johanne's Restoration

(Not my bike... will add real pics later)

The bike was a good runner, although slightly rusted etc. I used it frequently, but when the rear tyre went I had to park it for a while. One day I pulled it into the garage with the idea of removing the back wheel and having a new tyre fitted. With that done, I decided to also remove the seat and have it covered because it was badly torn. I then looked at the bike and realized it was already halfway dismantled (or that’s what I told myself!) and then and there I decided to do a full restoration. The gear lever was stripped and welded and the welding kept breaking, the tank had a dent in it, and the bike was just generally dirty, so I figured I would fix it all up nicely… 2 week job, max. HA! 

It took me 3 days to dismantle the entire bike (putting all the bits and pieces into labelled containers etc). It has now been 6 months, and my garage is still covered in bike parts! It’s not that I’m lazy… I just can’t find the time. Plus my wife’s constant “Are you going to spend the WHOLE day in the garage again? I never see you anymore” comments weren’t helping. 

Anyway, I haven’t visually documented my progress as well as I would have liked, but will add some pictures later. I decided from the word go to re-use as much as possible (fix rather than replace) but that I would check EVERYTHING. I didn’t want to have to take the bike apart 2 months after completion because of some little thing that suddenly decided to break. I also made a rule to replace all bolts, nuts, washers and screws with stainless steel where possible. 


The frame was in pretty good condition, except that the spot where the tank is bolted on was cracked and the nut looked like it was about to break off. I took the frame to a friend who cut a short piece of flat iron bar, drilled a hole in it and welded it over the hole where the tank bolt goes in. Nice solid fix.

I stripped everything from the frame parts, including the rear swing arm fork outer bushes… which broke during removal. I cleaned the frame and all the other frame parts (these include the engine mounting plates, the battery box, the kick stand etc etc) to get most of the old muck off. I then masked off all the bits that needed to be masked (steering head, rear brake pedal axle, etc.) with masking tape, and put old bolts onto all the welded nuts to protect the thread. I have now taken the frame and a whole box full of additional parts (15 to be exact) to a company who will shot blast everything and then powder coat it shiny black. I haven’t gotten it back yet… another week. Then I can start re-assembly.

I have ordered and received new inner and outer bushes for the rear swing arm fork, and new bushes for the centre stand. Will fit them when I get the frame back. 

Front forks:

Okay… the forks actually need to be replaced. The stanchions are a bit scored, but at R1200 (about 105 pounds) each, I decided that it’ll have to wait. I bought new oil and dust seals and dismantled the forks. I have completed the one, and must still do the other one. I sanded and polished the lower fork. This is a very short sentence for such a big job! Getting to all the nooks and crannies are a nightmare! I did take it to a friend who has a small compressor and a sand blasting kit, but even after 2 hours of blasting it didn’t make much difference. The blasting did get most of the dirt and old clear coat off, but I still had to sand and polish my fingers to the bone to get the aluminium nice and shiny. I put a new clear coat over the aluminium, and it looks pretty good, I must say.

Apart from the slight scoring on the stanchion, the chrome of the top part that doesn’t go into the lower fork was very pitted. This isn’t a problem, except that it looks ugly. I used steel wool and got rid of most of the rust, masked the lower half that needs to go into the lower fork, and sprayed it over the pitted area with silver. This isn’t supposed to be a permanent fix, because at some point I will replace the forks. I just want them to look alright for now. The new oil seal and dust seal and new fork oil should at least make them better than what they were.

I also sanded, polished and clear coated the plug-bolt at the top of the fork. I have reassembled the one fork and only need to put in the fork oil. Then I need to do the whole thing again for the other fork. I know what’s involved, so I’m not extremely keen on starting!

The brackets that fit around the fork legs onto which the headlight and indicators get attached was a bit bent, so I reshaped them and painted them. 

Front brake calliper:

I dismantled the whole calliper and cleaned everything. I bought new seals for the piston. I painted the whole calliper black, and the bolt heads silver. I have reassembled the calliper with the new seals. The brake pads are still in good shape, so I have just cleaned them a bit. Ready for fitting. 


I ripped off the old torn seat covering. I pulled off the foam, making sure it stays in tact. The seat base was extremely rusted, so I went at it with a wire brush on an electric drill. I painted it black. For all painting on metal I use Hammerite “direct to rust” paint, but I remove all the rust I can get to first. I took the seat base and the foam to my Suzuki agents, who outsourced a guy who did a fantastic job of covering the seat. The belt that went across the middle of the seat was still in good condition, so I treated it with leather/vinyl polish and refitted it for a more authentic look. The new seat covering doesn’t have the pattern of the original (it’s just smooth) so the belt makes it look a bit more standard. Ready for fitting. 

Handlebars and controls:

When I bought the bike it was fitted with modified “drop” handlebars… which I hate. Luckily the bike came with a big ammo case full of spares, which included two original handlebars. I took the best one and attacked the rust spots with steel wool. I have polished it with chrome polish and it looks great.

I completely dismantled the handlebar controls. I cleaned all the wires and plugs after getting rid of the old sticky insulation tape. I cleaned and restored all the internal switches (contact point etc), polished the black plastic casings and reassembled. The labels on the controls don’t look very good, so I think I am going to print some new ones and maybe clear coat the covers… will test the concept on old spares first. I heat-shrank all the wires, and it looks great.

The speedometer and rev counter are not really restorable, but the speedometer had been opened before by the previous owner. The chrome ring around the top had been bent open and refitted very badly. I bent it open again and removed the mechanisms. I cleaned and painted the base, cleaned the workings and refitted. I refit the chrome ring and bent it closed as well as I could. Looks a lot better than it used to. I also masked and painted the rev counter base so that both look the same. The faces of both dials are quite faded, but that’s something I’ll just have to live with for now. I know there are people who restore old dials etc, so sometime in the future I’ll have that done.

The centre console was also dismantled, cleaned and polished. Fitted new light bulbs and reassembled. The labels on the Neutral, Indicator and High Beam lights are faded completely away, so I will see if I can print some new ones that’ll look good enough.

The top of the steering head is aluminium, so I cleaned it with paint stripper and repainted. I used a primer before the black paint, and it looks very nice. On all parts that I paint I spend a lot of time masking. Everywhere where a bolt and washer will sit flush on a part, I mask off the area so that it is bare aluminium under the washer after painting. I think it gives a very nice effect, plus the paint doesn’t get stuffed when you tighten the nuts. A lot of effort, but worth it me thinks.

I have now reassembled the whole handlebar/console section, so what’s lying on my floor is the steering head top with handlebars (controls fitted) and centre console attached. Wires are all heat-shrank. Looks very nice.

I have now bought new grips, but couldn’t find the right type to fit the old throttle handle. Will have to do some careful modifications before fitting.

I have redone the clutch lever. The ball at the end was a bit scratched, so I filed it a bit and sanded it until it looked quite smooth. I have also polished and clear coated it. On the newly painted black “hinge” it looks great. 

Front brake master cylinder:

The master cylinder reservoir was in pretty bad shape from brake fluid spillage and the sun, so I have ordered a new one. The cylinder itself has been dismantled, cleaned and painted. I have also ordered a master cylinder kit which includes the piston seals and boot… bloody expensive, but what’s a man to do? As soon as the parts arrive I will reassemble it.

The brake lever was bent due to some sort of knock, so I have carefully reshaped it to match the clutch lever’s curve. The lever is quite scratched, so I still have to attack it with some sanding paper and polish and clear coat it like the clutch lever.

The brake hose is still in good shape, so I must just clean it a bit. 

What next?

I am now waiting for the frame to get back from the powder coaters. When I get it, I can start reassembling it and fit all the parts that I have completed. I need to complete the other front fork first so that it can be fitted to the steering head. The steering head bearings have been cleaned and the new grease it ready for refitting. I then want to tackle the rear suspension… the chrome is quite rusted, but I don’t have the money for new ones right now. I will try and get them looking good seeing as they are still functionally sound. Will replace them at a later stage. I then want to clean and paint the inside of the wheels and have a new rear tyre fitted. With the frame assembled and the wheels on I can start restoring and fitting the smaller parts.

The engine will wait till last. My first priority is to get the entire bike minus engine in perfect shape. Still quite a bit of work left there on the electrical components and wiring.

The engine, although running, has a few sounds that don’t sound completely healthy, so I will strip the entire engine and gearbox. I have bought a new gear shaft and lever, so in the process of fitting it I will check the gearbox completely. I have new barrels which I want to use because the old one obviously got a knock at some stage: the one bolt where the one exhaust gets attached was broken off and was replaced with a big blob of welding and a new stud. I will take the new barrels and head to an engineering shop to have them checked etc. Also the crank. I have ordered a full gasket set so will replace everything.

The starter didn’t want to turn every time and I have been using the kick starter. I will check the generator and the starter motor. Will need a new battery as well. I will paint the entire engine case… must still choose between matt black and silver.

I must clean the exhausts. I have new baffles that must be fitted, and I have ordered new join pipes (joining down pipes to mufflers). I will also polish the mufflers.

I have designed new decals for the side covers and fuel tank, and they are being printed on self-adhesive vinyl as we speak. The fuel tank and covers will have to be sprayed after the dent has been taken out of the tank. 

A lot of work left, but I’m going at it full steam now. We are planning on extending our house early next year and the garage needs to be demolished… so the bike must be out of there and running by then. That’s all fine, but did I mention I also have a 1972 Mini Mk III that needs a new water pump and wheel bearings and brake lines that needs to be running before we build? Wish me luck! I will keep you up to date on my progress.



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