Reader resto: 1997 Yamaha SZR 660

Date 14.4.2014

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  • Motorcycle Trader



1997 Yamaha SZR 660



I restored a 1954 Velocette Mac 350 a few years ago and enjoyed the process. This led to the desire to do the same with a more modern, road-going single. Enter the Yamaha SZR660.

I bought the bike from South West Motor Cycle Wreckers in Sydney. The paintwork looked OK and it started and ran without rattles or smoke so I had it freighted to my home in Adelaide.

Typically, first impressions can be deceiving as I discovered when the tank and bodywork were removed. It appeared the bike may have been repainted in recent years, but the rest of it had been neglected with missing bolts, corrosion, rust – you name it.

However, there’s no point having a project if it constitutes a quick wash and polish I thought, not knowing it would take eight months to get the thing running properly. So here we go.


The temperature gauge glass was cracked and, during transport, the left-hand footrest hanger was broken. As no wrecker would sell me the bits, I bought another old bike with at least those items intact.

The cooling system was totally corroded, possibly due to neglect and/or using the wrong blend of coolant and water. The impeller for the water pump was replaced with that from the donor bike, the cooling system was flushed and the radiator pressure tested.

With the rear suspension, I liked the idea that the swingarm was a rising rate with the linkage and spindles mounted on needle-roller bearings until I attempted to dismantle it. With the neglect, the entire unit was rusted-in and the bearings almost impossible to remove.

I dismantled the rear suspension by cutting the bearings across the face and using Loctite freeze spray to loosen the rust to prevent damaging the alloy linkages and swingarm. The shafts from the donor bike were serviceable and BSC Adelaide supplied the bearings and seals.


When I removed the cylinder head I was pleasantly surprised with the cleanliness of the oil with no damage to head or barrel. The bottom end was good so the crankcases weren’t split. The barrel was a bit worn so it was bored and a new piston fitted. Valves and head were faced and lapped ready for re-assembly.

Oddly enough, the tank and bodywork were quite reasonable and, after a cut-back, were left as is. The crankcases and oil tank were corroded so they were repainted. The exhaust header pipes were ceramic-coated silver. The wheels were powder-coated red to match the Gilera Saturno 500 single, launched a few years prior to the Yamaha, and the swingarm powder-coated silver.

What followed was weeks of wire brushing, tooth brushing and repainting all the minor components including the sub-frame, chain tensioners and radiator, to name a few.


Alan Cathcart was critical of the SZR’s brakes in Superbike Magazine in September, 1995. This is surprising, given the bike comes standard with a 320mm front disc and a four-spot Brembo caliper mounted on the right fork. The left fork and left side of the front wheel, however, are designed to accept an extra disc and caliper so I put it to good use. The disc came from the donor bike and Ducati by chance marketed a bike with a single disc front brake on the left, so a caliper from one of these bikes was obtained and fitted with a set of braided lines front and rear.

I had a set of stainless hex bolts sent from Britain so most of the engine and mounting bolts have been replaced.

A new screen for the fairing was bought from a firm in Sydney which, surprisingly, happened to have one in stock. Fresh Pirelli Sport Demon tyres were then fitted.

Fill it up with oil, coolant, a few litres of petrol and start her up. Well, no. The standard bike battery ran out of puff before petrol had been sucked up to the carburettor. I attached a car battery to the terminals and away it went. What a satisfying moment!

I’ve ridden only a few kilometres on it so far and everything is working perfectly, especially the brakes. I think even ‘Sir Al’ would approve.

Judging by the prices asked for tarted-up Yamaha SR 500s, I might even make a profit – if I ever decide to sell it.




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