Sheene’s XR14

1976 cham­pi­onship-win­ning XR14 res­ur­rected by the men who built it 40 years ago

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - By Jor­dan Gib­bons SE­NIOR REPORTER

Restora­tion di­ary - Part I

In a sleepy vil­lage in the south of Eng­land, a leg­end is be­ing re­born. Barry Sheene’s ac­tual 1976 World Cham­pi­onship-win­ning Suzuki XR14 is be­ing brought back to life by Nigel Everett and Mar­tyn Og­borne, both le­gends in the Suzuki rac­ing world. The bulk of the work is be­ing done by Everett, a former Suzuki me­chanic who now re­stores classic race bikes, while Og­borne – who was Sheene’s Chief Me­chanic – as­sists.

“The bike is an XR14 from 1976 but it’s been left in Aus­tralia since he [Sheene] em­i­grated in the late 1980s,” says Og­borne. “When he lived at Charl­wood, Sur­rey, we would go round and work on them for him oc­ca­sion­ally but we’ve not touched it in 25 years.

“The prob­lem is that th­ese bikes are worse if they’re left. They ac­tu­ally cost money if they’re stand­ing still for any amount of time, and I mean even a month. The cases are mag­ne­sium and un­less they’re very care­fully looked after, the mag­ne­sium just de­te­ri­o­rates in the at­mos­phere.”

No time like the present

Once the bike is loaded onto the bench, Nigel and Mar­tyn be­gin at­tack­ing the Suzuki like chil­dren at Christ­mas, re­mov­ing the fair­ings in mo­ments. With the bulk of the body­work stripped away, it was the mo­ment of truth.

“The worst thing you can do is put wa­ter back into them and un­for­tu­nately when they got back to Aus­tralia some­one has re­filled it,” says Og­borne. “To do that, you’d have to start them and run them on a weekly ba­sis and that’s not hap­pened.”

“You don’t know what you’re in for un­til you open them up of course,” adds Everett. “The good thing about Suzuki is that the pro­duc­tion rac­ing bike of 1977 would have had a lot of the bits from the fac­tory bike in 1976. Re­build­ing the cranks for in­stance – all that stuff I’ve got. Every­thing can be done ba­si­cally.”

Everett cracks the crusty seal on the drain plug and out pours litres of emul­si­fied oil, proof that the coolant has eaten its way through the del­i­cate en­gine and made its way into the gear­box. Apart from the odd seized bolt, the en­gine comes apart quite eas­ily and it’s not all bad news. The pis­tons and bar­rels are in good shape, as are the cranks. The gear­box hasn’t suf­fered badly in the wa­ter ei­ther, with no ev­i­dence of a tide mark but the same can’t be said of the crankcases. A bit of pok­ing around soon re­veals large ar­eas that are com­pletely rot­ten. Luck­ily, he thinks they can be saved although it will re­quire a lot of work.

“Every­thing rub­ber has seized solid,” says Og­borne. “All the seals will need re­plac­ing as well as the en­gine work but that’s just what hap­pens when bikes stand still for years. It will be a lot of work to get it back to­gether.”

So what’s next?

With the bike in pieces, the duo as­sess all the parts that need re­plac­ing or re­pair­ing, and where parts need to be cleaned heav­ily they will be sent off to be metic­u­lously vapour blasted. It will then be a case of re­assem­bling every­thing with new seals and gas­kets.

The crank­case will need to be re­paired and have the large holes filled in. Luck­ily, Everett knows a lo­cal ma­chine shop that is able to weld the mag­ne­sium cases and build them back up.

NEXT WEEK - Sheene Resto Part II

De­liv­er­ies don’t get any bet­ter than this Forty years after they last laid hands on it, Og­borne and Everett start strip­ping Sheene’s XR14

You know a man’s se­ri­ously con­cen­trat­ing when he’s got his tongue stick­ing out

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