Customizing a GL1000

I had first spotted this 1976 LTD 13 years ago, hidden away in the corner of a custom motorcycle seat business in Arkansas, and out of a lack of interest, didn’t say anything to the owner about whether it was for sale. Four years ago, I was in that same shop with a friend who was having a seat made and walked back to see if it was still there, and there it sat in the same spot I had seen it in years before. It had no carbs installed, and was in pretty sad shape. I asked the owner if he would sell it and offered him a price. He turned me down and said he couldn’t sell it for that. One year later, he called me and asked if I was still interested and I bought it for my original offered price.

After trailering it home, along with several boxes of parts including the carbs, it sat in my garage for four to five months. Every time I walked by it, I wondered to myself, “What have I gotten myself into?” I had never attempted anything like this in my life, but I was determined to succeed. The carbs were locked up tight and after disassembly, it wasn’t hard to figure out why. Mike Nixon of California worked his magic on them and they looked brand new, inside and out.

Then the fun started … disassembly began, starting with the rear end, including the swingarm, fuel tank and everything in between, plus cleaning, polishing and having parts powder-coated. Everything on the bike was rusted really bad, including most of the bearings. The pivot collars were actually rusted to the pivot bolts inside the swingarm, but they came apart fairly easy. All of these were replaced with NOS parts before reassembly. The heads were also removed to replace the valve seals and to lap the valves, then the engine was repainted while disassembled. The fuel tank was cleaned out and recoated after powder coating the outside. I then reinstalled the heads, along with the cooling tubes, etc., painting and powder-coating parts before reassembly.

The fun then began on the other end with the removal of the entire front end. I replaced the original loose ball bearings in the steering head with All Balls Racing bearings, then replaced the fork seals, etc. before reassembly of the front end. The original faces on the speedometer and tachometer were pretty bad, so they were replaced with white faces. After installing the newly painted plastic parts, it was finally beginning to look like a motorcycle again.

The final few months were the most stressful, trying to get the exhaust to fit to my satisfaction, along with several other accessories, but it finally all came together. Then the moment of truth – to see if it would run after sitting for 28 years.

It fired right up, but was only running on three cylinders. I thought, how is this possible? There are only two coils, and this being a wasted spark engine, each coil fires two cylinders simultaneously. It ended up being a bad coil, which was new along with the DynaTek electronic ignition. After replacing it, the bike ran like new.

Some people think I shouldn’t have café’d an LTD, being as though only 2000 were built, but I wanted a unique bike, unlike anything I had ever seen before, and I think I accomplished my goal. I belong to the greatest GWRRA Chapter in the U.S., Chapter H, in Kansas, and plan on riding the café bike, along with my 2012 GL1800 trike on many rides in 2015.


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