First Bike

My first motorcycle was a 1973 Honda CL360. It was a light green and I would have preferred another color, but it was great to be driving a bike. I had been on several motorcycles before … cousins or friends, but never my own. A high school friend had a Suzuki 750 or the like and was always out driving me, but I did not care. If we had ever gotten off road, I could have taken him! That bike was sold after about 3 years because I thought the bike would just set and deteriorate in dad’s barn. I would not be riding it as I just married and joined the Navy and would not be using the bike. I wish I still had that work horse.

Second Bike

1982 Suzuki
GN250Z Before - 4/2005


1982 Suzuki
GN250Z After - 3/2006
That was 1981. In about 1998 we were spending lots of weekends at my parent’s farm. One day on the way to work we saw a motorcycle for sale outside of a warehouse. We paid $150 cash and a used master cylinder and lever later and the 1982 Suzuki GN250 was a dirt bike. After about every other trip through the woods, my son would show up in the yard with something new hanging by a wire or a new gouge in the chrome, gas tank etc. The pile of would be spare parts was growing. The chain broke, a tube needed replacing and a new battery were small tokens to pay for hours of fun dodging trees and rocks and the occasional collision that made the whole thing more exciting.

Some gremlin attached itself in the carburetor and after a couple of hours fiddling with it; the old work horse was stored in the barn and left for an indefinite period.

In 2005 we had started riding ATVs at a brother‘s-in-law farm and I decided to get the Suzuki running and jump a few ditches with it. One more seat to fill and I would not have to wait my turn as long to get on a machine. The inevitable happened. Or maybe the curse set in. I fell in love with the idea of getting this old work horse on the streets. It only lacked some signal lights and a few other odds and ends: How much could it take? (Famous Last Words)

Here is my train of thinking. Test out the electrical/ignition system by bypassing the carburetor and pour gas directly into the cylinder intake. A small tube with a finger stopper did the trick. (Don’t try this at home boys and girls … but I did not blow anything up myself.) RRRRummmmmm, it worked. Did I mention there was no battery and the charging system was not working? I used a spare large deep cycle battery equipped with short leads and battery clips to do my ignition testing as to defer buying a battery until I knew enough stuff was working to warrant the new battery.

Next I opened up the carburetor and poked around in it … cleaning some mineral deposits out of it. I put it all back together and added a tube and funnel for a makeshift gas tank and the carburetor worked great. 2 hurdles down … dozens to go. The gas tank was off and full of rust … that was on my list of things to fix. Below is a list of what I fixed, just for reference.

Order of the Operation

They are generally in priority order. My priority was to get the engine running before I worked on the tires, for example … good rubber is useless if the engine it blown!

Carburetor
Fuel Tank (Three part clean, etch and sealer kit … worked great – made by Kreem). Paint it!

New fuel hoses, filter and petcock
New rear tube, replace both tires
Check the clutch, brakes, air filter and change the brake fluid
Clean and grease the chain
Lube the all cables and clean as I go
Clean the engine (This has been done several times)
Get a new battery
Change the oil and filter
Fix the speedometer cable
Fix the rear brake light switch and add a new switch for the read brake lever (on the bar)
Add rear signal lights; add new bulbs and lenses for the front signal.
Replace the headlight and housing ring.
Replace the Seat Cover … Many thanks to B&H Specialties Motorcycle Seat Cover in Bedford, TX. They were great.

Motorcycle Seat Covers by B & H Specialties

Before
After

The bike has aluminum Honda wheels and that changed the height of things. I had to extend the street stand about 1.5” … the Lincoln welder came in handy.
Fix the charging system. (See related explanation later).

Get a title, tag, safety inspection, registration and then take the written and driving test

Re-finish the battery box and tool box.
Here I used a newly acquired spray can of Plasti-Dip. I choose black before I noticed that I could use it on my bike. The battery had been badly pitted and rusted from years of neglect and standing acid and who knows what on it. I wire wheeled the box attached the tool box, applied some good primer and then three coats of the Plasti-Dip.

Re-attach the busted sissy bar and rack … one of those return trips of my son … adding to the pile of spare parts. Fortunately we found the rack … no idea where the signals and mirrors ended up. Clean the oil level sight glass and inspect everything inside that cover – clutch, oil pump, etc. Used some high tem liquid gasket on both case covers … not oil drips now!

Rear Fender Reapir, is was cracked … used JB Weld and some small thin metal plates to glue it back to keep it from shaking itself in two.


Before

After

New air filter (White cotton athletic sock soaked in oil was working great!) Done – used a pre-filter form an indoor air cleaner. Sewed it in place using Nylon/Dacron thread.

Replace fork seals – Done. The friction metals were on terminal back order and it turned out that they are not available.

This emphasizes one of my basic rules: If it is working, don’t take it apart until you have all the parts. If you are building something new … don’t start cutting, drilling, hammering, grinding and putting it together until you have all the parts.

Face-lift for the speedometer … I cut a disk out of Plexiglas and glued the broken chrome ring back in place. I looks great and you can hardly tell it is home made. I touched up the paint on the needle and the gray ring just under the glass. I made a new trip odometer knob out of a yellow wire nut painted black. That looks good too, especially since you can’t buy just the knob.

Rebuild the carb – I fixed the inlet valve leak. Needs some more cleaning. (it is working, but with some hesitation and missing …..Save this for the winter!)

Replaced brake line (front) Used HEL. www.helusa.com $49 shipped. 6 day delivery ... looks great ... works great.

Didn’t I say this was going to be easy? I painted things as I took them off and polished what I could. I painted some of the frame by covering the engine, seat etc. as I painted. I used about 2 quarts of simple green cleaning on things. I went through about 4 rolls of paper towels, a quart of MEK, two cans of carburetor cleaner, and lots and lots of other stuff.

One of my best allies was JB Weld. I built steel tabs to secure the front sprocket guard. Then to secure the screw tabs on the used head light ring. It was also employed to coat the solder points when I rewired the stator. Possibly the most important was that the gas tank, even after replacing a 1” x 10” section and welding up lots of holes, and cleaning the tank, etching and coating with Kreem, it still leaked. I wire brushed the leaking area and smeared it with JB Weld about 1/8” think … if worked. I did the same repair in about the same area when I first acquired the bike … go figure? JB Weld made a clean job of the rear fender repair (See my web page on that).

Charging System Woes

I have relied on the Internet for help with this restore. My biggest ally is The GS Resource (www.thegsresource.com). Even though this is a GN … it has all the looks and parts to be a GS. A terrific age covers everything about the charging system and I quickly determined that the stator had trouble and the regulator/rectifier was faulty.
I read The GS Resources “wind your own stator” page and after seeing how expensive new parts were that sounded cheap and fun too. When I opened up the case and took the stator out … the wires pulled out in my hands. The resistance was correct and no burning or the like. I reattached the wires and put things back together … there was AC from all three phases … great! Next I decided to check EBAY for an R/R, found a new one for about a third the new third party price and about a sixth of the dealer price. The advice to directly connect the stator, R/R and battery sounded like sound engineering and I am pleased with the result. I think it all certainly would have been easier if it had been wired that way in the first place.
I use one of the many parts micro-fiche too. They are indispensable. I would have bought a service manual just for the diagrams. I have not purchased a service manual as I did not expect to need is as I am not rebuilding the engine or anything major. Everything so far there has been a helpful web page or several about it and most of the motor cycle stuff seems obvious as it is just like most cars, truck, electric systems etc. I did get a copy from one dealer of the service manual section about changing the fork seals … mostly for specifics about this model … the amount of oil etc.

Any way … the bike runs well and looks great … some paint, polish, new seat cover and lights etc. make for a good sound system that looks good. There is still some rust, tarnish and some scratches, but I am very happy to be on the road with a motor cycle that I can fix myself and can update myself.

Parts Cleanup and Storage

I share the garage with a pickup and all the other things that get stored in there. I kept most of the tools, parts, etc. in the card board trays from soda cases. They are about right to keep stuff in. I had one for sanding/painting stuff, one for the head light and other electrical stuff etc. They kept things organized and were kind of stackable. I also used Zip-Lok bags for holding sets of doodads for any given part. All the parts, pieces, wires, nuts bolts, caps, seals etc. were in a bag. I used quart, gallon and two gallons sizes … usually in the heavier freezer variety as that is what we usually buy. Most of these were reusable. The ones that were tossed were used with some MEK or paint stripper to remove what ever nasty stuff was holding things together. I would spray in some Silkolene cleaner or an appropriate solvent for whatever the parts needed. After soaking in the bag of solvent clean up was easy and the fumes and mess were in the bag, ready for the trash. Another neat use of the bags was to keep rust remover soaked paper towels from drying out while wrapped around a part that was being worked on.

The fuel petcock was frozen up and soaked in Kroil in a Zip-Lok to free things up. After some pondering how to clean up calcium deposits I put the newly freed up parts in a glass cup and added enough CLR to cover the parts. Then I heated the stuff in the microwave oven for about 15 seconds at a time, checking in between. After a few application of heat the CLR began to bubble and the aluminum started to shine and the deposits were reducing. After the desired degree of clean was reached I rinsed the parts well in running cool water. The CLR worked great.

I wear 6 mil thick nitrile gloves while working with these nasty chemicals and even to keep the grease and dirt off my hands.

Left to fix

It needs a right frame cover, and a left emblem, but this is the least of my worries.

Identify the front brake caliper and try to get a rebuild kit. The caliper works, but who knows how old it is and how long it will be OK. I will be painting it someday soon and would just as well put a new set of seals in it at the same time ... the pads look great, but I need to know what the part number is to order them, that will require info about the caliper and what bike it came off of.
Please see my web page on that!

Tools

I was able to get through the restoration using mostly open end/box end wrenches. Some of these wrenches I bought oh those many years ago to work on the CL360. I found a new set of offset closed end wrenches to be invaluable. They were great to augment the other set and they worked where a straight shank wrench or even a socket would not work.

I used a few sockets and a ratchet only a few times.

The various hammers, punches, files, screw drivers, pliers etc were all I needed. I used my three angle grinders a great deal too. One with a coarse wheel, one with a 60 grit sanding disk and another with a knotted wire wheel. Once in awhile I used a cut off wheel. This took care of some light fabrication.

The blacksmiths vise and anvil were invaluable also. I used an Oxy-acetylene torch and rose bud for my heating a beating; bending the kick stand for instance. I used the torch for some welding on the gas tank too.

I had planned to make the superwamodyne tool to remove the one special bolt from the forks … the service manual references the special tool … just a bit of square tapered stock. Never did it … channel locks worked great!

Another invaluable tool that I left out early on, and have since started using it for everything I do ... A digital camera. Save the before or in progress images and save time later ... or at least have something to stick in a web page. The before picture sometimes saves you the time of figuring out where something goes, or what went there ... which end is up ....

Damages

The total cost was $976.28. About $180 of that were indirect costs - consumables and title, tag etc. It might sound like a lot, but it was cheap payments a bit at a time over the three months of restoration and $222 was spent long ago during the first phase as a dirt bike.

I worked from 1-4 hours a night several nights a week and as many hours on the weekend and my wife could stand.

I learned a great deal and had lots of fun. I used only about 5 used parts, which all looked great and they don’t look out of place by being too shiny or anything. I also do not have a big pile of junk that I ripped off it … I actually threw some of the old parts away … they were after all unserviceable.

What Now

My 20 year old son loves to ride … I will eventual have to get another bike so I can ride. We still ride it in the dirt … not looking forward to a wipe out and parts hanging by wires, but we know how to fix that. (Second verse same as the first …) There are a few things to add or fix as time and money permit, but all in time. The bike is fun while riding it and fun while fixing it.

I decided to keep good records and track all the spending. I included a “Used” and “Vendor” column to see where things came from and in what shape. Later I added and “I” in the used column to indicate indirect. The tax, title, tags etc. and cleaning chemicals, sand paper etc. were indirect as they really we not physical and on the motor cycle but expenses nonetheless. I tracked the gas consumption on a separate sheet … to see how much money I might have saved over driving the car. I suppose I will spend a lot of gas money just going up and down the streets however not just running errands. A third log will track the maintenance after I get through this initial restoration. The log will track oil changes, lubes and the like: Some day a new clutch, and those types of things. The initial restoration list may be too much to keep around, but is shows ever nut, bolt and washer that I changed.

I continue surfing EBAY and the local shops for an old GS550 or GS750 or the like, just waiting for some TLC and some simple green and carburetor cleaner! I decided that since there are soooo many models from all the makes, I would slim it down to a classic GS bike since I already had some experience with these and why work about the mix and mess of hundred of other choices. Not that Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Harley Davidson etc. don’t make good bikes at a good price, I just found a place that I can work from with out going crazy or blind from the volume of choice.

In January 2006 we bought a Honda Rancher 400ES ATV … this thing is nice … 4 wheel drive, electric shift and automatic with an oil clutch. The only problem I have with it is my lovely young wife doesn’t like it when I get it stuck in the pond … go figure.

Update (Feb 2006)

I found a Service Manual and Left Side Cover on E-Bay … I fixed the gear rack and added that to the growing pile of bolts and chrome. I finally took the couple for hours needed to tear the whole front end apart and replace the fork seals and oil. That was more work than I expected, but I was able to clean and paint a few more parts and repair a few little doodads along the way. The bike is running great after a new air filter and cleaning inside the carburetor again. The intake boot leaks air and there might be some other problems causing some cut out at the top end and only about a 70 MPH speed. I’ll get to that stuff in time. It is great to work a bit, ride a bit, work some more. The machine is sizing up great.

Ride safe and have fun. See you on the road.
Tom Essary, Arlington, Texas


Last Updated: 2006.03.10 - - © 2000-2007
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