Sonic’s Workshop: 1983 Yamaha Virago 750

There are still some good deals out there.

A good cheap bike is certainly not a common thing these days, nor has it been over the last couple of years. With the best used motorcycles being exported and more people discovering the fun of riding, there has been a real shortage of quality used bikes. If good bikes are in short supply then the fixer-uppers are also slim pickin’s.

The Virago being stripped.

Slim as the pickins’ are there are still a few good deals out there but you have to be a dedicated hunter. You may have to look at a quite a few rocks before you find a gold nugget. My gold nugget came in the form of 1983 Yamaha Virago 750 that had been stored in an old garage for the last ten years. Now something that is stored in an old garage on a dirt floor with a leaking roof for that amount of time is going to look like a bag o’ shit and is going to need some serious work to bring it back to riding condition again. But then something in that condition will, or at least should, reflect the price.

When I went to look at this little gem the guy that owned it hadn’t even washed it off yet. He then began telling me how it was his first bike and that he really loved it and didn’t want to sell it, etc., etc., etc. Man, you can’t tell how much you love something when it looks like an abandoned animal, I mean it didn’t even run. So I offered him $200.00 and that’s all. He wasn’t too impressed but, oh well, I’m sure he’ll get over it in time.

The bike was treated to a warm soapy bath once it was brought home and when the suds had settled it looked pretty good, with the exception of the front fender that had some heavy rust pitting. That item may have to be replaced, but that’s just pretty stuff, let’s look at what this puppy’s going to need to make it go vroom-vroom again.

Damn fork seals …

A motorcycle that’s been left sitting that long, having to do a carb strip is just a given. I mean, I’m sure the owner that loved it so much never drained the gas out of the carburetors before abandoning it in the garage of doom. The fork seals had failed a long time ago, the leaking oil winding up on the front brake pads and rendering them useless. The real bad news was the rear mono shock had also leaked, giving absolutely zero dampening and creating a fine pogo stick effect at the rear end. The battery had a perfect example of cracked case syndrome also requiring it to be replaced.

Other than these above-mentioned items this Virago was in nice shape. It only had 15,000 km and was still wearing the original paint. The only other negative thing was the clear coat that had been applied to the aluminum engine covers and had peeled off some time ago. With the aluminum now exposed to the elements, the resulting corrosion had left them covered in a white powder and will require some major work to bring back the original shinny look of the engine.

Get to the heart of the matter.

Consumables such as batteries can prove to be expensive.

Before buying anything on a project bike let’s be sure the bike is actually going to run shall we? Always start with getting the motor running. In this case getting the carburetors out of the bike and stripped down for a good soaking. While the carbs were getting a thorough clean out the oil and filter were dumped and replaced with new stuff. Now normally this should be done with engine warmed up, but in this case since the oil had been sitting for so long, I figured most of that black goo would be in the bottom of the engine, so why circulate it? With the carbs now cleaned up and reassembled, they were installed back into the V-twin, a horrible job at the best of times.

The battery for this particular bike is a whopping $147.00 and as I mentioned, I don’t want to spend anything on a bike that may have a spun main bearing or no compression. So I borrowed the battery from my Virago 1000 to provide the power to crank over the newly freshened engine. Even with the extremely dirty air filter the motor fired up and ran surprisingly well for something that was once someone’s “pride and joy”.

The suspension is killing me.

Little Sonic with big shock.

With the motor running sweet and no longer a worry, it was time to turn my attention to the front and rear suspension. I began with the removal of the rear mono shock because, as with the motor, I want to take care of the expensive items that could potentially kill this project. The engine not running would definitely sink the ship, as would a huge 20-year-old mono shock that is no longer available from Yamaha.

I tossed the oily 10lb shock into the truck and went down to Ontario Cycle Salvage to see if they would have a good used replacement. You know the possibilities of finding such a thing aren’t good when the parts guy first asks what it’s off , then makes a painful looking face before heading off into the catacombs of parts to attempt to find a match. Well I was impressed, less than ten minutes later a shocked looking Scott emerged with a fine example of exactly what I was after. $150.00 later I was on my way back home, with the new shock and spring unit in tow.

Once at home the new unit was installed into the bike without incident. The front suspension was next. To do this the front wheel, fender, caliper and forks had to be removed from the bike. The forks were then disassembled and the new fork seals installed. The spring length was measured and checked against the specs in the manual and were thankfully found to well within the service limit. The slider bushings were inspected and also found to be in good shape. The forks were then reassembled and filled with the correct amount of 15W-fork oil before being slid back into the triple clamps and torqued to spec.

Forks removed.

The next step was to replace the brake pads which had been contaminated by the leaking fork oil. Once out the caliper could then be cleaned thoroughly to remove all traces of the fork oil. Clean new pads were installed and the caliper was bolted back on the fork. The brake fluid was also flushed out of the front brake system and replaced with fresh DOT 3-brake fluid.

A positive experience.

With the Virago beginning to look a bit happier it was time to install the new (and very expensive) battery. Okay, it’s showtime! Varoom … It’s alive!! Time for a ride.

The test ride went very well for something that had sat for so many years. My only complaint, or should I say the bike’s complaint, was some spitting back through the intakes at low R.P.M. Upon inspection of this hiccup it was discovered that the valve clearances were just slightly too tight. The next day, with the engine cool enough, the clearances were brought back into spec and the second test ride proved much better, logging up 73 trouble free Kms through the Durham back roads.

Esthetically speaking of course.

A cleaned up motor is essential for a quick sale.

All that was left to do was to take care of those flaky engine covers. I’ve discovered that aerosol paint and varnish stripper works very well at removing what’s left of the original clear coat. Once this has been completely removed use a 300 wet paper to take off that dark oxidation from the aluminum surface and bring back the shine. Once you’re satisfied with the finish change to 400 and then to 600 wet paper. With a used piece of 600 paper apply a cream paste polish with a mild abrasive in it, and work it into the case cover. Then keep adding the polishing paste until a definite shine begins to be apparent.

There’s not a set time to keep polishing, you just keep at it until it looks right. Finally, using a clean soft lint free cloth begin to do the final buff, bringing it up to a highly polished shine. Now to keep that shine all pretty like, a protective coating must be applied, but before that is done the surface must be cleaned of all traces of polishing compound. Lacquer thinner works well for this job. A high gloss, high temperature clear coat can be applied to the now very shinny engine covers. To finish the job, the bike was given a good waxing and any small imperfections filled with black touch up paint.

Price Break Down:
Bike $200.00
Shock $160.00
Battery $147.00
Fork Seals $25.00
Fork Oil $10.00
Front Brake Pads $29.00
Brake Oil $8.00
Oil Filter $9.00
Oil $10.00
Spark Plugs $10.00
Certification $40.00
Manual $35.00
Total $683.00

Voila, it is done. Oh, and one more test ride just to show off. It’s what I refer to as “A” time. That’s Admiring Time.

Looks like we have a winner, the same bike in the Auto Trader recently was $1950.00 OBO.

Thanks for reading,


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