Monday, July 30, 2012

One day at a time: Getting the BSA legal

  Well race fans, I realize it's been a while since my last posting. Things have gotten so incredibly busy in the last few weeks that I haven't really had time for much of anything else. Just for an idea of my schedule, I've spent the last five consecutive days in the shop for anywhere from 12-14 hours of straight work. As I write this, we have 31 days left until the team and I are rolling for Newburgh, New York.

  The past few weeks, Texas has seen the start of its legendary summer heat. Up to now we had been lucky to have very mild temperatures and almost daily rain. Now with the 100+ degree temperatures, all of the long consecutive days of work in the shop have taken their toll. I'm pretty exhausted. That being said, I know you all are interested to know about all of the progress and prep that has gone on since my last update. I'll try to remember everything I can, but I'll split things up into different posts to keep it interesting.

  In my last post I talked about everything happening inside of the trailer...more about that in the next post. I haven't really spoken much about the bike lately, and plenty has happened. First of all, I suppose I should talk about the seven weeks of hell (otherwise known as federal and state government red tape) that it took to get the BSA registered and road legal here in the State of Texas. In order to compete in the Cannonball Run, not only did I have to be legal (hence getting the motorcycle endorsement on my license a few months back), but the bike had to be legally registered in the rider's home state or country. Nice little loophole for our foreign guests, but a task to be tackled for me.

   One would think that the process wouldn't be that hard- apply for an American title, maybe have an inspection, get insurance, and bada-bing, bada-bang, bada-boom: freedom. Maybe in a perfect world....without government meddling. Grumble...grumble.... Anyway, here's how things are supposed to work with an "out of the country" motor vehicle.

 Step 1: Receive vehicle, with:
       -- appropriate foreign title (V5, as it came from England) and importation documentation (US Document HR7.

Step 2: Texas Auto-Theft Task Force VIN Verification
       -- in order to verify that your machine isn't stolen, you must deliver it for inspection and receive documentation

Step 3: Insurance
       -- self explanatory

Step 4: Hand over all documentation and purchase "Antique" license plate

  Easy, right? Well, after spending 7 aggravating weeks attempting to complete these four steps, I'm here to say "not so much." Step 1 was easy, and already covered in April. Step 2 was an absolute nightmate. The Department of Motor Vehicles only has a handful of these "task force" centers throughout the state. The one assigned to me seemed to be fixed in some sort of black hole where no communication entered or exited. For five weeks, I called almost daily to attempt to get someone on the phone. Busy signals, voicemail messages--went through it all. To make things even better, every other agency I contacted only referred me right back to square one. In all, it was easier (and more entertaining) to watch paint dry....or stick a water hose in the dirt and watch it dig a hole. Finally, about three weeks ago, I was able to make an appointment with another center who agreed to help, and the elusive 68A form was attained.

  With that step out of the way, it was time to get insurance, and a plate for Elizabeth...Thankfully everything went smoothly, and within no time I was able to cross a major block off my list.

Sweet, sweet victory!

Anyway, it's close to midnight after another 12 hour day in the shop...time to catch some zzZzzZzs. Hopefully tomorrow morning I'll be able to put up another couple posts. Next up: "Rockin' Down the Highway."


Buck Carson
Confirmed Cannonballer #3
Carson Classic Motors Race Team

Additional Sponsor and Publicty Recognition

  Recently, our team welcomed the sponsorship support of our fellow members in the Confederate Chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America. Now I am pleased to announce that another major club that we belong to has offered to support the team. This morning, I had a great conversation over the phone with Bud Kubena, President of the Ohio Valley BSA Owner's Club. My dad and I met Bud and his lovely wife Barb at the 2011 Barber Vintage Festival, where we both joined the club. For those who don't know, the OVBSAOC is one of, if not the largest, vintage BSA clubs in the world. Once again, as I always say, great people and motorcycles go hand-in-hand, and this is another wonderful example. This morning, on behalf of the club, Bud offered us a $500 sponsorship and asked more about the route so that interested members could check it out. He also said that an article about our participation would be gracing the cover of our club newsletter. Greatly appreciated, and I look forward to seeing fellow members along the way.

  Another bit of good news: one of the leaders in lubrication for vintage British motorcycles, Morris Lubricants, has offered give us a deep discount on the oil supply for all three teams operating from our rig. My friend and fellow competitor Buzz Kanter, editor-in-chief of American Iron Magazine, has been fortunate enough to be sponsored by Amsoil, which is known for its high quality synthetic lubricants. Synthetics should work just fine in his vintage Harley JDH, but for our teams running motors from the old empire, Morris Golden Film motor oil is the right choice. Fellow Ohio Valley BSA member Robert Bauer, Owner of Classic Oil Supply in Richmond, Virgina graciously forwarded our information to the home office in the UK, where the company agreed to sponsor us with a great discount. Wonderful news, as the lads from the Roaring Rudges have come up with a quantity requirement of about 20 gallons of SAE 40 oil for all three teams--and Morris Golden Film oil is everything but cheap.

  I'd also like to take the opportunity to thank the local community for the continued support. Recently, Willie Openshaw, publisher of the local website: "Polk County Today" wrote a nice article about our team. Since publishing it's gotten some great attention, and I've had quite a few comments about it. So, Willie, if you're reading this--Thanks again for your assistance in publicizing the Cannonball. If you'd like to read the article, check out

Buck Carson
Confirmed Cannonballer #3
Carson Classic Motors Racing Team

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Welcoming our Memphis, Tennessee family

  Here's a special thank you to the Confederate Chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, who just last week graciously sponsored the Carson Classic Motors Race Team in our upcoming endeavour. Their $560 sponsorship is very much appreciated. We became members of the Chapter in October, 2011, when our team raced our 1911 Triumph 3.5hp Roadster in the annual Barber Vintage Festival's "Race of the Century" that is sponsored by the Confederate Chapter. Based in Memphis, Tennessee, our chapter is full of some of the most interesting people you could ever meet---all of whom have hearts of gold. The club also gave us a shout out in the recent Spring/Summer newsletter. To my Chapter of fellow proud Southerners, I cannot express my gratitude for all of the encouragement and support. Hope to see some of you guys on the tour!

Screen cap from the recent Chapter Newsletter- Thanks guys!

And here's the wonderful note that the group sent along
with their sponsorship check

Race Trailer Updates

Plenty of progress has been made since
 purchasing, just a few short months ago

  Well folks, I apologize for keeping everyone in the dark. Things are kicking into high gear now that we are a little more than 40 days away. Yes, that's right- 40 days. "But the Cannonball isn't until September 7th," you may be saying. With the hoss of a rig that we're taking, the team and I are leaving for Newburgh, New York on 30 August in order to make it by 4 September. Needless to say, all of the loose ends need to be tied up! In my last post, "The Bad," I wasn't exactly in the best of moods. The constant dead ends for spare parts had gotten quite disheartening, and I just needed a day or two to get myself into a better mood. I have faith that everything will work out.

A bit messy, but you get the idea- things are coming together
  Shifting away from the search for spares, there is still plenty to do in preparation for the historic run, namely the team race trailer. In the past two weeks, we have really gotten a lot done. Last Monday, my dad and I went on a bit of a shopping spree for some needed bits. In a short few hours, we ordered a 15,000 BTU rooftop air conditioning unit, stabilizer bars for the front of the trailer, and a 20 foot exterior awning. We also purchased a 14 inch band saw, 50 foot air hose reel, and just about all of the material needed to wire the interior for 110 volt electrical.

  Since then, I have been hard at work getting the interior wired up for fluorescent lighting and power receptacles. Most everything has done by yours truly, and is almost finished up. (Ed. Note: I've got some photos of the progress but haven't put them on the computer yet, so will go back and edit this post later) My goal is to have everything wired by the beginning of next week (23 July), as the air con, awning, and stabilizer bars are being installed on the 25th. No pressure...

New lathe, with plenty of goodies to go along

  More good news: after spending 15 hours on the computer editing last week, I came up with some snappy graphics for the sides and rear of the trailer. It's not very often that I give myself a pat on the back, but I'm proud of this one. We released the graphics design to our local sign shop on Tuesday of this week, so once they're printed, we can get 'em on and look the part. What do you think?

Here's what 15 hours of editing will do on the computer.
Note the acknowledgement of our international guests and sponsors

I'm pretty proud of the rear loading door. Love the spade logo.

  Gratefully, the list of things to do and source is getting smaller and smaller. We have most of the major equipment now. After searching high and low for an appropriate lathe, we found "the one" and made a deal this week. Here's a list of all of the major equipment on board: (items with an asterisk indicate they are new)

  • 200 psi air compressor**
  • Drill press**
  • 14 inch band saw**
  • 6 inch dual wheel grinder**
  • (2) Tabletop-mounted vice**
  • Oxyacetylene Welding kit**
  • Wire feed welder
  • 9" Tabletop-mounted lathe**
  • 50 foot retractable air hose reel**
  • Hydraulic bench press**
  • Scroll saw
  • Metal chop saw
  • Hydraulic cycle lift

Here's a similar kegerator unit to what we're planning
to install in the race trailer
  In terms of "comforts", there are only a few items left to source. A 12 cup, under-the-counter coffee maker is already mounted. We're down to a fairly small list of comforts. In addition to having a coffee maker mounted on the counter, a kegerator and wine chiller is also planned. A kegerator is essentially a miniature refrigerator (like you would see in a college dormitory, which is probably where the idea was developed....) that has been converted to a storage and tap system for keg beer. While many different kegerators are on the market, we are going with a simple one-tap setup which will come up through the counter. In order to keep a constant power supply to the unit, some sort of inverter system is likely to be used. The wine chiller is likely to be a 6-9 bottle unit, to be mounted on the counter top. The last item is a set of fold-down bunk beds to be attached to the interior wall over the wheel well.

Folding bunks, made by Moduline. These hold up to 400 pounds,
and only stick out 5 inchess from the wall when folded

  Overall, things are wrapping up nicely on the trailer, and I think our international guests will get a kick out of it! Ah well, more on the trailer progress later.


Buck Carson
Confirmed Cannonballer #3
Carson Classic Motors Race Team

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Bad..

  To be quite honest, I find myself pretty nervous, and have become rather stressed about the whole prep. The clock is steadily ticking, and my list of things to do seems to be getting larger and larger every day. I've been reading through several of my fellow rider's blogs, and everyone seems to be making quite a bit of progress. There are still several riders who are without running machines, so in that aspect I am quite fortunate. However in trying to track down spare parts, I've found that it's easier to beat my head against the wall. While speaking with Lonnie Isam on the phone the other day, one comment that I made sticks out: "Though you can get into 1920's English bikes for a relatively cheap price, the parts are the killer." My fellow riders on Harley Davidsons, Indians, and even Hendersons have the luxury of multiple parts sources here in the continental United States. I've been searching for parts all over the world; Australia, England, Germany, France, New Zealand....all of the rocks I turn over lead to nothing. The "hot leads" on spares wind up being rather cold. All in all, disheartening.

   My pal Jim Crain in New Mexico has been a huge help to me. To remind my readers, Jim is also riding his 1927 BSA S27 in the Cannonball, though his is a Deluxe model. Shortly after meeting him in Jefferson, Jim offered me the use of a spare motor. Recently, I spoke to Jim over the phone about putting together a spares list and comparing notes on parts sources. He told me that in addition to bringing his S27 Deluxe, he would be bringing his '26 BSA sidecar outfit, and we could use just about anything on it for spares. I cannot express how kind this gesture is, nor how much I appreciate his hospitality and generosity. This week, I was also able to purchase a spare +.020 piston and rings from Jim that arrived by UPS last night. This set is brand new from JP Pistons in South Australia...not cheap, but well-made.

A special thanks to my friend Jim Crain for selling me this
 brand new piston assembly from JP Pistons

  My only fear is not being able to find some more of the essentials for the journey. I don't want to rely solely on Jim's kindness---especially if we wind up having similar problems (obviously, knock on wood, those problems are few and far in between). With the clock rapidly winding down, I'm willing any of these "warm leads" to turn hot and prove fruitful. In all reality, I guess I'm just a bit apprehensive, disheartened, and nervous about the inability to find spare parts. Probably shouldn't be complaining, but it's just aggravating.

  Recently, I've been in contact with a huge veteran BSA enthusiast and restorer who lives in Hawaii, Jon-Paul Bingham. JP has been a great help in information and advice; he's also trying to help me source a set of floorboards for the BSA (4,000 miles on footpegs doesn't sound very comfortable...) Here's a few bits from a recent email about his thoughts on the Cannonball:

"On the BSA's along as you keep everything well oiled and after a long run the engine area going to look like crap - she'll be right.If the gearbox has been restored correctly and the clutch is in good order, you should not have a worry; those gearbox are internally indestructible. The important thing here is correct bearings and shims (if needed). I am a strong believer in if the mag. and carbie have been correctly restored (i.e spend wisely and get the job done correctly first time) your bike will just keep on going. So although the AMAL276 at bit non-compliant, it will serve you well, but the older and correct AMALs if done correctly will look the part - my L24 had a factory original (as most of the bike was) and never had a problem in the 1000's of kms I rode her.
Saying that, you still need to examine every inch of the bike for metal fatigue etc and correctly repair. You saw Dieters' experience, that is very typically where it broke, but usually caught at the fracture stage it would most likely been brewing for months/years. Does you L27 have the heavier forks? Apart from those things - "lock-tight" everything, just due to the constant vibrations, things will get loose, I'd suggest doing a few things...Using a fine tip art brush and good white paint do alignment checks on the following (once you've tightened and bedded in etc):
-fork link nuts (on the side of the forks)
-wheel nuts"

---Continuing on----

"Now looking at the Cannonball and seeing all the problems others had, this is what you will not see in a BSA

1.Broken con rod
2. Issues with crank pin (if the rebuild has been done correctly)
3. Overheating - if you ensure measure to obtain optimal combustion
4. Wheel bearing issues -again if they been done correctly"
I certainly hope that neither Jim or I see any of those problems and that things go smoothly. My readers must understand that I completely trust the work that was done by my dear friends at Vintage and Veteran, and do not doubt the quality one bit. My only concerns lie in "the unknown factor." That moment while cruising down the highway that something decides to jog loose in my motor--something that I don't have a spare of. Maybe I'm just being too pessimistic about things- it could be worse. Alright, that's enough late night blogging for me. Things will get better, I know it.
On the bright side, I think I've decided to call my BSA "Elizabeth," or "Lizzie" for short. What do you think?
Cheers from a disgruntled Cannonballer,
Buck Carson
Confirmed Cannonballer #3
Carson Classic Motors Race Team

The Good.......(to be followed by "The Bad")

   Well race fans, it's been a few crazy weeks. Ever since returning from my roadtrip to Michigan, Motorcycle Cannonball prep has taken over full force. As of today, July 6th, a mere 62 days remain until I'm lining up on the start line in Newburgh. Wow...just writing that puts chills of excitement down my back. Honestly, it still feels hard to believe that I'm really getting to do this. Over the past few weeks, countless numbers of people have told me how envious they are of me. After all, not everyone gets the chance to take a coast-to-coast motorcycle trip, especially not on an 85 year old motorcycle. Perhaps because not everyone is a bit insane, like I am....

Thanks to the staff of the SHSU Communications
 Department for this great photo

  Anyway, plenty of things have happened recently. My last post talked about the addition of Steve Norton to the team, as well as our new sponsors. I've been making some pretty good headway lately on 'Ball stuff... My lovely contact in the Sam Houston State University Communications Department sent me over a preview of the Motorcycle Cannonball story that will be posted to the main website in the coming weeks--great stuff. She also then helped me out immensely by sending the story to a great deal of contacts in Houston-area television, radio, and print media, as well as a few places in College Station. Since the story hasn't been "officially" released by the university yet I can't share it with everyone, but it really turned out great!

What a spread!
  In addition to Houston-area media, my dad and I also recently had an interview with our local newspaper. They published a really great article on our team and the CB, and we've gotten a lot of attention from it. Sort of funny, the vintage-looking sepia picture of me in "race mode" was printed in two consecutive issues of the paper. The second printing described a new local helmet law, as compared to the protective clothing that a rider from the 1920s would sport. Publicity is being covered pretty well overall, though more would be nice. I must always stay true to my original goal of getting more people interested in the vintage motorcycle world. So far, it seems to be working, as a lot of interest has been generated by the press, as well as word of mouth. A good example was on July 4th, or the American Independence Day.

   Just a few short days after the article appeared, the BSA and I made an appearance at a local festival in Livingston, where we set up a booth for the Motorcycle Cannonball. I also brought the team trailer along (for the record.....this rig is massively sized, and one must really pay attention when driving it.) and a couple of vintage Harley Davidsons from the collection. I was surprised at the great deal of people who had read the article and came up to show their support. Our team also received about $75 in donations over the course of 3 short hours, which meant a lot! A big thank you to our local community for all the support.

Not the best shot, but here was the set could take a
walk-through of the trailer, and check out a few
pieces of American Iron on the way out

  While at the festival, I also got the chance to see some of my dear friends from the local American Legion Post 402, namely the Legion Riders. Post 402 is instrumental in supporting the local community, and the Legion Riders can usually be found lending a helping hand all over town. It's hard to beat the golden hearts that these men and women have, and they never cease to surprise me. Post Commander Reb pulled me to the side and told me that the article from the paper had already been framed and put on the Post wall, which means a lot. He also mentioned the possibility of a sponsorship for the team. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, and can't wait to see all of them again.

It appears that Elvis wanted to trade in his Blue
 Suede Shoes for our 1942 Harley Davidson WLA
(Photo Credit to Carole Merka)

Buck Carson
Confirmed Cannonballer #3
Carson Classic Motors Race Team

New Sponsors and New Crew Member

  If it wasn't for the help of many people, this race wouldn't be possible for my team and I. Racing an 85 year old machine across a nation requires dedication, time, hard work, and spares.....all of which require money. I'm so humbled by the financial support that has been given by many. Any and all donations to the team are greatly appreciated. We have also been graciously sponsored by several companies and individuals.

  Two of our most recent sponsors hail from Nashville, Tennessee. Mr. Willis Johnson, Founder of Copart, Inc. (Copart has already offered us a $5,000 sponsorship), very graciously sponsored our team recently for the amount of $10,000. Mr. Johnson's contribution to the Carson Classic Motors Cannonball Team is very much appreciated, and is very helpful to our efforts! Our second sponsorship came from the Wolfe and Travis Electric Company, for $500. Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Wolfe and Travis is a leader in the commercial electrical industry. On behalf of the team, I extend my gratitude for your contribution and hope to see you somewhere along the journey. The link to the Wolfe and Travis Electric website is located at the top left corner of my blog, along with links to all of my sponsors who wish to be named.

  I am also pleased to announce the addition of another valued member to the Carson Classic Motors Race Team. Mr. Steve Norton, a very close family friend who hails from Horndon on the Hill, Essex, England will be joining our team for the duration of the coast-to-coast race. Steve is actually more like extended family from across the pond, and I am very glad that he will be accompanying the lads and I across America in this historic race.

  Don't forget that you, too, can donate to this adventure of a lifetime. There are several ways to contribute: use the PayPal feature on this blog, which is located below the "Sponsor Links", or check out the FundRazr application on the Carson Classic Motors Facebook Page. Both of these features are linked directly to our Cannonball Fund account. As a reminder, we are a "PayPal Verified" member, meaning that all transactions are completely secure. You can also contribute to the event directly by emailing me at, where I can give you an address for donations to be sent to.

Buck Carson
Confirmed Cannonballer # 3
Carson Classic Motors Raace Team