It’s not all about road-racing race replicas – off-road sport has its own icons. Reader Russ Purdy set about re-creating one. On the cheap…
The race replica has always been a big draw to serial restorers. Often we have a favourite racer or race machine colour scheme and – should the opportunity arise – we convert a bike to look like that. Sometimes the manufacturer wises up and produces a limited run itself.
You only have to look at the number of Eddie Lawson Replicas that either Kawasaki built, or keen specials builders have made themselves, or even the Kevin Schwantz Pepsi Suzuki and Lucky Strike Suzukis (there’s one on page 60). But what about off-road? Road-racing may seem to have the glitz and glamour, but off-road racing has its own heroes and iconic motorcycles. Russ Purdy felt the same. You may recall Russ from our pages back in 2016. He found and restored a fine-looking Suzuki GS1000S but soon after completion he felt it was time to take a different tack altogether. “I’d been looking for a new project soon after finishing the GS1000S,” explains Russ. “I was yapping to a customer and he said he had a 1988 Yamaha XTZ750 sat in a barn and that it had been there about 10 years. Basically, he hadn’t done a thing with it and I was pretty interested as I liked the idea of putting together a Super Ténéré as I had liked these machines since the 1980s. What I wanted to do, was make a nice Stephane Peterhansel replica.” So, Russ set out to finding just how the Yam had fared after more than a decade in a barn. Russ says: “I went to take a look at it. It was buried at the back of a container under a selection of Triumph Herald bits that the guy has been working on. We pulled it out and it didn’t look too bad – it was all in one piece, but pretty tatty. The fella also mentioned he had another XTZ in bits plus some parts he had purchased to use when he started the project, which of course he never got around to starting. We eventually came to a deal at £800 for the lot which I was pretty pleased with.” Not bad Russ, but what was it like under the skin? “I got the Ténéré home and started to look a bit deeper. I took the tank and panels off, connected a battery and a remote fuel tank and turned her over: she fired up after a few turns but only ran on one cylinder. On removing the carbs, I noticed one of the jets was blocked so gave them a clean and refitted them. Whoopee! She suddenly ran on two cylinders with no nasty noises so it was all good!” Having got the bike(s) and spares for £800 all in, Russ wanted to keep the costs of the build itself down. He explains: “To do that, I really had to keep all the work in-house. So I started the strip-down, dropped the engine out then stripped it back to the bare frame. The engine was the first task and after having it running I knew it was okay mechanically, so I stripped it down, removing all the ancillaries. I spent many hours removing the flaking paint and stripping it back to bare metal; I then primed it with etch primer and painted and satin lacquered the motor to finish.” Next up was the frame. He says: “With the frame, again it was a job of cleaning it up, priming and painting then fitting the completed engine back into the frame.” With the chassis came the benefit of having two bikes to work from. “I refurbished the forks using the best from the two bikes fitting new seals etc. These were refitted with new bearings – the same with the swingarm. I then got started on refurbishing and refitting all the other parts such as the radiator, oil tank, wiring loom etc.”
With the bike having suffered for a decade, it wasn’t surprising to Russ that the spoked wheels were in a pretty poor state. “With money an object,” explains Russ, “I figured that I would have to have a go at the dark art of wheel building! “After watching many tutorials on Youtube I cut the old wheel spokes out and stripped the old hub down, repainting and fitting new bearings. I fitted the new spokes and rim and made a jig to true-up the wheel. All-in-all it went very well so I ordered some new spokes for the rear and sorted the best rim from the two I had. I refurbished all the brake calipers and refitted them, so I now had a rolling chassis.” Things were looking good – but now it was time for the bodywork. Again, costs were an issue so Russ went ahead and did his own thing with the paintwork. “I decided to do it myself and use aerosols in the Yamaha racing colours of the era,” explains Russ. “I also found some decals in Latvia for the Dakar Sonauto team. I then applied the decals after painting and finished with a lacquer. The finished items look great if I say so myself.” Firing up the parallel twin for the first time since the strip-down showed that the bike ticked over well enough, but it was back-firing a bit. Russ says: “I had read that there was an issue with the main jets wearing on this model so I removed the carbs and stripped them again. I had a second bank of carbs and stripped them to find that the jets and tubes looked brand-new, so I fitted them, reinstalled the carbs and it ran perfectly from then on.” From there it was a case of fitting the DIY Dakar-look bodywork and get that vital MOT. “The test ride showed everything was okay,” says Russ. “All told, I spent about £600 on the build which did include new stainless bolts and parts throughout, but I did my best to save what I could. For example, the bike came with a Laser exhaust and the downpipes were in poor condition but – as they were stainless – a lot of elbow grease and they came out pretty well. I’m pleased with the overall outcome!”.
All done on the cheap!
The YZE750T was Yamaha’s racing version of its Super Ténéré. In 750 and 850cc versions it is the most successful bike in the history of the Dakar Rally, taking wins in 1991-93, 1995-96 and 1997-98.
THE BUILD: 1/ Original bike had suffered after a decade in a barn. 2/ Motor was sound inside but needed a good sorting outside. 3/ Engine and chassis finally come together.