Thursday, January 7, 2010

2009 Retrospective: 1966 Honda CB450 Super Sport

The 2009 holidays were a nice chance to re-connect with family, and not just a few asked what I’d been up to this past year. That recurring question got me thinking, and I realized that, although I accomplished less than I would have liked to, I was able to make some important improvements to a few ongoing projects.
For instance I conquered the last of the Honda Black Bomber’s mechanical maladies: an intermittent but lingering shifting fault. The symptom was false neutrals, usually when shifting from first to second. I had thought that it was a problem with the shifting mechanism or the gearbox, but those seemed fine when I took them apart. Finally I noticed that the fault was worst in stop-and-go traffic but was rare when the clutch was cold. This suggested that the clutch plates were hanging up when they got hot instead of disengaging like they should. A close inspection of the clutch basket revealed indentations where the steel driven and driving plates had dug in to the aluminum parts of the clutch basket. The cure involved some very careful grinding to take out the indentations, and then I used a fine-tooth flat file to take out the grinder marks and get the clutch basket parts true again. This repair work seems to have eliminated the problem almost entirely—I still manage to flub up a shift on occasion, but it’s so rare I think it’s likely operator error.

Also the Honda finally got to wear a good set of fenders and side covers for the first time in about 40 years. In September 2007, I bought a rusty set of fenders from a fellow member of a local motorcycle club. I eliminated the rust (by a combination of sandblasting and phosphoric acid treatment) and hammered out the dents in short order, but then they sat for another year and a half. In June 2009, I finally got them painted. At the same time I painted a set of old steel side covers for the Honda. These I had gotten from different sources (right from one state, and left from another) thanks to eBay. Both were terribly rusted and dented, but I welded them up and carefully knocked out the dents. I treated the fenders and side covers with a phosphoric-acid solution to neutralize the rust and keep further corrosion from forming.

I love the look of straightened sheet metal. I wanted to install the parts in bare steel—with hammer marks and all—but I figured that would only be cool until I got caught in the rain. Since I’m lazy and did not want to take them off again to clean and paint them, I went ahead and painted them first before installing them.
The painted fenders are a departure from originality, but I’m not bothered. When introduced in mid 1965, the CB450 was issued with silver-painted fenders. It appears that Honda switched to chrome fenders in late 1966. My bike had chrome fenders when I got it, and I assume they were original, but a prior owner had lopped off the ends—a bob job. Perhaps the idea was to make the bike look less heavy, or custom chopped, or something. Now I’ve back-dated its styling a few months to the silver-painted fenders of 1965-66.

I think the painted fenders and side covers make it look much better than it did. I’ve never been a fan of chromed fenders on any motorcycle—I think chrome looks chintzy because it’s too easy. To my eye paint looks better, and a big part of paint’s good looks is knowledge of the effort involved and care taken. For the same reason I’m not a fan of powder coating motorcycles.


  1. Great work! I'm looking for a '65-68 CB 450 Black Bomber Gas Tank (complete!)... can you help?

    Thanks and keep up the project.

  2. afpeat, I don't have a spare tank, but they show up pretty frequently on eBay. Good luck!