1982 Virago 920 engine up build


New Member
Hey everybody,
New member here. Been working on bikes for about 5 years now and have been inspired by this sight over the years but never been a member.

I started on this project mid October and several people said i should put it over here, and hopefully it goes in this section. I think of it as a modern cafe racer. updated styling but still a cafe to the bone.

The plan for this project is a complete frame-up build using only the motor and drive from a 1982 virago 920. everything else will be custom made or fabricated. updated suspension, brakes and all new body-work and controls to go with a rebuilt engine and a single carb conversion.

These posts are from what i have already put up, so there is going to be a butt-load of new info. and then i will continue updating as the project progresses.

My plan is to strip it down, build a custom frame, tank and tail. My goal is to have a striped down bike that is basically wheels and an engine. I haven't decided completely on the styling, however i am going to be putting spokes on it and the bodywork will be primarily carbon fiber. Oh and the other thing is i am going to do my best to not spend any money from our budget on the bike. I am planing on funding the bike with side-work. so if you have anything that you need done, hit me up.

I also have parts left over from the last build, including these USD forks from a GSXR 750 that were in really bad shape that i cleaned up and am rebuilding.

Here is the bike as it sits newly introduced to its stable-mate.

and the fork rebuilding:

I have some ideas in my head....

combining this:

with this:

*** edited out inlineperformancemag.com image as it was causing malware warning - Tim ***

add some CNC work, carbon fiber, a little paint, spit and grit and i think it should be tight.

okay so i only had about an hour yesterday to work on the bike due to some conflicts, and should have more time today, however i was able to make some headway it stripping it down.

I am really sorry for the crappy pics, my camera was having a bad day.

just some of the crap i pulled off of this thing

Is it just me, or does this bike have a lot of electronics for a carb, air-cooled bike? Maybe because of the digital gauges? i am going to go through the wiring diagram and see what i can cut out.

sadly there isnt a whole lot of "progress" right now as i am just stripping everything off and figuring what i have to work with. I got some 1.5" tubing ordered through my friend who has been using it for the roll cage in is opel GT. going to do a vertical stack of two.

The pile of stuff i have pulled off just keeps growing. though it is about as big now as it will ever be. gonna start cleaning parts up and selling them, so if you think of something you want, let me know.

Got the bike down to engine and frame.

i also got the swinger and rear wheel off, but the primary drive is stuck to the wheel, so i need to get that off. i am also contemplating rebuilding the swinger a little beefier with round tube to match the frame.

i like how it looks like this...

all in all i am getting the bike to where i can start the frame building, then i will be upgrading the swingarm. after that i will make the "lower" frame to tie the swinger, engine and main frame together. once that is done i will make the triples, and have a roller to start the subframe and body-work.


New Member
got the bike stripped down to bare essentials, and sat and stared at it for a long time:

then i cleaned up the garage and moved my nice flat work-table to the center of the shop, leveled it on the crappy floor and got the engine up on it:

I used some cast off parts to hold it vertical and on center. going to be making the headstock jig today. i decided on 25 degrees rake angle as a middle of the road path as i will have a pretty short front end.

I also ordered a set of All Balls tapered bearing set to replace the super crappy loose ball bearings that come stock in these. (pluss i dropped all the ball bearings on the floor when i took the stem out)

still getting prepped for the frame building. I needed a headstock jig, so i made one.

I settled on 25 degrees of rake as a middle of the road approach.

i also got the first parts for my front wheel. gotta get a new hub as this one is pooched, but i am going to use this hub to see if i can make my own rear hub to integrate the shaft drive without having to keep the drum brake.

I also have a 535 spoke rear wheel on its way to me as well as the proper hub for the front wheel and some GSXR calipers for the forks, so that i can figure out my fork width for the triples.

First off, i am replacing the clunky swingarm support with a stainless trellis that i will tie into the main frame. however, the two upper mounts are offset 11mm center to center, and to add rigidity, i made them connect (it was a PITA to make too)

Made the new pivot tube. Just waiting on new needle bearings to come in the mail. Gonna be making a jig on Monday to locate and hold the new tube in the same location as the stock tube.

I got the new hub and spokes for the front wheel, and laced it up. it is a harley wheel 16x3 dual flange.

Got the forks rebuilt. they are REALLLLLLY nice. gonna wait to dial them in till the bike is assembled.

Got my GSXR calipers so that i can now figure out spacer length and disk offeset before i start on the triples.

Got my new rear wheel off of a 94 Virago 535 that i will be running for now, until i can make a new hub for the back to incorporate the shaft drive, but run a disk brake rather than the antiquated drum.

Also got the new swinger as the old one had to be cut-off due to the stuck pivot bolt. it is just surface rust and will be getting the full treatment. this one will be staying stock so that i can modify the old one. without jeopardizing progress.

I also got a box of springs to play around with from Ben, who helped me rebuild my forks. MAJOR kudos to Ben (BenGone1 from SVRider)

I got my frame plates cut and ground. they are 0.15" precision ground and were cut on the waterjet, using Appolyon's CAD model as a reference. the are designed to be a secondary method of lining up the frame tubes as well.

Here is the preliminary fitting before i got the engine mount bosses done, but with the plate centered and located. (also this was before i ground them)

i LOVE it when a plan comes together.... this made me realllllly happy. 25 degrees of rake.

the bosses, cut to length with the 10mm through hole drilled and reamed to size. the carbon steel rusts fast with just the grease from your hands.

the bosses are 1" in diameter with the holes in the plates at 0.815" to locate them in the center with a 1.5" gap for the main frame tubes. the tolerance on the parts and fitment is plus or minus 0.003" so they fit together tight and the exact same every time.


New Member
First things first, i slapped the frame plates on the bike as soon as i got home... pretty exciting.

Then... i played around with my rebuild forks to check out the offset and caliper clearance as well as the basics of the mounting plate for the rotors. looks like it will work. gonna need a custom axle, but the spacing will be very simple, as will the rotor adapter.

then i made some wheel lugs to center the 32mm axle holes in the forks to the .75" bearings on the wheel. and threw the forks on there, but really didnt do a whole lot more as a i ran out of time.

Then, the next time i went out i got the engine level and flat, and set-up my pivot tube jig. I bolted on the stock lower frame, made sure it was level and then located my fixture using a 24mm slug that fit exactly in the stock bearings before bolting it to the table. here it is located, set, and bolted down.

Then, i took off the stock lower and replaced the bung with a 32mm bung that would fit inside the new pivot tube as i will not press the bearings in until after it is welded.

Now i have the mounting point bungs on and the pivot tube in place. the beauty of this jig is that it locates the tube correctly in all 3 axis to the exact same as stock. easy peasy

With the jig in place, i mocked up the swingarm to make sure that none of the support tubes would interfere with the drive shaft shroud... and i threw the spring on there for fun!

then i had to go do chores and other real life stuff, as well as getting a fun ride with my brother and freind on a local twisty road. SO much fun in the fall.

So later.... i spent a good hour cutting and shaping the support tubes, and i wont bore you with that, but here they are:

I cant weld Stainless, however i cant really move my set-up to the welder's so i tacked everything in place with my mig welder, and did a pretty ugly job of it. I really need a TIG welder.

after the part cooled i used my trusty precision scissors to cut some extremely precise templates for the gussets.

I then took the part off and took it to the wire wheel to get as much of the spatter off as i could. i will get the rest off by hand before getting it welded.

and here it is with the jig out of the way and supporting itself. I will be adding upright supports to this so that it can bolt it to the main frame for added rigidity.

More soon! i got my steering stem bearings in so now i can make the neck, which means when the tubing comes in i can get the frames welded up.

quick update. First on the cost. All told i have spent $825 including the purchase cost of the bike, and so far i have not spent a cent that i didn't earn from a side-job, so a big thank you to all of you who have been supporting this build.

I have bought:
doner bike
pivot bearings
two front wheels
gsxr brakes
R1 rotors
94 535 rear wheel
steering stem bearings
new swinger
fork seals
haynes manual
pivot bolt
a couple missing OEM engine parts
Frame tubing

everything else has either been made or i have had it on hand.

and now, for the pictures. (i know you just scrolled through that list you picture whores) ;)

I got my new neck turned and tested the stem with the new All Balls tapered roller bearings... VERY nice

and got it on the headstock jig

Got my wheel lugs modified so i could finish my axle design.

I also got my gussets made for the lower frame:

Started work on my rear wheel swap. here are the two wheels. stock and a 94 virago 535 rear rim

the drive splines are a BIT different but the bolt pattern and the ID is the same. the problem is the radius on the hub is different and has to be cut down slightly to let the 920 drive spline engage the bolt surface.

However other than that everything goes together! even the drum brake is a perfect swap.

This is not for the virago, but i thought i would post some pictures. I am anodizing some headlight bracket fork clamps for a forum member.

Here they are prepped and ready to go in the "tank":

I use 5 gallon buckets and a 50 amp manual battery charger

after about an hour in the acid it gets dyed and sealed, and turns out like this:

i got my rear wheel sorted other than putting new bearings in it so i can run the stock axle.

I also did some painting for a fellow forum member:

gorgeous kandy paint over carbon fiber... it changes color depending on the lighting:


I also finished up my new front axle. got the spacing all figured out so the next step is triples

Decided to make a key instead of having a hex on the end..

Also got my rotors, so i have the rotor adapters programmed, i just have to blot up the axle to confirm off-sets are the same as what i have calculated before cutting them. So triples then adapters and the front end will be finished.


New Member
Here are all the major components i have so far: (and no.. that is not the correct rake angle)

Got my front spoke wheel all mounted to my GSXR forks with a custom axle. I still need to make rotor adapters.

also, been playing around with painting chrome...

my frame tubing finally came in, so on Saturday i went down to my friend's house and did some work.

I made a new swingarm support frame but as i only have a crappy mig welder all i could do is tack it up as it is 347 stainless.

So, while Mike started working on welding the lower frame i started cutting and bending tubing for the main frame

thankfully i had a plan.

Mike got a good bit of the welding done and had to wait for the stainless to cool to keep it from warping.

i designed the side gussets to help me to line the main frame tubes up and they worked really well.

so we got the main frame welded up

Once i got home i had to put everything together. I think this should be pretty solid..

it is actually starting to look like a bike! i am really stoked

Got some plans for beefing up the stock swinger with the extra tubing, and i have plans for a new rear hub so i can run a 16" spoke wheel in the back and convert the back brake to a rotor.

oh, also, i am going to buy Mike's old TIG welder. he sent it home with me to try out. SO EXCITED!

Hey guys,
not a huge update been working crazy hours. however due to the work however due to the fact that once a program is proven i am just watching the machine run, i got some triples made on the other machine... (sorry for the cell-phone pics)

I am also doing the boring work of getting the TIG set up and the rear brackets made so that i can locate and weld up my frame. Once the frame is located and welded up all i need to do it make a rear shock mount and i will have a roller and the subframe and body-work can commence.

I will be honest i am really tired of looking at a bare engine sitting on my table. it is time for progress!


New Member
Finally got the rear mounts made...

and then it turns out that the mounts were too wide to work with the engine mounts, so i had to modify them, but i am using the stock rubber mounts for isolating the vibration. i made a stainless mount to replace the rubber one to hold the brackets in position while welding.

Then, i used some G10 to mock up the parts before cutting on the real parts

then i used the templates to mark the real parts and clamped them together before grinding them to make sure that they came out exactly the same.

tacked the parts up on the frame after making sure everything was lined up a straight, then took the brackets off and welded them up.

after that i bolted them up, i welded them up to the frame.

once those mounts were welded up i re-checked everything before grinding them main tubes. Sorry no pictures of that as my camera had died. Again, everything was tacked before removing the frame from the engine to weld it all up.

I am starting to get used to how the TIG welder works, and to be honest the welding on the rear mounts is pretty ugly. However i am pretty happy with the later welds

So, 95% of the welding on the main frame is done now, and i just need to make the rear shock mounting point and get it welded on before i can get this thing off the table and on its own legs.

I have to build the rotor adapters to tie the Harley wheel to the R1 rotors and the GSXR750 forks and calipers. I got all the dimensions and made a prototype.

After tweaking the design slightly i made the real ones. I need to find the correct fasteners. I need 7/16 stainless bolts and 10mm-1.25 preferably button head. Anybody have a good resource for fasteners? if i can i will just make them.

There is very little room to hold the nuts holding the adapter to the wheel are hard to get to so i am going to make a custom bolt pattern rather than using single bolts, or at least making a mechanical lock for them so it doesn't require a wrench.

I also got a tire for $20 to mock everything up. just waiting on a tube.

I also didnt really like how little support i had for the front engine mounting points, so i made some bolsters to spread the load.

So with the mounting point bolstered, i mocked up the triples and forks as well as figured out the shape and size of the rear mounting point.

I wanted to make the rear shock locate correctly without a complicated jig. So this is what i came up with:

the plate fits into the tube to locate it left to right as well as square, and then the side plates are CNCed to be identical mirror images and were step milled to provide the offset needed to the with of the rear shock as well as providing the vertical adjustability before i weld it.

I made some gauges to keep the part square and the correct width. The part is so stout as it will be not only the rear shock mount but also be used to tie in the lower frame and support the subframe.

I didnt get any time in the garage this weekend due to the holiday and having to work on a critical project at work, but i am hoping to the get mount welded up tomorrow, and the front tire mounted this week, then i will have a roller!

Got another small update.

I wanted to be able to brace the swingarm support and tie it into the main frame. so i made some couplers here:

they would go together like this:

I got the rear shock mount welded to the frame as well as the brace mount however.. i didnt like how it looked and how it worked.

So i decided to go a different route that i think looks alot better and is alot stronger.

it looks a lot more thought out in my opinion and is much stronger even though it was easier to make in many ways

So, the frame is all welded up, the swinger is braced and the shock is mounted.

I am going to get my front tire mounted on Saturday and will be able to get this beast on its own feet for the first time. then i can design my subframe and then it will be going back up on the table to make the new swinger and rear hub, as well as the subframe. Once that is done then i can start on the body-work.

small but important update here...

first off.. i got the front tire mounted and got the rotors and calipers sorted.

And with a couple forum members help got the bike on its own wheels!


and now the side shot so i can design the subframe

The swing arm angle will not be quite severe with the improved design.

it is a lot smaller than i thought... although that may be just because of my wife's delightful cooking


New Member
okay.. an even smaller but important update. I took one of the above pictures and made it into a mirror image of the picture so everything is on the wrong side but it is to scale so i can draw up body design, and i would love you input.
so here we go:

Empty frame:

All angles, high tail

Smoother.. lower angle with more of a retro flare

Angles and curves medium tail height, this is the design i am planning on going with:

okay... so now we enter a critical phase. uber precise work.

the biggest thing to take into account with this work is having good boxes that you have been hoarding. Sadly quite a few gave their lives for this work. you will not have died in vain!

I didnt get pictures as i cut the tempolates down as i was decidedly unhappy with them. the number oine rule is.. cut it out bigger than you think... you can always cut it down.

the main reason for this work is to design my subframe. i needed to get angles and such before i cut and welded anything. so here is my precise measuring. this is going to be a one-up bike only.

i am filling up my argon bottle today, and should have the subframe build over the weekend.

I also wanted to say, this phase of the thread has been less instructional and more informative than my normal threads. I just dont feel comfortable saying "do this to get it right" as i am doing alot of this for the first time. once we get into areas i am a little more practiced at i will do my best to make it more of a tutorial.

Well i have been sick for the last couple days, but i tried not to let that stop me too much. I had everything ready for building the subframe, so i got a box of tissues and went at it.

First off, if you can do anything to make sure everything is square and true... it is worth it. fixuring and set-up consist of more than half of my job at work... and it really matters, so i made sure everything was square and lined up first then welded the upper supports to their bungs.

then put in a cross-brace

Bolted it up and welded in the lower tubes to the upper tubes and the lower bungs

then welded in the end section.

welded in some pupport tubes for the lower mounting point. most likely unnccesary, but more esthetically pleasing.

I wont be able to fully weld the supports till i take the bike apart again, but that will be happening soon.

and now you can see how it will fit in the body-work. the licesne plate, tail-light and signals will be mounting to the back end of the subframe and tail.

I snagged a big piece of foam a couple years ago and never had a project worth of it till now, so i have that cut up and will be making the body-work plugs out of that. pictures soon.


New Member
Soooooo. started on the body-work. All the boring stuff first.

you know that saying "measure twice cut once"? well i think i measured everything 4 or five times before i cut anything.

i cut everything into blocks first. the final thickness of the material was just under 6 inches.

then i cut the profiles out. When it comes to making molds out of foam, it is much better to have too much material than not enough... so it is really beefy. plus i am not exactly sure how i want my lines to go yet. so i have plenty of material.

Now... for the tank. I have to make the cut-outs for where the tank will sit on the frame, and that is easier working with two halves, so i cut the center piece of foam in half and planed them flat, then after cutting out the profile i drew where the frame would be.

the shaded section is where the .75" radius is, but i used a Bridgeport mill as a router and cut the material away.

the halves will go together like this:

another rule of thumb when making molds or really anything that you cut by hand that will end up being contoured, is cut straight sections first to make sure everything matches... then cut your angles, THEN and only then once you have made sure everything is symmetrical you cut your contours. straight lines and angles are much easier to read than contours.

so then i used a piece of 1.5" pipe with sandpaper wrapped around it to cut my radius using the lines i had cut to make sure it was in the right spot

tonight i will start fitting the parts to the frame.

hey guys... i forgot my camera at work, so these are cell phone pics... but they are what i have.

cleaning up the tank blank, and the tail is hiding waiting in the background

it fits!

now i just have to get the tail fitted to the tank and the frame before i can start shaping it

the tank was pretty easy to fit as all the work was done on the halves before i glued them together
the hard part was fitting the tail to both the subframe and so that it would interface correctly with the tank, and while it took prolly 4 or 5 hours or test fitting it got it where i wanted it.

everything is square

the most crutial area is where the tank meets the tail as i want it to go together correctly, sop i put the preliminary angles on the seat area and fit it up.

marked the tank

and cut it to match

then i went to work on the tank. you would be surprised out close you can get something using only a ruler

then, to get the fit between the tank and tail perfect i used bondo on the tail to match the tank, using packing take as a "release" on the tank surface:

i am pretty happy with how the tail is, but the tank still need a good bit of work. i will get better pictures when i am happy with the tank and when it isnt pouring down rain outside.

once i have the final shape, i will lay up a very very very think layer or fiberglass over the plugs to seal them and make them more resilient as the foam is pretty fragile. then i will primer it with some 2-part epoxy primer, polish it and then i can start making my molds

here are some better pictures of the foam body-work.

here is the tank with the cloth i am going to be using. I will prolly end up going with twill for the visible layer, but i have carbon/kevlar cloth for reinforcement as well as a tight weave kevlar for the sides for crash resistance. i laid up 5 layers of this cloth and it stopped a .45 bullet at point blank range and a 7.62x54 steel core round at about 100 yards. It should keep the tank pretty safe in case of a catastrophe

i coated the foam in a thin layer of resin to fill up the pores and prep it for primer and filler. i will sand it smoothish before painting it with a epoxy primer, fill and glaze it before the final layer or primer that i will sand and polish. then the real work begins.

this is just the top side of the tank and tail. i still need to do the underside.

and that brings us up to the current state of the bike. well almost. the bike is stripped back down so that i can make the hear hub, remake the swinger and finish welding the frame. the body-work is going to be getting sealed underneath and prepped for mold making.


Hmm.. I seem to be missing my jaw, well played sir.

Rich Ard

doin' the backstroke in an estrogen ocean
Glad you brought it here! I think you'll get a warmer reception than at that other place. :)


Staff member
This is beyond epic :) Sorry I had to edit out that one pic - for some reason Google doesn't like that inlineperformance website - associated with malware, so the one picture hosted there was causing problems for some browsers (Google Chrome for example).

You can re-up that one pic to Photobucket to correct or just leave it out. Incredible skill clearly. Too often this level of build is chalked up to access to the right equipment. But there is a clearly high level of talent behind the tools.


New Member
ProSimex said:
holy shit
+1. There really are no words... I have just sat in awe for the past 30 minutes drinking in that mindblowing fabrication.

You, sir, are amazing.

For what it's worth, as much as I love metalwork, your tank design is the sexiest thing I've seen in ages. I can't wait to see the finished result


Dream it. Build it. Live it.
Ok, before we all give up on life, feeling like fist dragging orangutans, and before I have to try to explain to my wife why I keep involuntarily breaking down into tears, I need some background. Do you have any training? Do you do this for a living? I can't be the only one (married one) wondering where you find the time to crank this stuff out. Yes, it's THAT good. :eek:


New Member
CafeRacer650 said:
Ok, before we all give up on life, feeling like fist dragging orangutans, and before I have to try to explain to my wife why I keep involuntarily breaking down into tears, I need some background. Do you have any training? Do you do this for a living? I can't be the only one (married one) wondering where you find the time to crank this stuff out. Yes, it's THAT good. :eek:
thanks everybody! i am really glad that you like it! i hope that this is an inspiration rather than a discouragment.

a little history here, i am 25 years old, and a journeyman machinist at NASA. I got into a program here on base that got me training all over the center before i settled down to a spesific focus, so i have had training in machining, sheetmetal fabrication, electronics (didnt get very good at that) and composites to name a few.

My interest in bike started when i was about 5 but didnt get my first bike till i was 19, and i had a couple bike before i started modifying them at all.

my first project bike was a wrecked sv650s that i did some modest modifications to and did my first paint job
went from this:

to this:

the for my second project bike i really wanted to get my hands dirty, so i got a mangled 93 cbr600f2 that was in pieces, and did a little more to it.
started like this:

ended up like this:

i have a full build thread here:

i loved how the bike looked but i just couldn't stand the inline 4 engine. i felt like i was destroying it every time i rode it as i was used to V2s so... i sold it, bought a Buell, and this Virago, (and paid off my wife's car)

as for time... My wife works at a bank, so her hours are pretty rigid while mind are flexible, so i go in early and come home early and that window of 330-600 is my time to work, and then i try do all my husbandly duties after she gets home. it works pretty well. also.. depending on my work load i can get some stuff done at work.

i hope that helps.

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