East Coast Sleeper

Story by Greg Williams// Photos by Ed Boulter
November 1 2015

After receiving more than just a restoration, this BSA is a wolf in sheep’s clothing

Things aren’t quite what they seem here. This gleaming, finely restored 1970 BSA A65 might look like a stock motorcycle, but there’s something lurking below the surface. Imagine holding a lit match to a sparkler, only to discover it’s a stick of dynamite. In other words, the BSA is a sleeper.
Garrie Cook of Cook’s Classic Rebuilds in Halifax, Nova Scotia, has been tinkering with old motorcycles since the mid-1970s. Back then, Garrie says, he used British motorcycles as the maker intended.

“I couldn’t afford a car when I was younger, so I had to buy and ride motorcycles if I wanted to get around,” Garrie explains. Over the years, his expertise and tool collection grew. Now 61, he’s been operating Cook’s Classic Rebuilds for close to a decade. In 2008, in order to properly certify machines requiring a safety inspection, Garrie became a red seal motorcycle technician. Essentially, he knows his way around the bits and pieces of many different kinds of bikes. Garrie first met Mike Mackin, owner of the BSA A65 pictured here, when he dropped off a 1971 Norton Commando.

Passed The Audition

featured bike“[Mike] wanted the Norton to look as stock as possible, but also to run as strong as possible,” Garrie says. To make that happen, Garrie added to the engine a dynamically balanced crankshaft, SRM Engineering connecting rods, high lift cams, custom pistons with total seal rings and a belt primary drive.
It turned out the Norton was a test. Mike just wanted to see how good Garrie’s work really was. After picking up the Norton, riding to Digby, Nova Scotia, and picking up first place in a local motorcycle show, the results were in: Garrie had passed.

That’s when Mike delivered bike number two – the 1970 BSA A65. “This bike was important to him,” Garrie says. “He’d bought the BSA back in 1974 from a friend who couldn’t keep it running. Mike bought it, installed a new points plate and rode it all over Nova Scotia in all kinds of weather, including rain and snow. That BSA was his transportation. He even had it with him in Halifax when he went to college.”

The Restoration Begins

EngineAccording to Garrie, Mike kept riding the BSA well into the early 1980s. But, wanting to travel the world, Mike stored the motorcycle in a friend’s basement and vowed he’d one day return and restore it to top-notch condition. Thirty-one years later, he called Garrie in to collect its rolling chassis and engine – from the same basement. For some reason, the A65’s powerplant had been taken apart and stored in dusty boxes on shelves behind the bike.

“It was all there, but it was in rough shape. The chrome was rusty and even the frame was bent,” Garrie says of his initial assessment of the project. Enter his friends at British Cycle Supply in Wolfville. They had a new-old-stock 1970 BSA frame, and it replaced the original. The swingarm was in good shape, so it and the new frame, front fork triple trees and lower legs were all powdercoated black at Precision Powder Coating in Dartmouth. The hard chrome fork stanchions were renewed, and fresh BSA springs and bushings installed. Out back, Hagon shocks were bolted into position.

Front and rear wheels were rebuilt using freshly powdercoated stock hubs with stainless steel rims and spokes that came from Walridge Motors in Lucan, Ontario. Tires are Bridgestone Spitfire at both ends, and Garrie added stainless steel fenders.

Building a Sleeper

Custom 1970 BSA A65 With a rolling chassis on the bench, Garrie turned his attention to the heart of the machine – and engine work is what he enjoys performing the most.

“Originally, I thought Mike just wanted the BSA restored, but he wanted it built the same way I did the Norton – sleeper-style,” Garrie says. “I spent quite a bit of time making the engine something totally different.”

To do that, Garrie decided to bore and stroke the BSA A65 engine. While many hot rod builders will bore BSA cylinders oversized to gain power, not many go the route of extending the throw of the crank. To achieve the extra 1/4″ stroke, he sourced a BSA A10 crankshaft. The original plain bush of the A65 crankcase was machined out to accept an SRM Engineering bearing conversion. SRM Engineering also supplied a set of polished, high-strength A65 connecting rods. In the gearbox, most of the gears were replaced, and all new bearings and seals were used. Once the bottom end was together, complete with an SRM high-output oil pump, Garrie machined up a booster plate to place under the oversized SRM cylinders to give the required clearance for the larger crank. The cylinders accepted a set of BSA 441 pistons, with a compression ratio of almost 11:1. Those pistons are meant for a single-cylinder BSA, and if you multiply the 441 by two, you get 882 cc. Add the extended crank, and Mike’s original 654 cc engine must be close to 900 cc.

Up top, the A65 head was media blasted. Oversized intake and exhaust valves required the seats to be cut, and new guides were drifted into place. Garrie had to fabricate extended pushrods to make up for the taller top end.

A Bob Newby Racing clutch and belt drive handles the primary side, and the friction plates have been upgraded with Surflex units. Spark plugs fire courtesy of a Tri-Spark digital electronic ignition. Dual Amal Premier carburetors handle fuel and air mixing duties. A complete stainless steel exhaust system – from headers to mufflers and clips – came from Walridge Motors.

Lighting the Fuse

With the bike’s high-compression pistons, Garrie, at 150 lb., says he’s not quite heavy enough to kick the engine through quickly enough to get it running. For owner Mike, it’s not a problem, as Garrie says, “Mike has a bit more beef on him.”

Although Garrie says Mike “didn’t seem too impressed that I hadn’t been able to get it started,” he proudly adds, “but during one of his visits here, he primed it, turned on the key, and on his first kick it started.”

The gas tank was sent to Chrome Black Lake in Quebec. It was in terrific shape, with no dents, and only required a fresh coat of plating. Tony Smith of Paintsmith in Chezzetcook, Nova Scotia, applied a black stripe, and the finishing touch was a hand-painted gold pinstripe. A new seat cover went over the restored seat pan using the original foam.

For his first adventure with the BSA, Mike visited his hometown of Digby, where he set the machine up at the Wharf Rat Rally, talked with friends about old times and rode it around just as he used to. After adding about 50 miles, Mike returned the BSA to Garrie for some fine fettling.

“I’ve worked out how to get it started myself,” Garrie says, “but what I really need to do is gain some weight to make it easier for me to kick it over. The BSA is very tight in the corners, and the suspension is just beautiful. It rides straight and true, and it’s very fast. You can really feel the long stroke, too – it feels like dynamite.”


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