To call ‘Turbo Maximus’ a restomod would be selling it short. It’s a re-engineered masterpiece.
A week ago we stumbled across this remarkable Yamaha at the Forged Invitational show. ‘Turbo Maximus’ took top honors at the Jekyll Island event, which is not surprising when you consider the XJ900 engine transplant, the properly engineered turbo conversion, and the delicious race replica bodywork.
A few days ago, owner Derek Kimes wheeled the Yamaha into the studio of the man who captured the atmospheric images from the show—photographer Steve West. And so we can now dig into the story a little more.
Derek is a relative latecomer to the world of bike building. After serving eight years in the US Navy, he left the beaches of San Diego and moved to Atlanta to pursue a degree in engineering. While studying, he started working on bikes to learn hands-on skills, and found out that Bryan Fuller’s shop was located nearby.
“My savings were drying up and I needed a part-time job. I sent an email to Bryan and to my surprise, he responded. I started working part-time, sweeping floors, taking out the trash and doing small tasks to help the guys at the shop.”
“I am so grateful that Bryan gave a guy with no real fabrication or welding background a chance to prove himself at his shop. Without that chance, this bike would never have happened.”
Derek spent many nights and weekends in the shop, working on his skills after hours. But despite that, this is the first and only bike he’s ever owned.
“I bought it used, in completely stock form, in 2005,” he recalls. “It’s a 1982 Yamaha XJ750 Maxim, originally painted black. I enjoyed riding it but wanted to make it better.”
Then Derek fell in love with the XJ750R (0U28) that raced in Japan in the 1984 Suzuka 8 Hours—the only XJ series bike that Yamaha prepped for the track. And that’s where the inspiration for this restomod came from.
“I thought to myself, how would an OEM build this? I have learned to respect the amount of engineering that a manufacturer puts into a model; matching the quality level of OEM parts is a very difficult task.”
So Derek decided to transform his old XJ750 into a modern, fuel-injected, boosted superbike. “People said I was crazy—why do that to a tired old XJ? I wanted to prove them wrong.”
The 750 engine came out, and a 1983 XJ900 mill was swapped in. It’s been been fully rebuilt by NASCAR engine builder Jordan Hersey of Atlanta, GA, with 9:1 custom forged pistons, adjustable camshaft sprockets from an FZ750, and titanium valve springs from Kibblewhite.
The turbo system itself is extremely neat. “I wanted it to look like the bike was designed originally to be turbocharged. You see so many turbo bikes with the turbo hanging way out, or the charge tube is wrapped around the engine.”
To avoid this, Derek chose a Borg Warner S1BG turbo. It’s big enough to give him the 200 horsepower (on E85 fuel) that he wanted, but small enough to tuck in between the frame and front wheel.
To hide the intake charge pipe, he’s cut a channel on the bottom right side of the tank, so it can travel straight back from the intercooler. Above the turbo there’s a custom Bell intercooler—which left a problem with locating the oil cooler. So the oil lines are now routed underneath the bike to the rear, where an Earl’s oil cooler sits just in front of the back wheel.
Despite the extensive engineering on the engine, the front part of the frame is original. Further back, Derek’s fabricated a new tail section and swingarm, converting the rear suspension to a monoshock setup using a 5-way adjustable piggyback rear shock.
It’s not just a grinder job. Derek had the frame laser scanned, measured and straightened at GMD Computrack for precise alignment, and powder coated for protection.
Then he installed forks from a 2015 Yamaha R6, upgraded with Traxxion Dynamics AK-20 cartridges. And to prevent wobbles when the full 200 horsepower kicks in, there’s an adjustable Öhlins steering stabilizer.
The quality of finish on the bodywork is just as astounding as the engineering. The front fairing is a F1 replica by Airtech Streamlining, heavily modified to fit with the help of fiberglass specialist Patrick Henry of Atlanta.
Keen eyes will spot that the tank is from a Yamaha XS750. Derek relocated the mounts to install it on the XJ750 frame, and then topped it off with a Racefit fuel cap. The tail unit is a completely custom one-off though, with a seat upholstered in Alcantara and black leather.
To call ‘Turbo Maximus’ a restomod would be selling it short. It’s a re-engineered masterpiece, and one of the few occasions where mechanical brilliance is matched by a keen eye for aesthetics. We can’t wait to see what Derek builds next.
This article first appeared on Bike Exif; It’s republished here with permission.
Fire it up in the comments below:
Motofire is for sale
Figuratively at least, most – if not all – UK based motorcycling websites are for sale. The same could be said for a few of the larger US-based publications too, but our direct experience has been mostly here within the UK , where we’ve directly opposed the way that other publications have bowed, kotowed and licked their way downwards towards the current motorcycling media climate’s position of ‘everything is pretty much terrible, but can we have some money please’.
When we launched Motofire in late 2014, both Ian and myself were at the lowest points of our respective lives. Both of us had been independently removed from our jobs at the dwindling circulatory and German-megacorp owned weekly, motorcycling newspaper, and both of us were desperate to prove that the online world of motorcycling could – and should – be different. Which was something that we’d met resistance for believing in over the previous years of employment.
And so – with a large dose of ‘what the hell’ – Motofire.com was born.
We were determined to be different. Having worked previously for companies who had manipulated online audience statistics and had sold potential advertisers placement based upon numbers that were not quite what they seemed, we had hoped that our open approach to running an online property would be precisely what manufacturers and brands wanted.
We were going to openly share our stats, our audience figures and more importantly our recorded and independently audited engagement figures. Sure, we couldn’t claim to have over 2.5 million online ‘visitors’ a month, but we knew that the few thousand that would find us would be those people who genuinely cared about motorcycles, had visited out of passion for a shared past-time, and hadn’t just arrived upon us because they’d been hoodwinked into stumbling across miscalculated MPG data from a random Honda CB600F search on Google.
Two-wheeled machines offer more by way of thrill, excitement and life-affirming adrenaline than any other mode of high-speed travel today
Of course we would need advertising money to survive, but with the market even then looking down the barrel of an ever-aging population, and the beginnings of an electrical onslaught that nobody in the industry seemed either ready for, or even aware of, we were confident that we could get enough young and/or progressive brands to join us on our crusade to show that motorcycles weren’t just the purview of old, white men in hi-viz jackets or Schwantz replica Arai lids. Motorcycles were, are, and always will be fu*#ng cool!
Four years later, we still maintain that two-wheeled machines offer more by way of thrill, excitement and life-affirming adrenaline than any other mode of high-speed travel today – and they are indeed, cool – but the honest truth of the matter is that whilst we have proven that there is an interest in motorcycles above and beyond the, elderly echo-chamber clientele that is attracted to most of the other online press, the marketing departments and advertising of most UK manufacturers and brand distribution houses don’t share the same enthusiasm. At least not when it comes to spending their adverting money with an independent publication such as Motofire.
Motorcycles are fu*#ng cool!
Yes, the new wave custom scene arrived to inject a much-needed shot of inspiration into the arms of new – and lapsed – bikers, and we are proud to have been at the front of some of that development with our early relationships with The Bike Shed and Bike Exif. But whilst we would love to be able to say categorically that younger riders are joining the throng of two-wheel aficionados because of this new ‘scene’, evidence that we’ve been privy to actually shows that even the sales of the most hipster of all hip motorcycles within recent years – the Ducati Scrambler – was bought by more people in their 50’s than anyone else.
The custom scene is not the magical bullet to new sales that the marketing men of Triumph, Yamaha and Ducati had hoped it would be. Or even the one that Kawasaki so belatedly jumped onto the bandwagon of.
So maybe new drive-trains and electrically powered motorcycles will be the saviour of the industry?
We really hope so. We’ve spent much of our time here on Motofire extolling the virtues of electric motorcycles, and that has been due to genuine passion and belief. Just a couple of years ago, we heard tales of respected journalists writing for some of the world’s most ‘respected’ titles refusing to swing their legs over an electric machine, and that backwards thinking sentiment is reverberated around the comment threads and vitriolic social media replies in almost every post about an electric motorcycle that exists online.
But we fostered a different community. You – good and dear Motofire reader – didn’t dismiss battery-powered machines out of hand. You were different. You are different.
The same happened when we wrote about Yamaha’s Motobot, or Honda’s self-balancing tech. You didn’t instantly hate and grumble about the ‘death of motorcycling’. Like us, you were intrigued, fascinated and keen to learn more. This new technology will certainly change the nature of two-wheel ownership, but in the face of dwindling sales and dramatic shifts in our populations’ behaviour, you joined us in believing that maybe, just maybe, this all might combine to become the saviour of motorcycling and not the harbinger of doom.
Sadly, the thin thread of people in charge of the purse strings in motorcycling don’t feel the same passion for this new juncture and our new(ish) venture’s optimism as we do.
And so – now – we find ourselves in a position were the market is at a crossroads technologically, financially and philosophically and instead of exploring new markets or new avenues, the introspective nature of the industry means that our dream of being the ‘new voice of motorcycling’ has been met with wide eyes from our ever-growing audience – (over 1.5 million website visitors, 120k Facebook fans, 25k Twitter followers and over 60k Instagram fans at that last count) – but deaf ears from the media-buyers, programmatic advertising engines and tranquillised fear of marketing managers.
To put it bluntly, we here at MFHQ have simply not been good enough at manipulating the people with money to offer us any of it, and this means that we can’t earn enough money from this site currently to pay for the two of us to give Motofire the time and dedication that it – and you, our readers – deserve.
Personally we’ve given our all – despite only ever working on it in our spare time whilst managing other jobs – to provide a new and exciting way of covering motorcycling online. We like to think that we’ve done motorcycling journalism veteran Wes Siler, and his excellent manifesto for online bike journalism, justice.
— Wes Siler (@IndefiniteWild) January 18, 2018
When we started, the major publications here within the UK were publishing one, maybe two ‘articles’ a day of generic, press release and general news. Enough maybe to support their attached print articles or insurance advertisers, but nowhere near what we – as motorcycling fans – wanted to see.
We like to think that it’s because of our influence that you can now see dedicated teams of staff publishing on a nearly full-time basis across those same, said websites.
Sure, some of our stories and articles have been little more than YouTube videos of bears in sidecars, but we’ve also tackled some pretty huge stories when other publications at the time were only tentatively covering them at best…
When MV Agusta went into their latest round of financial trouble, it was Motofire that broke the story first.
Whilst other motorcycling sites ignored them; we were talking about Alta Motors years ago.
We first connected the dots between Norton and John McGuinness last year.
When Nicky Hayden so tragically lost his life last year, it was Motofire that first told the story worldwide – but more importantly, we maintained the coverage beyond just the horrible click-bait from other sites and continued the narrative as exhaustively as possible for the benefit of hundreds of thousands of fans who were desperate for correct and verified information.
Plus (and admittedly we may be biased) we produced the best tribute to the great man available anywhere on the Internet.
Perhaps you’re a brand who feels that they could maintain a daily blog whilst having access to over a quarter of a million motorcycle fans every month?
Through our little website, we gave an outlet to the great and wonderful MotoGP reporter Hannah Smith – an exhaustive talent and voice for whom we will never tire of reading.
We may just be ‘two, lazy, disruptive arseholes who deserved everything they get’ (actual quote from an ex-colleague) but we are also two people who’ve given our all over the past four years to make Motofire the best website it can be; and we’ve done it all on a part-time basis with little or no budget to work with, and no major support from anyone within the UK motorcycling industry. Because we had passion for everything two-wheels and both genuinely believed that this industry of ours needed to think differently in order to survive.
But now it’s time to pass on the challenge.
Perhaps you’re a brand who feels that they could maintain a daily blog whilst having access to over a quarter of a million, genuine, real and engaged motorcycle fans every month?
Maybe you’re an existing publisher looking to expand their market?
Or maybe you’re one of the rival publishers we’ve spoken of who just wants to offer a paltry amount in order to watch us squirm and struggle with such an existential decision?
Either way, we’re going to do our best to maintain Motofire for the coming weeks and/or months – so please keep visiting – but if you’re serious about motorcycling online and think you have what it takes to tackle all of the challenges that we’ve menioned above, then we’d love to hear from you.
(Ian has said that he’s happy to sell to anyone who can offer him a kevlar riding jean with more than a 36″ inside leg, and I’ve been known to do almost anything for a free run at the Icon catalogue. Just sayin’).
Anyway, thank you – ALL of you – for the past four years. It’s been a blast, we’ve both enjoyed the myriad highs and lows, and more importantly we’re insanely proud of what we believe to be the best motorcycling-based website on the internet.
So long, and thanks for all the FS1-Es
Fire it up in the comments below:
Custom of the Week: Harley-Davidson ‘XG750R’ Street Rod Flat Tracker by Noise Cycles
IF YOU LIKE WEAVING through city traffic during the week, and then blasting through the twisties on your days off, the Street Rod is probably the best Harley for you.
We found it to be surprisingly sharp and agile, with a warmed-up version of the regular Street engine delivering 69 frisky horses.
Scott Jones of Noise Cycles likes the Street Rod. And his new ‘XG750R’ tracker version has got us wondering what a factory Harley tracker would look like—if Milwaukee decided to counter the threat posed by Indian’s FTR1200.
Scott is one of the top bike builders in the USA, and despite coming from the chopper side of the tracks, he’s been bitten by the dirt bug. Last year he built himself a racebike based on the regular Street 750: “It started out as just the basic XG,” says Scott. “So this year, I built one using the Street Rod—which has a 27 degree neck instead of 31 degrees.”
That simple change alone made a huge difference. “This one feels so much better and easier to ride. Still 500 pounds, but more nimble.”
Those of you who were riding in the early 80s may feel a slight sense of déjà vu with this bike, and you’d be right. The left-side exhaust mimics the placement of the Harley-Davidson XR1000 pipes, and the paint by Matt Ross (with pin striping by Jen Hallett Art) is a nod to the slate grey used on many XR1000s too.
Scott’s not going to be dicing for the lead with pros like Jared Mees or Brad Baker in the American Flat Track Twins series. He’s in it just for the hell of it, and enjoying every moment.
But he’s also inadvertently given us a pointer on what a Harley Street Tracker might look like. And it wouldn’t be a difficult bike for the factory to replicate, Red Bull catch can aside. Any takers?