Bringing back the ‘Vette (The Yamaha Phazer)
By Kevin Garnier
I guess I’ve always had the “tinkering” bug when it came to fixing stuff growing up. That said, it usually meant once something stopped working, I’d haul it apart and that’d be the end of it.
Fast forward 30 years, and that tinkering bug now has me on the lookout for a new-to-us sled for the 12 year old. The first edition was a well-used but still running 12 Elan, suitable for ovals in the backyard and the occasional zig-zag back and forth the soccer field. That was traded on a ’92 Tundra LT, with an add-on full height windshield (picture someone sitting behind a wall of plastic). The Tundra made for slightly longer runs to the field adjacent our friends place, bigger oval and colder hands. Both sleds allowed me to tinker a bit, more so with the Tundra as it came with a second parts sled, and so the final version was a franken-sled of the two. But, I wanted to find something with electric start (dad’s arm getting tired every time the kids stopped to chat during oval laps), and something he could ride thru the next couple years without more upgrading.
In talking around with the guys, different older models came up that could be a fall project. But the winner and one that immediately got my vote came from a guy I’ve known 35 years (and he is definitely no stranger to the sledding world). As luck would have it, I was talking to Brian Seaward one day, and as only Brian can convince you in 7 short words, “the old Phazer man, perfect for him…..”. I was sold, full stop.
The “old Phazer” we’re talking about is, of course, the “steering column mounted headlight, short track, looks-like-a-corvette hood” classic. It’s the sled you wanted as a 13 year old (that everyone wanted as a 13 year old), but in those days was only had by a few cool Uncles. So I figured wherever I found one, some tinkering was necessary. And, did I mention I was trying to pull this off ACAP (as cheap as possible). Thanks to the inter-web and a friends truck, a few weeks later I had found a running Phazer ready for the garage ($400 plus gas, check).
The “as-purchased” rundown: running, starts fairly easily (3-4 pulls…. gas is probably 4 years old), electric start (no battery, previous owner says “promise it works”), seat in great condition, general rust and squeaks, last ride it found the rear end of an old truck in a field. Crips.
I can clean a carb, put on new fuel lines, remove a rear suspension and fix bearings, replace chain case oil. Now I was using going to use every part of Youtube and its infinite wisdom to pull off some fiberglass/body work, welding (help me Jesus) and some other unfamiliar stuff. Time to get at it.
The process followed something like this. Haul the whole thing apart, and set to the mechanical stuff. Rear suspension is in decent shape, nothing major to do, and the kid is a light-weight, so it’s good for the season; maybe another look over the summer. Replaced the fuel lines that were stiffened up (some not bad, but did them anyway), checked fuel pump (good), and carburetor on to the bench in all its pieces. Some elbow grease, brake cleaner and compressed air later, we’re back in business. Chain case inspection and oil, nothing major there (for now, more plans later). Thorough cleaning of engine compartment and wiring check, few repairs on suspect connections. Re-assemble mechanical, put booster pack on and try ignition….thankfully he was a honest seller. Starter and relay sound good, we got gas turning to exhaust. Phase 1 done.
Now for the stuff classified under “unknown”; fixing the sudden stop from meeting a snowed in truck. You can buy replacement parts for this machine (Ebay, occasional scrap place, etc), but see above about the ACAP plans. $250 for a side panel, $300 for hood, and $150 for suspension cylinder would defeat the purposes of tinkering. With a summons of patience and a few online tutorials, I set out to do my best. Both side panels had broken brackets that needed to be re-fabricated and general cracking; the hood had significant damage at hinges, strap down locations, and 10-15 decent cracks throughout; and that poor front suspension cylinder, that took a good smack. It was punctured right thru from outside to in, and squat enough that the internals didn’t want to move.
Fiberglass mesh, epoxy and bondo are amazing things for even the complete newbie. The hood started out more like broken eggshells than a rigid part, and by the end of a few nights work, they were actual shapes. Rigid, formed body parts that actually fit as the manufacturer intended. Miracles do happen kids. On to the front suspension cylinder, and after some grinding, cutting and re-wrapping of the old casing with a section of steel pipe… time to pick some colors.
Up to this point, I’ve neglected to discuss the original color. Not that Yamaha missed the boat, but the purple with green and gold accents just wasn’t for me, and the boy wasn’t feeling it either. Remember, this thing was a childhood reflection of a corvette on snow…. and that means red. All of the original decals were removed, and paint surfaces prepped. The rear end, running boards, and lower front panels were done in gloss black. All the rest was going a bright red, with the “phazer” decal punched from some silver vinyl for the hood.
Once it looked the part, I now reverted back into “dad” mode and my innate fear of the young fella wrapping it around a tree (I’m thinking about the kid now… not my blood, sweat and tears). Some added electrical and this Phazer is now sporting a tether switch, as well as a throttle limiter to keep him from trying all 485 cc’s on day one.
All told, it’s my first refurbish and I’m happy with it. Definitely not pro quality, but good enough to strike up a chat over a beer in the garage. Future plans: the idea of adding reverse to it has crossed my mind, and so maybe that chain case will be getting a Venture parts swap.
Kevin lives, rides and restores on the West Coast of Newfoundland. Got a restoration you’d like to share, contact Info@Sledworthy.com