Author Topic: rd400g project story  (Read 2159 times)

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Offline joseimport

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rd400g project story
« on: February 14, 2019, 11:28:52 AM »
DISCLAIMER: since the old forum died, with everything else in it, (good thing i saved this post on word), so i will be reposting it in the next couple of days in the same order. and try to fix any mistakes , spelling, grammar and the presentation if i see anything wrong.

I got this rd400g in a really bad state.
got it on November 2016 and have been purchasing parts and trying to restore the bike ever since.
I will be posting the restoration, the purchase of parts and the decision making that has gone
trough everything. Hopefully you guys can correct me if I’m making mistakes,
and we can have a correct project post restoring the rd400g as I have never come across
one on the web.
I will also keep tags on the price of parts and labor, for future references.
I have decided to post the project now, since I’m almost done purchasing the most needed
parts in order to bring this beauty to its original glory.
English is my second language so sorry for any spelling and grammar mistakes in the future.
So to keep people interested here are the pictures of my 1980 rd400g. it was registered at
that time here in Colombia, don´t know if it was built on 1979 or 1980.
My guess is 1979 but I could be mistaken. Hopefully it´s 79 since I was also born on that
year and that would be cool.

yes this is the sorry state i bought it in.

Later i will post all the problems that this piece of junk had and all the mistakes i made as a rookie, but bear with me, it´s getting there

The story on this bikes is that they were used by the Colombian police force. But so far it´s been hard to get info on them locally.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2019, 04:42:20 PM by joseimport »

Offline joseimport

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Re: rd400g project story
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2019, 04:28:20 PM »
I’m going to try and detail everything about the story of this restoration, I have already written
many pages with pictures, let me know if you would like me to continue doing as I’m doing. I will
try to add to the project post on a chronological order every few days.

The first few posts might be a little on the heavy writing side with not that many pictures. But it´ll
get easier, faster and more “pictury” as it goes on.

hopefully everybody can give this project insight on any mistakes that I have made…..  and will
continue to make, we can all learn from this.

short background on me

I´m 39 and I have always wanted to restore a classic motorcycle. This is my first project. I´m not a
Mechanic, engineer (or a writer for this manner) but I pride myself on being able to self teach me
trough books, videos and plain stubbornness on the desire to finish a project.
so, god bless the interwebs and free time.

I have ridden motorcycles but I don’t consider myself a good rider, I have never owned one either
until this bike came along, I don’t even have a motorcycle license, but love the idea and spirit of
 them. plus I have this urge of taking everything apart and putting it back together….

so….   Purchasing a motorcycle that later I found out was called here in Colombia “la muerte
blanca” (the white death), this is going to be a fun and interesting ride, so wish me luck.

Offline joseimport

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Re: rd400g project story
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2019, 04:31:36 PM »
Short story on the process of purchasing the project bike

On 2015 I wanted to purchase a project bike (at the time any bike would do) I did not even know
much about bikes but had been reading about the café racer scene, watching videos of classic
bikes and reading about them on magazines, mainly PRACTICAL SPORTSBIKES, CLASSIC BIKES,
CLASSIC BIKE GUIDE and whatever magazine I could get my hands on.

One thing you guys must keep in mind is that cars and motorcycles are extremely expensive here
in Colombia, as every new imported vehicle must pay a tariff of 35% plus 19% taxes as of 2018.

An example of this, so you guys can rejoice at the prices of products in the US and EUROPE, a brand
new 2019 bmw r nine t  in the USA costs $15.495…..  that same bike here costs $23.125

In the 70´s and 80´s being a third world country, Colombia was extremely closed to the
international markets and this tariffs were higher back then, so most cars and motorcycles were
crap, performance wise, had tiny engines and we got the weakest versions of every model. It was
extremely rare to see high end cars and motorcycles as they commanded premium prices when

Cars and bikes were usually 2 times more expensive here in Colombia than in the usa or Britain.
So, the bmw´s, JDM motorcycles, British and Italian bikes of that era and anything above 250cc
that have survived, are extremely rare, many of this bikes of the era are in piss poor conditions
and have been hacked and kept alive by frankensteinian methods of organ transplantation.

Also it´s illegal to register imported second hand bikes and cars. So basically, we will
have to do with whatever was imported as new at the time.

On top of this, and because of this, the market that surrounds the classic, vintage cars and
bikes restoration is extremely underdeveloped. It´s hard to find mechanics or shops that specialize
in Anything.
as an example, I have not been able to locate a shop that does vapor blasting anywhere in the
country, the used parts market is almost nonexistent. So I have to rely on the ability to purchase
used and new parts, through the internet, mainly in the USA, EUROPE and any where that  has
shipping to the USA, as importing has to be done through couriers from Miami, Florida to
Colombia but there is an extra added cost to every part I purchase on shipping.

So here I am, looking for a bike to restore.

Offline joseimport

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Re: rd400g project story
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2019, 04:35:59 PM »
The first bike I saw that had a good price was this 1977 rd400 which was going for $500

Pretty cheap you would say, but it had a catch:

First, i´m not sure how this works in the US or EUROPE, but here, you have to pay annual taxes on
vehicles. If said taxes are not paid, you can not transfer ownership of a bike to anybody. And if you
do not pay this taxes which are about 30 dollars for the current year, next time you want to pay
THOSE unpaid years, it costs around 100 US dollars more per year. 

This bike had not paid taxes for the last 5 years, and this is a recurring problem on must older bikes around here.

Second, every vehicle has a registration under somebody´s name, it’s called an ownership card,
and this is the most important item of all, because if you happen to drive a bike, and the
ownership card is under a different person, and somehow the police impounds your bike. Only the
person on the card can retrieve it. And here in Colombia you get pulled over just by looking at a
cop funny, and they love to stop motorcycles and impound them, if any paper is not in order.

This bike was under someone else’s name and not the seller, so I would have had to look for said
owner somehow and see if this person agreed to transfer ownership of the bike, but also I would
have had to pay all the unpaid taxes, and after the bike had passed our Colombian MOT, and
neither the owner nor I had unpaid speeding or parking tickets under our names, then I could have
transfered ownership.

So in the process of looking for this person, which took me around a week (the seller did not even
know who the person on the ownership card was) the only thing we knew was that it was not
reported stolen on the police files.

So long story short someone else purchased the bike for parts, so I missed out on this one. But it would have been a risk to have purchased it…..

But because of this bike I started reading about the rd400´s and fell in love with them, there appeared to be quite an interest in these two strokes all around the world.

Now: december 1st 2018 looking back, I regret not buying it for parts, I wish I knew back then what I know now about rd´s.

So know I knew what I wanted:

An rd400 which had to have at least an ownership card with somebody that could sign over the
transfer of ownership to my name.

Offline joseimport

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Re: rd400g project story
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2019, 04:41:57 PM »
After while of searching, I heard of a guy in the city of Cali (10 hour drive), that was selling two
bikes. Both were rd400´s, he said one was a 78 rd400, the other a 1979 “Daytona”, the “Daytona”
one the ownership card, the other one didn´t. But again the one with ownership card was under
somebody else´s name and not the seller.

A quick search on Facebook and I came across the person on the card, he had his phone there, 
gave him a call and told him that somebody was selling a bike under his name, I wanted to
purchase it, but only if he agreed to sign over the ownership to me……  he agreed….  So I was in
business. He was really nice about it… and started telling me stories about the bike, and how he
had left the bike at a bike shop and sold it. But never transferred the ownership card of the bike to
the new seller.

So I found out that after him, the bike changed hands 3 to 4 times before arriving at the hands of
the one that was selling it to me. Who told me had no time to restore the “Daytona”. He was busy
with other bikes.

He sent me pictures and we agreed on a price of $1500 for both bikes, I would pay $80 shipping
from cali to bogota with a driver he knew, and I would pay him if I liked what i saw 4 days after the
bikes arrived, so I had time to check them. (This is not common here or anywhere I know, I was
surprised that he wanted to do it that way, to trusty of people).  This gave me confidence on him,
so I agreed.

So this arrived:

The “daytona” which by this time and the little research I had done, i noticed that it was not an
rd400f Daytona special (2vo), but a rd400g (3m4) which is a mix between a 79 rd400e with
CDI ignition from the UK with a 79 Daytona special.
More on this bike later.

this arrived also

1A1 engine, seems to be complete, and somehow it was fitted with a CDI ignition.

The carbs are definetly not the original ones, have no branding whatsoever.

what appeared to be a 78 rd400 in boxes. But had a Daytona fuel tank, and bits from many
different bikes, the 1A1 engine appeared to be complete.

Once I assessed the bikes. i checked the rd400g and saw that one of the engine mounts was broken.

I did know of a shop in Bogota that specializes in fixing dirt bike frames, and is an expert tig welder.

I gave him a call and said that he could fix it.

But this gave me a little negotiating power, since the guy that was selling the bike never said
anything about a broken engine mount.

So in the end I agreed to pay $1100 for both bikes. A thought I could keep the 1A1 engine for
spares, and try to fix the rd400g.

Offline joseimport

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Re: rd400g project story
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2019, 04:45:01 PM »
I had started to take the bike apart, by now I had read more about the bike, and started to worry a little.
It was more a matter of not what I needed to complete it…. But what was missing from the bike…
it was easier to count what I really had… and I had not even taken the engines apart yet.

So, I got a hold of an rd400g manual on pdf, printed it, and started highlighting what I had. And storing everything on numbered plastic containers.

Also got the parts manuals for the uk rd400E, Daytona special, 76-78 rd´s. I had to know what parts could be swapped from all 3 models (76-78, Daytona special, uk rd400e)

started to list what I had that could be restored:

Matching numbers frame and engine (missing stator cover)
Fuel tank
Forks and triple clamp
Brake calipers
Brake discs
Headlight bucket

What I had that was probably shot beyond repair:

Front and rear master cylinder

Important parts missing for a restoration:

Seat with foam and cover
Rear cowl
Side covers
Carbs (2r9)
multitude of rubbers
pretty much all the original hardware
tool box
rear shocks
clocks and hardware to bolt
exhaust and downpipes (2r9)
center stand
front and rear fender
battery box
oil tank
handle bar
turn signals
tail light
main switch and all the electronics
everything else not listed here

by now tears came flowing from my left eye.
Was starting to think that even if the bike had been given to me for free, it is not going be cheap.
But hey…. This is what I wanted, a full on project.

Offline Gill

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Re: rd400g project story
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2019, 12:38:53 AM »
Take it easy, disassembly notes are helpful while assembling.

Offline joseimport

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Re: rd400g project story
« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2019, 11:54:44 AM »
Engine disassembly

By now I came across another rd400g, the guy was selling a complete 3m4 engine (with the
missing stator cover), forks with triple tree for $180. So I bought it. (Wouldn’t ´t hurt to have spare
parts at that price)

^Now I had three engines

I took the engine out of the 3m4 frame, split the cases with a rubber mallet knowing that I would
have to do a complete engine rebuild.

I did the same thing with the other 2 engines.

To my surprise the pistons were not seized, but I measured all 3 pairs of cylinders and they were
all 66mm and had been fitted with Yamaha dt175 pistons….  Apparently the pistons were hard to
find and the stupidest thing they all did (in my opinion) was overbore all cylinders to fit the dt175

So 1 problem on top of the other, I had to add cylinders to the list as this ones were pretty much

After fully disassembling the 3m4 engine…  I could see all the problems with this cases, one of the
engine mounts was broken on both sides as I knew from before.

^On the stator side the threads were broken and rough.

So first things first I cleaned the cases as much as I could and sent them to get fixed.

They came back like this:

^He fixed the mounts, he did a pretty good job I think, let´s hope it holds up.

^This was on the kick start side, now fixed.

^There was a small fissure on the kickstarter “holder”. He fixed that also. This is a high stress point,
so hopefully it was properly fixed. I remember he said the aluminum cases of the era are “shit”
and are hard to work on. He spent some time doing the best he could.

^The stator side was also corrected and treaded properly for the bolts that hold the stator plate.

The welder is a great guy, and experienced, he had a whole bunch of written off modern superbike
frames, and showed me how he was welding them back together.

All this welding work he charged me $80

Offline joseimport

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Re: rd400g project story
« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2019, 12:13:56 PM »
After dissembling all three engines, I noticed the crankshaft of the 1a1 to be almost the same as
the other two 3m4 crankshafts. this engine also had a stator and cdi installed, so the history of this
1a1 bike is really vague, it has 3m4 parts including the 3j7 cylinder head. But if in fact it is a 3m4
crank installed, I have three possible crankshafts to rebuilt so this is good for me.

▼Crank from 1a1 engine

▼3m4 main engine crank

▼3m4 second engine crank

I bought this off of ebay US:

-Original rz350 pistons (removed the middle tang, and took 2mm off the lower skirt) as instructed in the forum.

-Prox con rods

-Yamaha piston pins and circlips

-All the crank bearings from NTN dealer her in Colombia

I´ve been having trouble finding somebody that knows how to rebuild this crankshafts here in
Colombia. I have talked and visited some shops, that supposedly do this. But when asked, they
have never done a multicylinder pressed crankshaft, they look at me as if I was showing them
nuclear physics and in disbelief that something like this ever existed. The ones that said they could
do it….  I don´t trust, as they have no experience doing it. They have only worked on single cylinder
pressed cranks like the ones on the rx115 and 135´s that are all over Colombia.

Hell…. it is very frustrating….  I found a person who build race cars, and talking to him, he new the
process and had the equipment to rebuild the crankshaft and said he had rebuilt a kawasaki h2
crank back in the 90´s. he is the only one I could trust so far, so I gave it to him.

He rebuilt the crankshaft, sent me videos of how he was doing it.  I have measured it and seems
fine. But I’m still not 100% convinced that he did a good job. he charged me $90 for the job but I
think this went down the drain. This will have to do for now…  i´m still looking for someone who
can double check it who knows what he´s doing locally. 

If I don´t find anybody, I’m going to have to ship it to the US $$$ and have it done by someone
with the expertise. (shipping things from Colombia to the US is extremely expensive. Shipping from
the US to Colombia is relatively inexpensive).

I have the “rebuilt crank” with new bearings and rods. My mother is visiting my sister who lives in
Boca Raton, Florida on December 26th.  If some of you know who could rebuilt it at a fair price let
me know. I could have my sister ship the crank. It will be expensive to get it back here because of
the weight, but I can save on the shipping to the US by sending it with my mother (oh she´s gonna
be thrilled with the added weight on her suit case). But this is probably the must crucial part of the

Offline Cam

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Re: rd400g project story
« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2019, 12:30:58 PM »
If you want a crank rebuilt in the US, check out Team Scream in the vendor section of the forum. Chuck is in Clearwater I think, which would be 4 hours or so from Boca. Super nice guy and an expert at what he does.

Nice build by the way, I’m interested to see your progress.

Offline SoCal250

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Re: rd400g project story
« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2019, 10:52:59 PM »
+1 on what Cam said above ^^  Chuck is your guy.
79 Yamaha RD400F     77 Yamaha RD400D      91 Yamaha TZR250R
75 Yamaha RD250B     75 Yamaha RD200B (project)
75 Yamaha RD125B     75 Yamaha RD125B (project)
89 Yamaha FZR400      05 Yamaha FZ6
** 02 Aprilia RS250 Cup for sale

Offline joseimport

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Re: rd400g project story
« Reply #11 on: February 17, 2019, 10:45:54 PM »
If you want a crank rebuilt in the US, check out Team Scream in the vendor section of the forum. Chuck is in Clearwater I think, which would be 4 hours or so from Boca. Super nice guy and an expert at what he does.

Nice build by the way, I’m interested to see your progress.

chuck just rebuilt my crank..  i have been posting in chronological order, everything that has been done with the bike... 

you will see it at a later post


Offline joseimport

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Re: rd400g project story
« Reply #12 on: February 18, 2019, 04:28:47 PM »
Next was the 3j7 cylinder heads

I have three of them. but as you can see in the pictures the best
one was full of pits. Probably piston ring damage... who knows what got in there.

Again, nobody here knew how to fix the heads, but after the crank experience I was not going to
let anybody without experience touch my cylinder heads.

A year ago, a friend of mine was traveling to Miami, I took the opportunity and he took the
cylinder heads with him and shipped it to chuck Quenzler.

He fixed the squish band and shipped it back to Miami to my forwarder.

▲Here you can see how he split the heads, as you probably all know this has to be done on the 3j7
and 2vo heads so they can spin freely on the lathe.

▼I have been sanding them with 200, 320, 500, 600, 700, al the way up to 2000 wet sand paper to get
them nice and shiny, the one on the left still has a few numbers to go trough

I had learned from ed erlenbach´s webpage the following:

"The cylinders and heads from a 1A1 will fit all years, as long as they are swapped as a complete
set, along with the exhaust pipes. The cylinders, head and head gasket for the 2V0 are unique. The
cylinders for the 3J7, 3M4 and 2R9 are the same. The 2R9 had separate cylinder heads and the 3J7
and 3M4 had a one piece head, they should be interchangeable. The 2R9 had separate head
gaskets and the 3J7 and 3M4 had a one piece head gasket, but 2R9, 3J7 and 3M4 have the same
gasket thickness, so you could use the separate gaskets on the Canadian and Oceana Daytonas."

So in the future If need be I can always use the 1a1 cylinder heads which are more common, but chuck
did a great job so i don´t think i will have any problems

Offline joseimport

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Re: rd400g project story
« Reply #13 on: February 18, 2019, 04:33:34 PM »
I have not fixed my crank problems yet…. Still trying to figure out what to do.

Besides this, as I posted before, all three pairs of cylinders  were extremely overbored to
66mm, so there was no saving them.

Started looking for either 1a1 or preferably the more scarce 2r9 cylinders on the forum and ebay.

After a while i found a pair of 2r9 cylinders from canada that would have to be bored to 0.50.

There seems to be a good supply of 2r9 parts in Canada, as my rd400g is the same as the ones that
were sold over there.

So he shipped them to Miami….  I did from Miami to Colombia.

^I won´t paint them untill i have everything i need for this project.

^They are in overall good condition, there is a repair on one of the exhaust studs, but it it looks pretty solid to me.

^The exhaust ports are a little scratched…   can this be fixed by simple wet sanding to smooth them out?
Let me know on the comments please

^Intakes are good

I purchased 0.50 rz350 pistons

^As I read on the forum the tang In the middle was removed and almost 2mm from the bottom also.
Here you can compare both pistons side by side with the pin inserted. Everything below the red lines was removed.

Offline joseimport

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Re: rd400g project story
« Reply #14 on: February 18, 2019, 04:54:19 PM »
As you can tell form the first posts… the bike was missing some really important parts… and restoring it to it´s original condition was going to take a lot of $$$ pesos.

Specially since I was missing carbs, covers, seat and many other rare and expensive parts.
I started exchanging emails with Jim Emigh from Canada (bitzz in the forum… great guy, so
helpfull), he was the one who sold me the 2r9 cylinders. They race these bikes over there so they
have lots of spares that are not used in racing. I sent him a picture of what I was missing and a list
of parts.

▲this is what was mainly needed

▼THIS IS THE SECOND BATCH OF PARTS I GOT FROM HIM, first were the cylinders. And this is what I got:▼

▲The original wire loom with the cdi ignition: will have to be sorted and tested, but in overall great
condition…. Later I had this cdi and the one I got with the bike (had the wires cut), tested by a
specialist, they are in working condition.

▲Tail piece section with rail and wiring, grommets in good condition.

▲This was the holy grail, as the rear cowl and seat era rare, and way too expensive, the pan is
rusted in some areas, but can be fixed. The foam is pretty bad, but it will help in making a new
one, as there are some pretty good upholstery shops here that can do a perfect job.

▲A great left cover, not broken, just needs paint.

▲I got the original controls, which have to be restored, two front headlights, the front mudguard,
the oil tank in awesome condition, and another rare item: the tool kit.


▲the rare 2r9 carbs… I cleaned them up with carb cleaner, but could use an ultrasonic cleaning.

▲rear brake.

▲this really helped out a lot as getting this combo with a working key is also expensive.

▲control switches

▲the short version handlebar. I still don´t know if it´s original, all bikes I have seen have a bigger one

▲the kick starter and shifters, the ones I had were not from the bike.

▲last but not least the 2r9 exhausts, there are some dents, the chrome is really bad, and they had
been painted over in black,  i´m having a hard time finding someone who can rechrome these
exhausts here in Colombia, I read the process is different to regular chroming ...  otherwise the
heat will peal it away.
I will keep looking,  In the meantime I might paint them black, until I find the right shop that does
this.  Later I might fit aftermarket chambers…  but  this is another problem, I have seen many
aftermarket chambers for the DAYTONA and the 1A1 rd´s.  but no one seems to have them
available for the rd400g or the brit rd400E (to my knowledge both this bikes use the same
mounting points on the frame).

In the future i would love to get something like jim lomas or  hvc chambers. But they don´t have them for this bike…  would hate to purchase this expensive exhausts only to have to weld on top of them or on the frame for new mounting points.

Maybe someone who has fitted chambers to a rd400g or rd400e can let me know where to find them.

Jim said he would email me the plans for some street exhausts, I know I can have them made here,
As there are various shops doing race chambers for two strokes. In colombia two stroke engines
were permitted until at least 2006.

I want to thank Jim, he really gave me I great price, even with shipping parts from Canada to Miami then to Colombia, I don´t think I could have gotten a better deal on this parts.

All in all I paid jim us$398 for the 2r9 cylinders

for the second batch of parts I paid us$283 (cover, seat, cowl, etc..)

for the third I paid $200 (carbs, exhaust etc..)

everything with shipping to miami

This is the point when I decided to restore the bike, so no café racer or scrambler out of this.

From now on It will be a full on restomod.  I want the vintage look of the bike, upgrade the brake
lines, tires and suspension to current standards.

« Last Edit: March 21, 2019, 11:00:06 AM by joseimport »