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Our bikes - Project 6-Hour - part 2

1987 Yamaha FZR1000 Castrol 6-Hour replica

(From Motorcycle Trader magazine #335, circa May 2018)

by Guy 'Guido' Allen, pics by Ben Galli

Yamaha FZR1000 project bike

Trauma ward

Guido and Galli have been working on the FZR and it’s not pretty

Some days, I really should listen to my own theories. When someone asks muggins about buying a motorcycle, my standard advice is – if you can afford it – buy something that’s already in great shape. It may be more expensive initially, but usually cheaper in the long run and far less stress. Okay, so I have actually done that with most of the transports of delight in the bulging shed at Chateau Guido, but there are two stand-out exceptions at the moment – project bikes.

One is the Castrol Six-Hour replica Yamaha FZR1000, mimicking the machine that Michael Dowson and Kevin Magee used to hose the opposition in the final event in 1987.

Bought for a mere $2600, it came with fresh rubber, chain and sprockets and a few other bits, but I was warned it had blown a head gasket. That, as it turned out, was the least of my problems. As we discovered a few issues ago, some clown had assembled the airbox and intake manifolds using a weird combination of a random piece of heater hose and litres of silicone gasket cement, evidently applied with a trowel. Un-sodding-believable.

With time in short supply, we’ve had to tackle this one in stages, which may be a good thing. Otherwise there’s a risk I’ll lose it and toss the bike over the back fence. This is where photographer and part-time mechanic Ben Galli comes in, keeping everything on an even emotional keel.

Yamaha FZR1000 project bike

This time around we started getting into the head. Lesson number one, getting to the spark plugs requires the hands of a five-year old. Still, they had a story to tell. Up to now I’d still held some faint hope that the blown gasket thing was just a theory. Nope. Two plugs came out a little sooty (not unusual for unleaded fuel), one mysteriously clean, and the number two cylinder revealed clear water stains and rust. Okay, blown gasket it is.

Now to get the head out, you need to remove all the gear that’s packed around it, including carburettors and airbox (already done) assorted heat shrouds behind the frame, the radiator and oil cooler, plus of course the exhaust system.

Getting the radiator free turned out to be fiddly and it was one of those things that required just the right angle and technique to slip out between the frame and forks. Having your tongue firmly planted in the left cheek helps, too. We got there – that’s going to be fun to put back.

As part of this we dropped some coolant hoses to drain the system. Of course I had a massive pan underneath the machine to catch the litres of fluid we expected to come flushing out and…nada. A few drops made a pathetic appearance – that was it. Not good. Then we pulled off the thermostat. Oh dear, that was ugly. Frankly it looked like something that had been left in the bottom of the ocean for a few decades and was clearly in need of replacement.

Yamaha FZR1000 project bike

All up, the assessment of the cooling system is mixed. The hoses seem okay and the radiator looks surprisingly good. A flush would be in order and some sort of leak test would be a good idea before we put it back. As for the thermostat, I’ve tracked down a used unit from a wrecker for $95.

Now the previous owner said he bought the bike as a runabout for when he was in the country, which meant it sat in a shed most of the last several years, which fits with the state of the cooling system. They can lose fluid while just sitting and the thermostat is a prime candidate for suffering.

Finally, we got a chance to pop off the cam cover – a mercifully easy task now that all the ancillaries had finally been evicted. If ever there was any doubt about the blown head gasket theory, it was now gone for good. There was the tell-tale milky white oil and water combination lurking at one end of the casing. A sure sign of a coolant leak.

There was also a hell of a lot of moisture under that cover, but otherwise the cams seemed to be in good nick. We’ll find out more when we crack open the carriers and properly see the plain bearings, but so far I’m hopeful. If there were serious damage here, the cost might be enough to kill off the project.

Whoever the butcher was who did the intakes (the owner before last, I suspect) had used a silicone-covered trowel to seal up the cam cap, rather than just go and buy a new gasket. Really?! Mate, whoever you are, step away from the toolbox.

One piece of good news was the carburettors. We cracked them open half expecting the worst, as unleaded fuel, if left sitting, can do some terrible things. However they looked as clean as the proverbial whistle, all with the stock main jets in place, no signs of drilling, no rogue silicone sealant, nothing. And there was no evidence of Silicone Boy having been there before us. That really brightened up our day.

Yamaha FZR1000 project bike

We’ve pulled up for the time being, as the workshop manual I ordered online has failed to turn up and I’m not comfortable with going any further without having one on hand.

So far the costs have been modest: a few hundred dollars on replacement induction tubes and seals, $95 for the thermostat and that’s about it. Oh, and $230 for the gasket set. The airbox will have to be replaced with a used unit – it’s been so heavily coated with glue and sealant, and cut about, that I doubt we can revive it. That's looking like another $200-ish from a wrecker. Add another $300-ish for a fresh set of eight induction rubbers from airbox to carbs and carbs to the head.

At the next stage we just might hand it over to an expert. There are a bunch of jobs coming up that I suspect will require more skilled and experienced hands. Though paying someone else adds to the bills, it could work out to be the cheapest and best way out in the long run. We’ll see.

Wish us luck…

Project 6-Hour story series:

Part 1 – strip

Part 2 – that looks nasty

Part 3 – engine running

Part 4 – finished!


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