Regular readers of Classic Trial Magazine will recall my SWM rebuild project a few years ago. They may also remember that after another knee injury, this time over at the Jersey two-day event, I sold the machine there and then in a bit of a sulk! Hindsight is a wonderful thing and it was obvious, apparently, to everyone but me that I had been too hasty in the sale. Sure enough, within a few months I was back out on borrowed modern machines. What had happened though was that I finally got it into my head that I needed to take it easy with the riding. I was fortunate that I had been getting more involved in trials photography and other work for this esteemed production to keep my love of trials going without having to rely on throwing myself at things on a motorcycle that I probably wasn’t good enough to do. So here we are again with another ‘Italian stallion’ now in my garage. This one is red instead of yellow though. Until the series two of the 301 all Fantic trial models could be had in any colour you wanted – as long as it was red!
In 1984 I had a 300 Fantic Professional and it was by far my favourite trials machine I had owned up until that point. In fact after moving on to a 301 in 1985 and then a 303 after that I had always regretted selling the 300, as both of those were frankly horrible. I had the SWMs at the time the 240 Fantic models were out so never actually owned one of those, but having ridden them since I still prefer the big boy’s toy which is the 300 twin-shock.
Article Copyright Pictures and Text: Heath Brindley
The one I now have was a chance purchase on a Saturday morning as I had woken up a little early and was catching up on things on the ‘Hard to find Twinshock and air-cooled monos’ page on Facebook – snappy title I know – when suddenly a photo of a 300 appeared, and then two more photos of the machine in several boxes. Only three or four people had spotted it and asked about price etc but I took a chance and phoned the owner, who reported that he was just outside Reading and that no one had committed to purchasing it yet! I was out of bed and in the car heading along the M4 like a shot. Within 90 minutes I was on my way back to Somerset with three large boxes full of 300 parts. The guy had stripped it down to do a rebuild but lost interest and after a quick look through it seemed, most importantly, that all the parts were there.
A Sidecar Life
In its recent life the machine had been fitted with a sidecar; the frame and swinging-arm bore extra bracing and a few cracks had emerged from these modifications. I was happy to remove the non-standard parts and get it all welded but Facebook again came up trumps when Lee over in Germany reported that he had a good standard frame set for sale at a very good price. It got even better as it was going to be arriving in Bristol very soon, about 15 minutes from my house! Apart from the rear mudguard I had everything I needed to start a basic rebuild project. All I needed to do was to check everything was there and that the engine was all in working order. I had checked the top end-as the barrel was off but I didn’t want to strip the gearbox for no reason just yet. Fortunately Classic Trial Magazine advertiser Bob Wright and his Fantic spares store are less than a mile from me so new cables, fork seals, fuel pipe, swinging-arm bearing kit and a rebuild kit for the original Marzocchi rear shocks were obtained and I was ready to start putting the jigsaw puzzle back together.
The engine went into the frame quickly and the cylinder barrel, head and side casings were fitted, and after ordering new head bearings online I fitted the front fork yokes. It was then that it dawned on me that back in the day we used to either modify or throw away the top yoke and replace it with a 200 ‘Pro’ model one, as the handlebar position was terrible as standard! They had rearward facing handlebar bar mounts that made an already long-feeling motorcycle turn like an oil tanker! The 200’s modified mounts put the bars almost over the centre shaft line and tightened up the steering a great deal, and it also has the added benefit of placing a little more of your weight onto the front wheel which on a 300 is never a bad thing. Luckily once again Lee came up trumps and provided a selection of yokes to use that he had obtained on his travels across Italy. When I put the cylinder barrel and head back onto the bottom half of the motor I was tempted to place a few extra gaskets in there as the 300 engine is very prone to ’pinking’ when hot. This is mostly down to the fact that this motor was the last to be developed by Fantic using leaded fuel. By the time of the 301 came to Europe they had embraced unleaded fuel and the barrel for that machine was ported differently to suit. I decided not to add them just yet as I still use octane boost in my fuel mixture and so it is something I can come back to later if needed.
In the Spirit
The one thing that took longer to sort out than just about anything on the whole rebuild project was the side covers. Before we get into that I should explain that I want this model to be as original or ‘of the period’ as possible. No trick forks, frame mods, footrest-moving, cheat engines, disc brakes, different fuel tank and seat unit etc. I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about some of the so-called twin-shocks that are being fabricated almost from scratch these days. As far as I am concerned, if you want a trials motorcycle that rides like a modern one and weighs the same as a modern one, then go buy a modern one! I have ultimate respect for the engineering that goes into some of those machines but it just isn’t in the spirit of things. I will be far happier riding a bog standard but well-sorted old twin-shock and finishing last than I would on a ‘cheat bike’ trying to go for the win – just my own opinion! Back to the plastics; the original covers that came with the machine were badly oxidised, scratched and generally in a bad cosmetic way. The good thing though was that all of the lugs were still there and there were no cracks. I tried for days to polish out all the marks and get the colour back, starting with the most abrasive wet and dry you can get and gradually working my way down to using a buffing machine and paste. Sadly it just wasn’t enough and they still looked terrible. Knowing I had two other sets of the plastics I decided to try giving them a coat of paint. My local trade paint supply store looked at the plastic and recommended a certain paint, and then mixed up two cans of RAL3020 for me to test plus some suitable lacquer that would also flex. I applied four coats in the garage and, over the course of a week, a few coats of lacquer to see how they would come out and then applied the graphics kit from Anglia Vinyl Art. I was in two minds about clear-coating over the stickers but I know they will get scuffed or scratched and I figured if lacquered they would be a nightmare to get off and replace neatly, so for now they have been applied and left as is. My intentions are to have the original brake shoes fitted with the special compound that I had on my SWM as this produced stopping power almost as good as a disc brake once the shoes had been matched to the hub. But for now I have fitted a set of EBC grooved shoes and trimmed them down a bit to give a bit more ‘bite’. The special coating is another thing on the ‘to do list’ when I am happy with the overall build. But it has to be remembered that the front brake plate on the 300 had a special pivot shaft adjuster that improves the normal operation hugely.
I always liked the original rear shocks and was happy to have acquired three pairs, figuring that I could at least build one good set from all the parts. After a good clean and dismantle it seemed that most of the shafts were actually okay; the main problem seemed to be that the shaft seals had leaked oil everywhere and it had mixed with the mud to make it look far worse than it actually was. I put new seals in and decided to try some thinner oil to speed the action up a little. It was generally agreed that the standard oil was approximately 10-grade weight, so I went for 5 and put them back together and fitted them to the machine. Well, to say it is a bit bouncy would be an understatement. I am fairly sure that we couldn’t hop the back around that far and so easily back in the day when stationary! Shortly they will get rebuilt with 7.5 weight oil! The machine was assembled with not a great deal of concern about how it looked and then taken up to the Zona 1 Club practice ground for a play. Amazingly it all went well. The motor was okay and the rolling chassis felt like it did all those years ago – heavy, but fun.
The front forks had a few little scuffs in the sliders so a little oil appeared over the course of the 3-hour ride, but other than that it was going very well.
That was until just before going-home time, when I rode across the quarry to get a drink from the car. There was a funny rumbling sound from the gearbox area. After stopping the motor to make sure everything was free and I could go up and down the gearbox okay I rode back to the car park and had a chat with the others there on the day. Five minutes later I started it up and went to turn the machine around before loading it onto the trailer when there was a loud ‘crack’ and the machine stopped dead as if it had seized, but the motor was still free… Hmmm! one to investigate when back at home.
Upon investigation it would seem that two of the clutch basket fingers had sheared off. The only explanation I have for it is that they were damaged before the side casings were put back on as the basket was fitted on the shaft but with no plates, springs etc when I brought the machine home. There were certainly no extra bits or foreign bodies inside the case apart from the remains of the two ‘fingers’. Perhaps they had taken a knock in the car or on the bench and I hadn’t noticed. Another special delivery from Italy via Lee and a new clutch basket was fitted J! It was at about this time that Lee also mentioned he could lay his hands on a French specification 300. These models had a 239cc engine instead of the 249cc to suit the French regulations at the time, for lower on-the-road costs.
Also an extra swinging-arm was sourced, which was of the later type with the chain tensioner fitted. The standard early models came with it fitted to the rear engine bolts. The downside of the early version is that if you sump out on anything you end up resting on the tensioner arm, possibly damaging it and derailing the chain. That swinging-arm is now fitted and it gave me the idea of possibly making a ‘works replica’. I prefer to call it a Lampkin replica rather than a Michaud as we are ‘British’ after all! John Lampkin was very forthcoming with the information that he could remember from his works riding days when I spoke with him. It appears I would need to find a Mikuni carburettor and remove the rear frame mudguard loop. Coupled with the top yoke replacement and swinging-arm that I had already done the only major difference would then be the engine porting, but I do not believe a rider of my abilities will need them done.
I have even gone so far as to have one set of side covers sprayed white with the Michaud replica graphics fitted, again supplied by Anglia Vinyl Art. The French 239cc model is sat in the garage at present, waiting for some attention, but as I have enjoyed getting the other 300 model one rideable and then riding it that project has been forgotten for the time being. Once I am completely happy with how it rides I will probably strip down the 300 again and powder-coat the frame and engine to smarten it up a bit, but I want it to remain a machine to ride and not a show piece. The next challenge is to get the Mikuni fitted and tuned and the frame rear loop done, plus find out if the French engine is in better condition than this one. I think that means there will be a part two of this story – speak soon!
Fantic FM 403 Specifications
Engine: Two-stroke Single Cylinder Air Cooled; Bore 74mm x Stroke 58mm; Capacity: 249.4cc; Ignition Electronic; Transmission: 6 Speed; Clutch multi disc in oil; Starting: Forward kick-start; Carburettor: Dell’Orto PHBH 26 Ø
Frame: Closed Double Cradle Type in High Resistance Steel; Protection: Integral Alloy Sump Shield; Suspension: Front Ø 35mm forward pivot Marzocchi – Travel – 170mm – Rear Shock Absorber Type – 5 position Adjustable Oil Filled Marzocchi – Travel – 110 mm; Brakes: 125 mm Ø drum type; Tyres: 2.75 x 21” Front 4.00 x 18” Rear.
Dimensions: Fuel Tank Capacity: 4.5 litre; Ground clearance: 325 mm; Seat Height: 710 mm; Dry weight: 92.0 Kg
Price: £1,667.00 (January 1984)