Custom Yamaha TDM850 with Suzuki GT750 Engine, Yamaha TDR750 !

Some things just don’t seem to work together,no matter how hard they try: Tony Blair and morality, Mariah Carey and music, The Chuckle Brothers – the list is endless. To be fair, you might think the same if somebody suggested you buy a perfectly decent Yamaha TDM850 and put a Suzuki GT750 engine in it. Who in their right mind would try such a random mechanical caper?

Custom Yamaha TDM850 with Suzuki GT750 Engine

Fortunately for us Phil Larkin had the vision to utilise a Kettle to make a very Special Brew indeed, and the results are unsuspectingly brilliant. Yet it’s a project that only got off the ground thanks to a mixture of a misbehaving standard engine and a completely rash eBay purchase.

“I bought the 1993 TDM850 for £1200 about five years ago from a dealer online. I ran it standard for a few months, but the thing would never start. It was a nightmare, so the last time it did it I just gave up and took the engine out.” Says Phil...

So far, so normal. From here you’d have thought Phil would either delve inside the engine, or get a different but at least vaguely TDM-compatible one. Instead, Phil’s thought was to buy a completely leftfield engine that no one had ever contemplated transplanting into a TDM before, with no idea whatsoever if it would work.

“I fancied a big two-stroke but bikes like Yamaha RD500s were going for really silly money, so I started thinking about Kettle engines. Some bloke was selling one on eBay along with the carbs and a three-into-one exhaust for £600. I thought, ‘I wonder if that’ll go in the TDM?’ I just bought it there and then and decided I’d make it fit by hook or by crook.”

Custom Yamaha TDM850 with Suzuki GT750 Engine

Luckily 52-year-old Phil has years of mechanical experience and... oh, hang on, what was that, Phil? “I’ve never messed around much with bikes,” he shrugs. Right, so this was your first ever project? “Yeah, but it made sense: I like the TDM because the chassis is decent and the brakes are good, and I thought if I could stick this Kettle motor in it I’d have a useable and unique machine.”

Enlisting the help of his bike mechanic mate Alan (who, for the record, thought the whole project sounded completely mental), the pair got to work – starting with the removal of the erratic TDM engine and accompanying oil tank. “I knew that the Kettles had got a front bit of frame whereas the TDM is just a Deltabox frame with no cradle at all,” says Phil. “Initially, we managed to get one of the rear engine mountings fitted with spacers in one of the original engine mountings to the TDM, giving us a pivot point. I cut away at the casing that covers the sprocket to follow the shape of the frame, and we welded a bracket off the frame to make the two rear mounts.”

Custom Yamaha TDM850 with Suzuki GT750 Engine

Incredibly, despite a solid week’s work of twisting and levelling, the transplant didn’t prove as problematic as you might have thought. “Once we got the back end in it was OK,” nods Phil. “Kettle engines sit pretty straight in their frames but because we couldn’t lift this one up much more into the Deltabox, it tilts forward slightly. It runs all right and the stock carbs work fine, it’s just at a bit of an angle.”

The engine (standard except for a couple of Ram-Air filters – K&Ns wouldn’t fit) presented a few other challenges, not least the fact that the standard chain wouldn’t line up. Phil and Alan had to take the sprocket carrier off the rear and have half an inch of it machined off to bring the chain across – and even then they only just got away with it.

“Where the chain runs through the standard TDM swingarm we’ve actually got a Motocross chain roller bolted to it underneath to keep it off the swingarm. I’ve been through three of them in just under four years because the chain’s literally running on it all the time.”

Custom Yamaha TDM850 with Suzuki GT750 Engine

Four years, not to mention about seven grand, is actually what it’s taken to get Phil’s self-named TDR750 to the state you’re currently viewing in silent, nodding admiration. With the help of Alan, not to mention a very understanding missus, he’s now got the bike he wanted. “I was going for something that would be comfortable and a great old engine in a modern bike.” Looks like mission accomplished to us.

Clearly you can’t beat using a Kettle for a Brew like this, and Phil has proved that making a special out of the most unlikely bike and engine pairing is possible when you’ve got good mates, ambition and a generous dollop of perseverance. The only question is, how on earth is he going to follow it?