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30th July 2014

The mammoth project is well underway

Project GSX-R1100 is a huge task and quite a bit more than a top-end refresh, bodywork respray, and a new chain and sprockets! But bringing it back to its former glory is in the safe hands of the apprentices at the Doncaster-based training school, who are dedicating their free time to this project. 

First job was a clean - a thorough one too, with the bike still donning moss, twigs and cobwebs on the engine block, frame and bodywork. From there, it was a full strip and engine split to assess what was reusable, what needed some severe attention, and what needed replacing.

Suzuki’s Aftersales Training Manager, Richard O’Brien, explained, “The bike was always going to need a lot of time and effort put in to it. Clearly a lot of components were going to need to be replaced, but we wanted to get it apart, take stock of what we had, and work out what needed to go and what could be salvaged.

“While we’re doing this project it’s not just a case of replacing everything; we want to keep this real-world. When we work on our own projects or owners are working on their bikes, we know a lot of components are often refurbished, and that’s the aim with this too. We’re doing the majority of this in-house. However, on a couple of occasions so far we’ve obtained quotes for specialist work to be carried out, only to find out it’s cheaper to replace the item with a new Genuine part.”

Getting the bike down to just the frame proved difficult showed the level of the task they were undertaking.

“The wiring loom was in a bad way,” Richard continued. “With being left outside for so long the copper has oxidised and is difficult to repair, so the loom is pretty much a write-off. The loom is still available from Japan however, so we will be replacing that. We can’t see a reason not to use the same ECU, but that’s not definite yet; the older units aren’t sealed as well as our newer units.

“The motor really needs some attention too. We’ve split it and decided we can salvage the head and cases, but the covers need replacing. The carbs had filled with water, and filled cylinder three with water too. It had trickled down into the crank and gearbox. We drained the oil, five litres of which came out. Nearly half of which was water. The crank can be saved though, once flushed out.

“We’re still undecided whether to replace the barrels or replace the bore lining. If we go down that route it’ll be done via a specialist. Valves will be replaced, along with pistons and rings. The steel valve seats have corroded, but we have a remedy which involves shaving some of the material, and we think we can save them. We’re going to need to replace a couple of gears too, and the airbox is going.

“The brake lines will be replaced with new standard ones, and we’ll replace the levers as a matter of course. But bars and yokes, once checked for straightness, look like they’ll be saved. Throttle cables, clutch plates, brake pads and discs will be changed. The calipers will be overhauled, blasted, and restored. We’re going to repaint the spring of the rear shock, restore the damper unit. The line to the remote reservoir will be replaced, but the reservoir is okay.

“We’re getting rid of any aftermarket parts, apart from the Maxton internals in the front forks. These will be cleaned up and retained.”

While restoring an 80′s superbike might not be their regular work at their respective dealerships, the project is an excellent opportunity for the apprentices to learn about older machines and put their skills into practice as they continue to learn their trade.

“All of the apprentices were really excited about starting the project, and now we’ve made a start they’re really enjoying it,” Richard explained. “It’s a chance to get their hands dirty and get stuck in to something that’s different to their usual work, but all the time it’s teaching them so much and little tips and techniques. For example, with the state of the bike, a lot of things like disc bolts were stuck solid, among plenty of other things. We couldn’t get them to budge, but after a spray with Tunap, they were left over night, and came out no problem the next day. So they’re learning little things like that that all help.”

Work will continue on Project GSX-R1100 in the run up to Motorcycle Live, where showgoers will be able to see the bike on the Suzuki stand.

“We’re hoping to have a rolling chassis by the time we get to the show later this year. The frame’s being anodised. They won’t be on at the show, but the fairings are going to be repainted, but the tank needs replacing. But hopefully we’ll have something good to show people who come along.”