How much will it cost?

Restoring classic motorcycles is a bit like working on old houses – you never really know what you are going to find once you start to prod and poke at a small piece of loose plaster. It isn’t really practical to give a fixed price and a firm delivery date when you are working on decades-old machinery, particularly when it might be a recent purchase of uncertain provenance.

However, I understand that nobody has an unlimited budget or is happy to lose financial control of their re-commissioning or restoration project. For my part, I want my customers to feel that they are completely in control and be confident that they receive an excellent service that represents good value.

To achieve this, and to keep my accounting as simple as possible, I charge an hourly rate for the time I spend doing work on your bike. I keep a record of the hours that I work on each bike or component, as the case may be, excluding my administration time, research time, phone calls, tea breaks and so forth. I am not a solicitor (or a consultant, any more) so I only charge you money for real work. The cost of any significant replacement components or specialist work is paid for by the customer direct to the supplier. Smaller items and workshop consumables are itemised on your bill. In all cases, it is totally transparent, no hidden costs and no big profit margins.

From 1st April 2016, I have set the hourly rate to £30 per hour. There is no VAT on my labour, which saves you 20% on the labour bill. I am not required to register for VAT because the total turnover of the business is below the threshold. Keeping it that way is one of the reasons for sometimes asking customers to pay suppliers of large items directly. I think that is a pretty fair deal, considering that I have to provide the facilities, equipment, tools, consumables and power that are needed to do the work efficiently and, of course, I need to make a modest living. Even the small local garages charge twice as much per hour and main dealers charge more than three times as much and they also take a profit on the parts, which I do not.

So the cost is relatively low but you still need to do the sums because restoration work on vehicles this old involves fixing and making it beautiful again - rather than simply swapping out parts.  If you've ever worked on an old car, your motorcycle, boat, or even an old house then you have an idea of how seemingly simple things can sometimes take a frustrating amount of time. Just one week (40 hours) at £30 / hour equals £1,200.  That can add up to some frightening numbers if you don’t keep a careful check on it.

If your bike needs a lot of attention and your budget is constrained (when isn’t it?) then it may be best to schedule the work in Stages. Here is an example of how a restoration could be done in stages to spread the cost, possibly with gaps in between to allow the owner to get some enjoyment out of his bike: 

Stage 1

  • Make the bike safe, legal, reliable, and without oil leaks.

  • To do a full service.

  • Some straightforward modifications to make the bike more reliable on modern roads, such as improving the lubrication by fitting Stewart Engine sump extension, together with a full-flow disposable oil filter.

  • Check the whole bike for missing, non-original or poor quality components and make a report for later reference.

Stage 2

  • Add mirrors and indicators (for safety assurance on today's roads - these should be aesthetically sympathetic to the bike's style and age.

  • Replace or refurbish worn or damaged components like seats, handlebars or controls.

Stage 3

  • A full repaint

  • Re-chroming or replacing damaged or rusty parts

Stage 4

  • Fully rewire the whole bike and replace control cables and other electrical components, where needed.

  • Refurbish the dynamo

Stage 5

  • Full mechanical strip-down and rebuild of the engine and clutch

  • Full mechanical strip-down and rebuild of the gearbox

Stages 6, 7 and so on…..

  • Complete mechanical strip down and detailed restoration of :

    • rear drive and drive shaft couplings

    • suspension (front and rear) and steering

    • brakes, wheels (rebuilding if necessary) and tyres

    • detailing of all other parts, like the horn and brake light switch, the saddles and rubbers, the number plates, the headlamp and handlebar levers, etc.

This is just an illustration and, in reality, the ordering of these stages would probably be swapped around and mixed-up, depending on the owner’s priorities. Even so, it is better to have a plan for long term ownership and eventual restoration than to make it up as you go along and have nothing to measure spend against. As long as the bike is being enjoyed – in the gaps between the stages of work - then it really doesn’t matter if it takes a few years to complete. The cost would be spread but the bike's value would be going up too.

But here are some points that you should be aware of.

A full restoration on an s7-deluxe might cost as much as £15,000* on top of your original purchase price of the bike. And that's more than the market value of the bike. Of course the price varies depending on the bike's condition, the specification required, what needs to be done and replaced (how neglected, worn, or abused), and how (over the years) the bike has been altered from standard. You might for example have bought a sidecar spec bike and want it for solo use. The rear drive ratio would need to be changed, as would the front fork springs. The frame may even be bent or altered in some way.

[* parts + labour + outside specialists like paint / chrome / machine shop / forks straightened / rubber couplings]

Broadly speaking, an early s7 that needs handlebars and other unique parts replacing would cost more to restore than a later model S7 or an S8. This is because many parts may need to be specially made since they are simply not available to buy any more. Many Parts on an s8 are more readily available and less expensive to buy than equivalent parts on an s7 or s7-deluxe so, although the labour costs would be similar, the overall cost is likely to be somewhat less than for an s7-deluxe.

It is important for us and for you that you to go into this with your eyes wide open and we are clear about what work is required, what outcome is sought and how much it is likely to cost. That way everybody will get what they want and nobody needs to feel cheated.

Think about how long it takes you to do seemingly simple job on your old bike. Well we may have more knowledge and experience and we might even have exactly the right tools to hand but working on very old machinery is always full of surprises – seized bolts, bent parts, stripped threads - so classic restorations take time.  Six weeks, at five days a week, at just 4 hours a day = £3600 + parts. If something then goes wrong, such as an engine bearing breaking up, then you might be faced with doubling what you had budgeted. We keep customers informed via a direct (internet) link to our ongoing job sheet and photo album but the onus is on the customer to look at it and read it once in a while.

Costs can certainly mount up but there is a way for you to save a significant amount of money.

Because we take pride in our work, we do not return bikes to their owners dirty.

It is impossible to do quality work on dirty parts. Therefore we have to clean them thoroughly before we can get started in earnest. That takes a lot of time. So, one of the easiest ways to save cost is for you to thoroughly clean any parts you can get at before sending it to us.

Cleaning the engine or oily frame parts with a propriety degreaser like Gunk, Jizer, paraffin* or even just old and stale petrol*, will save you paying us to do it.

Please be sure to take sensible precautions. Wear suitable gloves and scrub (watch out for splatter into your eyes) the bare metal engine parts with a stiff (natural fibre or plastic) brush, and into the engine fins with (non-metallic) kitchen scouring pads. But Please don't use aggressive tools that scratch or chemically attack the metal, paint or chrome (like some of the more aggressive acidic cleaners).

* Please use appropriate fire precautions. Safely away from children, pets, wildlife, water courses, the house and/or garage.

These are Hazardous Chemicals - please wear protective clothing + eye gear. Hazardous waste should never be disposed of down the drain.