Thursday, January 20, 2022

The prodigal son returns home…. Honda CB250RS after 32 years and 38k miles

As soon as I clicked on the Craigslist posting for “collectible Hondas” my eyes popped wide open. The Honda CB250RS 250cc street bike, which I had imported from the UK in 1980, was staring back at me, now for sale about 8 miles from my home. I owned the bike for a couple of years, and then traded it off at the local Honda dealer for the all-new 1983 VF750F Interceptor Sports machine. I think I recall listing the bike on the Cycle Trader magazine, but by the time that a young woman contacted me about it, the deal was done. Not to be deterred, she marched up to the Honda dealer and made a deal on it with them. I’m sure they were relieved to be able to sell it so quickly, as it is really a one-of-a-kind bike in the US.

I was in England for vacation when I discovered the new CB250RS models being released over there. I contacted a dealer who offered it at a good price and instructed him to ship it to me in California, which he did gladly. In order to get it past Customs/EPA I had to sign a waiver that the bike was going to be used for racing purposes only and never be registered for the street. At the time I was in good graces with the local Honda dealer, so I gave them the paperwork and pretty soon I had a clean CA title for the bike and a license plate. I applied for a personalized plate CB250R and was granted that shortly thereafter.

The bike’s biggest adventure with me riding it was a trip to Laguna Seca for the GP races, with a side-trip to Craig Vetter’s place in central CA, where he was organizing one of his famous motorcycle economy runs. Several of the major manufactures were building streamliner bikes out of their Skunk works departments (not factory sanctioned), including Honda that year. There was a $100 prize for each class of participants and I entered with the CB250RS in the 250cc class. Before leaving for the event, I had given the bike a full tune-up, leaned out the main jet one size, geared the front sprocket up a tooth and added Mobil 1 synthetic oil to the engine. With 35 psi in the tires, I was ready to hit the highway.

I found Vetter’s place and wound up sleeping in a side-room Friday night, in preparation for the Saturday morning run up Hwy 1 to Carmel. We fueled up at a local station and had our fuel caps sealed, and then off we went. I had my sleeping bag and other travel gear strapped to the back of the seat and decided to just lay down on the fuel tank and keep the speed at 55mph for the whole run. Other than a big windy corner at Big Sur, which actually blew down one or two of the streamliner entrants, the ride was uneventful. I stopped at the final destination and topped up the tank. The calculation came out to about 91mpg! Surely, I must have won that class with those numbers, I thought. Apparently, not, however as a ratty old Kawasaki 250 street single claimed the first prize at 106mpg!

I slept out under the stars on Saturday night and watched all the racing on the Sunday schedule. About 4PM, I decided that I had better head home as I was due to work on Monday morning at 9AM. I lit out for the Highway and cranked up the throttle to about 75 mph and just held it there until I reached home about midnight. I only refueled twice on the return trip and the bike ran flawlessly. Top speed on the bike is about 90mph, where it gets a little skittish due to light weight (275lbs dry) and a short 52” wheelbase.

I was contacted a couple of times by the new owner, who wanted to know how to contact the Honda dealer in the UK to buy some spares as well as a luggage rack for the bike. The last time we had spoken, the bike had gone on a trip out to Utah and beyond with the miles racking up into the 20k range.

The CL posting included three bikes from the woman’s collection, including a 1966 CB160 and a 1967-ish CD90 in nice Scarlet red with about 3k miles showing on the speedometer. One of the series of photos showed the speedometer/tachometer gauges of the CB250RS… at 42,000+ miles! I contacted the seller, who turned out to be the brother-in-law of the owner who had put all the bikes in storage about 10 years previously. The posting information stated that none of the bikes ran and all had been in deep storage for a decade. After a couple of emails and phone call, I choked down my morning oatmeal and hit the freeway for the quick 15 minute drive to see the bikes. I was warned that someone was headed in from Orange County, so I hope to be there first to have a look at all the bikes. As it turns out, I was the first one there and checked them all over briefly. The CB160 was a complete bike with some pitting on the chrome and some 11k miles showing on the speedometer. The little CD90 was cute, but rather boxy and utilitarian rather than a fun little speedster like its S90 cousins.

I focused on the CB250RS when the out of town visitor made his assessment and an offer on the other two machines. Once they made their deal, the seller turned back to me to confirm our previous negotiated price and I left to go get cash and a pickup truck. After more than 30 years, my little baby CB250RS was coming back home again and I was a happy guy!

Check back for status updates on the bike, as it is resuscitated and rejuvenated back into a running machine after a 10 year sleep.

Bill “MrHonda” Silver


CB250RS Repairs and Resuscitation Progress

I had the seller’s help in loading the bike into the 1995 Ford F150, but I was worried about the unloading part of the adventure because the bike had NO FRONT BRAKES due to hydraulic failure of the master cylinder. Fortunately, a visiting ATT technician “volunteered” to help me guide it back off the truck without harm to the bike or myself. Once it was on the centerstand, the focus was to get the brakes fixed first. The hefty master cylinder unbolted with a couple of clamp bolts and loosening the banjo fitting on the back of the unit. It had been drooling brake fluid out past the piston seals and dust boot for quite awhile, so all of the brake fluid deposits were mostly hardened and gooey in spots. Some brake cleaner spray in strategic locations, plus my HONDA snap ring pliers combined to remove the piston snap ring to empty out the master cylinder of all the old gummy parts. There was a spare 377 code master cylinder kit in the spares box and it appeared that much of it would fit in this model specific master cylinder. The piston was reused, but the new pressure cups were a perfect match and installed once the bore and body were cleaned thoroughly.

Once the master cylinder was primed again, the unit was reinstalled on the handlebars so that the newly resealed part could do the next task, which was to push the front brake caliper piston out of the caliper bore. Fortunately, this went pretty well, but the caliper seal ring and the piston had some superficial damage due to moisture corrosion from sitting for such a long time. Eventually, the piston was extracted and cleaned. The seal ring was carefully cleaned and inspected for any serious damage. Once the caliper bore and seal ring grooves were cleaned, the old parts were reinstalled. The caliper was remounted on the front fork mount and it bled air out quickly. So, after about an hour’s worth of work, the brake finally had a solid front brake system again.

From there, the seat/tail piece was removed, then the fuel tank taken off and placed aside while the carburetor was loosened up for removal. Once the cables and clamps were all dealt with, the carburetor body came free and was disassembled for inspection and cleaning. The inside of the float bowl was remarkably clean, with just a bit of varnish down in the deepest recesses of the bowl. The pressed-in pilot jet was dislodged, cleaned and reinstalled. The 32mm carburetor has an accelerator pump system installed, with a very long pump diaphragm rod used to contact the carburetor linkage. There were some signs of rust/corrosion from old trapped gas/moisture atop the diaphragm retainer, but it seemed to clean up and should be fully useable once again.

The foam air filter sleeve disintegrated as soon as I touched it, so the whole filter assembly was directed to the trash can, where the remaining filter foam was peeled off and discarded. The filter part number has a -471-code (CB250RS), however checking the part number revealed that the CM250 street bike uses the same part, here in the US. A LOT of the parts on this bike are model specific and a search of eBay auctions all led to UK or Australian sites for any loose parts offered for sale.

The last set of tires installed were a size or two too large, so some smaller rubber is in order to make the bike handle like it did originally. Standard tire sizes are equivalent to 3.00x18 front and 3.50x18 rear, which mount on factory alloy rims.

Although the bike is loosely based upon the XL250 Enduro model, the engine has a larger carburetor, more aggressive camshaft timing and a 9.2:1 compression piston installed. The 5-speed transmission gearing is also more street-biased. The fairing is a Hondaline accessory part, as is the rear luggage rack. Both mufflers have some little skid marks on the outer rear edges, but whatever crashes may have occurred in its life must have been fairly minor.

Numerous receipts came with the bike, showing lots of oil changes, tire changes, chain and sprocket replacements and other minor work. A concern for me was to take a look at the balancer chain tensioner adjustment, which must be done manually. The balancer adjuster is beneath the clutch cover, so that requires draining the oil and removal of the cover and de-compression cables. The adjustment for the balancers is a slotted plate, which is spring loaded. Releasing the locking nut allows the spring to pull the plate across the slotted section until it comes to a stop. After the first couple of adjustments, the balancer chains continue to stretch to the point where the adjustment slot runs out of room. The balancer weight and snap rings must be removed and the adjuster plate relocated on large shaft spines one notch. This puts the adjuster back into a range where future adjustments will continue to be allowed with just a loosening of the locking nut. Fortunately, because the engine is based upon the XL250 design, the engine side cover gaskets and cover seals are still available from Honda dealers.

When I owned the bike, I think other oncoming riders thought it was a Kawasaki 550GPZ, at first glance, due to the dual exhaust pipes feeding into dual mufflers, plus the overall sleek 80’s styling was consistent with other manufacturer’s offerings at the time. The squared off headlights were used extensively in the 1980s by most manufacturers. The headlight bulb is replaceable in this model, but the bulbs may be difficult to source these days. A search for the headlight bulb turned up two new ones in Australia which were $30 each, but shipping was $40! The replacement battery is a YB9-B model, which is fairly common in the US. The petcock is the same as the CM400C models, but cost about $75 each. The petcock lever plate is riveted onto the body, so the inside 4 hole gaskets cannot be replaced without some fancy drilling, tapping and installing new, tiny 3mm metric screws.

With some fresh parts in hand, work continued on completion of the carburetor cleaning and reinstallation. There was about a gallon of fuel in the tank, which was drained out to check the petcock screen condition. Amazingly, the fuel was clear and the tank was clean inside after all those years of storage. Although a new petcock was ordered, the old one was reinstalled as was the old gasoline! The rear wheel was off the bike receiving a replacement 3.50x18 Dunlop K-70 rear tire, taken from a recent CB77 acquisition (way too big for a Super Hawk anyway). The wheel was taken to the local Honda dealer, Southbay Motorsports, which has a tire machine that can remove the old, hardened tire and install a new one without scratching up the 1.85x18 DID alloy rim.

So, with a new battery installed and just one wheel on the bike, the fuel tank was mounted up with a new piece of fuel line and the reconditioned 32mm carburetor fed some 10 year old gasoline for the first time in 10 years! The carburetors have an accelerator pump, which gives a nice squirt of fuel to the intake system. With full choke and a couple of firm kicks, the motor fired right up, sounding none the worse for wear after 42k miles and 10 years of storage! Initially it ran for about 45 seconds, then quit suddenly, which can be a scary event in the event of some kind of catastrophic engine failure, but it turned out that the petcock was in the ON position and there wasn’t enough fuel to feed it until RESERVE was selected. Warming the engine up for 3-4 minutes, the only signs of some aging was a little blue smoke out the mufflers, when the throttle was twisted vigorously. The smoke continued to diminish as the warm-up continued. The old spark plug was a D9EA, which is one range cold for normal use, but fine for continued highway touring. Eventually, the plug fouled over and was replaced with a DR8EA. The old plug came out dry, without signs of excessive oil consumption. So far, so good!

With the rear wheel retrieved and reinstalled, the bike was nearly ready for its first test drive in at least 13 years (last registration tags on the license plate are 2001). It only lasted about 100 feet… I had forgotten to put the petcock back onto RESERVE again! Once it re-fired again, the first stop was the local gas station for a few gallons of fresh premium fuel to mix down the very old gasoline remaining in the fuel tank. With 2.5 gallons of gas, the bike was headed out on its first maiden voyage with the original owner back onboard again. The engine pulls well from moderate engine speeds and the transmission gears are evenly spaced, but shifting is a little bit notchy. With healthy front brakes, strong rear brakes and an engine that purrs, the reunion was a success, rekindling fond memories of my long-lost imported CB250RS Honda and the ride up the California coast over 30 years ago.

A new front tire and tube are on order and will be scheduled for replacement at the earliest possible moment. The new air filter sleeve is installed and a NOS tachometer is coming in from the UK, a recent find on eBay auctions. A trip to DMV will be in the offing, along with signed release of the CB250R license plate, so all the registration, personalized plate and title paperwork will finally be current and in my name. Recently, I had been eyeing a used CBR250R bike as a small, light runaround bike, but most are in the $2500-3500 bracket. With fuel injection and all the modern conveniences, the new 250s achieve some 70+mpg mileage figures, which can certainly save some $$ these days. It will be interesting to see if my 90 mpg figures at the economy run will fall very far down with modern gas, with this machine still being fueled by a conventional 32mm carburetor. If it proves to be reliable and fun, with good mileage, the CB250RS may stay in the stable for awhile, this summer. It’s nice to have my old friend back again.

Bill “MrHonda” Silver

Favor for a friend…

Last November, I received an email message from the wife of a former co-worker when we worked together at a Honda motorcycle dealership back in the 1980s. It started out like this:

Hi Bill,
I am hoping you are the Bill that knew XXXXXX If you remember him, please email me back. I have some info to share. I also have a M/C to ask you about.
Thank you,


Well, I’m probably not the only one who has received similar messages from the spouses of friends, family and co-workers who have passed away in recent years. In a following conversation, I discussed my relationship with her husband in the past and that we had lost touch for some 40 years, but I always thought very highly of him. Her dilemma was that he had left two bikes behind; a 1975 CB750F Super Sport and a 1986 Honda CB700SC. The CB750 was a full tear-down and restoration with a few modified touches done back in the 1980s. The CB700SC was a “Covid project” bike that had been sitting for awhile. It’s still a mystery as how she knew my name and how to reach me, but we called it divine intervention and left it at that.

Supposedly the bikes had been run regularly and ridden enough to keep everything functional, but when I got to them in early Jan 2022, they were not ready to ride or sell. The CB750 was in her garage and when I started it up, the bike coughed and barely ran with a full choke. Pushing it across the garage floor felt very heavy, denoting a lack of air in the tires. We rounded up an air compressor and pumped the tires up from 10 psi up to the mid-30s, which gave the bike a much lighter feel right away. It still really didn’t run much better after 10 minutes of idling and a brief run around the neighborhood, but I could see that an enormous amount of work and care had gone into the rebuild of the bike, so it was just a matter of a carb clean and tune-up to get it going again.

Rather than haul both bikes out, plus numerous boxes of spare parts, we settled on me just taking the CB750 home first along with its box of extras and see what could be done with it to make it marketable in the near future. It was an hour and a half drive up to the Inland Empire where they had purchased a home in a golf resort and I mused about what I had gotten myself into in this quest to help a friend’s family with finding a good home for the bike.

When we first talked at the end of 2021, their daughters were dead set against their mom making any sudden decisions about disposition of the bikes because they knew how much they meant to their dad. I backed off and told her that I was available whenever they were ready to make some changes in the situation. Two months later, the dust had settled, grief had passed somewhat and they agreed to start letting go of the bikes.

CB750K series bikes (4 muffler versions) have risen in prices greatly in the past few years. For the CB750 F Super Sports, the market hasn’t been so enthusiastic although the basic motorcycles are both based upon the same engine design. The 1975 models were the first generations of the Super Sport line-up with the 4into1 exhaust systems, which included the CB400F and CB550F Super Sports editions. The first generation 750s still had wire spoke wheels, but featured a rear disc brake and a more racy style than the K model bikes. The 1975-76 bikes were pretty much the same, but the model got a major revamp for the last two years (1977-78) of the SOHC 750 Four which came with Comstar wheels, blacked-out motor finish and more aggressive cams, canted valves and higher compression engines.

With some assistance on both the loading and unloading ends of the trip, I was able to get the big 750 down to earth from my Tacoma’s bed, ready for some evaluation of the running problems. I was able to access one of the pilot jets in a carburetor and it was plugged up, so I had to assume that the rest of the carbs would need attention. Fortunately, removal of the air box and carbs is a lot easier than the later DOHC models, so the carbs were out and on the workbench pretty quickly.

Popping the bowls off revealed little in the way of varnish or major contamination, apart from the plugged idle jets. What was more evident was the amount of old dried up varnish deposits on the bottoms of the carb throats both on the inlet and outlet sides of the bodies. A little Dremel sized brass tipped brush in a drill motor swept away the varnish deposits and a quick squirt of brake cleaner washed away the evidence for the most part.

The jets were slightly over-sized to compensate for the Kerker branded 4into1 exhaust system, which is about 20 pounds lighter than the OEM system that had a large cigar-shaped muffler attached at the back. Aftermarket systems generally need a bit of enrichening to help keep the air/fuel ratios in balance after some of the back-pressure was released. I rechecked the float levels and buttoned the carb rack back up for re-installation on the bike. Running a separate remote fuel tank to feed the carbs, I noticed an improvement in starting and running as it warmed up, but there was still some irregularities in the sound of the engine’s exhaust note.

Checking the spark timing with a dynamic timing light, I noticed that the 1-4 cylinders were working well but the 2-3 coils were firing erratically. Misfiring problems like this are caused by a number of factors including dirty point contact faces, weak condensers, loose coil wire connections on the primary side and problems with the spark plug caps or the coils themselves.

Removing all the spark plugs gave me a chance to check the compression readings, look at the spark plugs and check the spark plug caps for resistance values out of the 5k ohm range. When I unscrewed the spark plug caps, the one for the number three cylinder was kind of glued onto the wire. As I pulled and twisted it finally came off, but there was a big buildup of burned rubber and plastic from an arcing plug wire that was not making good contact with the inside of the plug cap. That spark plug was dark and fuel-fouling, but I also noticed that that plug was a D7ES instead of the correct D8ES series. I can only guess that the plug was fouling and replaced by a hotter one to lessen the effect. A fresh set of correct NGK plugs, all plug caps testing in around 5k ohms and tightly connected to the plug wires which were cut back a little to access new wire made all the difference in the way the bike idled and took throttle. The timing light stayed steady under increased rpms, so that was the whole issue with the engine performance… a poorly connected plug cap.

Out for a Sunday ride…

Once I had confidence in the bike, after a couple of local test rides, I decided to give it a full test on Sunday with my Jamuligan friends to run up to the mountains for our breakfast run. The bike ran fine and I even ran it up to around 90 mph indicated with no ill-effects. The only problem for the ride was when I was stopping in my driveway and put the side-stand down. Or I thought I had put it down.. As I started to dismount from the bike I realized that the side-stand hadn’t come all the way forward and was folding back up as the bike tipped over towards the ground. My reactions were to plant my left foot firmly on the ground and lift the bike back upwards to reset the stand again. Something in my left leg went POP and I got all light-headed like I was going into shock! I was able to deploy the stand and set the bike down on it properly, but then had to just stand there for a couple of minutes while my body could recover enough to allow me to move away from the bike and remove my helmet and gloves. I limped back into the house and collapsed in a living room chair. The last time something went POP in my body, I had severely sprained my right ankle and it took me out for a couple of weeks.

Fortunately, the damage wasn’t as bad as the one in the past but I iced it and have been treating it with whatever I had available to reduce swelling and pain. I was able to walk around with some pain present, but as the leg warmed up and the muscles lengthened again, I could manage okay, but carefully. I’m sure my friend would have appreciated the fact that I saved the bike from a rollover and certain damage from hitting the concrete.

So, that was the last big ride experience for me and the CB750F. It was listed on FB marketplace, Craigslist and eBay for sale hopefully to find an appreciative new owner who understands the work that went into rebuilding the bike back from scratch. If I didn’t already own a 2020 Royal Enfield 650, I would have bought it to keep for myself. It’s really a nice example of Honda’s mid-1970s efforts for the CB750 Four.

Moments like this cause us to reflect on our own mortality and wonder who will step in to take care of our parts, bikes and unfinished projects when we depart planet earth. Plan ahead if you can...

Bill Silver

aka MrHonda


Friday, January 14, 2022

When BIG BANGS are not just a theory…

Some rather grisly engine blow-ups have come my way in the past few months and each one was unique in its own way.

First, a “Restored” CL77 305 Scrambler came down from LA because “I can’t get it started” and he thought that I could get it going for him on a “Drive-by” repair stop. I try my best to get small-ish bike repairs turned back around in a few hours, if at all possible. It’s a 3-5 hour round trip from Temecula, the OC, and much of LA, so it is a real commitment to bring a bike down for me to peer into and hopefully get squared away in one trip.

The CL77 was picked up in WA state off of a Craigslist posting by the current owner who was visiting his daughter up North. The seller was a “car restoration guy” who loved the looks of the 305 Scramblers and wanted to restore one. When it arrived, it was evident that a lot of work had gone into the bike, cosmetically, but the mechanical status was unclear. So, the first test is a compression test to see if we have some kind of foundation to build from. In this case, the left side was 175psi and the right side was reading 60 psi! The next step is to adjust the valves and cam timing to see if the compression readings will come up, due to a leaking/sticking valve, perhaps.

The battery was charged enough to make the bike run, but given the previous attempts by the owner, I guessed that the pilot (idle jets) were probably plugged up. For those in the know, working on the carburetors on a 250-305 Scrambler are a real PIA due to the right side proximity to the exhaust system. Clearing the right side carb idle jet was relatively easy and necessary due to a plugged-up #38 jet hole. Sometimes, you can reach under the right side carburetor with the transmission cover removed and pop the left side float bowl off to access the jets. Getting a short, slender screwdriver up inside the well for the pilot jet is always taxing and often you wind up having to remove the carb in order to get clear access to the jet. And in this case, the carb needed to be removed, which entails loosening the whole exhaust system, then easing the left air cleaner cover off, to allow access to the little short 6mm bolts that hold the filter to the mounting brackets.

With bolts removed, the air filter tube must be loosened from the carb inlet and the whole assembly set aside. Then, with just the right 10mm wrenches, the two mounting nuts can be removed allowing the carb to be pulled off of the studs and turned to give access to the jets. Sure enough, the pilot jet on the left carb was plugged up, too. Removing the carb from the cylinder head opens up more issues concerning flattened out o-rings on the carb flange and insulator, plus often the float bowl gasket expands if exposed to alcohol-based gasoline making reassembly impossible without replacing the old gasket with a new spare or sometimes washing the old gasket in hot, soapy water and then giving a bit of sunlight or a heat gun treatment to drive out the alcohol from the rubber gaskets. With the bowl off it is a good idea to check the float level settings, as I have seen many, many carbs with reversed float level settings. The float level mantra for 250-305s is “26mm carbs get 22.5mm float levels and 22mm carbs get 26.5mm float levels”

Once everything was checked over and reinstalled the bike started up on the second kick I did recheck the ignition timing statically before starting it up and then always recheck it with a dynamic timing light when the engine is running to determine if the spark advancer mechanism is working or worn/broken.

The second kick startup was a nice surprise, however, the breather tube which was pointed out to the right side yielded a constant stream of blue smoke due to oil burning. The owner took one look and said, “Can you fix it, please?” I agreed and by the time the owner had returned to LA I had the engine out of the chassis and on the workbench for a peek into the top end. When the cylinder head came off, there was a noticeable notch in the top outer edge of the right side piston. When the cylinders were removed a large burned-through spot on the piston crown extended all the way down past the piston rings. That must have made a noise when it let loose. The head gasket fire ring was burned through as well, so something caused enough detonation long enough to torch the piston crown and head gasket at the same time. These are rather unusual events. Pistons often seize first before they get burned through the tops and the burn area is often in the middle of the piston crown, rather than down one edge.

In any case, the cylinders got a re-bore and some .50 oversized pistons, plus a set of new valves. When the owner came back he was delighted to find that the bike would start up on a couple of kicks and no longer spouted blue smoke and droplets out the breather tube. One down and more to go…

The second bike was also a CL72, which came down from LA, as well. I had briefly looked at the bike’s condition on a return run from Vegas after the Mecum auction. I transported my purchase and a 1962 CB72 for my friend on the way back home to San Diego. He mentioned that the CL72 had been a daily driver for a couple of years, then one day while cruising along at moderate speeds the bike suddenly went BANG and quit instantly. I did a few quick checks on the engine and discovered a tight exhaust valve. I backed off the adjuster quite away until it had more than enough clearance, then tried to kick-start it. BANG again! No more time to spend on a dead Scrambler, so it was left behind while I finished the trek back to San Diego.

Fast forward a year and a half… the bike and owner came down to resolve the engine problem. He helped me extract the engine from the chassis and put the engine up on the workbench. After removal of the cylinder head, we noticed a mangled right-side piston and a broken sleeve flange. Lots of metal and damage to the cylinder liner and the piston, but not too much else took a hit. The bike chassis went back to LA and the engine remained for repairs.

I searched around for a set of cylinders that could be cleaned up and re-bored, but little was available. The owner finally tore down a spare “rebuilt” engine to extract the cylinder and pistons. The pistons were .50 and the cylinders were fairly well-honed, so I just bolted up the parts to the bottom case, installed the cylinder head and camchain, and reassembled it all again.

We reinstalled the engine into the chassis and refitted all the bits until it looked like a whole bike again. It started up after a few kicks but wasn’t idling well, so it was back to pulling pilot jets again and cleaning them out, checking float levels, and dialing in the ignition timing. The bike went out for a test run and seemed to be running well, but loudly due to straight pipes. The bike went back to LA seemingly running well and was taken out for some local rides successfully. The owner decided to sell the bike and wound up shipping it to a mutual friend on the East Coast. Soon after the bike arrived at its new home, the new owner took it out for a test run and about 15 minutes into the drive.. BANG!

It did it again! Same side of the engine, the same type of damage… broken sleeve flange and broken piston/rings.

Collective thoughts were shared online within some private conversations, but the consensus was that the sleeves were loose in the cylinder casting, reducing the amount of heat transfer from the piston to the sleeve to the cylinder block fins for heat dissipation. With piston clearances in the one to two thousandths range, it doesn’t take much to cause them to seize, but breaking the same right side sleeve and piston on the same engine, in the same manner, is more than just a little mystery. Bang, BANG!

Lastly, my friend of many years owns a 1962 Falcon Ranchero and has driven it almost daily for over 20 years. The truck as suffered all kinds of mechanical maladies and some accident damage here and there but was pretty much reliable for short trips to the store and work. A few weeks ago, she got into the truck, turned on the ignition, started the engine, pushed in the clutch pedal to engage 1st gear of the 3-speed manual transmission, and suddenly it all went BANG! The starter was no longer able to turn the engine over and a quick check revealed that the crankshaft was seized up solid for reasons not readily known.

It was towed to my house as I felt that probably the timing chain had broken and wrapped around the crankshaft upfront. After an hour of removing the cooling system and timing chain cover, the results were unremarkable. The timing chain was loose, but still connected to the sprockets and the engine still refused to budge an inch.

We had the truck towed back to her house and rolled into the 1 car garage, which was filled with plastic storage boxes along the whole rear wall, with a toolbox and other assorted packages and furniture bits pushed to the sides. With about 18” of room on both sides, I managed to get the truck up on a couple of jack stands and remove the oil pan to check the crankshaft for a thrown rod or seized bearing… nothing.

Figuring that the engine would probably have to come out anyway, I removed the driveshaft, then the transmission, and finally the bell housing. When the bell housing was backed off of the engine block there was a “clink” noise and a piece of the pressure plate pivot dropped to the floor. For reasons unknown, the piece broke off of the pressure plate when she had pushed in the clutch pedal and the running engine spun the piece up in between the pressure place and inside of the bell housing, jamming the crankshaft.

The clutch plate was almost down to the rivets anyway, so the whole clutch was replaced along with the throw-out bearing. I was unable to extract the pilot bearing which was a small ball bearing instead of a brass bushing, so it was left as-is. Using a bike lift stand slid under the truck, I was able to reinstall the transmission after a great deal of effort and force. The oil pan was reinstalled with a new gasket, as was the front cover after a new timing chain and gears were put in place.

Once the engine was restarted, it became evident that the six-cylinder engine was only running on five cylinders. The number three cylinder wasn’t firing, but the big mystery to that was the spark plug and wire were fine, but no spark was coming out of the distributor cap just on number three! Changing the cap didn’t fix it and finally, I realized that the distributor shaft was worn out so far as to change the point gap at least. .020”

Somehow, when running the wobbling shaft was skipping number three cylinder! A rebuilt distributor solved the problem and the truck began running on all six cylinders once again. While success was achieved in getting the engine to run again, a leaking pinion shaft seal at the rear axle has drained out a good bit of the gear oil and is causing gear noise at the rear axle. That repair will have to go to a shop as I have become fully depleted by the work entailed in bringing a 50-year-old Ford Falcon Ranchero back to a half-life state.

PS. On the way to the transmission shop, the truck died quietly on the freeway about a mile from home. It was towed to the shop where the mechanic said that the pinion bearing was worn and a new seal wasn’t going to fix the leak problem. AAA came and got the truck, brought it to my house where I diagnosed that the new points in the rebuilt distributor had worn themselves down to nothing in less than 20 miles. I cranked the points back open to .025” again, the truck fired up and drove home without issues. The crappy points were replaced with Blue Streak brand units and the truck continues to run the best that it can.  However, the writing was on the wall about the long-term reliability of this 60-year-old Falcon, so it was replaced by a 2003 Mini-Cooper! So, I bid farewell to the Ranchero (aka Mr. Toad) and its mechanical neediness.

Hopefully, that is the end of the big bang adventures.

Bill Silver

aka MrHonda