By Barry Krysko
I guess it was meant to be. The last thing I really needed was another restoration project, but this one was calling out for me. What I am talking about here, is a 1967 Aermacchi Sprint 250 that was disassembled, but complete, and stored in the attic of Paul Brodie's shop. She is now fully restored and running, and this is the story of how it came to be.
I will start off with Paul Brodie, because without him I would never even have considered starting this project. Paul used to own a company that made mountain bike frames, but now focuses most of his talents on Aermacchi motorcycles. He owns a company, Aermacchi Northwest Inc., which is devoted to the brand. He built a 350 race bike that he races in the vintage class. He owns several Aermacchi streetbikes and a custom built off-road bike. You could write a whole story just on Paul's bikes! Not only is he an extremely gifted machinist, fabricator, welder, and mechanic, but his enthusiasm for Aermacchi is infectious. He also has a very well equipped shop!
I, on the other hand, have none of Paul's talents but am a self-professed Italian Motorcycle nut. I have restored several Italian Motorcycles including a Moto Guzzi LeMans I, Ducati Darmah SS, Moto Morini 3 ½, and a Ducati 750 Sport. I can put them together but I require the talents of someone like Paul for anything that requires machining or fabricating.
When I stumbled across the Sprint I was "between projects". Having done a few restorations, I knew that this was not a bad position to be in! But every once in awhile I get the bug. I know that restorations include countless hours hunting for parts, days of degreasing, cleaning and polishing, and late evenings sorting out electrical problems. Not to mention the constant hemorrhaging of the bank account. Still I jumped in with unbridled enthusiasm! Paul had a good supply of spare parts and was there to offer technical and moral support. Besides, I had never owned an Aermacchi before!
I bought the bike from my good friend, and fellow Italian Motorcycle nut, Yves Gauthier. He came across it at a local metal polishing shop. The previous owner had disassembled the bike and carted the whole thing down to have various bits polished. But for some reason he never came to pay the bill and collect the bike. Maybe the polishing bill was more than he thought the bike was worth! Anyway, Yves offered to buy the bike off the shop for what they had invested in polishing. The entire collection of parts was brought over to Paul's with the intent of "some day" restoring the bike.
Around the same time, Paul was building his race bike and had found a source in England that could provide race replica body parts. Paul ordered a set for himself and a set for the Sprint. This included front fender, tank, and tail section. All in racing red gel coat. To hell with originality, the Sprint was going to look like a race bike! All they had to do was get to it. Before you knew it, two years had passed and the Sprint had not been touched.
One day I was rummaging around in Paul's attic and inquired as to the collection of boxes in the corner. "Oh that," explained Paul, "is a 250 short stroke Sprint that belongs to Yves." Paul commented that someone should buy the bike from Yves because it was doubtful he would ever get around to restoring it. Since I am "between projects" it catches my attention. I rummage through the boxes and see all the nicely polished parts. I start sorting out parts and discover that it is reasonably complete. When I do find a damaged part, Paul is quick to jump in with "I can fix that." I start to get excited! Paul and I look at pictures and discuss possibilities. Paul says we can make the bike look like anything I want. I don't like the stock handlebars. "No problem," says Paul, "I will make you clip-ons." Shifter and foot pegs look bulky. "No problem," Paul remarks gleefully, "I will make you rear-sets." A race replica Aermacchi starts to take shape in my mind.
By now I am really excited and at the point of no return. On December 4, 1999, I make a deal to buy the bike from Yves. At first he is reluctant, but realizes that he probably will never get around to doing the restoration himself. Besides, he already owns a beautiful, original Aermacchi 250 factory racer!
As fate would have it, at the same time I am starting the Sprint project, I make a career change and decide to take some time off. No use in finding a job when I have a full time restoration project on my hands!
Paul puts me in touch with Moto Italia, a California based business that specializes in Aermacchi. If I needed a part that Paul didn't have, they usually had it. I soon got to be on a first name basis with Leslie from Moto Italia.
The first thing I decide to change are the stock chrome wheels. So, the search is on for a pair of 18 inch Borani's. These puppies are scarce, but after much searching on the Internet, I find a pair at Road & Race in Australia. They will only sell me the complete wheels but I go for it and later sell the hubs and spokes on Ebay. The Borani's are in great shape, and they immediately go in for polishing. I get original spokes and nipples from Paul and lace them up to the stock hubs which were already polished. The spokes are cad plated and the brass nipples are polished. I get the brake shoes relined with special racing material. Paul drills the hubs and axles for that special look. He also installs new bearings, mounts a pair of tires and the wheels are done.
Paul has a look at the engine for the first time and I am thinking this is something I should have done before I bought the bike! I held my breath while Paul poked and prodded. He thinks the engine is sound so I send the heads off to get the valves and seats reground and the barrel honed. I then spend an entire afternoon degreasing and cleaning the engine. Things that take talent or skill are Paul's domain, everything else I do.
I then run into my first major hurdle. I can't find 250 short stroke piston rings. I call everywhere and check the net but with no success. But by chance I talk to Dave Richardson, a friend of mine who owns a Moto Guzzi dealership in Seattle, and he knows of someone who can make me a set of rings. I give Dave the piston and two weeks later he sends it back to me, complete with rings. I order a new set of gaskets and the motor is complete.
Meanwhile, Paul goes to work on the frame. He does major modifications to fit the new tank, tail section, fenders, and rearsets. While he is at it he strengthens areas he knows are prone to cracking. The amount of work that goes into the frame is incredible! Paul has to make major modifications to make everything fit. Doing it is one thing, figuring out how is another. It takes skill and imagination. Not only can Paul do this kind of work, but the craftsmanship is incredible!
To fit the fender Paul machines off the original mounting lugs from the fork sliders and fabricates a new mount. I then polish the sliders. I decide that I want to paint the frame the same colour as the body work. Paul does the painting for me.
I don't like the stock instruments or the way they mount to the bike. I order a new tiny speedo that mounts into a new headlight bucket that Paul fabricates. He also makes a beautiful bracket to mount a large Smiths tach. I understand that Aermacchi race bikes came with a Smiths tach. Paul paints the headlight bucket and taillight housing gloss black.
We decided to keep the beautifully polished original triple clamp and use a set of clubman style handlebars off of a British bike. I had Paul weld on the stock lever mounts which were rechromed. Every little piece on the bike has either been rechromed, cad plated, or polished. All fasteners were replaced with stainless.
Being reasonably good at electrics, I rewired the bike myself using mainly stock 6 volt components. I ordered a set of tank decals and Paul applies them before shooting the body work with clear coat. I rebuild the stock carburetor and assemble the rest of the bike. In just a little over 2 months the bike is ready to be fired up!
Of course it won't start, but I soon discover that we have the timing out by 180 degrees. Once that is fixed it fires right up! I do a few fast runs up and down the road in front of Paul's place and fine-tune the timing. It looks stunning and runs well, but is way too quiet with the stock muffler.
Paul had a muffler from a British bike that bolted right on, looked good, and sounded much better. It is currently in for rechroming. The bike never came with a center stand so Paul built me one. It is on the bike but needs to be painted.
Just when I thought I was finished with this particular project Paul finds something that I just have to have. It's a front brake backing plate with twin leading shoes that will fit onto my existing hub! Of course I have to get the shoes relined, the backing plate polished, and the miscellaneous parts cad plated. This is not likely to be the end of the project yet because Paul has a spare 350 head that he thinks will bolt right onto my 250 motor. Then he says I should find a larger carb to extract some real power. I think for now I will just go for a ride, after all I have never owned an Aermacchi before!