Chris Bradley builds a T500 racer - Chapter 2

On arriving home I could see that the beast had been used as some kind of a race bike before. Hence half the bits I needed to build a whole bike were missing. In the interests of saving weight I guess. But there were plenty surplus bits. I tried to make some kind of order out of the boxes and tins of rusty gearbox parts and was disheartened to see how badly things had deteriorated.

Years of corrosion and rusty oil came from the crankcases and in the end I realised that a crank would have to be re-built. There were three pistons all of different sizes, five cylinder heads, two sets of barrels that needed a rebore, two and half crankcases, two pairs of expansions, it went on. Too many of some parts, and some missing. I decided to shelve the idea for a rainy day, a very rainy day!

A couple of weeks later and I find myself looking at more stuff in the same magazine about T500's. Is this some kind of a revival or something ? I wonder. I read an article about a comparison between a T500 and a pair of RD400 Yamaha's, all of which had been re-builds. The guy with the T500 was Alex Clapson, who turned out to be wheeling and dealing in T500 bits. What caught my eye in the photo's of Alex's bike were his expansion chambers. I had never noticed a pair of these on a bike before, they were Allspeeds.

I started to get idea's for building a special, and these would be just the ticket. So I rang the number given in the article and spoke to Alex. He later sent me a list of stuff he had, and we discussed a rough deal on the phone for the bits I needed.

I was able to do some swap's with Alex for all the stuff that I had surplus, and came away with a brand new pair of pistons and the Allspeed expansion boxes I had so admired on Alex's bike. That was to be the first of two trips I made to Swansea to see Alex, but there were to be many phone calls and letters to follow.

Given this new inspiration and enough bits to build a motor, the battle commenced. The crankshaft was re-built using new pins, seals and bearings. I was able to assemble a gearbox with all the bits I now had, and with the help of a Haynes manual I went to work. Roger built the crankshaft for me. The guys a genius.

The gearbox on the early T500's had a problem due to oil starvation to the fifth gear, causing pitting and severe wear. You won't believe this but mine was pitted with severe wear. You can't buy new gears, so I got round it by pressing the gear off the shaft, turning the shoulder down off the other side and then pressing it back on again the opposite way. I then had the gear Tig Welded on the inner side for good measure. Time will tell if it works or not. Roger did the turning down.

Engine built, I then started on the frame. I got a Dresda box section swinging arm off Alex but this turned out to be a bad move as it just would not fit the wheel and hub assembly. I tried to locate some side panels that I could use off other bikes, and a BMW seat cowl was adapted to take an oil tank. I have even got photographs of this but your not going to see them. Boy was this turning out to be some freak of a bike. ....... I went to see Crooks Suzuki in Barrow in Furness.

Now here I am, looking at proper racing Suzuki's, and liking what I see. I told one of the guys there (Mike) what I was trying to do and expected to get laughed onto the street, but that was not the case at all. Everyone was so helpful and understanding, it was great.

They all seemed to have a great enthusiasm for Suzuki's especially the old ones, and this I found very refreshing. I asked question after question and was never made to feel a nuisance. And in doing so developed a desire to make my bike look like one of the racing Suzuki's that adorn the showroom on Crellin Street.

I was able to get all the new bits I needed from Crooks Suzuki and even some second hand spares I needed too. Not to mention the advice which I was to find invaluable.

In addition I was given two contacts. The first one was Peter Keyte, Custom Tank & Designs. And the second one was Tony Baker.....Frame builder.

First I went to see Tony to ask if he would do the modifications to my frame. I explained that I wanted a bike that would look like a racing machine of the seventies but be used on the road. Talking to Tony (who by the way is a very successful outfit racer) made me realise that I was just buggaring about, and with his help and advice began to think about more serious issues. Tony had some great ideas and it turned out that he was very familiar with the geometry of the T500. I left my frame with Tony and continued in my thirst for more knowledge of racing machinery.

We heard on the grape vine that Lee Brothers, a motorcycle dealer in Hebdon Bridge was having a clear out, and was filling a skip outside the shop. Roger and I had to investigate. Boy was this a find. Among the boxes of levers, indicators, and a fair bit of rubbish too, I rescued Two Brand New rear brake cables for a Suzuki T500. A lovely pair of Tommaselli levers (New in a packet). And spare's I was able to do more swaps with, including a fist full of various cables.

Roger donated a pair of Dunstall Clip On's which he had lying around. Things were definitely on the move.

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