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 Building Budget Brits - wBW Book Review

Building Budget Brits by Mike Brown

Building Budget Brits
A Practical Guide for Refurbishing BSA and Triumph Unit Twins
by Mike Brown
ISBN: 978-1-884313-62-2
Whitehorse Press 2009
175 pages, B&W photos and illustrations.
List Price: $24.95

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webBikeWorld.com Book Review by Rick K.


There are two things I have to do before I lower the side-stand for the last time. 

First, I have to own a Moto Guzzi.  Second, I have to re-visit my youth while I still can with a vintage BSA or Triumph.  Sounds nutty, I know, but that's me. 

I'm not sure where the Guzzi jones came from?  Probably my natural affinity for the somewhat obscure.  Anyone can buy a Honda; not everyone owns a Moto Guzzi.

So maybe the Moto Guzzi or BSA names aren't unfamiliar to webBikeWorlders, but let's face it -- ride an 850T to the Freezy Cone on Saturday night in July, and the kids (and most of the adults) won't have a clue.  To them, a motorcycle is a Harley.  You mean there are other brands?

When I first went to college (it took me 19 years of on and off study before I finally graduated), a guy living next door owned a Bonneville.  I think it was a 650, partly chopped.  I wasn't into choppers -- never was -- but every time he pulled the thing out of the shed and start it up I'd get that feeling in the pit of my gut.

But, Triumphs were expensive back then, so I bought, of all things, a 1968 Bultaco Metralla for $250.00.  It was propped against a wall in a garage, covered in two-stroke oil.  The owner said he raced it in a 250 cc class with other bikes and he mentioned a word that I heard for the very first time: "Ducati".

I pushed it home, cleaned it and gassed it, read the owner's manual and practiced in the parking lot next door.  I can't remember -- I think it had either a 1st-down shifter or the shifter was on the right or something strange.

Anyway, it was cool, but a two-stroke was a poor substitute for the booming sound of that Bonnie.  It's haunted me ever since, so one day that itch will be scratched.

And I don't mean a modern Triumph either.  Nothing wrong with 'em -- I owned two in the last 5 years, but there's something about those old Bonnies (and BSAs and Nortons) that does it for/to me.

So when I'm ready to resurrect one, Building Budget Brits will be my primary resource.

Mike Brown is well-known to Britbike restorers and armchair dreamers like me for his tips and tricks columns in Old Bike Journal and Walneck's Cycle Trader.  He's been wrenching for over 20 years and I believe this is his first book.

When Building Budget Brits arrived, I figured it was another one of those dry reprints, written by some old and cranky character with a wall full of Whitworth spanners.  Surprise!  It's as modern as a Hinckley built Thunderbird.

This book has a couplathree things that any of the other Britbike restoration books don't.  It's new -- fresh off the press in 2009 -- so it uses modern language and up-to-date references and sources for parts and tools.  It's also written in an easy-to-understand and down-home style; and, best of all, it's about putting together a BSA or Triumph on a budget.

That's right -- none of the cost-no-object, micro-finish, museum-quality standards here.  This is down to earth advice for finding and restoring a junker without breaking the bank, yet making it as safe and reliable as possible using modern parts and technologies.  Anybody that has no qualms about buying a rolling chassis and dropping in a $75.00 engine is a man after my own heart!

Brown starts by helping you choose your basket case, and that's what really piqued my interest.  He explains the pros and cons of choosing a BSA or a Triumph for restoration and I learned more in a few paragraphs about these two bikes than I could imagine.

The book is full of practical advice and I'd even suggest that anyone interested in learning about how motorcycles work could benefit by reading the tips and tricks described here.  The format is simple and easy to read, with two columns per page and plenty of photos, just like a shop manual -- but much more fun to read.

Brown guides us through everything from wheel building to Amal carb revival techniques to seat covering tricks, and I bet youngsters and rookies will be amazed at how those old bikes can be ripped apart right down to the last washer and bolt and put back together again better than new.  Definitely better than new, with all of our modern technologies.

Building Budget Brits is no doubt the best British bike restoration manual I've found, and it's resurrected my long-smoldering desire to roll up my sleeves and get going.  If you're at all interested in restoring a vintage BSA or Triumph, or just want to see what it takes, this is the book to have.

Review Date:  March 2009. 

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