Logic — the answer to every problem When all else fails, try the logical approach!
The summer break (forgetting about the rubbish weather for the moment) provided me with the opportunity to tackle some of those unfinished projects that I’ve had on the back-burner for far too long. You know the story: something has gone wrong or stopped working properly, and you’ve said to yourself, “I’ll sort that out later!” and, generally, don’t. Be it a car or a motorcycle, the usual thing happens if you don’t store them properly — such as the petrol turns to a varnish-like substance that, in turn, gums up all those microscopic holes in carburettors and other vital parts, and often the battery dies a natural death.
While this time my project was a classic Japanese 1960s motorcycle, what I’m about to relate could easily apply to any classic car.
Way back in 2006, I bought a 1961 Honda Benly C95E — a classic-shaped 150cc twinfour-stroke. It was a non-runner, had been in storage for most of its earlier life, and had just under 33,800km (21,000 miles) on the clock. A school chum’s brother had had a brand-new one of these back in 1961, courtesy of his mum and dad, and, as there would be today, many of his peers were jealous of him because most of his classmates were riding push-bikes (or walking, as was the case for me!). But it was the clean, creased lines that appealed back then, as opposed to the more ‘biker-looking’ Triumphs and BSAS of that era. So, when one happened to catch my eye at a local swap meet, it was a ‘gotta-own-that’ moment. It was unregistered, but, at that time, I had no reason to fear the VIN process.
The first of the problems was that the old black and silver plate had once belonged to a trailer, and there was no frame number, as such. I had to try to convince the NZTA that, on this particular model, the engine formed part of the frame, and thus the engine number was, in fact, the frame number. No go! “No one made motorcycles without a frame number,” claimed my contact at the then-ltnz. So the ‘logical’ solution was to seek out and purchase another Honda Benly that had been re-registered (had a vehicle identification number added, or ‘VINED’). So, having bought a properly registered Benly, the first thing I noted was that the VIN comprised the engine number as — yes, there was no frame number on that one, either! Logic would suggest that when the LTNZ was presented with evidence that another similar model had a VIN, there was no reason why mine couldn’t have one too, and the bike accordingly eventually acquired its VIN. I was later to discover that this model did, in fact, have a frame number, but it was beneath a couple of layers of paint and down behind the chain guard; however, I was not going to scrape off any paint to try to read what was a barely readable number — and I’m never wrong, so neither was I about to concede that, in this instance, I might have been!
Having got it legally on the road, the next problem was all the damn earthquakes, which knackered most of our collectible bikes and cars, so ‘getting it sorted’ was a low priority.
I recently bought one of those fancy hydraulic lifting platforms, so the Benly was hoisted up to waist level for easy access. Having rebuilt the petrol tap (‘petcock’, as the Americans call them), I removed the carburettor and drained off that stale petrol (read, varnish) from the jets. These things were an electric start (pretty innovative for the 1960s!), but, having only a six-volt system, that did not leave much battery juice for any failed start attempts. One of the reasons that I had stopped using it prior to the quakes was that it smoked a bit, and it was a four-stroke, not a two-stroke! All the books suggested that it was worn rings, worn pistons, worn bores, or a combination of all three. However, applying some logic to that, and given that it had only covered fewer than 21,000 miles, a worn motor of any description did not seem to be the reason for any smoke emissions. There was a breather coming out of the top of the motor, which was expelling oil, and, remembering that Japanese motorcycles are not supposed to leak any oil, this was obviously a sign that something was amiss. Connecting this breather to a vent adjacent to the carburettor mounting simply exacerbated the problem by now supplying a steady stream of oil along with petrol! Luckily, Ralph Nader wasn’t following along behind me. On further reading of some reference material, it occurred to me that if the valve clearances were incorrect, that could well result in pressurising the sump/crankcase, and thereby pumping oil up into the overhead-camshaft area and out the breather. Logic suggested a compression test. I had bought my compression tester back in the 1960s and, as is often the case, have always been a bit reluctant to use it for fear of learning the worst (that’s not very logical, I will admit). Nevertheless, biting the bullet, I checked the compression and found just 3.4 bar (50 psi) on both pots! Now, this could have been worn parts, but, before dismantling the engine, I opted to check the valve clearances and found that, of the four valves, only one had any clearance at all. The rider’s handbook was less than helpful, as the method of adjustment described resulted in my trying to adjust tappets when the camshaft was contacting the valve stem. So, remembering that on a fourcylinder car (with eight valves) everything adds up to nine, when the number-eight valve is just beginning to lift, you adjust number one, and so on, with four valves, logic suggested that when number-four valve was just lifting, you should adjust number one. Which I did. At the end of that exercise, the compression was 5.8 bar (85 psi) on both posts. Much better!
While there was still some oil being blown out the top breather, it was just a few drops after a five-kilometre run. But now I had another problem — no spark on one cylinder. The coils are buried far up inside the steelframed chassis (just like on the Ariel Arrow), and fitting aftermarket options was not somewhere I wanted to go. So, it was on to ebay to look for new-old-stock (NOS) Honda Benly parts. Despite all those rumours back in the day that implied that obtaining Japanese NOS parts for anything older than five years would be nigh on impossible, I found everything I needed, albeit on different sites and in different countries. They were not always cheap, but at least they will fit straight in, and, with a new distributor base plate, complete with points and condenser, plus new twin coils, I can be assured that I will finally be able to ‘do a few miles’ to free up what is obviously (and logically) a stuck ring or two in one of the cylinders. And on that subject, one of the books I read suggested pouring some Redex into each pot and leaving it to soak for 30 minutes or so, to free up any stuck rings. I wondered where I would find some Redex, before recalling that I had a brand-new container of it in the boot of the MKI (where it has been since the early 1970s!) along with other memorabilia and accessories of the era.
Who was it said that it was not logical to collect stuff? Hopefully by the time you get to read this, my NOS parts will have arrived from their various overseas locales, I’ll have finished the Honda, and I’ll be able to start work on the rebuild/refurbish of the MKI sedan — the logical next step!
Take care out there.