Barry John­son’s 650 is proof that de­sir­able doesn’t mean ex­pen­sive

Classic Bike (UK) - - CONTENTS -

Out on your prides and joys, in­clud­ing a Yam 650 built for peanuts

This is my 1979 Yamaha XS650 Spe­cial, im­ported from the US. The orig­i­nal ti­tle doc­u­ment shows it had done 6000 miles when it left Ja­pan for the US, and only 13,200 when it came here.

It was a mess: parts miss­ing, bits hang­ing off, stuff that wasn’t orig­i­nal and a rusty tank. But all the chrome – forks, pipes, rims – was lovely, which was im­por­tant. If wheels are rusty and spokes have had it you might as well buy new wheels, and that loses the char­ac­ter. Go too far and it’s a new bike, not a 1979 model. That’s why I’ve not over­cus­tomised it – you still see a ’70s Yam.

I cut the sub­frame, re­moved a sec­tion, fit­ted steel tube in­side the ends and re­fit­ted the loop; with the in­ner sec­tions, I’m not re­ly­ing on welds for strength. I cut the rear mud­guard in half and ro­tated it round, and short­ened the front one – so I’ve got cus­tom parts right for the bike, but that haven’t cost any­thing.

The seat was trimmed by a lo­cal fella, af­ter I sorted the shape us­ing the foam from the non-stan­dard seat that came on the bike; I used the same leather to make the grips. The tail light and in­di­ca­tors are parts I’ve bought be­fore. They use bulbs, not LEDS – I’ve had prob­lems be­fore with

LEDS caus­ing havoc with old wiring.

My en­gine is stan­dard with Kei­hin carbs, which make a big dif­fer­ence – it’s punchy, but quite revvy too. It had these pipes when it ar­rived and I told my son they’d go... but once we’d started it we had to keep them. It sounds fan­tas­tic. The XS had a rev counter, speedo and a large idiot-light panel that didn’t look good. I’ve just kept the speedo, painted black along with the head­light – paint makes such a dif­fer­ence to looks. I use an etch primer, good base coat and then lac­quer, even though it’s a matt fin­ish.

I think that fin­ished and ready to ride, it only owes me around £2500. BARRY JOHN­SON

Avon tyres are mod­ern com­pound, but have old-style di­men­sions and tread pat­tern

Gen­tle cus­tom work means the XS re­tains plenty of its char­ac­ter

Changes are sub­tle, not gar­ish

Carb up­date makes big dif­fer­ence

Stubby pipes sound fab­u­lous

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