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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!