1980 XS1100LG Midnight Special #1 (2013)

I have wanted one of these since I started restoring bikes 5 years ago!



This is the rare black and gold 1100cc 4 cylinder classic.  I have read that there were only 500 made, but I doubt that is accurate. Maybe only 500 per year? I have also read that each Yamaha dealer received only 2 of them to sell. So who knows which legend to believe? I have seen a few of them on eBay, but usually in far away states, and I have learned not to trust the pictures that you see in the ads. A bike can look great on-line and look totally different in person. For some reason the pictures enhance the bike. The shiny parts are really shiny in the pictures, but the rust and flaws never seems  to show up.

The bike is not perfect, but it’s pretty damn nice! AND it was located close to home.

The black chrome header pipes are not in very good shape. They have a fair amount of surface rust, which may not clean up very well. The black chrome and the gold chrome are what make these bikes so beautiful. Even though the black chrome has some issues, the gold chrome is very nice. The battery is new and the bike started right up, but it misses and sputters at low throttle.  However it seems to run strong once you get going.

Let the project begin….TEAR IT DOWN.

First remove the tank and seat and wheels.


I sent the wheels out to Sean to have new tires mounted and found out that I mistakenly ordered 2 front tires. Sadly the raised white letter matching back tire is no longer available. I’ll have to use the old back tire in the meantime. It’ll get me through this riding season and maybe even next one after that with the few miles that I ride.

Next I replaced the 3 sets of disk brakes with carbon kevlar pads. I’ve never used kevlar  before but the price was so good that I thought they were worth a try. Only $15 for all 3 sets. And I am happy with them, they work very well. Time will tell how they wear.

The previous owner coated the manifold boots with a sealant of some sort which looked terrible. He also had black electrical tape wrapped around the spark plug caps. The boots and caps all had aging cracks in them. I am sure he was trying to solve the rough idle and low speed missing problems.


It is much easier to clean and paint the engine when the bike is thoroughly stripped down like this. I began by spraying it down with a degreaser and then scrubbed it with a small detailing wire brush between the engine fins which will also rough up the old paint so the new paint sticks better. Carb cleaner also works very well as an engine degreaser.


I painted the engine head and then pulled the valve cover off of the bike to paint it. I was going to check the valve adjustments but this bike uses shims rather than adjusters so I didn’t bother with it. Mainly because I really didn’t know how to do it! I was happy though to see how clean everything looked inside.  I painted the valve cover black like the rest of the engine and added gold stripes. Not an easy process! I’m still debating about painting the head fins gold. I did that to my old XS850 Midnight Special and it looked pretty good.


The previous owner told me that he had already cleaned the carbs so I just opened up 2 of the bowls to check them. They looked very good so I decided not to clean the carbs at this time. I put the bike all back together hoping that the new boots and plug caps would solve the erratic performance problems. The test ride did show some improvement. It still wasn’t perfect, but not too bad. However when I pulled out the spark plugs, I was disappointed to see the grayish white color which was especially noticeable on the inner 2 cylinders. I debated long and hard about whether it was worth the trouble to try to fix that condition, since I wasn’t really even sure how much of a problem it actually was. But in the end, I decided to go ahead and attempt to enrich the carbs, foolishly hoping that I could find a way to do it without taking the carbs back off the bike. Frank suggested raising the needles. Soooo off with the seat and tank again. With a good bit of effort and struggle, I was able to get the gold caps off the top of the carbs and pull the cv boots and needles out. Only to find that they are not adjustable like some of the other ones are. Some models have needles with slots for raising and lowering the clips. However I did manage to insert a small washer under each clip to raise the needle slightly. A test ride showed slight improvement. My fear of running the motor too lean (thus too hot) caused me to take the next step.

One part of the carb rebuilding and cleaning that a lot of guys (including me) skip is cleaning the idle air/fuel mixture adjustment needle and passage way. Maybe that is because the manual tells you to never go there. The manufacturer even placed pressed in brass caps over the adjustment so that you cannot get to them. My friend Don told me he had a similar performance problem on his bike and a mechanic told him it was due dirt in the air/mixture screws. So I braved it and drilled a small hole in the brass caps. Then inserted a drywall screw and was able to pry them out. I was happy to find that the adjustment screws were not frozen and came out easily. Sure enough the tips were blackened with a black gummy coating. It only took a few minutes to clean the tips and spray a little carb cleaner down the hole. Now how to adjust them? I wish I had a colortune tool. I’m not that skilled at tuning by ear. The factory had the mixture adjustments 1 1/4 turn out from the bottom, so I just added a half turn out, making them 1 3/4 turn out on the end cylinders and 2 turns out on the inner cylinders. Surely that has to make the mixture richer!

The next step is to synch the carbs. I knew they were off a little because of the slow throttle return to idle from 3k RPM. After a couple of hours of diddling, I finally got them synched almost perfect with a home made synching tool that I discovered on the internet.


I was very happy with the final test ride. The bike now idles very nice and the missing is gone. It runs great at all RPM’s now. The plugs still do not have the tan color that I wanted, but I think I will quit while I am ahead.

Unfortunately I have discovered an annoying engine knocking sound under certain load conditions. It has taken me months of research and trial and error attempts to
figure out what is causing it. Finally I found this Yamaha service bulletin from 1981.


The bulletin changes the vacuum advance (pickup/governor ass’y) to a different part number (3H5-81683-09-00) which they say MIGHT reduce the noise that they claim is harmless anyhow. Of course the part is NLA, but guess which bike has that replacement part number in it?  The 1979 and 1980 XS1100 standard models used that part…and I have one!

Now for the final cosmetic touches, I Painted the header pipes with Rustoleum high heat ultra and painted the engine fins gold. I think it turned out pretty good and I’m very happy with the end result of this project.


May 2016

I didn’t have the bike up for sale and I was surprised when a guy from XS11.com contacted me. He had seen a picture that I had posted on the website and asked me if it was for sale. I replied “no, not really”, but then he made me an offer that I couldn’t refuse! He rented a trailer and drove here with his young son on a Saturday and stayed in a local hotel overnight. We met early Sunday morning. loaded the bike onto his trailer and then they drove back Home with his new acquisition.

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