Sunday, July 28, 2019

Stuff I’ve seen… stuff I haven’t seen


In my current (and hopefully last) Honda 250 engine build, I am in the middle of piecing one good engine from 3 engines in total. Two of the three engines are CL72 250cc twins from 1964-5 and a 1962 CB77 engine that was leftover from the last 305 engine build.

In the middle of all the current mess, I received a message from a SoCal CL72 owner who was having difficulties in getting the kickstarter to operate correctly. He had a local shop tear down the bottom end to have a look and this is what they found…


In all my days of dealing with the 250-305 engine group I have never seen a kickstarter shaft snapped off like this one was. More damage photos followed:


Low gear bushing ground away inside and the shift shaft splines twisted at the end… on a bike that had 5k miles, according to the owner. Wow! The parts bill for everything he needed was $350 alone.



Fishing through the three engines, here in the shop, revealed more disasters in the making. The 1962 CB77 engine didn’t come with a primary chain tensioner, but this one had a lower case change to include that feature. The bottom engine cases are mostly interchangeable, so fitting a 1963-on lower crankcase half was a good idea. The REALLY sad part of this engine was that it was fully assembled with orange RTV sealer on all gasket surfaces and the engine case halves! For those who think this is a good idea, I just have to say NO, NO, a THOUSAND TIMES NO!





In dividing the various transmission shafts up for inspection, I found a low gear bushing with the center ring floating inside low gear, a kickstarter pawl with ground down ratchet surface and the substitution of an early 2nd gear, which has straight cut gear dogs installed to mesh with a gear that had backcut gear dogs. I can’t say that I have seen this bushing cracked like this, either.




The hat-shaped 14mm end bushing had deep gouges in the surface from the kickstarter pawl contact and the gear dog overlap was less than 10%, with wear showing on the edges of the gear dogs from jumping in and out of 2nd gear. The shift forks were worn and old varnish deposits caused the shift drum to hang up inside the shift forks, preventing easy shifting of gears. The shift drum retainer plate had cracks in both screw holes and the forward kickstarter shaft bushing had a crack along the trailing edge.


Based upon general observations in the past 30 years of working on these engines, I would put the suggested parts lists to include:
*Low gear bushing, especially of the center ring is worn loose, as above!
*Kickstarter pawl, including the spring and plunger
*Kickstart shaft, if the roller bearing surface is damaged or the splines are twisted
*14mm end bushing
*Offset gear cotters ( 2 or all 4)
*Shift forks (reuse good ones)
*Shift drum (reuse good ones)
*Shift fork Roller bolt locking tab washers 2x
*Crankshaft locking tab washer
*6mm sealing washer for that long nut on the bottom case.

If the transmission has been jumping out of 2nd gear, then make sure you match the correct gear(s) for the rest of your transmission’s requirements.

If you look inside the top of the clutch cover and see a small shiny spot worn into the case housing, then the primary chain has worn beyond limits. If the primary chain is worn, probably the oil filter drive chain is also worn excessively. Replace both items. Aftermarket replacements are available from UK vendors.

Be aware that most of the basic return gearshift transmissions all use the same basic shifting selector parts, so you can go fishing for what’s needed outside of whatever model you have now. There are differences in the old/new CB/CL transmissions, including a late 1966 change in the spline depth. Dream transmissions had very few changes, but you can’t intermix Dream and CB/CL transmission gears.


Shift drum roller, locked up in above photo, lead to wear on the roller and arm just below the roller rivet pin.

Remember that all the transmission and shift selector repairs can be done with the bottom end of the cases split. You don’t have to tear down the whole engine to do lower end work. 


While you are in there, check the condition of the neutral switch. Many have broken wire connections or all full of dirt/grease and can’t make the required ground connection to turn on the neutral light. Check function of the switch before you put the kickstarter cover back on.

Bill "MrHonda" Silver 7-19




Thursday, July 18, 2019

And so it begins again… will the CL90 circle be unbroken?


It was my very first motorcycle; a 1967 Honda CL90 Scrambler 90, which turned up at a local used car lot, apparently traded in by a local serviceman. I don’t recall how I got the money, but I think the price was about $350 and suddenly it was MINE!
You may have read the saga of my 1500 mile journey on the little Scrambler 90 in just 3 days. I began in San Diego, riding up the Hwy 395 eventually to Reno, then back over the mountains, out the I-80 to Sacramento and San Francisco then down the PCH until I hit Playa Del Rey, CA.
The bike seemed capable of somewhere around 60 mph and it was ridden at pretty much full-throttle for the whole trip. I stopped every 100 miles and put in ONE gallon of gasoline, then off I went again. I did virtually no maintenance to it, apart from keeping the oil level topped off. It just ran and ran and ran…
Having run through something like 400 cars and bikes in the past 50 years, I have seen a few decent examples of the little Scrambler, but most were in a rather poor condition with worn or missing parts and generally lacked decent care. I don’t actively seek out my “first bike” these days, but one pretty good example came my way via a phone referral from nearby Carlsbad, CA.

I was puzzled, at first, in that the bike had most of the CL90 parts, however, it had a S90 fuel tank mounted up in place of the little Silver Scrambler tank that one usually sees on a CL90. The message sender came back with “I liked the looks of the S90 tank, so I put one on the bike. I still have the original CL90 gas tank, though!”
The bike appears to be a 1968-69 edition, which featured chromed fenders, turn signals and the little front fender reflector, unlike my plain-Jane 1967 machine, which probably came from Okinawa. The bike didn’t have any turn signals and the fenders were painted Cloud Silver, just like the tank. Honda 90s were no strangers to change, although the main CL90 chassis appears to be interchangeable with an S90, there were CL90-specific parts used to differentiate the two models. The fenders, seat, muffler, fuel tank, and handlebars were the principal differences. Mechanically, the two were mostly the same beneath the cosmetics.
I happened to be in that part of the county, last week, so arranged to see the bike and perhaps take it home…
In all of its “glory,” the bike sat at the opening of the 2 car garage, awaiting inspection and/or purchase. It’s funny how the first impressions, felt in the gut, will give you a feeling of attraction or repulsion and unfortunately, the latter came into full force almost immediately. The list of deficiencies ran long, right from the beginning. Most all of the chrome was pitted to some extent and the bike hadn’t been started for quite a while. A lithium battery was installed and had enough charge to light up the neutral light, but a few kicks gave no joy. A check of the fuel tank revealed nothing inside. I did bring a compression gauge and got readings of 150 psi, which was hopeful. The miles showing were about 1500 and appeared to be original.
Among the missing were: chain guard, battery cover and center stand. The original CL90 fuel tank was in a separate box and there were telltale dents on both sides at the front edges. That usually only means one thing… steering stops on the frame sheared off from a crash. The end of the throttle grip was torn and the rear brake pedal was bent upwards beyond the footpeg, all indicating some forceful damage due to a crash at some point in its life. The bike had an original CA “Black plate” which are revered in the Golden State as being original to the bike and seen on all cars until about 1969. Unfortunately, the bike had never been registered to the seller since he took ownership sometime back in the 1970s.
Right before I left (Sorry, I have to pass on this one), I checked the serial numbers and discovered that the 2XXXXX numbers on the frame were not backed up by the engine numbers, which were 1XXXXX instead. There were a lot of Allen screws installed in place of the normal Phillips head screws, so someone had been doing some kind of repairs or just installed a different engine. Both were CL90 series though, instead of an S90 engine transplant which is often more commonly seen in situations like this.
With only the one photo to go from, I couldn’t tell just what the “value” might be. The seller put out a feeler at $1,000 initially. In an ideal situation with a near mint bike, the price might have been supported, however, this one was far away from that kind of price range. I felt that something in the $400-500 range might be more appropriate, given the condition and the many needs of this little Scrambler. I offered to help him sell it and posted photos on Facebook forums that evening.
I forwarded three potential buyers to him and one apparently showed up and paid $700 for the bike and was excited at the prospect of getting it going and maybe doing some level of restoration to it over time.
So, in the end, it was not my time to revisit the “first bike” scenario again and that was probably a really good thing, as my time would be sucked up in a fruitless labor of love, which would reduce my customer repair time, where I actually do make a little money these days.
Well, no doubt, there is something else waiting in the wings for me and my little envelope of cash leftover from the sale of the Honda Reflex scooter. In the meantime, the “Unique CB400F” bike featured in previous posts is getting revamped back towards stock again, but with a few little twists to make it a little more “cool.” Stay tuned for that update.
Bill “MrHonda” Silver
07-19
PS/// Same bike showed up on CL for $1500 asking 2 days later...

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The JDMs in my life…

In more than 50 years of Honda motorcycle ownership, bikes of all sizes and histories have come my way, with the bulk of them “normal” US-spec models. I have owned more than a few JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) Hondas, which have mostly just showed up unexpectedly. It is an interesting mix, starting with the oldest ones… a 1954 90cc J model Benly and an F Cub, the Honda 2-stroke powered bicycle and they just kept coming…

I turned up the J Benly at a local salvage yard, which was sitting for many years before I extricated it, more out of curiosity than anything. It was rough, but mostly there, but the kickstarter cover had been split and re-welded once. I disassembled the engine just to see what was inside and did a valve job on the cylinder head, using a CB750 valve guide.

Ownership of this bike actually started my involvement with the VJMC, as I was trying to contact others who knew anything about this model at all. I sold the bike, locally, to a friend who sold it to Brian Slark (Barber museum wrangler) and it wound up in St. Louis for a number of years. Mike Buttinger contacted me looking for an “old Honda” and I put them together. The bike was shipped to the UK where it underwent a 100% stunning restoration, subsequently winning a “Best of Show” award at Staffordshire. I did, briefly, own a JC58 Benly, back in the 1990s, but sold it off before it was running again.

The “F Cub” might have actually been older, perhaps a 1952-3 edition, which I purchased off of eBay right after I moved to Hawaii! The bike was shipped in a bicycle box and arrived safely, from many thousands of miles away. It was a fascinating look into Honda’s first in-house engine building efforts, but wasn’t going to be practical for the Islands, so it was re-sold on eBay to someone in TX, who flipped it again, not too long afterwards.

My first ever motorcycle was perhaps a version of a JDM, probably from Okinawa. It was a 1967 Honda CL90 Scrambler. It was brought into the country by a local sailor, I think and traded in for a car at a used car lot. It was definitely the only one in town, as even the local Honda dealer had no idea of its existence. They were released in the US a few months later. That bike is the one that I drove 1500 miles in 3 days, going from San Diego to Reno, NV, to SFO and then back to LA, getting 100 mpg all the way.

The only JDM that I went to fetch in Japan, was an early SS50 Sports 50, featuring a 5-speed gearbox connected to a 11,000 rpm motor. That bike went 60 mph right out of the box. I was in the USAF and flew from my base in Sacramento to Yokota AFB in Japan, visiting Curly’s Honda, just outside the base entrance. I picked out a cute red SS50, paid $175 for it and was told to come back later. Upon my return, I found the bike had been turned into a neat pile of perfectly wrapped parts, suitable for shipment back on the C135 jet plane, as I returned back to Sacto, via Fairbanks AK.

After my stint in the USAF, I returned to San Diego and bought/sold a lot of Honda bikes. In the late 1970s, I happened to be in the UK, when Honda released the 1977 CB125T twin to the local market. I had been roadracing on and off since 1974, in the 125 Production class, so thought that this bike would be more competitive than my series of CB 125S models, which were all that was available in the US. The CB125T was another out-of-the-box terror… 80mph at 12k rpms in totally stock condition. The bike was raced successfully at several tracks, including Ontario Motor Speedway where it hit 88 mph at 13k rpms drafting a 175cc class bike.



I went back to the UK a few years later and discovered the new 1980 CB250RS street bike, based upon an XL250 chassis/engine, but with alloy rims, disc front brake, improved engine and a tiny quarter fairing. That bike would run up to about 90 mph and got 90 mpg at the Craig Vetter Gas Mileage run in 1980. I sold the bike to buy a new VF750F Interceptor. About 30 years later, the same CB250RS showed up on Craigslist, here in San Diego.  It had about 28k miles on it and was still owned by the same woman who bought it in 1983. It needed waking up, but it ran fine after a bit of work. The engine had never been opened up, wasn’t using oil and didn’t leak.

A rare CBM72 250cc Super Hawk (Type 2 engine with 360 crankshaft) showed up on a local Cycle Trader listing in the mid-1980s, which was the first of that type I had ever seen. I also pieced together a Type 2 CB77 domestic bike, during that time which had a lot of CYB racing parts installed on the chassis. I sold that bike in 1988 and wound up buying it back from the estate of the owner in 2017.

In the late 1990s I came across a CP450 for sale in the Mid-West. Apart from an oversized windshield and a dual seat, the bike had most of the CP parts still on it. I was able to purchase it and have my local wholesale friends grab it for me and haul it back to San Clemente, where I lived from 1996-2001. I was able to buy a NOS solo seat and rear rack directly from Honda. There were only 25 of the all-white 4-speed Black Bomber models brought into the country and Honda did inventory parts for them. 

Through a rather complicated purchase and swap, I did wind up with a rare CYP77 Honda 305 Police bike, all in bits. They were never offered in the US (some CP450s came over in 1965), but a few were sprinkled around in Canada, which is where this particular bike was sourced. I found an ad, somewhere on the Internet, I think, where two were being offered. I gave the information to a friend in TX, who was seeking a project like that and a year or so later, the first one was finished to perfection. Enough parts had been rounded up to do the second one, but his enthusiasm waned. After sharing photos of the first one, I asked about bike #2 and he offered it up for trade wanting a CB92 project instead of cash.

I had just moved to New Mexico, but had been in contact with a man who had an unidentified “Benly” out in the desert that he wanted to sell cheaply. It turned out to be a CB92 with a unfinished CB160 engine wedged into the chassis. The bike came with the original engine, YB racing parts for the Benly and a YB seat for a CB77, too. I had to make a 1400 mile round trip over the weekend to fetch it all and return to NM. On Thanksgiving Day weekend, my friend drove up from Houston with the CYP77 and a running 1967 CB77 to swap for the CB92 project. I built the CYP77 in about 3 months and then sold it to CMSNL in Holland, prior to moving to Hawaii in 2002.

In 2017, an avalanche of JDM bikes came to me in convoluted ways… First a CB77-styled domestic CB350 went up for sale in PA, but the bike had been partially restored by a friend in NoCal, a few years earlier. I bought the bike and had it shipped here in SoCal, where I brought it back to life, but discovered numerous issues that needed a lot of TLC. At the same time, a 1997 Honda Dream 50 street bike came on the market, in Indiana, from a good friend and enthusiast, who had a lot of experience with Honda 350 twins and we wound up swapping bikes back and forth to the Mid-West. The domestic CB350 had gone from N. Cal to PA to CA and back to IN, in the space of a year.

In the meantime, the man who transported the domestic CB350 to me also had brought in 24 JDM-UK bikes from England, earlier in the year, including a 1988 CBR250R 250-four cylinder bike, which has a redline at 18k rpms. On the way back to CA, while bringing in the 350, he picked up the 250-4 from his warehouse in Oakland and brought both bikes down to me. The CBR250R was a little bit rough, but ran well and was great fun to drive. I had just gotten it registered in CA when ANOTHER 1988 CBR250 showed up on eBay auctions. The bike had been brought in from Japan by a dealer in Utah. That bike only had 310km on it… about 185 original miles and had been serviced and titled in UT. The first CBR250 was sold to an enthusiast in LA and the “new” bike remains with me today with about 1200 miles on it now.

This interest in more modern JDM models lead me to bid on a 1989 Honda NC30, which is the 400cc V-4 version of the fabled RC30 750ss Sport bikes, which are now fetching $25-50k. I didn’t realize it, but the seller was the same guy I bought the first CBR250 from! It took him a few weeks to bring the bike out to SoCal and unfortunately there were numerous problems that were not disclosed in the auction, including having the original carburetors replaced by some “parts bike” carbs of a different series that had damage and missing parts. The fork seal on one side was leaking a lot and the bike tried to bend a rod by trying to compress a cylinder full of raw gasoline that had leaked into the cylinder through the vacuum hose attached to the vacuum operated petcock.

A new OEM Honda petcock diaphragm kit fixed the tank problem and I learned to turn the engine backwards to purge out the gasoline back into the exhaust system. I’m not sure why it didn’t catch fire and/or blow up once the cylinder was cleared and the engine fired up for the first time. I did get one ride in on the bike for about 75 miles before tearing into it, in an effort to salvage the carburetors. With 60+ horsepower and wet weight of about 400 lbs, the bike is quite entertaining to ride, once it clears its throat. I am hoping for good things from it, but it is going to take a lot more time and $$ to get it close to right again. I actually sold it on eBay to a guy in Hawaii, so the bike resides over there now.

I think that this will be the last of the JDM Hondas to come my way, but as you know, life is just FULL of surprises.
Bill Silver

Thursday, July 11, 2019

And so it begins again… will the CL90 circle be unbroken?



It was my very first motorcycle; a 1967 Honda CL90 Scrambler 90, which turned up at a local used car lot, apparently traded in by a local serviceman. I don’t recall how I got the money, but I think the price was about $350 and suddenly it was MINE!

You may have read the saga of my 1500 mile journey on the little Scrambler 90 in just 3 days. I began in San Diego, riding up the Hwy 395 eventually to Reno, then back over the mountains, out the I-80 to Sacramento and San Francisco then down the PCH until I hit Playa Del Rey, CA.
The bike seemed capable of somewhere around 60 mph and it was ridden at pretty much full-throttle for the whole trip. I stopped every 100 miles and put in ONE gallon of gasoline, then off I went again. I did virtually no maintenance to it, apart from keeping the oil level topped off. It just ran and ran and ran…

Having run through something like 400 cars and bikes in the past 50 years, I have seen a few decent examples of the little Scrambler, but most were in rather poor condition with worn or missing parts and generally lacked decent care. I don’t actively seek out my “first bike” these days, but one pretty good example came my way via a phone referral from nearby Carlsbad, CA. Or so I thought...


I was puzzled, at first, in that the bike had most of the CL90 parts, however it had a S90 fuel tank mounted up in place of the little Silver Scrambler tank that one usually sees on a CL90. The message sender came back with “I liked the looks of the S90 tank, so I put one on the bike. I still have the original CL90 gas tank, though!”

The bike appears to be a 1968-69 edition, which featured chromed fenders, turn signals and the little front fender reflector, unlike my plain-Jane 1967 machine, which probably came from Okinawa. The bike didn’t have any turn signals and the fenders were painted Cloud Silver, just like the tank.  Honda 90s were no strangers to change, although the main CL90 chassis appears to be interchangeable with an S90, there were CL90-specific parts used to differentiate the two models. The fenders, seat, muffler, fuel tank, and handlebars were the principle differences.  Mechanically, the two were mostly the same beneath the cosmetics.

I happened to be in that part of the county, last week, so I arranged to see the bike and perhaps take it home…

In all of its “glory,” the bike sat at the opening of the 2 car garage, awaiting inspection and/or purchase. It’s funny how the first impressions, felt in the gut, will give you a feeling of attraction or repulsion and unfortunately, the latter came into full force almost immediately.  The list of deficiencies ran long, right from the beginning. Most all of the chrome was pitted to some extent and the bike hadn’t been started for quite awhile. A lithium battery was installed and had enough charge to light up the neutral light, but a few kicks gave no joy. A check of the fuel tank revealed nothing inside. I did bring a compression gauge and got readings of 150 psi, which was hopeful. The miles showing were about 1500 and appeared to be original.

Among the missing were: chain guard, battery cover and center stand. The original CL90 fuel tank was in a separate box and there were telltale dents on both sides at the front edges. That usually only means one thing… steering stops on the frame sheared off from a crash. The end of the throttle grip was torn and the rear brake pedal was bent upwards beyond the footpeg, all indicating some forceful damage due to a crash at some point in its life. The bike had an original CA “Black plate” which are revered in the Golden State as being original to the bike and seen on all cars until about 1969. Unfortunately, the bike had never been registered to the seller since he took ownership sometime back in the 1970s.

Right before I left (Sorry, I have to pass on this one), I checked the serial numbers and discovered that the 2XXXXX numbers on the frame were not backed up by the engine numbers, which were 1XXXXX instead. There were a lot of Allen screws installed in place of the normal Phillips head screws, so someone had been doing some kind of repairs or just installed a different engine. Both were CL90 series though, instead of an S90 engine transplant which is often more commonly seen in situations like this.

With only the one photo to go from, I couldn’t tell just what the “value” might be. The seller put out a feeler at $1,000 initially. In an ideal situation with a near mint bike, the price might have been supported, however this one was far away from that kind of price range. I felt that something in the $400-500 range might be more appropriate, given the condition and the many needs of this little Scrambler. I offered to help him sell it and posted photos on Facebook forums that evening.
I forwarded three potential buyers to him and one apparently showed up and paid $700 for the bike and was excited at the prospect of getting it going and maybe doing some level of restoration to it over time.

So, in the end, it was not my time to revisit the “first bike” scenario again and that was probably a really good thing, as my time would be sucked up in a fruitless labor of love, which would reduce my customer repair time, where I actually do make a little money these days.

Well, no doubt, there is something else waiting in the wings for me and my little envelope of cash leftover from the sale of the Honda Reflex scooter. In the meantime, the “Unique CB400F” bike featured in previous posts is getting revamped back towards stock again, but with a few little twists to make it a little more “cool.” Stay tuned for that update.
Bill “MrHonda” Silver
07-19

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Duplicating Hondas… again!


It seems very odd that vintage Hondas show up in my shop and in life in pairs. I generally don’t buy two of the same bike, but lately one shows up for repairs and then I find one like it for sale. Like my creampuff 1995 Cougar XR7 (80k original miles), I seem to get involved with niche market models of cars and bikes.  Consider the previously reported Tracy-bodied CB400F which had a stock, red CB400F partner come down from Orange County for a repair visit. Before that, there was a pair of CB77 Super Hawks, which showed up not long after a brace of CB92s came through Casa de Honda.

So, it wasn’t surprising that a blue version of the just-repaired orange CB400A showed up on Craigslist at an attractive price. It was a 90-mile round trip to go see and buy it, but the previous owners had been enjoying the bike for the previous 10 years, so it seemed like a reliable mount. When I arrived, I found a used, but not abused CB400A with 12k miles showing on the odometer.  The fuel tank had a small dent and the petcock had a tendency to weep if you put the lever in the full ON position. The oil needed changing and the drive chain hadn’t been adjusted for quite awhile. After a quick run down the block, I made a deal with the sellers and loaded it up in the Tacoma for the return home.



Once it was unloaded from the truck, a closer look for maintenance items seemed to indicate that perhaps the balancer shaft adjustment had never been done. I drained the oil and filter, which allowed for somewhat easier work on the torque converter covers. It is a messy job with oil coming out of the converter and from within the outer case covers.  The balancer adjustment required moving the adjustment arm one spline to get it set properly.  Fortunately, the gaskets came off clean, so everything was put back together without any new parts.

When the seat was removed from the chassis, an odd thing was noticed in that the little tray for the tool kit had been hacked off, perhaps to enhance air flow to the air cleaner inlet. A decent replacement was purchased from an eBay seller, but the swap continues to be delayed, as it appears to require rear wheel removal at the least. It is a deep, complicated piece that forms the forward portion of the rear fender.

One of the cautions from the seller, during the purchase, was that the countershaft seal was weeping oil, so new seals were ordered. After a couple of days, the 4into1 parts order arrived and work was undertaken to fix the seal issue. There are two seals shown in the parts book illustrations, but it wasn’t clear as to how they both worked together on the output shaft. One seal was mounted on a thick steel washer and the OD was larger than the actual countershaft seal outside diameter.

The first seal was stubborn and took a good 15 minutes to extract from the engine case. Behind it was the steel back seal, which I attempted to remove, but quickly discovered that it was actually sitting inside a groove in the cases. The only way to properly change it is to split the cases! I spent over an hour grinding, drilling and working on the seal extraction, which was required now that the seal lips had been damaged during the initial removal attempt. Drilling holes 180 degrees apart on the sides of the seal base allowed for it to kind of fold over and eventually be removed. All of the physical exertion in the outer seal removal left gouges in the engine case seal opening edges. Most of these were cleaned up using a rotary tool, but one deeper gouge into the seal housing surface lead to an immediate oil leak when the engine was restarted.

With the countershaft sprocket removed, it was easy to see that the oil was leaking out of the channel that was created by errant drilling. Removing the new seal to inspect the damaged area caused irreparable harm to the seal, so it was discarded and 2 new ones ordered in hopes that one would finally hold oil pressure once the case damage was repaired.  It wasn’t a good day at the office…

Part of the reason for being interested in an automatic is that I had ankle surgery last year, plus a flare-up of a left wrist pain that seemed to linger, so I have been looking at other 2-wheeled options that don’t necessarily require a manual clutch and a lot of rear brake action. My stepfather had both the CB400A and CB750A versions, back in the 1980s and was happy to troll around on them. The 750 proved to be a little too ungainly for him, so we backed him off to a 400, but added an “E” economy model fuel tank, which held another half gallon or so.

The first generation 400A models had some kind of factory glitch that caused the stators to fail and apparently every one built will need a new stator, according to a Honda service rep. This bike was a “wife’s bike” which had been purchased 10 years ago with about 8,000 miles on it then. After 40 years, it is difficult to know the bike’s history and if the stator has been changed or not. Fingers crossed and hope that it remains functional.

Having just done one of these bikes, I learned that re-jetting the carburetors yielded benefits to overcome their inherent lean conditions, built in at the factory in order to pass emission controls. New carb kits with the standard CB400T jetting were ordered and installed to improve drivability and performance.

It wasn’t a happy thought, but it became obvious that the engine had to come out for new seal installation. The wraparound exhaust system had headers that came out with some nudging, but the rear separate mufflers seemed to be unwilling to loosen for removal. Eventually, the rear brake pedal linkages was removed at the rear wheel, allowing the pedal to move downwards sufficiently to create space for the power chamber/mufflers to be slipped out of the chassis.

A floor jack was placed beneath the motor and it slid down and pirouetted out onto a waiting plastic tub, which was meant to contain the oil drooling from the internals, as the disassembly continued. The torque converter side covers were removed along with the other hardware for the shift linkage, while the rotor and stator mounting plate was pulled from the opposite side.

The cases seemed to be very reluctant to part with a few screwdrivers wedged in between the outer edges until the overlooked 6mm (by 105mm) bolt was discovered to have been hiding under some grease. Loosening the bolt without taking the wedges out resulted in a loud BANG; with the bottom engine case jumping up and the remaining bolt shearing off at the threads in the upper case.  I went online to locate what appeared to be the last 6x105 flange bolt in the Honda system and ordered it immediately.  Man, these “senior moments” can take a toll sometimes, but it could have been worse.

The engine internals were quite clean, but the transmission shaft seal shoulder was nicked from the previous seal replacement attempts. Another trip to eBay came up with a complete transmission for $20, plus $15 shipping! New seals from 4into1.com came in along with a gasket kit. Somehow, all the jacking of the big engine case hadn’t damaged the sealing edges, so with new engine seals installed in place, the lower case half was reattached successfully.

While waiting for incoming parts, the carbs were unhooked from their cables and new CB400T kit jets were installed, hopefully, to give the engine a bit more fuel to compensate for the alcohol in the gasoline which tends to lean older engines out. Main jets were moved up to 110 from 105 and the primary mains changed from 72 to 75. These bikes were notorious for being cold-blooded due to EPA requirements which were just coming into play during the mid-1970s.
Eventually, all the parts were received and the engine reinstalled into the chassis. The bottom of the engine doesn’t have much of a large flat pad to use for lifting by a jack, but a combination of tools, lifting back and forth, plus the hydraulic assist eventually got the big lump back into the frame successfully.

The engine fired back up without the troublesome oil leaks at the counter-shaft, which was a great relief. One of the carb mods backfired on me, as the shim beneath the needle locked it into the slide which subsequently seized up partially when running.  Removing the shims freed up the slides correctly and the engine performance improved back to normal, once again.

Returning from a long Sunday drive resulted in a horrifying sight of oil drooling off the engine, once again, but the cause turned out to be a little too much oil in the crankcase, plus I forgot to reconnect the breather tube back to the valve cover after the last carb removal session! Senior moments, indeed!
Subsequent testing did not reveal any further major issues, although some black oil was coming off the countershaft area, which turned out to be old chain lube which had been superheated by the 25-mile freeway run and flung off the chain onto the engine case cavity. A quick recheck beneath the left side cover showed no signs of fresh engine oil to be present, so I think the case can be closed now. Whew!

Riding these bikes is a lesson in relearning how to ride a bike without the usual engine compression braking when throttling down in gear. The bike feels like it is coasting when not under power, which it is with the torque converter functioning as they normally do.  If you aren’t in a hurry, the bike can be left in “2” and just throttled off a stop like a scooter. There is more oomph if you start in “1” but it tops out at 50 mph. Top speed doesn’t seem to be more than about 80 mph on the flats or downhill. Pulling the new spark plugs for a mixture reading showed very white electrodes, so a little more jetting might be helpful to increase performance and keep it off of detonation.  The engines are 360-degree firing, like an old Honda Dream, but have a chain-driven balancer shaft system to negate much of the vibrations normally felt in an engine of this configuration.

The Honda-matic versions of the 400T are pretty good at local commuting but feel woefully underpowered going up long grades at freeway speeds. The carburetors are 6mm smaller than those on the manual clutch models and the cam timing is configured for torque not super-high revs. The standard versions of these bikes are pretty quick for their size, however, and magazine articles praised the whole bike lineup as revolutionary and compelling overall… except for the CB400A!

Having recently sold my 2002 Honda Reflex 250 scooter, it is hard to tell the performance difference between the two machines, as the scooter was capable of 80 mph as well.  As my ankle continues to recover and the wrist problem responded well to treatment, the need for the automatic seems to be waning now, so when the title shows up, the bike will go out and find a happy home for someone who can appreciate its features, just the way it is.

Bill “MrHonda” Silver 7-2019