The Aermacchi Project, Part 4: Cleaning Up — and/or Shopping

Reader Contribution by Margie Siegal
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The factory manual exposes the inner workings of the Aermacchi’s 30mm VHB Dell’Orto carburetor.

This is the fourth installment of an ongoing series detailing Margie Siegal’s restoration of a 1973 Harley-Davidson 350 Sprint. You can read the Part 1 here.

It is a not-often-discussed fact that motorcycle restoration involves a lot of cleaning of parts. Unfortunately, the elves and pixies who turn up at 2 a.m. and move tools around in my garage so I can’t find them the next day don’t seem to want to clean parts. A while back, someone wrote The I Hate to Housekeep Book. It was a best-seller. I once asked Dave Kafton, my volunteer mentor, why he didn’t have an apprentice or two. He said that most of his apprentices quit after several days of parts cleaning.

I am sitting here with a carburetor, which I have finally put back together. I am so glad that the Sprint has only ONE carburetor. Carburetors seemingly have several hundred tiny parts, all of which need to be squeaky clean, and many of which are easily damaged by too aggressive scrubbing. If you restore a Honda Four or a GS Suzuki, you have FOUR carburetors, and at some point may be tempted to run screaming into the night. There are tiny holes in various parts of the Sprint’s carb, which have a tendency to gum up, and which have to be reamed out with tiny bits of soft wire. Too stiff wire will damage the holes. Argh.

The Sprint’s Dell’Orto before cleaning.

The Sprint, being Italian, has a 30mm Dell’Orto, similar to the carburetors that were used on Ducati singles. A friend who used to collect Ducati singles came over and spent a couple of hours helping out. It became obvious that doing the job right was going to take at least a week. However, most of the work could be done sitting down, and when I got tired or pissed off I could stop.

I could also do what any other red-blooded American girl would do when presented with a tedious task: take a break and GO SHOPPING. Unfortunately, parts for old motorcycles are not for sale at the mall. My choices are: 1) Go to a swap meet and paw through boxes; 2) Call or email a store that specializes in parts for Sprints and see if they have my part; 3) If it’s something generic — oil, tires, drive chains, chain lube — take a trip to my friendly local motorcycle dealer. (It’s always a good idea to make friends with a local dealer. You never know when you will need their services.); 4) Check eBay or Craigslist; 5) Make friends with fellow enthusiasts. There are listservs, Yahoo Groups, Facebook groups and bulletin boards run by some of the larger vintage bike interest groups.

Surprisingly, there are enough Aermacchi enthusiasts around the country to support several parts specialists. There is also a very active Yahoo group. I know I need a new exhaust system, stock mufflers and the left side reflector on the headlight. I start posting my needs and calling around. The parts do exist and can be purchased without cleaning out my bank account. Feeling more positive, I return to scrubbing parts.

The Sprint’s Dell’Orto after cleaning, ready for another round of service.

Finally, finally, I have a collection of clean carb parts. I also have a carburetor rebuild kit and a new needle, courtesy of Leslie from Moto Italia. Call him at (707) 763-1982. The next task was to carefully reassemble the Dell’Orto, replacing gaskets and other expendables with the items in the kit. Success! Now I get to — clean parts on the rest of the bike. I WILL get through this!

Stay tuned for the next episode of as the wrenches turn …

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