I had the opportunity to photograph a piece of motorcycling history, a 1967, Bultaco, Sherpa T, owned by Allen Gracey. I met Allen at an MAVT sponsored trials event in Toughkenamin, PA. It was my first time competing in a trials event. Allen guided me to each section, explained the rules and gave me tips, but above all, he gave me encouragement. I did not place but I was pleased just to finish. I completed all four loops of the seven-section course.
 
Built in Spain by Francisco Bulto, the M10 ended the sixty-year reign of British, 4 strokes in the sport of observed trials. It’s popularity helped to spread the sport from England to the rest of Europe and the United States.
 
Unusual for the time, the Sherpa T was powered by a 244cc two stroke, engine with dual flywheels and a radial head mounted on a Rickman designed frame.
 
Aside from the machine its self, much of the success of the M10 was due to the fact that Bulto signed Sammy Miller to compete for him. In the first two years, Miller took 1st place in 58 of 80 events he entered.
 
I photographed the bike in Allen’s garage. I rolled the bike onto a white seamless and boomed two 4×6 foot Chimera softboxes over it. Each box had a Dyna-Lite 4040 head inside. Each head was connected to a 1000 pack at full power.
 
To me motorcycles are more than machines, they are functional art, thrilling and exhilerating sculpture.
 
Click here to see my Triumph, Thruxton photo.
 vintage Yamaha TY80

My son Wynn on vintage Yamaha TY80

The basics of Internal combustion are simple, if an engine has fuel and a spark, it should run, so when Wynn’s 1975 TY 80 refused to start, The first thing I did was check for gas in the tank. There was plenty of fuel so I ruled that out, leaving the electrical system the likely culprit. I removed the plug from the cylinder, stuck it back into the cap and grounded it on the cylinder head. When I jab at the kickstarter, a bright, blue-white spark should snap between the electrodes of the plug. I kicked it over but no spark. Was the problem as simple as a bad plug which could be easily and cheaply, be replaced or was it something more complex?

I remembered a trick my father had taught me. While repairing a lawnmower he called me over and asked me to hold the sparkplug wire. Not knowing about such things at the time, I obliged. Dad yanked on the starter cord and I recoiled as an electrical jolt ran from the wire, into my fingers and up my arm. Dad thought it was pretty funny and after a while, so did I. Some time later, while working on a rototiller my father called me over, again, to hold the sparkplug wire. I’m not sure if he had forgotten about pulling that trick on me before or if he didn’t remember which of his three sons had fallen for it before, but I walked over and took hold of the wire. We were both smiling as he pulled the starter cord.

Back to the present and troubleshooting Wynn’s bike. I removed the plug and remembering Dad, stuck my little finger in the cap and jabbed at the kick lever again. This time there was no jolt, not even a tickle.This confirmed there was indeed a problem in the electrical system. It could be the coil, the points, the condenser, a short or a broken wire.

As a teenager, I had learned to do many motorcycle repairs out of necessity. The bike shop was far away and I could barely afford the parts let alone the labor. If I wanted to ride, I had to fix it myself. I’d order parts from the shop by telephone (rotary) and had them delivered C.O.D. via U.P.S. I could install chains, sprockets, tires, cables, pistons and rings. If it was just a matter of removing the worn or broken part and bolting on a new part, I could handle it. My Achilles heel was, and continues to be the electrical system. If a new sparkplug doesn’t fix it, I’m stuck. Time to find a bike shop.