New guy building XS400 Softail Bobbers


XS400 Addict
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Alberta, Canada
Hey guys, found this site a week ago and have been reading it voraciously. Just purchased a 1978 XS400 which I will turn into a Bobber.
A bit about myself, live in Holden, Alberta, Canada, mechanic by trade, automotive a few years, then NG engine/compressor for 33 years, worked on engines from 200hp to 2600hp, last 4 years was in management. Retired now for 5 years, 62 years old.
My build history....5 yr build on a 36' wingspan side by side tube and fabric airplane, got licensed for it, flew for a couple of years, wasn't my thing, sold it. Next I discovered Locost Super 7's. They are a ground up build, welding up a space frame, installing donor engine, trans, and diff, I design and build my own front and rear suspensions. Did all body in aluminium, except for nose cone and fenders. To date I'm on my 4th Super 7 build. 3 years ago I took time off building 7's and did a restomod on a 1950 Fiat Topolino, funny thing about this micro car is that the cockpit is the same with as my plane, 42". Each car build was ~$12,000 to $14,000 investment (when done they have all new components and rebuilt engines, trans, and diffs), I do not sell my cars, I have 6 grandkids and they will each inherit one some day, hopefully not soon, lol. Build logs are on, build name horchoha in discussion forums.
I've got a shop tooled with everything I need, mig welder, gas axe, band saw, Ranger tire machine, Ranger tire balancer, 48" metal brake, stretcher/shrinker, English wheel, valve grinder/resurfacer, an old Logan metal lathe, and all the hand tools imaginable.
So back to the bike build, this was a neglected bike as far as I can tell, will be replacing tires/tubes, handle bars, new solo seat, modified OEM tank, front and rear wheel bearings, steering bearing kit, new coils and points, new HT wire and plug caps, engine refresh top and bottom, new front and rear MC's, short Megaphone muffs and cone air filters, carbs rebuilt/jetted, fork rebuild, new rear shocks, extended swing arm, new chain/sprockets, new rear fender, and anything else that needs attention.
Ohh yeah and a time or three Capt'n Morgan Spiced helps out in the shop and at times I like to talk rubbish, but for now I'll behave:laugh:
Just learning posting on this forum, pics aren't in the order I wanted them.
Cheers all! Happy building!!:bike:

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Hopefully the rear master is still good...................those things are like gold...............
Hopefully the rear master is still good...................those things are like gold...............
Hey spectra, yeah I hear you. It was dry when I pulled it, there was fluid in the rear caliper and the MC piston moves, will have to dismantle and make a decision. I see there are universal aftermarket rear masters available.

Today I removed the engine from the frame, fabbed up an adapter for the engine stand and proceeded to commit teardown and measurements. Some pics.
Bit of an update. De-grunged the case today. Over the years I've discovered that no odor oven cleaner works great for degreasing/cleaning aluminum. Knock off the built up grunge, blow away the debris, spray in oven cleaner, let sit ~4 hrs, rinse off. Works like a charm.

I then checked main and rod clearances using the dial indicator method, all well within specs. Then checked con rod big bore side clearance, again within spec.

Then I dismantled the head, had to fab up a valve spring compressor for this head as my auto and small engine valve spring compressors would not fit. Valve guide/valve wear well within spec, good to go for sharpening the valves up and a seat touch up. Ordered rings.

Getting some glass bead for my cabinet blaster to clean up various pieces.
Small update. Degreased, decarboned, and glass beaded the cylinder head. Beaded the valves and sharpened them up on the valve grinder. Ground the seats. Lapped the valves. Waiting for gasket set with valve seals, should be here tomorrow. Cleaned various parts. Couple pics.

Small update. Completed assembly of the head with new valve stem seals. Couple pics.


Then I installed all new seals where required, kick start shaft, clutch shaft, shifter shaft, drive sprocket. Cleaned and installed clutch cover. Cleaned and installed alt cover. Cleaned up clutch cable/drive sprocket cover. There was no clutch cable holder with the bike parts, and it looks like these are scarce/expensive to purchase north of 40, so I milled one up from aluminum on my lathe. Couple pics.


Wow. Wish I'd had your experience! Definetely following you on this build/restoration!
Thanks for the kind words Jpvg, always appreciate comments from forum members.

Well a bit of an update in order. Installed new rings on the pistons, installed the pistons on the rods with new circlips, installed honed cylinder assembly, cylinder valve assembly, timed the camshaft, and installed cylinder rocker cover assembly, all with new gaskets and seals as required. All torqued to specs. Lashed the valves. Have one pooched viewer plug, new one on order.

While servicing the oil pump pickup screen I found a piece of broken spring. I identified it as the shifter torsion spring, have a new one on order.

I tried on the new handle bars for giggles and shlitz.


I also removed bits and pieces that will not be required on this build.

Even though this build uses points I'm installing Iridium plugs, whether its worth it or not time will tell.
Another idea I'm tossing around is installing anti fouling filters as pictured below - any thoughts on this???.....Anyone?
Made it out to the shop this afternoon. I decided to work on the arse end. Removed the rear caliper holder, wheel assembly, and swing arm. Will install new wheel bearings and seals. Checked the swing arm bushings, they are in very good condition. Cleaned parts. Removed rear disc brake rotor. Put it on my brake lathe to touch it up. Before and after pics below.
Disregard the tire condition, new tires and tubes will be installed. I received the tubes couple days ago, installed balancing beads in them, that was a challenge. 1oz in front tube, 2oz in rear tube.




A small update.
Over a period of ~42 years the points cover attachment holes on this bike got damaged. Previous owners get overly excited and frustrated and prematurely ram a SAE machine screw into the hole. I'm sure the girlfriend/wifey/partner isn't happy when this happens, and I say to myself "self, that's poor".
So in order to rectify this and get a tight screw (and make my wifey happy) I ordered a 5mm helicoil kit.

Drilled, tapped, applied thread lock, and installed the 5mm helicoils.

And now we have tight screw holes which I know we all like.

On another note I have my gas tank into my youngest son's shop to take out some ~42 year old dents. He's a auto body/painter guy. This is the kind of paint jobs he does on bikes. He mainly does $10G+ bodywork/paint jobs on classic cars.


And again on another note I just made a deal on a 1980 XS400, I'll add that to this build log as wifey and decided we should build twins. Will be picking the bike up in a couple of weeks, and will post pics then and add it to this build log. The burnt orange/copper color of the Harley is what we picked for the twins.
Managed to get out to the shop for a bit this afternoon. Looked at the frame and scratched. Then I scratched some more as I thought what to do.
I then decided to commit fabrication. I started with CAD (cardboard aided design) and made a template for the solo seat pan. Then I traced that to some 1/4" ply, the I used the ply template to cut out a couple of pans with the plasma cutter. Then I formed the pan to the seat and using a shrinker/stretcher I formed the edge of the pan and welded it to the pan. Disregard the banged up tank in the pics, it's my mock up tank. More scratching will follow as I noodle out the seat pan attachment points.





I kinda feel like I'm talking to myself on this forum. Is that the norm here? Anyone??
It used to be much more active when I was first on here back in 2012.

I'm guessing there are fewer of these bikes around, them being 40 years old, and not really a high end machine to begin with.
Am following your progress closely. It looks fab so far and am really looking forward to seeing the finished bike. Am also a bit jealous is the workshop setup. ;+)
It used to be much more active when I was first on here back in 2012.

I'm guessing there are fewer of these bikes around, them being 40 years old, and not really a high end machine to begin with.
Hey JP thanks for the response! Yeah I guess I'm used to my Super 7 build forum where there's lots of activity when posting.
Still good to hear from fellow XS400 guys. As for my shop, I wish I had more space, lol:cheers:
Am following your progress closely. It looks fab so far and am really looking forward to seeing the finished bike. Am also a bit jealous is the workshop setup. ;+)
Hey Bernie, thanks for replying! Like I told JP, I wish I had more shop space. My main shop is 16 x 32 with a 12 x 24 addition.
After doing an AC recharge for one of my old co-workers 1987 Buick Regal turbo, committed more fabrication on the seat pan. I used the front rubber mounts of the battery/air filter box as the front mount for the pan and the cross brace for mounting the rear of the pan using 2 6mm nuts. Some pics.




Still some fine tuning to do on this pan, then glass bead and etch prime.

I've got my tank at my son's shop for dent removal, he sent me pics today.


Out to the shop for a bit this afternoon, scratched, looked around and then decided to attack the rear wheel assembly. Stuck the tire/rim in the vise to break the bead. Spooned the tire/tube off the rim. Used Spray 9 to clean the rim with some Scotch Bright and elbow grease. Masked the rim and applied Duplicolor wheel paint. Front tire/rim next. Couple of pics.


Nice job on the wheels.

I got a portable soda blaster for stuff like that, works real nice.

I haven't really done much cosmetically on mine - my shop space is very limited, and I can't really just go and rip apart a bike like that. Also, I concentrated on fixing the small stuff that is critical to roadworthiness.
Thanks JP. I use glass bead, never tried soda. Does is shine the metal? I've heard of corn meal or walnut shells but again have never used them. I hear you on the road worthiness part, thats what my plan is also.
What's your riding season like where you're at? Here we're lucky if we get 6 months, and thats stretching it. I remember riding to work in the spring when I was a lot younger of course at 40F (4C), I had to stop every 10-12 miles and put my hands on the engine to warm them up, lol

Prepped, masked and painted the front wheel today.

The boy sent me pics of the primed gas tank. Shot it with high build primer. It will be sanded, final primed, then painted once I get the rest of the pieces to him.