By Eric Hassam
Motorcycle Shopper's Atlantic Canadian Correspondent
While researching this story on motorcycle salvage and wrecking operations, I had originally decided to cover a local shop which specializes in Japanese machines. This changed when I discovered that British Cycle Supply Company was in the process of sorting out "junk", collected over the past ten or fifteen years and putting it in their inventory-control database. Having owned several British bikes over the years--and having been a customer back in 1977--I decided to check it out. What I found was pretty amazing!
Piled in chest-high heaps, stacked in tractor trailers, lining forty foot shipping containers and filling two floors of a building adjacent to the main warehouse, were tens of thousands of used parts for British bikes! Some parts fill forty-five gallon drums and have not actually seen the light of day for some time. Still, others lie strewn about in various states of disassembly and condition. Some of the parts are actually new/old stock. and retain the original packing grease, while others are obviously used, yet in perfect condition. Thinking that Ariel Square Fours were fairly rare, I was surprised to see several nearly complete engines on shelves or on the floor. Even more surprising were the brand new parts, like cylinder heads, still wrapped in the original packaging. Row after row of cylinders, heads, crankcases, fuel tanks, fenders, front ends and transmission parts squeezed so close together, that we were forced to turn sideways and shuffle from one area to the next. Complete bikes sat in corners, a light layer of dust not able to hide the gleam of a mint BSA Bantam or Thunderbolt. Outside, in a shipping container, were a number of Ariel rolling chassies, with dozens of frames of every description piled on top. Norton, Triumph, BSA, Royal Enfield and Ariel are the most common trademarks seen peeking up or out of this jumble, which is owner Mark Appleton's nirvana.
I asked night manager, Martin Singleton, to describe the situation. "We're not sure what we have yet," He said, stepping over a pile of inner-clutch covers, "A few years ago we had rows of shelves and partially disassembled bikes in the basement, but over time it became more difficult to get in. Our stocking method was to shove the door open a crack and toss in what ever we could." He pauses to point out about a dozen complete front-ends, still in boxes, and then continues, "We were developing several new product lines at the time and it took double shifts just to keep up with the truckloads of new stock. Now we have the regular inventory under control and Mark has directed a couple of staff members to get this stuff sorted out and catalogued."
There is currently no official estimate of the number of used or obsolete parts in this mountain top gold mine, but a rough guess would put the figure at somewhere between seventy five and one hundred thousand pieces! Since no one is sure of the exact nature of the contents of some as yet un-opened crates and boxes, classic bike aficionados can dream of what will finally be available when Ken Cruikshanks finishes the work of locating, tagging, cleaning and examining all of the parts that fill every square inch--restroom included!
Mark Appleton told me that his motives for getting this project under way are not purely profit driven. I interviewed him during a break in loading the truck for a trip to the New Jersey warehouse. "One of our goals in marketing this used stock is to prevent more complete or nearly-complete machines from being cannibalized for parts. I would like to make sure that the pool of vintage and classic machines does not become smaller than it already is, so today's riders have a chance to own and drive the bikes that I fell in love with." He pauses as we are interrupted by the tenth phone call in ten minutes. "There have to be enough original machines on the road to make manufacturers want to continue to produce parts, or prices will become unreasonable. I would like to encourage enthusiasts to build more bikes, and feel that offering a large number of used parts--at prices as low as half of replacement--will provide the right incentive". When asked about his involvement in the Atlantic TT, Mark replied, "The thing I like about sponsoring the TT is the comradeship I see among the riders. I am so busy these days that I don't get to go riding with my friends the way I used to, so this gives me a chance to invite people into my backyard for some fun and excitement. Plus its the people who run Atlantic Motorsport Park, it amazes me that they have been having events there for twenty years, all organized and operated by volunteers. I'm already looking forward to the 1995 Atlantic Vintage TT and can hardly wait."
Our conversation is again interrupted, so I give up and start looking around the crammed room which makes up the shipping department. Glancing at some of the boxes waiting for morning pickup, I see labels with addresses in New Zealand, Taiwan, Japan, all over the States and Canada and I can't help but think that Mark is on the right track. My thoughts turn to the piles of used parts in the out buildings, was that a Gold Star chassis? Taxing my memory which is good but short, I picture the rows of bottom-ends lined up on the floor and realize that there is also a Gold Star motor sitting there. There have been rumors that several complete machines may be built and sold but the staff is not commenting on the subject. To an objective observer it would seem that some very special machines might surface from these piles of wheels and frames. Bearing in mind that many of these items were already thirty or forty years old when "stored" in the bowls of a rabbit farm ten years ago, one can only imagine what treasures await re- discovery. To vintage racers the thought that more Commandos may be exhumed is enough to quicken the pulse. Or Triumph lovers, wishing to complete their collection with that elusive Tiger Cub, may take heart. It won't be long before these questions are answered as the overworked British Cycle crew makes their own discoveries in what may be described as the "treasure room" of Mark Appleton's gold mine, high atop the mountain in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada.
For more information call British Cycle Supply at 902-542-7478 or by fax at 902/542-7479.
Eric Hassam is owner of Mantis Racing, a Canadian manufacturer of reproduction fiberglass race bodies and other race products. He can be reached at 1-800-561-3500.