Introduction: In Rust We Trust

NOTE: To make this instructable most beneficial to readers, I thought it would be best to explain some of the common problems I encountered with this vintage motorcycle and what I learned during the process. If I documented all the things I did, this instructable would be unbearably long.

How it all started...

It all started with the hit series, "The Walking Dead". The first time I saw Daryl on that rusty motorcycle, I knew I wanted one.

In April of 2018, I bought my first motorcycle at the age of 18. It didn't run but had compression. I wanted to ride as soon as possible because summer was right around the corner. My main priority was to make sure it was safe and functional before anything else. During the winter, I took apart the bike again. Spring of 2019 came sooner than I thought, but now I had a work of art that I could ride.

I learned as I went along and had a lot of patience.

Step 1: First Things First

Whenever buying a used bike, it is CRUCIAL to make NO assumptions about what the previous owner did, said they did, or what they did not do.

In my case, I knew I wanted to make some major modifications so I was ready to tear it down to the ground and check every single part while putting it all back together.

1. Change oil and all fluids

2. Check for air, fuel, spark.

3. Try to get it running

Step 2: Getting It Running

Getting a motorcycle that hasn't run in a long time is a trial and error process.

Here are the things I did to eliminate some common issues right off the bat.

  1. new battery
  2. clean the carburetor(s)
  3. fresh fuel
  4. new air filters
  5. new intake manifold
  6. new fuel lines

For an engine to run, you need three things

  1. Air
  2. Fuel
  3. Spark

After doing these things it was time to start it up.

I gave it some gas and the engine revved through the roof! I immediately hit the kill switch. I didn't know what happened. After quite a bit of research and reading old forums, I concluded that it must be a vacuum leak that is causing inconsistent idle and rpm's shooting through the roof. I bought a new intake manifold on eBay and it was running like a dream.

This seems to be a VERY common problem with older bikes. Old fuel + ethanol in the gas + time causes the rubber to crack and become brittle.

Step 3: The Gas Tank

I knew one thing I wanted for sure, and that was a rusty gas tank....the outside NOT the inside of course :)

There wasn't much online saying how to achieve this look but I knew I needed to do a few things.

  1. remove old paint
  2. rust the tank
  3. clear coat the tank

Once you get the tank off the bike, remove the petcock and cap and seal any openings.

I used aircraft grade paint remover and it worked like a charm, it also had a cool crystallizing effect to it.

To get the tank to rust I experimented with a bit of salt, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, and some water.

I threw some coarse salt over the tank and poured hydrogen peroxide followed by some vinegar.

It took around 10-20 mins to start to see some surface rust forming. I ended up waiting a little bit too long and got a darker looking rust. I ended up redoing the tank in the winter and I am happy with the way it looks.

Step 4: The Exhaust

What I did:

  1. remove exhaust
  2. cut mufflers at the weld
  3. prepared pipes for welding
  4. wrapped the exhaust
  5. re-install

The megaphone exhaust pipes that came with the motorcycle had to go. Of course, this was the 80's style but I was building something new. Straight pipes were loud and obnoxious so I picked up some free-flow mufflers from emgo. These give a loud but dampened sound compared to the obnoxious, popping straight pipes.

My neighbor, who is a professional welder for over 40 years, gladly offered to weld the new mufflers to the headers.

After welding, I decided to fiberglass wrap the exhaust to continue the post-apocalyptic look of the bike.

Wrapping the headers:

  1. Soak the fiberglass wrap in water for at least 30 mins to 1 hour before installing.
  2. Clean the headers with alcohol.
  3. Wrap
  4. Tie ends with steel ties

Step 5: Some Other Things I Did

  • Rewire entire bike, discarded unnecessary items (kickstart only)
  • pod filters
  • new handlebars
  • new LED 5.75" headlight
  • new 2.5" speedometer
  • weld frame hoop with integrated brake light
  • new LED turn signals
  • custom front and rear fenders
  • rebuilt forks, seals, added fork boots
  • painted (frame, fork lowers, rear shock springs, levers)
  • rebuilt brakes, front & rear
  • relocate ignition
  • relocated license plate
  • custom seat & seat pan
  • relocated electronics (rectifier, fuses, battery, etc.) under the seat
  • custom saddlebags

Step 6: Let's Go for a Ride!

It is crazy to think that this bike is twice as old as I am, and still runs like a dream. These vintage machines were built to last.

Although it is not the exact same bike from the walking dead, my 1981 Yamaha XS400, turns heads every time I ride through town. This bike is just super fun to ride. I don't think I could have picked a better first motorcycle to buy.

Thanks for reading!

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