Logic — the an­swer to ev­ery prob­lem When all else fails, try the log­i­cal ap­proach!

New Zealand Classic Car - - Report -

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.

‘Log­i­cal’ so­lu­tion

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.

Easy ac­cess

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.

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