Welcome back to another instalment of me figuring out how to try and not ruin an classic yet dilapidated 1979 Yamaha XS 750. The plan is to work over the winter to develop my motorbike tinkering skills to create a stunning cafe racer by spring time. I say cafe racer, but it may end up a hybrid between a cafe racer and tracker style. The origins for the difference in styles… I haven’t a bloody clue*…but a cafe racer looks like the left picture and tracker the right.

*okay okay a quick history lesson…

Tracker motorcycles can trace their origins to the flat track races from the early 1920’s. These races were carried out on oval dirt tracks, and usually with the bikes at a serious angle going sideways. The trackers had to therefore be light & powerful. The tracker “look” in modern days is easily spotted by the small fuel  tank, thin seat, high scrambler-esque handlebars.

Cafe Racers originated from England in the 1950’s, this following was born out of young enthusiastic riders with a passion for speed. The main purpose of modifying a bike or creating a cafe racer was to make it faster.the Term Cafe racer is believed to have been coined from the youngsters hanging out at service stations (ot cafe’s back in the day) and challenging fellow motorcylists to a race, to determine whos machine was the quickest. The café racer “look” in modern day creations is easily spotted by the clip on handlebars, rear-set foot pegs and clam shell behind the riders seat.

Horrible Struan Based Hybrid – the trendy new name I am trademarking now will be my finished bike taking design cues from not only the above styles but other custom motorcycle types too….to be explored as we go through the project.


My week started out with the intent of getting the bike running prior to stripping it down….well that was the intent.

First things first…thank you dodgy ebay man for the key that worked! Mind=blown…but I’m a happy chappy….now that I know that it works…I’ll see about ordering a key for that classic Ducati down the street (JOKES FFS).

Ah yes…. the original plan was to get the bike running, and I had a big spiel about how it should be running in my last post etc…well plans change okay?

In preparation for trying to get it running I bought a few bits and pieces from www.yambits.co.uk . I can highly recommend them. The speed of delivery was great and they carried all the bits I needed in stock.

The goodies included spark plugs, spark plug caps & a 1m length HT lead (High Tension, if anyone cares). Also I couldn’t forget old faithful i.e. Mr Haynes manual for the XS750. Never has such a book been treated with such little respect from new…Haynes manuals have always helped me in the past, even to give a stepping stone as to how to start a job. It just so happens that they also tend to get manky within minutes as they are opened with greasy/oily mitts and booted around the garage floor…thanks again Haynes.

Free handwash mitt with my Haynes Manual…it will be a while before i need that!

 Assembly of Leads

Making up the new caps to the new leads was a new one to me. It was a fairly straight forward task. See below the high level guide with photos at the end:

  1. Remove old caps by unscrewing, or if you are like me, they just fell off
  2. Remove the other side of the lead from the coil – mine had a grommet that screwed in and held the lead in place. I had the remove the coils from the motorcycle to get the leads out easily (only two nuts held each coil in place).
  3. Measure out length of HT lead against the one you are going to replace
  4. Fit heat proof shroud to HT lead (if applicable)
  5. Fit any boots, heat proof shielding etc  to the lead prior to fitting the cap
  6. The cap has a screw – line the wire of the HT lead up with the screw the best you can and screw together until nice and tight, refit the rubber boot which protects the cap from moisture
  7. Refit the other side of the HT lead to the coil – this also as a screw, so the same process as above.
  8. Refit the coil to the bike, and plug the HT lead into the spark plug. Note – you may have to unscrew a small cap from the top of your spark plug if the cap doesn’t fit properly – this can be gripped and unscrewed with pliers.

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With the leads and caps reassembled to the coils I fitted them back onto the bike. Next was to connect the battery and see whether there was any life.

I borrowed the Harley’s battery rather than buying a new one…. once connected, nothing happened 😦 A few tweaks here and there and….nothing happened. No lights on the dash, no sounds from relays, no smoke from where the bike had suddenly decided that a bearded tool slowly killing it with amateur mechanics was too much and spontaneous combustion was the only answer…

With the plugs back in and the engine turning over by cranking the kickstart, the executive (read, on the hoof) decision was made to not waste time any longer and get the bike stripped down. The argument in favour of this mainly being that it is clearly an electrical issue on the bike. I plan to overhaul the electrical system as part of the rebuild. I will only need basic functionality when completed so there may be a way to run a simplified loom with a more modern slim line battery….a future problem to be figured out.

For now…the strip down….the photos below say more than I can. The bonus here…the majority of bits I plan on reusing are in good condition and just needing some elbow grease to bring them back to life.

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The strip down is up to the level of having to remove the exhaust and then eventually the engine. From there we get into the fun stuff including great topics such as how the hell do I get this engine out? How do you paint an engine? what to do with the frame ? When should I cut my losses and give up? If there is any specific things you would like me to look at, leave a message in the comments section.

Cost’s so far

Item Cost
3 x  NGK spark plugs £17
3 x XS750 NGK Red Spark Plug Cap £11.97
2m x XS750 HT Spark Plug Lead
inc Delivery for caps also
Haynes Manual £18
Shock & Release Spray £3.50
Recut keys £10
Allen key socket set (for removing exhaust studs) £13
Easy Start tin £5
Oil (for engine) £7
Fuel Hose (for carbs) £6
Hose clips £2
Fuses £2
Sub-Total £106.45
Project total £301.45


To be continued,