eric Cheney became the UK's go-to man if you wanted a bespoke off-road motorcycle chassis that was light and handled. However we gather he had no formal training.

Cheney gained some invaluable experience working on torpedo boats during WWII and turned his hand to racing motocross after the conflict.

He became famous for building his own chassis, and the story goes he would sketch out the design on the wall of his workshop, make it, test it and use the final version as a jig for low-volume production.

He was best known for building frames for Triumph and BSA engines, but of course turned his hand to Ducati.

His machines were very highly regarded, for example used by the British ISDT team in 1968-71, while he also counted Steve McQueen as a customer.

This chassis was originally built for Sig Erson - a performance camshaft maker - who originally installed a 250 engine. The bike now runs a 450.

It's for sale in the USA in January, through Mecum.

See Cheney's WIkipedia entry.

What's an old Kwaka worth?

Last of the air-cooled GPZs

Dec 20, 2017: How much is an old Kawasaki GPZ750 worth? What the owner describes as a 1987 model (it was more likely run-out stock from 1985-86) is on the market locally at $4000. Not a lot of money since it's claimed to be in 'immaculate and original' cosmetic condition. Certainly the blurry pic backs up that impression.

The catch is it also has about 96,000km on the clock. That shouldn't be enough to kill it, though a top-end freshen-up is likely to be in order, if it hasn't already been done.

Really, it's the cosmetics that are a killer for the restorer - engines are relatively easy.

So, what's it worth? I reckon the price is pretty close, given it's probably cheaper than restoring one.

These were a pretty good thing in their day and were the basis of the 750 Turbo, which was the pick of the turbo bikes of the era. I reckon iot's also one of the most handsome bikes the company ever made.

GPZ750s, or KZ750s, were built 1982-85 and were succeeded by the liquid-cooled GPz750R (the little brother to the 900). The bike actually underwent a lot of modifications over its short lifespan and this is the final iteration.

Its inline four aircooled powerplant was pretty conventional and was good for 80 horses (60kW). It was matched to a five-speed transmission.

The chassis included a few contemporary 'tricks', such as the Unitrack monoshock rear end and an anti-dive system on the front suspension.

You can see the ad for the bike here.

Is the industry in trouble?

USA discussion questions survival

Motorcycle industry in trouble

Dec 19, 2017: A recent panel discussion in the USA called into question whether the motorcycle industry will survive and, if it does, under what terms?

One of the key criticisms was the trade was chasing a known and shrinking customer base - that is older motorcyclists who can afford premium product.

It's an interesting discussion and we're not convinced the problem is tied simply to product and/or chasing relatively rich market sectors.

In discussions on other forums, we're also seeing people question whether the whole idea of corporate identity for dealers is a mistake. That is, do you want your local dealer to look slick in the corporate image, or is there a market for individuality, where each dealership very much has its own personality.

I have to admit to having sympathy for the latter view. Yes, if I'm spending serious money on a vehicle, I want to know the dealership is professional and can look after my toy in the long run. Does that mean it has to fit a franchise image model? Maybe not.

See the LA Times story that got this going...

Brough Gold Four

Innovation from the 1930s


Dec18, 2017: The Brough motorcycle company out of the UK hit its heyday in the 1930s and is best remembered for its stunning V-twins, branded Brough Superiors.

What's often forgotten is that it was also an innovative and adventurous firm. For example, it developed a sidecar 'tractor' with twin rear wheels and an inline four-cylinder powerplant, or this thing - the Golden Dream.

Though it never made it into full production, it was typical of the company's innovative approach, with a vertically-stacked boxer four engine - that is, two up and two down horizontally-opposed cylinders. Yes, okay, like a Subaru or Porsche engine tipped on its end, but far more compact.

You'd love to hear one running, wouldn't you?

Was it a good buy?

Price is a matter of persepective

Dec16, 2017: This was one of those situations where you just had to run with it. I was alerted to an exceptional example of a Kawasaki GPz900R A1 for sale, with low miles, restored, and asking $8500.

I had no idea if that was a good price, but asked others I respect and the general conclusion was it was worth a punt. Experience tells me it was no more than - and probably under - the cost of buying a bitsa and bringing it up to the same standard.

The catch? It was in Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, and I live in Melbourne - some 2200km away.

I did ask around about transport and am sure it could have been arranged, but it would have been at least $1000 and I was having trouble finding someone who would even entertain the idea. Not that I looked very hard.

No, the real attraction was the idea of flying up there and riding it back.

It was, as you might imagine, an adventure. There were a few little dramas along the way but the ride reminded me of two things:

1. Though over 40 years of age, a healthy GPz900R is still a seriously fast motorcycle. As a friend and former magazine colleagure reminded me: "Bikes haven't got that much faster over those years, though they have got a whole lot better at getting there";

2. Doing long miles on a motorcycle along over a sometimes desolate landscape is truly soothing and rewarding. I'll write a longer piece on this for Motorcycle Trader mag in the near future.

In the meantime, I can recommend a personal fly/ride program - you fly in and ride it back home...


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