Yamaha’s seventies moped of choice, its legendary status continues as much from the teens that didn’t have one, as the cool kids that did; ironically 40 odd years on, I still can’t afford one!
In 1974, several issues held me back from a ‘Popsicle Purple’ lifestyle; my age, parents and the £199 required. My Post Office account topped out around £20 but should my mother have ever offered the glint of hope (if you save up for it, you can have one) then I was prepared to work 24/7 down a coal mine if I had too. She didn’t, if anything her attitude hardened and as 16 approached a deal was struck, wait another year and assistance would be forth coming … but only towards four-wheel transport. Consequentially, when I finally achieved ‘freedom’ it was straight onto a 125, years after homework, acne and a care free attitude had left the building. The first to achieve God-like status was fellow school boy, Mash (why the nickname, can’t remember) who trailed a fog of blue smoke into the playground and parked a gold ‘SS’ next to the bike-shed as 300 ‘best friends’ gathered to pay homage. Four decades later the discussion resumes over the dining table, now it’s not my mother who needs convincing, it’s the mother of my kids. ‘Five grand for a moped, are you mad’ and to be honest she’s right and must be obeyed. With that option removed from negotiations, the search was on for a restoration project that was affordable.
Folk around the Fizzy scene tell me that ten years ago there were early projects still available, but most, if not all have been snapped up, so best search out a later 80’s FS1; sure, this option won’t offer a retirement fund return but can keep my mortgage payments at the current level. It was only three years ago I watched with interest as James May sent his 1974 version across the block at Bonhams; purchased from Richard Hammond, this older restoration with minimal use was estimated at a low £2400. Obviously, when the hammer fell at £7500 it came as no surprise with a good £2k extra down to the names in the log book. Our aim is far more frugal, to buy and restore with a £2k budget, and whilst it won’t be chosen to parade at the Pebble Beach Concours it should certainly present well enough for any local events. With that figure in mind the search for original / NOS parts would be limited as my bidding finger could soon empty the account, no I would search out the best ‘copy’ options available of which there are ample supply. This is where many veterans of FS1e resto’s will cry ‘they don’t fit’ or complain of ‘inferior quality’. Well, our ‘restricted’ budget means those theories will be put to the test using my credit card; considering we aren’t total virgins at ‘ped preservation’ this shouldn’t end in disaster, although no doubt we have much to learn. Having carried out a few moped rebirth’s we have gained some knowledge along the way, mainly fettling Honda’s including a P50 ‘winged wheel’ and a Chaly plus a couple of PC50s before moving onto a Puch Maxi and currently battling with a very strange Ariel 3; but it goes without saying none will be as scrutinized as closely as a Fizzy.
Blame the Dutch
Yamaha’s history with the ‘sports-moped’ is well documented so I will be brief, although it’s worth considering how and why the FS1 was such a hit in the UK. Across the Channel the small bike market is historically more of a tradition, and post war the smaller capacity motor proved far more popular where they drive on the wrong side; in France 14-year olds could join the traffic with low performance ‘peds’ without any form of instruction or test, whilst Dutch law encouraged 16-year olds to ride restricted powered cycles. Yamaha were exporting to Holland in 1960 but whilst the Japanese couldn’t fathom the mopeds popularity in Europe, they did notice the numbers. With Amsterdam chosen as their European hub in 1968, it was Henk Dullens the service manager of ‘Motorpaleis’ motorcycle shop who designed pedals that would work with Dutch moped laws and that offered Yamaha a way into their market. Meanwhile, in Japan the FS1 was under development from 1969 and the drawings from Dullens where sent for consideration; it worked so well the pedals were supplied by Yamaha and then fitted to the machine once in Europe; the first bikes arrived in 1970. By the end of that year an estimated 6500 were sold and in 1971 a further 8000 were snapped up across Europe but not in ‘Blighty’. Meanwhile our Transport Minister John Peyton (the man responsible for making helmets compulsory) further improved his popularity by deciding 16-year olds should only be allowed to ride motorised bicycles, ending their right to roam on anything up to 250cc; a decision derided in the motorbike press but opening the door for the FS1.
Dealers at home had noted its success in Europe and with Yamaha UK they pushed for a British version type; it came with an ‘E’ in the title for England. The Fizzy had arrived and in just three months it topped Yamaha’s UK sales charts, no surprise when teenagers got just three channels in a TV world that had only just found colour. Top of the Pops offered the delights of Clive Dunn’s Grandad or Dawn who Knocked Three Times; not really the stuff of rebellious youth. Departing school but still 24 months away from visiting the local pub (unless dad was present) and with cinema options that included Fiddling on a Roof, it’s no surprise your average ‘sixteener’ sought new adventures with their spots and bellbottoms; the answer arrived courtesy of Yamaha. Up until August 1977 it remained ‘unrestricted’ and capable of 45mph (that’s 60 in teenager mph) but versions from then enjoyed Autolube with the pedals replaced by footrests and a max of 30mph.
For those willing to pay ‘too much for too little’ one famous auction site offers plenty, especially in the ‘sports moped’ class. After weeks of trawling it seemed we were up a Gumtree without an advert and then it appeared. Only 20 odd miles away at £800 plus change, a 1988 FS1 with more owners than original parts. I must admit the excitement was overwhelming, within an hour the bank teller had handed over the cash and I was tearing down the motorway in the wife’s 4 x 4. Ownership thoughts filling my mind and mentally it was bought long before walking into a small back garden wearing my best ‘poker’ face. The vendor explained he was looking at a resto project himself and had already purchased a new chain guard plus a pair of shocks. Another project had come his way, so it was thrown back together as he needed to sell. To be honest, the pictures didn’t do it justice, as usual it was far worse, but she belched out blue smoke after the kick start accepted four or five swift boots. It didn’t sound bad, no obvious knocks or rattles and it seemed to select all four gears but there was something not right with this bike; through ‘rose-tinted glasses’ I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Sure, the paint was straight from an aerosol, both blue and black bits, whilst all the chrome had long forgotten any bling.
The ignition switch had obviously endured a fight with a large screwdriver plus all the cables were trying to seize; did these issues deter my need to own? Not a jot, buyers’ blindness had taken over. It needed everything but where and when was another opportunity going to come my way? Still certain things were ‘not how they should be’ I dug deep, and we manhandled this mystery purchase into the motor and I drove home with the windows open as the stench of stale fuel added to the ‘sicky’ feeling in my stomach. Once back at the ranch my trusty pal Alan arrived and could barely contain his excitement, he had enjoyed roadside assistance regularly on a yellow Gilera Touring back in the day; and after much self-congratulation we sat and listed the problems with the dream machine. Those more knowledgeable and far less prone to impulse buying than I will look at the picture taken as the FS1 arrived home and immediately notice the front-end cables don’t look right! True, maybe this is because the wheel is fitted the wrong way around, and could that mean the forks are attached to the incorrect sides? A swift hour of close inspection revealed a solid but messy frame (relief) but our seat base had rotted through, also a seized centre stand pin (quite common) that was happily wearing away its mounting points; plus, a hundred more ‘we can fix that’ moments. We concluded this Yamaha is a bit of a mongrel, but the numbers match the paperwork although the V5 states ‘green’ and not the blue we would aim for. So, having endured a life of poor maintenance plus a series of suspect repairs with alternate model parts, whilst being thrashed within an inch of its life every time tyres touched tarmac … we concluded, it’s a typical Fizzy.
Strip down & Tot up
Neither the hacksaw or Dremmel cutting discs saw action during the strip down, bolts either surrendered or sheared. We set aside a day for this task as I tend to get anal about labelling all the wiring and sticking masking tape to items with their appropriated nuts ‘n’ bolts. Meanwhile, the list of parts exceeded one A4 sheet and was well into the second before beer’o’clock arrived with the frame ready to be installed into our specially constructed mobile workstation; bench on wheels. The next few days consisted of attacking the various shades of black with a selection of grit triangles attached to a vibrating mouse or during the intermission plying the internet for parts. Then I got lucky when I found a large number of items ready to go on the Wemoto website and with their warehouse only a few miles away I asked if it would be okay to ‘take a gander’ at the items we desired. The reply came back ‘no problem’ so in the next instalment I hope to share the results of that visit. I suspected they couldn’t cater for every component on my list, so one supplier I have used before, YVP Spares, could be counted on to fill in some of the gaps.
Finally, new rims would come from our regular wheel builders at Mopedland and this follows a standard procedure where I remove a couple of spokes (for size checking) from each wheel before chopping the rest out. Once the hubs have been cleaned and clothed in fresh silver with a lacquer top they get boxed up and head north. The tank and side panels looked terrible, sprayed via Poundland aerosols and we did fear the worst, but the tank sanded back to metal without drama. No evidence of filler having been applied with a trowel and with the side panels damage free it felt like we had dodged a bullet and when a solid seat base appeared on ‘flee-bay’ via a trusted scrapper in the Midlands, it seemed the stars were aligned. It’s the early stages of a long journey which no doubt will go ‘Pete Tong’ at regular intervals but for a couple of hobbyist restorers it’s great to finally have a Fizzy in the shed; even if it is 40 years late.
Parts start arriving whilst the credit card balance rises
My visit to Wemoto proves ‘jaw-dropping’ at the scale of their operation
We recover our recycled seat base using metal spikes
Blue bits go into primer whilst our angle grinder meets the centre stand
Shopping page: www.wemoto.com/bikes/yamaha/fs1e-m/78-90