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Impulse buy, did I just shoot myself in the foot?

Hi all,

Many years ago I owned a decent WM20 but after life changes and move to Europe I sold it off.

Fast forward a few years and I'm back in the US, I've been sort of itching to get a new bike but at the same time wanting to really learn the in and outs of the mechanics behind it.

So I bought a frame with a title off of eBay last night for $720 and now I'm wondering what in the hell did I do?

Any good pointers on how and where to start a complete reassembly? I literally just have a frame and title.

Any tips appreciated!


Any tips except "sell it" I know how much military and vintage vehicles are a pain in the ass ;)

Re: Impulse buy, did I just shoot myself in the foot?

Hello Mike,

I'll start by saying that I don't know how old you are, because building a bike up from just a frame can take years, and when I turned 60 I swore I'd never try it again!

I also don't know how 'correct' you'd like your completed WM20 to be. That's the issue that takes up the time and the money.

The thing is, it can be a LOT of fun to build up a bike from nothing very much, and the learning process is fascinating as you get to explore all the variations and idiosyncratic things about a bike. So as long as you approach it in that light, it'll be a wonderful experience. Since you now have a title, you're one jump ahead of most people when they start, and that's a real benefit.

My own WM20 came to me as a heap of parts, many of which had seen better days, and I've enjoyed almost every aspect of the rebuild. Just one thing: avoid India-made parts unless you're absolutely sure they're good and original.

Best wishes,


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Re: Impulse buy, did I just shoot myself in the foot?

I'm in the process of doing the same as you. Buying bits when I see them on Ebay or here. I think its a more expensive way to go but you will learn an awful lot more. There are some really good resources available out there, especially this group who will always help you out if you get stuck on something.

There is an imeasurable amount of joy to be had when riding your (never) finished project and when something falls off, you know whose error that was.

Its also a good way to start with minimal funds to which you can add as resources allow. And as each bit is found, you can study them, learn how to maintain, repair, refurbish them and by the time you're done you will have learned an awful lot.

Your way is no faster or slower than buying a complete project except you have less money into the bike at the beginning. Arguably its more expensive, but for me, bringing a complete motorcycle to Hawaii costs north of $1,500 which is a lot of postage that can offset the higher cost.

Staring with a frame sounds logical to me. you can bolt it down to a bench and start adding bits (after repainting and checking for straight)

Aside from the great advice in the technical section of this group, there are also several facebook groups to find advice. For me, the parts lists that Draganfly ( have online has been the biggest help to me. I can see the parts I need, how much they cost and how everything fits together. Best of luck on your journey - you will be addicted to M20s in short order.

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Re: Impulse buy, did I just shoot myself in the foot?

I've done the same thing myself and am currently involved in a similar project which started with just the front half of the frame...

I think Cas has hit on most of the relevant points but I would add that you'll need access to a machine shop and an engine refurbishment shop for some of the jobs and you'll have to be happy to commit to a lot of 'shed time' instead of having a social life for a while...:laughing:

The bike I've most recently completed (BSA Gold Star café racer) started with a donor bike but much of that was replaced along the way and it's taken about 18 months to 2 years to finish the job...

Despite the problems involved in doing it this way it's very satisfying when you get to the end and you'll also have an intimate knowledge of every aspect of the bike...That's good as breakdowns will no longer represent a worry about whether you can fix it or not, if they happen at all...

In reality if you buy a complete bike, unless you're lucky, it won't be thoroughly rebuilt and you'll be playing catch up long after the purchase to get it right. It will probably give up on you out on the road a few times as well while you go through that process...Ian

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Re: Impulse buy, did I just shoot myself in the foot?

Hi Mike,

I'm another who's doing just the same thing. I bought the front half of a frame as a Christmas present to myself last year as a slow project. I figured I'd learn along the way and will know my bike by the time it's done. More fun than saving up to buy one...

I planned it in stages: goal 1 was to get it on wheels, which it now is. It's helped motivate me, because it looks bike-like.

Ebay, and ads on this site and Old Bike Mart have provided, given few autojumbles / swap meets this year. I've collected other bits -some bargains and a lot of pigs' ears. No regrets though; it's keeping me on the right side of madness during all the Covid stuff, and I've made contacts with a lot of helpful, genuine people.

If I end up with a bike that's cost a bit more than the 'going rate', it'll be well worth it. And I won't sell it anyway!

Do keep on with your bike: it'll be one more back on the road. But don't be tempted by those girders made in India. By all accounts they're made of fluff and bits of string.

Good luck!

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Re: Impulse buy, did I just shoot myself in the foot?

Another impulse, for whats left of it, one that needs some TLC.
Frame and engine left the Ariel Works in 1944 as a pair, which makes it worthwhile (well, at least I think) to get it complete again....


How it is now, field stand swivel point needs adding. got that bit donated from a AOMCC member from Canada



So, all is not lost Mike ! just do it, it's a lot of fun (most of the time:thinking_face: )

Re: Impulse buy, did I just shoot myself in the foot?

Thanks all for the motivation and some really good tips!

I'm definitely planning on arming myself with plenty of patience and I do understand that the process might take quote a bit.

The Indian parts I am definitely going to stay away from, I would prefer to put mostly original parts, or properly made repros on it, when I had the old bike I ordered just a few parts from India from it, and they were garbage.

The plan is to get the frame set up for now and decide on the colors. It is a 1943 dated frame so I will most likely go with the color that was more prominent for that time.

After that's done, I will slowly work on getting the correct (non India made) front girder, wheels and anything else to make it into a rolling chassis. Then the controls, seat, etc. The engine, trans, carb will be the last ones to get set up.

I will definitely keep you posted and I will make a thread to keep you informed on the progress.

Thanks again for the good advice and the build and part tips, that's very helpful!!


Re: Impulse buy, did I just shoot myself in the foot?

Some clever jigging and tube work there Vincent.
This is what I started with for one of my projects.....and the finished bike. Ron

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Re: Impulse buy, did I just shoot myself in the foot?

And I thought it was only me, glad to see some other projects that have started with less than mine Ron and Vincent,


Re: Impulse buy, did I just shoot myself in the foot?

Very wel done, Vincent. Looks really good. I had an Indian 741 with similar problems, plunger rear suspension fitted.
But you seem to have a nice workshop.

Good to see all these projects and that there are still people daring to take the challenge.
When I bought my first motorcycle in 1974, a WDm20, there was plenty off parts. Should have bought them all.
For some reason i never thought that was going to change....

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