At just 33 years of age, midlands based plumber and heating engineer, Andy Bolas has amassed an impressive array of classic Japanese machinery. All, but a few currently being restored back to immaculate condition in his workshop, are in regular use and kept ready to go. Its an impressive list too, currently in the line up are; RD125LC, several models of TZR250, NS400R, RD500LC, RG500, NC30, DT50MX, YSR50, TZR125, AS3, RD250LC, TDR250, GSF1200, 350YPVS, KR250, KR1S, CBR600FW, CBR900RR-R, even Andy has to admit that some will be missing from the line up as he makes a few attempts at getting the list right, each time recalling yet another machine that is tucked away somewhere out of sight.
Andy’s first bike was a Suzuki TS50X that he first got to grips with as a keen 15-year-old biker. The tiny Suzuki was a time bomb waiting to go off however, and after one engine blow up too many, a far tougher Yamaha DT50MX replaced it. At 17, a TZR125 arrived on the scene, and this was soon adorned with the much coveted, and difficult to get hold of, power valve kit, along with a Micron pipe and super sticky Metzeler ME22 tyres. The taste for fast, and lightweight, race reps soon took a hold and next up came one of the best of the era, the Mk III Suzuki RG250.
Andy recalled “The alloy framed RG handled like nothing else, but cost a fortune to keep on the boil due to its legendary fragile engine. It isn’t hard to see why people opt for to build them into Yammagamma’s, as that way you get the best of both worlds. After the RG, I bought a 350YPVS which was, soon after, written off by a car driver turning right without telling the rest of the world. I then had a KR1S but found that I needed a car for work, and bikes no longer played a part in my thinking.” Two years passed and the biking bug returned to Andy, a brace of TZR’s came and went and then the first of the real icons an RD500LC became his during 1996.
“The big LC was nice, but beset by niggly problems all of the time” Andy remembers “The worst being the engines need to constantly leak gear oil, and for some reason it never did pull cleanly. It went into a local dealers who said it would be expensive to fix properly so I did a deal to exchange it for another 350 YPVS. I ran this for some time before buying a brand new Yamaha Fazer, and later that year my old 500LC came back on the scene, only this time a paid a good deal less to get it back. It was still leaking oil and in a generally worse state than when I last saw it so undertook the work to get it back as Yamaha intended it to be. This was the start of the collection for real and, before too long, I found myself buying all of the bikes I lusted after during my youth.
Now with a collection of over 30 machines, he is spoilt for choice exactly what 80s icon will be next to join them. “I would love an RC30 to join my 400cc NC30, and then of course, to follow on from that line up we jump into the next decade with the RC45. Its not all about big bikes either, I would like some of the smaller machines too, I have a Yamaha DT50, and an old AS3, currently being restored, and have room for an SDR200 should a nice one appear.” Although quite where that room would be is hard to see, A Yamaha YSR50 race replica pocket bike currently sits in the lounge, keeping close eye contact with a mint 350 YPVS in the utility room, so, without a move to considerably larger premises, this isn’t many more places to hide bikes away.
When asked about other iconic Superbikes, Andy admits to not lusting after all from the 80s and 90s “The Latin stuff does little for me, so I would give a 916 a miss, although a Bimota V-Due is a must have to sit alongside the Japanese strokers. Space is a real problem and the bikes are currently spread across the family, the collection currently taking up spare garage space in three different locations, “I would love one big place for them all to live and be displayed but for the time being I have to compromise in this respect. I do the majority of the work on them myself, although when it gets a bit technical with things like crank rebuilds and the like, then I have a good support team, fellow stroker nut, Rob Pemberton from Cheltenham is always on hand, as is my local shop Chase Superbikes, they are willing to get stuck in, source parts and help fix these old bikes.”
Not that repair work is always required, some of Andy’s machines have enjoyed minimal usage “My TZR125 arrived with only 5 miles showing on the clock so, in effect, it was still as new inside the engine. The hardest machine I restored has to be the reverse cylinder TZR250, I already had a few of the earlier versions of the racey Yamaha twin and had to have the best looking one of the whole lot but finding a tidy example proved tough. Every tie I located one it turned out to be in poor condition or had been modified in some way mainly due to crash damage. Eventually, the one I own now turned up for sale on the LC forum (www.yamaha-rd.com), this is a great place to find bikes, parts and advice too and I cant recommend it highly enough.”
As well as being in use as often as possible, the bikes in Andy’s collection are regularly wheeled into the many classic shows that fill the summer months, during 2008 the Suzuki RG500 has been the centre of attention on a couple of occasions taking the top honours at the VJMC show Uttoxeter and also at the final Stafford show of the year, the Honda NS400 joining its garage mate to take second place at the latter event too. “A highlight for me was the appearance at the end of the year show of Kevin Schwantz” Andy fondly recalls “He turned out to be a real bike enthusiast, chatting about RGs and happily posing on my RG, before signing the front mudguard too. This has since been removed from the bike and lacquered over to keep the precious autograph safe and sound, but it is going back on the bike.”
The RG, along with many more from this impressive collection, will be doing the rounds of the shows again this season, so do keep an eye out for them, its easy to spot Andy, he’s the one usually holding the big trophies come Sunday afternoon.
Andy Bolas Restoration Gallery
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