Tony Edwards, it’s fair to say, is obsessed with Harris Magnums. He’d never seen a Kettleengined Magnum 2, so he set about building one. Two years (and thirty four grand later) here it is
Tony has a thing about Harris Magnums. Has done since he was 16. And it shows no sign of going away. This is his third Magnum, without a smidgeon of doubt his best to date, and one to stand among the very best of the genre. Plus, we think it’s the only one packing two-stroke power. Tony Edwards, it’s fair to say, is obsessed with Harris Magnums. He’d never seen a Kettleengined Magnum 2, so he set about building one. Two years (and thirty four grand later) here it is These were, along with Moto Martins, the special frame of the ’80s, although the first Magnum appeared in 1973 when Seeley, Rickman and Dresda were still the big names in trick frames. The Magnum 2, introduced in 1982, then became the benchmark in bespoke tubing for big-inch engines. Geometry, bending and brazing was by Steve and Lester Harris, Anglo- German firm Target Design (of Katana fame) styled the bodywork. Perimeter-style in Reynolds 531 tubing, the engine became a stressed-member of the chassis and most big four-strokes of the time found their way into Magnum 2 frames; Z1000s, Suzuki GSX11s, Honda CB900s and Laverda Jotas. No Kettles in a Magnum 2 – until now.
CB900s and Laverda Jotas. No Kettles in a Magnum 2 – until now. “I love that ’80s endurance look,” says Tony. “They were the first proper specials I saw and such beautiful pieces of engineering.” Those first glimpses of Magnum 2s gave him a taste for specials building too. “My mate had a Suzuki RM250 (motocrosser, although you’d have called it a scrambler back then) and he’d blown his motor. I had a DT175 engine lying around so we put that in it. It was all the wrong way around really, ideally you’d have put the RM engine in the DT, but it was a good learning process,” he says. “I wish I’d kept that bike. But then we all look back and say that about all sorts of things.” This Magnum Kettle is likely to be a keeper though. Two years in the making, Tony went flat out to make sure he got everything perfect. “I’m not normally the best at finishing things,” he admits. “But I told myself I’d have to do this one properly down to the last nut.” To all intents and purposes he’s got it all spot-on. But the uber-perfectionist inside him still can’t rest. “The radiator hose through the fairing is something I’d change,” he admits. “But I can’t think of another way of doing it.” By any standards, if that’s his biggest problem, this bike has got to be existing on a higher plane than most Magnums. Take the electrics, traditionally a problem area on many specials, or at least a part of the build that’s least appealing to the majority of builders. Not Tony though. He went the Motogadget route for switchgear and wired the whole lot in himself, routing the ’bar switch wiring internally through the clip-ons. And the wires are tightly clad in black braided nylon too. He couldn’t have done it more properly if he’d tried. Tony took his time and only finished it two months ago. “The engine alone took nine months,” he says. “I don’t believe in harrassing specialists. The people who do things properly do them at their own pace.” Worth the wait though. How about 96bhp and 72lb.ft of torque at the rear wheel. “It was putting out 102bhp but we decided to knock that back a bit on the ignition curve for the road.” The power unit is a 1972 GT750J engine worked over by BDK Race Engineering in Ashwellthorpe in rural Norfolk. And they truly went to town on it: O-ring head gaskets, downdraught carb inlets, lightened crank, meticulously matched porting job, RGV250 alternator, magnesium side covers, Zeeltronic programmable ignition, Swarbrick TR750 spec expansion chambers – it makes power because it’s been breathed on – properly.
1. Whether it’s the amount of time you think something will take, or the amount of money you think it will cost – double it.
2. Trust specialists to get things right in their own time. Nobody appreciates being hassled when they’re in the middle of a jo (whether it’s yours or someone else’s). It pays to be patient.
3. If something doesn’t look right when it goes on, it’s not going to look any better later. All that happens is you’ll say to yourself ‘I wish I’d changed that’. Change it or all that’ll happen is you’ll regret it later.
“The 38mm Mikunis are on a 20-degree downdraught,” says Tony. “The engine has been angled down in the frame slightly too, but the carbs kept flooding no matter what we did to the float heights.” The solution? “I found some angled inlet rubbers for a CZ490 motocrosser on eBay. The poor bloke couldn’t work out why I wanted three of them. But they were sent from Czecho and did the trick.” The radiator was originally a GSX-R750 K1 item but it fractured on its solid mountings during dyno testing and the only replacement to hand was a ZX-6 item that fitted like it was made for the job. “It went straight on and now it runs without a thermostat with the electric fan set to chime in at 95-degrees.” The chassis, with an original NWS ally swingarm, was treated to exactly the same level of attention as the engine. “The headstock’s original, but the front tubes and engine mounts are all new,” says Tony. “Mal at Metal Malarkey (nr Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire) did a great job. You’d simply never know. Most of the frame work was to get the front mounting points absolutely right. He welded up the Swarbricks too, just to make sure they fitted perfectly.” Swarbricks come in kit form, cones and tapers all cut and rolled from mild steel ready to be tacked together for fit and then finish-welded when it all falls into place. This way there’s no bodging brackets and dinging dents to make it all work. The neatness is palpable, especially in the ceramic-like Thermakote finish.
Finish is, of course, everything on a special, and Tony has gone very deep into the ’80s vibe with a 1984 Shell Oils style paint job on a red frame (from a Harris brochure no less) that fairly screams ’ARRIS MAGNUM! Which is entirely understandable. “I saw that paint job when I was 18,” says Tony. “And not having the money then meant I just had to do it now.” The three-spoke Dymags are off a V&M race bike and came cheap because they’re five pin cush-drive items, not the more usual six. “It didn’t matter to me because we were making a new cush-drive set-up anyway.” Just like Tony and Mal made the myriad spacers and mounting plates for the rearsets, and the Aprilia Mille R brake discs and Pretech calipers. It really is a Special Brew a Magnum, always were and always will be because there are so many variables involved in a build that’s purely a frame (in this case originally purposed for a GSX1100) glass fibre body parts – and the rest is entirely up to the builder. Which means it’s more than possible to take a wrong turn.
1. More out-and-out ’80s than a Duran Duran weekender and no worse for that. Shell paint job is straight out of a 1982 Harris brochure.
2. Those big 38mm Mikunis on that tricky 20-degree downdraught angle. CZ490 inlets cured a persistent float bowl flooding problem. It’s all quite a tight fit too.
3. Koso clocks keep the cockpit commendably old school, and a Harris just would not be a Harris without the compulsory masterylinder sweatband.
4. Swarbrick spannies are a sinuous fit in and around the tubework and footpegs. Thermakote finish is classy and so far heatproof.
“The bike came with upside-down Öhlins forks and I thought they’d be fine, but once the Kettle engine went in they just didn’t look right at all,” says Tony. “You’d think anyone would be mad to swap them, but I just bit the bullet and bought a pair of conventional Öhlins. “Then there are the magnesium engine covers which shave a very welcome three inches off what is a wide engine. The alternator cover is carbon fibre and I’d rather have it plain magnesium because the carbon is not really of the period, but I’ve got to draw a line at having one CNC’d. Along with that hose through the fairing it’s another bugbear.” So, two perceived problem areas on a bike that are ‘only’ cosmetic is not a bad result.
When the whole thing gels so well to a casual onlooker, it’s only Tony who’s ever going to be mildly unsettled by what he sees as flaws. Will he get around to fixing them? Not while he’s working on a turbo-charged Aprilia 125 that’s already making 28bhp without a blower. “I’m hoping to get more than 40bhp. There’s a bloke in Sweden who’s got 54bhp at the crank from a turbo TZR125, so it’s possible,” he says. And when he’s not attempting to squeeze impossible power from 125s he’ll be tear-arsing around on his Bandit-engined Magnum 4, or enjoying the local lanes on his Husky 310. Tony is 53 and runs his own air-con service company. He freely admits he’s spent £34,000 on this Magnum Kettle.
“The missus knows I’ve spent more than 30 grand on it. The engine alone was 10 grand.” Where some people are oddly guarded about how much they spend, Tony is the polar opposite and is quite happy to confess just how much he’s into this one-off Magnum stroker for. Money is a means to enjoy the good things in life; Magnum to Tony means Harris, not champagne. “I couldn’t even get a Desmosedici for what I’ve spent on this,” he says putting the vast expense into some sort of perspective. Not that he’d want one. Not when there are other Harris Magnum builds waiting to be dreamed and schemed and brought to life.