How good are the copies?
Well, I have the undoubted pleasure of owning an original Miller lamp shell, with an original ammeter and switch, (the ammeter pictured above is a cheap pattern which doesn’t fit…) although the switch is a later, three-position job, as available now ‘everywhere’ in pattern form; where from I don’t know…probably a couple of versions floating around (and never fitted to Velocettes?).
Up until a few months ago, the only 8-inch pattern shell available was from our friends EMGO in Taiwan, (marketed principally by the excellent ‘Domi_Racer’ – eBay member- in the States) who produced an absolutely excellent replica, with brass mountings, riveted on properly etc. Holes the right size, round and of the correct shape and orientation. The material has a good solid thickness and quality of mild steel.
Recently, however, there have been some poor copies emerging (on eBay), jumping on the band-wagon; from the Indian continent, of very different material quality and fit/shape
Be aware that they try to ‘upgrade’ their offerings with the addition of EITHER a shell with a rim/lamp OR the shell with a pattern switch and ammeter, but NOT the complete lamp…WHY? Quite simply because EITHER the lamp OR the ammeter fit, but NOT BOTH!
BEWARE! The Emgo shells are suffering the same evil, only that the correct and slimmer ammeter are available (I believe also from EMGO, at around £44 from the Vincent Owner’s Club, but also from others…ASK about the depth, and if it’s much cheaper, it WON”T be the right one).
The pattern switch is an unknown for me, as I have one off an LE or something, which is 3-position, so maybe off a later single, not sure, but genuine Miller, anyway. Works well and has a very solid ‘click’ to it. The dimensions don’t seem to be different (I have had one in my hand! It’s a bit glossier than the original (‘plastic’ or fibreglass, not Bakelite – also strictly a plastic, I know…), a combination of different black material and the fact that it was new, and not fifty-odd years old!)
So now we come to the headlamps and rims:
The first rim I bought in September, I believe, and was of the pre-war, stepped, design, as there wasn’t anything else available when I was looking. This was located at Domi_Racer’s on eBay and was bought at the same time as a very crisp-looking 8-inch headlamp unit (one of the subjects of my earlier blogs on HID conversions)
As mentioned earlier, I think, the rim needed a bit of tweaking to fit the housing and the lamp also needed a bit of persuasion to fit through the back. At the time, I thought it might be a one-off, but last week, I received another lamp from them, this time with a more period-looking glass (on the photo, I couldn’t see the cat’s eye centre) and the postwar-shape, smooth rim, similar to the LUCAS-type. The Lucas one is, by the way, much shorter front-to-back, with a more pronounced curve to it, whereas the MILLER item is almost straight-sided until the curve at the end and is much deeper, about a 1/4 of an inch deeper, in fact – this was, in effect, also to stop the ammeter fouling on the reflector!!
Problem: The INSIDE diameter of the rim at the back, where it fits on the shell, is too small and the front return of the rim is also a bit ‘close’. The material of the newly-acquired rim is much thicker than the stepped one, where the fix was an easy job with a hammer-handle or similar hardwood object being used to flatten the return on the back until it fit the shell by pressing it around the back edge…
This is how much it ‘wouldn’t fit’ and so I estimated that the internal diameter had to be increased by about 1/4 of an inch, which was well within the limits of the available material without damaging the exterior or having to cut-and shut, which would have caused other problems… like having to get everything re-chromed!
The new one needed real persuasion, and so a piece of hardwood (in this case very old Jarrah floor-boarding!) was sawn to the correct profile (i.e. 8-inches diameter, using the rim as a guide for marking), leaving enough to hold in a vice. This was done like this, because if you attempt to hammer the inside lip on a flat surface, you will distort the rim and leave ‘flats’ all over it…not good! This job definitely called for my fibre hammer, also given a roughly-8-inch Diameter-treatment, to make the job smoother.
*Please don’t use a metal hammer, as the chrome is very likely to get damaged and split off…
So gently, and all around the inside perimeter, the lip had to be turned back, to enable everything to fit.
Look, in the end, after the ‘tool’ was made, probably no more than ten minute’s work. But, Hey, should I be doing this?? Does everyone else have the materials and tools lying around to make this modification, so that something new fits?? I think that ‘Domi-Racer’ do a great job, but they are also in a position to let the supplier know that their parts need a bit of tweaking to fit! The light-unit even slipped in easily after the mod, surprise, surprise!
AH YES, the light unit! I said before, two different light-units, same supplier. VERY different light-units! I may have fluked here, but the one I received this week looks to be a lot older… Compare the glass and the crispness of the moulding. Even the colour of the glass is different and the reflector bowl was definitely not as highly-polished as the unit I received in September. Count the flutes, too, the latest one has far fewer flutes, much more like the original and the ‘cat’s eye’ is almost un-noticeable (YAY!).
Also interesting is that it is much deeper in the glass (more convex) than the other one! Last, but not least, the ‘new’ one (top/left) does not have a pilot-light hole!
I think that I may have bid on a lucky one-off, only time will tell if history will repeat itself for others… I am very happy with my purchase ($79?), as the glass is far more in ‘keeping’ with my ’47 model, looks far less like a LUCAS AND has the correct rim shape. I sincerely hope that this is NOT a one-off and that this is a new line, to complement the other one already on offer!
I am now working on a pressing to convert the HID bulbs to fit without modifying the original reflector! I have 25W, 35W and 50W HIDs to try…
Now I can take my other Miller reflector and mate it with a flat glass to go with the pre-war rim!
Oh, and while I was at it yesterday, I thought that I’d re-organise the ‘backdrop’ on my workbench, which up until now was merely an open frame, thought of to put up drawings… That has changed, drawings belong somewhere else and now I have place for the most used hammers and mallets for wood, leather, tin-bashing and metalwork, as well as somewhere to hang all the pliers and pincers I most use. The Files, screw-drivers and rasps have always resided in the back of the workbench, but there have been a few unusual additions which needed extra consideration.
Now I can use the bench as a bench, and can still have the tools to hand, without them having to take up space on the work-surface of the bench while I’m working!
(Don’t mention the hammer-fetish… or the files, or the saws!)
© peter gouws 2012