Sunday, May 19, 2024

The Pink Panther does DGR.. barely

The Pink Panther bike came to me due to a call from the local Automotive Museum a few months ago. There is a separate story about the whole rebuild of the bike, which will be published soon. It was just finished a few weeks ago and has had a couple of check rides, to see if anything would fall off or fail. Three separate test rides were successful, so I had a high amount of confidence in its ability to participate in the 2024 DGR (Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride-San Diego). The DGR is a worldwide event for the support of men’s health, including prostate cancer research. It is a one-day event, once a year, generally close to my birthday in May.

It was an a roll of the dice to bring the bike to the event, due to the 1977 IA license plate on the back and the somewhat untested state of the bike’s full potential. I didn’t even pack the tool kit for it, as I felt that it was going to be just fine, as it stands. All the bike’s electrical systems were functioning, however I never really checked the charging system fully. The bike always started almost instantly on the electric starter function and the lights were all looking bright and steady.

So, off I went from Spring Valley to Downtown San Diego, at a place called the Soap Factory. The bike started up quickly and ran well all the way down to the event. By the time I arrived, probably 80+ bikes were already there, so I followed the line into the parking area and left it in the sea of 2-wheeled bikes of all makes and types. I was about an hour early, so had plenty of time to look for any attending friends and just check out the various machines and owners.

The Pink Panther has the existing paint scheme done sometime before 1977, when the bike was last registered. It is kind of a pink-ish color with splotches of red, and small flakes of silver dust covered in clear coat paint. The paint work is remarkably good, but for a few minor scratches and bumps. The bike is a 1964 CB77, but was fitted with CL72 exhaust pipes and the optional side stand. With pipes on the left side, access to the air filter cover is blocked and the pipes actually contact the cover, where the paint has been burned by mostly direct contact with the pipes. I have rebuilt lots of Super Hawks in mostly stock configurations, but this one was so unique that I decided to change the original black paint with red powder-coat, rebuild the engine and leave the pipes in place.

Prior to the ride, my sister Carole, who is a fine artist, took one look at the paintwork and asked if I had a pink tie to match the bike’s color. For some reason, I did have one, which she artistically splashed red paint on to somewhat match up to the paint scheme on the bike. It actually turned out pretty great and I was happy to wear it on the ride. Of the few people who looked at the bike, two different women engaged me with some questions about the bike and both noticed the “matching tie” for the bike paint job.

With over one hundred bikes and riders leaving all at once in the outskirts of downtown San Diego, the stream stretches out quickly, The route ran through parts of town with numerous stop signs and signal lights. As the ride continued past the airport and into the Point Loma area, more and more stop lights were encountered with wait times of a couple of minutes, while they cycled through the 4-6 way traffic light options. Very few were “smart” signals which would monitor and adjust to the traffic load. The bike began to falter and stall a few times, as I was trying to catch neutral. One time it stalled and the electric starter did not step in to re-fire the engine. It kick-started quickly but my suspicions were that the engine was getting hot and was not charging during prolonged stops at lengthy signal lights.

I couldn’t keep revving up the engine to the 2,500 rpm level, where the charging system actually begins to generate electrical power. At one stop light, about 50 bikes lined up in a left turn lane and the signal only stayed on for about 15 seconds, no matter how many bikes were trying to get through. I became afraid that the bike would strand me if I had to continue to wait for another round of lights, so I pulled into the through lane and drove up a block, turned left at an open intersection and then looped back to the main road where the rest of the riders were headed. We went up and over the hills and down to the frontage road that runs from Point Loma along to Ocean Beach. The sky was clear and the waves were powerful and refreshing.

The ride headed back over the hill and down into the area of Point Loma harbor, then off to the east towards Old Town. I saw a sign for Interstate 5 South ahead and decided that the only way to keep the bike going was to get on the freeway and let it charge at high speeds. The bike has an early dimmer switch which has a middle stop that doesn’t engage either high or low beams. By turning the headlight switch ON, the extra leg of the stator output comes into play, but with the dimmer switch not feeding either beam, only the tail light comes on. Normally that will charge the battery with extra voltage, but it is described in the owner’s manuals as an emergency option only.

I drove up the side roads and onto the freeway holding 6,000 rpms, which was indicating over 60 mph on the speedometer and the bike was just singing along, happy as can be. I listened carefully for any signs of electrical breakdown from the prolonged engine electrical load to the ignition system (a Pro-Trigger ignition was installed at the build-up). The bike continued to run well all the way back home which was over 16 miles without issue and I was happy to have made it back without the need for a tow truck or having to phone a friend to help bail me out.

Later, when the bike cooled down, I checked the electric starter function, but all I got was a “click” when the solenoid sounded, but nothing to the starter motor. When I jumped the solenoid posts with a screwdriver the starter motor kicked into life! So the problem was the solenoid and not the starter motor. There was still about 11.6 volts in the battery and it didn’t drop down much when the key was turned ON and the starter button tapped. So, the battery was still holding a charge okay. When when I went to extract the solenoid from the wiring bundle I noticed that when the transmission cover was installed on top of the crankcase, one of the charging system wires had been knocked apart! The bike had been running on 2/3 of the stator output and just kept going.

There was difficulty in extracting the solenoid and replacing it with a spare that I had checked over before the installation. The exhaust pipes were blocking direct access to the two mount bolts for the solenoid where it mounts to the bottom of the tool box. Using a U-joint and a small 10mm socket, I eventually coaxed the refreshed one back into place. A tap of the starter button yielded a quick turn of the starter motor, as expected.

With the transmission cover removed, I fished out the wiring connectors and pushed them all back together again, with that satisfying little noise when they snap back together again. The transmission cover was again installed very carefully in order to not disturb the wiring connections. A quick check of the battery voltage with ALL of the wiring connectors intact yielded a good voltage increase that had been missing previously.

The 205-305 community is somewhat divided about the whole Pink Panther concept and how I put it together. It was mostly a one-shot deal for the DGR ride and the bike may wind up being exported to a collector in S. America, who is scooping up vintage Honda bikes recently. The bike is titled in my name and insured but it really isn’t registered for the streets, at this time. Downtown San Diego is now blanketed with cameras and license plate readers, both on light poles and in patrol cars these days. I’m not quite sure what would happen if a license plate reader saw the 1977 Iowa motorcycle license plate and tried to match it to known registered motorcycles.

It was a one-shot event and an opportunity to show off the Pink Panther bike, as a tribute to whoever originally put the combination together, way back in the 1970s. It’s a one-off and pretty fun to ride around, as-is. My normal Sunday bike is my 1991 NT650 Hawk GT, so the Super Hawk is somewhat unneeded around here. I have many bike projects lined up for customers this summer, so it would just sit around and be neglected. Hopefully, a new owner will see the charm of the bike, just the way it is and enjoy riding it regularly.

Bill Silver

aka MrHonda 

May 19, 2024

No comments:

Post a Comment