CJ750 or How To spend Money without Trying.
A story by Andrew Kennedy
I like Chinese action movies. While watching the movie Drunken Master, I spied a copy of the old side-valve BMW military outfit being used in a chase. It was slow but tough. I knew these had been made in China for a long time. Jack, Sam and I did our 9000 kilometre in September 2012 and discussed the CJ750 a number of times. Jack, having spent time in the Chinese army knew the outfits were over there and, like me was interested in obtaining one if the quality and price was right. Sam was too, but wanted to know more. Searching CJ750 on the internet leads you first to Big Bill’s Bikes in Beijing.
Their web pages show you anything you could imagine on the machine. Prices were cheap, spares plentiful and build/restoration times fast. Thanks to Sam we were able to communicate easily with them, Sam even visiting shop and workshop on one of his China trips. We also obtained a customer address here in Point Cook, Vic, so we could view and ride the machine. It was a replica 1938 BMW side-valve with the sidecar taken off. Paint and parts were excellent. We both rode it and it was fine apart from rock hard suspension.
After riding we were sold, Sam jumping in too, together with an extra machine for his brother. The bikes we were going to order were the more powerful 750 overhead valve 1940 in military build. German Desert Sand colour for Sam and me, American Army Green for Jack. Now we had to make it happen.
Before you can import a vehicle into Australia you need an Import Permit, which comes from Canberra, forms available from the internet. We planned to bring the bikes in and put them on Club Registration as classic bikes. Imagine our surprise to see a warning on the site that typically CJ750 does not meet the classic bike scheme as many bikes are built up of new old spares and this does not qualify as on old bike. Therefore we had to ensure that our machines were genuine old bikes with old registration. Big Bill’s Bikes found us 4 machines from 1970. To obtain the permit we needed to supply photos of the original machine, the engine number, original registration and the VIN plate. Sam was invaluable in getting this from China. By now it was mid-December as we filled in and sent off our forms. It was supposed to be a 2-3 week process but along came February and nothing. In March we had the request to provide Notarized Statements from the Chinese official body to prove our information was true. This we did. Canberra came back again want further clarity and we complied. In April they issued our permits, we sent off our deposits and awaited our bikes being restored. Sam visited Beijing again in May 2013 and little had been done, then early June we received photos showing the bikes almost completed. Photos were great, up went the excitement levels. By July all was done, Sam had a friend visit the workshop in Beijing to look at and start the bikes. This being okay we paid the balance of the monies including freight and awaited shipping advice. Passage was booked on 27/7/13, with arrival 20/8/13.
I had been thinking of the best way of handling the delivery, un-crating, assembly, checking and roadworthy testing of the bikes to have the least moving around and cost. My conclusion was that they had to be delivered to a willing motorcycle business where we could do this and a forklift had to be available. The boss of A1 motorcycles, John Buskes put up his hand for the task. John has recently also taken over the old Metro Honda site, now with an A1 banner and includes new Honda sales as well as all the other fine machines such as Aprilia, Moto-Guzzi and Husqvarna.
Following the arrival on the docks of the crates we were a little shocked at the charges this end. Big crates, big charges are the rule. Lessons learnt for the future. On 30/8/13 two trucks arrived at A1 workshop with our boxes. They were too big for the A1 forklift so the business two doors down donated theirs and also the driver for about the next 90 minutes. It was very kind of them. Joe Russo, A1 workshop manager, had been expecting the boxes and offered all assistance with his guys jumping in to get these boxes down and apart. It was not easy as three of the boxes tried to come apart, and had to strap to the forklift. These were 4.5 cubic metre boxes and 400 kilo.
A few nervous moments were had. Finally they were down, crates open and the little bit of assembly which was handlebars and mirrors done.
The batteries were modern fully sealed types, 36 amp hours and had some charge. Everyone who saw them was interested in the bikes – what were they – were they for sale – why no machine gun. I was excited. Now I had to adjust them and get them running. I had my own tools and Joe let me have full use of the workshop for anything else I required. Wherever I had a question, needed assistance or a tool A1 helped. I used fuel from the A1 supply to put in the tanks, saving a trip up the road. With fuel and sparks I expected the bikes to just fire up – stupid me. Nothing much happened. After cleaning out taps, draining float bowls and checking spark plugs the problem was finally traced to the fuel filters which did not want to let fuel through. New fuel line was purchased along with new Ryco filters. After fitting these items the bikes fired up instantly and only needed slight idle adjustment. This was timely as Jack, Sam and his family all arrived and were then able to start up their own machines. Jack was the first one to get on and go for a short ride along the street. It had been a good day. Job just about over I thought.
Monday was a rude shock. Yes, the bikes ran but now we had lots of electrical faults to sort out. There were lights and indicators that didn’t work or worked incorrectly. Broken wires were found and there was little system to the connections. We had a wiring diagram but it meant little. Electrics are not my thing – sure I can plug in connecters on a modern loom or fine where it is unplugged. This was a mess and there were 4 of them all different. Joe put his mechanic, Frank onto it and I departed for the rest of the day as I felt depressed and unable to assist. Tuesday I stayed clear, going back on Wednesday to see where we were. Trouble still abounded, but luckily Martin Bastock, who has electronics amongst the many things he is a whiz at, was in Ringwood and had the afternoon free. Martin tore into the bikes and we soon had the first one done. It was Jack’s and it passed the roadworthy. With the use of A1’s trade plate I road the bike to Jack’s house and he returned me to the workshop. One down three to go. Thursday morning Martin and I started at 8.00AM and by lunch the three bikes were ready for the roadworthy. My bike had been the last and the worst electrically. They all passed the test, so with the A1 trade plate I made the house delivery service. By the time I rode mine home I was feeling pretty confident on the machine. They are different to ride and I think could be good for building arm muscles. Lots of thanks must go to Martin for his help and knowledge otherwise I think I would still be there.
We settled the accounts with Joe and A1 for the roadworthy tests, their fuel, the week’s usage of their facility and work done. Sincerely we thank A1 motorcycles, Joe Russo and his mechanics for their assistance and hospitality. Think a minute – how many places do you know that will allow you into their workshop – let alone give you the full run of it. A1, John Buskes and his staff were terrific, costs were minimal by any standards, and the service was friendly. They are used to handling any make of bike so if you are looking for service I suggest you try them.
Our last task was to obtain our permits through the Ulysses club for the Club Registration. We downloaded the form, filled it in and together with the roadworthy scanned and emailed it off. Geoff Williams, who issues the permits, was very quick in issuing our signed forms. After some running round between Jack, Sam and me to get all sheets filled in and signed, it was off to Vic Roads, Burwood for the final act. Vic roads were quick and it was back to friends with their plates then off home to attach mine.
The whole exercise from idea to conclusion has taken 12 months. We have learnt a lot. The machines are great. They look and sound the part. They aren’t polished or super tidy, instead they look like old army machines which is the whole point. As we all know the price for anything old here is ridiculous, even if it was a clunker. I haven’t had a proper ride yet. Instead I have been putting together all the tools I imagine I could need to fix a problem out on the road and get me home and putting them in the sidecar boot. I think I am there. Now I am ready. I’ll be there on VSK day too.
With much thanks to Sam, Jack and Martin without whose help this would not have happened.]