Friday, January 6, 2017

Dreaming in California; 1963 CA77 305 Dream (Pt. 1)

It has been a quite couple of weeks, here in Spring Valley, as we lead up to Christmas and the holiday season in general. With the last few bikes down the road and with new owners, only the C110 remains for sale.

Last week a long-time local friend sent a message to me with photos of his partially reworked CA77 for sale. He’s had it for over 20 years, tore it down after purchase then powdercoated the chassis, along with rebuilding the wheels. A small bag of NOS Honda parts had an included parts invoice dating back to the year 2000. Some chrome work had been done and a bit of polish work finished on the kickstarter cover and a few other small parts. The speedometer showed 15k miles and had a rather tatty-looking face and odometer numbers. The engine was stored at another shop, so I await its arrival along with whatever other parts are stored in boxes scattered around the premises.

The frame number is 310129, so the 129th CA77 built for the 1963 production run. The wiring harness tag still showed 1962, which isn’t surprising considering the low production date. The bike still had one “Dream 300” tank badge, one of the two tire pump brackets (the side with the lock) and a new set of handlebars.

There are numerous differences among the “early” (1960-63) Dreams and the “late” (late 1963-67) versions. Early 250cc Dreams were distinctively different, especially concerning the fuel tank shapes and designs, even between the 250 and the 305s of the same years. Late Dreams were more generic and shared all the same chassis parts equally. Another bonus feature on the early series models was use of stainless steel for the mufflers! Again, even the mufflers changed configurations with the first types using a sleeve-type muffler inlet gasket while the later ones used a captive o-ring seal up front.

Other nuances concerned the use of gray rubber for the front fender packing and the chain inspection plug. Early bikes used clamp-on mirror brackets because the lever brackets were smooth on top with no provisions for screwing in an 8mm mirror. The original levers are more delicately shaped with small tapered ends and miniscule ball tips to finish the shape.

The horn connectors from the wiring harness had little hooks on the ends, which were secured with tiny cross-head screws to the horn body connections. The throttle control is a single, screwed-in twist throttle cable connection. Missing from the early Dreams is the little HONDA logo emblem, located just below the headlight assembly. Many early Dreams used a Yazaki brand speedometer and there was a mix of Nippon Denso and Kokusan electrical system components. Pre-65 Dreams generally had a “round bowl” carburetor configuration vs. the later “square bowl” design.

Until about 1966, all Dreams used a tall, thin battery (MJ-2) which required a matching tool tray, ground strap, side cover (and knob), all of which were replaced/redesigned when the 12N9-3A Super Hawk battery was introduced. The frames, of course, had a modified battery holder, so they all had new part numbers which reflected those changes.

The “base” product code for a C72 is 259 and 266 for the C77s. Numerous worldwide product variations added more product code numbers. Many of the basic Dream chassis components are rooted in the original 250 code dry-sump chassis, dating back to 1957. So, don’t be surprised if you are parts hunting and discover codes ranging from 250 to 272 for whatever application you are working on. Remember that US bikes were never equipped with “winkers” (turn signals), but all had dual seat lengths. Models sold outside America usually did have winkers and often had solo seats and luggage racks for more versatility.

HNY to all (updates)
Well, the engine arrived just before Christmas and it was a pretty scary sight to behold. The seller mentioned that it had been “stored in a chicken coop” for the past 15 years and it looked every bit the part of that. Curiously, the engine DID turn over with a wrench on the end of the crankshaft bolt. That was pretty amazing to discover, given the poor storage conditions.
Engine teardown went pretty routinely all things considered. Always start with loosening all the external screws with an impact driver, while the engine is still in one solid unit. Once the screws are loosened, then the top cover nuts come off to access the cam chain master link. Once the link is parted and the two nuts removed next to the spark plugs, the head slips right up and off the engine. With some persuasion, the cylinders rocked loose and lifted off the pistons. Close inspection of the rings indicated that the pistons/ring set were .75mm oversize, so someone had been inside this one once before. 

Basically, everything was kind of varnished and gooey, but nothing really bad was discovered deep inside the cases. The clutch, of course, had fused into a single mass, but it peeled apart, one plate at a time with the steel plates looking like they would clean up with a wire wheel session. As far as could be determined, the cases had not been split before as the sealant was nice and neatly applied all factory-like. I always check to see if there is sealer in between the two right side shafts (kickstarter and output shaft). Often there is no sign of sealer there, which has contributed to mysterious oil leaks on these early series engines.

Once apart, the major components were taken to a local automotive engine rebuilding shop, which shares a steam cabinet with a transmission repair shop. Generally the parts are cleaned of oil by this process and I get a call back in a day or so. Three days later, I called and was told that the parts were just getting done at that moment because the rotary function of the steam cabinet had failed, so the final cleaning was being done by hand.

After that the engine parts were hauled up the road, some fifty miles to a shop which had recently acquired a vapor blast cabinet. The parts have to be degreased before they go to this step, so having come out of the engine shop for de-greasing, they were ready for the final cleaning step. Even with this technology, getting the grit and scale off of these 53 year old parts is a chore and numerous hours were expended in the cleaning process. In the end, they were bright and shiny. Pitting and etching of the metal is to be expected considering the storage conditions before retrieval but the overall surface finish is clean and shiny.

The cylinders will get a good hone job and pistons refitted with new .75 rings which have a nice end gap in the cylinder bores, so no need for a rebore and new pistons/rings this time. This is a savings of something like $250-300 in machine work and parts acquisitions, so we caught a little break there, however the cleaning charges pretty much cost the same in the end.

The only real anomaly for the engine was that a set of the “flat” 268 coded tappet covers were all in place, instead of the usual “domed” 259 code parts. Many of the 1960-62 engines that have been in the shop have had the 250 code dry-sump Dream tappet covers. The flat 268 covers, for the most part, came out in 1961 with the release of the CB72-77 models, although most of the 1961 engines seen over the past 4 years still had carryover 250 code Dream tappet covers in place, as did an early 1962 CL72 that was here last year. The flat 268 code covers were superseded back to the domed 259 code parts, according to Honda’s parts interchange history book, but flat covers were seen on many CL72-77 models throughout production until the odd, half-dome 1967 tappet covers appeared with no specific part number attached.

Another transitional oddity has been observed at the tail light assembly. While the 1962 model Dreams came out with the tiny rectangular tail lights originally, most of the US bikes had the tail lights either updated or later ones equipped with the “short” 268 code tail light lenses through the end of the 1962 production, it appears. That "short" lens has been seen on 1962 CL72s, C110s and CB72-77s just for that year. Because of the lack of depth on the lens dimension, the tail light bulb socket was tilted up about 45 degrees from horizontal. Normal “long” lens lights have a bulb socket that extends straight out, horizontal with the ground. This early 1963 CA77 seems to have the original light socket still on the bike and it has an angled bulb socket, indicating that it was probably built with a “short” lens tail light assembly.

Part of the clues for this is that the tail light wiring consists of two very thin wires, which extend all the way forward to the wiring harness connectors without any mid-point connectors. Most long lens tail lights have a couple of wiring connectors just past the back of the bulb socket. A separate set of wires comes back from the harness to connect to the tail light wiring. The Dream wiring consists of two thin black wires with color codes just back of the connector ends. A CB77 tail light would be joined by a pair of wires, which were white (tail light) and blue (brake light) for their full length. So, if a lens is available, the bike will be equipped with a 1962 style short tail light lens, which appears to have been the original factory supplied part.

Back to the engine rebuild; this one will be assembled with an endless camchain, which is about all that is left for sale these days. There are sellers who will supply an endless chain, plus a rivet-type master link, but you will need a staking tool to complete the job that way. The 250-305 engines can be built with an endless chain, contrary to popular belief. The trick is to keep the cams spaced apart when the cylinder head goes on, then with the camsprocket held up by hand; the camshafts are carefully driven into the sprocket’s splined ends. Usually you have to use some short sockets over the ends of the cylinder studs and held in place with some 8mm nuts, simulating a torqued down cylinder head. This shortens the overall stack height and allows the camchain to stretch up sufficiently to allow the sprocket to engage with the camshaft splines. It is kind of a tricky move, but I have done it several times with complete success.

1 comment:

  1. Clever tip using the stacked sockets to compress the head/cylinder for installing an endless camchain, thanks.