SPE­CIAL BREW

Matthew Hall spent two and a half years bring­ing his spell­bind­ing vi­sion of an Ed­die rep to re­al­ity. He learned from a mas­ter and worked a mi­nor mir­a­cle

Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - Contents - Words: Mark Gra­ham Pic­tures: Stu­art Collins

One of the most awe­somest Ed­ward Law­son repli­cas of re­cent times, maybe of all time

Matthew Gill knows who’s ul­ti­mately re­spon­si­ble for his ob­ses­sion with big four-stroke fours: “It’s my fa­ther’s fault,” he says, lay­ing all blame squarely on his old man’s shoul­ders. “He had a CB900 back in the ’80s and I grew up rid­ing around on the back of it with him. I was into all sorts of rac­ing, but the Fred­die, wayne and Ed­die show was the real thing for me. I just loved those bikes.”

Who doesn’t? But who then takes that healthy af­fir­ma­tion of all things big-banger and takes it to such an el­e­vated level? Matthew for one. “There are the purists who say it’s not a Law­son rep… the de­cals aren’t right, the rims are wrong. they’re right, but for me it’s a mod­ern resto. I love to hy­brid mod­ern tech­nol­ogy with older bikes.”

And his Ed­die clone pos­i­tively drips with tra­di­tional big-inch think­ing al­lied to wel­come moder­nity in key ar­eas. It is also beau­ti­fully fin­ished, but not in a mir­ror­pol­ished swanky ho­tel floor fash­ion – it’s clean, tidy, and prepped for ac­tion, with lock­ing wire where needed, and noth­ing cos­metic (bar­ring the #21 race plates) de­tract­ing from the sense of pur­pose.

“It’s a track­day bike, but with a day­time MOT too,” says Matthew. “It all started when I had a Z1000J, sold the en­gine for £600 and took an ebay gam­ble on a GPZ1100 mo­tor for £400.We stripped it down and it turned out to be ab­so­lutely fine. So we took it bit by bit on build­ing it up into the en­gine we’ve got now.” The ‘we’ refers to Gill and his men­tor Dave En­nis, en­gine builder and en­gi­neer ex­traor­di­naire. “I met him at a Ja­panese bike show, and we just hit it off. I’ve learned so much from him over the years.”

The en­gine re­ceived the usual hot Zed treat­ment at the bot­tom end: pressed-up crank welded at the pins to pre­vent it slip­ping out of true. Bar­rels bored to take an 1170cc­wiseco pis­ton kit, an­drews PSP 3X camshafts up top with 0.410-inches of lift and plenty of du­ra­tion, ape valve springs

“PURISTS SAY IT’S NOT A LAW­SON REP. THEY’RE RIGHT. I JUST LOVE TO HY­BRID MOD­ERN TECH­NOL­OGY WITH OLD BIKES”

and guides, breath­ing through 38mm Miku­nis with long stack bell­mouths, all at 10.5:1 com­pres­sion.

A high vol­ume oil pick-up was snapped up on ebay, but proved to be an elec­tronic auc­tion gam­ble too far. “That took a lot of fet­tling to get right,” says Matthew. “Some­times ebay pays off, some­times not. And this was one of those nots. But we got it right in the end.”

The end is not yet in sight though be­cause Matthew and Dave plan to up the com­pres­sion to 11.5:1 and it hasn’t even been on the dyno for fine tun­ing yet. “We just bolted the carbs on straight from the box and it ran pretty well. I put about 400 miles on it and then we had to be on a boat to the Isle Of Man and there sim­ply wasn’t any more time,” says Matthew. “Next thing it was do­ing a pa­rade lap on­the Is­land.”

And it wasn’t just the en­gine that was more or less spot-on straight off the bat, the chas­sis gelled too.the 2010 Showa big-pis­ton ZX-6R forks were a known quan­tity.the 2003 ZX-6R swingarm the same; light, strong, and a good-look­ing mod­ern touch. But it’s when you mate these later com­po­nents to what’s ba­si­cally a big, steel dou­ble bi­cy­cle frame that prob­lems can be­gin. “Dave made the cal­cu­la­tions then fab­ri­cated and welded the rear shock mounts. He’s fully cer­ti­fied and works for Bri­tish Air­ways, so he’s among the best in the coun­try,” says Matthew. “Cen­tring the swingarm and rear wheel (ZRX11) was crit­i­cal, so it was good to have some­one around who’d been there and done that.we now know the fully-ad­justable Öh­lins shocks are work­ing as they should.”

The front end re­quired a dif­fer­ent ap­proach. “It would be an aw­ful thing to have the ge­om­e­try fixed – and wrong, so we went for some stealth yokes from Bil­let Bike Bits in Nor­folk.the gen­er­ous length of the top and bot­tom clamps mean that the fork stan­chions can be moved to drop the ride height and quicken the steer­ing if re­quired, or raised to slow things down a bit.

In its current set-up it works well enough. “It’s a bit like rid­ing a big dirt bike,” says Matthew. “What the rid­ers of the day said about these is all true, but then they didn’t have Pirelli Di­ablo Cor­sas back then. It’s def­i­nitely like a prim­i­tive mus­cle car, more old Mustang than new Ferrari.”

Now it’s done nearly 2000 miles Matthew is go­ing to pull the en­gine down and take a look at the top end just to be on the safe side, to catch any po­ten­tial prob­lems be­fore they be­come ex­pen­sive fixes. “By the time you’ve got the cams out to check the valve

clear­ances, you might as well lift the head and see how the pis­tons are do­ing too,” he says. this is all stan­dard prac­tice for some­one as metic­u­lous at Matthew.

“I learned a lot of stuff in the aus­tralianair Force. I was in for six years, and be­fore that I’d had dirt bikes, and my first road bike was a Hon­davtr250.” If he could have had an air-cooled across the frame four, you can bet he would have done. “Any­thing with wheels and an en­gine is OK, but litre-plus air-cooled stuff is al­ways go­ing to be where it’s at for a cer­tain gen­er­a­tion.” you don’t have to be of that gen­er­a­tion to ap­pre­ci­ate the re­sults of Matthew and Dave’s work though. It’s a strik­ing look­ing bike no mat­ter where you ap­proach it from.and that doesn’t mean from which an­gle (all are good). whether you’re a mus­cle bike af­fi­cionado or not, you have to ad­mit, as well as be­ing an im­pos­ing bit of kit, it’s also pretty neatly bolted to­gether, and you’d be hard pressed to find any fault in the fin­ish.

The seat’s a mix­ture of fine bas­ket weave vinyl and al­can­tara (a syn­thetic suede) up­hol­stered by Leswood at Sa­dle Craft Seat­ing in South Shields, the rearsets are from Tom­forde En­gi­neer­ing in Ger­many. It’s an un­com­pro­mis­ing high-end blend of work­man­ship wher­ever you look.and all topped off by stock clocks. which is a nice touch. they’re com­pact and yet at the same time mar­vel­lously pe­riod – deep 1980s and no mis­take.the tail light is stock Zed, the rear caliper ZRX, but for some in­ex­pli­ca­ble rea­son, un­known to even Matthew him­self it’s red. “I don’t know, I just painted it red,” he laughs.

The bike took two and a half years to com­plete and nat­u­rally he’s well pleased with the end re­sult. But for him the best part of the build was ce­ment­ing his friend­ship with Dave En­nis. “There’s a few years be­tween us,” says Matthew. “But that’s why his ex­pe­ri­ence counted for so much with this bike. He’s done it all be­fore and he taught me so much about how to go about this prop­erly.”

Big fours are his lifeblood and the next plan is for ayoshimura Katana Coo­ley rep – and there’s ev­ery chance it’ll be as fine an ef­fort as this. “I’d rather have a Spencer, Law­son or Coo­ley rep than an R1 or some­thing. I like rid­ing re­ally fast bikes, but once you’ve rid­den one of these… they’re just a lot of fun.” And that, surely, is the whole point of spend­ing so much time and ex­pend­ing so much ef­fort in an ex­act­ing build like this: the end re­sult has to be en­joyed.

“IT’S DEF­I­NITELY LIKE A PRIM­I­TIVE MUS­CLE CAR, MORE OLD MUSTANG THAN NEW FERRARI”

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