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Breathing new life into mean vintage machines from Britain

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Gleaming as new: U. Surjith with two of his classic British motorbikes.
Gleaming as new: U. Surjith with two of his classic British motorbikes.

G. Anand

He has spent much of his past 15 years hunting for classic British motorbikes and restoring them to good condition.

Thiruvananthapuram: U. Surjith is an ardent practitioner of the rare art of restoring classic British motorbikes.

The MBA holder’s first machine was a 1950-model 250-cc BSA C10L. It was little more than a rusted metal frame when he salvaged it from the store room of a church in Kattakada in 1992. The motorbike originally belonged to a Belgium priest.

Surjith learned motorbike restoration from Babu Fernandez, a senior mechanic who specialised in repairing classic motorbikes.

Before his death in 2005, Fernandez gifted Surjith specialised tools and manuals needed for restoring and maintaining a whole range of British motorbikes, including the famed Nortons.

Surjith, who has started a classic-motorbike restoration centre near PTP Nagar (arguably the first of its kind in Kerala), says he has spent much of his past 15 years hunting for classic British motorbikes.

He salvaged several from rural workshops, tea plantations (motorbikes owned by British managers) and Anglo-Indian settlements in Thankassery and Fort Kochi.

His collection now includes a 1964 BSA 650 Golden Flash twin engine, 1954 Norton Dominator 500 twin, 1960 Norton Dominator twin, 1957 Truimph Tiger Hundred twin and a 1954 BSA 350 single. It took him several years of toil to restore the motorbikes to their original condition.

The painstaking process of restoration starts with dismantling the motorbike and measuring the wear and tear of its machine parts. The dimensions are then compared with the standard measurements of the machine. Engine and cycle components that cannot be restored are replaced with original parts imported from England.

Surjith is an active member of several Internet forums on classic motorbike restoration and can be contacted at surjithu@hotmail.com.

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