Shaun Nielsen reckons the Honda VFR750R RC30 is the coolest ‘sports-production’ motorcycle ever.
Launched in 1987, it was Honda’s entry into the then-new World Superbike championship. The motor was a jewel: it was a V-four layout, 748cc 16-valve DOHC 90-degree, liquid cooled engine. Over ‘ere in the UK the bike was bloody pricey: it cost £8495 back in 1987 and the last ones sold three years later went for a lot more than that, it is said. But then – it was a racer and one not really meant for the road.
Yes it did the job, winning the 1988 and 89 WSB titles with Fred Merkel and our own Carl Fogarty won World F1 titles on it while Foggy and the likes of Steve Hislop and Joey Dunlop would make the howling V-four a race-winner on the Isle of Man too.
But it wasn’t just here and on the world stage where the RC30 made its mark. It did so on the roads and the track around the world and in many different countries. “I fell in love with the RC30 when I first saw one go howling by on the Old Pacific Highway north of Sydney in 1989,” says Shaun.
Now, as pricey as the RC30 was – it kinda dipped in value when its successor, the RC45 was launched in 1994. Shaun says: “It was then that I managed to find an RC30 for sale – but it wasn’t your average RC30! Clive Wolfenden was manager of the Winfield Honda superbike team in Australia and he was selling three factory-kitted RC30s as they were surplus to requirements with the arrival of the new RC45s. I just sent him a cheque when I got off the phone and drove from Sydney to Melbourne a few days later to collect the bike.”
The bike Shaun bought was none other than Troy Corser’s number two bike from his title-winning year in Aussie superbikes in 1993. While the 1994 RC45s were being developed, Winfield’s rider that year Anthony Gobert would ride the bike Shaun eventually bought too, while he waited for the RC45 to get sorted. That’s some history, right there.
As you’d expect Shaun – when he bought this piece of rolling history – did track days on it and then put it back on the road. “I managed to get all the road parts necessary from Aussie racer Shawn Giles. By 1998 the bike was out of action thanks to mechanical issues and it needed a repaired crank to hit the road/track again in 1999 but a move from Australia to Dallas, Texas put a stop to all that.”
Instead it was carefully wrapped up in cotton wool, awaiting the time that Shaun could get back on the case again. It would be a whole decade later before Shaun would move the bike to his ‘new’ home in the USA and then a further three years to get the parts he needed to finish the restoration. He says: “I needed; crankshaft, rods, bearings, wheels, brakes, pistons etc. and repair the rest that had been in pretty bad shape since I bought the bike – radiators in particular. The wiring loom was missing so I had to build one from scratch. Some HRC kit electronics were also missing but with the help of an engineer friend who works in military aeronautical engineering and a unit borrowed from Jim Granger, RC30 expert, I was able to reverse engineer the missing black box.”
Shaun was hands-on, reverse-engineering the parts he needed with the use of a CNC-mill. He says: “I was able to make all the small brackets and fixtures that were rusted, damaged, missing or worn out. The aim here was to restore the bike not to pristine condition but to as-raced condition. I didn’t repair the frame dings or other blemishes installed by Corser, Gobert or Mal Campbell.”
Forks and brakes as used by both Corser and Gobert had to be replaced (race RC30s had gone to inverted forks by 1993 and the Winfield bikes as raced by Troy and Anthony in 1993-1994 had these items) and the tank and mudguard needed to be repainted. Some original bits though, were too difficult to find: Shaun’s bike carries modified stock right-way-up forks, but other than that this is a faithful restoration of a classic race machine that was retiring from racing a full quarter of a century ago!
The bike itself shows Shaun’s love of the RC30 and his patience of more than 20 years to get the bike running again. Yes, Shaun’s doing track-days on the bike again: “But this bike is my baby, so as soon as I can convince the wife, it will take up residence in the living room where it belongs!”