Too Drunk To Fork

“Next update may be a good few weeks away then – and before I go any further with the 750 I need to fit new tyres to the 748” – or so I wrote only a week ago. I’m such a colossal bell-end at times. Of course, after the bike ran last week I did the only sensible thing and celebrated with a G&T. Or two. And some smoky Islay single malt. And a superb Orvieto. I was obviously in just the right frame of mind to fire up a web browser and start hunting through eBay.

That’s a pair of 1999 Ducati 900SS forks. And yokes. And clip-ons. And spindle. And they turned up in my garage yesterday. Now, in my defence, they were advertised stupidly cheaply.

In Lithuania.

Postage was a non-trivial affair, at forty quid. So I chucked an offer in at £40 off the asking price, knowing that it would obviously be rejected. Next morning I woke up with a slightly muffly head, to an email saying that my offer had been accepted, and would I like to pay now? Well, as it happens, about two weeks ago I finally paid off a credit card bill that had taken three years, so yeah, why not, what’s the worst that could happen?

And then yesterday the parcel turned up (full marks to the seller by the way – they were impeccably packaged, and to turn up in less than a week was brilliant) so I pottered out to the garage to see how close they were to fitting.

The good news… The yokes look spot on. The gap between the top and bottom yoke matches the 750 frame perfectly, and the offset to the fork tubes is also, absolutely bob-on. I reckon that with some new bearings, those yokes will just fit straight in. If they don’t, it should be easy enough to press the stem out of the 750 yokes and pop it into the 900 yokes. Brilliant. And the forks – no rust that I could see, no leaks from the seals, and good damping. They are non-adjustable, but that’s OK by me, as I won’t be pushing this bike hard enough to need anything other than a change of oil and preload. Oh, actually, there’s no preload adjusters either – so some spacers may the order of the day if it needs. Anyhow, I spent a couple of hours in the garage cleaning things up, and noticed that things just didn’t seem quite perfectly in line.

No matter how much I twiddled with things, when I sighted down from the top yoke to the spindle, things just didn’t quite line up. Sometimes it would be close, then I’d tighten things up, and it would all shift again. I was starting to get an uneasy feeling…

I took the fork legs out of the yokes again, and sighted along them – everything looked fine, so I tried just bouncing each leg up and down individually. The left fork leg was perfect. The right one, however, definitely had a bit of a tight spot. I tried rotating the lower leg in the stanchion, and it immediately bound solid.

Dammit. That’s a classic case of a bent fork – if there’s a slight kink in the fork outer, it makes a tiny high spot on the inside of the tube, and it binds solid as the inner bush slides over it. With a sigh, I stripped the fork leg. I hate doing this at the best of times, as fork oil is smelly and foul stuff. And no matter how long I leave the inners to drain, I still end up with it covering my hands, the bench, my clothes and normally most of my face. Anyhow, once I’d cleaned up the fork outer, I held it to the light, and sure enough there was a high spot in there – and when I put a straight edge up the inside it showed a definite kink.

Hey ho. I’m not unduly upset. The seller really wouldn’t have noticed, as externally, there’s the slightest indent that just looks like where the lower yoke clamps. And when everything was bolted together it all looked straight at first glance. I’ve written back, seeing if I can get a couple of quid off, to go towards the purchase of another r/h fork leg, but in all honesty, I’m not too worried. I mean, when you buy things sight unseen from a breakers, stuff like this just happens.

Anyway – it’s ultimately a positive update, as it looks very much like a 900SS front end will fit quite easily, which as well as giving me a 17″ wheel, will also give me much better brakes. So yeah, all in all, it’s a Good Thing.

Right then – as soon as I confirm that the yokes will fit I’ll grab a fork leg. And then *really* the bike will take a bit of a hiatus while I concentrate on the 748 and the Dart. Oh yes, the Dart – a new rear tyre is on the cards for this, as I’ve just requested a place on the Morini owners annual trackday at Cadwell Park. I’m still getting the odd attack of the heebie-jeebies when I remember how bad the existing rear tyre was last time out there.

Plans are afoot then. And absolutely none of them involve a drunken eBay odyssey. Yet.

Postscript: I dropped a note to the seller – they refunded practically half of the purchase price. Which I think is remarkably generous.

Lux Prima

The first start of any engine after a rebuild is always a bit of a fraught time. There are any number of things that can go wrong, some of them spectacularly, but mainly just irritating things like oil leaks that need sorting out. In order to keep suspense levels down, I’ll start this update with a quick precis. The 750 Sport started first time on the button and didn’t leak anything. But I’m getting ahead of myself… Let’s take a bit of time to run through what needed doing to get to this auspicious point in the project.

Last time out, the bike was on its wheels, with electrics (mostly) present and correct. There were obvious things that hadn’t been done (charging system, clutch etc.) but they could wait. Fuel and exhausts were the next things on the list. I pulled the old fuel hose out of the box, and it was obvious that it was never going to go back on the bike, as it was completely rigid. A bit of Tygon hose was therefore ordered, along with an 8mm T-piece, and a Dell’orto 120 main jet to make up the return branch of the system.

The jet is there it act as a restrictor in the return branch, to ensure that adequate fuel pressure makes it to the carbs. This was simply soldered into the T-piece:

The hose was then cut to the right length (actually it’s still a bit long in places, but it’s easier to cut bits off than add them back on again) and put together on the bench.

I know that Tygon hose is a bit expensive, but really it’s so nice to work with and lasts so well that it’s money well spent. As for fitting a brass, rather than plastic T-piece, there were good engineering reasons for doing so in that I could solder the jet into it. But mainly I went for brass because it’s so shiny. The fuel tap was then fitted to the underside of the tank, and the tank was dropped onto the bike. Of course it didn’t fit. The fuel tap was now hitting the gas valve on the rear shock – which was easily fixed by removing the shock and rotating it 180 degrees before refitting it. This was made a thousand times easier by the simple act of having an Abbastand to lift the bike by the swingarm pivot, rather than having to arse around with axle stands. With the tank now fitted and plumbed in, attention could turn to the exhausts.

Again, I pushed the boat out slightly here by ordering stainless steel studs and copper nuts – hopefully they should last more than 12 minutes before seizing solid. And really, that’s the most interesting thing to say about the exhausts. They just kind of bolted on with no drama at all.

Oil was dropped into the right hole (Motul 5000 – not the poshest oil in the world, but perfectly adequate for a low-revving twin) and I was deeply happy to note that it all stayed in the engine, with none of it decorating the garage floor when I turned the engine over on the starter motor to build up oil pressure. I’d pulled the battery out of the teeny Morini to do this, and it was really only just about up to the job. Once I’d determined that yes, the oil pressure light was going out after a few seconds on the starter I disconnected it and stuck it back on charge. I then robbed the battery out of the 748 and quickly realised that not only was it a much stronger battery, but it also was the perfect size to fit the 750. I have no idea why I didn’t pull this one out first.

All I needed to do, then, was to add fuel and press the starter button. But, that had to wait a couple of days. I’d promised James that he’d be on hand to witness the first attempt at starting, and so this morning he bounced into the garage with 5 litres of super unleaded and a big smile. And a bacon sandwich. The fuel was dumped into the tank, and I hesitantly switched the ignition on. I was fully expecting fuel to start leaking from every orifice once the pump was running, but no, it all stayed where it should have. I handed the fire extinguisher to James, and pressed the starter button…

…nothing doing. After a few seconds churning the motor, I remembered that I’d disconnected the plug leads earlier when I was turning the motor over to build up oil pressure. I popped the plug leads back on, pulled the choke cable, and pressed the starter button again…

Yeah, you can tell by the look on my face just how surprised I was. It started easily, and ran smoothly. We retired to the kitchen for a cup of tea to celebrate.

After the fifth cup, I wandered back out to the garage to run the bike a bit longer to get some temperature in it, and while the tickover was certainly a bit lumpy, once it had ran for five minutes or so it was perfectly happy to idle with the choke off.

I had another cup of tea to celebrate. And ponder the next steps. I already knew that the bike would be coming apart again immediately after the test run, but I need to determine just how far to go at this stage. The original plan was to strip things all the way back, and get everything repainted and make a proper job of it – but if I do that, I’ll not be able to ride the thing this year. So I think a compromise is in order… I’m going to pop some 17″ wheels in there to make it useable, rebuild all the electrics properly, get the shock serviced, and just ride the thing. Even this won’t be cheap – but it’s going to make it at least (hopefully) affordable.

Next update may be a good few weeks away then – and before I go any further with the 750 I need to fit new tyres to the 748, and change the oil and filter ready for when the weather breaks and we finally get a sunny day. But for now, things are very much progressing to plan in my pink and fluffy little world.

Waiting for the Great Leap Forward

Fits and starts. That’s been kind of the theme of the past couple of weeks in the garage -things have progressed in fits and starts, and I’ve been very much operating in the same way the rest of the time. I think it’s pretty well known that I really suffer at this time of year with my mood. And while I’ve made huge strides over the past few months with my mental health, well, right now if I’m honest it can be a bit of a struggle on occasion. However, if the past eight or nine months have taught me anything it’s that I need to ask for help when I need it. And at the mo, other than needing to borrow a proper impact wrench, everything is going OK. But enough about me – you’re no doubt here to read about The Buffoon’s Guide To Ducati Restoration, right?

As we left things, electrics had mostly been hooked up, and mostly worked. To finish the job for now, I spent a fair bit of time just going around cleaning up connectors, re-routing wires, and giving things a good tidy-up. I paid particular attention to the high-current connectors around the starter solenoid and on the starter motor. They were all reasonably corroded and just, well, dull. A good bit of polishing with the trusty Dremel will give them the best chance of allowing enough angry pixies through to churn the big turd of a motor into life. I also took a good look at the TZR250 headlight unit mentioned last time out:

I’m calling that a win. It’s not perfect, but it’s close enough. It’s not going to be fitted yet – there’s a long way to go before we get anywhere near that. But it’s nice to know that I may have dodged a bullet with this rebuild. And if you’re reading this Pete, I’ll throw some cash at you as soon as I’ve been paid! Thanks mate – you’re definitely on the list of test pilots once I get this thing finished.

So with the electrics kind of sorted out for now (well, enough to give the engine a test run anyway) attention turned to the fuel system. Right away, it was obvious that the fuel hoses had ossified some years ago, so they were chucked into the bin, and some Tygon hose and assorted T-pieces and fittings have been added to the shopping list. The inlet stubs were bolted on with the bodge-tastic cardboard gaskets, and the carbs then mounted. This is a dreadfully out of focus pic, but gives you an idea of how they mount:

This was actually a bit of an awkward job, but nothing compared to what was to come… The airbox. What an absolute git of a job! I’m really unsure if I was doing something wrong here, but it took a good two hours to get the airbox fitted, and involved grinding down of sockets to fit, and trying to hold nuts in place with my magnet on a stick just to give me a chance. One of the most awkward things I’ve ever had to do in my time rebuilding shite old bikes. And then I went to fit the choke and throttle cables. And realised that the airbox had to come off again. I swore, in at least four languages. I possibly threw a spanner across the garage. I definitely sought solace in tea. However, another couple of hours had the cables fitted and the bloody airbox bolted back on again. And having done that, it was a definite moment for the bike. The first thing that I do whenever I get on a bike, or just wheel it into the garage, is to wind the throttle open a bit and let it snap shut. And then do it again. There’s something wonderfully tactile about it – it’s the moment that a bike goes from being just a big heavy lump into something that possesses latent energy.

I decided at this point to take a look at the chain adjusters:

As I’m not sure whether I’ll be keeping these, with the move to a 17″ rear wheel, I kind of just hacked around at them for 10 minutes before losing enthusiasm and throwing them back in the box. I did, however, remove the threaded rod from the r/h block shown above. I just couldn’t work out what was going on, as it would turn freely, but not unscrew. So I hacked into it with a series of drills:

Oh for heavens sakes. What were Ducati thinking when they built these? If it needs spelling out, they actually cast the adjuster around a bolt. So when the thread on the bolt gets badgered (as this one obviously had) you need to throw it away and buy a new one. Only of course they’re not made any more. So if I’m to reuse these, I’ll need to get the lump filled with weld, and then drill and tap it, and probably throw a timesert or something in there to reinforce the thread a bit. On discovering this I made a proper job of burying them deeply back in the box of things to ignore until the last minute.

I did, however, need to get the bike down off the bench – and I couldn’t very well leave it sitting on its sump if I wanted to fit the exhausts:

Cor! I reckon those wheels look bloody lovely – but they won’t be staying. It’s only up on these wheels for now to make it easier to move around the garage, and to enable me to bolt the exhausts on. I did throw the tank on for 10 minutes just to check that the fuel pump works, and yes, there was definitely a wheezy old groaning noise that came from the pump when I powered it up, so that bodes well. I put the tank back up in the loft, and wheeled the bike back into the garage.

And there it needs to stay for a while. While I’m tantalisingly close to being able to give it a test run, I have a bit of a shopping list (fuel hose, exhaust studs, oil filter etc.) and, well, I’m just a bit skint at the moment. No matter – it’ll just make the moment all the sweeter when it comes! I did spend a few quid on some adaptors for my abbastand to enable me to get the wheels in and out a lot more easily in future – and they really couldn’t have been more helpful if they’d tried. Unsurprisingly they don’t list the 750 Sport in their list of fitments but after a couple of photos back and forwards it was determined that I needed some 20mm pins. These arrived in the post the next day and indeed, fit just perfectly.

So it’s a time for hibernation now. In my quest to see if the engine will run, everything fits, now we just need to see if it starts.

Totally Wired

“…the engine is then ready to fit into the frame, and the next stage of the build begins – plumbing in all the ancillary systems to allow the engine to run. But that’s months away yet.” – so I wrote only a week or so back. However, the more I thought about things, the more I realised that whichever way I turned, a non-trivial bill is on the cards. I can either complete the engine work with the stator rewind, or get the frame repainted ready to accept the refreshed engine. I also mentioned that I’d need some extra tools to finish bolting the heads down but these actually didn’t cost as much as anticipated, so they fell into this months budget easily enough. With the heads now torqued down to spec, I was forced into a decision… do I rewind the stator, or sort out the frame? Or the third way – throw it all together and see if it runs before spending any more than is absolutely necessary. After all, I mean there’s no point in having a fully functioning charging system if there’s no ability for the engine to turn it, is there? And while I’m cash poor at the mo, time is very definitely on my side as I have holiday to burn before the end of the year (which is why I’m typing this up on a Monday afternoon rather than working). The decision was made then. I’d throw things back together, and see if the engine runs. If it does, I’ll tear it all apart again to get the frame painted and sort the stator.

First step – hoik the frame back up onto the workbench:

Given that this didn’t involve any mechanical skill or knowledge, it’s unsurprising that it went well enough. With a bit of shuffling of bolts and spacers, the frame was dropped over the engine, and the mounting bolts were tightened:

Of course, there is a recommended torque setting in the manual for these bolts but given as the engine will be coming out again whether it runs or not, I didn’t worry too much about getting things just right. What I did need to worry about however was how I was going to support this lot when I tried starting the engine. The obvious answer was paddock stands, so it was a straightforward enough job to fit the swinging arm and forks:

The forks, most definitely will not be staying in there. As previously mentioned, I’m going to be replacing the wheels with 17″ ones as soon as I can, and given the state of those fork legs there’s no way I’m going to pony up £200 to have them rechromed when I can buy an entire front end from a 600SS for similar money. The other thing that suddenly occurred to me at about this point was how on earth I was going to get the damn thing off the workbench. Luckily I know some fairly beefy rugby players who can normally be tempted into offering brawn if they get beer in return.

Of course, having the engine in the frame is only the very beginning of things. I need to get fuel into the engine, add a spark at the right time, and extract the burnt gases if I want to hear this thing actually run. The exhaust will be the easy bit of this process, as it’s just bolting the pipes up. The fuelling *should* be similarly straightforward. There’s no reason to imagine that the carb settings have been twatted about with so much as to render them inoperative, so hopefully I’ll just be able to bolt them up, and throw some fuel in there. I did spend a productive 30 minutes cutting some new gaskets from cardboard for the inlet stubs before bolting them to the heads. Again, this is temporary – when (if!) the thing goes together permanently I’ll be fitting some new studs in there to do a proper job. Electrics, then, are where the major stopping point will be then I reckon. Only one thing for it – lay the harness up on the bike, and see what bits were missing/badgered beyond redemption. Straight away the reg/rec threw up horror #1:

I think, under normal circumstances I’d just say to replace this with a more modern MOSFET unit. However, as we don’t yet have a stator to throw AC into the unit to get DC out, I’m not worried about this yet. When the time comes I’ll be having a really good look at this, and measuring resistances to see if the unit is still operational. I’m not that hopeful if I’m honest – given the condition of the stator I’m tempted to think that this has already failed, and that’s what caused the stator carnage.

Right then, let’s plop the harness down on the bike and see where it goes:

The Ducatisti among you will notice straight away that I’ve routed the harness incorrectly. It should go straight down the left hand side of the frame rather than the way it naturally fell. There is nothing in the workshop manual at all to give you a clue on harness routing, so I had a 50/50 chance and got it completely wrong. Not to worry – it wasn’t a big job to reroute things:

That’s better – if nothing else, the location of the main earthing point suddenly made sense, even if the wiring diagram didn’t. With the loom in place, I could start connecting bits I could identify. The horn was probably the easiest place to start, followed by the coils. The coils I have are mismatched, and I’m not sure if I’ve connected up the inputs correctly (again, there’s a 50/50 chance that I’ll be firing the horizontal cylinder just as the vertical one reaches TDC…) but I’ll find that out when time comes to press the Big Red Button. Handlebar switches were next and again, the connector for the kill switch has been horrifically bodged. If the thing runs I’ll be replacing that too. Ignition barrel, instruments, and neutral switch were then connected up, fingers crossed, and with the fire extinguisher on hand, 12V was applied to the battery leads:

Holy carp! First time. Neutral indicator is on, oil pressure light is on [1], headlight indicator is on. And when I pressed the passing switch, the high beam indicator flashed a healthy blue. The horn doesn’t work, of course, but if that’s the only other electrical casualty alongside the charging system I’ll be completely gobsmacked.

The headlight needs a mention – when the box(es) of bits turned up, it was missing. And original headlights for the 750 Sport are no longer available and vanishingly rare s/hand. I did the only sensible thing in the circumstances and had a good ponder. And the more I looked at the aperture, the more it reminded me of my old TZR250s… A quick email to the marvellous chaps at the YPMRC asking for some measurements indicated that yes, a TZR250 headlight was about the right size, and would I like one to be put in the post to try it for size? I didn’t need asking twice! And this morning a box turned up with a headlamp unit inside from the super Pete Fishwick – thanks mate – I owe you beer. It looks very much like it’s going to fit. And that will be just brilliant – having a bit of TZR250 on this bike will only make it even more special.

It’s really been a productive few days then! I still need to wire in the starter motor and plumb in the fuel and exhaust systems. And even then I’m sure there will be plenty of debugging before the thing attempts to run. But it’s a rather exciting time for the project. If it runs, brilliant, I have a viable bike on my hands. If it doesn’t? I’m not sure yet. Mechanically, I can’t see a reason it won’t run. And if there’s an electrical problem, well that’s just par for the course and I enjoy poking around with a multimeter and soldering iron. If the carbs are up the swannee I’m really going to be in uncharted territory. The carbs on this bike are like nothing I’ve seen before and it’s a reasonably common mod to replace them with 39mm Mikunis to make them easier to set up. Still – no point in worrying about this right now until I’ve at least given it a whizz with the stock carbs.

Postscript: Five minutes after posting this, I cleaned up some connectors and was rewarded with a very loud parp from the horn.

[1] I’ve just realised that it’s resolutely off in that photo. Not to worry – when I grounded the sensor wire it very definitely was on, so I know that circuit works.

The Turning of Our Bones

It’s been a fairly busy few days out in the garage recently, what with one thing and another. I suspect that a lot of this is due to the weather – it’s been foul. So whereas I might have popped out for a ride, or a walk, or just to potter around The Fens for a bit, I’ve been spending a bit more time in the garage than usual. And this led to one of my more stupid ideas… As we left things last time, I had popped the pistons back on the rods of the 750, and then walked away from it as I needed to save a few bob for a set of piston ring compressors in order to fit the barrels. However, a few days back I was out in the garage with a cup of coffee when it occurred to me that the coffee I drink comes in cans, which are a little bit bigger than the 750 pistons. With a bit of imagination, I reckoned I could bodge together a home made ring compressor. First job then, was to cut a slice out of a spare can:

The duct tape is on there purely so I could keep a straight line with the Dremel as I was cutting around. It also made things the right kind of size, so I just engaged my inner Zen Mechanic, and went with the way things naturally guided me. I then dropped the whole thing on the belt sander to take the sharp edges off. I know that buying a belt sander for my shed was a bit of an extravagance, but it’s been hugely useful for all sorts of things. Highly recommended if you don’t have one. You can see that I also turned the ends out 90(ish) degrees, as I was thinking of drilling and bolting the thing closed, but as it turned out, there wasn’t enough material to work with. Again, time to engage the inner Zen, and just go with what was on offer. If I flattened the ends again, I could wrap the strip around the piston with about an 8mm or so overlap.

I wrapped a cable tie around the top to keep things together, and then realised that if I just lowered the barrel down, it would push the cable tie out of the way and everything would be just perfect.

Of course, it didn’t work. So I did what I should have done in the first place, and had a cup of tea and a proper think, rather than a coffee-fuelled bonanza of wishful thinking. I also fired off a question to my mates on the Ixion mailing list. Within five minutes, the answer came back. More cable ties. Of course! When duct tape isn’t enough, throw cable ties at the problem! So I wrapped another cable tie around the thing, and tried again.

A minute later, the barrel slipped down over the piston, I cut the cable ties off, and dropped the barrel down onto the case. And then remembered the base gaskets still sitting in the box from Stein-Dinse on the shelf. Bollocks. No matter – I just pulled the barrel off, lowered the new base gasket (and the vital oil gallery o-ring) into place, and repeated the procedure. I was getting quite the dab hand at things by now, so I thought I’d have a go at the horizontal cylinder too. And this one just dropped straight into place in a marvellously satisfying manner.

I gave the bores a good coating of oil, and turned the crank through 360 degrees. Everything moved smoothly, and there were no unexpected noises or resistance to the smooth rotation. Blimey. Flushed with the success of saving 20 quid on a set of ring compressors, I immediately went out and spent 60 quid on new cam belts. And another 30 with the marvellous chaps at Cambridge Motorcycles to dig out the snapped exhaust stud. I’m such a bell-end at times. However, the belts, were in themselves a brilliant story. When I changed the 748 belts a few weeks back, I looked around, and a few of my Ducati owning friends recommended ExactFit. I placed the order, things turned up in really quick time and fitted perfectly. Lovely. This time around though, I wasn’t 100% sure of exactly what was needed, so I counted the teeth on the old belts, and fired off an email to ExactFit to see if they had anything to suit, and if by any chance they also had some tensioner bearings. At 10 o’clock at night. Within five minutes, Stu @ ExactFit had got back to me to check whether they were round profile or square profile, and to confirm that he’d made a change to their website so I could place an order. I did so, and 10 minutes later I got a confirmation, and another mail to say that there had been a bit of a mistake with the pricing on the website, and that they would refund the difference first thing in the morning, which is exactly what happened. And two days later, the belts and bearings turned up. The new bearings were pressed onto the tensioners without any trouble.

What brilliant service – honestly, it’s easy to complain about bad service, so it’s really nice to be able to report on some truly exceptional service. I honestly look forward to whatever I need to buy from them next. Right then, on with the build. With the head now stripped of the snapped stud, it was time to fit new o-rings, and loosely bolt the heads in place.

You’ll notice there’s no mention of new head gaskets. That’s because the 750 doesn’t have any. So I made sure that I cleaned things up as much as possible with one of those little chimney-sweep brush thingies in the trusty Dremel before bolting it all together. You’ll also notice that I chose not to repaint the heads at this point. The reason is simple – until I’m sure this is going to run, I don’t want to invest too much in the cosmetics. And while I’m happy to paint the cases with some PJ1, the heads, I think will need to be treated a lot more seriously, with blasting and proper high-temperature paint and two-pack lacquer. Absolutely none of which I can do at home. I did, however, spend a few hours with a selection of wire brushes cleaning off the valve covers and cam caps. Even if I don’t repaint the heads, I can repaint these bits to give it a (thin) veneer of respectability.

And finally, before leaving things for the next chapter, I needed to make the engine safe. Now that the heads are on, I wanted to re-fit the old belts temporarily and time the cams, to make sure that I wouldn’t have a senior moment and turn the engine over with the valves open.

Of course I couldn’t resist just turning the engine over by hand, and I’m pleased to report that the old lump turned over just perfectly for the first time in many years, and there were no unexpected noises. Everything turned over smoothly and easily, and after a couple of revolutions, all the timing marks still lined up perfectly.

I’m just beginning to think that this might be a viable project now. There’s still obviously a really long way to go. But once I get the heads torqued down properly (of course, being a Ducati, I need a special tool to get to the head bolts. But before I can do that, I need to remove the plastic guard behind the cam pulleys, and of course, I need a special tool to lock the pulley and undo the stupid nut) the engine is then ready to fit into the frame, and the next stage of the build begins – plumbing in all the ancillary systems to allow the engine to run. But that’s months away yet. There will be many more cups of tea in the garage, and the turning of the seasons to enjoy. What a brilliant project. Thanks James.

A Case of You [1]

One of the downsides of trying to revive an old bike that wasn’t that popular even when new is that of spares availability. Since I started on the odyssey of the Morini re-commission (which I really should write about again soon. Both parts of that story have come on a long way since the last time I wrote) and then ventured into Ducati World with the 750 Sport I’ve often found myself cross referencing Ducati part numbers, trying to find crank shims and suchlike. For the most part, the super chaps at Mdina Italia have been brilliant, turning up odd stuff, and delivering it super quickly. But as we left things last time, I needed to order a few gaskets and seals (proper gaskets this time, not just a tube of ThreeBond) and I just couldn’t find anyone in the UK to get them from. One of the parts in particular (an obscure circlip type thingie for the clutch slave piston) seems to be only obtainable from Australia. Now, I don’t want to get all Greta Thunberg here, but I already feel pretty guilty about prolonging the life of petrol vehicles and just riding them for fun. I really can’t justify flying a small envelope halfway around the world to allow me to continue doing this. So, that piece of the puzzle stays on hold for a while until I can find something closer to home. However, the gasket problem just wasn’t going to sort itself out, so I cast my net a little wider and found the website of Stein-Dinse. A quick search showed that they had the majority of the bits I needed, and one of those really genuinely useful websites that guides you to the right part if the one you’re looking for is superseded. Their reputation for ruthless efficiency was firmly reinforced when three days later, a large box turned up with gaskets, circlips, and o-rings inside.

Where to start then? Circlips seemed like a good idea, as I hate wrestling with the little twats, and I normally end up pinging at least three of them across the garage floor. And true to form, there was a lot of swearing and grunting, but eventually both pistons were fitted to the rods (and yes, I did check that they were the right way around! If you get it wrong, the inlet valve hits the top of the piston with predictable results on the wallet). While I was monkeying with the pistons I took the chance to inspect the rings, and clean up the ring beds. It’s safe to say that really, I could do with replacing both sets of rings as a matter of course, but at £100 a piston, I’m going to put these ones back in there until I’m at least sure that the engine runs.

Next up then, the clutch cover. Last time out I’d fitted the inner cover and the basket, but stopped there until I’d investigated the rest of the clutch. I’ll start with the good news:

Phwoooaaar. I reckon that looks pretty good actually. Yes, if I’d had a few more quid in the budget I’d have replaced the sight glass, but I don’t, and that’s all there is to it. But with the clutch outer cover fitted, I think that’s looking pretty tidy. All is not so tidy inside though. The friction plates are in spec (but need a good cleanup), while the steels are looking very scorched and abused. Again, they measure up in spec so I’ll be rubbing them on a flat plate of wet&dry to scuff the surfaces up a bit and see if things are recoverable. Hopefully so, as clutch plates are the only things that make piston rings look cheap in a Ducati rebuild. The slave cylinder is cast into the outer cover, which at first glance seems like a lovely elegant solution, but it means that when things go wrong (and parts are no longer available…) it’s a pain to rebuild. The piston I have is pretty corroded but probably recoverable, but I’m missing a little seal and circlip which as mentioned are only available from Aus, as far as I can see. It’s also possible to buy a complete piston assembly (which is absurdly complex) but these actually make the clutch plates look cheap. So, there’s a good deal of tea drinking to be done while I ponder this. And to be fair, I won’t bother until I know the engine runs. Again, there’s no point in spending £400 rebuilding a clutch if there’s never going to be anything to drive it with.

Onto the other side then, and the alternator cover:

Again, cor! That looks pretty OK. It needs to be said that at this point, the cover is only on there temporarily as the stator still needs rewinding. This months budget was spent on MOTing the 748, so that will just have to wait for another month. And again, as with the clutch, I can test the running of the engine before investing in this. So while I seem to be building up a pile of technical debt, there are a few things that need to be paid in advance of the engine running. Static timing and pickup air-gap being two of those things, so a happy hour was spent in the garage with the workshop manual and a set of feeler gauges setting these as accurately as I could. The case was plopped on, and that, at least for now, completes the bottom end. Oh, worth mentioning that the starter motor was also fitted, but that was so dull that taking photos would be completely unnecessary. Expect the starter motor, then, to fail immediately as it gets all upset about not having a photo opportunity and a glowing write-up. The eagle-eyed among you will now be thinking “ah! But how will you turn the motor over to check the cam timing now?” Fear not, dear reader. There is, of course, a very expensive Ducati tool that fits into the slots revealed when you remove that little cover plate in the centre of the cover shown above. Of course then, I’ve decided to bodge my way around it with an M8 Allen bolt and a locknut:

(I really should invest in a camera. There’s at least one ruinously out of focus photo every post it seems).

Or I could just whizz the cam drive pulley around, but that’s probably frowned upon for some reason. Anyhow – in with the box from Stein-Dinse was a pair of base gaskets, and with the pistons now fitted, the next step is to fit the barrels. That, however, needs to wait for another month or so, as I need to invest in a set of piston ring compressors to get the barrels to plop down over the pistons. Give me a TZ250 any day – with a single ring this was always easy enough to do with my fingers. The Ducati, however, has resisted all efforts to fandangle the barrels over the rings manually, so I need to buy the right tool for the job.

That’s it for now – all cases are fitted, and the bottom end is all back together with new gaskets and seals and everything measured up as accurately as I can get it. Clutch and stator [2] both need work and a not inconsequential amount of cash throwing at them, so they can wait until I’m sure that this engine will run. Barrels are ready to drop back on, and I have the small matter of that snapped off exhaust stud to deal with before I can put the heads on. I’ll also give the heads a good clean up before they go back on, as they currently let the side down somewhat. I’m probably going to hibernate now for a month or two so I can let the bank balance recover a little, but I’ll continue to do little bits and pieces as and when I can. The barrels will definitely go on in the coming weeks, but I think that’s going to be it for a little while. I might take the brave pill and use this time to dive into the wiring loom. I mean, how bad can it be?

[1] I’ve always had a bit of a blank spot for Joni Mitchell. I’m not really sure why, as her songs are heartbreakingly beautifully written and performed. But, for whatever reason, just not my cup of tea I’m afraid. Still, if we all liked the same things, life would be pretty dull, right?

[2] The lesser known and not as commercially successful rivals to Chase and Status.

Movin’ On Up

Lots of pictures for this update I reckon, as they always seem to be popular. (I’m not surprised, given the quality of the words). Construction of the 750 engine has been coming on apace, and I’ve been going through that hugely enjoyable phase of just pulling bits out of boxes, cleaning them up, and bolting them on. I’ve had to spend a few pounds on new oil seals and o-rings here and there, but really, nothing to write home about. As we left things last time, I’d just dropped the crankcases together around the gearbox and crank, and everything fell into place just nicely. I walked away from things for a few days at this point, so I could get on with life and finish off a few other chores that needed doing. Oh, and I also repatriated the teeny-Morini and went out for a couple of rides. I genuinely do love that bike more than is healthy or necessary, and really need to write more about it. But for now, let’s carry on with the 750 Sport.

Engine then. Now that the cases were together, it was time to look at the bits that bolt on the sides. The cam drive gear slipped over the end of the cam drive, located in place with a woodruff key. Of course, the manual tells you to replace this every seventeen seconds or whatever. To my eye it looked about right, so I wodged it all back together and torqued the nut on the end. A quick hit with the hammer to bend over the locking washer, and that was the first bit done. Over to the other side of the engine now, so I could put the pulleys on the other end of the shaft and get on with the oil pump and primary drive:

Again, the cam pulleys needed to be slipped over some keys, and then that awful socket affair needed tightening. Why do manufacturers do this? I mean, a big 22mm or so nut would have done just fine. But no, Ducati have to go and make something that needs a special Ducati tool to tighten or loosen. I took the sweary route and attacked an old socket with a slitting disc to make something that just about worked. Well, it worked well enough to tighten it up to the correct torque, and that’s good enough for me. The oil pump was measured up, and then fitted with new o-rings, and that’s really about it for this side of the engine. Next step is to refit the cover, and although I’ve fitted the necessary seals:

I still need to buy the gasket, and that’s going to have to wait for next months exciting budget instalment. Right then, so that’s the right side of the engine about as far as I can go, so let’s spin the thing around, and have a look at the alternator side. First things first, plop the crank support bearing into the cover:

That was easy enough – again, pop the case in the oven for 30 mins and the bearing in the freezer, and it pretty much drops in with just a light twatting with the hammer. Next step, therefore, would normally be to fit the stator into the case, but here we hit the first major stumbling block with the rebuild:

That’s given me a couple of options. Somewhat surprisingly, these stators seem to still be available. However, there seems to be a bit of a changeover in design happening at around this time in the Ducati factory and so while a unit is advertised as fitting a 1990 750 Sport, when I look at the pictures, it’s completely different. However, a quick note to Westcountry Windings (I’m not sure how Essex counts as the West country, unless you live in Lowestoft) elicited a very quick response that yes, they could rewind this one, with better quality materials, for less than the cost of a replacement. That’s that sorted then. But again, as with the previous gasket, this needs to wait for the next instalment of pocket money. Right then, what else can I do on this side of the motor? Or course, the rotor and flywheel:

Oh, and of course, the gear linkage and ignition pickups. The gear linkage fitted easily, and a few quick tweaks while I grappled with the input shaft had it running up and down the gearbox with no problems at all. The ignition pickups needed re-insulating. The old insulation was frayed and nasty, and so it was a simple task to re-wrap it all in Tesa tape, and heatshrink the bits that needed it. You can see the result in the above photo, but here’s what it looked like to start with:

And again, I can’t pop the case on yet as I need a gasket. I know that I *could* just put both cases on with a smear of ThreeBond (heck if it’s good enough for the crankcase centreline it should be good enough for the outer cases) but as I’m resigned to having to take them off a few times I’ll be fitting a proper gasket with a bit of grease to make it easier to separate the covers when the time comes.

That, then, marks the end of the work I can do on the bottom end of the engine. Time to move on up to the barrels and heads then, and have a look and see what we have. I think I’ve already shown a picture of one of the heads, and so it will come as no surprise that the heads, then, need a lot of work to make them look nice again:

And irritatingly, a snapped stud to deal with:

That’s not the end of the world though, and I reckon there’s enough left there to be able to weld a nut on the end of it and wind it out. Hopefully it won’t cause too much trouble. I’m actually in half a mind to take both heads down to Cambridge Motorcycles to let Spike do his magic on them, as there’s no way of knowing just how buried in there they are. And I’m 100 times more likely to snap another one than Spike is, as he’s done this many times more than me! Dunno. Anyhow, the heads, then, need work. The barrels?

They look just fine to me! So they’re going straight back on there. I will, at some point, replace the static tensioner pulleys. Before I do that though, I’d at least like to check that the thing runs, as they’re not that cheap, and they’ll be just fine for the first few test runs. Just for fun, I thought I’d throw the heads on there too, just to see what the motor will look like when fully built up:

Holy carp, it’s a properly big unit, and no mistake. I reckon that’s going to need two people to move it around the garage, and it makes the TRX850 motor look positively tiny. I suspect it weighs a bit more than the TRX too. Last thing to check on the top end(s) were the pistons, and it’s not all great news:

There’s a corresponding mark on the barrel too – but it’s not so deep as to be a scratch, just a mark. I’ll get the barrel re-honed I think, and the piston, I’ll clean it all up and see how I feel about it further down the line. For now I don’t think that it’s serious enough to worry about too much. Besides, remember what I said earlier about budget? I think that new pistons will require about six months worth of saving. I don’t want to even think about that right now, as one of the upcoming episodes will feature the clutch rebuild, and that’s looking like another non-trivial expense.

And that’s everything right up to date really. Once I get the remaining gaskets and the stator rewound, I’ll be able to finish off the bottom end properly. The heads obviously need work. I did think about getting them blasted and recoated professionally, but I don’t think that I really need to go to all that trouble, nice as the result would be. No, rather, I’ll spend a few hours with a selection of bristle discs to clean things up as best I can, and give it a once over with some high-temperature paint. Hopefully that’ll work out OK. We’ll see. And then once the heads are on, it’s time to fit the belts and turn the whole lot over. Gulp. All in all though, I’m dead happy with the way that things are turning out so far. I don’t think it’s going to be *that* long before I can fit the engine into the frame. And then I need to have a proper re-think about where I’m working on this lot as there’s no way I can fit it into the garage in its current state.

Reelin’ In The Gears

I guess it’s time for an update – I’ve been a bit lazy about writing anything for a few weeks, purely because I’ve been doing what exactly what I said I was going to be doing. Making time to enjoy myself, and catching up with old friends. And it’s been utterly lovely to do so. I mentioned as part of the Morini rebuild series that I’d been struggling a bit (well, a lot, if I’m really honest with myself) with the part of me that wanted to plan for the future rather than enjoy the present. And although it’s taken a conscious effort for me to do so, I’ve now got to a place in life where I’m a lot happier than I was six months ago purely by dint of the fact that I’m getting out more, seeing more friends, and taking time to enjoy that.

As we left things last I’d been delving into the 750 engine, and getting everything ready for reassembly. The bearings were ordered, and there was a bit of a tease about another new arrival in the garage. I’ll get the new arrival out of the way first, as it is rather exciting:

It is, of course, a Ducati 748. I’ve lusted after one since I first rode one (a beautifully prepared 748R, at Brands Hatch), and having ridden a few since then, that desire never went away. Only they were always just out of reach financially. Close, but no cigar. But then the planets aligned, and Good Things Happened, and the 748 above was delivered to my garage a couple of weeks ago. It’s beautiful, of course. One owner from new (thanks for looking after it so well Alan!) and meticulously cared for. The only thing I needed to do was replace the belts just as a matter of course. Which I did a couple of days ago, so some time this week if I can get the time off work I’ll be phoning up for an MOT slot and realising a 20yr ambition to ride a bright red Ducati. Well, not just a bright red Ducati, *my* bright red Ducati. I’m not a person who gets carried away with material possessions, but crikey, I’m very much enjoying having this in the garage. (Which is, of course, secured and alarmed – just in case anyone gets any ideas).

Right then, that’s the new arrival out of the way, so let’s get back to the 750 Sport project. The aforementioned bearings turned up as expected and were quickly pressed into the cases:

This required a baking of the cases in the oven for a good 30 mins at 150C, and wodging the bearings into the freezer. This was remarkably easy in fact, the bearings went in with a little tappity-tap-tap from the small hammer, and once the cases had cooled (which took far longer than I’d anticipated as my burned forearms will bear testimony to) everything was checked for free movement, and given a slathering in engine oil to keep it all nicely lubricated while I slotted the shafts into place:

This was also surprisingly straightforward. I was expecting there to be all sorts of cursing and swearing as I got everything lined up just so, and it all went to cock when I lowered the other case on, but that just never happened. I think the most complex bit was getting the shift forks to fit just so into the gearshafts but even that took no more than about five minutes. The more I work on this motor, the more I understand why people just like Ducatis. It really is a beautifully designed piece of work, and everything just slots together nicely and easily. I think the only other thing of note was that I used the original 750 gearbox input shaft rather than the one from the 600SS gearbox as it just looked to be in better shape. Then, with a whiff of ThreeBond on the mating surfaces, the cases slipped together with a lovely satisfying ‘thwop’ kind of noise:

Bolts were torqued, everything turned freely, endfloat was measured again just to be sure, but I think that this is it. The bottom end is back together for keeps. Well, until it throws a rod, at any rate. Since that photo was taken, the cam drive pulleys and gear, oil pump, and starter idler gear have all been fitted – this involved the purchase of some new oil seals but as they cost about fifteen quid all in I’m just calling that part of the ongoing price of keeping me occupied, rather than a large lump in the rebuild budget.

Talking of budget, I think it’s worthwhile to talk about plans for this bike, and how the rebuild is being approached. This is a rare bike – something like 1300 were produced. That’s it. And I have no clue how many survived, but I’ve never seen one on the road. As such I think it’s worth taking the time to do this properly. However – I also want to *use* this bike, and the 16″ wheels limit tyre choice so much as to make that almost impossible. I can find one manufacturer of tyres to fit (Shinko) and I have no clue how good they are. Far more sensible then to fit some 17″ wheels from a 750SS – and if I’m going to do that, I’ll also fit some forks from the same bike. My forks are in need of a lot of restoration, and for the price I can pick up a set of 750SS forks which will a) make it easier to mount the 17″ wheel, but also b) just be a lot better. I’m going to keep the original parts, and any modifications I make will be reversible. But this is going to be a bike to use rather than look at, so I feel this is the right course of action.

But all of that is a long way away yet. The engine still needs a lot of work. Firstly, the clutch needs sorting out. This is going to be a challenge due to the integrated case/slave cylinder arrangement. The piston has rusted beyond salvation so I’ll be looking to replace that which will be a couple of months away due to the cost. The stator needs rewiring, or more likely, replacing. And the clutch pack itself seems to be missing a few plates and the ones that are there look to be quite badly worn. A quick bit of mental arithmetic then makes that about £500 to get the bottom end back together from here. And then we get to the barrels and heads:

Looking on the bright side, the valve gear all looks to be just fine and my preliminary investigations would tend to show that the valve clearances are inexplicably just about bob-on. I can only think that someone had just had this lot shimmed up before it was taken off the road, or I’ve just got lucky. I may be buying a lottery ticket this weekend though, to firstly make the most of this run of luck but also to try to pay for the aforementioned bottom end rebuild. But it’s safe to say that there’s a lot of work to go into the barrels and heads before they get refitted, and that’s just not going to get started until I get the bottom end fully back together.

If all this sounds like me just moaning that there’s a lot of work to do, let me be absolutely clear on this: I couldn’t be happier. I’m still pinching myself to remind me that this is the second Ducati in the garage, and more than that, it was a gift. But also, I love this kind of work. It’s therapeutic, and remember what I said at the start about enjoying the present rather than worrying about the future? Well, it’s also crucial to have plans and ambitions. So while I’m enjoying myself hugely pottering around in the garage with feeler gauges and torque wrenches, I’m also having a brilliant time chatting with friends about the choice to run 17″ wheels, or what journeys we can take, or just when we’re going to meet up again. Thanks to everyone who has been a part of these conversations or just got in touch to see how I am – you’ve truly helped me more than I can explain here.

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

As we left things last time the plan was simple. To do as much as I can without spending any money. I’d already blown the months budget on the ThreeBond and crank shims, so I had to make do with just cleaning things, measuring them, and marking them as either ready to use, needing refurbishment, or needing replacement. And I’m happy to report that the big box of things that are ready to use has steadily been getting fuller by the day. The crankcases were mentioned earlier, and once they had been painted they went into the box, along with the clutch and alternator covers that I’d painted at the same time. The silencers were next to look at for no good reason other than they were big and in the way. And once more, after a very quick wipe over with some hot soapy water, they came up just fine and so went in the big box as well. The carbs had already spent some time in the ultrasonic tank as mentioned previously and so were pretty much ready to join the cases and cans in the happy box of lovely cleanliness. I decided to give them a quick whizz over with a stiff brush and again, hot soapy water just to make them even nicer. At this point, I was feeling very happy with my lot in life and the general progress of the project so far and so I pulled the loom out of its dank and menacing box.

That’s the amount of insulating tape that I pulled off that was covering a multitude of bodges. Still, I really enjoy rewiring old bikes, and so things couldn’t be that bad, right? I mean, I’d already fixed the hotwire disaster, so what could be worse?

Sorry, that’s dreadfully out of focus, but in that one small shot you can see two of the blue wires that have been cut, and then just twisted together (bizarrely with a bit of yellow wire thrown in there for fun) and that horrible bodged bullet connector there? That’s just to bypass one of the pins in the connector that’s gone AWOL at some point. The loom, then, is going to be a project in itself. And really that’s OK. As mentioned, I like wiring – I find it therapeutic. And if I get horribly out of my depth I’ll pop along to Rupes Rewires. I like Rupe, his work is first rate, and it’s keeping skilled craftsmen in business, so that’s a win all round I reckon.

So the wiring then, stayed in the To Be Refurbished box. Next up, wheels. I *really* like the look of the stock 750 Sport wheels – I think they’re just gorgeous to look at. However, they are scruffy.

And this gave me one of the first decisions to make on the project. Do I spend money refurbishing these in the name of originality, and get stuck with the limited tyre choice that the 16″ rims offer? Or do I replace them with 17″ rims from a 600/750SS so I can use modern tyres? That’s an easy one really – I plan to ride this bike, and so the original wheels will be cleaned up, and put in the loft just in case I ever want to return to complete originality. It’s going to be a long time before I need to worry about fitting wheels but for now the choice has been made – I’ll be fitting 17″ wheels but retaining the ability to fit the 16″ wheels if ever I want to. This may lead to some shenanigans with brakes, but I’ll worry about that when I need to stop. The brakes did get a bit of a look over, but I don’t want to do too much with them just in case it all needs replacing anyway. The rear master cylinder was inspected, and found to be rusted pretty much solid. A couple of brilliantly mucky evenings then followed as I slowly worked the seized piston out with heat, penetrating lube, and sessions in the ultrasonic tank. And some massive twatting with the loud hammer. Eventually, the piston plopped out, and everything was measured up and with the aid of a rebuild kit will be ready to rock again. How hard can it be to find a rebuild kit for a Brembo master cylinder? All I’m saying is that the only place I’ve found is in Australia…

Next up. Bodywork. This was a bit of a parsons egg really. Some of it is beautiful to look at and to touch. Deep, lustrous layers of crimson red paint offset with elegant highlights of crisp clear sharp black pinstripes bordering areas of electically crackly silver all buried under what seems like four fathoms of hand polished lacquer:

Other bits are made out of haphazard bits of plywood that had been rescued from a maritime disaster:

Bodywork, then, is going back up into the loft along with the wheels, as something to worry about a lot further down the line. It’s safe to say that just about all of it is rescuable, and I think for this rebuild I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. I’m going to pay someone to repaint it all properly. For a massive tightwad like me, this is really a once in a lifetime decision. However, given the circumstances around me ever having this in the garage, it seems only right that I do everything I can to make a good fist of things. I know that I’m crap at painting and so I’ll bring in the experts for that.

The fuel tank was rusty as all hell inside and I’m not going to inflict a photo on you as it was pretty unpleasant to deal with. But, I can now safely put the tank up in the loft with the rest of the bodywork safe in the knowledge that I’m not going to be up there in a years time thinking “mmmm, now where did I put that tank? And what’s that pile of dust in the corner there?”. The fuel filters will need replacing when the time comes, but again, they’re consumable items and just get added to the running costs rather than restoration costs.

And so, after about three weeks of being up to my arms in degreaser, throwing things into the ultrasonic tank, wirebrushing things, de-bodging things, soaking bits in hot soapy water, I finally decided to treat myself. I ordered the bearings I need to refit and set the endfloat for the gearbox. They should be here next week, so I can get on with closing the crankcases and start the engine rebuild in earnest.

On, and one other thing that will be arriving next week:

September Of My Gears

When James bought the 750 Sport a few weeks back, the seller told him that the reason it was off the road was the gearbox output shaft was worn out. Rummaging through the pile of bits revealed that yes, not only was it worn out, but someone had tried to ‘fix’ it by welding the sprocket on:

Yeah, that’s not repairable. I did a lot of hunting around for a suitable replacement, with a good friend, Paul, dropping by with the gearbox from a genuine Duc 750F1 which “might fit – got to be worth a try”. It didn’t, but blimey, it was a lovely thing just to have in the garage for a day. 750F1s are vanishingly rare things (I’ve never actually seen one on the road) and getting hugely collectable now. When that didn’t fit, I started to do a bit of research, cross referencing part numbers, and seeing what else might fit. And despite this seeming to be a purely administrative task, I actually enjoy this aspect of rebuilding shite old bikes. That said, I do worry about the bits of useful information that I discarded while filling my head up with Ducati gearbox part numbers and compatibility. After a bit of digging around, it became apparent that the 600SS used exactly the same part number for the output shaft, and the gear ratios also appeared to be the same. In other words, the gearboxes *should* be pretty much identical. This led me into a bit of a dilemma though – as the output shaft was listed as still available (albeit with an eight week lead time) so I could, in theory just replace that shaft and rebuild the gearbox around it. I still had all the circlips and thrust bearings and gubbins kept safely in a little tin from when the shaft was stripped. However, a quick search on eBay showed a complete 600SS gearbox of the right age, low mileage (so the ad said, anyway), for less than the cost of the new shaft. Certainly the photos looked to show everything in good order. And despite my promise not to spend any money, I decided that asking for forgiveness was going to be easier than asking for permission, so I hit the buy-it-now button. Two days later, a complete gearbox dropped onto my desk. Weirdly, however, the output shaft was 8mm longer than my existing one:

My immediate thought was to chuck the shaft in a handy nearby lathe, and just cut the end off and re-machine the retaining groove in the right place. It was then that one of my more mechanically inclined friends (cheers David!) did what I should have done, and checked the 600SS and 750 Sport sprockets for differences. And sure enough, the 600 sprocket is thicker, and spaced about 8mm inboard. In other words (as Allen Millyard would no doubt say) Just Perfect. I wrapped the gearbox in an oily rag, and put it to one side, as there’s a few other things I need to do before I can fit it and bolt the cases together.

First thing is to do something about the state of the engine paintwork. It looked like the previous owner had got as far as cleaning the old paint off, and giving the cases a quick once over with some etch primer. This made my life a lot easier, as all I needed to do was give the cases a really good wash in hot water, a wipe over with some cellulose thinners, and then a few coats of PJ1 and laqcuer:

I sanded back the ‘Ducati’ logo before coating with lacquer, just to show it off a bit. I have no clue if the original engine cases had this done, but I’m not really going for concours originality with this one, you won’t be surprised to hear.

With the cases painted, I could test fit the crank and measure the endfloat – I had a selection of shims to try for this – 2 x 0.5mm and 2 x 0.3mm, to give me a fair chance of finding something to fit. The manual states that the endfloat is nil, which is at least easy to measure! First thing then, was to assemble the cases with the 2 x 0.5mm shims. This had the effect of locking the crank solid when the cases were tightened together, so a little less was required. I took the shims out entirely, and bolted the case together again. This time, there was a definitely measurable amount of endfloat, and with my trusty old feeler gauges, I made it about 0.6mm, which was handy, as I had the two 0.3mm shims. I fitted these, and sure enough, the crank now turned freely, with no play. Just to make sure that I’d got it about right, I took it all apart again, and bolted it up with just one of the 0.5mm shims fitted. Sure enough, there was a detectable amount of float, so it looks like 0.6mm is about right. Normally you’d need to add the gasket thickness to this, to account for fitting the crankcase centre gasket, but of course, there isn’t one any more, just a smear of ThreeBond. I’m assuming that this will be of negligible thickness once everything is tightened.

With the crank endfloat now set, I really need to get back on track with the ‘anything for free’ item in the Big List. I can’t set the gearbox endfloat yet, as for that, I need to get some new bearings, and they definitely don’t grow on trees, sadly. Expect the next exciting episode to be something to do with cleaning up brake calipers or something equally riveting. There’s a long way to go, and already I can see a few places that will give me problems – the headlight is missing, one of the cambelt cover retaining bolts has snapped off (although I’m just going to leave that for now), and the loom looks like it’s going to be a right saga. Can’t wait…