Saturday 24 November 2012

Corpses from down under

Saw this on the Oil Stained Brain site and had to ask for more info. CFH tshirt in Austrailia!

Name: Nicholas Umek
Motorcycle make/model/year: 1949 BSA B33 500cc OHV
Build story:  
I bought a dodgy plunger model BSA B33 from a deceased estate 3 years ago when I was still at uni. I didn't have much cash and the bike was rougher than hessian undies so I got what I paid for I guess, though being new to motorcycles in general at the time I can't now really say I knew exactly what I had at the time! 

It took me a year to find the time to pull the rusty wreck apart to asses what needed replacing or repairing and it was then that I realised I was a bit in over my head. Around the same time saw some grainy super 8 footage of the very first Catalina Grand Prix in 1951. What I saw from Catalina was a revelation to me, there were several B33's and other run of the mill British singles, along with larger side valve Harleys, being punted through the hybrid course over the island by regular guys in wollen jumpers, leather skull caps and pudding bowl helmets. I was captivated by the bikes, they were just average cheap commuter bikes with the lights taken off and a race number stuck on. Regular Joes could bring their daily and race it for a small fee, it was really only later that manufacturers, importers and shops started assembling teams and recruiting professional riders to race factory works bikes. 

I admired the ingenuity and ballsiness of the early privateer riders thrashing hardtail lead sleds around the dirt and off jumps, so I have tried to replicate something like what those young blokes would have ridden then. It’s not a period correct early 50’s pre-swingarm bike, but I’ve tried to make do with what I could find and afford. Two years of Hunting for parts at swapmeets, through club classifieds and eBay plus the last two months finally assembling the bike have been a massive learning experience for me, I’ve recently finished a short course in fitting and machining at TAFE and will go back to learn to weld when I get the time. I started the bike with a mission statement to do as much as possible by myself but it wouldn’t be here without the help of all the friends I’ve made along the way. I’m looking forward to finishing it properly, putting it on full rego and getting some time in on it around the dirt track at Broadford with my mates.


  1. Nicholas:
    So, how's that front brake working out for you?? Great bike none the less and who needs a front brake anyway?
    Jim A., Tucson, AZ

  2. Looks good Nicholas. I like that you've kept it simple. But don't forget to drill the other holes in the brake plate. You've got inlet holes, now you need exit holes. Otherwise the air can't flow through the brake.

  3. Hi chaps,

    yeah I didn't quite get time to fit the front brake cable, or for that matter do a lot of things, it was a mad dash and i was up til 2am the night before getting the forks together for the first time. I had a ball at the show i think the event is exactly what Australia needed and I was stoked to find I was the youngest builder with the second oldest bike after Tims richeous '44 U model. Thanks to everyone that helped me get the bike there, you met the nicest people on motorbikes oh and Max cheers for your B33 advice too.

    I've been in Japan for work since the show and will be at Mooeneys on Sunday to absorb some ideas and when i get home at Christmas ill get straight back into the shed and finish the old girl off. Cant wait to ride this thing.