Ackrill CFM GT550 Rebuild
By Ross Sharp - 31 May 14
Remember the kid in school whose tie was always neat, with the same knot everyday, pencils correctly sharpened and unchewed ends, sports kit folded and stacked in a holdall carried using the shoulder strap and rather than both handles, slung nonchalantly over to one side? I think Simon from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire was one such kid. The planning, parts sourcing and rebuild of this 1986 Kawasaki GT550 is the work of a methodical man. Well, 2 methodical men and a young person learning about methodicalness. Simon's dad has had this GT from new and it was well used by him in the UK and on European trips before passing down the baton. After further trips, both solo and two-up the poor old girl was in need of a refresh. The miles and 28 years had taken their toll so a full on restoration was on the cards. But as so often the case, returning something to its former glory leaves the present and future devoid of something new and interesting. Plus, having your bike featured in the 'Shed is way better than on Polished Chrome Monthly, right? One thing that the Ackrill Trio (Simon, his son and his dad) wanted to maintain was the heritage of this particular bike so sourced a donor frame that would allow hacking, chopping and welding. Unfortunately the history and integrity of this frame were questionable so the original was used, with the caveat that all mods must be removable should the need arise to return the bike to original, to honour the near three decades of service the GT had given. So, the flavour was to be Kawasakis from the '70s & '80s with a bit of Flat Track for piquancy. CFM Customs instigated a complete strip down, strip to bare metal before the replate, repaint and re-powder exercise could begin. Devils Ride took care of the candy-pearl Kawasaki green on the tank and side panels to give a more modern twist to the traditional colour. To be able to use modern Renthal bars a new Z Power top yoke was fitted, giving a comfortable riding position and the way-out-wide grips provide plenty of leverage to force the GT into bends. Petit, low mileage, single and optimistic could be the header for a lonely hearts ad, but works for the Kawasaki's speedo too, which sits in a custom bracket. Wrenchmonkies shipped over a pair of scrambles foot pegs, and front mudguard which of course bolted straight on with no fettling required. The rear mudguard is new, Hitchcocks' Royal Enfield Cafe Racer kit, in nice, lightweight aluminium. Tidying the rear and removing factory parts has shed around 10kgs which will give the old motor a new lease of life. Rear shocks are Hagon and the original forks have been rebuilt so handling is a slight improvement over standard, with modern spec but classically patterned Continentals ensuring all this hard work stays shiny side up. The seat has been reshaped and covered by Smart RRRs with plenty of space for a pillion and plenty of foam for long distance comfort. Simon had been told that K&Ns would turn the 550cc four-pot into a lumpy beast but Carl at CFM had no trouble in dialling in the carbs for smooth, rev-happy running. Wrapped headers subtly take the edge off the bright paint and perfect level of finish and the shortened muffler adds a slight hint of Tracker and helps with the visual balance. Lights and indicators are miscellaneous bargains from bike shows and eBay and look about right. OK this might not be a full-on build with stacked-dime Tig welding, Inconel exhaust and machined unobtanium swingarm but with the planning stage being so meticulous, Simon and family have put something together that wouldn't look out of place in Kawasaki's 2015 retro range of new bikes. In case you're wondering, Simon isn't a fighter pilot, these pics were taken by Neil Sterry at the Jet Age Museum, nice touch.