Silver Ghost Restoration-Epilog

Here’s a short video of the startup of the Silver Ghost on Halloween night 2010.

And, you can look at a summary of before, during and after photos of the build here and see the entire set of photos here.

Lessons Learned

Before I started, a blog I read said “Start from the inside and work your way out.” .  The logic made sense to me in developing the budget.  I estimated the cost for the frame straightening and fork tube replacement I knew were required.  This was the most expensive work I had done, and ended up costing about 50% more than the estimate.

After that was done, I prioritized the other “must do” work. I had the top end inspected and got cost estimates for repairing the broken fin on one head.  The estimates ranged from over $100 to about $15.  I took the $15 bid from Randy Long even though shipping to Pennsylvania and back cost me $25.  When he got the head, we talked and he pointed out the valves were past their service life.  So he got both heads and I had him replace the seats, valve guides, springs and exhaust valves.  Randy does great work and is willing to share his knowledge.

I priced out the carburetor repair and rebuilding, replacing the rear sub-frame since I knew it was cracked, and a new exhaust system as the original I had held on to was in bad shape.

I developed an estimating spreadsheet to forecast the costs and updated the total with actual cost when I bought parts.  Its a good idea to identify “must” from “nice” to have parts.  Get all the must have parts priced and paid for and then work on the nice to have sourcing new and used parts (eBay, BMW MOA forum, Craig’s List, Vintage BMW Motorcycle Owners group, and the BMW Internet Riders forum).

Optional parts included a used cast “snowflake” rear wheel to match the front one I bought in 1982, a used R90/S fairing, new electronic ignition, used bar end mirrors, and used battery tray.  Checking the on-line used markets and eBay for about a month turned up deals on many of these parts, so I spent the money.  With eBay, I only had one part with some disapointment, the cast snowflake wheel which had a dig in the rim.  But, I found a local company, Woody’s Wheel Works, who could pound it out.

Painting was the shock as I originally planned to have it professionally painted.  But, after multiple bids over $2,000, I called a friend who rebuilds classic British bikes for some advice.  He talked me into the “growth experience” of painting the bike myself.  He had the equipment, advice and encouragement.  I had to do the rest.  It took me 3 times as long to complete the painting as I had estimated.  The material cost doubled when I had paint failures and had to buy another paint kit from Holt BMW.  But, the education and satisfaction were priceless.  It was the memorable experience of the project and even though I got very frustrated and discouraged more than once.  As Brian says, “Endeavor to Persevere”.  And, “There’s nothing about painting you can’t fix with sand paper and more paint.  You can’t break anything.”

My original budget was more than the blue book value of the bike, and that is typical for a rebuild, or in my case, a build of an R90S cafe racer replica.  I kept detailed records of all costs.  The paint preparation (primer, sand paper), solvents, cleaners, shop supplies cost much more than I had estimated.  Don’t over look that in your budget.  In the future, I’d put in a 5% shop supplies budget and estimate primer cost at 30% of the paint cost.  The final cost exceeded the budget by 60%.  Plan accordingly.

Finally, there is practical value in figuring out how to overcome the “cussedness of inanimate objects”, not at the time, of course, but in retrospect  :-).   I’m reminded of Robert Pirseg’s book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,  “The real motorcycle you are working on is yourself”.  If that is true doing routine maintenance, then doing a rebuild of a bike means you are rebuilding yourself.


The web is a great resource for advice, parts, options and ideas.  I found a large amount of information, resources and “How To” advice for rebuilding bikes in general and BMW in particular.  I  asked questions on various forums and always seemed to find someone who had the tid bit I was looking for.  The available knowledge and willingness of folks to share what they know make taking on a project of this scale doable.  All you have to do is search and ask, and you can learn just about anything you don’t know.  I compiled a list of resources I found here.

I found Max BMW’s on-line parts fiche a reliable tool for cost estimating as well as other on-line suppliers of parts for classic BMWs (Benchmark, Rephyche, and Hucky’s).  My local dealer, BMW of Denver met or beat most of those prices but I did some business with internet sellers as well.

In particular, Clem Cykowski at BMW of Denver, Kent at Holt BMW and the kind folks at The Bing Agency were particularly helpful and supportive.  And of course, my friend Brian House, who encouraged me to learn how to paint motorcycles and lent me his equipment was a great resource of tips, advice and wisdom.

Tips for Those Who Follow After Me

In no particular order, here is my list of tips when doing a project like this.

  • You can do this work with simple tools in your own garage.
  • Clean out a work area and keep it clean
  • Newspaper is a your friend.  Keep it handy, cover your work bench with it, change it often.
  • Shop towels on the roll are very handy.  Buy a half-dozen rolls.  They are always “clean” when you need them.
  • Take pictures as you take things apart.  You will not remember how everything goes together in a year.
  • Bag parts as you remove them in plastic zip lock bags and label them with what they are (front fender, shocks, etc.)
  • Use boxes to hold parts bags for major subsystems.  I put all electrical parts in a box, all engine parts in a box, etc.
  • Keep a list of “to buy” parts as you remove them.
  • Assume you will buy all new rubber parts.
  • Develop a “to do” list for work you have to do and think about the best sequence to do it in.  You will save a lot time in end and avoid “redos”.
  • Monitor your patience, attitude and energy level.  When you aren’t feeling focused, confident, or happy, stop working.  You’ll just screw something up, usually something expensive or hard to find.
  • There is no rush.  Take your time and the stress goes away.
  • The fun comes from doing, thinking, planning and overcoming the “Oh Shit” that is inevitable.  Relax, have a beer, tomorrow’s another day.  If you aren’t in the mood, the bike is not going to go anywhere.
  • When you get stuck and don’t know how to get a part on, or figure out how to fix a mistake, clean the work bench.  You can control that, and in the process, solutions will come to mind if you will just be quiet enough to let them suggest themselves.


  • Sand paper and its proper use are critical to a nice paint job.
  • Preparation will take 80% of the time for painting.
  • Sand the last coat with a finer paper than the previous coat.  For 3 coats of primer, 320 grit, 400 grit, 600 grit.
  • If you are painting base coats with silver or black, add a fourth coat of primer and sand at 1500 grit.
  • Clear coat looks very shiny when it goes on, but it has to be sanded to remove the “orange peel” and dust motes.  Use no coarser grit than 2000 and finish with 2500 grit.  Then you can buff it out with scratch remover.
  • You can’t really ruin anything when painting.  If you make a mistake, grab the sandpaper and erase it.  Worse case, paint it again.

Silver Ghost Restoration-Part 21 Finished on Halloween

This evening, Halloween, I got the Silver Ghost running again.   That’s one year to the day after I took it to BMW of Denver for the first step, straightening the front forks.

Finish Painting

I had paint failures along the way.  I had to repaint the fairing, side cover and rear fender (so far).  I’m not certain what the problem was, but suspect using dish detergent in the final sanding of the primer could have been the reason.  I suspect I’ll have other parts peal, but for now, everything is staying painted :-).

I also used 1500 grit when I sanded out the clear coat, and that was a mistake.  This is too coarse and I had many hours of final sanding of the tank clear coat trying to remove the scratches.  There are still one or two deeper ones.  I decided to stop sanding it out with 2000 and then 2500 grit as I was afraid I’d cut completely throught the clear coat.  As I paint in an unheated garage, I’ve run up against the end of “painting season”.

I bought another paint kit from Holt BMW and only used a small amount when I redid the rear fender.  If I get more peeled parts, I can strip them in the spring and reshoot.

You can see in this picture how the finish sanding with 2000 grit and then a light 2500 grit coat removes “orange peel” and small defects in the clear coat.  On the left is the final 2500 grit, transitioning to the in progress 2000 grit and finally the unsanded clear coat on the right.

Sanding Clear Coat
Final Sanding of Clear Coat.

I buffed out the sanded clear coat using 1500 grit polish and then scratch remover.  I used a drill with buffing pads, one for each.  I likely spent 20 hours buffing out the clear coat.  As I said, the gas tank had deeper scratches.  I had to back up and sand out the deeper scratched areas with 2000 then 2500 grit, buff with 1500 polish and then the scratch remover.  Several sections required 4 or 5 repetitions of this to finally get the scratches out of the clear coat.


I started at the rear and worked my way forward.  I removed the rear tire and mouted the rear fender using new rubber bushings.  As I have an oversized rear tire (4.00 instead of 3.5 inch), I had to carefully slide it back in using a clean shop rag to protect the paint on the rear fender.

Next, I added the rear taillight assembly, turn signals and license plate bracket.

Then, I mounted the seat.  I found putting the rear hinge on the seat pan and tightening the screws fully and putting only one screw in the front hinge is the best way to mount the seat.  You can swing the front hinge on the screw pivot point to get the hinge on to the bushing.  Then you can get the other two front hinge screws inserted and tighted as there is a frame cutout to let you access one of the screws.  Here’s the back end and seat assembled.

Rear Back Together

Seat & Rear Fender
Rear End Assembled.

The side covers were next.  I cleaned them with dish detergent, rinsed, and then sprayed with windex and wiped clean before I mounted the “750cc” decals.  I had to adjust the side cover clamps on the subframe as they were too tight.

Side Cover
Side Cover With Decal.

The gas tank has a gold pinstripe.  I am not confident the tank won’t peal, so I decided to use vinyl pinstripe tape instead of painting them on.  I used 1/8 inch pinstripping.  Again, I washed the tank with dish detergent, rinsed and finshed up with windex.  After I got the pinstripe on, I added the BMW badges to the tank.  I think it looks “kinda nice” 🙂


Gas Tank With Emblem and Pinstrip.

I worked on the fairing next.  I used 1/4 inch pin stripe, but I think that maybe too wide.  When I repaint the fairing again, I’ll opt for 1/8 inch instead.  Mounting the fairing was  time consuming.  Getting the lower holes over the turn signal brackets was not easy.  And, there are a number of rubber grommets that hold the lower portion of the fairing on the turn signal stalks.  There is a rubber gasket the goes over the headlight and inside the head light hole in the fairing.  And there is the bracket on the fork tubes with a steel stem that mounts the top of the fairing to the fork tubes.  Keep things loose until you get the hole in fairing adjusted around the headlight gasket and then tighten the nuts on the steering head  bracket.  Finally, I put the turn signals on the stalks, wired them up and put the covers back on.

Fairing & Tank
Fairng & Tank Mounted
Fairing Mounted.

Finally, I took the front wheel off, and mounted the front fender.  There is a chrome bracket to hold the rear of the fender and again, there are rubber grommets that protect the fender from the steel brackets.

Cylinders & Front Fender

Finally, I bought a new windscreen from Gustafsson , opting for the 7″ rather than stock 3″, in light smoke color.  The mounting holes are pre-drilled and they lined up perfectly.

Side View

Side View
Gustafsson Plastics Faring Mounted.

The last item to go on was the bar end mirrors I got on Ebay.  These add a nice cafe racer touch and really look very nice.

Cockpit & Bar End Mirrros
Bar End Mirrors.

So, a couple of “Before” and “After” pictures.

The Silver Ghost – Starting a Restoration

Silver Ghost – 1975 BMW R75/6 Buck Naked

Cylinders & Front Fender




Cockpit & Bar End Mirrros

Gusstafson Fairing

Punch List

Now that the plastic parts were back on the bike, I had to handle a number of final “punch list” items including.

  • Connect battery and charge it up
  • Add brake fluid to the front brake and bleed it.  Then adjust the calpers
  • Add engine oil, and gear lube to the transmission, final drive and drive shaft.
  • Test the electrics. (I had to fix one rear turn signal, loose wire) including starter motor
  • Clean, polish and install petcocks and add gas lines from petcock to tee fitting
  • Install coils, spark plug wires and spark plugs
  • Adjust carburators to initial settings
  • Add 1 gallon of gas to the tank

Will it Run?

So at 7:30 pm, its time to find out if the Silver Ghost will start.  I turned the petcocks to reserve, and found a bit of leaking which was quickly fixed by snugging up the nut to the gas tank.  I pulled the plugs and checked for spark.  None.  Hmmm … I disconnected the battery pulled the timing cover, and there was the loose wire to the condenser.  I had two black wires when I installed the coils and  had pulled the condenser wire to test which one was it, but forgot to reattach it.  That was easy.

After reattaching the battery cable, I pulled in the choke, hit the starter and in 3 spins the Silver Ghost came back to life.


Silver Ghost Restoration-Part 20 Painting The Body Parts

UPDATE: The Paint Work I Did Here Failed. I Learned That the Primer I Used Disolved When The Glasurit Paint Was Applied. DO NOT USE SPRAY CAN PRIMER WITH PROFESSIONAL PAINTS. Read This Part Of The Project As A WARNING.

As With Most Things I Try For The First Time, I Make Mistakes And Learn Something I Apply The Next Time I Do It. That Is Called “Gaining Wisdom”. 🙂 

I Plan To Repaint The Bike With The Correct Primer And Post That Material When I Am Done.

As noted in an early chapter, the cost of having the body parts painted by a professional caused me to head towards doing it myself.  I wasn’t afraid of learning by doing, which is another way of saying making mistakes and fixing them.  So, far, I’ve gotten my money’s worth 🙂

I have a friend, Brian House, who has rebuild several vintage English motorcycles and does his own painting.  So, I’ve borrowed equipment and knowledge freely from Brian.  He does his painting “on the back porch”, no paint booth thank you very much.  He uses lacquer and does a lot of sanding between coats to get the smutz (junk) out.

Okay, I have a garage bay, so I created a simple paint booth when I painted the frame.  I rebuilt that booth again with a 3-side design so fumes would not build up.  I picked up a roll of painter’s plastic (12 feet wide) at my local paint store and stapled it to the rafters and taped it to the floor.  It was big enough that I could still park my R1150-RS when not painting as I figured I’d need the booth for a couple of days.  It turned out to be needed a “little longer” than that.

Double Duty Paint Booh
Double Duty Paint Booth.

I added a simple parts stand I had used earlier.  The vertical 2×4 posts fit the center of the tank and the inside of the fenders to hold them steady.  I had plenty of room to move around inside without fear of tripping over things or bumping freshly painted parts.

Paint Booth - Parts Holder
Paint Stand.

Light is your friend.  So, I picked up a 1,000 watt halogen work light with stand for less than $30 at my local Home Depot. Things are a bit rocky with the stand, but the light is great.

Paint Booth - 1000w Halogen Lighting
Configured for painting with 1000 watts of Halogen task lighting.

All the parts had the final primer coat wet sanded with 600 grit paper.  I cleaned the parts with paper towel and Windex to remove lint, finger prints and any other contaminants (or at least I thought I did.  See below.).

The paint kit was ordered from Holt BMW, the US supplier of Glasurit paint that is used by BMW.  Holt also paints BMW bikes for restoration so I called them and spoke with Kent who is their painter.  He provided lots of tips and sent me a pint kit for Smoke Silver.  It has a pint each of silver, black and clear coat, 1/2 pint of clear coat hardener and 1 1/2 pints of reducer.  I picked up a pint of cheap lacquer thinner at my local Ace Hardware for clean up.  The paint kit cost about $330 shipped, so you don’t want to waste it or make too many mistakes and have to buy more.

Holt BMW - Smoke Silver Paint Kit
Holt BMW Smoke Silver Pint Paint Kit.

I borrowed Brian’s compressor and paint spray gun.  I had to run the compressor on a separate circuit from the halogen lights as the lights draw 10 amps and the compressor pretty close to 15 amps.  Don’t ask me how I figured that out 🙂

Compressor - 2Hp, 4 Gal 3 SCFM @ 40psi
Low cost compressor for painting.

I practiced using the spray gun with cheap paint (Duplicolor $25/pint ready to spray) from my auto parts store and got the hang of the gun and setting the paint flow mixture on the gun.

I made a paint test board using some scrape 1/4 inch masonite and covered it with newspaper.  I sprayed that first to adjust the paint flow and compressor air pressure until I got a “medium wet” covering on each pass.  Its important to always test spray like this each time you start painting and make any adjustments before you put paint on parts.

For painting, Kent advised a 50% mix of thinner to paint.  To be clear, that means if you have 1 oz of paint, you add 1/2 oz (50% of the paint volume) of thinner.  I used a dark room plastic measuring cup to mix the paint and popsicle sticks to stir the thinner so it mixed evenly with the paint.

Painting requires a respirator in my opinion.  I found one at my local Sherwin Williams store that comes with disposable filters to keep you from breathing the fumes.  I work in a long sleeve shirt, saftey glasses, baseball cap and rubber nitrile gloves when painting to keep down the paint on my skin.

The silver was laid down in 2 coats.   Wait for the first coat to “flash” which is when it goes from shiny wet looking to dull.  Then you can spray the 2nd coat.  Kent said you could also do a light 3rd coat at 45 degree angle to help hide any streaks as silver is very unforgiving.  On some parts (fairing and tank) I did need the light 3rd coat.

When I painted with the gun, I kept a small cup of lacquer thinner (the cheap Ace Hardware stuff) in a cup.  When I finished a coat, I would detach the paint cup from the gun, stick the paint tube in the cup of lacquer thinner and spray it through the gun to keep the very small internal passages clean and to prevent paint from drying in them.

It took a while to finish the silver coat.  I kept the left over silver paint reduced at 50% in a clean new 1 Qt paint can I got at my Ace Hardware.  I could mix up 4 – 5 oz of final mix that way and not waste paint.  As becomes clear later, I had to repaint some parts, so saving the reduced silver was the right idea.

Note, a pint of silver is barely enough to paint all the parts and allow a little left over to fix mistakes … I got my fingers in the paint, brushed a part with my sleeve, and had to sand out the error and touch up.  Here’s the parts with the silver coat.  The R75/6 is under the plastic to keep it from picking up any of the paint particles.

Parts - Silver Coat Done
Silver Coat Complete.

The next day, I started to paint the smoke layer using the black paint.  It is reduced at the same 50% rate as the silver.  Kent said to dial back the paint volume, dial up the pressure (45 psi) and use the trigger (it increases paint flow as you pull more) to get a very light layer of black.  I practiced and pretty soon was ready to start.  I visualized where I wanted the edge to be, moved over a bit (to where the full black would be) and started a pass.  As I saw the paint lay down on the silver, I’d adjust my trigger and my rate of sweep and then move over to where the edge would be so it was a very light layer in a straight (or for the fairing, curved) line.  Then, I’d continue adding paint in successive passes towards the black edge building up the layers as I went.  It took 5 -7 passes to build up the black at the very darkest areas.  Here are the side covers to show how the faint “smoke” edge follows the contour lines of the cover.  You can see the light smoke on the silver panel.

Side Covers - Smoke Silver
Black “Smoke” Layer on Side Covers.

I made a mistake on the front fender and had to reapply the silver down the middle and then come back and reapply the light black layers to fix that.   Here’s the other parts with the black smoke coat applied.

Tank shot w/ Smoke Silver

Fenders - Smoke Silver
Black “Smoke” Coat On Fenders and Tank.

Now, the problems started.  I had taped the fairing holes to prevent the silver from getting on the inside of the faring which I had painted black.  As I took the tape off, the silver coat lifted.  It failed to bond to the primer correctly.  So, I had to sand out the silver to feather it, and re-shoot it :-(.

Fairing - Paint Failure
Silver Paint Failure on Fairing.

That set me back a day.  But I finally got the fairing painted with black and got a nice circular edge between the silver and smoke areas of the black.

Next, is the clear coat.  That requires a hardener at a 40% ratio and thinner at a 10% ratio.  That means, if you use 2 oz of clear coat, you will need 0.8 0z of hardener and 0.2 oz of thinner.  I used milliliters which also are marked on my dark room measuring cup.  500 ml of clear coat, 200 ml of hardener and 50 ml of thinner.  Now, you can’t save any unused clear coat like you can unused paint as the hardener turns it into a solid mass in a couple hours.  So, try to mix up what you are going to use and not waste a lot of it.  Kent said 2 coats of clear works well.

By this point I had a little bit of reduced silver paint left, a bit more of reduced black and more than that of the clear coat left.  I had taped the fairing over the holes again and this time, when I removed the tape, all the paint pealed off 🙁 :-(.  It once again had not adhered and could be pealed off in strips.

Paint Failure
Paint Adhesion Failure on Fairing.

It was a large downer when I saw that.  I pulled all the paint off.  I re-sanded the primer with 400 grit, and then shot two new primer coats on top.  As I thought about what might be going on, I remembered that at one point I had been using dish detergent in my water for final sanding.  I was suspicious that this left a residue that kept the paint from adhering.  I final sanded with wet 600 grit and cleaned it all again with Windex and paper towels.   I re-shot the silver, black and clear coat over the next couple of days and was back to getting ready to buff out the clear coat.  At this point, the silver is all gone … so I was hoping I was good to go for buffing out the clear coat.

And then, one of the side covers also peeled 🙁 :-(.  I spoke with Kent and learned that he uses a special primer that has a hardener in it.  I am not.  I am using Ace Hardware Krylon primer.  Maybe that’s the issue.  His primer is about $100 a quart and I suspect I’d need more than one.  I need more silver paint and decided to order another pint paint kit in case I have to start over again and repaint all the parts.  (I’m an eternal optimist.  Maybe the other parts are fine …)

But, I’m going to conduct an experiment with the side cover.  I used the Krylon primer again and carefully cleaned with windex (which Kent has used in the past, so that’s likely not the problem).  On half of the side cover I applied a Rustoleum “Primer Sealer” at $4.25 per can, its a lot less than Kent’s special primer with hardener.  I’ve wet sanded out the side cover ( no detergent in the water) with 600 grit. When the paint arrives, I’m going to shoot two coats of silver on the cover and wait over night.  Then I’m going to put masking tape on it and peel … repeatedly … and see what happens.  I’ll certainly learn something useful and can proceed accordingly.  Stay tuned …

Silver Ghost Restoration-Part 19 Engine, Carbs, Exhaust

Over the past couple of weeks, I got the pistons, cylinders, heads, carburetor and exhaust back together.  It’s almost looking like a motorcycle again 🙂

I cleaned the carbon off the pistons using a wire wheel prior to putting the rings back on.

Carbon Build Up on Pistons


De-carbonized Pistons


I put the new rings back on by hand.  The kit has all three rings clearly labeled.  Be sure the “top” on the rings goes “up”

Ring Kit

Ring kit.

Top of Ring 

“TOP” is engraved on the top side of the ring.

Then, I heated the pistons in the oven (175) and put the wrist pins in the freezer to make it easy to push the pins into the pistons.  I bought a new set of C-clips and inserted them being sure the gap in the C-clip didn’t align with the cutout for removing them.  There is a mark on the piston top “VOR” that indicates the side of the piston facing forward.  Be sure you have them aligned correctly when assembling on the connecting rod.

C-clip On Piston

C-clip covering the cutout in the piston.

Piston on Connecting Rod

Wrist pin assembled onto Piston and connecting rod.

Next, I assembled the push rod tube rubbers onto the ends of the tubes aligning them as shown.

Push Rod Seals

Push rod tube rubbers aligned.

Then, I put the base gasket on using Hylomor as the sealant on both sides of the gasket.  Be sure the holes in the gasket align with the holes in the base of the cylinder.

Base Gasket w/ Sealer

Base gasket with Hylomar sealant before smoothing it out over the gasket.

By hand, (I don’t have a ring compressor) I pushed the cylinder over the piston.  You can do this by hand if you are very patient and go slowly so you don’t break a ring.  I found using two wood sticks made it easier to compress a ring on one side, wiggle the cylinder a little so it covers that side of the ring then press the opposite side into the ring gap and wiggle the other side of the cylinder past a ring.  Easy and slow does it here.

Assembling Head

Cylinder over the piston.

Next, make sure you get the head gasket aligned the right way so it doesn’t cover the push rod openings.

Incorrect Base Gasket

INCORRECT – gasket covering push rod tube holes

Correct Base Gasket

CORRECT – no obstruction of the push rod tub holes.

Next, attach the head by sliding it over the cylinder studs and put the push rods into the push rod holes.  Then, add the rocker arm assemblies and using a cross-over pattern, tighten the nuts on the cylinder studs to pull the cylinders down onto the engine.  Check as you go that the push rod rubbers are aligned with the holes in the block, or you will crack them and have to replace them.

 Inserting Push Rod

Inserted push rod.

Assembling Heads

Rocker arm assembly attached to cylinder studs.

Assembling Heads

Cross-tighten nuts on cylinder studs to pull cylinder into the block.

Next, follow the torque tightening sequence and tighten the heads down.  Torque is brought up in stages, not all at once.  When that’s done, set the valve clearences, add the valve covers and move on to the other side.

Cylinder & Heads

Cylinder & Heads

I added the carburetors using the rubber spigots and then assembled the new exhaust system.  I found that assembling the muffler to the header first was the best way to go.  I had some troubles with one of the inserts that goes on the header pipe as it wasn’t round.  I finally got it back into shape.  Keep all the connections loose and attach the muffler to the rear mounts.  Then, be sure the header is pushed all the way into the head and twisted so the cross over pipe goes on.  This took some fiddling, but it finally goes together.  On the right side, I had to remove the brake peddle and grind a little off the the top of the peddel casting so the peddle would move freely.

Right Side - Almost an MC Again

Right Side.

Front - Cylinders and pipes

Front showing cross over pipe.

Left Side - Pipes & Carb

Left Side.

I’m replacing the choke cables and have to wait for them to come in before putting the air cleaner and housing back onto the engine.  That will complete the engine assembly.

Next up, paint preparation and finally, shooting the paint.


Silver Ghost Restoration-Part 18 Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Rebuilding

I started on this project last October and have been chipping away at it as time permitted.  Last week, I had a four day weekend and spent time preparing for painting, aka, priming and sanding.  This has taken much longer than I expected, and I’ve been recalling Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance“.  I’ve experienced several personal “gumption traps” and found that “being in the moment” is not easy to accomplish in a consistent manner.

The paint preparation phase has exposed a couple bad habits I have.  The first is hurrying, the second is not thinking it through and the third is pushing to complete when I should take a break.  These are related, and if I recall, are called out by Pirsig as examples of gumption traps that impede attaining quality.

Hurrying usually results in getting “behinder” due to mistakes and the rework they require.  On top of that, you’re attitude is not postive due to your inner voice of self critisim getting pretty loud.  The fun factor goes way down.

If you don’t stop and visualize getting from what you have to what you want, you can find the path you take is the wrong one, or you aren’t taking the shortest path to do the work.  This is more the case when I have been working on disassembly and assembly of the Grey Ghost, but I find it happening in paint preparation as well.  For example, I’ve forgotten to clean spray nozzles, not had the gloves on, forgotten to clean the parts with Windex prior to priming and each of those are the result of not thinking about how to get from what I have in front of me to where I want to end up BEFORE starting the work.

I also find that “getting done” is a slippery gumption trap.  Getting done, of course, has value and does provide gratification.  But, the journey also has great reward, and a journey done well has an even greater sense of accomplishment.  I’m starting to figure out when the “let’s get done” motivation is out of control.  And every time I don’t listen to that inner voice that says “Hey, you’re getting tired of what you are doing, take a break”, and keep on working, inevitably s&^%t happens.

I think there are days when you should not work on a project.  This past Monday was one of those.  I managed to break the coffee pot, assemble something backwards and put my finger prints in wet primer … all in about an hours time.  I quit for the day at that point.  It seems that Monday was not a day where I was “in the moment”; perhaps I was distracted by thoughts of a family get together later that day, or thoughts about the impending return to work drowned out “being in the moment”.  For whatever reasons, the Zen state required for good quality was not in evidence.

Here is an observation about our ability to recognize the qualityof our work.  Paint preparation (the mundane) really shows how quality (the sublime) is achieved: many small things done well result in high quality.  I’ve sanded several areas and had to refill them because the surface was not the right contour or small defects were evident in the body putty.  Each time I re-primed those areas, I’d think “There, that’s got it”.  And then I’d re-sand it and see another small defect I had missed, and I’d say “Well, that’s not enough to make any difference”.  But, the next day, I’d look at that area again, and it was clear it wasn’t up to snuff.  So, I’d go back and put more body putty over it, prime it and sand it again.  In one area of the tank, I’ve had to repeat that process 4 times.

My point is we see quality, or the lack of it,  in an instant.  But, we also have built-in “reality filters” that allow us to pretend we achieved it when we really haven’t.  The pursuit of quality demands an ego-less perspective on our own work, which for me, isn’t easy to achieve.  There is an absolute ego-less honesty required about your work if you want it have high quality.  Achieving that honesty is worth the journey, and in no small part, it is what Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is all about.