Somehow, in the past few months, my “customer base” has shifted from 250-305cc models to the successor CB/CL/SL350 twins. You may have read my story about Lea’s twin CB350s, one of which she has subsequently sold. During the selling process, she was contacted by the owner of another CB350 who was looking for parts to help repair/restore his brother’s bike, which bounced around his family after the tragic death of his brother, a San Diego policeman, back in the 1970s. Here is a shortened version of his story, from our first email contact…
“In 1969, my brother, Pat, bought a brand new Honda CB350 Super Sport. I was just 11 years old, and vividly remember him taking me for rides on it through Ocean Beach in San Diego, where I lived with my parents. Pat had gotten married and lived with his wife and 1 1/2 year old daughter, Tina. Pat was a San Diego Police Officer, and his beat was Ocean Beach, where we lived.
On the evening of December 28, 1970, Pat was shot 6 times by a fugitive, and died of multiple gunshot wounds; the fatal one was through his heart, puncturing the aorta. Pat was survived by his widow, Karen, age 23, his only child Tina, just 2 1/2, many brothers and sisters, my parents, and approximately 1000 fellow officers. I’m not certain I was one of the survivors, as a substantial chunk of me died that night. Pat was just 23.
Pat’s Widow Karen eventually gave the Honda Motorcycle to her Brother, Gordon. Gordon had it for some time, until another Brother of mine insisted on having it, causing quite a tiff with Gordon and Karen. Later, that Brother of mine became estranged from the family, and I had not seen him in 16 year. At my Mother’s Funeral, I had not spoken to him in 18 years.
Earlier this year, that Brother’s son, Tyler, who is now 30 years old, located me to inform me that my Brother had put a gun to his head, and had committed suicide. Tyler and I had many conversations over the past months, and not long ago, got together…He had been a police officer in Brawley, Ca, and was laid off. He had carried on in Pat’s footsteps, and loved being an officer. He is currently trying to secure another job wearing a badge.
As a result of his unemployment, Tyler needed money, called me, and at the time, I happened to have several hundred in my pocket. He met up with me, and I helped him out. Being humble, and not wanting to get further into debt, Tyler suggested that rather than pay me back, perhaps he could sell me something of his, thus, calling the loan a payment.
It turns out my late Brother, who committed suicide last year, had several years before given Tyler our Brother Pat’s 1969 Honda CB350 Super Sport. He suggested I could buy that from him. Also he said that he had a copy of a picture of Pat and Karen on the bike, with 2 year old Tina, who is now 43, seated in between them. Karen passed away a few years ago from Lou Gehrig’s disease.
This morning I am going up to Tyler’s house to see the bike for the first time in more than 40 years, agree on a fair price, pay him the difference, and arrange to have it transported the 45 miles home. I don’t ride. I am also getting an enlargement copy made of the photograph of Pat, Karen and Tina on the bike.
This Christmas, Tina will receive the framed 8×10 photograph, with the Pink Slip for the Honda in her name, hidden inside the frame backing…after she gets over crying from seeing the picture of her with her parents, then I will tell her the real surprise is inside the frame. The restored Honda will be parked inside the garage, unbeknownst to her.”
THAT WAS THE PLAN…… Here’s what happened and how it happened…
It turns out that we live two miles apart from each other and being that I have been so current with CB350s, thanks to Lea, I told him that I would come and take a look; give an estimate of what it would take to get it going and/or for a major restoration effort.
The bike, while mostly stored indoors, had lots of condition issues, plus mods made to it over the years that all needed to be reversed, if we were to get it even close to original condition again. The bike was showing about 10,000 miles on the speedometer and both tires had been changed at least once, but were both dry-rotted beyond safe use now. The original 2 into 2 muffler system had been replaced with an aftermarket 2:1 system, which required removal of the centerstand and hardware. The seat cover had been redone in a decent, but non-original style. The battery vent tube had not been kept in place, over the years, so there was substantial paint damage around the battery box area. The original selenium rectifier was replaced with a later model silicone diode unit that slips right into the same brackets, beneath the seat.
All the cables were rotted, the front fork seals had leaked down the fork legs and into the front brake panel, where the oil glued the plastic-ended speedometer cable firmly in place. The rubber handlebar mount cushions were all decayed, allowing the handlebars to wave around atop the fork bridge. The fuel tank had surface rust in the top and a little towards the bottom. The carburetors were glued up from the hardened gasoline deposits, which had evaporated from the float bowls. One carb float had a pin-hole from acid etching, due to gasoline deposits in which the float edge had laid in for many years. The list goes on and on… you get the idea.
The first thing to do was to strip most of the parts off the chassis… air filters, carbs, exhaust, fenders and eventually the rear swing arm and shocks for cleaning, a little paint and lubrication of grease points. Stale gasoline was drained into a bucket and the petcock removed for inspection and cleaning. Unfortunately, the small screen that fits over the RESERVE passageway at the bottom of the fuel tank was missing, allowing any and all loose deposits to enter the petcock to then fill the bowl and clog the filter screen.
Tracking down OEM mufflers, even good used ones was a challenge and I was able to pull some strings and access a pair of used units from my friends in Los Angeles, but they are far from NOS condition. EBay auctions coughed up centerstand parts, a usable front brake panel (damaged from trying to extract the speedo cable end), as well as a set of outer air filter covers and a correct 36t rear sprocket to replace the 44t unit that someone had added on, way back when.
A couple of hours of cleaning, plus $40 worth of carb packing parts from Honda looks to have successfully revived the carburetors, after replacing the one damaged float. Honda still had OEM air filters in stock! New OEM and some aftermarket cables were installed. The front brake cable is unique for the 1968-69 models, which incorporated a brake light switch fitted into the middle of the cable length. Honda finally got wise and added small plunger switches in the handlebar lever mounts, a little later on, allowing use of one-piece standard cables for the front brake actuation. I happened to have a somewhat tarnished cable in my box of gray cables, which will work fine, but won’t match the rest of the cable set, which Honda and the aftermarket all supply with black sheaths, instead of the original gray material.
Two weeks into the project, I had already spent over $1,200 just in parts, plus over twenty hours of labor, either on the bike directly, researching/finding/buying parts and picking up parts from the Honda dealership which is 12 miles away.
Initial compression check read 160 psi on the left side and about 125 on the right. I did find the valves adjusted incorrectly, so hoped that this action would enhance the readings, precluding a motor pull and top end overhaul.
The owner and I agreed that the main focus is to get the bike as complete as possible, and then make it run as well as it can, prior to Christmas Day. As parts continue to stream in from around the country, I continue to lavish as much attention as I can, within reason, in this labor of love. Incidentally, the inscription on the personal CA license plate is: IN HONOR. Last registration tag reads 1997. It has been sleeping for a LONG time.
Two weeks later: The bike is up and running. The carburetors are missing the shaft bushings, so there is some air leaking at idle. I have been finding Honda’s CB350 carbs to be challenging to meter properly in several recent cases and this one was no different. One the bikes fully warm up, the hot idle wants to run up towards 2k rpm, instead of the normal 1,200 rpm specified by Honda. Turning the idle speed screws even the tiniest amount can cause a change of several hundred revs. Set the hot idle down when hot and it stalls when cold. Set it cold and it winds up at the 2k mark when warm. Worn spark advancers can feed into this syndrome, as well. I cleaned, lubed and tightened up the return spring ends on the posts to get a little more control of the spark advance at low speeds.
With fresh tires, cables, air filter and otherwise good carburetion, the bike is quite snappy to drive through the gears. I put about 15 miles on it, both around town and on the freeway and it performed well for a 42 year old classic Honda. I rechecked compression readings after running in the motor for a few miles and it had jumped to 175/175, which is a normal specification reading.
I learned quite a bit about dealing with reinstalling external-spring forks, those tricky CV carbs, the little forward rubber mount on the rear fender and other peculiarities not found on the bikes I generally specialize in which are 250-305cc Honda twins from 1960-67.
The new CB/CL350 twins were, of course, the replacement models for the 250-305s and the addition of a 5th gear in the transmission, plus eight more horsepower made them instantly popular with thousands of enthusiasts from 1968 through 1973. While they have many more modern features, lacking on the earlier models, the engine vibration is noticeably more present, especially on the CL350s which were given shorter gearing then the CB models.
The media swarmed over the presentation of the bike to Brian’s niece, Tina today (12/28/2011). All four local TV channels were present and made prime-time stories about the moving tribute to a fallen officer, though the gift of his motorcycle back to the officer’s daughter. It was a tight timeline to hit, given the amount of work and parts to acquire, but it was well worth the effort in the end. Nice way to end 2011, with a story of hope and reconnection to the memories of a loved one.
Happy New Year to all.