W/E 29th June 2020

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So Atlas #1 is taking shape at last. The swinging arm is in along with the rear suspension. Alternator rotor, starter sprag and starter motor in place. Oil cooler also positioned.

The swinging arm and suspension linkage with all new bearings slide in easily.

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A Mk 3 Atlas should have twin oil coolers but I’ve decided to install just one. One oil cooler is plenty (it doesn’t really need one for the UK weather) and has the advantage of not getting damaged in the event of an accident – both times I’ve slid up the road the left hand oil cooler has been damaged.

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The roller on the right is the polished one…really?

The starter sprag is a Zimmerman unit with oversized rollers. The rollers are made out of silver steel bar that has been hardened. Before the bearings went in I polished them with a Dremmel to give a better fit with the ring gear. I’m hoping this arrangement will work for longer as the last time I used this sprag the unhardened rollers wore pretty quickly.

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In assembling the starter side I lined up the gears and noticed they combined really smoothly. It made me think about Atlas #3 and how the gears didn’t seem to mesh so well as although the right gears they weren’t a pair. I’m resolved to install the original gears on Atlas #3 now as it was noticeable how much more smoothly the paired gears run.

 

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The carb’ has been offered up to take measurements as I don’t intend to refit the standard airbox. Bellmouths and foam filters are available and I’m going to go this route. The benefit of this will be more space around the shock mount which should mean I can fit an even larger (wider) battery. It’ll also make tinkering with the carb’ easier as I won’t have to fiddle with the rubber connection hoses…and finally it’ll look more ‘edgy’ which we all know is important 😉

Nick 🙂

W/E 15th June 2020

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Note bracket on downtube for twin oil coolers on a Mk 3 Atlas.

So now Atlas #1 has an engine too! The frame is stripped down and doesn’t have a swinging arm so we decided to try and just sit the engine on its side and wriggle the frame on it. It should’ve been easy but there was still a lot of oil in the motor which of course ended up on the floor! The back brake lever also got caught up in the mobile bench so the crane was bought back in to help with the job. Phew.

All the bits are in boxes and the swinging arm knuckle and swinging arm itself have been refurbished so it’s a case of getting down to fitting the parts…

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Steady progress is being made on Atlas #3. The carb’ needs to be cleaned and checked over before this can be fitted. The carb’ came off an engine with a dropped valve seat which resulted in a blackened throttle butterfly. It’s pretty bad but is slowly responding to carb cleaner.

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Inlet on right hand after some time cleaning – more work needed!

Alas Atlas #2 has missed the boat this time round. The engine needs serious surgery including engine welding so the engine has been put on the rack for some time in the future…maybe it’ll be sorted in a few years time….

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Atlas #2

Nick 🙂

W/E 10th June 2020

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So Atlas #3 has an engine 🙂

Mrs A was back in the garage helping with the engine crane – how many times have we done this and it’s still fiddly. The next week will be spent bolting all the bits and pieces on it…maybe I’ll have a runner before too long?

I ordered more suspension bearings from a UK bearing factor so I can sort out the knuckle on Atlas #1. While I was looking at the arms that link from the centre knuckle pivot I noticed another two bearing and bushes! Damn that’s a total of 8 bearings and 7 bushes in the suspension…give me a twin shock setup anyday!

Atlas #1 engine is ready to go in the frame but time has been against me but by this time next week we won’t have two running Atlas’s but we will have two frames with engines!

Nick 🙂

 

W/E 1st June 2020

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Damn it’s hot in England!

The good news is that the Atlas is back on two wheels albeit missing an engine! Got enough bushes, spacers and o rings to build the suspension knuckle and swinging arm and it’s back in place. Put some rough paint on the swinging arm to hold back anymore rusting for the moment. I also saved the brake anchor arm with a few coats of primer and paint. The alloy brackets on the Atlas really do get attacked by road salt – think I will paint the front engine brackets too.

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I’m going for a look which means that the bike looks okay from the COVID-19 requiste of 2 metres!

Researching all the suspension knuckle components reveals that while the plain bearings are easy to buy from a bearing factor the spacers aren’t – apparently they are Laverda bespoke spacers. All the more reason to take it all apart and re-grease every six months.

Continuing on the theme of ‘rough painting’ I’ve got the crankcases ready to go on both Atlas #1 and #3. I’d got some satin finish engine block paint and primer which I used on Atlas #3. This turned out to be a mistake as the actual paint turned out to be a ‘crinkle’ finish and rather dull. I had an old tin of gloss black engine paint so just sprayed this over the top. I did the entire job on Atlas #1 with the gloss. Gloss isn’t really the right finish for the cases which came in a kind of satin shine. Still with my bikes it doesn’t matter does it and the main thing is to try and stop corrosion getting in when the winter comes.

So engines ready to go in frames but it’s so damned hot at the moment – how some of you work in hotter climates I don’t know!

Nick 🙂

 

 

W/E 25th May 2020

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So we end this week with the project not looking that much different to before however this week has really been all about the suspension.

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Having fed penetrating oil into the seized swinging arm bolt for the past week the bike was put upright and I hoped for some movement. Nothing. So the challenge was to get the bolt out but without damaging the threads on its end. Time to reflect is always useful and I wondered if the bolt thread was the same as on the front wheel spindle of a Jota/RGS (remember you use this to pop the alternator off its taper)? I was in luck so it was out with the trusty Honda VT500 wheel spindle and I threaded this so half the nut was on the frame bolt and half on the spindle thus ensuring no thread damage. You can see it needed a little persuasion but soon it tapped out 🙂

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After and before (should’ve put them the other way round)

I cleaned up the bolt, working hard to get a good surface for the bearing in the swinging arm to seat on. However it began to dawn on me that the swinging arm worked in the same way as the suspension wishbone i.e. there is a bush that works on a plain metal bearing.

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Rusted inner bush which in turn is rusted to the plain bearing

Sure enough in all the mess there is indeed a bush and bearing. What happens is that the bush seizes on the bearing which then means the bolt becomes the pivot point. If I was to buy another Atlas one thing to check is as you bounce up and down on it do the swinging arm end bolts move? If they do then the swinging arm is seized! Lucky I had spares on the shelf so next stop was to press out the old bearings.

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I spent a few hours with the vice, Radio 4extra, old imperial sockets as spacers and a big hammer. I then repeated this exercise on the suspension knuckle. The tough part of this is getting the seized bush out of the plain metal bearing. Once this is done the plain bush pressed out (and in) with relative ease.

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Complete suspension knuckle just needs the o ring seals

The final job was to paint the rusty swinging arm. I’m not trying to make the bikes look concours (surely not) so some Hammerite Gold was pushed in to action just to stop further deterioration.

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Note chain adjustment sticker – another reason not to go for full paint job

So the suspension on the Atlas is something that requires regular maintenance – it needs to be stripped twice a year to ensure things don’t start seizing! The plain bearings are things you can buy from a bearing factor but the ‘spacer’ bushes don’t seem so easy to locate (especially the long bush in the centre hole). The other thing not to forget is the o rings as these are all that stand in the way of muck getting to the bearings. On this subject it’s worth noting that the o rings get messed up by oil (despite probably being viton) as on both bikes the swinging arm bearing on the chain side was the really seized item and in both cases the o ring between the frame and swinging arm had rotted.

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Finally a a nice surprise came through the post in the form of two repaired centre stands for the RGA/S. Clem had welded in sections on all the legs where they’d whittled holes in themselves through rubbing the underside of the exhausts (funny you’d think the exhausts would come of worse hey). Clem had then moved on to the locating holes which were oval. He’d welded these up and re-drilled them and chucked in some new stainless bearings. It’s a top class bit of work and easy to underestimate how much work went in to restoring parts that are becoming expensive and difficult to find. A big thanks 🙂

Nick 🙂

 

W/E 19th May 2020

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A lick of black paint and we’ll be ready to go!

The Atlas project is moving forward after a ‘difficult’ period 🙂

The cams were made to spin more freely because I did the unimaginable for a bloke and decided to look at a manual! There isn’t an Atlas workshop manual available on-line but there is a 500 one . The manual shows that it is only the black 9mm studs (nuts facing inside the motor) that are tightened to 28 ft Ilbs – the remaining nuts are just done up ‘tight with a hand spanner. I checked this understanding with Andy Bartlett who races 500’s and bingo free cams! All the marks were lined up and Mrs A lent a hand to connect up the cam-chains.

Atlas #1 and #3 are now ‘built’ but before going back in the frames need black paint (especially Atlas #1) and the frame on Atlas #3 needs the swinging arm pivot unseizing.

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A new 1 ton press arrived from Germany so it was time to see if I could get the bearing inner races off the cush drive shaft (the bearings had collapsed with the inners left on the shaft and the outers in the cush housing). Of course I didn’t bolt the press to the bench and had a go pressing with my foot on the back of the unit to try and steady it. Not a chance (in truth I think the press even if fitted to a bench isn’t heavy enough) but the bearings did start to move (maybe half a mm). It was just enough to get a cold chisel into the back of the lower bearing and with a 14mm socket acting as a spacer and bit of hammering in a vice saw it all come apart!

The outer bearing has spun in the cush housing so needed packing. In the past I’ve done this with Loctite but as I’d had some shim delivered this was cut to shape. I must say I prefer the mechanical as opposed to chemical solution. I’m yet to finish the cush because the inboard bearing is a good fit so it was put in the freezer to assist with its installation and I got distracted…

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And so the second task assigned to the new press ended up with a 14mm socket, vice and big hammer… The lower suspension pivot was worn (this bearing is worn on all my Atlas’s so it’s a common issue [even if you don’t know it yet]) so the old one needed ‘pressing’ out and a replacement pressed in. Once the bush had started to shift so that I could flatten it a bit extraction was straightforward. Pressing in the new bush with the 14mm socket and tightening the vice was sweet.

I checked the markings on the plain bush and was surprised to see that it is a standard bearing (PAP 2025 P10) that can be bought for £1 from a bearing factor! I shall be taking serial numbers of all these for the future – it’s good to know that I won’t have to buy genuine Laverda parts in the future.

So this week ends on a high 🙂 The vice turned out to be a waste of money in one sense however waiting for it to arrive made me slow down and think – in that sense it was £55 well spent! Similarly I got the shim in for the camshafts but it’s come in handy for the cush drive so another result.

Atlas #3 frame is having penetrating oil squirted into the seized swinging arm. I hope to have this sorted next time we ‘speak’.

Nick 🙂

W/E 12th May 2020

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So time is moving on and it seems I’m no closer to getting an Atlas road ready. Kind of depressing but just have to keep pressing on I guess…

I’d hoped to have the cam-chains on Atlas #1 and #3 engines hooked up but failed. Atlas #1 with the worn cam journals went back well enough but the inlet cam on Atlas #3 refuses to spin freely. A major frustration considering it was okay when it came apart. The cams spins until the torque increases and then it locks.

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I wondered if I’d mixed up the cam-blocks but these are numbered 1 – 6 and everything checked out.

I’m waiting for some shim to arrive to see if spacing the cam blocks helps any. It’s getting desperate…

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Some ‘stuff’ has arrived through the week to get things done. First off was the engine shim washer. This measured at 0.9mm but I couldn’t find that thickness. I settled for a Form B washer that should’ve been 1.25mm thick but the correct ID/OD. Well the thickness checked out but the washer has an OD of 20mm (1mm down). I’ve ground the washer down but it annoys me that you can go to all the hassle and you still get sent the wrong size – sure it will work but I didn’t plan on having to make do and mend – there’s enough of that going on.

I was pleased however at the arrival of the copper washers to go under the M6 allen bolts – spot on and when eventually an engine is built it shouldn’t end up littered with seized bolts! On this topic I returned to the cam cover of Atlas #2 and using heat/quench and some citric acid managed to shift one of the four remaining bolts. However one of the bolt heads is now starting to round off the hex. Atlas #2 needs serious surgery once it’s apart so think this motor can go on the shelf for now…

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Before

Looking for an ‘easy win’ I headed over to Atlas #3 to tidy up the wiring with my new butane soldering iron and assorted crimps. Thing was the soldering iron didn’t come cheap and wasn’t really needed other than to tin the ends of wire and one join. The wires going in to the Sasche black box were a mess of twists/tape with multiple joins and an oversize main power input.

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After

It’s a good investment in whenever the bike runs again. I’ve lost count of the number of times the main power wire, being too big, had come out of the unit leading to a ‘tank off’ roadside repair.

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Enthused by the wiring success I set to dismantling the seized swinging arm. Eventually I had to take the shock off and then treated the seized bolt with firstly citric acid solution and followed it up with a conventional penetrating oil. At the time I finished it hadn’t moved so next up will be an allen head socket to see if I can get it to start turning.

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End of another long week

So another week gone by and still no Atlas. As I said at the start depressing but only way is forward. You get times like this when you push but can’t seem to make progress. Difficult times…

Nick

 

W/E 5th May 2020

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So had a bit of sort through my ‘Atlas stuff’ on a sunny afternoon (yeah there’s a couple of RGS frames and some other stuff but this is an Atlas sort out). Anyways it proved useful in finding a few bits and pieces I’d bought over the years and forgotten. It also made me put things in to boxes so that when I need something I’ll be able to find it. Good job!

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The big deal since I last posted is getting the final two allen bolts out of the primary case of Atlas #1 – hurrah! I’d tried penetrating oils but decided it was time to bring some heat to the party. Heated the bolts and then cooled them with water through a few cycles and inbetween gave ’em a good thump with a big hammer and an impact driver. This bolt at the foot of the cylinders proved the most stubborn but eventually it succumbed.

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The first picture shows the ‘smeg’ around the bolt and here you can see how ‘crusty’ the bolt had become. I was surprised that the corrosion is on the edge of the cap and not at the base – so is it this outer ring that held the bolt so tight?

Still I’ve sourced copper crush washers to go under the bolt heads on reassembly so hopefully seized bolts is now a thing of the past!

I’ve decided that with Atlas #3 having a restored cylinder head stud that it’s best to go back to the original cams in Atlas #1 and Atlas #3 – so I’ve got to swop them round. I also decided to use the scored cams out of Atlas #1 but with the new cam bearings sent over by OCT.

The work still isn’t done because getting the cams to move freely is proving tricky. Atlas #1 has a sticky exhaust cam and #3 a sticky inlet cam. I’m not overly surprised with #1 as this was the case to start with. I suspect a slightly bent cam as it only tightens when the final end nuts are pulled down i.e. it’ll run fine if only one outer cam-block is tight. On Atlas #3 all looked good until the cams were torqued and this produced a very tight inlet cam – which is not how it was when stripped down. This is time consuming but getting the best ‘spin’ on the cams is the key to a good motor (you don’t lose power).

Watch this space…

Nick 🙂

W/E 26th April 2020

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Elefant in the house

So a good week, made so by the arrival of a guest mechanic! Pete turned up on his Cagiva armed with a set of Stillson’s to sort out the busted stud.

The Elefant is worth a quick look. I was surprised that it pre-dates the Atlas bikes by at least a year. I’d thought the Atlas was the first Italian ‘XT’ but you’d have to admit Cagiva got their first. Laverda used the Elefant formula with a heavy steel frame, cheap plastics and instruments and a recycled ‘street’ motor. The Elefant looks like an even heavier bike with marginally more substantial forks, swinging arm and frame (square tube as you can see) and similar rear suspension ‘Soft Damp’ as opposed to ‘Soft Ramble’. In straight comparison I think the Cagiva is the better bike mainly on account of the stronger engine (tho’ Pete’s isn’t the original Cagiva lump).

So with plenty of the stud proud of the cylinder head Pete marched in with his Stillson’s and voila it moved and in a minute was out!

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Doctor performs miracle in surgically clean workshop

I’d planned ahead and had a nice selection of parts from OCT including a new stud.

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Thanks OCT – dig the complimentary sticker and 3C calendar 🙂

The new stud went in with no hassle and was tightened in place using the ‘2 nuts’ technique (oooh er!). All this progress presents an interesting, and unexpected, situation – I could end up with two Atlas’s ready for the road!!! I’d switched my attention to Atlas #1 but now Atlas #3 is back in contention too. I’ve put the cams from Atlas #3 in to #1 so they will need swapping out and the cams from the spare motor pressed in to action (the cam journals on Atlas #1 being pitted) but that aside both are shimmed up and once cam chains linked they’re ready to go.

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It’s not citric acid

I’d left the Atlas #1 story with some seized in primary case allen bolts. Pete the mechanic has kindly left me some citric acid powder that I can mix with hot water to try out. At the moment I’m holding that in reserve and waiting to see if ‘Noxudol 4’ can do the trick. So far 2 out of the 4 seized bolts have indeed shifted so I will give this a bit more time. The allen bolts however continue to be stuck in the cam cover of Atlas #2. I’m learning however that patience is a virtue when it comes to seized bolts so will leave it a while longer before the citrus brew is applied.

Alongside the engine work I’ve started to reclaim the cycle parts of Atlas #1

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Before

I’m not trying to get a concours finish. I just want enough paint to ward off too much rust for the time being. I had a tin of Aprilia gold frame paint in the shed and some ‘signal red’ enamel laying about so got to it. The results look okay from 10 metres…

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After

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It’s difficult to show the different red’s but if you compare the downtube to the cross-member that the side stand hangs from you can see it’s not a perfect match. Still most of the red paint won’t be seen, is better than rust and let’s face it once I’ve covered it all in road dirt it’ll be academic. I don’t intend to renovate any panels or the tank so it’ll be ‘shabby chic’ at best.

Nick 🙂

W/E 19th April 2020

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Atlas #1 engine is almost back together!

I’ve installed the cams and cam bearings from Atlas #3. The set in Atlas #1 are damaged through wear and my incompetent assembly back in the day 😦 I’ve got a new set of cam bearings on their way from OCT but I’ll decide how to deploy them once I’ve had a look through all 4 engines.

I had to grind one inlet shim (inboard alternator side) and now have a row of 8’s and 10’s 🙂 The cams seem to be moving okay.

The squeeky bum moment was torquing down the cylinder head. I’d been advised to use 28 Nm so pulled it down firstly to 15 then 20, then 24 and finally to 28. The small M6 was tightened to 8 pounds. The nuts on the outer side of the cams are silver whereas the inner nuts black. The silver nuts torqued down okay but the black ones seemed ‘softer’ somehow. Anyway they’re all done now 🙂

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Setting the valve timing proved to be a bit easier than I’d anticipated because back in the mists of time I’d scratched the primary cover to show TDC. The Mk 3 engines don’t have a timing mark like the earlier engines – you have to use the ignition backplate for reference. Got to TDC and with a bit of help from Mrs A holding the inlet cam in place the chain was joined and job done!

The cam-chain tensioner was wound into the engine using the cam-chain and then the tensioner blade was pushed to meet the retaining bolt.

The dreaded seized steel allen bolts in alloy cases has reared its head once again with four bolts currently stuck fast in the primary case. I don’t currently need access so this doesn’t have to slow things up but I’ve started to apply WD40 in the hope I can free them up.

So next stop is a carb’ clean, paint the engine cases and then the engine can go back in the frame.

Nick 🙂