Dave Watkins on why he’s re­painted his RG400 Suzuki.

Classic Motorcycle Mechanics - - CON­TENTS - WORDS: BERTIE SIM­MONDS

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!

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