Fan­tic 300

Classic Trial - - CON­TENTS - Ar­ti­cle: Heath Brind­ley

Reg­u­lar read­ers of Clas­sic Trial Mag­a­zine will re­call my SWM re­build project a few years ago. They may also re­mem­ber that af­ter an­other knee in­jury, this time over at the Jersey two-day event, I sold the ma­chine there and then in a bit of a sulk! Hind­sight is a won­der­ful thing and it was ob­vi­ous, ap­par­ently, to ev­ery­one but me that I had been too hasty in the sale. Sure enough, within a few months I was back out on bor­rowed mod­ern ma­chines. What had hap­pened though was that I fi­nally got it into my head that I needed to take it easy with the rid­ing. I was for­tu­nate that I had been get­ting more in­volved in tri­als pho­tog­ra­phy and other work for this es­teemed pro­duc­tion to keep my love of tri­als go­ing with­out hav­ing to rely on throw­ing my­self at things on a mo­tor­cy­cle that I prob­a­bly wasn’t good enough to do. So here we are again with an­other ‘Ital­ian stal­lion’ now in my garage. This one is red in­stead of yel­low though. Un­til the se­ries two of the 301 all Fan­tic trial mod­els could be had in any colour you wanted — as long as it was red! In 1984 I had a 300 Fan­tic Pro­fes­sional and it was by far my favourite tri­als ma­chine I had owned up un­til that point. In fact af­ter mov­ing on to a 301 in 1985 and then a 303 af­ter that I had al­ways re­gret­ted sell­ing the 300, as both of those were frankly horrible. I had the SWMs at the time the 240 Fan­tic mod­els were out so never ac­tu­ally owned one of those, but hav­ing rid­den them since I still pre­fer the big boy’s toy which is the 300 twin-shock.

The one I now have was a chance pur­chase on a Satur­day morn­ing as I had wo­ken up a lit­tle early and was catch­ing up on things on the ‘Hard to find Twin­shock and air-cooled monos’ page on Face­book — snappy ti­tle I know — when sud­denly a photo of a 300 ap­peared, and then two more pho­tos of the ma­chine in sev­eral boxes. Only three or four peo­ple had spot­ted it and asked about price etc but I took a chance and phoned the owner, who re­ported that he was just out­side Read­ing and that no one had com­mit­ted to pur­chas­ing it yet! I was out of bed and in the car head­ing along the M4 like a shot. Within 90 min­utes I was on my way back to Som­er­set with three large boxes full of 300 parts. The guy had stripped it down to do a re­build but lost in­ter­est and af­ter a quick look through it seemed, most im­por­tantly, that all the parts were there.

A Side­car Life In its re­cent life the ma­chine had been fit­ted with a side­car; the frame and swing­ing-arm bore ex­tra brac­ing and a few cracks had emerged from these mod­i­fi­ca­tions. I was happy to re­move the non-stan­dard parts and get it all welded but Face­book again came up trumps when Lee over in Ger­many re­ported that he had a good stan­dard frame set for sale at a very good price. It got even bet­ter as it was go­ing to be ar­riv­ing in Bris­tol very soon, about 15 min­utes from my house! Apart from the rear mud­guard I had ev­ery­thing I needed to start a ba­sic re­build project. All I needed to do was to check ev­ery­thing was there and that the en­gine was all in work­ing or­der. I had checked the top end-as the bar­rel was off but I didn’t want to strip the gear­box for no rea­son just yet. For­tu­nately Clas­sic Trial Mag­a­zine ad­ver­tiser Bob Wright and his Fan­tic spares store are less than a mile from me so new ca­bles, fork seals, fuel pipe, swing­ing-arm bear­ing kit and a re­build kit for the orig­i­nal Mar­zoc­chi rear shocks were ob­tained and I was ready to start putting the jig­saw puz­zle back to­gether. The en­gine went into the frame quickly and the cylin­der bar­rel, head and side cas­ings were fit­ted, and af­ter or­der­ing new head bear­ings on­line I fit­ted the front fork yokes.

It was then that it dawned on me that back in the day we used to ei­ther mod­ify or throw away the top yoke and re­place it with a 200 ‘Pro’ model one, as the han­dle­bar po­si­tion was ter­ri­ble as stan­dard. They had rear­ward fac­ing han­dle­bar bar mounts that made an al­ready long-feel­ing mo­tor­cy­cle turn like an oil tanker. The 200’s mod­i­fied mounts

put the bars al­most over the cen­tre shaft line and tight­ened up the steer­ing a great deal, and it also has the added ben­e­fit of plac­ing a lit­tle more of your weight onto the front wheel which on a 300 is never a bad thing. Luck­ily once again Lee came up trumps and pro­vided a se­lec­tion of yokes to use that he had ob­tained on his trav­els across Italy.

When I put the cylin­der bar­rel and head back onto the bot­tom half of the mo­tor I was tempted to place a few ex­tra gas­kets in there as the 300 en­gine is very prone to ’pink­ing’ when hot. This is mostly down to the fact that this mo­tor was the last to be de­vel­oped by Fan­tic us­ing leaded fuel. By the time of the 301 came to Europe they had em­braced un­leaded fuel and the bar­rel for that ma­chine was ported dif­fer­ently to suit. I de­cided not to add them just yet as I still use oc­tane boost in my fuel mix­ture and so it is some­thing I can come back to later if needed.

In the Spirit

The one thing that took longer to sort out than just about any­thing on the whole re­build project was the side cov­ers. Be­fore we get into that I should ex­plain that I want this model to be as orig­i­nal or ‘of the pe­riod’ as pos­si­ble. No trick forks, frame mods, footrest-mov­ing, cheat en­gines, disc brakes, dif­fer­ent fuel tank and seat unit etc. I have a bit of a bee in my bon­net about some of the so-called twin-shocks that are be­ing fab­ri­cated al­most from scratch these days. As far as I am con­cerned, if you want a tri­als mo­tor­cy­cle that rides like a mod­ern one and weighs the same as a mod­ern one, then go buy a mod­ern one. I have ul­ti­mate re­spect for the engi­neer­ing that goes into some of those ma­chines but it just isn’t in the spirit of things. I will be far hap­pier rid­ing a bog stan­dard but well-sorted old twin-shock and fin­ish­ing last than I would on a ‘cheat bike’ try­ing to go for the win — just my own opin­ion.

Back to the plas­tics; the orig­i­nal cov­ers that came with the ma­chine were badly ox­i­dised, scratched and gen­er­ally in a bad cos­metic way. The good thing though was that all of the lugs were still there and there were no cracks. I tried for days to polish out all the marks and get the colour back, start­ing with the most abra­sive wet and dry you can get and grad­u­ally work­ing my way down to us­ing a buffing ma­chine and paste. Sadly it just wasn’t enough and they still looked ter­ri­ble. Know­ing I had two other sets of the plas­tics I de­cided to try giv­ing them a coat of paint. My lo­cal trade paint sup­ply store looked at the plas­tic and rec­om­mended a cer­tain paint, and then mixed up two cans of RAL3020 for me to test plus some suit­able lac­quer that would also flex. I ap­plied four coats in the garage and, over the course of a week, a few coats of lac­quer to see how they would come out and then ap­plied the graph­ics kit from Anglia Vinyl Art. I was in two minds about clear-coat­ing over the stick­ers but I know they will get scuffed or scratched and I fig­ured if lac­quered they would be a night­mare to get off and re­place neatly, so for now they have been ap­plied and left as is.

My in­ten­tions are to have the orig­i­nal brake shoes fit­ted with the spe­cial com­pound that I had on my SWM as this pro­duced stop­ping power al­most as good as a disc brake once the shoes had been matched to the hub. But for now I have fit­ted a set of EBC grooved shoes and trimmed them down a bit to give a bit more ‘bite’. The spe­cial coat­ing is an­other thing on the ‘to do list’ when I am happy with the over­all build. But it has to be re­mem­bered that the front brake plate on the 300 had a spe­cial pivot shaft ad­juster that im­proves the nor­mal op­er­a­tion hugely.

Rear Shocks

I al­ways liked the orig­i­nal rear shocks and was happy to have ac­quired three pairs, fig­ur­ing that I could at least build one good set from all the parts. Af­ter a good clean and dis­man­tle it seemed that most of the shafts were ac­tu­ally okay; the main prob­lem seemed to be that the shaft seals had leaked oil ev­ery­where and it had mixed with the mud to make it look far worse than it ac­tu­ally was. I put new seals in and de­cided to try some thin­ner oil to speed the ac­tion up a lit­tle. It was gen­er­ally agreed that the stan­dard oil was ap­prox­i­mately 10-grade weight, so I went for 5 and put them back to­gether and fit­ted them to the ma­chine. Well, to say it is a bit bouncy would be an un­der­state­ment. I am fairly sure that we couldn’t hop the back around that far and so eas­ily back in the day when sta­tion­ary. Shortly they will get re­built with 7.5 weight oil.

The ma­chine was as­sem­bled with not a great deal of con­cern about how it looked and then taken up to the Zona 1 Club prac­tice ground for a play. Amaz­ingly it all went well. The mo­tor was okay and the rolling chas­sis felt like it did all those years ago — heavy, but fun. The front forks had a few lit­tle scuffs in the slid­ers so a lit­tle oil ap­peared over the course of the three-hour ride, but other than that it was go­ing very well. That was un­til just be­fore go­ing-home time, when I rode across the quarry to get a drink from the car. There was a funny rum­bling sound from the gear­box area. Af­ter stop­ping the mo­tor to make sure ev­ery­thing was free and I could go up and down the gear­box okay I rode back to the car park and had a chat with the oth­ers there on the day. Five min­utes later I started it up and went to turn the ma­chine around be­fore load­ing it onto the trailer when there was a loud ‘crack’ and the ma­chine stopped dead as if it had seized, but the mo­tor was still free. Hmmm…one to in­ves­ti­gate when back at home.

In­ves­ti­ga­tion

Upon in­ves­ti­ga­tion it would seem that two of the clutch bas­ket fin­gers had sheared off. The only ex­pla­na­tion I have for it is that they were dam­aged be­fore the side cas­ings were put back on as the bas­ket was fit­ted on the shaft but with no plates, springs etc when I brought the ma­chine home. There were cer­tainly no ex­tra bits or for­eign bod­ies in­side the case apart from the re­mains of the two ‘fin­gers’. Per­haps they had taken a knock in the car or on the bench and I hadn’t no­ticed.

An­other spe­cial de­liv­ery from Italy via Lee and a new clutch bas­ket was fit­ted. It was at about this time that Lee also men­tioned he could lay his hands on a French spec­i­fi­ca­tion 300. These mod­els had a 239cc en­gine in­stead of the 249cc to suit the French reg­u­la­tions at the time, for lower on-the-road costs. Also an ex­tra swing­ing-arm was sourced, which was of the later type with the chain ten­sioner fit­ted. The stan­dard early mod­els came with it fit­ted to the rear en­gine bolts. The down­side of the early ver­sion is that if you sump out on any­thing you end up rest­ing on the ten­sioner arm, pos­si­bly dam­ag­ing it and de­rail­ing the chain. That swing­ing-arm is now fit­ted and it gave me the idea of pos­si­bly making a ‘works replica’. I pre­fer to call it a Lamp­kin replica rather than a Michaud as we are ‘Bri­tish’ af­ter all. John Lamp­kin was very forth­com­ing with the in­for­ma­tion that he could re­mem­ber from his works rid­ing days when I spoke with him. It ap­pears I would need to find a Mikuni car­bu­ret­tor and re­move the rear frame mud­guard loop. Cou­pled with the top yoke re­place­ment and swing­ing-arm that I had al­ready done the only ma­jor dif­fer­ence would then be the en­gine port­ing, but I do not be­lieve a rider of my abil­i­ties will need them done. I have even gone so far as to have one set of side cov­ers sprayed white with the Michaud replica graph­ics fit­ted, again sup­plied by Anglia Vinyl Art.

The French 239cc model is sat in the garage at present, wait­ing for some at­ten­tion, but as I have en­joyed get­ting the other 300 model one ride­able and then rid­ing it that project has been for­got­ten for the time be­ing. Once I am com­pletely happy with how it rides I will prob­a­bly strip down the 300 again and pow­der-coat the frame and en­gine to smarten it up a bit, but I want it to re­main a ma­chine to ride and not a show piece. The next chal­lenge is to get the Mikuni fit­ted and tuned and the frame rear loop done, plus find out if the French en­gine is in bet­ter con­di­tion than this one. I think that means there will be a part two of this story — speak soon!

Within 90 min­utes I was on my way back to Som­er­set with three large boxes full of 300 parts!

Lee over in Ger­many re­ported that he had a stan­dard frame set for sale. It got even bet­ter as it was go­ing to be ar­riv­ing in Bris­tol very soon, about 15 min­utes from my house.

The mo­tor had an in­spec­tion car­ried out be­fore it was fit­ted into the frame.

The one thing that took longer to sort out than just about any­thing on the whole re­build project was the side cov­ers!

A 200 ‘Pro’ model top yoke was fit­ted, as the han­dle­bar po­si­tion was ter­ri­ble as stan­dard.

A swing­ing-arm bear­ing kit was pur­chased and fit­ted.

The ap­pear­ance was not ‘Con­course’ but it cer­tainly per­formed well.

It has to be re­mem­bered that the front brake plate on the 300 had a spe­cial pivot shaft ad­juster, which im­proves the nor­mal op­er­a­tion hugely.

The orig­i­nal rear shocks per­formed very well and three pairs were ac­quired, fig­ur­ing that at least one good set from all the parts could be built.

A spare set of side cov­ers sprayed white with the Michaud replica graph­ics fit­ted.

The fin­ished project ma­chine with the side panels re­moved.

A bot­tom-half in­ves­ti­ga­tion was re­quired on the mo­tor af­ter the first ride.

A later type swing­ing-arm was sourced with the chain ten­sioner fit­ted.

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