Dave Watkins on why he’s repainted his RG400 Suzuki.
Those of you with a nervous disposition please turn the page now – you may be very alarmed indeed. Why? Firstly, CMM reader and two-stroke aficionado Dave Watkins got this little beauty for a song and secondly… well, you’ll find out if you haven’t already turned the page. And let’s face it the pictures give the story away, anyways. It’s fair to say that while Dave loves his modern bikes, he loves his classic strokers too. I first bumped into him at our CMM Super Sausage day at the famous A5 café a couple of years back. His immaculate Honda NSR250 was a real credit to him. Since then he’s found this. “After a while of looking, I finally got myself a freshly-imported nice and very original RG400 with only 8000km on the clock from Japan last summer,” says Dave. “I got her from Alan Renshaw at Suzuki Race. What I paid for the bike was just £4000 which is damn cheap. It had the belly-pan and solo seat which made it all the more attractive to me. To be fair, Alan imports and sells a lot of bikes and the difference with others is that his prices are very fair indeed!” Okay Dave, but the question needs to be answered: why not the full monty RG500? The answer is obvious: “Yeah, I know. I was going to buy a 500, but prices are so high and the bikes really are not worth the prices they are now at.
There’s not a lot of difference between the RG400 and 500, just maybe the top-end performance, and as I said, Alan doesn’t charge stupid prices for his bikes and he’s looked after me with new parts. I liked it when I saw it in Derby at his place and my mind was made up.” Indeed it was made up. Made up to make some changes, eventually, too… “After getting her registered and enjoying her for a few months she was stripped of all her plastics within two hours of my return from the Ace Cafe’s Blue Haze day last September. What began was a complete strip-down where everything was cleaned, refreshed or replaced with genuine NOS parts and she was tastefully improved with a few specially made custom one-off parts.” Now for the bit some of you may find a bit ‘iffy’. Dave, only you can explain this one: “Even though she was an original Walter Wolf replica, I always knew she was gonna be repainted, as the original colours really weren’t to taste and in my eyes it could only be painted in Skoal Bandit colours.” This is a bit of a mix of limited-editions we have here. Now, apparently only 153 ‘champagne silver’ RG400 Walter Wolf replicas were made: which is about the same as the number of RG500 Skoal Bandit replicas that were produced (or at least as far as we can fathom). The eagle-eyed among
you will also see that this Skoal Bandit scheme isn’t a faithful replica of the original. And you can’t see ‘RG400’ on it either. To cap it all off, these are the original panels that were once graced with ‘Walter Wolf’. Dave: “Yes, I’ve had some stick from some of the forum guys. But it’s my bike and finding all the replacement panels and a tank would have been very costly. Some plastics are very hard to find hence I did what I did: I mean; a top fairing is £750 for a pattern part. It’s madness. I basically did the paint scheme myself and drew up the sticker designs and sized them for the bike myself too, as I couldn’t find any Skoal logos anywhere that suited my tastes. I even had an old Skoal Bandit badge from when I was younger so used and copied that into the design and even found some nice lighter-green pipe-work at Stafford to set off the bike even further. It’s been done by me, for me so I don’t care about the flak I get.” We don’t care either Dave: we love it and it’s been a three-or-more month labour of love. “I swapped the clocks, which were black, for some white-faced ones,” says Dave. “So it looks ‘right’ and these were put back to the appropriate mileage on my bike. The engine was spruced up as it was so ‘new’ anyway and other metal parts were sand-blasted to as-new condition. My favourite tool is a sand-blaster. As a professional model-maker we use them at work. I also got a few one-off items like a radiator cover and seat made up.” If some of you are upset by this transformation, please don’t be. It was a very personal one for our Dave. He says: “I had an RD-Z 125 back in the day, which is now quite rare as they weren’t around for long before the TZR came out. Well, my mate had a Suzuki RG125 in Skoal Bandit colours at the time and it was lovely, I will never forget it. It was about the time of the whole That’s Life thing where Esther Rantzen campaigned against the Skoal Bandit chewing tobacco craze. It was the 1980s and a great time.” No regrets then Dave? He says: “Well, the wheels are white, but I wished I had done them in green now. But no, no real regrets and the bike is great to ride. It’s a strong engine, they say only 59bhp, but in a straight line it’s quicker than my NSR250 and it pulls strongly all the way through the revs. The brakes were redone with new seals etc. and they are much better than I remember them. Yeah, I had a Slabby ’85 750F and the Gamma uses same brakes, but these feel much better thanks to a strip and rebuild along with Goodridge black ‘vintagelook’ lines.” What happened to the Slabby, Dave? “I sold it,” he says. “I forgot how many times it tried to kill me. I think less weight with those brakes – like with the RGS – makes them feel better. I’ll never sell this, though. She’s a keeper. It’s not an investment as I love caning it too much. She’s built for me so I don’t care what anyone else thinks.” Right on, Dave!
1 4 2 THE BUILD: 1/ Bike was stripped of bodywork, of course. 2/ White-faced clocks were sourced. 3/ Wheels went white and pale green pipes were found. 4/ Bye, bye ‘Champagne Silver’. 5/ And hello Skoal! 3 5
Yup, nowt wrong with this. Unless you’re Dave. And fair play!