1996 Buell S1 Lightning gets a makeover
Story: Greg Williams
Photos: Amee Reehal
Everybody’s seen a customized Harley-Davidson, but how about a customized Buell? (RIP, Buell.) Although Erik Buell’s machines have always had a distinctive look to them there are those out there who think the design could be improved upon. One of those individuals is Paul Shore. We wrote about Calgary-based Shore and his Motorrad Performance shop in issue 1205 of Inside Motorcycles.
There, I wrote: “Since the late 1980s Motorrad owner Paul Shore has been designing and building unique custom motorcycles, most often based on European machines, and the occasional tube-frame Buell. Shore was born and raised in Winnipeg. He got his start on powered two-wheelers when he was in junior high school, in the mid-1970s. Friends of his had minibikes and dirt bikes, and together they would head to the grassy, sandy land near the rail yards and fool around on the machines.”
Like so many of us, Shore’s fascination blossomed into a lifelong interest, and he went so far as to attend the American Motorcycle Institute school in Daytona, Florida. He earned his mechanic’s certificate for Harley-Davidson and BMW motorcycles and went on to work at Harley-Davidson Winnipeg. It was while there that he purchased a new 1996 Buell S1 Lightning – the bike was for his wife, Ann, to ride.
“Before she started to ride it, though, I took down the bodywork and grafted on a few pieces – it was stock for about 10 minutes,” Shore laughs. The Buell was modified with a Suzuki GSX-R fairing and the tail section from a Yamaha TZ250. Ann rode the bike for some 50,000 kilometres, and together the husband and wife team toured extensively – Ann on the Buell and Shore aboard a Ducati. However, Shore admits: “It wasn’t a comfortable ride for Ann, although she was a real good sport about it.
“With some rearsets I had built for it the bike became more of a contortionist’s vehicle. I was going after a look more than thinking about designing it for comfort.”
In the winter of 2007 Shore decided to take a look at the top end of the Buell motor as the machine seemed to be using a bit of oil. One thing led to another, and Shore says, “I had the Buell completely in pieces, and I was saying, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll have it back together in a few months’.”
Because of how uncomfortable the bike was for the first 50,000 km Shore decided to morph the Buell into something completely different. He saw the machine taking on the look of a streetfighter with more of an upright seating position, but still with the aggressive look that he likes. To start, Shore cut off the passenger footrest brackets and the rear sub frame. He then welded on tabs to allow the fitment of a removable sub frame section, and custom machined some alloy brackets to facilitate the easy installation of items such as the rear shock reservoir and coils. Grafted to the back of the frame is the swingarm from a 1999 Buell X1 Lightning. This wasn’t a simple bolt in procedure and getting the siwngarm to fit required some grinding to remedy a clearance issue.
For bodywork Shore located a larger fuel tank from a 1998 Buell White Lightning and an aftermarket carbon fibre front fender. The Harley-Davidson parts bin was raided for a V-Rod headlight. Shore fabricated the rear sub frame before knowing what kind of tail section he would fit. He subsequently tried three different tail sections, and none of them looked right on the bike. Then, while at work one day, he looked at a customer’s Ducati 999. “Of course, then I had to order a 999 sub frame and tail section, and I had to cut up the Ducati sub frame to get it to fit the Buell,” Shore says. To get the alloy oil tank to slip between the rails of the modified sub frame took some work but Shore was determined not to use the stock plastic item.
Showa forks from a 1999 X1 Lightning anchor the front end. Wheels were designed by Derek Pauletto of Trillion Industries in Calgary, and were CNC machined from American Wheel alloy blanks by a local shop. Front brakes are four-piston Brembo GP units while the rear is a stock Buell item.
What started as a quick look at the top end to see why the Buell was using oil turned into a major rebuild, and the motor was punched out from 74 to 90 cubic inches. Mike Gamble at Calgary’s Speedtwin Performance Motorcycles rebuilt and balanced the crank and ported the heads and installed oversize valves. Performance cams went in, and a set of 10.5:1 CP forged pistons slid into Millenium Technologies nikasil cylinders. Fuel and air is mixed in a PSI Series 3 flat slide billet carburetor, which is mounted on an S&S manifold. Exhaust exits through a Buell racing header and muffler. Power from the beefed up engine is transferred to the rear wheel via a Baker 530 chain drive kit – which replaces the stock drive belt and this modification allows the fitting of a wider rear tire.
To finish the project the Buell frame was coated in a Harley-Davidson-style orange colour, and the tank and tail section were sprayed black. A good number of components were anodized black, and the engine side covers were powder coated in a bronze colour that has a unique shine to it when hit by the sun. All fasteners, with the exception of a couple of motor mount bolts, are machined stainless steel. Shore had a friend custom-build a wiring harness and installed a Motogadget m-Unit control box to replace the fuses and relays.
The Buell has been broken in on Gamble’s Dyno, and so far Shore is happy with the power being made. He’s riding it around now between snowfalls, and is pleased with the handling and riding characteristics.
How did wife Ann feel about all of this? “She just kind of let me run with it, and this was pretty much my focus. She initially wanted to know why I couldn’t have left it alone, but she likes the finished product now,” Shore says.