V4 Vic­tory! WORDS AND PHO­TOS: JOHN DIGBY

CMM reader John Digby has nally done it: he' s nished his sec­ond Honda V4º

Classic Motorcycle Mechanics - - READER RESTORATION -

Those of you with long me­mories should re­mem­ber John Digby and his brace of Honda VFR400 NC24S… John is a for­mer two-stroke ad­dict and for­mer racer and off-road rider. His en­gi­neer­ing back­ground is im­pres­sive, hav­ing worked in the or­mula One/ mo­tor­sport arena for al­most 40 years, with teams such as Brab­ham, Honda and Red Bull, mainly in re­search and de­vel­op­ment. Around three years ago (and with the fullest bless­ing from the mis­sus) he got back into mo­tor­cy­cling, but would it be a two-stroke? He says: re­ally wanted an­other NSR400, which is a bike had back in the day, but soon re­alised that they are in­cred­i­bly rare and very ex­pen­sive. de­cided in­stead to break with my tra­di­tion and con­sider a four-stroke. The Honda VF R 400 se­ries of bikes be­came my tar­get of fo­cus. The NC21, be­ing a bit too nor­mal for me and the NC3 0 be­ing a bit too pop­u­lar de­cided the NC24 would be a per­fect bike to get me back out there!º That' s when things took a strange turn as they of­ten do in mo­tor­cy­cle restora­tion! irst up a mate whose brother was em­i­grat­ing to Aus­tralia had a 1987 NC24 for sale which was soon snapped up. Then, John found a guy who was advertising a set of fair­ings on ebay: he bid and won them, so set off in the van with son Mitch (a keen kart racer) to col­lect them from Birm­ing­ham. John re­calls: When we ar­rived he asked if needed any­thing else. t turned out he had a com­plete bike in bits; the en­gine was still in the chas­sis with the wiring loom and some other an­cil­lar­ies but the rest was in eight card­board boxes. made him an of­fer of 00 for the lot which he was happy to take!º The last time we heard from John he' d had his hip re­place­ment and bike one was com­plet­edº but what about bike two? He takes up the story: There had to be a short dwell in the pro­ject as my new hip re­place­ment didn' t go so well and had to be re-done! All was then good, so was able to crack on and com­plete the full restora­tion of my sec­ond Honda NC24 VF R400º n part one had in­stalled the front and rear-end to the sec­ond bike af­ter a com­plete over­haul of all the run­ning gear and brakes. had tted the en­gine into the chas­sis. The en­gines on the NC24 are shimmed to a close tol­er­ance t into the chas­sis and it is re­ally im­por­tant to get this shim­ming cor­rect to get the en­gine sit­ting prop­erly with­out stress­ing the chas­sis. All of the electrics re­ceived at­ten­tion so tested the coils and gave the looms a good go­ing over, most of the con­nec­tions were good (just a bit grubby) so re­placed a cou­pled of earth eye­lets and gave the rest a good clean. Don' t for­get that bought this bike in sev­eral boxes of bits so couldn' t vouch for or rely on any of the parts or their ba­sic in­tegrity! The foot-pegs brack­ets along with the brake lever and gear lever all had a good pol­ish and buff up. So with the electrics tted and the han­dle­bars, clocks and switch gear all tted it was time to fo­cus on the car­bu­ret­tors. pulled these apart and it was pretty

Carbs cleaned, new rub­bers fit­ted, new spark plugs and... noth­ing. Then dis­as­ter! Com­pres­sion is­sues with the en­gine. Then the re­place­ment lump had a cracked sump!”

clear that they were uite dirty and had not seen fuel for a num­ber of years. set to with a good ul­tra­sonic clean and some new gas­kets and seals. So with carbs tted on brand-new rub­bers that had to source from Ja­pan rigged up a dummy fuel tank, tted some brand new spark plugs, charged up the bat­tery and went for a crankº t cranked okay and seemed to have oil pres­sure but not a cough of com­bus­tion! checked the valve and ig­ni­tion tim­ing and all was good. then spent a cou­ple of hours test­ing the starter mo­tor with much de­lib­er­at­ing and then thought should con­duct a com­pres­sion test. Ouch: cylin­der one 27 psi; cylin­der two 6psi; cylin­der three 2psi and cylin­der four 97 psi. This was a dis­as­ter. took the en­gine out through the night and stripped it down, get­ting to bed at 4am. The pis­ton rings were gummed in solid. man­aged to free one com­pres­sion ring off but the rest were his­tory. Do­ing some ba­sic re­search via the nor­mal Honda sites it uickly be­came ap­par­ent that you can­not get head gas­kets for these bikes any­where in the world. The NC3 0 gas­ket is sim­i­lar and can be hand modiae ed but this is not a great so­lu­tion. nstead, sourced a good sec­ond-hand en­gine that is the cor­rect year for this model and tted it with the help of my son Mitch. We then did a com­pres­sion test and it was all like new and it even red up on the but­ton. Great! But wait, there was a bad oil leak from a crack in the sump. Out came the en­gine again as the rear ex­hausts are in­ac­ces­si­ble with the en­gine in place and they cover the bot­tom of the sump. So us­ing the sump from the low com­pres­sion en­gine we reae tted it late one ri­day night, red it up and shift checked it on the work stand. Awe­some! Ev­ery­thing was work­ing and she sounded sweet. A few more tidy­ing jobs were next. These in­volved some blast­ing and paint­ing and lots of al­loy pol­ish­ing. n retrospect, d say a wire brush and bu­fae ng wheel on an off-hand grinder should be rst on your list if you are get­ting into restor­ing bikes. had been work­ing on the fair­ings all through the sum­mer: they needed some small lo­cal re­pairs and lots of sand­ing to get them to a at con­di­tion for prim­ing. think spent around 60 hours on body­work prep and paint alone: the front nose fair­ing was par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing to paint as it was di­fae cult to get per­fect sym­me­try with the ne line tape. My wife Donna took over here and did a ne job! had de­cided to make a sin­gle piece tail sec­tion to com­ple­ment the stan­dard sin­gle seat. did this by re­mov­ing the pad that sits on the orig­i­nal seat unit.

then sculpted a shape in MDF that con­tin­ued the orig­i­nal lines and glued it on. Af­ter some care­ful lling and sand­ing then took a com­po­nent mould in GRP and then laid-up with car­bon cloth and epoxy resin to make what has turned out to be a rather ne tail unit, bonded some brack­ets in and then used the orig­i­nal seat fas­ten­ers. am pleased with the re­sult and can eas­ily re­vert to the orig­i­nal as there are no mods to the chas­sis. Ap­ply­ing the de­cals was a labour of love al­though the Roth­mans pin strip­ing was uite tricky as they are sep­a­rate tapes. n the true tra­di­tion of this restora­tion most of the de­tail work was done be­tween the hours of mid­night and am! don' t know why this seems to hap­pen, but it just seems to be a bit of a given! in­ally the bike was nished and the sec­ond of my VF R400 NC24S could join the other one. Since com­ple­tion, the bike has been road tested and it rides and han­dles great. t has taken me just over two years and around 500 hours but it has eas­ily been worth it! And now this has whet­ted my ap­petite for more! A Kawasaki H1E Mach 1 is next!º cmm Do you have a restora­tion you’d like to see in CMM? Drop us a line! Email Ber­tie at: Bsim­[email protected]

Nando and Bai­ley stand guard!

Al­ways hard get­ting that V4 lump into that snug frame...

1 3 5 4 2 HE 1/ lec tric als ready for th e otor. 2/ Carbs an al­ways be prob­lem atic al on a 4. 3/ anels would be rat­tle- anned to ood ef ec t. 4/ But first let’ s sort th e plas­tic s: th is prep took a lot of tim e! 5/ Cans an ive ood re­sults both prim ing and paint­ing . pert elp with th e pin- strip­ing ! om e- done and bril­liant.

John and is sec­ond restora­tion.

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