While John Moralee from Perth (WA) has a thoroughly modern BMW K 1300 GT for touring duties, the rest of the bikes in his shed have more of a classic sportsbike flavour.
When the time was right to think about taking on his latest project, John’s thoughts turned to a Rickman, the hybrid bike produced in small numbers by English brothers Derek and Don Rickman during the 1960s and ’70s. Keen scrambles (motocross) competitors in the day, the brothers went into business initially producing competition dirt-bike frames to be powered by other people’s engines.
Roadracing Rickmans followed before they turned their hands to producing roadbikes.
While many of the early bikes were powered by Triumph, BSA and Matchless engines, later bikes used various Euro powerplants, until ultimately, in the 1970s, the Rickmans turned to the Japanese factories for large-capacity engines.
Honda, Kawasaki and Suzuki-powered Rickmans were then produced, combining serious horsepower with great handling.
Today Rickmans of all sizes and types, with their distinctive nickel-plated steel frames, are very collectable motorcycles.
John Moralee describes how he succumbed to the Rickman charm: “I had always admired classic competition-replica bikes and one with a handmade frame and the power of a Kawasaki Z engine really appealed
to me,” he explained.
Here’s what happened next…
The Journey Begins
“I purchased my 1976 Rickman CR Z1000 bike in November 2007 out of Queensland for $9500 and had it transported to WA. I rode the bike for a while and although a lot of the important bits were there I was never entirely happy with it – so I decided to fully restore it back to original, with the long tank and single seat.
“My restoration project started in July 2010; it was to be the first bare frame restoration I had undertaken. Being an earthmoving mechanic and having turned my hand at many things mechanical, I wanted to complete most of the restoration myself.”
The Preparation Stage
“The frame had been painted in the bike’s past life and had to be stripped back. It was soda blasted to avoid damaging the original frame and bronze welds. At some point the frame had been modified to the last frame specs of the Rickman Predator, with the lower headstock tubes being braced to the headstock with a gusset and two banana tubes that tie the top and bottom headstock tubes together. The swingarm had also been braced.
“It all looked like it was done well, but the damage that resulted had led to the frame being painted. After soda blasting, I took to the frame with a die grinder and flapper wheel and smoothed any spots before it was nickel plated. Following the nickel plating, Competition and Industrial Coating (CIC) put a clear ceramic coating over the frame, swingarm and any other nickel bits to seal them for life. I also had this coating applied to the new wheel rims and all of the other polished engine bits and pieces.
“All new fibreglass for the bike was needed to take it back to the singleseater, long-tank version. Some of the original parts used to make the moulds were loaned to me by John Coombes (the tail section) and Greg Mills (the fairing). Prixhistoric Fibreglass replicated the pieces, which then had to be rubbed back to be made ready for the first part of priming and filling, before being painted.
“When stripping the forks I found a bent fork tube. I suspect the bike had been down in the past due the exhaust and footpeg being scraped. Mark in our workshop helped me contra-heat the tube straight to within 10 thou and once it was linished you would never have known it had been damaged.”
“I really wanted to source some Borrani rims for the bike as they were original fitment. Not wanting to take the risk of second-hand, 30-plusyear- old alloy or selling a kidney for the cash to buy them, I went about tracking some down. I found an Italian company which makes replica rims that are identical but without the Borrani stampings, and they are mint. Once they had my info and specs, I received the rims and clip-ons, which were handmade and plated inside of a week from Italy. Spoked Wheel Services put the wheel sets together with larger stainless steel spokes on the rebuilt and ceramic-coated hubs I overhauled, along with newly made axles.
“Like the original bikes, a lot of parts on the bike were silver cadmium plated and Anthony at Aeroplate did a great job of plating nuts, bolts, brackets and even the complete disc rotors.
“The brakes needed a complete overhaul and all of the odd bits that had been grafted were binned for original AP Lockheed bits out of England. New front and rear master cylinders were purchased and I overhauled the calipers with new pistons spun up out of stainless steel. New braided lines were custom made by a friend of mine who works at Perth Brake Parts.
“I had to make several items from scratch and fellow Rickman owner, John Coombes, kindly lent me the bits I needed to copy, including the rearsets and fairing brackets, a long fuel tank, as well as various spacers and so on.”
“The paint work was done by Rob Fry Paint. I met Rob at an Historic race meeting. He took an interest in the Ducati NCR replica I had at the track as he was building one at the time, and we became friends and he agreed to paint the bits for me. The colour was matched from an original part of the bodywork I had and has that flatter gloss period look about it.
“Suppliers used from around the globe include Pit Stop Performance (USA) for the engine parts, Dynoman (USA) for the carbs and intakes, Z1 Enterpises (USA) for a lot of Z parts and the switchblocks, Z-Power UK for the wiring harness and other bits and pieces, Motocicle Velocie (Italy) for the rims and clip-ons, Andover- Norton (UK) for the AP and Lockheed parts, Michelle at Prixhistoric
Fibreglass, Vinci Chrome, Spoked Wheel Services, Paul and Dave at CIC Competition and Industrial Coatings, Chain Gang, Eagle Screens, Proven Products (Ikon shocks), Minetrans, Versifab, Perth Brake Parts, Flexible Drive Agencies, Aeroplate and others.”
“I’d like thank a few people for their help and for lending me bits and pieces to copy – John Coombes, Greg Mills (who actually raced a Rickman back in the day), Mark Epis, plus John and the workshop boys for helping out where needed.
“Finally there is one person who I couldn’t have done without throughout the whole project, whether it was helping strip the bike, holding the string line to true the frame and wheels, helping me lift that lump of a Z engine in and out, or just pure understanding. It’s my loving wife Lindsey, who as she puts it, works to support my bike addiction.
“The restoration was finished on March 1, 2012, with the bike passing Club Inspection the following evening. I have put about 130 miles on the bike so far and I can say that it has lived up to all of my expectations and more. I’m a member of the Classic Motorcycle Riders Club of WA and I can’t wait to take it on the first run.
“Bikes I also own include a CB750 K2 Honda, a 1975 Bevel Drive Ducati, a 1978 Ducati NCR Replica (track only), a 1986 Suzuki GSX-R750R LE, a 1991 Ducati 851 SP3, and a 2008 BMW K 1300 GT. A lot of these came around as bikes that needed work and have been restored or are still in the process of restoration… Lindsey had better not lose her job!”
Thanks heaps John; we’re drooling over your lovely Rickman here at MT. Thanks for taking the trouble to share your project with our reders.
To get your resto in MT, email us at:
or write to:
Locked Bag 12,
Oakleigh. Vic, 3166.