Round these parts they have a saying – he needs to give his head a wobble. It’s used at times when somebody has either done something really daft or hasn’t done something that they really should have done.
I think, given my latest purchase, that I should be the one wobbling my head as it is likely to be a massive money pit with little chance of success and even less chance of a profit.
The project in question is a 1976 Suzuki GT250 in particularly poor condition. Somebody hasn’t looked after it. In fact it’s entirely possible that several people haven’t looked after it, it’s proper nasty.
Having said all that, bikes from this era have gone up dramatically in recent years, two stokes of 250cc capacity seem to be leading the charge – KH250’s now commanding prices of 6 or 7 grand for a nice one, LC’s about the same, air cooled RD’s, Suzi X7’s and so on are all north of 5 grand for really good examples. I have just seen a GT very much like mine but immaculate sell for £5,900. It kind of makes the £650 I just paid for my pile of rust a partly sensible proposition.
Trouble is as bikes go up in value so do the parts for them, original stuff in good nick is hard to come by and the prices people ask at times is nothing short of shocking. A prime example is the £650 a decent set of RD350LC instruments recently sold for.
The first thing to do with a project like this is to sort out what can be fixed, what needs cleaning up / refinishing and what needs replacing. The parts to be replaced list then gets divided in to either replace with new or replace with decent used. I suspect the hardest part is going to be the rear mudguard, they are seriously rare, nobody makes a replica part and mine looks a bit nasty. It will never be immaculate, I may have to get it rechromed, which is seriously expensive and not always possible on such old and crusty parts.
I will have a proper crawl over everything and make some lists, it won’t be complete as I am sure many minor parts eg nuts bolts, seals, gaskets etc will be required as I go on.
I am told the engine is not seized and that it has good compression, the ignition switch is missing so I have no idea if it will spark or not – I’m betting not as it’s old fashioned points and intervention is bound to be required.
The wiring looks horrible, I foresee a few hours in that department. The headlight is missing, the indicators need replacing as the chrome work is too far gone to do anything with. A new set of 4 can be had for fifty quid so it’s not worth sweating over.
The headlamp and retaining ring will cost a good few bob – I reckon 80 quid or thereabouts, I’m hoping to get away with the original bowl but I have my doubts.
The forks will clean up, they will get new seals and gaiters as well as some nice fresh oil. The gaiters have protected the chrome well, I would expect the stanchions to be in much worse condition on a bike of this age.
The seat is completely and absolutely dissolved. Funnily enough the foam seems ok but the metal base is just two small areas of ferric oxide, no choice but to replace that. As at the time of writing this I have a keen eye on one on a well known auction site that has a start price of just 50 quid and no bids on it yet. The other two on there are over 200 quid and they are in no better condition than the cheaper one. It’s getting near Christmas so I am kind of hoping to snaffle it with a strong but sensible last minute bid. I shall let you know how I get on.
The handlebars are bent and badly rusted, they will need replacing without question, I expect the cables for throttle and clutch to be beyond use as well.
The tacho reads 11000 without the engine even running, the speedo and tacho are mechanical devices so should fix up ok. I am hoping they clean up ok as a decent used set could be up to £200.
Mirrors I have a few hundred pairs of – not original but I don’t really care as they were an accessory back in the day, a pair of NOS Suzuki ones are best part of £150 – not going to happen!
As previously mentioned it needs an ignition switch, a replica is available at under 20 quid, an original is about £120, if you can find one.
The front wheel is nasty, I will see how it cleans up and decide what to do from there, it will need new bearings and rubber..
It will need chain and probably sprockets, haven’t set eyes on the front one yet as it is behind a cover. Rear wheel is much the same as the front wheel – nasty but might clean up.
I decided I should really try the engine, which was miraculously not seized. The kickstarter was a bit stiff but a squirt of WD40 soon sorted that and it swung the motor over then dutifully returned to it’s rest position. A goodly squirt of 2 stroke oil was poured down each pot and the next couple of minutes were spent turning it over gently on the kick starter. The bike is without it’s ignition switch so I connected 12 volts to the common side of the coils and kicked it again to see if there was a spark. I was incredibly surprised to see a fat blue spark on both plugs. This bike was pre CDI and so it has two sets of points, I really expected them to be corroded after having sat so long but, no they were both fine.
Both carbs were filled with petrol, I gave her a kick and it actually fired. Another kick had her running on both pots. The workshop quickly filled with smoke from where I had soaked the bores in 2 stroke but not only did it run, it sounded pretty good and revved very cleanly. That’s all I need to know for now, I am not wasting my time with it.
My next job was to have a look to see if some of the bits would clean up, I tried the left exhaust first. Some WD40 and 0000 wire wool were used first and then some Solvol Autosol. It came up surprisingly well, I think well enough for my vision of a good, usable classic rather than an over restored garage queen that comes out for a show twice a year provided it is dry. Bugger that for a game of skittles, I want to be able to ride this and enjoy it. It’s a motorcycle not an antique pissing vase.
I tried a similar trick on one of the aluminium engine side covers. I started with 240 Abra net then went to a coarse cotton wheel with black wax polish bar and then to a less coarse wheel with blue and then white wax. The result was very pleasing indeed, I look forward to doing the whole engine, it will look superb at very little cost.
The rest of the bike follows a similar pattern, next time I will be having a better look and try to get an idea of what my budget needs to be to get the job done – only really decent examples fetch top money.
In the mean time I shall spend a goodly amount of time wobbling my head, not that I expect it to make much difference. This bike buying stuff is an illness.
Article provided by David Powell of Boston Bike Bits.