Who's a member?

Engine/frame numbers, Clubs, Registration Authorities and Wankers

A lot of adjectives in the above heading, but quite descriptive I have always looked at engine number fanatics as a bit on the fringe side something a lot like a train spotter with a anorak, years ago such people were scorned and still are with motorcyclists that are practical and hard riders. In the past when your motorcycle wore out or maybe was damaged in a accident and needed a new frame or crankcase and you usually had to seek out a secondhand engine or parts to fix your machine, if it was crashed and it required a new frame then the service repairer was required to obliterate the old number and stamp that number on the new frame, that way it ensured two machines didn't have the same number, mechanics were not issued with a factory set of number punches and usually bought these from the local hardware shop. Sometimes in the WW11 era the Army had to just remove a whole engine and replace it with a new one out of the box, and numbers were not stamped on at all! So in the 21st Century this causes the "rivet counters " no end of problems and some clubs have factory records that say things like mating numbers, crankcase numbers, frame numbers and who the machine was despatched to who rode tested it and what if any accessories were fitted at the time from the works, these records should be provided to the current owner of that machine where adequate proof of ownership is provided as they are not the clubs but a history of your vehicle that you own. Problems can crop up when committees appoint some anal people to become demigods or control freaks on such matters.


Registration authorities can enforce difficulties on owners as well in regards to adequate proof and with good reason as we all know a new vehicle now has a 17 digit VIN number that is used around the world for tracking it, our local authority Vic Roads formally RTA,TRB and before that Victoria Police have strict guidelines that override any manufacturers requirements the same as all other states in Australia, originally before VIN plates came to Aussie in 1976 frame and engine numbers were de rigour and seriously enforced if a number was not easy to read or damaged the two choices were "clarify" or issue a new number which in our state V....P (VIc Police) other states issued there own N....P for NSW, W....P West Aust etc. They were ruthless and if a new number was issued a cole chisel was used to obliterate the old numbers, a Vincent I once owned was stamped along the crankcase beside the primary chaincase with the original number chiseled with large X's  pretty grim! Needless to say if a numeral wasn't deep enough they were made so they were readable, many chopper builders were seen crying scrapping off body filler and thousands of dollars of painting with fervour to keep these burocrats happy.


Back to the 21st century and how has that affected you and your classic machine, plenty the situation is now that some clubs have revoked all prior authentication on your machine and require a picture of a mating number, engine number, and all frame numbers and any history of your machine and rego numbers (only relevant if it was in U.K.) then from 12,000 mile away will make a decision, what a "can of worms" if ten knowledgeable people who specialise in your make surround the machine and ok it and 5kgs of provinence with 6 Works photos and the local Vic Police rego documents  from 1950 with factory build sheets and are all at hand this will count for nothing if one digit has been altered to register your machine and the local authority have even provided on letterhead documents that this is what happened in the past and still does! It gets worse, recently when a two owner machine that had been registered for 63 years well known to this club and has to be now re-registered and has the same faint stamping, you will be told if you do this "we cannot authenticate it" even know they have pictures of these numbers as they are currently, so you have the decision "Do you feel lucky" as Clint Eastwood said and re stamp a numerical digit or maybe run the risk of it being allocated a new number. If you do touch it then you are banished to then owning a non-authenticated motorcycle even know there is no problems on this clubs register or the same number existing anywhere else in the world and you have previously had this clubs "blessing" complex to say the least


So now we have passed the Wankers part of my article I have a question, If you had the choice for example to own a eg: Triumph all original say 1970 Bonneville and it had another engine fitted or the same machine raked and extended hardtail all brackets cut off and chromed with a moulded peanut tank but a original matching numbers bike which would you choose?

Indian Motorcycle Owners are always sceptical about matching numbers and if they are matching then that rings alarm bells seems fair to me on machines over half a century old with a colourful history, I have worked in the motorcycle trade now since 1973 and have seen this slow degradation of importance on functional vehicles turn to a "doesn't matter even if it runs anymore" investment opportunity to hedge against the stock market for wealthy people that only use old vehicles as investments, encouraging this is a downhill slide to stop classic bikes staying on the road and in my opinion should be heavily discouraged by clubs and such emphasis on frame or engine numbers not at all encouraged to people buying a machine, the same as all machines in original condition should not be restored to better than new and left in original condition specification which thankfully now most clubs now seem to do.

Phil Pilgrim 2017