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Restoring a classic: Part II

In Part I of this series on the CBX restoration, we looked at the paint job and the process that a motorcycle goes through to get a new look. Restorations are much more exacting than customizations. Not that there is any less craftsmanship involved, the real issue here is getting the bike to be as close to original as possible. The older the bike gets, the harder it is to find parts to repair it, especially original parts.

To remedy this situation, CBX Man stores many original parts for use in these restorations and has some pretty talented associates who work to bring the engine back to its high-performance origins.

My thinking about restorations met an abrupt wall of reality when doing this piece. There was more than my simpleminded attempt to describe of putting together wheels, frame, engine, seat, etc. The myriad amounts of parts that it takes to assemble or in this case reassemble a bike were amazing. The patience required to recapture the beauty and mechanical prowess of a machine is mind-boggling. To simply state “like new” does not adequately paint the picture of the labor involved. Kudos to all mechanics, custom or reconstruction; you are all artists and scientists, and the beauty of the finished works you produce a testament to your skill.

The photos here tell the finished story. CBX Man owner Dennis McCartney tells the reconstruction. The most fascinating part was the carburetor story. And it goes like this. …

“We have a friend who is a genius when it comes to CBXs. He sits there and spends 12 hours typically rebuilding a set of carburetors at the bench. We sent a CBX to him to use as a test mule. He takes the carburetors after he rebuilds and synchronizes them and puts them on the bike, runs the bike, tunes them and sends them back to us. He typically rebuilds a couple of sets a month. It’s a service that we charge $795 for, and it’s usually a 12-hour job for him. This current restoration was a 17-hour job. These were absolutely the worst that he’d ever seen, so let’s see how he did with them.”

Looking at it, you can certainly see why.

It was like opening a much-anticipated Christmas present, unwrapping then opening then holding it up for inspection. At this point, McCartney had not yet seen the rebuilt carburetors and was anxious to see how well they turned out. His smile lit up like a 10-year-old who had found a brand new red bike under the Christmas tree.

“A set of carburetors for the CBX, if you look it up in the Honda book, it’s no longer available, but when they were, they were just under $1,900 if you wanted to buy them from Honda,” he says. “I don’t know what that makes restored carbs like this worth, but it adds to the value of the bike. This customer [from Puerto Rico] wanted original. A lot of people want us to customize the bike.”

“This guy is so fastidious, but he’s a genius with the CBX, he’s a highly respected guy,” McCartney says, giving due credit to the man that rebuilt the cabs. “He polishes the tops. You take a set of these to a shop and show them to a young guy like Paul [employee at CBX]. You never saw a rack from a CBX, and he can’t believe that someone can rebuild and synchronize these on the bench.

“Most synchronizations are done on the bike with a set of mercury tubes. Dave can do it on the bench, and when he puts them on the bike they run properly. A pretty talented guy. These carbs, when we sent them out there, had the butterflies stuck. All of these had to be taken apart, and the carbs had to soak for two days to get the gel hardened up on the inside of them to loosen up.”

This was an extreme case.

Then McCartney got really excited and showed me one more tiny part on the motorcycle.

“I almost forgot about this, this is the trick part,” he says. “This is the part that everybody is trying to buy, this is the idle screw for the carburetors, and it’s no longer available. They are like gold if you can find one.”

And like rare gold, the second phase of the restoration continues and the engine will be placed on the frame where it will become one with the bike. What was old is new again.


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