V4 Victory! WORDS AND PHOTOS: JOHN DIGBY
CMM reader John Digby has nally done it: he' s nished his second Honda V4º
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.