We finally got it running and I made it as far as Mosport’s hot pit when the clutch chattered badly on exit and then slipped when I gave it some stick between exiting Turn 1. I put the bike in cruise mode between Turns 1 and 2 and took a tentative look down at the clutch housing only to see aluminum dust accumulating on the cases. Engine vibrations that shouldn’t have been present confirmed my suspicions that all was not well in Clutchland and I found myself in a tough spot. Tough, because Turn 2 was coming up fast and even more importantly, because I had to decide whether to pull off the track or nurse this piece of history home to the pits where we could keep working on it. I chose the later and obviously lived to tell the tale.
And so ended what was to be a couple of dream laps on the Supershow / Canadian Heritage Motorcycle Museum’s latest acquisition – an ex-Stephan Mertins 750 TT1 (which some of us refer to as TTF-1). To me this bike is awfully close to Holy Grail status (as evidenced by my F1’s obvious replication of the theme) and when I fist laid eyes on it at the Toronto Supershow in January, I was enthralled. Bar Hodgson – founder of Supershow and the Museum, bought the bike late last year from a museum in the Southern US and had been told that this bike was a genuine piece, having been used as Mertens’ long track bike. The bike had some obvious differences from those I’d seen on Rudy’s site and elsewhere on the web, but indeed looked like it might be the real McCoy. I wrote Ken Livingston about some of the inconsistencies I’d noted when checking the bike out at the show and looked forward to seeing it at the DOCC rally in May.
The rally was a mad rush for me and I was still putting numbers on the bikes and doing the final checkover late Friday night. On Saturday, I noticed the Supershow bike in their pit and made a mental note to stop by later to see if they were going to run it. Somewhere in the midst of the Saturday chaos Bar approached me to see if we could slip by and take a look at the bike (and his newly acquired Santa Monica) as they could only get the TT running on one cylinder. I promised him that Guy Martin and I would slide by and at the end of the day we found the time to make the trip up-pit. A bit of Q&A and we recommended that they strip the Santa Monica’s ignition pickup wiring and replace it (this week they reported that it fixed the problem) and started into debugging the naked TT. After more hours and tries than I can recall, Guy found ignition sensor gaps that were off the map (didn’t fix the problem), cam timing off by 180 degrees (nope, still running on one) and we scrambled to get jetting from Fran and Rob that would get the 41mm Mallossi set-up into the ballpark. With the ignitors wired (glued, really) into a custom junction box (nope, no color coding for these guys) – we suggested a re-wire and some borrowed ignitors. Sal Sceba’s 900SS ingested a butterfly screw, so igniters made their way to the Supershow pit and Ken Livingson and Bar promised to rewire the system overnight. They also agreed to drill and tap the intake manifolds so we could synch the carbs.
By this time, Bar had taken me aside and asked if I’d do the shakedown run (well… let me think about that Bar…..) and my already overcooked fun circuits began to crackle. Could this already phenomenal weekend get any better? Sunday, Ken and Bar pronounced the wiring totally kosher and Bar bumped the bike to life. Indeed, it now ran on two. Badly, but on two. We turned the bike off and connected my carb synch to the manifolds, and Bar stuffed the unit inside his leathers for a second bump and while I kept the throttle up, Guy worked his magic on the carbs. We were too lean on the idle circuit, and probably off on the mains, but out of jets. The TT had a slightly erractic idle, but was manageable. Next, my turn for a run around the pits and I have to say that I had a riot. Everything seemed to work reasonably well, so as I rolled down into the lower pit, I nailed it just as I went past the loudbike crew. Um, cammy? You betcha. Nice big hit at 6,000 that had me scrambling for a shift as the needle sailed past 8.
With that, we get back to the beginning of the post and a clutch basket that was eating into the outside engine base. We stripped the clutch and found both flat and lockwashers BEHIND the spring caps. OK, count the plates (nothing obvious, but a funky, thick final plate) so the clutch went back together and without the spacers and the bike was bumped to life. The grinding noise was worse. And so continued the routine (I don’t know how many times) over the course of the afternoon. What we found in the process was that the mainshaft spacer just outboard of the engine case made been machined down from stock and thick washers added as spacers. Hmmmm. Gearbox shimming didn’t seem to be the problem (on the loose side, but within spec). We noted that the back of the clutch basket was grinding into the engine side cover and tried numerous combinations of spacers without luck before settling on dimensions for a new supplementary spacer that Bar would have made up that evening. By the end of the event, we still couldn’t get there and agreed that short of a close comparison of the basket to stock and possible replacement – they’d make-up a large diameter spacer to push the back of the basket.
In an email today from Bar:
“We machined up two .060 thou thick, installed one and bumped off the bike. It has cured the problem. No sign of clutch dragging, slipping, rubbing anywhere, selects gears well and finds neutral easily. So I think we've solved the problem and we have the second spacer as a back-up to space up farther if required. Don't ya just love a happy ending?
On another matter, Ken and I have decided to attend Sandy Noce's track days at Mosport July 11, 12 & 13 during Mosport Bike Week leading up to the National Round. We'll be setting up our big tent and I was wondering if you wanted to get any track time in for shaking down any of your bikes or just playing. You could come down and join us in our pit area and get that ride on the TT2 finally. Gee. Bar... Let me think for a moment... Let me know.”
So campers (particularly Rudy and the European contingent), please take a look at the new Photo Album and let us know if you’ve got any insight regarding the origins of the TT.
Meanwhile, I’ll dream of Mosport in July – with a Factory TTF-1 and an 853F-1 that isn’t geared for Bonneville. Ain’t life grand?