The MAC Bursts (Cautiously) into Action

[cover story in BSMCC Kickback Feb - Mar 2007]

by Dave Royston

The Velocette 350cc MAC from Sydney joined the stable in mid 2004; its engine and frame indicate a build date around July and the frame has the iron base plate as used on the WW2 MAF. A batch of MACs were imported by P&R Williams into Sydney around this time; it would be nice to think it was one of those but the truth is I have no idea of its early history.

46 MAC Velo

A short run after it first arrived quickly established the need for a major overhaul. The engine mechanical noise exceeded that of the exhaust, the front-end girder fork handling was, at best, adventurous (not helped by antediluvian tyres), the gearbox selection seemed entirely random and the front brake action was based largely on the power of wishful thinking. But the bike itself presented well. So we were off to a great start.

The engine was stripped and overhauled with a rebore, new exhaust guide and valve, a new big end and new bearings in most places (I'd like to thank Dave Dettmar for his patient help with the bottom-end strip & rebuild). The gearbox received new small ball bearings; but its main problems stemmed from short poorly located selector shafts, a heavily corroded camplate and selector pawl spring (due presumably to past condensation in the box). The front forks were fixed with new top spindles and re-bushed top links (again, thanks to Dave). The front brake needed new shoe linings (these were the bonded type machined to fit the drum). With new chains and tyres (AVON ribbed front, block rear) the MAC was finally ready.

The day came to haul it out, looking very smart, for a photo shoot and its first start. It did start more or less first kick but had fuel leaking everywhere; this was fixed with new ball-type taps. Then other projects got in the way. Finally the day came for the road test, but this time it would not kick-start. I live on a hill (an important consideration for a Velocette owner); with a down-hill clutch-start it fired up and ran OK and the oil return looked good: so it was once around the block (and up that hill!). No problems and it was going well: so up and down the main road and around the road-works (how it is when you are trying to sort out a bike the council wants to tear up your bit of road?). Still going well; could it make it to Toowong and Dave's place? Just a few steep hills and why not! Off it went, hills no problem but Dave's not in. OK where next while its running? the panoramic Mt Cootha road was not far away; the MAC had made it up a few hills, why not give it a real challenge? On the way a problem hit at the notorious Moggill Road roundabout the engine stalled and in the worst of places at the very bottom of a steep hill. Thankfully there was a car park just where it happened so I pushed it in, stripped off in the appropriate Velocette manner ready for the challenge of the re-start. A minor miracle, it fired up first kick and ran steadily while I put the gear back on. Off we went up and around Mt Cootha. Taking it easy the MAC went well, it was nice and cool (for a Brisbane summer), we were having a great ride and confidence was soaring.

46 MAC Velo

Then the thought crept in: could it make it up Mt Glorious? The goal was around 30 kms away and a reasonable climb, but with gradients no steeper than those the MAC had conquered already. Why not give it a try? Off we went, up and down on twisty suburban roads through Bardon and on to Waterworks Road heading for Mt Glorious. The bike by now was motoring along quite well, handled well, brakes were OK, but it needed fuel. I've run out of fuel on the mountain before, not a good idea! On the other hand could stopping be a big mistake?

I decided I had to pull in for fuel. The service station was just opposite where I recalled the ུ Venom in ‘05 had stripped its magneto fibre wheel drive and a huge flame had shot out of the carburettor, not a good omen. Filled the bike with fuel, joked that petrol was 10 cents a gallon when the MAC was new (was it?), got on the bike and it wouldn't start: stone cold motherless dead. But the service station was part way up a hill on the main road and if anything the MAC has one great virtue, it is light. So I pushed it up the hill and clutch-started it easily running back down. And we were off: this time no argument, it's Mt Glorious or bust.

The MAC took it all in its stride and with patience up the steep bits and swoops down the short downhill bits we worked our way up the mountain gaining confidence with every mile. The engine seemed to gain life in the cooler air. The final stretch up to the Maiala Café on top of the mountain was done in great style; the MAC had done it! Everybody had a look at it and at a venue more used to super bikes! Rod the Café owner couldn't believe his eyes; his first bike had been a similar 1947 model MAC. The 1946 MAC looked proud. After coffee and a BLT it was time to return; with clouds building could we beat the rain? The rain did come down on the top part of the mountain and the MAC took it in its stride, maybe it even liked it. The return downhill was special. As the road dried out the bike felt like a 650 and had to be reined-in. I now know something about headshake I didn't know before. After an exhilarating run, we eventually arrived back home and I parked the bike - the reborn MAC an understated hero, “Bergmeister?” “Regenmeister?” and downhill racer all in one day: it deserved a cheer.

What a great day!