Saturday, May 5, 2007

Restoration: Front Shock, Fork, & Hub

A friend & co-worker of mine, named Ted Witmer, is an old shop guy turned middle school guidance counselor. He's of the ol'school when it comes to shop work, like Christopher Markley (he's also a bit older than Christopher) he believes in the way of least resistance. Ted's passion is KTM motorcycles and his wife and he both ride and own multiple bikes each. Ted has love the scoots too, but likes the bigger bikes. Because he is a super nice guy, he is rebuilding my front fork assembly and restoring the front shock (a detailed post to come on that later) -- my son, Hudson Rogue, is 7-months and to be honest my time is limited and I'll take help where I can get it.
After Ted disassembled the front end, I busted butt stripping the paint and naval jelly'ing the rusted areas. First I applied a degreaser and used a brush with plastic bristles to degrease it and get the goo and gah off of it. Then, I used a stripper brush to apply aircraft gel stripper and a copper brush to scrub the paint off. It took a couple hours.
After that I applied PPG metal cleaner and conditioner. I then delivered the parts to Christopher Markley for powder coating. Christopher explained to me that the front fork would NOT take a powder coat well because it was too pitted. Here are the options Christopher gave me, "The shock housings have pitting and damage. If you would very carefully sand
and polish them, they would be a good base for a very smooth, mirror powder
finish. As they are, the powder will not fill in the chips and pits. I'm not
interested in prepping the metal on those housings. The time I'd put into it
would be more than you'd want to pay for, and it's easy no-brainer work that
you don't need to pay me for. Tell me if you'd like to finish those shock
components before I powdercoat them, or if you're OK with me doing them
Before I had a chance to respond, in the usual Christopher fashion (this happens way to often -- this guy has so much good karma stocked up that if he kicked over our completed SS I couldn't get mad at him) he emailed me a witty note, which basically stated he polished and powdercoated the front shock already and would NOT charge us for the polishing. He put the shock housings, upper then lower, on his milling lathe and they polished up nicely. They even look better powdercoated.
The front hub was a mess too, but fortunately did not require polishing.
Due to the abuse, from road debris, these parts take, Christopher laid down three coats -- one color & two clear coats (it may have been four with some sort of primer, but I need check that with Christopher, because I don't remember him saying that to me). The outcome as you can see nothing less than gorgeous.
The front fork itself was too large for Christopher to powdercoat; therefore he baum sprayed it (multiple coats as well I believe) and it has a little *sparkle* to it.
I opted not to try to save the rear shock because it was terribly pitted and I can purchase quality repros easily. The reason I had the front shock restored is because the reputation of the repros for GS/SS sucks, but according to Motorsport (for $90) and ASC (for $70) there is a new GS/SS repro front shock available now that is "quality" -- I can not confirm or deny this. It has some sort of black rubber around the middle of it. I wanted to post a pix of it here, but I can't copy the image. I like the way the original one looks more.

Progress Feels Great

While cleaning out my basement, I built a couple alters for the VSC and TV. I can't seem help myself -- I keep going down into my basement and staring at my wife's Vespa SS180, with a perfect body and fully rebuilt engine. We're so close to being done (need more funds first). The front shock is being rebuilt and then the entire front fork/hub/shock will be assembled. I am really happy with how it is coming along.

Here is a sneak peak of my 1962 Lambretta TV175 S3 which will be restored after my wife's Vespa is 100% complete and on the road. It will be a year or two until I begin the Lambretta I guesstimate, not-to-mention that my wife, Lisa, prefers Lammys too and if we find a good deal on a S1 or S2 we would likely pick it up for her. I would like a S1 frame breather as well. I have a couple more posts I'd like to get up on the blog over the next week so keep your eyes peeled.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Paint: Complete

From rags to riches!

As I have said this bike is my wife's scoot. It is a semi-custom bike and it being restored to her liking. We have no intention of ever selling this bike and it would be ideal if our son (or any future child we have) loves scoots and can inherit this bike. Lisa chose to have the bike painted Jaguar British Racing Green.
When you pick up your bike from the painter, as I learned from Stuart Werner, there are five things you should look for:
1) Is the color uneven any where? (maybe the paint was not spread evenly)
2) Is there any fogging? (this would be a problem with the clear coat)
3) Are there any bubbles?
4) Are there any drips? (easy fix if it's on the clear coat)
5) Are there any dust nibs? (an easy fix your paint guy)

Look at the scooter under florescent lights (worst possible conditions you can create) as they will make it harder to "hide" flaws in painter's work and then take the pieces out into the sun to see the "true" color and "depth" of the paint.
For anyone who has ever worked with or met my mentor restorer, Christopher Markley, you know they guy knows his shit and his anal retentive / detail oriented. When ever I ask him a simple question, I get a thorough response with several options for my problem solving. At times, I feel like an expert on specific topics he talks to me about. I asked Christopher a question about paint prep and a bondo-like substance used on the VSC (see previous post), because some people wrote in with a concern that my shop used too much. Christopher wrote such an awesome response, that I am stealing his words to share with all of you on the topic "prepping and painting" (beware it's a long educating response). . .

"It's likely that they sprayed it with a spray-on filler, which is an ultra thick variety of primer/filler -- sort of a super-thin Bondo that you can spray on as if it were a very thick paint. It flows a tiny bit and spreads out and fills in small imperfections in the metal. It is a very standard product for metal that has been hammer/dolly corrected and if applied well and if it is a good quality and designed as a system with the epoxy primer/sealer coat, the primer coat, the base coat, and the clear, you have a perfected surface that should like fantastic for many, many years...
Unless you are laying out an enormous amount of money on this paint job, they are likely to not hand color-sand the paint when done...
Show cars get a hand sanding when finished, then polishing. This removes any orange peel and imperfections in the clear coat. No matter how good the paint and painter, you get some peel and imperfections...(Note: the louvres on the engine-side cowl have been replaced -- see previous cowl repair post below)

Look at brand-new car paint. Lots of peel. My brand-new BMW has quite a bit of orange peel. Shame on them for not doing better...
You can color sand the paint after getting the bike back from the shop, but it is best to do it with 24 hours of the application of the clear coat... (Note: color sanding was included in our price! We have NO orange peel at all)
Tell the shop you intend to do so and ask them to hit it with plenty of clear, since you'll be removing clear as you sand it. You'll work through several grits of wet paper, or you can use 3m Finishing Film on a random orbital sander. Then you use successively finer polishes until you have a mirror surface with no peel or imperfections...
You can find plenty of good advice on how to do this on Len Stuart's paint BBS . . .

As you work with your painter, make sure you don't suggest that they use products they normally don't use. Painters get used to the characteristics of the particular brand that they like to work with. Don't make them learn to work new materials...

Trust their experience and reputation, and realize that spray-on filler isn't a ghetto technique. It's legit stuff and you'll be happy it's there to hide the metal imperfections," wrote Christopher Markley.

Price: $1,060 grand total (for paint, body work, engine cowl louvre work)
Shop: K&K Auto Body / 620 S. Enola Rd. / Enola, PA 17205 / (717) 732-2173 / ask for Karl.
Recommended by: Stuart Werner & Roland Henry

Karl has painted close to 30 (thirty) scoots, many of them for Stuart Werner and a few for J. Roth (I've heard). He is VERY easy to work with. I left a few items with him to be touched up or cleaned up and I know Stuart once sent a bike back and they repainted the entire bike at no charge to Stu. They are perfectionist and want to get it right. They take scooters SERIOUSLY when painting and they are reasonably priced.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Buyer's Insight: Bearings

We are in the process of having the front fork reassembled after prep and paint. I mentioned to Christopher Markley that we were replacing the bearings and bought replacements already. On a couple occations Christopher really encouraged me to replace the front bearings with "sealed" bearings -- a nice modern convenience and when I finally decided to return the bearings I bought Christopher turned me on to our local SKF bearings dealer (who knew we had such a thing!). Bottom line folks, find your local (or nearest) SKF dealer and purchase your bearings through them. On average bearings at the scoot shop where I made my purchase at were between 35-50% cheaper (yes, 50% cheaper for the same exact bearing!) at my SKF dealer. Because it was so much cheaper I upgraded to the top of the line sealed bearings and still managed to save $8 total (after my 20% restocking fee at my scoot shop, which is NOT local -- it's on the other coast -- and my bearing shop is right here in town).

There are three levels of bearings I looked at.

1) Open bearings -- lowest grade and cheapest
2) Shield bearings -- mid grade with steel protectors around the bearings
3) Sealed bearings -- highest grade (no containments may enter the bearing, but you can not re-greese it either. These bearings should be good for 25 years) These bearings are a slight overkill.

If you do not have a local SKF dealer, check out:
Applied Industrial Technologies

Damn hind site is 20/20 . . . I should have replaced my rear bearings from here as well (no need to go sealed -- that's overkill on the rear)

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Restoration: Rims Complete

Rims are restored and complete thanks to a miscommunication . . . Christopher Markley powder coated all three rims. Though they are not perfect, they are "original" and look pretty damn good for being as pitted as they were when I got the SS180.

The rims and hubs were powdercoated with a matt like finish to resemble how they looked when they came out of the factory back in 1967. I use all high res (large) photos on this site so you can click to enlarge or even print for reference.

I put a lot of time in stripping and cleaning the rims in order to prep them for paint. You can read about me questioning whether to buy new rims or restore the old rims in my previous post.

Powdercoat often will call attention to the flaws in what it is covering as it did on my rims, but on the flip side it did cover some of the pitted edges. I will need to cover the pits with a liner to play it safe.

I've heard that the repro rims suck. I am happy with the outcome and would encourage you SS/GS owners to save your rims.

The powdercoat will truly protect them from pebbles, rocks, etc; though I know the purist will have words with me.

Lesson learned: make sure your medium blast your rims before powder coating for best results. I did not because the tires were locked onto the rims are required Christopher Markley to use a tire removing machine to free them. The body parts had long ago been blasted, so I stripped by hand and got "okay" results that would have been worth the $25 extra in blasting and time saved . . . so include the rims with the body of your bike when blasting.