Need for Speed 1
Need for Speed 2
5 Country ALPS TOUR 2008
Barber Vintage Festival


We are located in sunny WHITE ROCK, BC, CANADA

Contact Jim Bush by email

Phone 604-535-5800







NEED FOR SPEED Part 1 - The Early Years 1973-1984 (at 60Hp & Under)

Originally published in Good Vibrations, Newsletter of the BMOC in Sept 2003

I do not know what drives me and people like me not ever to be satisfied with the stock performance of anything that has wheels and a motor. Driving on the highway the other day on my trusty 95 Thunderbird, pondering this very issue, I came to realize that since my early child hood in New Zealand, I have been messing around with ALL things to make them go faster. 

Ok so a skate board made from a discarded roller skate with metal wheels, nailed to a rough board is not a likely candidate for speed enhancement – but I say it depends on which part of the hill you start from. First start off at the middle of the hill, then the top of the hill, then further up by the neighbours driveway, then up by the stop sign another 100yds away – all to experience the speed and exhilaration of riding barefoot on a wheeled board that spews fountains of sparks from the screeching wheels on the concrete pavement.

My trollie (soap box racer), soon adorned a lovely set of metal wheels from a veggie cart and of course the 2 stroke motor from our spare lawn mower (Dad went ballistic on that one) – the old reel mower had the perfect Villiers single engine, mounted upright, chain drive and that wonderful centrifugal clutch. Our machine mysteriously disappeared soon after a rather exciting day of doing donuts on the back yard lawn – so we didn’t have to cut the grass for a while.

I got my first motorcycle at 14yrs old – a rather tired 1951 BSA B31 350cc cast iron cooker. I got it cheap just before my 15th birthday when I also got my drivers license. It was a horrible bike, spit piston rings out the exhaust every time I went over 50 miles per hour like some kind of mean governor and it would never start on command.  But hey it was bright lime green, had ape hangers and a sissy bar - kind of high appeal for the 70’s. Whilst sitting at a traffic light, a carload of Maori's pulled up next to me and passed the comment "WHAT A DUNGA" - how the truth hurts!

Within months, I had sold the BSA on to another unwitting soul and purchased my brothers ’58 Triumph T100 500cc trail rider with a high Siamese pipe. Now this twin was sweet, it sounded wonderful and had lots more oomph than the BSA. The old chronometric speedo often showed 75 miles per hour – but with the cast iron top end of the old 5T speed twin, I knew there ways to make it do better. I sourced an alloy barrel and head that it should have had in the first place, and with high compression pistons and twin pipes, this was transformed into a rip roaring monster. I enjoyed that bike for many months whilst I learnt about girls and the youthful frolicking life of the early 70’s.

The Triumph was soon replaced by a 67 Norton 650SS – in lovely candy red. I had to have it because it was “way more motorcycle than you can handle son” and it had that wonderful featherbed frame. It was fast, I did my first real ton on this bike and it handled like a dream. I soon fixed that with a set of high ape hangers, to fit in with the lads. After about six months of thrashing the SS around, it was due for a rebuild – but luckily around the same time, a friend got the remains of his stolen 750 Commando LR Fastback returned in boxes and he wanted to find a home for the engine.

A Featherbed Commando would be just the ticket. After crafting custom steel engines plate with a gas axe, I was soon barreling around on a hybrid. I managed to get an Atlas crank and swapped flywheels and had it balanced to 84%. A set of Powermax pistons, a SS cam and 32mm Amal MKII carbs saw to a few extra ponies. I kept this bike together for 2 ½ years and managed to make many more modifications along the way – like 2 in 1 headers, a 16” fat tire, hydraulic disk brake on the rear, 850 front end with disk etc .fbd-cdo It was always a recipient of some kind of speed enhancement, even capacitor discharge ignition, water injection and a single large carb were tried. The engine was tilted like the Commando and had the triplex primary in those wonderful aluminum primary cases. My engine mounting position was not ideal, as the crankshaft was about 2” further back from stock, which made wheelies quite easy. It had no cush drive on the clutch or the rear wheel, so rear sprockets did not last long – teeth would get wrenched off if I ignored adjusting for the chain stretch. Isolastics would have made this an ideal bike, but I lived with the vibration and the damage it caused. I think a set of Veglia instruments last only 3 weeks, the original Smiths magnetics were long gone.

Around 1977 one of the lads turned up with “Quakker Nine” (Kawasaki Z1 900) and showed us Brit guys that we just had toys. I couldn’t bring myself to defect on to a rice rocket, so I soon upgraded to a hot 850 Commando Interstate – it pulled a good 122mph with 2 up. A T160 Trident triple followed, a MKIII Roadster and a Morgo 750 Bonnie – all with a few go fast goodies.


Then in 1984, I sold it all, got married and moved to Canada. No bikes for nearly 10 long, long years…..SAD!

After my move to Vancouver from the icy climate of Toronto in 1988, I picked up Knobby in 1993 – a 1977 Triumph 750 T140V with low mileage. This received a set of new rings, oil seals, hydraulic seals, a clutch job (turfed the Barnett clutch) and a new set of headers. I had always admired the T140 and this was a fine example. With Dunstall type mufflers it went rather well – I remember on a ride to Birkenhead in 1994 blasting the side covers off Ren Abears pristine Norton 850 in a set of twisties. Having a family to consider, I soon found a Velorex sidecar in the buy-n-sell and had that mounted up to old Knobby in no time. My exploits on Knobby are well recorded in the annals of the BMOC Good Vibration newsletters.

For solo riding I had acquired Big Red – a 1975 Norton 850 MKIII electrical start Roadster. A good low mileage example that ran pretty well I thought, until one fateful day. On the ride back from the Positive Earth Rally in Kelowna, I think in 2000 – I was riding with Nigel Spaxman (he was way out front on his hot T120) and Ken Hazzard on his Hi-Ho Silver Interstate MKIII on the connector over to Aspen Grove. I’m a big lad as you know and I was packing camping gear to boot. Big Red was making the 26km uphill grind at a moderate big-redpace, Nigel was inching away from me and Ken was falling off behind. Last time I looked in my mirror, Ken was so far behind I felt rather guilty that he was alone back there.

I was just enjoying the scenery, with the bike kind of max’d out at 65mph in top gear, and suddenly there was this almighty WHOOSH – I leapt about 12” off my seat, as Ken Hazzard (master of the stealth mode), blasted by me at about 85 mph on the inside (luckily I had a change of underwear!) There was nothing I could do to catch up; down in third gear it was still only 68mph up that grind. A few months later Big Red got sold off on eBay – I will not tolerate that kind of poor performance in my fleet.

That brings me to my 95 Thunderbird 900cc Hinckley triple - read on for Part 2








The most HORRIBLE Motorcycle of all time BSA B31


OK - so Norton never intended for Ape Hangers - but hey NZ in the 70's anything went.


"Six Bends" the handlebar of choice for the outlaw


1978 Group ride to Murawai (Beach North of Auckland) - I am centre next to the Norton, my wife Lisa is to the right (behind the blonde)


"Knobby" 1977 Triumph T140 750cc with Velorex Sidecar


90 Mile Beach in NZ, Christmas 1979 - I was on Borrowed 850 Fastback


Otorahanga Run in 1978