Sheene’s 76 title bike brought back to life
Last week we showed you Barry Sheene’s 1976 World Championship winning XR14 being stripped in preparation for its restoration by Nigel Everett and Martyn Ogborne and this week, in true Blue Peter fashion, here’s one they made earlier. Over the course of six weeks various parts of the bike made their way around the country to be repaired and now it’s time for the reassembly.
One of the real pieces of genius was the repair to the crankcases. After being left standing with water in the system, the water had eaten its way through the cases and ended up in the gearbox, leaving a few sizeable holes behind. One of the holes was at the location of a thread that holds the crankcase halves together, so some ingenious thinking was required.
“Exactweld have done a fantastic job,” says Ogborne. “To replace the area that had corroded away, they inserted a copper tube and built up the magnesium around it. Copper and magnesium are such different metals that they won’t weld together at all, so they put quite a bit into it without any risk of the metals contaminating. Then they drilled and tapped the copper and it’s held up really well.”
Once the crankcases were repaired they were blasted and rechromated, which adds an anti-corrosive layer and returns that factory-fresh dark green colour. Along with the major work to the cranks, all the rubber gaskets and seals were replaced as they had hardened with age. The brakes and forks were fully rebuilt and the tyres replaced, although they presented an interesting challenge.
“Just like all the other rubber parts, the tyres had turned completely solid,” says Ogborne. “We dared not try to lever them off, as the rims would probably break and we didn’t really want to cut them off, so we had an idea. It was a scorching hot day, so we put the wheels in the greenhouse, which reached about 45°C. After a few hours in there they were soft enough to remove.”
With the engine buttoned up in the frame it’s the moment of truth. Everett fills the radiator and watches for bubbles as an indication there may be tiny holes in the system that have been missed. There are a few but not enough for concern, so the tank is filled with pre-mix and it’s time to fire it up.
“It’ll either start in a few seconds or it won’t start at all,” says Everett. “That was always the case with these bikes. Also, we can’t really be sure about the electronics – it could have a duff CDI.”
A few moments on the roller and the bike roars into life. The engine crackles and pops as blue smoke pumps out of the pipes before quickly settling down into that characteristic race bike rattle. As if more proof is needed of the quality of the rebuild, Everett takes a step out onto the road and bump starts it in a few feet. All that remains are some final checks, the fairings and it will be, in Ogborne’s words, “ready to race”. NEXT WEEK: Part 3, The finished article and plans for the future.
‘It will either start in the first few seconds of trying or it won’t start at all’ NIGEL EVERETT