A couple years ago Steve bought this 1957 Ariel Square Four with a Steib sidecar. It belonged to a guy we knew, Bill, who had bought it back in the 90s, at one of the vintage bike meets. The person who sold it to Bill had done a complete restoration on it and set it up with the sidecar.
Bill is a big guy and he found that he was not very comfortable riding it. He struggled to kick start it since he has big feet and the starter is on the sidecar side, not much room for big feet down in there. Also, I think the sidecar handling made him more nervous than he expected. So he barely rode it, and ended up just storing it for 20 years. He still liked just owning it and it took some persuading for him to give it up, but Steve eventually persuaded him to sell.
One funny side note here, is that Steve was going through a box of old pictures, from the days before digital cameras. And he found photographs of this exact bike! Perhaps he photographed it at the same show where Bill bought it. And now he owns it himself.
This summer, the bike started to break spokes in the rear wheel. A few weeks ago Steve managed to finish the Triumph he had been working on, and it was the Ariel's turn. He took the sidecar off and put the bike on the workstand, and took the wheel off and fixed it. He put on some new tires. Then he turned attention to the engine. He went in to adjust the valves and found one was completely dry and rust in that whole corner, flakes falling down from there. Ruh-roh.
So for the past week he has been doing a complete tear down. The engine is now out of the bike and its guts are spread out in a splendid array. Last night I went out there and he was just pulling the pistons out of the ultrasonic cleaner. He found some bearings that have overheated and have melty galled spots; they will need to be pressed out and replaced. He's determine that it has non-stock gearing and instead of it being lower gearing for the sidecar, it is higher gearing! He might change it, he says he has other gears. He has found various things worn below spec. He has got the oil passages cleaned out.
One of the big hurdles was getting the head off. It was held with some huge number of bolts, but even when they were all out, it wouldn't budge. He didn't want to break any fins, obviously, and there's precious little to get ahold of. He made a jig with steel bars bolted to it, and even with leverage he still couldn't budge it. The thing that finally worked, was to remove the one way valve from a compression tester and push the head loose with lots of compressed air. Once it was broken loose he was able to wiggle it the rest of the way off.
He says overall it isn't as bad as he feared when he saw that rust. He has done this before with his other Ariel, and having some past experience and a really good workshop to do it in, makes it a joy to dig in like this. I am impressed; I have done some wrenching but never this deep into a motor. I don't even know what half these pieces are.
I guess it is almost time to order parts.
The paint job done by that restoring guy, back in the 90s, has suffered some since then. Bill dropped something on it and dinged the sidecar trunk lid, and Steve dropped the bike on its side in the driveway shortly after taking the sidecar off. And it just looks a little dulled, from age I guess. It's funny how factory paint is less harmed by scuffs and fading, than aftermarket paint is. I suppose an upcoming project will be to fix the paint. But for now it's getting the engine put into tip top shape.