The story of: Building the perfect beast! (A tall order... Eeek!)


Gentle Warning: The story of the full restoration and upgrade of this bike is a long one, you will need a supply of coffee or beer, depending upon personal preference and the time of day you decide to read this.


This build story originally appeared as a long winded real time (it took over a year) exercise on a couple of forums. The main thread was on RDLCCrazy and with lots of comments it ran to over 30pages. Of course the forum threads were rambling with plenty of backtracking as budget and parts supply ruined the flow.


With that in mind I have split the whole story down into sections that hopefully make a little more sense than the time based progress posts that build threads on forums are forced to endure. This reformatting and editing should also make it a little easier for those who plan to return and make use of any of the tips and hints.

All content copyright Jon Wallis 2009-Present.

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Regarding the pictures on this page - Jon Wallis either owns the rights to these pictures, has permission to use these pictures or has taken every step possible to contact the owner of any borrowed pictures – As such all pictures on this page are protected by enforceable copyright.

 

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But first...


            Why oh Why did I do this?.... A sort of Introduction...

Ahh Yes... I already knew what people were thinking... 'He's started yet another project? No... Surely not?!', well, er... {he looks at his feet and mumbles} “Yeah... “


As I am pretty honest, even with myself on occasion, ‘I can get with that...’. With 4 (or was it 5? Im not counting!) projects on the go already... oops! However, I did have good reasoning (or was i kidding myself?) for embarking on this project as it slotted in nicely as a slice of middle ground between the straight restoration (with small upgrades) of the ’85 RZ350R and the long in the tooth, and absolutely looney, KTMaha supermoto project, and.... this one was planned from the outset to be 'my perfect retro bike'. If such a thing ever existed! yes, quite a tall order as it was to be built on a budget...


I always said that this bike wouldn’t stay the same for very long as it would be improved as parts and budget allowed, and looking back over the build that’s pretty much how it worked out. It’s always nice to fulfil ones own prophecies!


So what is the perfect RD/RZ? Well, it is different for each of us of course. It combines a mixture of perfect styling and performance, blended lightly with our misty eyed memories, but... Hold on... We all know these bikes are not actually perfect, sure they can be very good on occasion but rarely, 'perfect'. Even with all our hard work, bracing of frames, modern suspension, bigger brakes, clever ignitions, huge engines and trick 'spannies...  Of course, it is sacrilege to say it I know, but we have to concede that there really are better handling, faster bikes out there that would blow the old RDs and RZs into the weeds, but do they remind us of when we and these bikes were the top of the crop? Do they look as horny? Er... Ok... Yeah... Time to move on from that train of thought perhaps! Anyway, it’s a fact of life that nice clean modern bikes look good and go/handle well of course, and they will be classics in their own right in 20 years (LOL!). Yet that's missing the point, and rather than digress, as you didn't start reading this to hear me bleat on about better bikes than the ones we love; I know I didn't!


My initial plan was centred around the idea that if I could get the base bike that I really wanted and then make it as close to perfect for me to provide me 'what I wanted from the fun bike in 201x’. The premise being that if I managed to find a bike design that was already burned into my consciousness as a good looker/handler/go’er from back in the day, that I could lightly improve it for both looks, performance and handling based on a modern approach yet keeping within a quite small budget.


Back to the story... As many people know, I've long been a fan of the RD/RZ line up of bikes in all their forms, and as we all know the breed got better with development right up to the FII/R models, but I still hankered after an old LC. It's the shape I reckon... It just looks 'right' to my eyes... It’s an age thing of course, or what in collecting circles is often termed the ‘30 year rule’ i.e. what was cool and out of reach when we were kids is now nostalgic and affordable to us as (slightly) more affluent adults. Im sure psychologists would be interested to delve deep into the minds of those of us who now covet the old clunkers we grazed our knuckles on getting running when we were kids, all before biking became serious and perhaps even a little deadly! Ridden an R1 fast on a winding country lane in the rain recently? Whilst it is smooth and has phenomenal grip, that does mean that you are always going faster than you think you are if it goes horribly wrong. With old bikes their bendy tube frames and motors you have to work to make progress tend to make 30 feel like 100... That (sort of) keeps you safer...


(Prepare those misty eyed goggles lads! You will need the sort that produce a 70's cheapo photograph finish with their faded browns, oranges and reds (maybe it was just the clothes that had those colours!) and have that slightly wrong tracking/timing that super 8 film always has... Ok, ready? ...Here we go... “Welcome to the late 1970's/early '80s...!)


To be honest I even know where I saw my first one... It was a white with red decals Yamaha 250LC and was parked on Whitedown Lane (probably outside number 23 or something like that) in Alton, Hants, UK, back in the days when you could park on the road there, a time when my dad used to take me and my sister swimming on a Saturday morning, yes it was a very long time ago. The bike was new and had a huge 'L' pate on the back... Love those old UK learner laws! I was about 10years old. Looking back it would seem that I had been scarred for life... I wanted that bike. Wanted it bad!


If i am honest, I really should have well and truly scratched this particular RDLC itch years ago when I was living in the UK. These days any LC is now rapidly becoming silly money here in Australia and parts seem to be getting harder to find and prices for even mundane parts have really rocketed. Of course from here we can buy RD/RZ parts from the main centres like Europe, Canada, USA and UK but the post is killer on larger parts. With that in mind, in order to get a little closer to my dream bike in 2009 I bought an RZ250R with a blown motor off ebay and set about sorting it out to be a nice 350 like the ones I rode in the 80’s and 90’s. With that restoration progressing slowly, I dangerously began to allow the thoughts from the deep recesses of the back of my mind to re-surface; it was an LC I really wanted... no, needed... scary!


Whilst I had been hunting for RZ parts, buying books and reading up all over the net in the mass of forums for these bikes, I'd started idly looking for an LC. Not consciously as such, just when i had a few minutes to spare every now and then. I knew a few guys locally who had them in the condition I wanted (ripe for restoration) but no one was selling, and I noticed that even the 'silly money' restored bikes on ebay that would require more effort and cost to ship down to Sydney, had began to dry up. I really felt that I had missed the boat for my very own slice of ‘elsie’, or so I thought...


I wasn’t too disheartened to be honest, I had the 85 YPVS F1 to occupy my time, so it wasn’t all bad. Naturally, I still kept a watching brief for an LC with that sort of slow burn we all do. Emails of saved ebay searches and watching the sales forums included. And you know what, for once it actually paid off! A guy not that far from me was selling some old LC and RZ parts which included an LC frame and we got chatting and he said he would dig round in his parts stash and lo-n-behold the frame and a load of old LC bits appeared in my garage. Whilst it was not a whole bike and it had a hell of a long way to go to be my ‘dream LC’, but it was my very own LC! Wahooo!


With the fact i'd got a bare frame in front of me, I had a blank canvas... It was time to plan some world domination... or something like that! With the evolution of the bikes in mind, I got to thinking. If I need forks, why wouldn't I use some of the newer USD forks instead? If I needed an engine why wouldn't I fit a YPVS version and maybe go for a long stroke big bore motor. It’s not like this bike will be an original matching numbers bike or that I can cheaply score any of the parts required to build to show winning spec here anyway.


Idly, I reasoned that I could get the same look as the old LC motor if I fitted the YPVS bottom end and the aftermarket Athena big bore top end as sold to the nutter Banshee racers. Along that line I fantasied that I could even make it a 421cc by using a +4mm crank since I would need a new crank anyway, well c’mon who wouldn’t want a full house 421cc version of the old LC? Well, yes it would have a hell of a kick in the pants as it hit the powerband as it is ‘old skool’ since there are no YPVS valves, but anyone who has ridden a big bore MX’er will tell you that kind of power never gets old!


That line of youthful bravado served to remind me of an event that might simply have been an amusing side bar to this story, but became one that sealed the fate of my wallet for some time and also brought me a close shave ‘playing in the traffic’ on 7 lanes of traffic in LA - All roads lead to where we stand as they say: I once bought a brand new 2 stroke KTM Enduro bike and rode it home on its new knobbly MX tyres in the rain on country lanes in UK winter. Every change of direction, every gear change and every brake application was full on... I arrived home drained after 25miles of raw concentration, and a good friend of mine who was my neighbour at the time ventured out of his house to check out my new purchase. He asked me what it was like? With shaking hands I told him all about how it was totally lethal as you couldn’t accelerate, turn or brake without it trying to put you in a ditch. He looked on with pity and suggested I take it back to dealer and ask for my money back... I retorted ‘no way! I bloody love it!’, with a huge gin on my face... After recounting that story in my head, I just knew that this bike would have to be a 421 after all....


With the engine chosen I got to thinking as to how I wanted the bike to look, I spent time looking at colours and for the LC the obvious choice for me was white with red to hark back to the first one I saw, but I also love the white with blue. Damn, colours are not easy when you can choose what you like! Sadly, for me the darker colours don't really work on these bikes and tend to look a bit 'dull' meaning I didn't want either the rare metallic blue or the mars bar blacks... Of course, It didnt have to be an original LC colour and I've missed one quite obvious famous Yamaha colour out, one that was not an original offering for the LC, yet one that looks great; Kenny Roberts yellow. Oh yes!


I began gathering parts. And even more amusingly than a mate having a set of RGV forks to sell me, finding cheap’ish RGV wheels on ebay and me having an almost complete YPVS engine in my garage, as if to tell me that 'it was meant to be' I picked up a set of stunning KR yellow LC bodywork from a good bloke in the UK the very next day after the deal was done on the frame and other parts. Who knows, I reasoned, maybe this one wouldn't be so hard to build using the other bits I have already.... What little I knew! haha!


Whilst initially as a bike it was far from complete, with the thought process above and some decisions made I could begin to see some daylight way down the end of the tunnel... yes, it was a long way away, I'd still need a locate a lot of parts including a set of clocks, headlight, assorted brackets and plastics, the engine parts, the carbs, pipes, tyres, various RGV parts (quite a nightmare to source cheaply), brakes and a host of nice new OEM parts from Yamaha... the list went on and on.


Fourteen or so months on, and lots of adventures have seen the bike finally puffing blue smoke under its own power. It’s amusing to look back and think that I initially crowed that ‘it might even be a fun bike when its built...’, haha how right i was! I should also add that I am very happy with its looks. The wheels ape the originals in their finish, yet are much wider and i don’t think the more modern suspension parts look out of place. The yellow bodywork and period extras look stunning. And of course, the huge engine roars!


With all the hard work just a memory, the bike truly is amazing and lives up to my original idea, I LOVE IT!


For the full story on the trials and tribulation of this build, click the sections next to the photo at the top of this page, Enjoy!