Your Bikes

Name: Vaughn O'Laughlin

Place: New Boston, Michigan, USA


The "Easy Restoration"

By Vaughn O'Laughlin

My problem started early in the year 2000 when I bought a computer. Until then, I had thought about looking for an old 60's bike, but really didn't have access to finding them, and didn't pursue it. But once I had the computer, a whole new world opened up. That's when I found the Suzuki T20, better known as the X6 Hustler. It was on Ebay, and it was located in the state where I live (although several hundred miles away). I looked at the picture on Ebay, and the bike didn't look too bad. The seller described that it needed a lot of work, including engine, but I thought I could handle it for less money than buying one in good condition. First big mistake, you never can restore one for less than you can buy one.

I met the seller in northern Michigan. When he drove up with the X6 on the trailer, my heart sank. What a mess. It was a lot worse than the picture revealed. It was also my fault, as I hadn't researched the bike. I could tell now that it had the wrong exhaust system on it (from a GT250), as well as the wrong rear fender and tail-light, also from a GT250. Come to find out, half the parts on the bike were from a GT250, including the front fender, aircleaner box. I looked again at the Ebay picture, and it was my fault, as now I could see those parts on the picture. I was so anxious to get an X6, it probably wouldn't have stopped me anyway, kind of like a fever or addiction.

Right away, I knew I would have to take the bike apart totally, and restore it one piece at a time. Within minutes, I threw away any idea of a budget and knew that this thing was going to cost me plenty in time and money. But I decided to do it anyway because I feel this bike is a part of history, and I wanted to save it. When I was a young many in the 60's, I wanted an X6, but couldn't afford it. I ended up with a Yamaha YL-1 twin-jet, a 100cc twin that was a great bike, but not an X6.

After stripping the bike down to the frame, I found out just how bad this bike had been abused. Everything, and I mean just about everything, was dented, bent, corroded or somehow messed up. The swingarm was bent 1 " to the right, the aircleaner was dented and rusted, the oil tank had a huge crease along the bottom that was so perfect that I thought it was part of the design until I looked up pictures of an X6 on the T20 site. Both fenders were dented, the rear so bad I would have to replace it. The seat pan was bent, and the seat had been recovered in the hillbilly way. I knew then that this bike had been owned by a low-life hillbilly. I forgot to mention that the seller had given me a copy of the Ebay ad that he had bought the bike from. This guy had claimed that the bike was an "easy restoration". The biggest lie I have every seen on Ebay. He also mentioned that it had been repainted. Yes it had, by a wacko who had painted with a spray can over the dirt and rust. Different shades of blue as well. I found the original color under the side cover. It was red, so I decided to paint my bike the original color of red instead of blue.

If you look at this picture you will notice 2 gas tanks in the upper right hand corner. The black tank is the one with the opening pushed down into the tank (see text below). The chrome side panels were in better shape than what I had, so I sent them out to be re-chromed. The knee pads were also better, so used them as well. The emblems were the originals, and were toast. I ended up using the blue tank (with a trace of red showing through - the original color), but first I had to 'Kreame' the inside to control the rust. Came out pretty good.

The motor was under an overturned box the corner of which can just be seen in the lower left hand side of this (cropped) picture. Don't ask me why I didn't take the box off, probably because you have to be nuts to tackle a project like this anyway.......

I bought a good used swingarm from Marty in Florida, the king of the X6. He told me that the bushings were hard to remove, and the one he was sending me had a bad bushing. After hours of heating, beating and twisting, I got the bushing out of the old, bent swingarm and the used swingarm from Marty. I thought, hey, not bad. Trouble was, I had distorted the bushings so that they weren't round anymore, and couldn't be used. Couldn't find any new bushings in this country, but found some in Australia. Australia is a good source for X6 parts, although the shipping will kill you on heavy parts. I ended up getting a good used set of handlebars from Australia. Did I mention that the handlebars on my bike were bent? That's right, I did say that everything was bent, especially the handlebars. (and footpegs, swingarm, aircleaner, seatpan, etc. etc.)

Once I got the replacement swingarm, I sent everything to be sand and media blasted. The only way to go for anyone thinking about restoring a bike. Don't even think about stripping or sanding the paint yourself, too much work!!!

Meanwhile, I knew the motor would need work. After all, why would someone destroy the outside of the bike but take care of the motor. After bringing the bike home, I did get it started, on one cylinder for 3 seconds. Did I mention that the guy who had owned the bike said that it "runs"? Well, technically yes, it does run. But it is pretty hard to ride when you have to stop every 3 seconds. I sent the motor to Speed & Sport Motorcyles in Long Beach California for a total rebuild. The motor was even worse than I could have imagined. The right piston was destroyed, and the motor was on the last overbore. Only the largest set of Wiseco pistons could be used, and Matt at Speed & Sport finally located a set of those. Many other things were wrong as well, but they did a great job on the motor, inside and out. One of the things that Matt discovered was that someone had wired up an extra condenser for the right cylinder. The right side had had a bad seal, and had fouled up the right side exhaust so bad nothing could get through it. In addition, the right carb choke was "choked" shut. Had to soak it for a long time to loosen it.

The gas tank was dented, and heavily rusted inside, so thought I would buy a good used one. I saw one on Ebay that sounded decent, and bought it at a higher price than I really wanted to go. Something about bidding on Ebay, easy to get carried away. The seller failed to mention a small point on the tank, mainly that the filler opening had been pushed down into the tank almost an inch. I ended up using the original tank, after I kreamed it. The oil tank, the one with the perfect crease in it, was replaced with one I bought from a dealer. I had the oil tank media blasted, and found out that it was full of holes! I called the dealer with the news, and he replaced the tank with a NOS tank! I was impressed. Thanks to Sam Costanzo at Vintage Suzuki. He stands behind his sales.

I also have had great success with Paul Miller, who knows the X6 top to bottom. The best investment I ever bought was an X6 parts book from Paul. Between these two guys, I found many parts that I thought couldn't be found. I highly recommend both of them. The seat was trash, so I sent it to Sargents Seats. They did a wonderful job with new foam, new cover and strap.

One of the best investments I made during this episode was a buffing wheel. I used it on the hubs, nuts, bolts, anything that I could get down into the basement. It does a good job, and saves money (for a change!). I tried to use NOS Suzuki parts or good used parts when available. I ended up using some metric nuts and bolts from the hardware store when I couldn't find any NOS. Many of the nuts and bolts had been replaced by the previous owner with SAE items that were forced to fit. Wow. What a guy. Hillbillies have never heard of metric.

Okay, the the frame and tank, oil tank, side cover, headlight brackets, fork tubes had been blasted and primed. I had just received a new set of golf clubs as a 25 year gift from my company. I knew a guy who was a body and paint man who needed new clubs. I traded him the clubs for his painting the frame and tin. I bought quality paint, but used red metallic covered by clearcoat instead of the original candyapple red. The color is close enough, since this isn't a concours restoration. Just want to ride.

Finally, things were looking up. I had spent countless hours cleaning and finding replacements, and now started assembling the pieces. That is fun, as compared to the taking it apart to clean. The motor was beautiful, the parts were painted, and everything was looking good (except for the rims, spokes and tires, they were cleaned, but need replacement - ongoing restoration). I wish I could say everything went back together perfectly, but of course that could never happen. Lots and lots of frustration, but eventually everything was together except for the wiring harness. The "guy" had run a wire from the motor up to the headlight and switch attempting to make daylight running lights. The wiring harness was as bad as the rest of the bike, and am still looking for a new harness. My headlight doesn't work, so for now the bike is a day only rider. Like I said, this is an ongoing restoration.

Finally, the day came in which I would try and start the bike. I had primed the oil system using the method that Marty Landry had e-mailed me (thanks again Marty!). Everything was looking good, but it wouldn't start!! I had failed to set the idle screws on the top of the carbs, and the slides were all the way down. No way any air could get into the engine with the choke on and throttle closed. It took a few minutes to figure this out, but once I did it started right up. The sound, just like I remembered it. Great sound, although not quite as cool as the Yamaha twin jet (Yamaha's have more "crackle - sorry Suzuki lovers, personal opinion). I then adjusted the carbs according to the owners manual. There were a few small problems, like a small oil leak and exhaust leak. I just got the license plate yesterday, June 12, 2001, and have taken it out on the road. What a feeling!!.

I never owned an X6 back in the 60's, but had ridden them many times because some of my friends had them. I used to love to powershift them with a wide open throttle, but now since this is my bike, with all the time and money involved, I will be a little more careful, no powershifting allowed. Funny how it is more fun to ride someone elses bike when that person isn't watching!

I want to thank the following people who made this restoration possible. If you are going to restore an old bike, contact them or me. They have the knowledge and the parts. The knowledge they give freely, the parts are a different matter. Thanks again.

Paul Miller 1 877 244-7755
Sam Costanzo
Marty Landry in Florida
Mark Witzerman in Tasmania
Chris Dupen in Australia
Ivor Evans in Australia
Matt Hilgenberg of Speed & Sport in California

One more thing:
If anyone is restoring an X6, write me with any questions. If I can't answer it, I know who can. Total cost of the restoration? Not a clue. I don't dare even try to make a guess. Might not ever do another restoration if I did. Thanks for reading this.

Vaughn O'Laughlin
Email address:

Editors note - Thanks for sharing your thoughts on motorcycle restoration Vaughn. Anyone who has ever restored a bike will agree with every point you raise!! - Adrian Baker

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