I can’t afford to buy rubbish!

I wonder what it is (apart from sheer profiteering) that makes people continue to produce absolute trash and why others will fall for it, time and again?? Where does the cycle end? Surely there is a limit reached (à la 100 monkeys), where the charlatans and their dirty dealings become common knowledge?

One would think so, but there are obviously enough of us idiots out there, prepared to exchange our hard cash for even harder lessons…and just put up with it?


I’ve had enough! Case in point? A wonderful illustration (and there are a few, believe me!) are the ‘MILLER’ reproduction rear lights with the ‘STOP’ script on them.

They are everywhere, ranging in price from the mid 20s to the late 50s in AUS Dollars. I even saw someone at one of the local bike-meets here in the Adelaide hills asking $60 for the same CRAP that everyone else is selling…

So? Why are they so bad? Let me explain:They are REALLY badly made, they require fettling to fit, they are often damaged as new and delivered. When, if, you manage to fit them to your beloved bike (I hope to God that you didn’t throw the rusty, bent original away, if you ever had one!), you will find that it lasts around half an hour, before the ‘lens’ begins to melt – that’s with the 5W sidelight glowing on its own. Even more fun is, when it has melted itself to the bulb (they call them ‘globes’ down under), and then you cant get anything apart without destroying everything and risking cutting your fingers badly (don’t ask how I know).

OK, I’ll start at the very beginning: I bought mine in a plain white cardboard box for $34?? $43?? Something like that. The seller was packing up and I was also in a hurry to get home, so didn’t bother looking in the box…more’s the pity. When I did get home and opened the box, the lens was broken in half. (see the top picture)

Exactly in half! Must be a reason for that, so I had a closer look. First, try one of the halves in the fitting to see what had done the damage. Well, that was pretty obvious!



Having discovered what the culprit was, I disassembled it to make the repair ( and photos) easier. Pretty easy to see, eh! The (already rusty) bulb-fitting and dividing wall was obviously hastily hand-cut on a grinding-wheel – after galvanising! -, incidentally leaving a razor-sharp edge all around. The ‘dome’ at the top protruded well above the rim and so when ‘assembled’, the raised part pressed into the lens, breaking it perhaps even before it was put in the box…


So, to alleviate the immediate problem, the ‘wall’ was marked and relieved as shown, and the edges ground to avoid any pending injury. The person who sold it to me was very apologetic and sent me a replacement lens on the same day, so at least that was good (he did ask for the broken item to be returned, so that he could claim it from his supplier).

The other thing that was immediately apparent was the quality, or lack thereof, of the STOP script. First off, its PLASTIC, badly chromed, the flash was not removed before chroming and the die is terrible: The script is awful and the vertical bar is neither in the middle nor straight (perpendicular) and it was also broken: See for yourselves.



Inside and out this is a shoddy bit of work, broken, wonky, badly conceived and finished, this is the most appalling workmanship with no attempt made to conceal it. Look at all the adverts on eBay and other medium, and the pictures are all perfect, no holes in the chrome, all the flash removed cleanly and I suspect even an original script and sometimes lens photographed.


The inside was also painted black, which would help the luminance of the light-output no end, so that got a quick spray of matt white. I unfortunately forgot to photograph the mis-fitting holes and the dividing plate all being wonky, the adjustment of the bulb-holders, so that the tops of the glass didn’t twist off when you tried to fit them etc., etc., which took up a good hour to get right. Then I started thinking… (dangerous!)

Why have a dividing wall between side- and brake-light anyway? Was the original split? Of course not, you Wally, there was only one single-filament bulb in the middle anyway! So why go to all that trouble? Just because there is a convenient horizontal split, doesn’t mean that you have to halve the area of light showing to the rear as a running-light?? Why on earth was the single-filament-bulb not simply replaced by a dual side/stop 5W/21W bulb, like in so many other bikes and cars?? Defeats me!

For whatever reason, this is the construction seen on ALL replica rear lights of this type. A useless idea, carried out absolutely hopelessly. I don’t think I even had bulbs in the purchase, as I remember? I could be wrong, of course, but it wouldn’t surprise me, and I’ll show you why: What bulbs would YOU fit?? (The real question is, which bulbs will fit at all under the rear lens, which you remember, comes to just above touching the modified division shown below…



This picture also shows the superb workmanship in the cutting of the number-plate-light window, which was also done with some kind or rotary slitting/grinding wheel, turning over the edge inside, a razor-sharp (and rather wonky) trap for fingers. Reason for the pic? To show the depth of just over 40mm from the base inside to the bottom of the lens. Now for the available replacement bulbs:


This one?

Or perhaps this one?


Anyone for the added output and longevity of LED?


Oh dear! Nothing seems to fit! Find one that does (I couldn’t), and it would literally sit right up against the lens, which melts PDQ, as the material is also sh*t, and is not even red! No, its clear plastic, dipped in some red ‘paint’, as can be seen here: notice the streaks! (at 45˚ from bottom left to top right)


Oh dear! You found me out! I was never going to use that STOP script anyway! Only the Vincents used to fit those, never actually fitted on a Velocette originally!

Yes, I know, you can’t get those anymore though, so what’s there to do??

Make them!

And a RED, real GLASS lens. Should be ready for Christmas! Won’t solve the proximity problem, but will stop the lens from melting! AND, now proper Velocetty items will at last be available! YAY!

The proximity problem…Hmmm, what about using those torpedo-shaped bulbs, then? They could be set much lower and have the advantage that they are also available not only in 5W and 21W, but also in 10W, for a brighter positioning light! Sold!

So off I trundled to my friendly local Car-Accessory store in Hahndorf, where David could sell me a truck/trailer stop/tail combination light with said festoon double-bulb-setup. Great!

Dismembered that to make my prototype and fitted all the bits, if a bit Heath-Robinson, inside the housing with bags of space to spare. Cut a bit of Ally sheet to give a slightly better reflection-index, and this is what I ended up with. Please bear in mind that this is only a ‘prototype’, made on my mum’s kitchen table (I’m living up in Hahndorf, looking after mum and dad for a while)…


Same wonky housing, BUT, rather more space between bulbs and lens, I would say! The bulbs are about half way between base and lens, actually, which is ideal!

As I said, a bit ‘home-brewed’, but works fine and would actually last as it is. The ally reflector is a bit small, but will be improved upon in the production models. The hole was made as a cross-slit in the alloy, which was pushed through and turned over the other side to hold it in place… has the advantage that the edges of the hole are now round and soft, so that wires don’t get chafed. Clever, huh!?





Couldn’t resist showing how wonky again… Sorry!


The cover-plates in comparison. (I shall definitely make the star…)



Here the replacement plastic lens showing the wound left even by my modified division, while it lasted…



And here showing the streaks in the colouring of the lens as well as possible (cheating a bit by bringing the colour-temperature of the image right down to clarify the difference)


Very difficult to photograph in daylight rendering correct colour, this is as close as I got… just the taillight (10W): don’t forget, DAYLIGHT!


‘Slight’ difference with the brake on… (10+21=31W) Pretty good, eh!?

Speaks for itself I think. Put in a real, through-coloured red glass lens and the red will not bleach as much and the whole effect will be better and safer for following traffic as well as for ‘yours truly’ on the bike. I’m negotiating with various suppliers to bring this project to fruition and hope to have the first units coming off the line around Christmas (yes, THIS year!). When they do come, they will FIT, they will WORK and they will LAST, as well as doing justice to your beloved machine and the effort you have put into making what it is… a machine to RIDE, I hope!!

©peter gouws 2012

Made on a mac