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Our bikes - Project 6-Hour - part 3

1987 Yamaha FZR1000 Castrol 6-Hour replica

See the start-up video at the end of the story

April 2020

by Guy 'Guido' Allen

Yamaha FZR1000 project

All Fired Up

After a long lay-off, the FZR1000 has a complete and running engine

Call me a sook, but once we had a chance to assess what was involved in refreshing and reassembling the head and cam gear of the FZR1000, I decided to call in the cavalry in the shape of Don Stafford. For those of you who aren’t sure, he ran his own Yamaha shop in Melbourne for decades and these days builds race engines and even complete P6 (post-classic 1983-90) FZR1000s. In fact, one of his FZRs recently took out a major race win at Phillip Island.

However, while my example is all dressed up in race livery, it’s unlikely ever to see a track. Let’s recap for those who just walked in.

It’s a 1987 FZR1000, dead stock, other than it’s dressed up in the war paint of the machine that won the final Castrol 6-Hour production race, in the hands of Michael Dowson and Kevin Magee. I actually reported on that race as an Australian Motorcycle News staffer.

The thing crossed my radar three years ago as a non-runner with a blown head gasket, but with new tyres, sprockets and chain for $2600. It was a bit of a punt, but was cheap enough to allow a reasonable rebuild budget without over-capitalising. Importantly, all the cosmetics were there and in pretty good shape.

Spare time is in short supply around here, but I did eventually manage to partially strip it (see previous two stories) and discover a few more horrors. Someone had butchered the airbox and fitted inlet tubes made out of car radiator/heater hose, along with a few other nasties, including liberal use of gallons of silastic. The thermostat was also a goner and some other areas of the coolant plumbing were looking sad.

With the cam cap off, you could see the full extent of the task ahead. With 20 valves crammed into a tiny space and signs that the thing had been messed with previously by an amateur, it was time to back away and call in an expert.

Don Stafford

Don promised he’d have a look in between race bike builds, and the whole lot was duly delivered, along with replacement airbox, a full set of inlet rubbers, thermostat and a gasket set. Some parts on these are getting hard to obtain, but we managed new engine service bits easily enough, and relied on wreckers for some of the big pieces, such as an airbox.

Yamaha FZR1000 project

He stripped the head and sent if off for a clean, before reassembling. There was some fiddle involved, as there were signs the cams may have run a little dry at some stage, while a previous assembly had been poorly done. He was literally out with the emery paper at one stage, carefully honing and smoothing various components to get the right fit.

More than likely it was a pain the in the proverbial to Don, but was music to my ears. It affirmed the decision to hand over the thing, as he was clearly seeing and addressing issues that a mug punter like me would miss.

Yamaha FZR1000 project

Actually, we might be misrepresenting Don a little there. He’d ring every now and then with the latest progress report and, though he might be swearing about some particularly cantankerous job, you could also tell he was enthused. Despite having done it for longer than many have us have been out of nappies, he still clearly gets a kick out of reviving a nice motorcycle.

As is often the case, it was the apparently minor things that caused the most grief. For example there’s a small cover on the left end of the crankshaft, held in place by three screws. One had broken and a poor attempt had been made to drill it out. Digging out the remains, filling and retapping the drilled case took ages.

Don reckons that in a perfect world – and certainly if the bike was to be raced – we would have rebored it and slotted in fresh pistons. The existing bores were okay, but had some inevitable wear. It was one of those situations that begs the question: where do you stop? In the end, we agreed the bike was going on club plates, would be absolutely fine for street use and would probably outlast both of us!

Valve clearances were set at the wide end of the scale, which is Don’s preferred race set-up, and allows for a little valve recession. The maker’s recommended adjustment interval on the unique-to-Yamaha five-valve heads (three inlet and two exhaust) was 42,000km, so we’re unlikely to ever look at them again.

The machine went through three engine oil flushes, because there was so much water sitting in the thing. Where did it come from? Some would have been the fault of the blown gasket, while sitting in a very damp shed for years, prior to me buying it, would have contributed.

The good news was the carburettors were clean, unmolested and generally in great shape. Don applied his own tweaks to the jetting, but otherwise gave them a clean report.

Yamaha FZR1000 project

We now have a good engine that starts easily and sounds happy, and the charging rate is good at a peak of 14.6 volts. So far so good.

I think Don was pretty pleased with the result. Over the years, as he found and worked on FZRs like this, I’d ask him to give me first refusal if he decided to ditch the race project and sell the road bike. This time, the roles were switched: “Call me if you decide to sell this thing,” he said, with a chuckle.

Next task will be to pull apart the brakes and give them a good clean up – the fronts are starting to bind through lack of use – and fresh fluid. Then a general clean-up and final fitting of the remaining bodywork.

Watch this space…

Yamaha FZR1000 project


Project 6-Hour story series:

Part 1 – strip

Part 2 – that looks nasty

Part 3 – engine running

Part 4 – finished!


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