Monday, December 11, 2023

L’Orange CB77 from 1963… Part 1 (the Prequel)

I recently received a call from a local (25 miles away) man who wanted me to come by and have a look at his “all original” 1963 CB77 305 Super Hawk. He had owned a lot of bikes of various makes and models but wasn’t fully dialed in on vintage Honda twins. He wanted an expert opinion about the overall originality and what it might need to fetch a good sales price. I agreed to swing by on my way to a nearby doctor's appointment and have a look. He had sent a string of photos to my phone, but they don’t really give a full impression of a lot of critical details on these models.

On arrival, I saw the bike down in his ground-level garage, sitting next to a fully restored Bultaco Matador. As I approached it was obvious that this formerly Scarlet Red model had been exposed to a little too much sunlight which turned the factory lacquer Scarlet red paint into a dull pumpkin orange color. So, “points off” right away. The bike had been modified with a set of what appeared to be CL72 handlebars, with matching higher cables, but mysteriously had the “Diamond” pattern hand grips that are normally seen on 1961-62 machines. This bike was a 3112xx series 1963 model, which you wouldn’t expect to find those grips on a bike of this year's model.

The front tire was an original OHTSU deeply ribbed unit that was certainly used on original CB77s in the early years. The rear tire had a pretty correct-looking tread pattern, but it was an IRC tire, so obviously not the original, especially with 8900 miles showing on the speedometer.

The bike featured the original stainless steel stock mufflers, but both had been cracked and repaired just behind the top mount where the muffler bolts to the footplate bracket. This is a common failure seen with stainless mufflers and even stock chromed steel ones where the top mount bolt was installed. I always leave the top mounting bolt out for this reason on all of my bikes.

Moving along, I noticed two different keys on the ignition switch key ring. One was an expected large head T series key, but the other one was one of the small head versions. When I looked at the steering lock, it had a different key number than the other two keys! When we turned the power ON at the switch, the neutral light was not functioning and the headlight didn’t come on when that headlight switch was flicked to ON position. The tail light did work in both tail and brake light functions, though.

Looking over the engine cases, it is clear that the clutch cover, oil filter cover and dyno cover were all painted over instead of being the original finishes. I was surprised to find the camchain tensioner with the adjustment bolt on the left side, which was an early feature of the engine series.

A closer look at the fenders and side covers revealed that they were a repaint in something like Cloud Silver, but with a flatter final tone.

The seat cover looked very fresh with Honda-like texture on the material, but there was no HONDA on the back and once we were able to remove the seat from the chassis, it was obvious that it was a re-cover from several details where the cover was glued on and not fitted just right. It did have the outside seat strap buckles in place. Removal of the seat was a chore as the forward two mounting posts, which are welded to the battery box edges were both bent inwards about 5 degrees. They jammed the tabs on the front of the seat pan, making installation and removal quite difficult. A closer inspection revealed a re-welded battery box to the frame, apparently replaced due to battery acid damage way back in time. Ironically, where the welds were done, the paint was touched up with matching orange paint.

We were unable to start the engine, due to some fuel feed issues. He was going to take the bike to a local motorcycle mechanic friend for some electrical repairs and to get the bike started up again. The dimmer switch select knob is rather sloppy and doesn’t feel like it is doing its job for the high-low function.

Also noted, is that the kickstarter arm was wobbly on the kickstarter cover bushing, somewhat consistent with the mileage shown on the speedometer and probably aggravated by a lot of kick-starting efforts in the past. When these bikes are tuned properly and have a fully charged, load-tested battery in place, they seldom need kick-starting at all. I would suspect that the starter clutch springs have collapsed and the starter clutch rollers are slipping on the clutch hub.

Also noted was that the position of the clutch adjuster index mark was off to the right, quite a bit indicating that someone had changed the clutch pack stack height. This coincides with the clutch cover paint job and the obviously damaged screw heads done when the cover was removed in the past.

There was a very unusual aftermarket side stand assembly mounted to the frame. It didn’t tie into the normal mounting points on the lower frame section and didn’t require the longer YB center stand bolt which is needed with OEM side stand bracket mounting. The side stand arm was black and had a flared end vs the normal little peg that was welded to the original side stand parts.

On the plus side, the original cloth tool pouch was present with most of the correct tools. The correct Dream 300 tank badges were still in good shape, despite the ozone weathering of the chassis paint. There is a box with a NOS set of OEM flat handlebars, cables, dimmer switch and a few other little tidbits to convert the bike back to original flat bar configuration. The CA Black plate license plate seems to be in the correct series of numbers for 1963 registration.

Overall, it seems to be a low-mile, mostly original CB77, with shortcomings in the faded paint, welded mufflers, polished covers that were painted-over, unknown clutch work, improperly welded battery box/seat mount fittings, and incorrect handlebars/cables. Once the bike is up and running again, more attention can be put upon the running condition, as far as noises, compression checks, clutch function, transmission function, ignition/fuel system functions, etc.

Bill Silver aka MrHonda

April/23 for photos and details

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