The Vikki Project
Coming back to the V-4 roots…
Well I knew it couldn’t last. Back in the bad old days in 2010 when we were downsizing I had to sell off many of my toys, including my treasured collection of 1st generation Honda V-4′s. They made three basic models. The ‘cruisers’ were called Magnas, the ‘standards’ were called Sabres, and the ‘sportbikes’ were called Interceptors. They came in three displacement classes too, with the largest being 1100c (or 65 cubic inches), the mid-size being 750cc (or 45 cubic inches), and the smallest being 500cc (in America, the rest of the planet got a 400cc model). If you’ve browsed elsewhere around my blog you may have noticed the V65 Sabre and V45 Interceptor. There was also a V65 Magna.
These V-4′s have a lot of characteristics which were unique at the time they were introduced. First off, they were liquid-cooled when most of their competition was still using air-cooling. This allowed higher specific power output while simultaneously enabling significantly improved longevity. Even with power output exceeding 100 bhp/litre, these machines could easily go 100,000 miles without a major rebuild (my Sabre had 156,000 on it when she left, and still ran like a swiss watch.
Along with the street bikes, Honda built a number of racing machines based on the V-4 power trains. For more than a decade, Honda VF and VFR bikes were dominant in the Superbike classes, and Honda built a very special racing bike which had a number of non-complimentary nicknames; but was known universally as the FWS. This was a 1000cc V-4 powered brute of a machine, known for destroying tires with their massive power – but they beat all the competition by miles. Then Honda produced a street-going version of the FWS, called the VF1000R. It was a limited production motorcycle.
****** SHE’S ARRIVED! *****
First off, I’d like to put in a plug for Ryan at PonyExpressMotorcycle.com, who picked up the bike for me out in the southern CA desert and hauled her up here to me. Not only were his rates reasonable; but he was good at communicating and delivered everything he said he would – on time. I had spoken with him the previous evening, and he said he’d be here at 9am – keep in mind he was more than 350 miles away, and it was after 9pm! At precisely 9am he arrived in an unique ‘bike transport’ vehicle. A Mustang GT towing a custom trailer designed specifically for motorcycle transport. Here’s a picture:
Inside that trailer was my VFKR and an ’08 Triumph Bonneville he brought up from LA to a customer in Napa, along with some movie props and other assorted stuff. The bikes were in chocks and very securely tied down.
That trailer is pretty trick, with the built-in full-width loading ramp and the pop-up top. And it is HUGE inside. Wish I’d had a trailer like that back in the day!
Here’s Vikki, fresh off the trailer:
She’s lookin’ pretty good for a 25 year old bike, huh? Here are a few more snaps….
She fired right up; but she hasn’t been ridden much in the past year, so she’ll get a dose of carb cleaner and I’ll take her out for a ride – after tomorrow’s snow storm passes. Nothing like the sound of a Honda V-Four with a good pipe.
The Vikki project – 1986 VF1000R
So the bike arrived and I discovered a number of issues which needed to be addressed before I could enjoy a ride. Well… okay… I could have ridden her without addressing them; but decided to resist that temptation.
So into the shop she went….
and onto the stands for some bonding…
The list of things that were discovered is as follows:
1. The bike fired right up; but would not idle without help from the choke, and did not respond normally to the throttle. Normally these symptoms corresponded to clogged idle and pilot circuits in the carburetors when the bike had not been ridden much for some time (which Vikki had not), so into the tank went a few ounces of carburetor cleaner along with a gallon of fresh fuel. I start her every other day or so, letting her warm for 5-10 minutes, and she seems to be responding. More on this later…
2. The headlight never comes on. First on the list was a check of the fuse, and it is fine. Some research on the forums suggested it might be the starter switch, which has a set of contacts to disable the headlight (and its 10-amp drain) when starting the bike. Other components in the circuit are a diode and a relay, both enclosed within the bike’s fairings. In order to do a thorough job of troubleshooting this situation I needed to remove those fairings.
3. Also coming up lame was the brake light when the front brake was applied. Applying the rear brake worked fine, so it had to be something to do with the circuit for just the front brake lever and its switch. Like the starter switch, this switch is located on the right side control pod, with wires leading into the fairing. Again with the fairing removal!
4. The turn signals had been replaced with incorrectly installed LED signals, which did not function correctly. I am replacing them with old-style incandescent signals, so again fairings will require removal to get to the wiring.
5. One of the previous owners had probably been a racer, or perhaps was related to Walter Mitty, and had applied many race-related stickers to the fairings, including the number 7 on both sides of the upper fairing. These had to go, as they not only distracted from the original beauty of the machine, they would probably attract unwanted attention when out on the road.
So… The fairings had to be removed. I pulled them off and proceeded to use the wife’s hairdryer to warm the stickers for removal, then used Goo Remover and alcohol to get the rest of the adhesive off. The result was not too bad at all. There are pictures elsewhere here which show the stickers on the bike. Here’s some pics of the fairings after sticker removal and cleanup.
Left side of the belly fairing, looking very clean indeed!
Right side of the belly fairing, looking nearly as clean as the left side.
The upper fairing will need some minor sanding and touchup; but all in all is in decent shape. I LOVE that the fairing under those ‘number plates’ is the gorgeous pearlescent blue! Left side is in pretty nice shape, with no repaired spots and few scratches…
Right side of the upper fairing needs some help, with a properly done repair that was never finished (sanding and paint), and a small scuffed area along the rear edge of the blue area that will need to be painted. The ‘nose’ of the upper also had a couple of small repairs that will need some minor work to clean up.
April 22, 2011
Had an hour or so to work on Vikki today; but first here’s a couple of pics. WARNING: She’s nearly NAKED. If you’re offended by motonudity, don’t look!
Okay, enough fluff, on to the details of the day’s progress…
I added about half a bottle (8oz) of Sea Foam to the ~2 gallons of gas in the tank, then set about finishing the installation of the new front turn signals (more on this later). Before I fired her up to get the Sea Foam into the carbs I sprayed contact cleaner into the starter button (more on this later as well). She fired up and began to warm normally. Now for some updates:
1. THROTTLE RESPONSE/CARBS – After a few minutes of warmup, I began to see the tell-tale smoke from the exhaust that told me the Sea Foam had made it’s way into the carbs. A few more minutes and throttle response was beginning to improve, and – perhaps more significant – she idled just fine with no help from the choke. Definitely a big step in the right direction!
2. HEADLIGHT – After the engine had been running a few minutes, the headlight came on – all by itself. I decided to try the high beam, and just that change caused the headlight to go off again, and it didn’t come back on the rest of the session. But it does suggest that perhaps the starter switch is the culprit. I’ll be pulling it apart over the next few days (when time allows) and I’m confident the fix will happen.
3. BRAKE LIGHT (Front Switch) – No progress.
4. TURN SIGNALS – Well… I’m disappointed; but there was no change at all in the function of the signals. The fronts come on as ‘running lights’ when the key is on, then the rears flash quickly when the switch is activated while the front one on that side goes out. I’ve spent some time with the schematic; but I’m still scratching my head about this one.
May 5, 2011
Progress on the issues:
1. THROTTLE RESPONSE/CARBS – She gets better with every startup, and is good enough for a test ride!
2. HEADLIGHT – Relay is intermittent, so it’s jumped (headlight on) until my replacement arrives.
3. BRAKE LIGHT (Front Switch) – After finding all of the relevant connectors, pulling them apart, applying contact cleaner and dielectric grease, then testing it successfully a dozen (or so) times, I reinstalled all the fairings and…. dayum… back to an MIA front brake light switch. Rear one works fine, so it’s not going to stop me from a shakedown.
4. TURN SIGNALS – Turns out someone did some miswiring somewhere (and I have not found it yet); but plugging the front signals into the third wire (supposed to be for running lights) resulted in perfectly functioning turn signals!
And now a few pics after fairing installation and a quick wipe down:
Project update – 7/8/2011
I finally got tired of trying ‘external’ things to fix the throttle response problem and did some serious listening to the engine (without a helmet and ear plugs), and heard what I was pretty sure was a vacuum leak. Not really wanting to tear that far into her innards – and anyone who has worked on one of these Honda V-4′s knows what I’m talking about – I took her down to my friend JT at Total Performance Racing in Pioneer. Just got a call, and the joker who had the engine apart to refresh seals, hoses, gaskets, etc. had just done a poor job of reassembly of the carb rack. One of the intake manifolds was missing it’s clamp, and two of the others were loose! That explains that, and I should be picking her up this evening in perfect running order.
Also ordered the paint to finish the fairing repairs, and as soon as I finish the work on Katrina (who is tying up the shed at the moment) I’ll pull off Vikki’s clothes and put her back in excellent condition!
Sooner than I’d hoped, actually… turns out the ‘sloppy’ reassembly was worse than that. More like destructive. One of the manifolds has a crack running 3/4′s of it’s length, and another is buggered badly enough to be questionable – both of these are on the front bank. Replacements have been ordered, should be here next Tuesday (7/12), so no test ride until at least Wednesday. <sigh>
Picked Vikki up late yesterday, and took her out for a 50 mile ride this morning. Too early for final conclusions, as the fuel still has a significant amount of carb cleaner in it which is no doubt affecting several things with regard to how she runs; but three key symptoms of the vacuum leak are now gone: 1) Hard starting when cold 2) Very bad hesitation off-idle, and 3) ‘Run-on’ after the throttle is closed. #1 wasn’t a big deal, just a pain in the butt. #2 and 3 made the bike seriously risky to ride. Not any more! Also got a look at the manifolds that were replaced. They certainly left no doubt as to why there was a vacuum leak and running issues!
Now to ride her some more, get some fresh fuel in there, and perhaps do some fine tuning. Then (after the Trophy vacates the workshop) Vikki will have her clothes removed for some touching up of the paint!
I’ll be adding a video camera mount as well, and will post some on-bike video once that’s done!
Vikki ROCKS! I took a nice 100-mile loop through the Gold Country this morning, to run the rest of the tank with carb cleaner through the engine. Down 88 from Pioneer, then Irishtown and Clinton roads into Jackson (very nice twisties). Hwy 49 to Moke Hill, stopped at the Sierra Trading Post (see pics below), had a break along with several conversations with people who wanted to know about the ‘cool bike’. Headed west on Hwy 26 to Valley Springs, then Hwy 12 through Burson and Wallace to Clements, and Hwy 88 back up the hill. Only exceeded the ton once, by ‘accident’ when executing a pass on a long line of traffic behind an idiot doing 40mph on Hwy 88. Went on reserve with 155 miles showing on the odo, which is about what I expect from the big V-4.
The verdict? She’s running pretty clean now, with just a tiny hint of off-idle hesitation. Any time you’re on the gas she just flat flies, and when you roll out of it she slows right down. In other words, pretty normal.
So here are a couple pics from our break in Mokelumne Hill (at the junction of Hwys 26 and 49):
Next up on the list is to pull of her fairings again and do some finishing and painting in the few small ‘scuffs’ she has showing.
Well gang, I’ve made a tough decision about Vikki. I’ve decided that I’m just not comfortable with the weight of the machine, and the folded-up riding position is a bit too much for my aging bones. So I’m going to find her a new home and move on to a smaller, lighter V-4 ‘sporty’ bike. I took some additional pictures of her this morning, and shot a short video/audio segment of her starting up. Here they are:
And here’s that video:
After only about eight hours on eBay, Vikki has been sold to a fine young man serving our country on the USS Ronald Reagan (the Aircraft Carrier!), currently deployed somewhere out there. He’ll be back in a month or so, and will pick her up when he returns. BLESS YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE, CHRIS!
Chris has picked up Vikki, so no more updates here!