I must admit to losing my ‘project-virginity’ at a very early age, and have happily developed my capability over the years. I’m clearly not the only one on the planet that has reached this level of attainment either, but I’m damn sure that there are a number of virgins out there that have observed others ‘at it’, but have not found the right project to ‘do it with’ yet. So, if you are project virgin, this may help you prepare for ‘the day’. For those of you that are already at the advanced projectaholic phase, welcome to yourself, in the following text and pictures.

The first question to answer is: Why are Projects so bloody well attractive to us as biking-human-beings? The statements below are commonly used to provide us with the acquisition justification for ‘everything project’:
– It gets my creative juices flowing.
– It is the anticipation of the end result.
– It is the journey to the end result.
– It is the opportunity to switch off from the rest of the world and immerse myself in it.
– I can lock myself away in my own shed space to ‘breath & create’.
– It is the opportunity to share the build with my friends, so it becomes the glue that holds us all together?

Once you have identified which of the above you have used to justify another project, you’ll start to get a good ‘view of yourself in the project mirror’ and you’ll soon spot the virgin or the projectaholic. But understanding your personal project profile is the next step, so here are some questions to answer:

-Are you a completer-finisher or a dabbler-never-finish-anything type?
– Are you person with creative freedom to just see what happens, or a perfectionist that needs to follow the instructions, AND likes to do exact ‘nut & bolt’ restorations?
– Are you a generally relaxed or tense project person?
– Do you like to multi-task and have more than one, and different types (houses, cars, trucks, cycles, sewing machines etc) of project on the go at any one time?
– Are you a project planner or a ‘just do it and see how it evolves’ person?
– Do you always know what the destiny of the project will be? Keep it or sell it?
– Do you set a budget for your projects, and track costs on a spreadsheet?
– Do you ever set a finish deadline date for your projects?
– Do you like to do projects on your own or are they a platform for social stuff, or both?

Enough questions for now, because if you don’t know what project category of person you are, you’re probably in denial. Apparently, the word ‘project’ is one of the most used on the main ‘e-auction’ sites as ‘the’ search word. If sellers have any doubt about something, they will stick the word ‘project’ in the title. This makes it interesting to see what people classify as a project. For example, I’ve seen a pair of handlebars classed as a project. You need a good imagination to develop the rest of it from one component, or it is a good reason and justification to buy the rest of the bike? I bought the moto forks in the picture below from a charity shop (yes, really) and they were cheap as well. I couldn’t leave them there so paid the cash and whisked them off back to the shed where serious polishing took place, and then dreams of what project they would trigger. In the end, I sold them to a friend who reckoned he would have something to attach them to in the near future. He hasn’t found it yet.

One pair of charity shop Husqvarna Super-Moto forks. It was a mini-project cleaning them up. They’re still waiting to be attached to something interesting…….

The other bizarre thing about projects is that some of them actually cost more in parts alone than a fully finished item would cost, particularly if the project is a true nut & bolt restoration, and these are at the extreme end of project builds. Nobody ever counts the monetary value of their time when doing projects because it just wouldn’t be right would it? Projects are done because people want to do them, unless your business is custom building stuff. The big auction houses sell real ‘barn find projects’ (an over used term in selling old stuff now), bidding is intense and projects can make big money, and again, sometimes more than a complete bike or car or……..It is also common that a recently deceased person’s whole ‘project portfolio’ is auctioned off and this always creates great interest, and the stuff sells well.

There’s another element to the whole ‘project thing’ that drives a persons approach, and that is the emotional one. For example, our youngest son bought me a 1960s French motorcycle frame, petrol tank and wheels for Christmas one year. I made a drawing of what I thought the visionary-custom-non-original bike would look like, and we started acquiring stuff for it over the course of the next 12 months. We found a hand change vintage gearbox and clutch (below), a pair of girder forks, and a 250cc Villiers engine was found in a hedge, which had been used to run a farm bailing machine. We agreed to build the bike together, so naturally, there is a strong emotional element to the project. Unfortunately, we both have separate busy lives and several other projects on the go, so it is all sitting on the shelf, waiting, and waiting, and waiting.

3 speed hand change gearbox and clutch. All ready to go in the bike, eventually…….

I’ve also bought other people’s projects that they never got around to finishing, and this makes me more focussed on completing them. They obviously failed to complete and I’m not going to do the same. It just wouldn’t be right would it? Sadly, some projects just keep being sold and re-sold and probably just used for parts in the end. This can be the outcome of having several projects on the go at one time and parts are robbed from one project to bring another to life. In fact, I’m sure that sheds and workshops containing many projects actually see some ‘mating’ and ‘reproduction’ going on. When the shed owner is asleep in bed, it’s almost like the projects get together and project conception takes place. The owner spots this when he/she is looking around for something and suddenly finds the parts of two or more projects in one place, and looking pretty good together.

I’m a bit of a hybrid project person in that I like to plan projects out, find the parts and determine when it will be finished by. I always finish a project as well. I’m not a perfectionist, but what I finish is rideable or usable, even if it isn’t concours condition. I work on the basis of “it doesn’t have to be perfect to be amazing”. Finishing a project then provides a next step into destiny. In the case of a motorcycle, it can be ridden, which creates small or large scale adventures. If a project was done because a person is a bit of a collector and he/she wanted that particular model, there is satisfaction in seeing it in its place with the rest of the model range. Alternatively, the finished project is just sold, and the cash is used to fund the next project (Mmmmmmmm!). I also apply a bit of succession planning to my projects in that I have a good idea what I want the next one to be.

The custom scene is the ultimate development of the project, where individualisation drives a creative outcome. There are generally themes to custom motorcycles. They have meaningful names like ‘Moon Shine’ or ‘Black Lace’. This last name is also the name of a 1970s UK pop-Eurovision-band and I’m 150% sure you wouldn’t name a custom motorcycle after them. In fact, post-Brexit, I wonder if the UK will be invited to the Eurovision song contest ever again. If not, it might not be a huge loss to the creativity of the UK music industry. Anyway, individuality is what everything is about in the custom project world, except a Harley chopper is a Harley chopper isn’t it? I’m not sure how many derivatives of a Harley chopper there are, but it is a big project category. Although nobody would admit it in the custom world, trends and fashions do start and develop fast. Just look at how many custom BMW Boxer twins there are nowadays. Almost as many as Harley choppers. It is common for most ‘motorcycle types’ to be attracted to any project that has an engine in it. After all, somebody designed and bolted it all together in the first place, so it must be easy enough to unbolt, and re-bolt together with a bit of an individual twist added into the final result. Ever been out for a walk in the countryside and come across something like this ex-army truck below, parked up, obviously bought as a project and never touched. When you see it for the first time, you start to see the end in mind. When I saw this truck, I could see a trials bike or downhill mountain bike or two in the back and using it to get to ‘out-of-the-way’ places. It would also be good in big snow, sandy beaches etc etc. The romance of the vision is what drives a project.

See the vision? Imagine a couple of vintage scramblers or trials bike on the bike of this and heading out to somewhere a bit ‘off road’

The real richness of the project world is the sheer diversity of what people take on. It is amazing, inspirational and energising. Instagram and every social media site has project stuff on them whether it’s a vintage aeroplane or bag of knitting wool. One of the things that project virgins need to do, is to go to the shed of a real projectaholic and see what is in there. The visions, the plans, the commitments, the creativity, the junk, the completed gems etc. The best projects always come out of sheds, so the first thing a project virgin needs, is a shed. Any empty shed will be a very strong magnet to attract projects. Human nature means that any empty space needs to be filled, so an empty shed won’t be empty for long. You might not even have to buy a project for that empty shed. Another projectaholic may even see himself/herself as the ‘mentor’ to the project-virgin and give them something to fill that space. This also gets rid of some of their crap so it makes space for another project. Regardless of what happens in the future, there will always be projects and people doing projects. It is infectious.

Ever been somewhere looking for something specific and seeing something different in the corner beckoning you over to scoop it up as your latest project? I have. Following the vintage tractor theme, I bought an old Tri-ang, model clockwork tractor, cheap. It was in pieces, but looked like a good project. I was a vintage tractor project-virgin and this was my first, which also got completed quickly, and it works. This vintage toy tractor got me interested in the ‘tractor project’ game, and the next tractor project was the real thing. You will see from the following three photos, that a project journey can develop fast. First the toy, then the real thing………..

Vintage Tractor Project 1
Ta Daaa! First vintage tractor project completed! Ha!
Vintage tractor project 2 AND finished! 1952 Swiss Vevey Tractor with 3 cylinder Perkins P3 Diesel engine

For all the project-virgins out there, YouTube is a great place to watch projectaholics talk through their projects. It is almost like an implicit ‘projectaholics anonymous’ place to go where people can talk to their camera and get everything out, just like therapy. It is also a very rich place to get ideas, see how other people fix things, and in some instances, get the same result by tackling something completely differently. I’m absolutely sure that the world will always have projectaholics and project-virgins, and all going through the same cycle, just with different projects.

All photos by the author