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Howard Gem G206, The earliest one left?

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As this project is nearing completion Ive decided its finally time to share it. This is one of the reasons why work on G621 has been very slow.

Back in April I spotted this early Howard Gem on ebay, the photos below was all I had to go on. There was no serial number visable, but I

was hopping I was right in thinking it was one of the short gearbox models (the first 400 made had a shorter gearbox and frame due to the

clutch thrust bearing being on the outside rather than submerged in oil.) I made an offer as I felt the buy it now price was to high, and about

15 minutes later my bid was accepted.

 When it arrived back I found the serial number hidden under the rust and was pleasantly suprised to find it was G206, which makes it the

106th Gem ever produced (production started at G101). Ive been researching Gems for many years and prior to this the lowest number I

had seen was G357, so at the present this is the earliest known Gem to exist. Realising how important this example is in the history of

Gem's I decided to press on with the restoration. I will upload the photos as and when I have time over the next few days.

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An initial assessment revealed that the machine was missing its magneto, silencer, chain cover, it also had the wrong wheels fitted.

Luckily I also own the remains to G367,(pictured Below), another very early Gem but sadly this on is far to gone to ever restore, but ive been able to

use it for some of the missing parts.

After checking the factory records it was revealed that this example was built on 10/12/1941 and dispatched as part of a pair along

with G207 to Trewartha Gregory & Dolge Ltd in Cornwall (they are still trading today) via LMS goods rail on the 15/12/1941.

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After stripping the box totally, every bearing was found to be shot. What then followed was a couple of weeks work of work as some

of bearings were impossible to obtain. Bar one they were all imperial, but the odd one had an imperial centre and width, yet a metric

outer?!? The only solution was to make a collar to go over the outside of an imperial one to turn it to metric. The main shaft was

badly worn, caused mainly by a home made codged up thrust bearing that somebody had fitted at some point in its life. This is

where G 367 proved invaluable as I was able to use the shat out of its gearbox. The bill for the bearings exceeded £300 on their

own, if it had been metric it would of been so much cheaper. New seals were also fitted throughout, I had to adapt the housing

where the clutch one went as there was nothing commercially available. Once reassembled I initially was panicking as the box was

very tight and sounded like a bag a gravel had been thrown in it, this fortunately was rectified by fitting a shim under the main shaft

bearing to position the crown wheel in the right place. I had never done a gear box properly before, I just hope it works ok once I

fire the old girl up for the first time, otherwise it could be an expensive bang...

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With the gearbox rebuilt, it was time to turn my attention to the thrust bearing etc. When new the instruction book said that the engine had to be split from the machine, clutch removed 

and the bearing greased every hundred hours or so. As you can imagine this didn't happen very often, infact Howard must of had so many complaints about this because after number

G501 onwards they went to the trouble of redoing all the castings and moving it inside the box.

The operating bars as can be seen were badly worn, again G367 donated better condition parts.

As already mentioned somebody had cobbled together a thrust bearing and housing etc that had worn away part of the gearbox shaft. The drawing in the manual didn't show what the

housing should look like or even what size the bearing should be so a new assembly was machined from scratch. This was fitted along with a brand new clutch plate as the old one

was looking very second hand. The bearing was also packed with "Pecker Grease" to hopefully last a little longer between services.

Next stage was to file down some over size key steel to take up a little bit of damage on the clutch locating keyways.

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My next job was the engine. These early Gems were fitted with J.A.P's from the factory. The factory records confirmed that this

was still the original one so I have done my best to save what I can. When purchased it was seized solid. A full strip down followed and I

couldn't see any reason as to why it was? Anyway it now turns freely. The engine had already been bored to + 060" and was in a bad state.

Its only the cylinder and piston that I have changed on the internals the rest is original. A lot of elbow grease followed and I don't think it came

up to bad.

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I was now up to the end of April. A forklift proved a god send assisting with lining up the engine and gearbox. As you've probably seen

in the other photos the gearbox flange was broken. As cast is hard to successfully weld, after recommendations I used J-B Weld to

bond it in place. Then after rubbing down and prepping a respray followed. For the first time in nearly a month I actually felt like I was

actually making some progress.

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Wheels refitted, these again came off G 367. The locating plates have been blacked. These early

Gems even used different retaining springs to the later ones. As luck would have it I had enough

to make up a full set in my store. The air filter was also overhauled. Boy didn't the brass plate take

some work to clean  up!

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The main frame required a lot of work as it was suffering from heavy rust. After wire brushing down and treating with rust killer it was built

up with weld, ground back and skimmed in filler. This took about a week to do. The fuel tank was actually in quite reasonable condition

and only needed a light skim of filler. The intresting thing is it has the outlets welded on the other side to normal meaning that it has to be

fitted back to front. Was this deliberate or a cock up in the factory? that due to shortage of materials means it had to be sent out as it was?

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At this stage I had reached the middle of May. Work started on the jackshaft and rotorshaft plate. The rotorshaft bearing took

over 2 hours to remove! Even our 75 tonne press wouldn't shift it, lots of banging and swearing followed. But as a pleasant

surprise it was a  common metric one so only cost a few pounds. After fitting new bearings and seals it was rubbed down

and resprayed along with the oil filter housing.

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The handles were refitted, very difficult job to do on your own with fresh paint. I also fitted a new rotorchain,

normally I try to salvage one off a scrap Gem, however as this is such an historically special machine I felt

only a brand new one would do. This machine is starting to get expensive.

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Next up was the rotor shaft. Yet again a new bearing was needed. Most of the blades are a recent replacement

however Ive managed to obtain a N.O.S set of genuine Howard blades, rather than the Dowdeswell ones that

are available now. Note how the rotorshaft is almost the same as the earlier Howard Junior, rather than the more

common gem type. Howard must of been using up old stock on these early machines.

I purchased a new set of Rotor shields a couple of years back off Standen Engineering. I paid more for them than

I paid for this whole machine! The rear soil flap wasn't used on these early machines and they both needed

extensive modifying to look like the correct type, with pieces being let in and the seems being welded up.

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I lost most of June and over half of July due to a combination of having some time off work and

also not enjoying the best of health. However the one thing that I did manage to do is to apply

the truly excellent decals that Titch from Machinery Decals sent me. Thankyou so much Titch,

they really lift the appearance of the Gem.

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A couple of weeks ago I finaly felt up to doing some more work on the old girl. I fitted a N.O.S oil

filter that I obtained a few years ago. The starting handle pivot was freed up by getting it very hot.

I also prepped and sprayed most of the small fittings.

I hadn't been very happy with finish obtained on the rotor shields etc so these were re rubbed down

and given another top coat.

One of the missing parts on this Gem as mentioned was the chain cover. Early Gems had plain

chain covers, going through my store I had a sound but battered one, so as they are like hens teeth

I spent days straightening it and smoothing back the filler.

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After the paint had a couple of days to set I started building her back up. With the selector rod refitted

and adjusted I'm pleased to report all 3 gears and neutral seem to select. I painted the black bits on

the various levers and fitted the closest match to the original handle grips that I could find.

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With a view that it wont hopefully be long till the old girl is ready for running,

I decided to sort out the magneto. Heres where I hit a bit of a problem. Only

Bth mags will fit these early J.A.P's due to the angle of the chain drive and

thus clearance under the carb inlet. The only one I could find was in the hedge

across the yard on a scrap engine. A mate of mine had a look and thinks it will

be ok, it sparks now at least.

Just needs a bit more cleaning up before fitting. Ive never timed up one of these

before so should be intresting.

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Spent nearly 3 hours today fitting the rear rotor covers. Am a little disappointed

with the quality of fit considering how much they cost. Took a lot of fettling to get

lined up properly. Even had to resort to taking a grinder to it.

Got the final decal from titch fitted and the Brass plate I had made a while ago.

The chain was tensioned and instead of oil I used Pecker grease as I have on

other Gems, its very messy stuff but saves the risk of leaks.

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Thank you for your words of encouragement .

Ive been cleaning up some of the copper pipes and plumbing them in today.

Ive also fitted the mag and set the engine to 1/4" B.T.D.C and marked it up.

Tonight on the way home I bought a pack of rizzla's (Ive been told these are

the best thing to use to tell when the points are just starting to open) and

tomorrow morning if im awake enough ill have ago at setting the timming

and fitting the chain.

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21 hours ago, Stormin said:

Cigarette papers are just the job for point setting. One thousandth of an inch thick.

After the day I've had with this trying to get the timing right I can see why people smoke!  No matter what I tried I couldn't get the timing spot on. After speaking to a friend he said I've got to remove the cog off the taper to get it right.Heres where I hit a problem, said cog will not shift!  No matter what I do, it may as well be welded in place. Not a happy bunny as its been hours wasted. Also just found out I've got to be in Bristol for 7am to tighten up 2 hoses for a customer because he reckons he can't!!! Time to go to the pub.

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Finaly got the timing set up today after nearly a week of trying! I ordered some new pullers to try and get

the sprocket off the mag, but no matter what I tried, NO! Simply wouldn't shift. In the end using some brute

force on the drive on the cam end I got the bottom sprocket off and used this instead to time everything up.

Hopefully wont be to long till she fires up for the first time.

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