Well I'd had the old Katana for over 8 years, fixing up many things mechanical and electrical. But...
So it was time to do something about it all. August 2012 saw me completely stripping the machine down to a rolling chassis plus engine. Then Warwick came around and helped me heave the motor out. (I didn't get to put it on a set of scales, but maaate, those GSX1100 donks are heavy: somewhere around 90-100 kgs, I would say.) Then I undid the front steering head, and removed the forks/ handlebars/ wheel as a unit, and ditto with the rear end. So now I had a bare frame in one corner of my little garage, and a behemoth of a motor creaking on an old coffee table in the other corner. Progress!
The last time I'd split the crankcases of a motorcycle engine was on my trusty old z400. But that was a much smaller engine and lifting it was a one-man job. Not so with the Katana's motor; even just getting it upside-down safely without busting cooling fins etc. required some care and thought. But once belly-up it was easy enough to split the cases.
The real bother was that three of the crankcase bolts sheared off... alas, previous reassemblers had failed to put any lubricant on the threads they were dry as chips with a light film of rust to top it all off. So folks, take note: never install a bare thread on anything; always use either a drop of oil, a smudge of grease, a smear of anti-seize, or a drop of thread-locking compound. But never a clean bare thread! Of course, removing the busted-off bolt stumps was a major headache. Two had to be drilled out... a nerve-wracking and difficult procedure on an inverted crankcase, especially when you're using a hand-held drill...
Then it was out with the gearbox cogs and selector forks, and I whisked them off to Ray Easson M/C Engineering in Bayswater. Ray cast his eyes over the cogs and selector forks, and pointed out that in addition to 2nd gear, work was needed on 4th gear as well. Further, the hardening was starting to wear through on 5th gear (a common occurence on high-mileage GSX cogs), but Ray reckoned that there was easily another 50K kms to be done before I'd start to hear a whine. Well, I'll be a lucky man if I get to hear that in my lifetime, as the ZX9 is my regular around-town hack these days. So I left Ray to work his magic while I turned my attention to the rest of the motley Katana components.
Apart from the frame, the worst culprit was the wiring loom; the last 30 years had not been kind. So I removed most of the grimy old 'bullet'-style connectors, and soldered the connections instead (sacrificing originality for reliability is something I've never had a problem with). I re-bound the tattier parts of the loom, cleaned-up the block-connectors the best I could, and generally tidied things up.
I also took the opportunity to fix the busted tachometer needle. This meant making up a matching pair of instrument needles out of thin aluminium, which I sprayed with matt white paint and then glued into place:
First job with the frame was cutting out the rust from the footpeg subframe tubes, and welding back in fresh blanks of steel tube. That turned out to be the easy bit... because as I'd been pulling the bike apart, my eye told me that the pillion-area subframe wasn't straight. So I took the frame around to Pete's one evening, and using laser levels, etc. we found that it was 5mm bent to the right. So Pete fired up the oxy and we tweaked the subframe back 5mm.
Then the frame was packed off to the sandblasters; they took it back to bare metal and gave it a coat of 2-pack etch primer into the bargain. Once I had it home again I treated it to a couple of spray-cans of satin-black engine enamel from the local auto store. Sure, powder-coating might be the purist's choice, but once you chip the stuff it's... well, chipped. But at least if you use spray-cans of some commonly-available paint, you can fix up scratches or chips any time you feel like it. (This move was well-justified after Warwick and I heaved the motor back in, as inevitably there were a few small scrapes once we'd finished.)
Then, 2-3 months after dismantling, it was reassembly time! I popped in a fresh set of steering-head bearings, and an hour or two later I had a rolling chassis once again.
Now then, how do you move 100-odd kilos of motor if you don't have an engine stand, or a mate on hand to help you lift the thing? Well, one must get inventive... so I used my neglected weight-lifting gear to crane the engine off the coffee-table, and then used an old Victa mower chassis to wheel the motor outside for degreasing. Hopefully this is as close as a GSX1100 motor ever gets to powering a lawnmower...
I also installed a new set of 'Hel' braided brake lines front and rear, as the old set of braided line fittings had become a mess of rust and peeling chrome. Then it was back in with the wiring loom, throttle and clutch cables, switch-gear, battery box, other electrical odds and sods and also the new Dyna coils were slotted in to their new brackets.
Later that week Warwick was back to get another hernia as we hoiked the motor back into the frame, and my youngest daughter Jocie skilfully slid the lower-rear engine bolt into place. Phew! The rest of the engine bolts were a doddle and it was a pleasure to torque them up. Back on with the oil-cooler, fresh oil into the motor (make sure you don't forget to do that, ahem), and the next day Alastair dropped in to help get things to firing-up stage.
Well the motor started easily enough, but alas the poor carbies had suffered sitting dry on the shelf for 2-3 months... the float needles just wouldn't shut the fuel off anymore, and several of the internal O-rings also weren't coming to the party. So I had to order a small swag of carbie parts, thankfully all still readily available courtesy of Robinsons and eBay.
15th Oct. 2012