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Our bikes - Project 6-Hour - part 1

1987 Yamaha FZR1000 Castrol 6-Hour replica

(From Motorcycle Trader magazine #324, circa August 2017)

by Guy 'Guido' Allen, pics by Ben Galli

Yamaha FZR1000

Little Surprises

You never quite know what you’re in for when you start stripping down a new purchase

If you’ve been following the mag, you might be aware I recently went on an unintended Yamaha FZR1000 buying spree, ending up with the first two models in the shed: a 1987 dressed up in Castrol 6 Hour production race warpaint, and a 1990 version, which is the first of the EXUP (exhaust power valve) machines.

The second bike is a runner and one day I might get around to giving it a proper cosmetic tidy-up. Measnwhile the first cost $2600, complete with new tyres, chain and sprockets, and brake discs in complete and reasonably tidy order. The catch? It has a leaking head gasket – or so I’m told – and fork seals. Both are jobs I can probably tackle myself, with a little patience.

With a couple of spare hours, plus photographer Ben Galli on board, we decided to take a proper look at what we have. Young Galli is fun to work with, as he sometimes snatches the tools out of my paws and gets on with the mechanical work, while I end up taking a few shots.

Anyway, where were we? Stripping the motorcycle. A couple of tips for you: have a nice big table or bench on hand, so you’ve got somewhere to lay out tools and components as you go. Scratching around on the floor for missing bits sucks. Second, get yourself one of those big storage bins with a snap-on lid from the local hardware store and use it to keep all the bits and pieces together as they come away from the bike.

Yamaha FZR1000

Stripping an FZR isn’t too challenging. Pull off the seat and then disengage the sidecovers. They have those awful tongue and grommet attachments, which often get fragile over time, so it can pay to use a broad screwdriver to carefully lever away anything that looks delicate.

Just as a distraction, we discover a toolkit under the seat tail. An owner handbook would have been good too, but I’m pretty excited about the toolkit. Is it original? Err, judging by the weird mix of brands, including Nissan, maybe not. Still it was a nice thought.

The tank is typical for the period – looks slim in profile but has an enormous reserve sitting down out of sight in the frame rails. A couple of bolts, plus a few hoses sees it come away.

At this point you’re getting a good look at the frame and it’s astonishing how different it is to the one on the second-gen machine launched just two years later. You can see the differences even with the bodywork on. They might both be called Deltabox, but the 1989-90 version is far more beefy with more complex profiles. It would be fascinating to chat to the designers to find out why.

In any case the frame’s key element is the massive set of twin aluminium spars which splay out to leave room for the fuel tank, plus a substantial airbox and carburetors.

There’s a fair bit of plumbing under there – two big hoses feeding cool air to behind the carburetors and under the fuel tank and, under the airbox, pipes for the liquid cooling.

Yamaha FZR1000 project bike

Removing the airbox is fiddly. Lots of hose clamps to undo, and this is where we start to uncover some surprises. Someone had decided the old inlet trumpets connecting the airbox to the carbs were no longer usable. This is common, as they can perish over time. So they’ve made up a set with bits of car radiator or heater hose sliced up to fit. Ingenious, if ugly. I grudgingly had to admire the thinking, but was appalled at the buckets of silicon sealant that had apparently been applied with a trowel.

Seriously, this is meant to be a high-performance motorcycle, not some jury-rigged bit of back yard plumbing.

The use of gobs of silicon is also bloody risky. There’s a real chance it will be ingested by the carbs, blocking jets. So I can now add at least partially disassembling and cleaning the carburetors to the list of jobs. No matter. It was something that would have been worth doing anyway.

Righto, next pull away the carburetor bank. Weirdly the biggest hassle is undoing the throttle cables, which seems to require a black belt in contortionism. We get there, release the clamps on the induction tubes and hey presto, more silicone!

I can understand the original induction tubes (we’re now looking for eight) might be pricey, but this is one area of the machine you don’t mess with. Certainly not with a bucket of your favourite all-purpose sealant and a trowel. It will never work 100 per cent and will inevitably rob you of performance.

It’s at this point we decide to pull off one of the fairing side panels to get a gander at what we’re up for at the next stage. Why only one? Because I know we’re only going part way and I don’t want any more loose parts floating about than absolutely necessary.

This gives us a good look at the next steps. The radiator, oil cooler and of course the exhausts are coming off. At this point we can also see the frame downtubes are bolt-in items and it looks as though one of the options is to pivot the engine down, from the rear mount, for better access to the head.

Yamaha FZR1000 project bike

Since I haven’t pulled one of these apart before, I’m thinking a workshop manual would be a really handy thing. That’s next on the shopping list. Then we’ll be hunting down some new inlet rubbers. I have a feeling a new set of rings and light hone might be worthwhile once we get the head off, and who knows what shape the valves are in?

So far I’ve spent $230 on a gasket set that looks like it covers most eventualities, plus another $30 on a set of fork seals. Oh, and $15 for a parts bin! Assuming I can do most of it, it will be interesting to see what the whole job ends up costing.

I’ve also managed to get my hands on a new bike hoist – the previous one spat its seals and turned out to be a little small – so that will be handy once we get further into the nuts and bolts.
Wish me luck…


Yamaha FZR1000 project bike

The 6-Hour bike
This is the model that won the last ever Castrol 6-Hour production race, in 1987. Kevin Magee and Michael Dowson were the riders and they beat the next team, also FZR-mounted, by three laps.

The bikes in this event were meant to be production machines, right down to running street-legal tyres, though there was sometimes controversy over things such as late factory technical bulletins homologating new parts.

Over its run from 1970, the 6-Hour established itself as a hugely influential marketing tool for the competing motorcycle and tyre manufacturers, not to forget Castrol as the main sponsor.

The bike was wearing the period tobacco company main sponsorship logos – reflecting a commercial arrangement that would be illegal today. I've reluctantly decided to remove the branding, though it would be historically accurate, as the consequences of running with it are too aggravating to deal with.

However the colour scheme remains.

Project 6-Hour story series:

Part 1 – strip

Part 2 – that looks nasty

Part 3 – engine running

Part 4 – finished!


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