State of the Garage Address – 1 January 2017

State of the Garage Address – 1 January 2017
Today is January 1st 2017, the first day of a new year.  I have always found the start of a year to be a good time to pause and take stock on the operational state of my fleet.  Last year started with the smallest fleet in recent memory, only three vehicles.  My 1978 Chevrolet C20 Scottsdale was days away from a planned engine swap and clutch replacement.  The 2005.5 KTM 950 Adventure (R) was sitting with a broken case from a snapped chain at the 2015 25 Hours of Starvation Ridge race awaiting repair.  Lastly the 2009 Husqvarna TE450 was in service doing dirtbike things.  So now another trip around the sun later, how does the fleet look?  The fleet has grown to five machines, the start of 2016 saw a wavering (the Chevy had a failing, but workable for the time clutch) 2/3 (66%) in service rate, that was on the verge of becoming 1/3 (33%).  The start of 2017 is looking like 2/5 (40%) in service.  The numbers can be deceiving, how do you count a “basket case,” what is the order of importance, does that factor in?  Below is how 2017 is starting, I’d say in the order is in importance.  The catch is if the KTM is in service the Sprint would skip up and over the Husky, since in many cases the two knobby tire machines are redundant.

1978 Chevrolet C20 Scottsdale
After last January’s engine swap for a slightly upgraded 350ci small block and new clutch, things have held together.  The new to me engine, including all of the associated support systems (long tube headers, MSD ignition system, Edelbrock intake, Holley carburetor, etc), and fresh clutch really woke it up.  The “temporary” exhaust system is still holding together a year later, and is still yet to be replaced with a proper system.  New tires have been installed, and the “to-do” list mostly made up of comfort items, like a proper stereo and smaller mirrors.  A proper tune-up is scheduled (plugs, wires, cap & rotor) for the near future.  At the end of the day it is preforming it’s truck duties just fine.

Photo: Iain Glynn

2005.5 KTM 950 Adventure (R)
After entering 2016 in an unoperational state, it ended it in the same state.  The month leading up to the early April annual Stumpjumper Desert 100 saw a rapid repair, and return to operational status.  Sadly this was short lived, with less than 500 miles logged.  The week of commuting went fine.  Once at the Stumpjumper Desert 100 site in Odessa, WA new issues started to surface.  The axle adjusters on the swingarm were stripped, undoubtedly related to the snapped chain the year before.  This was worked around as best as it could be in the field.  The dual-sport ride on Saturday went well.  I was finally able to fully appreciate the fresh suspension tuning and long travel conversion from Konflict Motorsports.  Raceday did not go as well.  After a good start, seven miles into the race course saw the chain snap again.  After a long walk out, and an even longer recovery effort, the big KTM ended up relegated to the sad loneliness of the garage.  Repair of the big KTM was almost happened shortly afterward so it could fill it’s perennial role scouting and leading rides at the Touratech-USA Rally West, but ultimately the Husqvarna TE450 was tagged in and filled it’s role.

As of today it is mostly stripped down, ready for the engine to be dropped out, and swingarm to be removed.  Calls will be made this week to make the appropriate arrangements for welding.  The chain failure issue is a reflection on me personally, not the machine.  After the initial chain failure last year I should have done a more in depth investigation on the cause of the failure.  I left myself a tight timetable for the repair, and failed to do that.  In turn, I am now going to repeat the process, this time fully and correctly.  I believe the change in gearing (a smaller front sprocket), in conjunction with the longer travel suspension pushed me outside of factory specifications.  The stripped axle adjusters on the swingarm only insured things would go poorly.  This time around I will remove the shock, measure the chain at full compression, and do the math.  This is what should have been done the first time around.

Photo: Katie Morton

2009 Husqvarna TE450
The Husky served me well this past year.  Other than a fuel pump failure, it not only performed dirtbike duties, but shouldered Touratech-USA Rally West functions well.  Only regular services were performed, I will include replacing the fuel pump under the umbrella of replacement of “wear items.”

As of today it is wearing a new handlebar, hand guards, and grips, all of which were installed a few days ago.  There is also a new rear fender and tail-light that is mounted, just waiting to be wired in.  I have a new rear Pirelli Scorpion Rally tire also waiting to be installed to replace the oversized one poached from the KTM that is currently mounted.  I am planning on getting the wheels trued in the next month or two.  It is currently on the “serviceable” list, and just a wheel true away from 100%.

1976 Vespa Sprint Veloce
This Vespa Sprint Veloce is a new addition in the past year.  For years I’ve had an empty spot in my life (and garage) for a proper, Italian shifter scooter.  This filled that spot, it was pretty without being too pretty to have fun with.  I got a good deal on it from a friend.  It was not without issues, the charging system is messed up.  I went in knowing that a few mechanics have tired to chase down the issue of not having lights without success.  During the summer months I just made sure I was home before dark.  Right before I was going to get into the engine I found a basket case 1978 Vespa P200E that would end up donating it’s engine to this machine.

As of today the Sprint is parked, awaiting a new engine.  I’m sure it would start and run, but it had been giving me signs that the engine was about to expire.  Not to mention the days are so short this time of year the non-functional lights would make commuting imposable.  I have a close to $1,000 pile of parts sitting on my kitchen table for this project.  The basket case P200E engine is stripped on the bench.  It turned out to be in rougher shape than I planned.  A second large order of parts (crank, main bearings, transmission parts) will get the engine build going again.  The inspection phase is over, the parts list is made, once I have the cash forward progress will happen.

1978 Vespa P200E
This Vespa is also a new addition during 2016.  It was bought as a basket case, no title, not running, sitting for decades.  The sum of the parts was worth the cost.  The engine has already be allocated to the Sprint, after the competition of the afore mentioned in-progress rebuild.  I have written about the potential fate of this scooter before.  It is rusted, damaged goods, simply not worth restoring.  Not worth restoring has it’s benefits, as strange as that might sound.  I have not investigated the depth of the rust, but I have little doubt that enough good metal remains to make a good dirt scooter.  What engine will be mounted in it still remains a mystery, as it’s engine has been stolen for the Sprint.  I do hope to resurrect this long forgotten machine this year as a dirty, nasty, off-road machine with a crazy paint job.  We will see if that happens, it is low on the list for money and time.  Yet I am stoked about my visions of what it can be.

In Closing
The above is the state of my mechanical affairs.  I’m sure everyone will read it differently.  If you tend to have projects kicking around it looks pretty good.  If you normally just have solid machines, not so good.  Personally, I feel pretty good about the state of my fleet.  The truck and Husky are operational, the KTM will be there shortly, the Sprint is well planned out, and the P200E is a long term project.  I’d bet this time next year I’ll be back over 50% operational next year, I’d be comfortable to guess that north of 75% isn’t out of the question if I don’t add more projects to the fleet.  I know I have plenty to do in the garage, but the days are getting longer, I think this will be a good year.  So take stock on what you have in the garage, reflect, and plan.  Good luck out there, have fun, and Godspeed.

-Eric Archambault