I DRAW INSPIRATION FROM A LOT OF PLACES, FOR EXAMPLE, THE CANADIAN 1930 FORD COUPÉ CALLED LITTLEBOY, AFTER-HOURS BIKES, SLIMS FAB, BILLY LANES HENDERSON, AND GENERALLY PEOPLE DOING IT DIFFERENTLY.
The Flying Limey is a 1927 AJS 500 side valve single rare model K9. I bought the frame, motor and 3-speed box from a friend and I haven’t found much info or pictures on the internet. Some people call it a Rat bike, but I like to think of it as an original Hot Rod bike as it could have been built back in the 30s. I left all the original patina so it would look like a barn find of some old racer. It was a challenging build due to the unusual frame styling and it was difficult to “take the ugly out”.
The frame is stock, but I fabricated and puddle welded a few extra lugs here and there so they would look like they were always there. The oil tank is a Norton unit which fitted like a glove and the fuel tank is from a Moped, make unknown. I made up the cap and chain fittings, left the surface rust, did some paint and lettering, aged it and made up the handlebars.
The left grip is a large canon shell from WW2 and the throttle is also an old brass unit which I set up so the mechanism and cable etc. are all exposed (it’s easy to just fit a normal throttle). I used as many levers as possible just as it was back then. Riding these bikes was hard work.
I used “normal’” cables and I sourced very old tatty units (hard-to-find cables) to look authentic. I shaped all the copper pipework, which I sourced from old machinery. Then I left old paint etc. on the pipes to add patina. I like adding lots of little things to look at, like the red dice inside the fuel filter and small dices at the end of the cables. One style I am interested in is SteamPunk and this comes through in this bike with all the mechanicals exposed and the brass and copper parts.
The rear wheel is a British 19”. I fitted a modern sprocket with the brake on the sprocket (called a sprotter). Further, the master cylinder is from a quad bike. I do this to most of my bikes because it’s clean. The front wheel is a 21” ex vendors cartwheel which I was lucky to find. I built a 19” wheel with the same style spool hub, but it was too small.
The girder forks are early British, which I raked at the lower linkages to stretch the bike a bit. Furthermore, the 2 nickel-plated top handles, were picked up at cars in the park in Maritzburg and I modified them for the steering damper and suspension damper handles, an idea I stole from Billy Lane.
I shaped the seat pan out of alloy and covered it partially in leather. The headlight is a modified spot lamp and the tail light I got at a swap meet in Modderfontein. I left both with their original paint. There are no mudguards because this is not a girl’s bike! I fabricated the jockey shift and linkages for the 3-speed box. Further, I drilled the engine plates for that old race effect. The exhaust I made up from 2 Harley 10/12 pipes and fitted an old flat-side racing megaphone.
A friend welded the pieces together. I mounted the side stand to the rear of the bike, it is an old Royal Enfield Dessert type stand. Then, I used very early type nuts and bolts where possible to have different thickness heads more relevant to the period.
Furthermore, I made up the old “SPEED SHOP” sign with art deco lettering. I want my bikes to be unique and one-off to capture moments in history. Generally, I draw inspiration from a lot of places. For example, a Canadian 1930 Ford coupé called Littleboy, after-hours bikes, slims fab, Billy Lanes Henderson and generally from people doing it differently. I am always looking for parts and ideas and it’s a passion and a hobby for me.
The bike was first showed at Cars in the Park in Maritzburg 2013 and it received a very positive response. It won Best Rat Bike at Ink and Iron 2013 at Vmacs in Pinetown (chuffed). There is always more to be done and I am lucky to have access to old parts that I have been collecting since I was a kid and I have friends that do likewise. I do not destroy original parts as I try to utilise existing mounting points where possible so you could basically strip it and use it as originally intended.
I’m inspired by how customization was originally done before it became a cookie-cutter industry. Don’t misunderstand me, if that is what you like, then that’s cool, it’s a personal choice. I respect the old style of bikes and cars and I like using British bikes because that’s my choice. The list is endless as to what can be done with Jap material as well (Bratstyle). It’s affordable and within reach of many people.
When I show my bikes some people dig them, some don’t, some call it art, but at the end of the day, it makes me happy!
- OWNER: Eugene Watson
- LOCATION: Waterfall KZN
- BUILDER: Eugene Watson
- MAKE: 1927 AJS K9
- FRAME: 1929 AJS
- HANDLEBARS: Owner
- RAKE: Stock
- FRONT END: Std British girder
- COLOUR: Red, black and antique ivory
- PAINTER: Owner
- GRAPHICS: Owner
- ENGINE: 1927 AJS 500 side valve
- TRANNY: AJS 3 speed