February 2010

I had met the owner of this bike some years earlier, but this was my first opportunity to get to know it.

It was the occasion of the 2010 International BSA Rally in Christchurch in 2010. There was a massive lineup of BSA's in Cust. The white one stood out.


I was riding the red one on the far side of it because the owner had recently been diagnosed with a brain tumour and could not ride it himself, so I was his pilot and he was my pillion. So we both got to be there.

Due to the timing of things, I had to return home earlier, so I took the white one back. It was a number of miles down the road that I discovered it had a 5-speed gearbox..!


Turned out it had also been treated to some porting work on the head and carbs, and may have had some steel rods fitted. A serious contender indeed. Shame it still suffered from the lack of ground clearance that these early models suffered.

Because of the International BSA Rally there were a number of Rocket 3's staying. We simply had to arrange a few lineups of the colour schemes.


There was a publicity shot from the early production years that we were all familiar with. It seemed that with Sue's assistance, we might be able to re-create it.

The original looked like this.


Our version was a tad more realistic.

The leathers were the reason that Sue got to be known as "Red".


After the 2018 National BSA rally the Rocket came back for a rebuild of the front forks. Besides seals and gaiters a new pair of sidecar strength springs were fitted and besides firming things up a tad they have also improved cornering by dint of slightly increasing ground clearance.

The bike then stayed in my care enjoying occasional use when the owner visited, during which time it became apparent that oil was beginning to escape from around the cylinder head area. I diagnosed the problem as failure of the original type rocker box base gaskets, and obtained copper ones to fit instead. Removing the rocker boxes revealed that we were indeed on the money.


On removing the rocker boxes I also discovered that there were a couple of broken inner valve springs, seemingly due to some lightened valve retaining collars which had partially failed allowing the inner and outer springs to interact badly. Subsequently the cylinder head was also removed.


While the pistons got decarbed and the rest of the bits got cleaned up, the head went off to the engine reconditioner to have valves and seats refaced and a light surface grind to ensure everything was going to come together nicely. I was tossing up between the original type pushrod tube seals and the later x-ring type. It turned out that there was not a lot of compression available for the seals so I opted for the x-rings as they seal with a bit less pressure.


The head got turned around in double-quick time and I was able to appreciate that the previous builder had gone to some lengths to open up the ports both in and out. Quite a lot of metal has gone missing in this production..


The head then got assembled with new valve springs and a set of stock upper and lower spring retainers, and was duly dropped onto a freshly annealed copper head gasket with a coating of copper spray both sides.

At the same time some work was undertaken in the clutch adjustment area. The cable boot was well past its best-by date, plus the poorly fitting adjuster had allowed yet another oil leak to develop, this one dumping a fair amount of oil down the chaincase and over the footpeg and engine mounting plate - the latter which needed to be removed to get enough clearance to remove the clutch adjuster cover. What a bitch the engine plate is to deal with. Makes the T160 seem very simplistic in the same area.


Preparing the exhaust rocker box exposed some more trickery - smoothed rocker arms with spacers in place of the usual spring washers. This explained why they dropped under their own weight, but this did present a few new annoyances during assembly.


The rocker boxes then got exactly the same gasket treatment, with an even spray coating on annealed copper, and they were all immediately bolted down to settle in overnight.

Head steadies and oil cooler adornments would remain off until the first ride and head retension were complete.


Carbs and airfilter were refitted, then the fuel tank dropped on prior to first startup. Clutch ops were also completed and clutch statically adjusted to come free at roughly half lever travel.

Exhausts and mufflers were being cleaned and polished thoroughly before refitting began. Everything goes back on cleaner than it comes off..


With exhausts on the engine was coaxed into life. It took quite a few kicks, possibly due to old fuel, but once running seemed happy to idle and revved freely. For the first time I could remember in the knowing of this bike it sounded as though it had hot cams fitted, which would not be at all unusual considering the obvious performance work done.

First ride of about 5 miles was completed with no drama and no oil leaks anywhere. Engine felt to have more instant response than previously, and it is likely it now has more compression than before. After cooling the cylinder head tension and valve clearances were adjusted. Virtually no movement anywhere which is another bonus of using solid gaskets above and below the head.

The Rocket is now ready to be returned to its owner who has promised to thrash it which it would seem it was built to be.

Certainly looks the part in IOM Marshall's livery...


I love triples.!