It’s been a long time in the making, but it’s finally here: Steve ‘Stavros’ Parrish finally rides his Yamaha FZ750 Superstock replica.
Steve Parrish takes his superstocker for a first ride.
It’s been a hard slog but it’s finally turned a wheel in anger – my Yamaha FZ750 Superstock replica. The idea for this build came from a number of sources. Firstly, editor Bertie and I have the odd luncheon together along with a number of other associated cads and bounders from the motorcycle industry and he had just taken over CMM and drunkenly (and foolishly) suggested I do something for him. It was then that the seed was sown. I began to think of what bike I really wanted to restore or build. I had an RG500, so that was out, but then I recalled my last ever race bike: the Loctite-backed Yamaha FZ750. I rode it for two seasons – 1985 and 1986 – and took it to Macau for my last race in November 1986. I loved that bike and it seemed appropriate that I should rebuild an FZ. Finally, with me being asked to do various parade laps and the like, I realised I wanted something of my own that I could take out of the van or off the trailer, fuel up and just hit the track. Often people like Yamaha themselves or Wigan Yamaha have helped with new bikes at events like the Thundersprint. Thing is, they were always new machines and everyone else would be riding something period. I needed my own bike…
“For a first shakedown test things went very well, but we still have a few bugs to iron out. Dyno time will sort the gap in the power delivery. Best thing though was the attention that the FZ was grabbing in Silverstone’s pit-lane. She’s stunning!”
But what bike? Well, I didn’t want something finicky or highly-strung, so the four-stroke, fourcylinder Yam sounded like the best bet. I put the word out and my mates at Wigan Yamaha came up trumps when they found C406 PRN for a grand. I picked the bike up when I was heading to the Isle of Man. It was ragged, it probably looked better than it was, but the full-fairing hid a few nightmares – not least the Hammerite painted frame! The good news as I picked the bike up was that the engine itself ran like a dream – solid motors, these five-valve Yams. This was where the hard work began – and obviously I wanted to side-step some of this if at all possible. Enter stage-left Daryll Young and IDP Moto. They not only service and repair bikes but make specials and undertake restorations – they’ve recently been behind the restoration of the Pro-am Yamaha RD250LCS. The stripdown was a simple affair: me, Daryll and his man Paul Smith took the FZ apart in three hours and nine minutes. With these initial stages of the bike being well documented in CMM we started to get offers of help – yes, even ones that meant I had to pay in advance. I also managed to hook up with my original mechanic, Dave ‘The Mushroom’ Johnson, who was invaluable as he told me what lugs and brackets to angle-grind away when I was next at IDP Moto. The frame was going to be stripped and painted by KAS Racepaint in Kettering and one of the subcontractors – Malc Upex – was going to polish the swingarm that we had. Here is where we hit a snag with the dry build of the chassis. This swinger wasn’t from the original bike, but from a stash of old parts I still had and we soon found that the thing wasn’t the easiest to fit. Turns out the one that didn’t come with the bike itself was a later swingarm with dog-bones rather than the original. We decided to cross this bridge later… KAS Racepaint was also going to be looking after the bodywork, which brought me a pleasant dilemma. I had two options on the paint scheme – either the ‘original’ silver/red of the road bike which we mainly ran in 1985, but with the various sponsors’ logos, including Loctite or the full-on red/ white of the main Loctite sponsor from a year later.
I had – by now – also managed to sort what wheels we were going to have: the original ran 16in front and 18in rear but I wanted a better choice of rubber, so a pair of 17-inchers were found. The front was a 120/70-17 from an FZR1000 and the rear a 160/60-17 from a 1994 FZR600R 4JH. With wheels settled on, brakes could also be sorted. Many different types were considered from Bluespot calipers from late-1990s R1s and the like, through to ‘period’ anchors like AP Lockheeds, but – in the end – the lovely people at Harrison BILLET came good with their BILLET-6 calipers, chomping on Galfer discs. By now I’d got the engine ready for blasting – so the holes were all sealed up and off it went to Redditch Shotblasting. Around the same time the Harris brothers – Steve and Lester from Harris Performance – had finally answered my phone calls and allowed me to pop down to visit them in Hertford so I could get some foot-pegs/rearsets made up, but only when they could have the rolling chassis to take the appropriate measurements from. By now I’d opted for a mixed early silver/red scheme but with some of my own touches – like gold wheels – which complemented the gold bits on the engine. Ahhh the wheels: with IDP being next door to the National College of Motorsport, they helped us by letting me machine-up some 23 and 30mm spacers so the wheels would fit. Finally, towards the end of 2014, we had the rolling chassis and the painted engine in situ and we thought we were on the home straight. How wrong we were! Some help on the budget side of things came from my old employer, Yamaha. The knackered and rusty radiator was little more than trash and at around £890 (2014 values, obviously) I was worried I may have to sell a kidney to cover it. Thankfully Yamaha UK looked kindly on my begging letter/email and sorted the brand-new replacement radiator and lots of other spare parts. I know, I’m a lucky sod, but they also have first dibs on the bike should they wish to display it anywhere, so it’s a rolling showpiece for their excellent spares range for older bikes. They don’t shout about it, but they really should do. Come the end of 2014 and I had a deadline to hit: get the bike in some shape for the Motorcycle Live event. This meant a trip down to Harris Performance where the boys did me proud by sorting me the foot-rest and handlebar assemblies. On the
same day I even flew to Bradenham, where Mid Norfolk Mouldings were based as I wanted to get a replacement set of bodywork for the secondary all-loctite paint scheme. As it stood, KAS painted the new bodywork as the original scheme – just in time for the NEC show. We didn’t have an exhaust to put on the bike, but Steve Adams from Lucky7 Moto helped out by lending us his Racefit exhaust from his lovely FZ that graced CMM’S March 2015 cover. That lend of the exhaust wasn’t a long-term solution, but that came later: much later as it happened, but only because the FZ lay dormant for a fair few months during 2015. By the autumn of 2015 we wanted to get the bike to run for the first time. We got some individual K&N Stack Filters courtesy of Performance Parts Ltd and married the motor up to those and the most beautiful pipe ever made… Somehow, from just a series of old pictures and original drawings that Pete Gibson had made back in the day, Tony Greenslade who now runs Gibson Exhausts crafted a thing of great beauty that sounded divine. You know where to go if you have an FZ now… It was strange but as the bike looked more ready to roll than ever – I wasn’t. I was busy as usual, as was IDP Moto, it took until the end of October 2016 for us to finally roll the bike back onto the ramp and do those final, fiddly jobs to get the bike running and then running on its wheels with the new Galfer brake discs in place. Finally hearing that five-valve motor bark through that amazing Gibson pipe was emotional, it had taken so long to get to something that could (finally) run under its own steam. It was sod’s law that it would then take the best part of nine months before we could hit the track. Silverstone would be a fitting place for my first proper ride on the Superstocker, but how would it take it? I knew from experience I wouldn’t be able to swing a leg over it and it be perfect, but how far off would she be? In the pit-lane with Daryll (handily as well as IDP, he’s a race spanner too, and helped Tarran Mackenzie to his Supersport 600 title last year) and snapper Shroom, it was orgasmic when the bike fired into life once more – there’s something about a race pipe on a four-cylinder Jap bike – even if this one is standard and not even race-tuned. The day itself was a bit murky, with some rain, so I tried to avoid the sessions when the H2O was out in force. After the first couple of laps, the bike wasn’t doing anything it wasn’t supposed to. Chassis-wise we’ve obviously gone from a 16-18in tyre combo to the two 17s. Now, I don’t need this to be a modernhandling bike, but in the fast turns at Silverstone the FZ was plenty stable, but perhaps I’d like a little more ‘flickability’ through the slower chicanes. Even thinking back to the original, the FZ was always more stable and not quite the out-and-out sportsbike that its rival the Suzuki GSX-R750F was, but overall the handling was very good indeed. I need to remember that – compared to my old Superstock racer – we are on production road tyres now,
but I would hazard a shrewd guess that today’s road tyres are better than the race slicks we were allowed to use more than 30 years ago. Suspension-wise the thing was superb at the front – but needed work at the rear. The forks were re-valved with nothing more than new parts and that includes normal weight fork oil but the feeling from the front was just perfect. The front just coped admirably with everything – especially those awesome front anchors! The Harrison BILLET six-pots and Galfer discs/pads are more than up to the job and – if I wasn’t careful – they were powerful enough to have me on my arse, especially in the damp conditions. As to the rear – well – it was one of the parts that I picked up along the way and it was never really intended for the FZ so I found it lacked a little in the damping department, so we’ve already (since the test) got that sorted. The motor does need some fine tuning. From low-down in the rev-range it’s distinctly woolly and lean – we’re talking around 3000-4500rpm here, but then the thing really comes on song and from the mid-range of 5500rpm it fair takes off towards the 11 thou redline. This also means the bike isn’t so good off the throttle when going into some of the corners. We know what to do here: dyno work needs to be done in conjunction with some carburation changes to match up that lovely pipe, the nonstandard air-filters. Overall though I have to say we need more end-game ‘ooomph’ too. These as standard probably pumped out nothing more than about 90bhp at the rear wheel, so I reckon we need to get some bite to match the bark. Perhaps we should have put an FZR1000 Genesis lump in it? But then, it wouldn’t be an FZ750…
The bike was never going to be perfect off the bat – but our ‘installation laps’ were pretty damn close. That’s what comes of having Daryll and IDP in your corner. If a race-spec crew chief doesn’t know what to do, no-one will. We know what to do going forward and this gives us a winter to fine-tune the FZ. What has impressed me is that – in a Silverstone paddock full of top-notch bikes – people came to look at our FZ. That’s some compliment. Overall I’m so impressed and very pleased with the bike. It was never the aim to have a pixel-perfect replica of one of my old race bikes, more a ‘modern homage’ which looks pretty much the same if you squint. What we have is something amazing to look at and (will very soon be) amazing to ride. It’s been a long four years with some periods of inactivity but finally the FZ is (sort of) done. Some final tweaking over winter will make this machine spot on. Would I do it again? Yes, you bet I would. Wouldn’t you?
BELOW: Four years in the making but worth every minute. And penny.
RIGHT: The bike, as bought for a grand.
ABOVE: We do have photographic evidence of the old boy getting his knee down on her, honest we do.
BELOW: This beats modern track-day tackle hands down.
IN DETAIL: 1/ Motor is currently stock and standard apart from filters and needs a fettle to fill a dip in the torque. 2/ Galespeed levers look trick if not original race-spec circa 1985. 3/ More modern 17in rims have excellent BILLET-6 calipers and Galfer discs. 4/ Custom-made Gibson replicates what we had back in the day.
ABOVE: Stavros on his FZ back in the mid-80s.