1980 XS1100LG Midnight Special #4 (2016)

April 2016

This is the 2nd bike from the Indiana package deal of 2 midnight specials plus a bunch of parts.


I wasn’t surprised at how rough this one was, after all it was just his parts bike. So I considered it to be just a parts bike from the beginning. No seat, no exhaust, no carbs, a lot of stuff missing. However I found many of the missing parts in the parts totes that came with the package deal.


After hitting it with the pressure washer it’s really not as bad looking as I first thought. And as it turns out, it seems like the other bike from this package deal may need an engine rebuild. So if I get lucky and get this bike running, it may be the one that I want to salvage instead…besides it has less miles on it with only 21k.

Let the project begin!

I added 20w50 engine oil combined with some marvel mystery oil to each cylinder and let it soak for a couple of days. I was happy to find that the engine is not locked up. It turned over nicely.

The carbs have some problems with one stuck jet and some wrong jets. 3 out of the 4 pilot jets have been replaced with new 8 hole jets. The originals had 6 holes. Fortunately the original jets are packed away in one of the parts tote bins. The original 185 air jets were replaced with 190. I put the 185’s back in. The mains are new 110’s, I kind of wish I would have put the old 110’s back in too. Unfortunately the stuck air/fuel mixture jet was stuck really bad. Someone had stripped the slotted head and tried to drill it out with no luck. I purchased an easy out screw extractor kit and ended up breaking the extractor bit off inside the jet. So now I can’t even try drilling it out. I had to cut away part of the carb body to remove the stuck jet. I don’t know if I ruined the carb or not. Just have to wait and try it out.


JULY  2016

I’m finally getting back to this bike after spending 3 months on the first Indiana MNS. I rechecked the compression today and got 110-110-150-110 on cylinders one through four. Not bad at all, but I do wonder why #3 is higher than the others.


The regulator and the ballast resistor were missing but I found them stored away in one of the boxes of parts. There is a lot of stuff missing off of this bike, but most of it is in the boxes somewhere. But then after all, this was just a parts bike so no surprise that parts are missing. Still no spark though after replacing the missing electrical parts. I went straight for the pick-up coils and found 2 broken wires. A little snipping, a little splicing, and a little soldering and we got spark!  So far so good…I’m feeling optimistic about getting this engine running.


This Indiana deal is getting sweeter and sweeter! I didn’t know if this bike was salvageable or if it was just truly a parts bike.  I put the rebuilt carbs back on the bike and then put some gas in it and it fired right up and sounds great,,,even idles nicely!. Unbelievable!

I now have 3 running Midnight Specials!

August 2016

Rebuilding and cleaning the entire brake system is a pain in the ass but is absolutely necessary. It is the next step before taking the bike for its first test ride. I rebuilt both master cylinders and the rear brake caliper. I cleaned the 2 sticky front brake calipers and put new brake pads on the front because the old ones were saturated with fluid. This is the first time that I have found a brake line (the rear one) totally clogged. They were really a mess! I also had to rebuild the leaky petcocks.


The Test Ride!


It runs and shifts as it should. I lucked out with this one I think. What was supposed to be a parts bike has surprised me. It runs pretty good and I detected no transmission problems at all. Now I can concentrate on the next phase of the project. The cosmetic phase, and it is going to be a big phase too because this bike needs a complete makeover!


Didn’t’ go as good as I had hoped for. The bike is missing and stumbling and just generally weak. It got better as it warmed up and even better on half choke. So I determined that it was running too lean. I have some leftover jets from a dyno-Jet kit that I’m going to experiment with.

original jetting: 110 main, 42.5 pilot, 185 air.

new jets: aprox 115-117.5 main (124 dynojet), 45 pilot, 190 air

AND WHAT A DIFFERENCE!!!! This bike now runs better than my other two and maybe better than any I have ever had! I’ll have to keep an eye on the plug color and continue tweaking the mixture screws, but I think it must be very close to being right on!

March 2017

I found a nice clean gold headlight ring on ebay that came off of a 1982 Yamaha xj650. I wasn’t sure if it was the same fit, but it sure looked like it from the pictures. So I took a chance and bid on it and won. It’s really hard to find a gold ring. Actually it’s really hard to find any of the gold chrome parts for the midnights.

April 2017

Even though this was just the original owner’s parts bike, I’ve decided to restore this one as my stock original. I’m going to combine the best of both midnights to make this one the pristine one.  I’m thinking about theme customizing the other one, maybe something similar to my Army bike.

May 2017

I used a different paint on the engine this time. VHT 900 degree CALIPER PAINT. You don’t really need that high of a temperature on the engine. 500 degree paint always worked fine for me. But I like how black this paint is. Even though the label says it is satin black, it has a nice gloss to it. I hope it holds up as well as the duplicolor engine enamel that I usually use.


I decided not to paint the headers. Chrome cleaner shined them up pretty good. I riveted covers over the holes that someone had drilled in the ends of the mufflers. I think guys do that to try to make the bikes sound louder.  But I think it detunes the carbs.

After adjusting the valve shims, I swapped over the better set of carbs from the other MNS because of the way I had to cut off the mixture screw on this one. I didn’t want the flawed carb on this bike. I changed the main jets from 128 to 124 because this bike has the original exhaust. And what WAS just a minor off idle sluggishness/hesitation is now worse and has also spread across the rpm/throttle range. I was shocked at how poorly the bike ran with this set of carbs. It was disheartening after all of that work. So I pulled the carbs back off and replaced all of the “dyno jet” kit stuff back to all original jet and needles.

main 110, pilot 42.5, air 185

and also reinstalled the original needle jets but with one washer under each to raise the needle a bit. I’m hoping that the original configuration will work well with the original exhaust.


It worked… I think what happened is that when I covered up the drilled holes in the end of the muffler, that is what detuned the bike again. Plugging up those drilled holes put the exhaust back to its original condition. So putting the original jets back in caused everything to work as it was designed to work. The test ride went really really well. No hesitation or stumble at all in any of the RPM range. Now just a few more cosmetics and I’m calling this one done!

September 2017

I had been communicating with a nice guy named Mike  from the Columbus, Ohio area. I liked this guy and I knew that he wanted my bike but he had just purchased a midnight special project  that was in pretty rough shape.  I offered him a deal which included a trade for his Midnight project. We met half way in Rootstown, Ohio and swapped bikes. I was glad to see what I consider to be my nicest midnight Special project out of all of them go to a guy who really seems to share the appreciation for how great these bikes really are.

March 2018

Mike recently contacted me about selling this bike due to some unfortunate health issues. I wish I could afford to buy it back! If anyone reading this is looking for a really beautiful Midnight Special, Let me know and I’ll send your contact info to him.

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