Sunday, January 18, 2009

1966 Honda CB450 Super Sport

When I picked up this machine in 2006, it had not turned a wheel since about 1974. The seller told me that it had been given to his father, who had since passed away. The seller’s late father had been a heating-oil salesman in Bremerton, Washington. He spotted this Honda sheltered under the eaves of a customer’s garage, and when he asked about it the homeowner said he could have it.
Further discussion revealed that the bike was not exactly the homeowner’s property to give away, but the guy who DID own it, the guy who had crashed it in the intersection in front of the garage, the guy who had said he would come back and get it, never did come back, and now the bike had leaned against the garage for most of three years. The homeowner had had enough, so the heating-oil salesman took the CB450 home gratis. The seller remembered that his dad got it running once using the bike’s electric starter hooked up to a car battery, but it had not been ridden since it was dropped in the intersection and left for dead.
The years that this bike spent dormant had been relatively kind to the machine, because both parties had the presence of mind to store it out of the weather. However, whoever it was that walked away from the bike in 1974 had certainly thrashed his money’s worth out of it. On the rear tire, only traces of tread remained on its outer edges. The chain was so worn that it dragged on the swing-arm pivot, and one of the rollers had broken. Consistent with this treatment were the custom touches: lopped-off fenders, tall handle bars, and lots of road rash. This motorcycle had been thrown down the road more than once. Here is a photo of my friend Chris trying it on for size on the day he helped me bring it home.
Getting the engine running involved some disassembly and a lot of checking, adjusting, and cleaning, particularly the carburetors and fuel tank. It was running in a month.
Riding it around the block, I discovered that second gear was shot. It would not stay in gear because the gear-engagement dogs were worn. I bought a spare engine and gearbox assembly from a local wrecking yard ( and swapped over the necessary transmission parts. Having the crankcase apart provided the opportunity to clean out the old oil sludge and bits of metal.
Finally it was back on the road and running well. I took it to a local race track (Pacific Raceways, Kent, Washington) to watch the vintage motorcycle races (Sounds of the Past racing series). At lunch time they let older bikes ride around the course following former AMA champion Gary Nixon, who was riding a vintage (and borrowed) Triumph triple. So it was that three days after the machine was licensed for the road, I was caning it around a road-race circuit. Foolhardy, yes, but terrific stuff.
Six weeks after that thrill, the CB450 was back where it started--crashed--when an elderly woman turned her Buick left in front of me.
That event put a damper on the rest of the season’s motorcycle riding. The woman’s insurance company was very good about the incident, and even compensated me for my new Arai helmet that got scratched up, but it took most of two months to get the settlement. During that time I had to leave the bike in its as-crashed condition. Once the settlement was reached, it was just a matter of a new headlight, a fork rebuild (with used fork stanchions from Bike Salvage), and a few evenings spent fixing the dented tank and the various bent up levers and foot rests.
The bike is up and running again. I have a good set of fenders and side covers that are ready to paint when the weather gets warmer.

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