Category Archives: Motorcycles

ST1100 Goes Naked

In February 2008 I found a Pan European on eBay that had been in a minor spill and written off because of the cost of replacing the plastics.

ST1100 P1 A02 Before

I was assured by the dealer that the damage was cosmetic and the write-off was because of the bike’s age and the cost of new panels. The upper fairing panels and windscreen were broken, both panniers grazed, the mirrors, battery and one silencer missing but otherwise it looked OK.  I started taking off the panels, with the idea of getting it on the road by the summer. Taking an angle grinder to the unwanted fairing brackets on the side of the frame was the no-going-back moment. I had a vague mental picture of my objective, but the details were still sketchy. Although the frame and forks looked straight, it appeared to have lived in a field and been regularly doused in salt water – you can see the results in the photos. I also found that the one remaining silencer did not quite meet the exhaust collector due to having rusted away, the fork seals needed replacing, the clutch slave cylinder had leaked all over the clutch cover and the rear disc was below the service limit.

ST1100 P1 A04 Before

I’d always intended this to be a low budget project and I was lucky in getting a complete standard exhaust system for £40 off eBay, albeit with some rather crude welded repairs to the silencers. Selling the undamaged fairing panels recouped some of the purchase price. I was thinking now in terms of getting it on the road as quickly and cheaply as possible, to make sure I did not pour time and money into a wreck, so thinks a prettier exhaust would have to wait. I spent a couple of happy days unravelling and pruning the wiring, and got rid of nearly a kilo of wire and relays whose function remains obscure – they weren’t in the Haynes manual!

By June 2008 it was clear that the Pan would not be on the road any time soon and the garage was needed for storage while we had the kitchen refurbished, so it went outside under a cover for a few weeks. While outside the brakes seized up so there was another lot of work to do. I was also concerned that the swingarm was very rusty and they are notorious for rotting away. There was no alternative but to strip it down to frame and engine, clean it up and rebuild.

In November that year I was made redundant (again) so there was more time for the bike project, but the budget would definitely have to be limited. I had intended to do all the work myself, but replacing the fork seals and drilling out a damaged brake calliper bolt were jobs I felt needed more expertise than I had, so I got them done by a local bike shop. To facilitate cleaning and painting the frame I built a stand out of scrap wood, with industrial castors for mobility, which was well worth the labour involved.

ST1100 P1 B01 During

Removing the engine from the frame would have been better, but the weight of it and the risk of damaging seized bolts put me off. I cleaned all parts to be painted with wire brushes and wet and dry paper, and brush painted most of them with Hammerite satin black. Luckily the frame and swing arm were sound under the surface rust. The radiator was nearly a goner – severe alloy rot on the fins, and the fan mountings had disintegrated – but luckily it was still watertight.

ST1100 P1 A03 Before

Careful cleaning, new fan mountings pop-riveted on (to the non-water carrying frame!), alloy primer and satin black spray paint and it looked fairly presentable. The front brakes needed new pistons and seals, the rear brake new seals and disc, all found on eBay.

With the forks, wheels, exhaust and under-seat fuel tank back in place, by March 2009 it was beginning to look more like a bike again. Time to see if the engine would start. I knew it would turn over, having turned it manually to check the valve clearances, but it had not been run for a year now, and having read about what old petrol does in carburettors I was worried I might have to remove and clean them, and worse still have to get them back on again. I squirted some carb cleaner into the intakes, put some new petrol in the tank, pressed the starter and hoped. It started immediately, with a lovely burbly growl, a little bit of smoke coming from the grease on the exhaust gaskets and water trickling from the hose clamps I’d forgotten to tighten.

A few design problems remained: what to do with the clocks and instruments that used to live in the fairing and where to put the remaining electrical gubbins that were also homeless. I’d already got a pair of second-hand twin headlamps, but with the bulky console held above them it just looked wrong. I had wanted to get new smaller clocks but with money tight the old ones would have to do. Finally I had the bright idea of using the small undamaged bit of the original windscreen, sprayed black on the inside, as a shield to hide them. After trying a couple of different ways of securing the console I settled on rising brackets from the headlamp bracket clamps and steadying brackets attached to two handy holes in the top yoke where the cable-tidy bar used to be. The headlamp and fuel pump relays went in the gap behind the headstock where the ignition coils live, using bits from the original fairing subframe as mountings. The E.C.U. was too big to live with the relays, but the wiring meant it had to be close by unless I cut and extended 20 wires, so it went on a redundant fairing bracket on the left hand side. I made a crude cover for it from polystyrene sheet to keep the weather out. To finish off the electrics I bought some cheap indicators and twin tail lights, to echo the twin headlights. The mirrors were clamp-ons.

ST1100 P1 C02 After

The side fairing panels had to stay to cover the starter relay, rectifier and battery on the left, and coolant bottle on the right, and some more home-made brackets at the back kept them in place.

ST1100 P1 C01 After

Insurance was more of a problem than I had anticipated because of its Cat C write-off status – Carole Nash would not do it without an engineer’s report, but could not tell me exactly what they wanted. I got it MoT’d (at the second attempt due to minor faults) and Bikesure insured it without fuss.

I’d planned to visit Scotland in August 2009 for the first time on a bike and after a few local runs all seemed OK. I had some Avon Storm tyres fitted to replace the aged Bridgestone Excedras, and off I went. It rained all day most days, but the only problems I had in about 1500 miles were a coolant leak from a loose hose clip and a broken speedo cable. The Avons were brilliant in heavy rain. Here it is on the north coast near the town of Tongue, in a brief break in the rain.

ST1100 P1 D01 Scotland

As one or two people commented, it’s not the most beautiful of bikes, but I was pleased to have a unique and working bike. Since then I have seen pictures of quite a few ‘naked’ Pans. Like mine, they are nearly all ugly and look like a faired bike with some panels missing. Eventually I decided to try to improve the looks – more of a challenge than I anticipated!

PC800 Side Panels

The bike needed some side panels – it arrived without any, and the spares bike did not have any either.

PC800 P1 A04 Before

I wanted side panels to resemble those on a Gold Wing GL1100, but I happened to have some spare ones from an ST1100. Holding the right-hand one up against the PC800 it looked as if, with a bit of work, they could be made to fit. The bulge at the back neatly fitted round the battery, and the general shape was OK if cut down. It needed to have a V shape cut out at the front to make the top edge fit round the front of the seat, which just happened to align the mounting spigot on the back of the panel with a locating hole on the dummy tank cover.

PC800 P1 G02 Panels

The ABS plastic was quite easily welded back together with a soldering iron, but needed reinforcing at the back with a bit of the cut-off section glued across the join with car body filler. With a few saw cuts and some heat from a hot air gun, the panel could be bent round at the back to wrap round the battery and keep the terminals dry. The panel also had to be heat-shaped a bit at the front to get it to align with the dummy tank. Plastic welding and filler took care of the saw cuts.

 PC800 P1 G04 Panels

Some offcuts and filler complete the transformation. I used car body filler to build up the surface over an ABS offcut to cover the large hole, then bumper filler (finer grain) and finally knifing putty (the white stuff) to fill in small pits and scratches. A bracket made from aluminium strip and glued on to the back of the panel at the bottom fixes it to a handy bolt on the frame where the pillion footrest used to go.

PC800 P1 G06 Panels

A coat of primer showed up some remaining imperfections.

PC800 P1 G08 Panels

More filler, several coats of primer and some black to finish off left it looking reasonable. The process was the same for the other side, just a slightly different shape. This photo flatters – there are still a few bumps and dips in the panel surface. One day, I might replace them with something nicer, but with the ST1100 project dragging on I was keen to get this bike on the road.

PC800 P1 X06 After

ST1100 Home-made Seat

After a few years using my ST1100 Pan European in naked form, the original dual-seat began to get rather uncomfortable – the foam had begun to set hard over its 20 year life. It was always a bit too high and wide for me to get my feet down except on tip-toe, so I decided to make a new seat that would be lower and narrower.

ST1100 P3 X11 After

I then decided to go for a more radical change of looks, and ended up needing a single seat that was longer, lower and narrower than a standard ex-police Pan single seat.

The Base

My original plan was to use the foam from an ex-police single seat, which had I cut down underneath and added a bit on the back to get approximately the right shape.

I had intended to make a fibreglass seat base for the ex-police foam, but the professional seat maker who re-covered my PC800 seat advised me not to, as you can’t staple a cover to fibreglass. I tried altering the plastic base to suit the new shape, but the plastic is very tough and can’t be re-moulded with heat, so I had to give up the idea of re-using it. Fibreglass it would have to be.

I watched various You-Tube videos on making bike seats. They seem to fall into two categories. There are some professionals with years of experience show-casing their work, relying on their very expensive equipment. Then there are amateurs who just want a padded plank to sit on the nice flat frame rails of their cafe-racer. Having chosen a bike with bumpy, non-symmetrical frame rails and an under-seat tank with its own bumps, I had to go it alone.

I started out with a thick piece of card covering the top of the fuel tank with the wiring for the fuel pump, followed by more bits of card to make a shape I thought would work. The upright card at the back is for a small bum pad. The thickness of the card should allow a seat cover to be wrapped over the edge of the base.

 ST1100 P4 K02 Seat

Before starting the fibreglassing, I cut a hole in the card and attached the lock plate to the catch underneath, to make sure it fitted the base.

You can get special ‘release tape’ to put over a former so that the fibreglass resin does not stick to it but I had run out, so I used parcel tape instead. I did the fibreglass work outdoors because of the fumes from the resin as it hardens. Since making the dummy tank and tail piece I’d forgotten some of the rules of laying fibreglass mat – don’t try to use large pieces in complicated shapes, and don’t put the resin on the mat before you put it on the former. Here is the first layer, after which I realised my mistakes. It was followed by two more layers (three across the flat base) with joins near the corners.

ST1100 P4 K04 Seat

Another thing I learned – don’t use parcel tape on paintwork, it’s almost impossible to get the sticky stuff off again (at least on primer). It took many hours with lighter fluid and kitchen roll to clean it all off. The seat base needed a bit of filling to even it out, but as it won’t be seen I didn’t bother smoothing it off.

ST1100 P4 K06 Seat

Having made the base to fit the foam (fairly closely) it needed to fit the frame rails. This called for more filler at strategic places, moulded to shape by placing a lump on the underside of the base them putting it on the bike, with bits of old inner tube for bumpers. I drilled four holes to let air out when the foam squashes down, and found I had to cut another hole at one side of the front to make sure it cleared the fuel pipe. A bit of steel strip bent into a curve at one end is bolted on at the front, which will hook under a plate on the top of the fuel tank to locate the seat. At the back is the seat lock plate, bolted through a similar plate on the inside.

ST1100 P4 K08 Seat

The Foam

When I made the dummy fuel tank and tail piece I had the ex-police seat foam in mind, but now found that the foam had gone too hard. I was never really happy with the filleting I had done on it, so I decided to use new foam. We have a local shop, Jordan’s, that sells the peculiar combination of loose sweets from jars, professional-quality fireworks, and upholstery foam, so I paid them a visit. David, their foam expert, repairs motorcycle seats, and suggested a 2 inch base layer of “very firm” that looks like recycled bits bonded together, and a half-inch top layer of “high firm”, which is actually very soft when thin. He said that the top layer is stretchy enough to wrap over the whole seat, but I was a bist sceptical. On his recommendation I bought a cheap electric carving knife for shaping the foam, having found that using an ordinary knife gave poor results.

The base layer had to be sculpted underneath, as the middle is lower than the front and back. The electric knife worked well for cutting the foam, but not so well for shaving little bits off for fine adjustments.

ST1100 P4 K10 Seat

I did the final shaping after gluing the foam to the seat. For this I used carpet glue from a spray can, as recommended by David. It’s wonderful stuff, with no smell and is very sticky. You spray both parts, wait a minute, then press together. There’s no chance to adjust afterwards though if you get it wrong. For the bum pad, I found I could not make a true, flat, straight cut for the join to the base foam. Luckily the pad is no more than 2 inches high, so I could glue surface to surface and shape the front and back which are less critical. To get a rounded edge I tried various sanding techniques. The most effective I found was a disc of sandpaper on a rubber mandrell in an electric drill, used very carefully. I made a couple of small mistakes in shaping but it was fairly easy to glue a bit of spare foam on and then shape it to fix a hole. By this stage I found that the base had subtly changed shape – fibreglass seems to do that – so there is a gap at the back that to be disguised somehow.

ST1100 P4 K12 Seat

The sheet of thin foam I’d bought was only just big enough – I would allow more spare if I do this again – but it did just as David said, and stretched to beautifully fit the curves, without the need to cut it. I seems a shame to have to cover it in vinyl. Gluing it on was tricky – I did the middle first, then worked outwards a bit at a time, masking with newspaper to keep glue off where it should not be.

ST1100 P4 K14 Seat

The Cover

I got some black cloth-backed vinyl from a local fabric shop, and an ancient electric sewing machine from eBay (using my wife’s machine was obviously a non-starter). I have done very little machine sewing, and none in the last 40 years, but how hard could it be?

I started with a trial run using plastic from a garden refuse bag – just about thick enough to be fairly well behaved. I cut pieces to shape and taped them in place on the seat, until I had a reasonable faximile of a cover,

ST1100 P4 K16 Seat

then cut it so as to get the smallest number of flat pieces to make patterns. Arranging these on the back of the vinyl (taking care to get them the reight way up!) and allowing for overlap at joins and edges, there was just enough material. You need more than you might imagine, but it’s quite cheap.

One of the videos I’d seen suggested stapling the pieces of vinyl together along the joins before sewing – keeping away from the bits that will be seen of course. Having done this, I could drape it over the seat to check for approximate fit.

ST1100 P4 K18 Seat

I found it better to separate the front panel (on the left in the picture) before sewing along the sewing lines. It also helped alignment to have the edges cut exactly the same distance from the sewing lines – I chose an arbitrary 20mm. Where the edges are to be folded over and glued to the base, I left a generous amount, about 60mm.

Sewing the sides to the centre was fairly easy until I got to the back, so I left that and attached the front piece. This was trickier, so I did the middle, tried it on the seat, did a bit more and so on. Each time I tried the cover on the seat, I taped it on tightly to get an idea of the final appearance. As for the back, in my innocence I had designed in compound reverse curves where the seat meets the bum pad – it’s hard to make flat material follow these! I asked my wife’s advice (she is something of an expert on making things with material) and her response was that she wouldn’t try to make a cover for anything that shape! A bit like the country man asked for directions to a town some distance away “Well if I were going there I wouldn’t start from here”.

ST1100 P4 K20 Seat

In the end I sewed what I thought was the right line, but after trying the cover on the seat I had to cut the stiching back and re-sew on a different line. This left a row of needle holes visible in the fabric, but I’m hoping that a bit of black shoe polish will disguise them. The final piece, over the top at the back, was more straight-forward.

Gluing the cover in place was also a tricky task. Because the glue is a contact adhesive there is little room for error, though it can be peeled apart initially. I taped the cover in place, masked the bits of the base and cover that were not being glued, un-taped the sides and sprayed the glue on the base and the fabric (and my fingers). To try to get a good fit I warmed the fabric over the foam with a hot air gun on low setting, then stretched it as hard as I could and brought the glued surfaces together. The result looked reasonable, so I did the front of the sides next to try to get the fabric pulled smooth, then the top of the front, leaving all the corners for later. I had to keep replacing the masking as it got sticky, and found it was best to remove the masking immediately after spraying the glue, before it dried. Here is the underside at this point.

ST1100 P4 K22 Seat

Gluing the rest was basically more of the same and took several hours due to all the re-masking needed for each stage. Warming the fabric made it easier to get it to go round corners – called ‘easing’ I’m told. Inevitably there were folds of fabric at the edges of corners, held down with glue from a tube rather than a spray can.

The final result is this:

ST1100 P4 K24 Seat

It’s not professional standard but I’m quite pleased with it. If I did another cover like this one I would have a separate panel for the back of the bum-pad, as the corners there don’t really sit on the foam. There is a bit of a gap between the back of the seat and the tail piece, which can be filled by extending the top of the tail piece, with the opportunity to make it match the shape of the seat more closely.

It has been an enjoyable sub-project, with plenty of variety of tasks and opportunities for learning (and re-learning), and no great skill needed.

Update

A few weeks after completing the seat I found that the cover was coming un-stuck because the glue was getting semi-liquid again. I don’t know if this was due to out-gassing from the fibre-glass, or fumes from the fuel tank beneath it. Another method of securing the cover would have been better. I’ve seen pop-rivets used, but not tried it myself.

PC800 Vetter Fairing

PC800 P1 C30 Fairing

Although I already had a Vetter Windjammer in fairly good condition, I couldn’t resist buying a second one on Bay at 99p. This was black and without lower sections, a bit rough but with a good windscreen. I thought it would be useful for experimenting with, trying out ways to fit a Vetter to a PC800. The chrome plated trim was badly corroded so I discarded it.

With it propped up in front of the bike on some bits of wood on top of an old paraffin stove, the first obstacle to fitting it was the thermostat housing on the right of the bike. Now would have been a good time to stand back and mull over alternative positions for the thermostat, but with enthusiasm unleashed I set about the inner panels of the fairing with an electric jig-saw. The fairing is made of ABS or similar plastic, which fuses back together behind the saw blade unless it’s done slowly so as not to generate any heat.

To get the fairing to sit at the right angle to the bike (with the base tilted about 7 degrees up at the front, according to examples on the Vetter website), I cut a couple of wooden wedges and screwed them to the base. A few more bits of wood raised the fairing to about the right height.

PC800 P1 C02 Fairing

With a hole cut for the thermostat, the mirror mounts either side of the fairing subframe were now in the way. I cut holes in the inner panel for them to go through, but it was clear that the outer parts of those mirror mounts would have to go. I retained as much as possible in case they came in useful for attaching the fairing to.

PC800 P1 C14 Fairing

The headlight bracket that projected at the front of the subframe also had to go, as it hit the rear of the headlight bowl in the fairing.

PC800 P1 C10 Fairing

The hose from the radiator to the thermostat was in the way, so I took it off, a problem to resolve later. The front cross-bar of the subframe still prevented the fairing from going as far back as I wanted:

PC800 P1 C06 Fairing

Having got nearly there, I decided to cut away as much of the subframe as necessary, and hope my welding skills wouldb e up to the job of making it good – I would have to weld on brackets for the fairing anyway.

After much hacking away at the fairing and subframe, it finally sat in the right place. I’d cut away a lot more of the fairing inner than necessary in my attempts to retain most of the subframe, but I decided to keep this Vetter on the bike, and patched up the inside with some of the bits cut off, using a soldering iron. Luckily most of the repairs are hidden. Modifying the other Vetter more carefully could wait until I had nothing better to do. Meanwhile, there was a subframe to fix up, a radiator hose to sort out, and the rest of the bike to do.

PC800 P1 C12 Fairing

PC800 Project Start

This PC800 was up for auction on eBay in June 2013. Located on Merseyside, it had been stripped of its bodywork, exhaust and clocks – not by scallys but by the owner, who had sold them off after discovering the cost of getting the panels professionally re-sprayed. I was the only bidder.

PC800 P1 A04 Before

Having listened over the phone to it running, I took a chance, buying it unseen. When it arrived I tried starting – it fired up on the first attempt, sounding like a Harley with open pipes due to the missing silencer. That was promising – it meant the battery was good so the charging system probably was too, the carbs were not gummed up and the fuel pump worked. The tyres were good but the rear slowly lost pressure.

My intention was to build a lightweight Gold Wing substitute. Lightweight being relative, as a standard PC800 weighs over 250kg. I had already acquired a Vetter Windjammer fairing as fitted to some early Gold Wings. Although the windscreen was broken, the rest was in fair condition.

PC800 P1 A08 Fairing

Some essential missing  parts of the bike would have to be replaced – the instruments, the silencer and lower part of the front exhaust downpipe and the seat. An original silencer would be useful as they incorporate the collector box. I kept an eye on eBay motorcycle spares section and to my surprise, soon found four incomplete and rough-looking bikes for sale from a dealer near Chester. Two of them had the required parts; one of these had a front fairing but poor tyres, the other had decent looking tyres but no fairing. I was very tempted to buy both, with a view to taking the parts I wanted and using the rest to make a rat bike to sell, but some remnant of good sense told me this was a step too far. I bought the faired one, a 1994 M-reg, with thoughts of using the inner part of the PC800 fairing with the outer from the Vetter, solving the problem of attaching the Vetter.

PC800 P1 A16 Before

It was soon apparent that the two fairings were completely incompatible, but the exhaust, front seat and clocks would be OK, and easily worth the £200 cost of the bike plus delivery. The exhaust was a bit of a pig to remove, needing a large hammer applied to various parts to separate them, but I found it to be solid and the chrome trim polished up quite well.

PC800 P1 A06 Exhaust

A trip to the A47 Autojumble near Leicester rewarded me with a fibreglass rear mudguard for £5 that would do nicely for the PC800, and a Ford dashboard clock for £2 that might be fitted later.

PC800 P1 A10 Mudguard

A final bit of eBay shopping obtained a pair of fibreglass Craven panniers which, from research with Craven, appear to be one-offs used by Warwickshire police on a BMW K-series, presumably before going with another manufacturer. They would need some suitable brackets and a bit of tidying-up, but I liked their unusual design.

PC800 P1 A12 panniers

 All I had to do was put the bits together – or so I thought.

My PC800 – A Brief History

PC800 P1 X08 After

The picture above shows the bike in the summer of 2015. Here’s how it came to be . . .

I had decided to rebuild my ST1100 again and fancied a Honda GL500 or CX500 Custom as an alternative. Searching eBay for a ‘GL’, I found a GL1100 Gold Wing (unfaired version) for sale nearby, fell in love and bought it. It was the most comfortable bike I’ve ever had, fantastic for relaxed cruising, but the handling, brakes and lack of power let it down. It was also extremely heavy, nearly 300kg.

GL1100 P0 Standard

I would have loved to have a fully dressed one  – not an over-the-top 2-wheeled mobile home, but a comfortable bike with a fairing and panniers, for lazy riding. However, the weight of the undressed ‘wing was too much for me to move around so a dressed one was out of the question.

GL1100 P0 Interstate

I could have gone for a Honda Silver Wing – the CX500 derivative – but they don’t have quite the same appeal for me, and apparently are top-heavy, which would be a problem. I drop bikes that are top-heavy.

So, after a while the GL1100 went and a BMW R850R took its place. A good bike in many ways, but too top-heavy, too vibey and the wrong riding position for me.

I had not intended to start another bike project, as the ST1100 rebuild was still unfinished, but sometimes an opportunity just has to be taken, which is how in the Summer of 2013 I came to have two partially-dismantled Honda PC800s cluttering up my garage and drive.

The Honda PC800 Pacific Coast, to give it it’s full title, is quite rare in the UK – I read somewhere that there are only about 300 registered, all grey imports. They sit somewhere between a Deauville and a Pan European in terms of size, weight, looks and purpose. So not the most exciting of bikes, either to look at or ride. But with a large windscreen, fully enclosed bodywork and capacious “trunk” as they say in the USA where many of these came from, they fill a niche and have a reputation for reliability. Most UK owners are enthusiasts and regard them as the ultimate touring bike.

PC800 P0 Standard

The V-twin engine is similar to that of the Shadow 800 and related to those of the Deauville, NTV600/650 and even the Transalp and Africa Twin. The frame and bodywork are unique, but many other parts are shared, as one might expect. They also, like the Pan European and Gold Wing, have shaft drive and an underseat fuel tank.

The first PC800 I came acrosshad been a few years previously, stripped of its bodywork and advertised for spares. I thought it would make an unusual project, but on inspection there was too much missing to make it worthwhile. Ever since then I had occasionally scanned eBay for a cheap one that could be butchered without too many qualms. Then this one came up, a 1989 F-reg, missing the bodywork and various other parts but otherwise in good condition. It even had an MoT!

PC800 P1 A02 Before

Having sold the BMW in the autumn of 2014 I had enough incentive to get the PC800 ready for an MoT by March 2015. The priority was getting it rideable, so mechanical repairs, de-rusting and making it legal were the priorities. Perfecting it will take a little longer.