Vmax Restoration

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Instalment 1 August 2014

Here is my Vmax sitting on my hydraulic workbench in my garage. Pretty isn't she? More so since I removed most of the aftermarket bolt-ons favoured by the previous owner such as a cissy bar, false velocity stacks on top of the carbs, blue rim tape, red plug caps, flame shaped mirrors, spotlights and blue tinted misshapen headlight. Fortunately I recovered the standard parts from the vendor and used these as replacements.

I bought my Vmax in October 2013. I have always wanted one since Yamaha launched the model in 1985, but as in many things my gratification was delayed. I worked in a Yamaha dealership from 1979 to 1984, and since then I have not been capable of buying any other make of motorcycle. I admire all of the Japanese manufacturers, and even some European ones these days, but Yamaha have always been that much more willing to introduce new technology and new designs and the Vmax design was nothing short of sensational.

Vmax 1200 restoration project


There was nothing remotely like it in 1985, and attempts by other manufacturers to copy it since have been lacklustre. I don't know enough about design to explain with any clarity why this bike looks so good, but it does, just look at the picture. The model sold very well for Yamaha continuously from 1985 to 2007 - an unusually long model run of 22 years for such a specialised machine. It was replaced in 2008 by the 1700 VMAX. I won't write about that here because I get too excited.

Anyway the bike you see here is quite clean isn't it? The engine runs very well, brakes and suspension are as good as they ever would be and all of the electrics work fine. So why am I going to strip it completely, clean, paint or replace every part and then hope that I can get it all together again? Well that is why you have to be careful of motorcycles that you buy pictured on eBay. The photo above does not show all those things that annoy me so much about this bike that I have been compelled to fix them. The frame is rusty, the aluminium lacquered surfaces on the engine are corroding from underneath, there is dirt in inaccessible areas, there is black overspray on the coolant hoses and cylinder heads where the previous owner tarted it up for sale, the wiring loom is bodged and there is black paint peeling from too many untarted places to list.

So - nothing for it than to embark upon that journey of frustration, despair, confusion, forgetfulness and expense that is motorcycle restoration. First the simple bit, let's take everything off the frame and then lift it off the engine. This is much easier than taking the engine out of the frame. My friend Dave from the US was with me and on 10th August 2014 we started. Here we have removed the front wheel and forks and put a block under the engine to prevent it tipping forward.

Aftermarket radiator guard shown here is not too bad so I may retain it, on the other hand something with a close mesh to actually prevent stones hitting the fins may be of more use. The bike was still quite unstable so we tried to work quickly to remove all the large assemblies. At the same time we took loads of photos of cables and wiring and stuff like that so that I stood some chance of getting things as Mr Yamaha intended upon re-assembly.

Vmax 1200 restoration project
Airbox complete with intake rubbers was a pig to remove from the carburetors. Two grown men heaving on it - one each side of the bike - could not shift it. In the end I gave in to Dave's pleas to lever it off. I was reluctant to cause any damage, but actually it worked very well. Vmax 1200 restoration project carbs
Vmax 1200 restoration project head bearings
Clocks, handlebars and top yoke were removed easily, but what's this? Why is there an O ring on the steering stem? Who put that there? It is not shown in the parts book. Someone has previously removed the bottom yoke.
Bottom yoke slides out easily when steering stem castle nuts are removed. Vmax 1200 restoration project bottom yoke, triple tree
…and here is more evidence that I am not the first person to venture thus far. You can see the bottom steering race in the bottom of the frame headstock. This is very difficult to remove because it is an interference fit in the frame, and as you can see, the top of the race where you would normally locate a punch to tap it out is obscured from above by the headstock tube. What I don't understand is how someone can damage the inside of the headstock (you can just see the lip produced above the race, which should not be there) and the underside of the headstock (look on the black circle at one o'clock, seven o'clock and ten o'clock) when removing this race. Online forums suggest welding something to the surface of the race that you can then use to bash it out (I don't have a welder) or drilling through the headstock in the right place to poke a punch through to locate on the top of the race! Do people actually do that kind of thing? Vmax 1200 restoration project
Vmax 1200 restoration project removing head bearing race I decided to cut through the race with a diamond tool on my Dremel. Took two hours but it worked.

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Instalment 2 August 2014

Well dear reader I left you at the end of the last instalment with me using a diamond tool on my Dremel to produce the result shown above where the bottom steering race is cut completely through and easily removed from the headstock.

If it did not need replacing before this little exercise then I think that it does now!

Vmax 1200 restoration project head race removed
Vmax 1200 restoration project removing radiator
So now I can take off the radiator to allow access to the front of the engine to remove the thermostat housing and associated hoses.

Sounds like a Haynes manual - "…remove thermostat housing…" Actually I had to belt an impact driver so hard to undo the 6mm Allen bolt that was seized to a thermostat housing lug that the lug fractured. That's $30 spent on eBay USA.

Vmax 1200 restoration project

I took the large aluminium water thingy off the right of the bike, and the electrics panel off the left of the bike, so now I can do some further work on the top of the engine. I removed the ECU and the coils from the top of the tray you can see here and there beneath it is the fabled V-boost system. This consists of the small electric motor shown here with the arrow, and you can just see the little cable on the left of the motor which opens the V-boost valve in the intake system. The valve starts to open at 6000 revs and allows each cylinder to draw mixture from two carburetors instead of one.

The Vmax engine was designed for the 1983 model Venture Royale which was an ultimately failed attempt to emulate the Honda Goldwing. The engine made 90hp in that machine, but for a macho bike such as the Vmax that was clearly not enough, and Yamaha had to tune it up. A turbo charger was considered, but rejected due to lack of space and instead this very innovative and clever modification was made to the engine. Combined with more adventurous valve timing and a higher compression ratio the nominal output was raised to 145hp - a huge increase from the Venture Royale and the beginning of a legend.

Vmax 1200 restoration project v boost
I had previously stripped and cleaned the rear of the bike, painted the zorst, replaced the shocks and powder coated the swing arm, so that is the reason that it looks unnaturally clean! In front of the plastic rear fender is the underseat fuel tank that I had also powder coated. I added a little stainless steel extension to the plastic to protect the base of the tank from the mud and grit thrown at it by the rear wheel. All this stuff came off easily and quickly.
Vmax 1200 restoration project
Vmax 1200 restoration project engine removal

Three man job to lift the frame containing just the engine off the bench onto the floor. Two at the front and one at the back. Third man was my long-suffering wife.

I wanted the frame on its side so that it could be lifted off the engine. I had unbolted the right frame rail which runs along the bottom of the right side of the engine, so now it was quite easy to undo the remaining engine bolts and lift the frame off the engine.

Here is Dave the Yank who was the second man. He also took most of these photos so blame him… Vmax 1200 restoration project engine removal
Garage was beginning to look a bit of a mess…
Vmax 1200 restoration project
Vmax 1200 restoration project engine removal
Here I am using the block and tackle and my makeshift crane to lift the engine from the floor and swivel it round to deposit on the bench.
…it is sitting there now awaiting the second phase of the restoration. Vmax 1200 restoration project engine
Vmax 1200 restoration project

The first phase is to clean and categorise the various bitties according to the lists contained in the parts book you can see on the bench here. I bought 50 of the plastic boxes so I can check that I have everything on the list and put them in the appropriately labelled box. If it does not fit in the box it is too big to lose anyway, so that it not a problem.

My previous experiences of restoration have included long periods looking in every bag and box and corner trying to find some part you know that you have but cannot find for love nor money. I hope that this method is more successful!

Here is just one photo of the various areas of rust on the frame. To the left of this little clip is a blob of weld that Yamaha painted black. I will try to find and remove all these before powder coating. Vmax 1200 restoration project
Vmax 1200 restoration project My attention turned to the bottom yoke and I was disappointed to see the damage done to it on the bearing seat here…
Vmax 1200 restoration project head bearings …and the shaft here.
Vmax 1200 restoration project head bearings I did my best to clean up the damage to the bottom of the headstock and it now looks better if not perfect.
Vmax 1200 restoration project bottom yoke Underneath the bottom yoke is a rubber plug. It has a hole in it to drain any water, but that did not prevent the corrosion you can see here when I removed it.
Vmax 1200 restoration project More work with abrasive materials has it looking better.
Vmax 1200 restoration project front forks Once the damper rod bolts were taken out of the bottom of the forks the rest of the disassembly was straightforward, although despite the dust seals at the top of the sliders, the oil seal retaining clips had corroded to the point where replacement is necessary.

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Instalment 3 September 2014

Right well everything is off the bike and cluttering up various parts of my garage so now I need to sort it all out, put it where I can find it when needed and decide which parts get which treatment from the options of clean, powder coat, paint, replace with stainless steel, or replace with OEM part.

I bought 50 of these plastic boxes with lids in which to put the parts. I labelled each one with the same name as pages of the parts book, and ensured that everything that was on those pages was in the box, and if it was not in the box it was too big or being sent out for whatever reason. Hopefully doing it like this I won't lose anything.

This is the speedo clutch and retaining washer from the front wheel. These do no normally corrode because they are behind an oil seal and covered in grease.
…but when the spring from the oil seal looks like this then water will get in and corrosion swiftly follows. This large circlip was also distorted and required replacement.
Here are the clutch and the washer after a session on my wire wheel.

Brake calipers next. Four pistons in each front caliper. Should be fun to get all of them to move under hydraulic pressure without one of them popping out and ruining the show. I would have to see which moved first, block the other three until it was almost out, then block that one and see which moved next… That is the theory at least, and it did work on the rear caliper which just has the two pistons, but for the front calipers, once one piston had moved. The others would not. They were in good condition with virtually no corrosion visible, so I did not want to damage them in the removal process, but actually I totally destroyed them!

You can see from the picture on the right that there was so much crud in the dust seal and the main seal grooves that they were expanded into the bore and had gripped the piston. The only way I could move the pistons was to grip the exposed part of the piston with some water pump pliers, close them up with a vice so that they gripped really tightly, and rotate the caliper against the piston. It was a life or death struggle I can tell you, each piston took about an hour to shift and was then junk. I will get them made in stainless.

Vmax 1200 caliper
Let's get the seals out.
Vmax 1200 caliper
This is the caliper after the seals had been removed…
Vmax 1200 caliper
and after I had cleaned it up. These are the old seals re-used for illustration purposes only! They will be replaced as well of course.
Vmax 1200 caliper
Vmax 1200 front brake lever repair At the other end of the system is the front brake lever. This seemed OK until I took it apart and saw the oval pivot hole. A new lever would sort it, but how long would it be before that aluminium wore in the same way?
Vmax 1200 front brake lever repair I will make a more permanent solution by drilling the oval hole in the lever to a larger size…
Vmax 1200 front brake lever repair …and making a bush
Vmax 1200 front brake lever repair On which the lever would pivot much more happily.

Back down to the wheel and here are the front brake discs. The gold paint on the one on the right is the standard finish I think, but how could it be renovated? It does not look too bad in the photo, but in the flesh it was marked and discoloured.

These are floating discs, with the "buttons" visible here allowing a small amount of lateral movement between the mounting ring and the braking surface so that the disc centralises itself in the calipers and offers more powerful retardation. Fine, but would it powder coat or paint successfully? I was not sure, so I thought that I would just take all the paint off anyway, and that is what I have done on the left one here. It looks OK so I think that I will leave it like that. I also redrilled all of the holes to clean them up and you can see that they are slightly bigger.

Vmax 1200 clock cover Next problem was on the clocks. I wanted to take them apart for cleaning, and there are two screws holding the clock mounting unit to the outer cover. They screw into brass inserts that are held in place in the plastic body - except this one which was rotating in its cracked housing. I had to saw through the head of the bolt and then the insert came out.
Vmax 1200 clock cover You can see the headless screw in the insert here.
Vmax 1200 clock cover I took out the screw, heated up the insert and replaced it into the housing so that the plastic melted and gripped it again. I melted some more plastic onto it to strengthen the crack.
Vmax 1200 clock cover …and replaced the screw with stainless steel.

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Instalment 4 November 2014

I am getting behind with these write ups because I have been getting through a lot of work on the Vmax. I suppose that that is the right way around…

I am making quite a lot of progress and thinking about when I would be taking the parts to be powder coated. Not too far in the future now I hope - certainly before Xmas (2014!). Unlike my previous restorations, which include two XS1100s and my old Yamaha R5 twice, there is no painting and no chroming to be done. Some parts don't need painting such as the airbox cover and the front fender, other parts I will powder coat such as the side panels and the false air scoops, and other parts I will replace such as the radiator and the rear fender. I have had two good results on eBay where I have bought the latter two parts both new and both for about £60. The radiator is a pattern one however.

There is little chrome on the Vmax apart from the zorst which I will replace with a stainless steel item. I already have stainless steel Hagon shocks, and the fork stanchions are fine.

My attention turned to the wiring loom. Even before this restoration I have repaired some bodges of the type that you see here, and of course the complete strip down has revealed some more classics.
I took off some of the insulating tape and put in a bullet connector
…Then taped it up again as you can see here.
Vmax 1200 restoration project carbs vboost Between the carburetors and the cylinder head on the Vmax we have this special assembly. Those of you who have been paying attention will know that this is the Vboost mechanism. The cable runs from the little computer controlled motor shown in an earlier instalment which opens two valves by means of a linked mechanism that you can see here in the centre of the four aluminium stubs which connect to the carburetors. When the valves begin to open (starting at 6000 revs) the intake for cylinder 1 becomes able to draw mixture from the carburetor for cylinder 3 as well as its own carburetor. Clearly the converse is true for cylinder 3 on its intake stroke, and cylinders 2 and 4 work in the same way.
The mechanism was filthy as shown here

…but cleaned up nicely to this. One of the rubber stubs that connect the aluminium intake castings to this valve mechanism was split. That can't have helped smooth engine running, but as I have mentioned, this engine ran fine before I took it apart!

Next on the agenda was to start taking the various covers off the engine. Because it ran well I was hopeful that previous owners had not got as far as doing this before I did, but my hopes were soon dashed.

I took off the alternator cover to find silicone sealant smothered on these wiring grommets.
Chewed up screws.
Wiring cut and reconnected
Bent retaining plates
Vmax 1200 restoration project The plate was quite easily repaired by compressing it between two appropriate metal pieces in my vice.
This is the wiring grommet before cleaning

…and after cleaning So plenty to keep me occupied.

I wonder at what stage in the strip down I will find no bodges?

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Instalment 5 November 2014

I have not yet finished stripping the engine, but my thoughts are turning to the day when it will all be back together. Will I make it in time for next summer? I will try for that. It would be nice to pose around on a Vmax that I have built. I am not sure that a bike becomes truly mine until I have taken it all apart and put it back together with my own dirty hands.

V-Max 1200 Carb

I did some work on the carbs.

Just cleaned them up a bit and replaced the fasteners with stainless.

V-Max 1200 Carb

Looking a bit prettier now, although actually they weren't that bad in the first place.

Some chewed screws and the Allen bolts for the tops were too long as you can see in the first photo

V-Max 1200 Carb …and the previous owner clearly thought that a twist of copper wire was a perfect substitute for the e clip that should be on the end of this choke rod.
V-Max 1200 Clutch I took the clutch cover off the crankcases and here is the clutch showing the diaphragm spring held in place by the ring with the 6 bolts, and the fibre plates engaged with the clutch basket.
V-Max 1200 Clutch

I took the clutch apart and was left with the basket on the end of its shaft. How was I going to stop the shaft rotating so that I could undo the retaining nut?

Fortunately this big iron bar went through the holes in the universal joint and was prevented from rotating by the edge of my workbench. The nut then came off easily with my half inch breaker bar.

V-Max 1200 Clutch cylinder Here is the crud at the bottom of the clutch slave cylinder.
V-Max 1200 Clutch cylinder Which easily cleaned up to look much better.
V-Max 1200 Clutch The clutch basket was a little worn where the fibre plates engage as you can see here.
V-Max 1200 Clutch

It is tempting to file the wear surfaces completely smooth, but of course that can increase transmission slack as the fibre plates rotate a little before they engage.

I have compromised with taking out most of the wear marks as shown.

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Instalment 6 November 2014

Well the only covers remaining to remove from the engine are the cam covers, so these came off next.
V-Max 1200 Cylinder head

Here are the intake and exhaust cams for the rear cylinder, with a central cam chain and four cam lobes per cylinder.

The buckets can be seen beneath the cam lobes and the valve clearance shims are on top of the buckets.

This is a very reliable design for valve actuation used successfully on XS, XJ and FJ series Yamaha motorcycles.

Personally I don't like the idea of using rockers in double overhead cam engines as did Suzuki and Honda in the eighties. It seems to add unnecessary complication. The cam cover bolts to the eight camshaft caps.

I removed the spark plugs and there was the black paint from a rattle can that I have seen on so many parts. This engine is going to look so much nicer with powder coating instead of layers of flaking black paint and overspray.
V-Max 1200 Cylinder head

I checked the valve clearances and they were all within specification. The evidence that the shims had been changed was the scratches on the cam base circles.

Although you can't see it very well here. I wonder at what stage of the stripdown I will find no evidence of hamfisted maintenance?

The camshaft caps are marked with their location such as E3 and E4 here.

V-Max 1200 Cylinder head Here is the end view of the camshafts.
V-Max 1200 Cylinder head When the camshafts are removed the cylinder head nuts can be accessed through the 8 tunnels shown here.
V-Max 1200 Cylinder head Why did this bit of silicone sealant come out with the cylinder head nuts?
V-Max 1200 Cylinder head I inspect the tunnels and there at the bottom of this one is more sealant. What has happened?
V-Max 1200 Cylinder head

It appears that a hole has been made in the cylinder head nut tunnel.

I check the parts book and sure enough the bolt for this top left threaded hole seen here is supposed to be shorter than the others, and there are traces of silicone sealant on the gasket surface.

One of the previous owners has used the wrong length bolt and broken through into the cylinder head nut tunnel! He tried to prevent the subsequent oil leak with the silicone sealant.

V-Max 1200 Cylinder head This photo shows how it happened. You can just see the head of the Allen bolt on the right of the cam cover gasket surface, and the thread of the bolt poking through into the tunnel
V-Max 1200 Cylinder head I would not be happy with simply using more silicone sealant for this problem, so I made a 6mm threaded plug, cutaway as you can see here so that it does not protrude into the tunnel.
V-Max 1200 Cylinder head I threaded in the plug and used a small amount of sealant around it to prevent any oil leaks.
V-Max 1200 Cylinder head This is the plug from the top of the threaded hole. It does not look like it, but there is enough thread left to attach the intake stub firmly.
V-Max 1200 Cylinder head …and I engraved "16" on the intake stub to show what length of fastener to use!

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Instalment 7 December 2014

Right then. Time to take off the cylinder heads. Surely the first time for this engine? They separated quite easily from the top crankcase half. No separate cylinders on this engine which I think is a good design feature. I am writing this after removing the piston/conrod assemblies through the sump, which was not the easiest exercise, but it is still preferable to having separate cylinders, long cylinder studs and a base gasket that always seems to weld the cylinders to the crankcases.

Well it does appear that the cylinder head has not been previously removed.

The top of the piston is quite black, showing a rich mixture, and the cylinder bore is unmarked and in very good condition.

This is the engine with both cylinder heads removed. Studs are all in good condition. Getting down to the nitty gritty of stripping this engine now.
The combustion chamber is also pretty black.
…and cleans up to look much better.
Best to do all work necessary on the cylinder head before sending off for powder coating, so I decide to grind in the valves.
The one on the right has been ground in with fine paste to the valve seat.
V-Max 1200 sump

Next item is the sump. This is what it looks like before removal. The springy thing holds an overflow hose. Can't remember if it is battery or fuel tank.

The two cables are from the oil level switch and the neutral switch. The plug with the copper washer is the oil drain plug.

V-Max 1200 sump Here is the sump removed and the oil pump and oil distribution pipes are easily seen. I hope that the photo informs me how to put it all back together!
V-Max 1200 sump oil delivery pipe

Oh dear what is going on here? I can't blame the previous owner for this. It appears that an O ring from an oil distribution pipe has become displaced.

Speaking to my new-found friend Johno from Rattymax he informs me that this is a well-known problem with these engines caused by the oil distribution pipe vibrating loose and oil pressure pushing out the O ring. This reduces oil delivery to the cylinder head with all its attendant problems.

It can be solved by fabricating a bracket to support the oil pipe and bolting it on with an existing fastener in the sump. I will do this of course upon re-assembly.

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Vmax Restoration Instalment 8 December 2014

More photos of Vmax parts never before seen and some idiot writing about them…
Here is a photo showing the sump with the part on the right cleaned and the part on the left untouched. The photo does not show as much of a contrast as it was in reality!
Corrosion on the outside of an oil pipe where it passes through engine coolant. I will replace this part.
View through the sump showing the con rod big ends on the crankshaft and the eight 10mm crankcase bolts - 4 internal and 4 external - fastening the crankcases around the crankshaft. One lobe of the balance shaft can be seen bottom right.
All four piston/conrod assemblies removed. I will clean up the tops of the pistons and the ring grooves but that is all on these parts.
Crucial that the rods go back where they came from, and that the caps go back on the same rods, so I write clearly across the join in yellow paint. FL = front left.
This bearing retainer bolt has a locking feature that I have not seen before. The special tab washer beneath it has a circular recess, and when the bolt is turned to the correct torque the lip of the bolt is punched into the hole. That means to remove it I had to grind it away with the Dremel as pictured.
Here is the hole on the tab washer…
This is the back of the upper crankcase showing the bolts loosened ready to lift off from the bottom half.
Here is the top crankcase half removed showing the crankshaft with the alternator rotor on the left, and just inside that the large diameter starter gear. The gear driven balance shaft sits at the front of the crankcase, and the camchains can be seen sitting on their central crankshaft sprockets.

The rear of the bottom crankcase contains the gearbox driveshaft at the front and driven shaft at the back. This is a significant design change from the transmission layout for previous shaft drive Yamahas such as the XS750 and XS1100 which had a layshaft (intermediate shaft) which took drive from the driveshaft to a middle gearbox which turned the drive through 900 and which was separate from the crankcases and ran in gear oil instead of engine oil.

The gearbox design for the Vmax saves weight and space, perhaps at the cost of longevity, but it is probable that the XS750/1100 middle gearbox design was over-engineered.

Here is the left big end journal showing very little wear from new which is pleasing. Obviously I will replace the plain big end and main bearings
This damaged thread from the front of the upper crankcase was caused by a less than optimal design feature where several 8mm bolts thread into open-end holes in the upper crankcase and receive all of the dirt thrown up by the front wheel.
I had to put thread inserts into two of them as you can see here. There is no space for a longer bolt with a dome nut, so I might use slightly shorter bolts and a bit of black sealant to blank off the hole and prevent recurrence.

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Vmax Restoration Instalment 9 December 2014

More photos and drivel for your amusement…

This is the inside face of the generator rotor. You can see how it has been balanced with the drillings at the bottom of the picture, and the three sets of scratches caused by the starter clutch bolts working lose and rattling against this surface.
The starter clutch had been removed to repair the problem caused by the bolts coming loose. This was not performed with the greatest mechanical sympathy and you can see here the damage to the starter clutch casing. To the right of this hole you can see that the casing is actually cracked all the way through. This unit is now junk and will be replaced.
…and this shows the damage to the edge of the rotor which has to be removed to repair the starter clutch. Most of it was like this where it had been bashed to get it off the crankshaft taper.
This is a "before" photo for powder coating that shows the marks left by casting this piece of aluminium. I have tried to remove all such marks from the items I will send for powder coating.
This is the final drive unit that must be disassembled so that the case can be powder coated. Unhelpfully, the Haynes Manual simply says not to do this! This plate comes off the studs easily enough when the nuts are removed.
The nut holding the drive shaft which is at 900 to the plate above was very difficult to remove until I locked the gears with this two pence coin.
…and then there is still a bearing retainer for this gear shaft for the removal of which I need a special tool.
The dished washers that go under the cam cover bolts are not stainless steel, so I made some from some standard size 2mm thick washers by machining a 1mm recess as you can see here.
Here you can see left to right the standard bolt assembled with the original green tinged mild steel washer, the original washer top and bottom, the unmachined new washers top and bottom, the machined new washers top and bottom and the standard bolt assembled with the new machined washer.
Dirty piston
Clean piston
Here are my plastic boxes containing all the parts from the named section of the parts book small enough to fit inside the box. These are all engine parts. Those that are too big to fit into the boxes are also too big to lose! I have a similar set for the cycle parts.
Here are the major items ready for powder coating - crankcases, cylinder heads and wheels. I will only get one pair of wheels done at this stage.

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Vmax Restoration January 2015 Instalment 10

Still disassembling things…
Here is the final drive looking at the surface to which the swingarm bolts. The thread in the middle here was for the nut that was difficult to remove in instalment 9, and the bearing retainer that needs the special tool can be seen with its four slots at 900 to each other. I had contacted a chap who was selling similar tools on eBay and he said that he would make me a tool, but he never did, despite me sending drawings and photographs twice. Yamaha make a tool that engages these slots and has a ½" female drive for a breaker bar, but I am sure that it is too expensive. I made a tool myself that engaged two of the slots reasonably well and has a cutout for the central shaft. It was just a bit of 6mm thick mild steel more or less the right width and 6" long. I put an adjustable on one side and a pair of mole grips on the other and the retainer came out fine with a bit of heat, although anyone reading this as a guide should note that the retainer has a left hand thread.
Here is the tool I made. Saved about £50 I reckon.
I am not too good at painting things, but I thought that I would try it with these rear cylinder exhaust headers. They could not be powder coated because they get too hot. They turned out OK, but I had to choose the right moment to cure them in the kitchen oven otherwise her indoors would have had something to say. They are quite pretty in silver, but you can't really see them when they are fitted.
Here is the famous Vmax engine saver bracket. If you look back at instalment 7 you will see the O ring that becomes unseated because the oil pipe it seals is not very well retained by the standard Yamaha assembly. This bracket bolts to the bottom half of the crankcase and loops over the pipe to keep it in place. It is actually fitted the other way up than it is shown in the picture. Obviously the height of the bracket and the curve of the loop are crucial to get right for this bracket to fit properly and work correctly. With the oil pipe assembly and the bottom crankcase half to work with on my bench it was not too difficult to make something that fitted well, but imagine trying to get this right with the engine in situ! Everything is filthy under the bike. The radiator has to come off first so drain the water. The drain cock is plastic so rounds off easily, and always seizes anyway because all the rust and debris falls to the bottom of the system where the drain cock is located. The front headers have to come off which is a real fight because they are connected with a balance pipe and both have to pull out of the mufflers at the same time. The oil has to be drained before the sump is removed, but of course the 10% that does not drain will drip on whatever you are doing. The sump allen bolts will be filled with gunge so you can't get the hexagon in, and if you only get it partially inserted then you stand a good chance of rounding off the bolt, they also have wiring brackets so make sure you remember where they go. The sump has a gasket, so clean both surfaces before replacing. Make and modify several brackets until you get one to fit, and do all this underneath the bike with about 8" clearance from the ground! Some people say that you don't need this bracket, and I can see that it would be tempting to believe them!
I spent some time preparing the parts for powder coating. I sent 70 parts away to be done ranging from the front wheel speedo drive to the crankcases and the frame. I always use Triple S in Bingley because they did my XS1100 20 years ago and the finish on that is still perfect. Here on this cam cover is a casting mark that I did not want.
So I cleaned it up before I took it to Triple S.
I took both the clutch master cylinder and the front brake master cylinder for powder coating both of which have sight glasses like this one, only they are not glass, they are plastic, and sealed with an O ring both of which would not stand the heat process and needed to be removed. I checked first that I could obtain replacements, and you can get them off eBay in the US so I ordered those. The sight glass has to be completely destroyed to remove it. Shocking how much crud can hide in such a small place
…but it feels good to clean it out.

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Vmax Restoration January 2015 Instalment 12

Well the parts to be powder coated are finally ready to take to Triple S, so my thoughts turn to making and/or modifying some of the other parts that I need.

I have ordered several laser-cut parts, and here is an example. Google "Lasermaster" and you can find a website that enables you to order unique parts custom-made to your specification. This one is a rear footrest washer for the Vmax and the specification is 27mm OD, 15mm ID, 4mm thickness, 316 stainless steel, brushed finish. The original is mild steel. Clearly this is nothing like any standard washer and it was something like £10 for four of them. One of the best uses for the internet yet in my opinion. The finish does leave something to be desired however…

…but it does not take a lot of effort to bring it to something like this:
This is a water joint that is located at the front of the engine and connects the water pump with the radiator. This is a new one and the gloss black paint looks very nice doesn't it? But how long will it stay looking nice collecting all the debris from the front wheel as it does?
Let's protect it with some black heatshrink tubing. Not completely straightforward because of the 900 bend, but here is the first stage.
Heated to look like this.
Then two shorter bits added and shrunk to fit giving a good protective coat.
Next problem is the horn, which is also located behind the front wheel perfectly positioned to pick up any crud that misses the water joint, radiator and cylinder head! This is the back of an aftermarket horn that is stainless steel on the front, but as you can see the 6mm fixing stud is a bit on the short side for the standard fittings. I needed to modify the arrangement to expose a bit of thread at least.
First job was to carefully grind away a small shoulder at the base of the stud
Then to get a 6mm penny washer and make it thinner. This one started out at 2mm thick, and here I have machined the centre part down to about 1mm on the lathe. I could do this with the perimeter of the washer held in the chuck, but the jaws of the chuck then prevent any material being removed from the outer part of the diameter.
I made a tool to hold the washer concentric with a thread. You can see the step that I have cut in the countersink which is about 0.5mm wider than the thread.
So then I could locate the washer on the shoulder, use a nut to clamp it and it remains concentric to the thread which I can hold in the chuck.
…as you can see here.
So I end up with a washer about 1mm thick
…which I can easily clean up to look like this.
I had some rubber sheet which I cut with a compass and a razor blade to make two washers.
Then I needed to make a thinner horn bracket out of stainless steel (What else?) I marked out the shape on this piece that I cut from a stainless sheet.
…and then ground it away to the right shape
Drilled the mounting holes
…the hole for the 6mm stud on the horn, and cleaned it up a bit
Then bent it to the same shape as the original.
All of which gained me about 3mm! Well worth it don't you think?
Looks pretty as well.
These pictures show a similar exercise for the rear stop switch bracket.
The original (see below) has a crease to add strength to the bracket which I could not replicate
So I made the bracket in 3mm stainless
But then had to cut down the part that fits around the stopswitch that needs to be 2mm.
This is the original as a comparison

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Vmax Restoration March 2015 Instalment 13

Welcome back to our story dear reader which has moved into a new phase. I am no longer battling filth, bodges, damage and neglect, I am lovingly assembling beautifully refinished parts such as those shown in the pictures below. I have been careful to keep track of every part from the stripdown, I have cleaned, replaced, repaired or powder coated everything. I have all the tools and information I need. I have the capability, time and inclination to build a shiny new Vmax. What could possibly go wrong? I know damn well what can go wrong. I also know that most of what goes wrong will be because the idiot writing these words is at fault, but I maintain optimism anyway…

Here are the air scoops powder coated completely in silver instead of being black underneath the Yamaha logo. Paul asked me a few weeks ago why I am not so fastidious in this rebuild about original appearance. Part of the answer is that there were so many iterations of the Vmax over its 22 year model life that original appearance can only be by model year,, and I am not too concerned about ensuring that this bike remains looking exactly the same as the 1997 Canada model that it was born. The other part is that people modify Vmaxes quite a lot and there are many parts available. I don't like most of them, but some are OK such as exhaust systems, radiator covers etc., and I will use those.
Haynes says not to strip the final drive. Not the easiest part to strip and rebuild, but if I put all the bits back in the same order they came out then I can ignore all the dire warnings about setting gear lash, so I did strip it so that I could powder coat the housing.
Rear brake caliper halves powder coated the same silver. The previous owner had sprayed these black without disassembling. To be honest I am not sure if they should be silver or black. Silver looks pretty though doesn't it?
Black satin finish shows nicely on the inside of the frame.
The centre stand brackets…
The lower frame rail
The rear shock mount…
The rear of the crankcases now looks very clean, but some unevenness in the surfaces is still present despite my efforts to remove prior to refinishing.
The front of the crankcases. The oil filter fits on this uncoated circle.
This is the cylinder head with the "fins" coated black. I removed the coating with the little sander shown to give…
…this appearance

A similar transformation for the cam covers…

On the engine covers, the 6mm Allen bolts seat on surfaces like this. The problem is that it is quite a small area, and it does not take much torque when using the fasteners to make the powder coating crack. My solution is the make a little tool the same diameter as the Allen bolts to cut away the coating so that the bolt seats directly on the aluminium of the engine cover instead of the brittle surface of the coating.
As you can see here…

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Vmax Restoration March 2015 Instalment 14

This is different to Classic Bike or Classic Motorcycle Mechanics isn't it? In those magazines you see a picture of the barn find on page 10 and a picture of the concours winner on page 11. There is often frustratingly little detail on what happened in between. Where there is a restoration story that might stretch over several issues, then normally it involves a celebrity who is far too busy having a manicure to spend time getting dirt under his fingernails, and contracts out all the work. I am exaggerating a little to make my point, and Stan Stephens in Classic Motorcycle Mechanics gives lots of detail on how to fettle two stroke engines, but I often think that the magazines could do more to convey the dedication, effort, resource allocation and spouse management skills that a restoration involves. In this case the spouse management started with the purchase of the bike, which was one that she had identified and suggested that I go and see. There were better Vmaxes out there, and for less money, but I knew that I could spend what I like to rectify the one that she had chosen.
Here is the bottom crankcase containing the gear shafts, the crankshaft and the balancer shaft. The latter two shafts sitting on their new plain bearings. The camchains do not contain split links, and therefore have to be installed on the crankshaft at this early stage of the rebuild. There is no hope of installing them once the crankcases are bolted together!
Here is a mark on the upper crankcase caused by something running out of the hole for bolt 24 when the coating was being cured. One of the advantages of powder coating is that such defects can be rectified with successive grades of wet and dry, culminating in 1500 and then T-cut
It works quite well as you can see here.
Well here are all the crankcase bolts laid out ready to join the two halves, but I then realise that a special plate that goes underneath two of them and holds an oil pipe was distorted when I removed it and needed replacing. Fowlers did not have it in stock, unsurprisingly, so I had to wait 3 weeks for it to come from Holland. What to do meanwhile? My thoughts turned to completing other sub-assemblies to occupy my time.
The final drive is assembled. You can see here the stainless steel filler plug and drain plug with their new copper washers. The drain plug is magnetic, and I made it myself by purchasing a small cylindrical neodymium magnet off eBay and drilling the drain plug to accept it. The breather cap at the top is also powder coated. The casing has quite a smooth appearance because I removed all the casting marks before sending it to be finished.
This "reinforcement" as Yamaha call it sits underneath the plastic rear fender and, errr… reinforces it. Unpainted mild steel as it is in its original format then you can imagine the rust that develops as it receives everything corrosive off the road surface. The one on the bike when I bought it was pretty bad, and I bought a better one off eBay, but it was still nowhere near good enough. The problem is that the number plate bolts to the rear of this item, and the metal surface there is very visible, so while powder coating something that is going to get quickly caked in road gunge again may appear OTT in fact it was completely necessary. But how then to protect this lovely surface? Well here is the same item with a brush-on plastic coating applied to the part that sits under the fender. It is a clear coating so quite difficult to see, but it certainly now feels plasticky!
This is the top of the rear fender sub-assembly showing the grab handle, the rear fender itself, the tail light and flasher wires and their holding clips. All lovely and clean and original. I felt like a factory employee putting this together, except that I did it about 5 times before I got it right! Here you can see the reinforcement in place using stainless steel fasteners of course. I have protected the threads of the 6mm tail light mounting studs with dome nuts. From Japan they just have standard nuts, and the exposed thread corrodes so much that the nut can't move and the stud shears.
Front wheel assembled.
The original radiator was in poor condition, partly because the fins had been damaged by road debris. I bought a new aftermarket radiator and I wanted to protect it as much as I can, so I decided to use a stainless steel mesh underneath the aftermarket guard. I cut it to size and cut small holes for 5mm bolts to fasten it.
I used nine bolts as you can see here. …and the front view. The radiator itself was physically a little different to the original item. It was then a fight to fit this guard, and I could not use the original side radiator covers, so I bought metal aftermarket ones from Exactrep. I anticipate a battle to fit the hoses as well…
Silver powder coated rear caliper uses shiny stainless steel bolts to partner with its silver powder coated mounting bracket. I have to bolt this to the bike at some point. Would it be incredibly perverse to put it on the mantelpiece until then?
These are the bits for the helmet lock, the body of which was also powder coated. …and this is the helmet lock shackle which I replicated in stainless steel. Original is a bit ugly as you can see.
They all go together to make the restored helmet lock. …and this is the underneath with the stainless plate I made for it. The spring for the shackle locates on the three punched tangs, and you can see the first coil of the spring through the holes.

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Vmax Restoration March 2015 Instalment 15

Well here we are and I have got some pretty pictures to show you today. The first of many I hope as the various parts that have been renewed in whatever way get bolted together. It makes me a bit nervous as well where an assembly is completed and it cannot be effectively tested until it is part of the whole bike. Is it right? How much work will it be to diagnose and fix things if it is wrong? At this early stage if I make a mistake it is likely to be very difficult to rectify! From previous experience it is never right first time and there is always a period of fault finding after a rebuild. I just hope that I can minimise that frustrating phase of the process.
Here is the ignition switch which has a thin aluminium ring glued to the main body upon which are printed the positions for the switch. Clearly this one is cosmetically challenged as they say today. I got a thin stainless steel washer cut to the right size using the Lasermaster website, glued that in place, and then used Atik Graphics to make a sticker to the right design. Along with a lick of paint to the switch body itself, the final result was this which looks much better. Key rings bouncing about cause quite a few scratches I find, and so now I only use the key on its own to avoid the problem. The young chappie from Carole Nash who renewed my insurance for me the other day offered to insure my keys for me as well if I would put them on a Carole Nash key ring that he would send me. It took him a few minutes to understand why I would not want or use any key ring for my bikes. On the first Yamaha XS1100 models there was a black sticker to protect the paint on the handlebar clamp from getting scratched - the idea was that you replace the sticker every now and then. You can't get them now of course…
This is the left switch before powder coating the two halves of the body. Cosmetically there was not a lot wrong with it, but I am a bit anal as Paul will attest. After powder coating and with stickers also produced by Atik Graphics.
Similar process for the right switch… Here renewed.
I showed you the front of the radiator in episode 14, and here is the back after I had installed the fan, motor and powder coated air shroud. You can also see the back of the Exactrep side radiator covers I had to use because the original ones would not fit the aftermarket radiator. Additionally, the pipe at the top of the radiator exits at a different angle to the original radiator, so I anticipate some fun and games successfully attaching a hose to it…
Here is another shot of the bottom crankcase ready to be mated with its top half. Now the long awaited part had arrived that important step could be taken.
…and here is the result. Nice stainless steel hexagon bolts replacing the original mild steel items, and the clutch hose holder also fabricated in the same metal. Here is a reminder of what it looked like upon disassembly.
A closer view of the rear of the engine.
The right side ready to accept the clutch and the water pump.
The left side awaiting the generator.
In the sump I have installed the engine saver bracket to hold the oil distribution pipe firmly in place. You can see the orange O ring well seated. The rubber pad in the bottom right of the photo here is supposed to hold the pipe when the sump is bolted in place, but it does not work too well as we have seen.
This is the underside of the front of the engine showing the bolts for the crankcases immediately behind the front wheel.

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Vmax Restoration April 2015 Instalment 16

Welcome to the next episode of this tale of ineptitude and incompetence. You will find here several examples of idiocy which I hope will be both entertaining to normal people, and perhaps helpful to those who might learn from my mistakes. Nothing happened that could not be rectified with a bit of time and money so it is not necessary to issue a parental advisory warning for explicit content.
Here is the crankshaft installed in the cases photographed from underneath and showing the connecting rod coming down onto its journal from above, which is how it has to be done when the cylinders are cast with the crankcases as on the Vmax. You can see the black molybdenum grease on the con-rod bolt and the crankshaft journal.
Both con-rods attached to the journal. The bolts are a special size - 9mm with a 1mm pitch thread. Presumably this is to prevent people using standard bolts in this critical application.
…so then I could install the sump along with the oil level switch with its wire top left. The stainless drain plug and the curly hose guide bottom right.
My attention then turned to the top of the engine, and I installed the valves in both cylinder heads. The test of petrol not leaking past the valves worked on all 16 so that was pleasing. …and here is the underside of the head.
Both heads could then be installed as you can see here, and the camchains were suspended to stop them falling back down into the crankcase.

Time to install the camshafts and set up the valve timing. To do that it is necessary to install the generator rotor so that the markings on its perimeter can be seen to line up with the marks in a viewing hole in the generator cover and indicate top dead centre.

Here is the rotor being torqued onto the end of the crankshaft. I was pleased that I could do this single-handed, using the big 32mm spanner to prevent rotation against the top of the workbench. Torqued it up to 96 ftlbs, so that was easy then. Yes, except that this fool forgot to put the starter clutch on first! I don't swear, but I can tell you I was tempted to do so because it took Jonno from Rattymax an hour with a hydraulic puller and a big hammer to get this rotor off the taper the last time! What to do? Well I took the bolt out again and put my fingers behind the rotor and it virtually fell off! That was a big relief. I had put some grease on the taper so maybe that was my saviour. Right so I then installed the starter clutch and put the rotor back onto the taper. Now, what else goes on underneath this generator cover before I put it back on?

What's this metal/plastic thing here? Oh! It is the oil guide that bolts onto the crankcases behind the rotor again! I was not so worried this time and it was short work to take the rotor off for the third time and bolt on the oil guide.

This is the stator that sits inside the generator cover, and the gold metallic thingy is the ignition pick up coil. You may recall that I had to repair the electrical connections to this item, and you can see here that the process lengthened the wires so that I had to be somewhat creative with the routing, and it doubles back to go through the grommet. Both these grommets were covered in silicone sealant upon disassembly, and I have cleaned it all off. I am wondering now if they will leak oil? I will cross that bridge when I come to it…
So now I could set the valve timing on the rear cylinder head and you can see here that the small punch marks on the end of the camshafts have to line up with the vertical markings on the camshaft caps. This is the top view of the rear cylinder head with the chain installed on the camshaft sprockets. Now I can easily repeat the process for the front cylinder head.

Disaster! I snapped the inlet camshaft when I tried to torque down the camshaft caps! The diagram below shows roughly how this stupidity occurred.

The camshaft position for setting the valve timing meant that two of the lobes were in contact with the valve buckets and when I tightened the camshaft cap bolts I thought that the resistance I felt was the valve springs, but of course it wasn't!

Fortunately Jonno at Rattymax had several inlet camshafts available, and when I rang him he immediately invited me over to his place near Leicester to choose the best one, and charged me a very reasonable price.
I went over to Leicester a couple of days later, so in the interval I rebuilt the forks. Here you can see the replacement Hagon springs (top) that I bought to replace the original Yamaha items which had shortened to beyond their service limit. They are a somewhat stronger spring. The threaded rod was a tool I made to hold the top of the damper rod which has a 29mm double hexagon. I found that the nut for a 20mm had the right dimensions so eBay supplied what I needed. This is one of the assembled fork legs showing the lovely satin finish on the slider achieved by Triple S.
Eventually I completed the assembly of the cylinder heads and with the cam covers on, it is beginning to look like an engine!
I wanted the brake caliper pins to be stainless steel. …so I made them out of the 6mm bolts

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Vmax Restoration May 2015 Instalment 17
Well the weather is improving here in the UK, and I want to get the Vmax on the road for what little summer we have, so must press on… The pictures here are a logical sequence of images presenting a serene progression of clean, refinished parts lovingly assembled by a competent mechanic. The truth of course is that every time that it is possible to bolt part C to part A without involving part B, it is done. Then part C must be removed at a later stage to attach part B. There are far more parts than letters in the alphabet so there are countless opportunities for error, and I avail myself of a fair few. Actually I do show a couple of these, but if I recorded them all then the repetition would bore you and I would be diminished in your eyes.
One of the most important stages of any restoration is when the engine is married to the frame. Here I put the engine on the floor, removed the bottom frame rail, and placed it over the engine. This is a one man job and avoids cosmetic damage to the engine cases and the frame rails.
The rear of the engine is held into the frame by two 12mm Allen bolts. This one is on the left
…and here is the right hand one with the joint for the frame rail beneath it.
The front bottom attachment has a couple of 10mm bolts, and the top has a long 10mm stud. All 6 fasteners to attach the engine to the frame go through rubber bushes to decrease vibration from the engine going into the frame. These are a concoction of rubber and mild steel that I do not have the skills to replicate, but the mild steel readily rusts. I made some stainless steel washers to hide the bushes from view as you can see here.
Once the engine was bolted into the frame it was easy to manhandle it back onto the hydraulic bench and raise it for further work.
I had previously attached this electrical wiring guide to one of the crankcase bolts, and it was only when I came to place the wires in the guide that I realised it was 180 degrees out. No problem I will just undo this bolt… Oh! Murphy's law acquires yet more evidence because some idiot put a frame rail smack where it wasn't needed! Definitely time for a cup of tea and some thinking.
Well no matter how much tea I drank, the engine had to come out of the frame again! Here is the guide in the correct position.
The covers are now on the left hand side of the engine, and the wires are guided in the correct direction behind the middle gearbox cover. That is another examples of attaching part C to part A actually. It is perfectly possible to bolt it on in blissful ignorance of the clutch master cylinder that sits between the generator and the middle gearbox. You can see the vertical metal pipe for the clutch hydraulics at the top of the picture. So the left side of the engine is virtually complete, and I now swivel it around on the bench so that I can work on the right side.
The gear selector mechanism is fitted behind the clutch.
…and the clutch basket goes onto the end of the gearbox drive shaft. In the absence of the special Yamaha tool I lock up the gearbox by putting it in gear and preventing the rotation of the universal joint so that I can torque up the clutch centre nut.
On post 1995 models, all the clutch plates go in with the double recesses in the same groove according to Mr Haynes.
I used a pattern gasket kit, and the bright green material was not cut to quite the right shape.
…so I had to do it.
The right side of the engine with the clutch cover and the water pump cover installed. The removable right bottom frame rail runs below the covers.
The front of the engine shows the water pump joint with its heatshrink tubing coming around the right angle to join what Yamaha call the thermostat housing, but isn't really.

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Vmax Restoration May 2015 Instalment 18

This instalment follows on pretty closely from #17 and I am spending every spare minute in the garage now pushing on to complete the project. I am still waiting for the fabrication of some stainless steel parts which is delaying me a little and means that I am doing some tasks out of sequence. I still don't have the castellated nuts for the steering head for example, so I can't put anything on the front of the bike! Inevitably, I am also finding that some parts that I originally thought were OK to re-use are not, and I need to replace or refinish them, leading to further delays. Still, it is more important to get it right than to meet any deadline.
Here is one of the intake stubs. They are unusual on the Vmax because as you can see they have two inlets for the mixture and one outlet. The vertical inlet comes direct from the carburetor for that cylinder, and the horizontal inlet connects to the carburetor for the adjacent cylinder when the vboost system opens the valve starting at 5750 rpm. Here you can see all four intake stubs, and the gap for the vboost mechanism that sits in the middle.
There are four of these connecting rubbers for the vboost system, one for each intake stub. I had inspected them when I took them off and found that two of them were damaged. Closer inspection before installation revealed that in fact all four of them were damaged, and I had to order two more at £15 a throw. I wanted them quickly, and Fowlers of Bristol had them in stock and got them from the West Country to the Fens overnight. Rapid and efficient service. The rubber that these are made of is quite flexible, but not really flexible enough to install the vboost assembly without damaging them, and I think that the split you can see above was caused by trying to jam it down between the intake stubs and forcing the rubber to comply. I realised that it was better to take the stubs off again and make the assembly off the bike before bolting it on as a unit. I am quite surprised that the engine was running fine despite this damage, and you will recall from the colour of the piston crowns that it was running rich if anything, so it did not seem as if air was leaking through these holes. Anyway having removed the stubs and made the assembly, here it is back on the engine. The cable for the vboost disappears out of the top left corner of this photo.

This picture shows the intake stubs from the top. The hose in the left bottom corner goes to an intake pressure sensor, the hose centre bottom with its open end towards the camera goes from the crankcase breather to the airbox, the small hose top right to bottom left is the coolant return hose from the thermostat housing to the coolant tank, the large diameter coolant hose for the front cylinders is behind the fan, and the smaller hose beneath that takes coolant from the thermostat housing to the crankcase between the V of the cylinders - I have no idea why.

All these hoses and I have not even put the carbs on yet! My old R5 has one for petrol and one for oil and that was it.

Here is the thermostat housing with the hose leading to the radiator on the right.
The pattern radiator I bought has a 90 degree bend for this hose, which was far too much, so I had to cut it to leave less of a bend…
Even having cut it off there was still about 80 degrees to negotiate as you can see, so I bought a 90 degree silicone hose to do the job.
You can see it fitted here. I was not pleased with its appearance.
…so I put some black heatshrink over it to tidy it up. I am hoping that it does not leak. This pattern radiator is proving problematic. The standard radiator guards did not fit, this hose tail is the wrong angle, and I have now encountered something even worse!
I installed the yokes and the fork tubes to check that the fork tubes would not hit the radiator, but sure enough they do on both sides on full lock. My advice is not to buy these radiators off eBay. This is the description: BRAND NEW Aluminum Radiator fits 85-95-00-07 YAMAHA V-MAX/VMAX VMX1200 VMX12 271594848286 This is not true. This radiator does not fit a 1200 Vmax.
This shot shows the carburetors now fitted to the intake stubs. The guides for the open and close throttle cables can be seen on the left. It was very fiddly to fit the cables I can assure you, there must be a technique for doing it easily but no-one told me. I replaced various scabby hose clips with 316 stainless steel ones as you can see. I don't mind bikes having a "patina" as they say these days - a bit of wear, some scratches, accumulated dust - but corrosion is the enemy.
Here is the front of the engine below the radiator with most things in place now except the headers for the exhaust system.
…and here is what it looked like before I started.
This complicated bracket is located above the front cylinders and holds the vboost motor underneath, and the coils and CDI box on top. Beneath the vboost motor, you can also see the rubber cover that insulates these electrical components from the heat generated by the engine.
Here is the wiring loom lying on the top frame tubes. Look at all those wires and block connectors! I hope that I can find a home for all of them. It will be trial and error - mainly error based on previous experience.
The rear coils sit above the battery which is not yet installed.
Here are the electrics that sit on the left side of the bike.
Until now the bike had been sitting on its frame tubes, but I had reached the stage where it was necessary to raise it and fit the centre stand for work to progress. No pictures of the intervening stages here, sorry. It was all that my friend Andrew and I could do to raise the bike, keep it steady and fit the centre stand using a block and tackle to manage the weight. It still wanted to pivot forwards a=off the stand, so we tied down the rear frame rail as you can see.
So now I could think about fitting the rear headers. First the stubs go onto the rear cylinder head.
Then I looked at the headers, and saw that despite being made from stainless steel, they were showing some corrosion. I painted them heat resistant silver.
…and fitted them using the special clamps.
Here is the view of them from underneath the rear frame rails. The left one has to curve around the rear of the middle gearbox.
The side panels were powder coated completely black instead of black and silver. I used the original Vmax logos, but replaced the sticky pad which holds them with some double sided tape off eBay cut to the right shape.
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Vmax Restoration June 2015 Instalment 19
Hello dear reader. Plenty of progress to report in this instalment, and not too many acts of idiocy. The Vmax is beginning to resemble a motorcycle instead of a collection of parts. With the better weather my mindset is changing from one of patient progress towards a far-off goal to one of completing the project in time to do a few miles this summer.

I installed the bottom yoke with its bearings into the frame headstock and assembled these lovely stainless steel items with it to hold it in place. The cover at the bottom protects the top head race from dirt, and of course the two castellated nuts go onto a 25mm diameter, 1mm pitch thread to pull up the shaft of the bottom yoke into the headstock and ensure that the bearings are sufficiently "tight".Here you can see that I have used a stainless steel washer between the two nuts instead of the rubber washer that Yamaha fit as original equipment.

There is endless stuff about Vmax steering head bearings on the internet, written by some very clever people, and I spent some time trying to understand what the thinking was behind the original Yamaha design and why some people thought it best to change it. As far as I can work out, the idea of using the rubber washer as original equipment is so that (after seating the bearings with a high torque) the right torque can be applied to the bottom castellated nut - I think that this is 3 Newton metres, anyway it is really small - and then the top nut goes on to hold the bottom nut in place, and the rubber washer allows the top nut to be rotated to the correct position for the lock washer without transmitting further torque to the bottom nut.


Some people thought that this rubber washer idea was flawed and for reasons I cannot fathom the handling was compromised. It is a reasonably common fix to use the stainless steel washer as I have done here, and some people recommend slightly different torque settings. Well I was keen to get things right, so I made a suitable washer, but when it came to using it I confess that I did not follow the recommendations made by Yamaha nor those on the forums! I have done this assembly task several times on my XS1100, and of course no-one bothers trying to make those monsters handle so on that bike I just torqued up the nuts so that there was no play in the bearings, and the steering still moved easily from lock to lock. I did the same with the Vmax which was at least two white knuckles more torque than Yamaha recommend, but it felt right to me. I have put 85000 miles on my XS1100, so there can't be many people in the world as familiar as I am with evil-handling bikes, so I am sure that I can cope with the Vmax!
The top yoke and the forks can then go on. The only dome nut I could find with the right thread for the top of the steering stem was titanium, not stainless steel. It cost £30, but don't tell her indoors!
Here is the black powder coated frame, the stainless steel castellated nuts, the silver powder coated top yoke and the titanium steering stem nut. It will never be this clean again…
I can then mount the handlebar and speedo brackets, and the speedo itself. Jonno at Rattymax did not want to sell me this mph speedo because it was cosmetically poor, and it was only when I convinced him that I would be happy to use the parts from my kph speedo to make it good that he would let me have it. Top man.

Now to assemble the front brake calipers. I replaced the original pistons with stainless steel ones made by Andrew Dawson Engineering near me in Boston. Andy is that rare creature: a talented engineer who can communicate effectively, listens to what you want and can translate badly expressed desires into CAD drawings and high quality fabrications.

Sorry about the bad photo. I have tried to show the slightly different profile at the corner of each of these brake caliper pistons. The one on the right has a small taper on it and the one on the left does not. This small change is the difference between a piston that will go past the rubber seal in the caliper body, to one that simply will not! I daren't tell you how long it took me to work that one out…

This is one half of a front caliper showing the bores for the large and small pistons, and the seals. Here the caliper is assembled with the stainless steel pins that you saw in instalment 16. I was careful to put the pads in the original positions so that the wear patterns matched those on the discs.
The caliper is installed on the fork leg. Mr Haynes does not specify torque settings for the four caliper socket cap screws so I just guessed.
I fetched out the two rear exhaust header covers from storage and realised that they did not look too good. I got out the Nitromors and stripped off the paint and lacquer and sprayed them up myself. As I have said before, paint spraying is one of the many skills that elude me, but these turned out OK.
After the rear headers, I put in the petrol tank, the swing arm and one shock to hold it up. You can see that the tank is behind the side panels and under the seat, and needs a pump to take the fuel to the carbs.
The middle section of the seat flips up to give access to the filler cap. An intriguing insight to Japanese attention to detail can be seen here where there is a kind of W spring clip visible just above the cap itself in this photo, the sole purpose of which is to increase the clearance between the cap and the rubber boot by about 10mm. I could see that it was in the parts list, but had been lost by the previous owner. I ordered a new one not knowing its function, but confident that it had a purpose, and so it did!
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Vmax Restoration June 2015 Instalment 20
My good friend Dave arrived from the USA. He helped me strip the bike last August at the beginning of all this, and has now come to help me put it back together. I took a week off work to be with Dave, and we put in some long hours. Dave worked with me uncomplainingly for long hours and we achieved a lot. Dave was very tolerant of me telling him to be careful of the powder coating 50 times a day, and of doing everything at least three times because we did tasks in the wrong order. His engineering experience building big Caterpillar diesel engines was invaluable. He took the pictures for 20 and 21.
I wanted a washer the OD of a 6mm washer, and the ID of an 8mm washer. I put a diamond bit in the Dremel and contravened all health and safety conventions to remove the metal.
This was the result compared to an unmodified washer.
It then goes under the clutch lever pivot bolt to prevent damaging the powder coating of the master cylinder.
The starter motor did not work. I had stripped it completely to get the cases powder coated, so I was worried that I had put it back together wrongly. However a couple of tests showed that it was not earthing properly because of the powder coating, and removing it from one of the mounting points with the Dremel was all it took.
Here is an example of doing tasks in the wrong order. The front wheel was already installed, but to bolt on the fork brace it had to come off again. My daughter's godfather Andrew lends a hand while Dave takes the photo. …and here is the fork brace in place. The item we spent ages fitting, but of which we did not take pictures is the radiator that you can also see here. The first pattern radiator I fitted was unusable and that little exercise was described in a previous instalment. This silver one I bought off German eBay is much better, but the standard radiator guards would still not fit on each side, so we spent a whole day fitting pattern ones, and it was very difficult to make the pattern front radiator guard fit as well. Putting it on and taking it off the bike occurred so often that it became a standing joke. In the end it fitted OK and it definitely works very well.
Time to connect the calipers that I reported on in instalment 19 to the master cylinder. I looked at the brake hoses and I was not very pleased with the fittings on the caliper end for all three brake hoses which were all corroded unacceptably. We did not get a before photo, but the one above shows the fitting after it had been cleaned up on the wire wheel. It looks fine here but I knew that it would show surface rust in days. … so we used the plastic coating product that I used on the underside of the rear fender to give this finish. I hope that it prevents the corrosion
We fitted the front brake hoses to the splitter and got them 180 degrees out as you can see here. The lower hoses are supposed to angle outwards, not inwards! Start again…
The rear fender assembly is fitted to the frame. You will recall that the previous owner fitted a cissy bar which necessitated gluing the rear reflector which is under the grab rail onto the rear fender. That ruined the paint so this rear fender is a replacement off eBay, and looks much better.
At the front end the headlights and flashers are fitted. I think that we only took them off a couple more times.
We realised that we had bolted so many things on the bike that we could start the engine if we wanted to do so, and we did. There was no exhaust system, but that was a minor detail. We started it up and it sounded like one of those horrible unsilenced twins they ride around on in the US. There was a loud clacking noise from the front cylinders and it would not fire on those cylinders either. (Read #21 to find out why.) The coolant also leaked out of the water pump cover, and a bit of fault finding revealed that the water pump mechanical seal was to blame. I wondered if it was OK when I fitted it and fortunately had ordered another one just in case, so that was fitted and the leak was resolved.
Here are the headers…
…and the mufflers of the new stainless steel exhaust system that I bought from Black Widow in Cambridgeshire. It fitted quite closely and easily, retains the centre stand and looks very nice. It is a bit noisy for my tastes, but I hope that will improve over time as a bit of carbon builds up.
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Vmax Restoration June 2015 Instalment 21
Not as much time between instalments as in the past because I had taken a week off work to put the Vmax back together with Dave. This is the one where we came to the dread realisation that we would need to take it apart again…

As mentioned in instalment 20, there was a problem when the engine was started for the first time. The front cylinders were not firing, and there was a horrible clacking noise from the front cylinder head. Idiots we may be, but it did not take even Dave and I long to realise that something was wrong.

It seemed to be a noise at half engine speed (i.e. camshaft speed) and was definitely the front cylinders, so we decided to take off the front cam cover to have a look. No light decision as we had spent the previous few days struggling to bolt things on. Here we had stripped off various covers, electrics and water cooling parts, then the airbox, carburetors and Vboost mechanism, the cable for which is hanging down between the V of the cylinders.

We could see that all four intake valves were slightly open about the same amount that you can see here, which we thought was strange…
We took off the cam cover and saw that the large punch mark for the intake cam (the one on the right in this picture) was not in line with the vertical mark on the end camshaft cap at TDC. We could also see that the intake valves were not closed even when the cam lobe was completely off the bucket. That must mean four bent intake valves mustn't it? How did that happen? Dave was not with me when I did the valve timing a few weeks ago, so there was no-one to blame but myself. I remembered that I had taken a photo of the cams after they had been timed up successfully, and sure enough here is the one that I took of the front cylinder head on 9th April 2015 showing everything lining up nicely at TDC. So how had the engine gone from this correct set up to bending four intake valves? My theory is that the front camchain tensioner did not engage properly after installation, leaving enough slack in the chain to jump a couple of teeth as soon as the engine was started. If anyone out there has a better explanation, please contact me through the website. For anyone reading this in the hope of avoiding the same error, my advice is to shine a torch down the camchain tunnel after installing the tensioner to make sure that the spring has pushed the rod with its rubber shoe on the end into visible contact with the chain.
So then I had to find four intake valves in a hurry. Fowlers had none in stock, nor did eBay. Jonno at Rattymax was away. I rang Henry at Exactrep, and was relieved to hear that he had some good valves that I could go and collect the same day. Dave and I rode from Spalding to Coventry on the XS1100 before he had finished taking them out of the cylinder head, and here he is completing the work.
Four intake valves ready for cleaning and installation.
They cleaned up nicely to look like this.
So we had to take off the cylinder head. We looked to see what Mr Haynes had to say. Removal of cylinder head was top of the list of operations that required engine removal. We looked at the cylinder head and the frame it had to clear, we estimated the length of the cylinder head studs, and decided that it was worth a go pivoting the engine on the rear mounting bolts with a jack to see if the head would clear the front frame tubes.
We jacked it up about 8mm as you can see here and the head came off easily!
We could clearly see where the intake valves had clouted the pistons. Henry had said that he thought the pistons would be OK and looking at this I am sure that he is right. We did not even attempt to remove the marks from the piston crowns. Amazing that such small marks created such a horrible noise!
…and here are the intake valves held open by their bent shafts as we thought.
I removed each valve one by one and ground in the replacements. Here I am fetching out the valve collets with a magnet.
Putting the grinding paste on the valve.
All four were nicely bent
The cylinder head with the new intake valves installed.
…and the valves timed again to the correct specification.
Intake stubs, Vboost, carburetors, airbox, radiator, exhaust system installed.

We bolted on a few more things and fired her up. This time she ran perfectly, and is doing so here, hence my stupid grin!

Time for a few photos showing the bike that was complete except for adjusting, tuning, bleeding and fettling.
So pretty in black and silver.
Another good photo from Dave.
Bleeding the clutch, front brakes and rear brakes was slow, frustrating and tedious. At one stage we even removed the clutch slave cylinder to just to make sure that it was working correctly! This is me fetching it out from between the generator and the middle gearbox.
I also made this tool so that we could bleed at the various connection points in the system where banjo bolts are used instead of just the bleed nipple on the caliper. It did help to an extent.
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Vmax Restoration June 2015 Instalment 22
This is the last instalment of this blog dear reader. I hope that you have been entertained by the detail, marvelled at my incompetence, chuckled at my naiveté, and learned how not to commit the same errors. As always with restorations I have gained more enjoyment then frustration from the process, and I am pleased with and proud of the result although it is far from perfect despite my obsessive-compulsive disorder. I have learned how a Yamaha Vmax is put together, and now I look forward to riding it and doing some further tweaks and fettling. It is always more involving and rewarding to own and ride a bike that you have built yourself, and I have all that to come!
Just a few tasks to finish up and one of them is to install the sidestand bolt together with its ignition cut out mechanism. Andy had made one for me from stainless but unfortunately it broke during installation. I was left with 3mm of the round shaft you can see here to try and grip to undo the bolt. The marks I made in attempting to do so are evident, but I failed.
I had to drill it out, and to gain access I had to remove the generator cover and the middle gearbox cover. This must be about 5 times that I have removed these two covers now…
I used the original bolt and it now works fine. I made the curved switch actuator out of stainless as well.

I have been dreading this for months. It is time to bleed the rear brake system. It is bad enough doing the clutch and the front brakes with their more or less vertical hoses, but of course the rear brake hose is horizontal. On other bikes I have even removed the entire assembly from the bike as one, and arranged it vertically to bleed it successfully.

Removing a bubble or two of air from the system is not really an issue, when it is full of air, it is the amount of time that it takes to get enough fluid in so that movement of the brake pedal actually moves the fluid around rather than compress the air. I took off the side panel and pulled the reservoir through the gap between the fuel tank and the frame for access.

Here it is full of air…
Paul had recommended that I purchase this tool from Frost. It costs £46, and seems a lot for a plastic pump, but I was glad of the tip. It works by pumping brake fluid into the bleed nipple and up to the master cylinder, rather than sucking fluid in the other direction. Here it is all connected up and ready to go.
…and it works! Here is the fluid coming in to the bottom of the reservoir. I still needed to bleed it with the vacuum pump, and then push the fluid back the other way a couple of times, but the whole exercise took only a couple of hours including all the pratting about that I normally manage. In the past this has taken several days, on and off.
So that is it. I have finished. Here is the beast in all her glory, not original, not perfect, but made in Lincolnshire, not Shizuoka.
Left hand side in detail.
Right hand side. Can't read the "Yamaha" name on the air scoop. Maybe I should paint it in black?
Left hand side taken against the light. I have left the big star on the generator cover in black, and the footrest brackets are also entirely black.
The star on the clutch cover also remains black.

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