Fitting Tribute

Jason Plunkett’s striking SP-2 is an unashamed homage to two towering figures of the late 20th Century world motorcycling stage. The clue is in the number

Flying the flag (or at least the T-shirt) for the VJMC

Flying the flag (or at least the T-shirt) for the VJMC

Jason makes it all sound so simple. “I like the look of quick-fillers on bikes,” he says. “So I made one. I had a bandsaw, although you could do it with a jigsaw. Made cardboard template, then cut the alloy, filed it by hand, cut out the centres on a milling machine and that was it. Took about five hours.”

He doesn’t mess about. “The paint job I designed over a cup of tea in about 25 minutes,” he says. “Although to be fair Davy at Paintbox in Northern Ireland adapted it to make sure there’d be no issues with tank and panels matching up in the right places.” There are few things worse than mismatched stripes, especially on such a bold paintjob as this.

JASON’S ADVICE

1. There’s a lot to be said for a rolling resto. That is, ride the bike and do things bit by bit.

2. Move house if you can and try to get more shed space. Try not to sell. You build your bikes to be ridden and enjoyed.

3. Build whatever you want the way you want it. Look at that Riddler X7 (PS Oct 2017). He built that bike exactly how he saw it.

“I’d always been a fan of Freddie Spencer and I grew up watching him and Joey Dunlop. They both rode number three and so I based it around Freddie’s 1984 HRC NSR500.” It’s got heavy hints of Joey’s early Honda Britain RS1000 and RS750 and 850s in it too. “They both had yellow number boards too, so that’s my take on the thing anyway. And the old Honda logo in silver and black gives it another twist.” As tribute bikes go, it’s a storming one hit hats-off to two of the all-time greats. No wonder – Jason knows his racing. “I caught the bug from my dad who still rides bikes at 73 years old. He did Irish road racing in the ’60s. I was crazy about bikes from the age of about six, which would have been 1977. I had a very nice ’77 Z1000 before this and although I liked it, it was a bit before my time. It just didn’t handle very well and I prefer bikes from the ’80s and ’90s and early noughties, which is why I decided to ditch the Zed and get this 2002 SP-2. You needed to have a lot of money to be buying a Z1000 over here in the ’70s and it was great to have such an iconic bike, but the SP-2 is VJMC-eligible and I’m in the Leinster VJMC [founder, in fact] so the swap made perfect sense for me.”

It’s not Jason’s only bike. Not by a long chalk. He’s got an SP-1, a couple of VF1000Rs, CB1100R, RC30, first generation RR-N ’Blade, and a few Suzukis too. But it’s this one that got the full treatment. The rest are largely stock. “I bought this SP-2 from a UK dealer. I think it’s from Germany because the wavy discs are ABM, who’re German, the twin headlight fairing with the lights on the left is something I’ve never seen over here, the Gilles rearsets are German too.” The cans look to all intents and purposes like Yoshimura items but are in fact by a firm called G5 – another weird clue that points to this bike’s provenance being from outside the UK, or the Irish Republic for that matter.

If the wheels look trick it’s because Jason, by judicious use of tape, has transformed them from the rather anonymous standard black to what look like a pair of hugely expensive things from Italy yet without the brand name OZ or Marchesini. It’s rare that rim tape makes a wheel look better but in this case it does. Good work. “The bike was mechanically sound,” says Jason. “So I didn’t see any need to mess with it aside from tidying a few things up and checking or changing all the fluids. It’s not as if it’s short of power with 136bhp claimed and the torque figure’s pretty good too at 77lb.ft – even if the peak is at 8000rpm.

“These SP-2s seem to be going up in value. That’s never the reason anyone should buy a bike, but it is an RC51, and like the way the RC30 has gone through the roof now, the same thing might happen to the SP-2. But if anyone’s thinking of getting one they should know that it’s not a great bike for riding in traffic or towns.

“It was great having mine here at the Classic TT, it’s a rewarding thing to ride, but it was hard work in any slow moving traffic. Big V-twins can be lumpy and harsh and the SP-2 is when you’re moving too slowly. You can get away with a lot on an inline four, you generally don’t even need first gear in traffic, but in stop/start stuff a big sports V-twin is not the thing to be on. But for Sunday blasts it’s hard to beat.

“This bike is very unlike the stuff I normally do. Generally my bikes are completely standard even down to the reproduction warning decals, and I’ve restored something in the region of 30 bikes over the last 30 years, but I suppose everyone needs a change now and again. It’s amazing what you can achieve with a few tweaks and a good paint job.”

1. Pipes make a fitting racket and are way tidier than the twin waste paper bins nailed to the rear of the stock bike. Quite a bit lighter too. It’s a straight win/win

2. Rim tape for many people is the scourge of the trick bike world. Not if it’s done well it isn’t. This is subtle enough to suggest wheels are way more then stock SP-2 items

3. Cockpit is a gem from the fully digital age. Ally stays are of the more substantial variety, and the clip-ons are set at a purposeful angle and level

4. Jason’s homemade quick filler is a great bit of work. He could go about making and selling these if he had a mind to

SPECIFICATION HONDA RC51 SP-2

ENGINE: Stock; Yoshi pipes

CHASSIS: Homemade quick filler, Gilles rearsets, ABM discs, endurance style stacked headlight fairing, paint by Davy at Paintbox, Ballymena, Northern Ireland 028 2582 1536

And with his VJMC hat on, or at least his T-shirt, Jason has a wake-up call for the Japanese manufacturers. “Kawasaki are best at styling and paint at the moment. Their new Z900 shows what they can do, but the rest of them could do a lot better. Why Honda haven’t made a Freddie AMA rep 900 is beyond me. They came out with that CB1100 and then the RS version, but they were both very wide of the mark. So many people have made, or are making, their own and they haven’t jumped on it. If Suzuki are on the ball they’ll be doing a modern Katana, and Yamaha might want to think about reviving some of their models too.”

He makes a fair point. You can get a new Z900RS for £99 a month with no money down. And Kawasaki are cleaning up on showroom floors with it.

So what’s next for Jason, keeper of 24 bikes already? “I don’t know,” he says. “I’m not hunting for any projects at the moment. But you’re always hunting for a project, even when you’re not. That’s how it is. I think it’s got to be a Harris Magnum. I sold mine to get the RC30 all those years ago, and I’d love another. They were SO exotic in the late ’70s. You went to the TT and there were Magnums and Moto Martins and they were mind-blowing back then. So, yes, a Magnum.” But then of course he’s not looking, oh no, not much.