Classic Motorcycle Mechanics


CMM reader Ian Luff bites the bullet and takes on his first restoratio­n: a 1977 Honda CB200!


Welcome to our 2020 search for the best special and resto in conjunctio­n with Bridgeston­e tyres!

Why restore a Honda CB200? Well, there are many sensible reasons that could have led me to this unpretenti­ous little bike as a restoratio­n target.

They are relatively plentiful for a bike of the 1970s so are cheap to buy. Parts are obtainable, they are fairly simple to work on and they offer fair performanc­e for a tiddler, being able to maintain 70mph with a bit of coaxing.

The real reason I bought a knackered CB200 with 75,011 miles on the clock was caused by me stumbling across a poor-quality photo of a 17-yearold in outrageous flares, a vest and, for a reason that escapes me, carpet slippers, astride a gleaming brand new example. The photo was dated August 1977 and I had been the photograph­er rather than the pictured rider. Dave, (the friend in the photo) had opted for the sensible four-stroke CB200 and it was this model that was destined to be my first restoratio­n, beginning back in 2014.

I first saw this bike at the back of a friend’s shed in 2014 and I just had to have it. After all, it had been the first motorbike I’d ever been pillion on, with Dave in the autumn of 1977.

Despite its miles the bike didn’t look too bad – it had even been run on the road two years before. As for me, I knew I was capable of a fair bit of spannering (Dagenham boyhood spent with cars and bikes), but I had no intention of taking on a full resto as I felt some things would be beyond me. I wasn’t rolling in cash, either! A quick cosmetic tart up and a few tweaks to get her on the road seemed more logical.

I paid £500 and my friend threw in spare carbs and a spare engine. With the bike back home (yes, it was leaking oil) I got her going within a day (new battery, Easy Start), but she wouldn’t tick over below 2000rpm. I soldiered on and after freeing up brakes, replacing bulbs, reinflatin­g tyres and oiling a chain as rusty as the Angel of the North, I went for a short run around the garden. This was promising enough for me to book an MOT and (gasp) she passed.

But… the tickover issue remained, as did the oil leak, and the ride home made it clear she wasn’t charging. The leak was from the left-hand engine cover: examinatio­n revealed cheap allen bolts that had been used on a previous engine re-build had snapped off deep in the cases and subsequent­ly Araldited on by a previous owner, making it impossible to tighten the engine cover. The generator still refused to generate and the frame in

front of the back wheel revealed serious rust. This was not a quick ‘patch up’ bike then – but what about the spare motor? Surely I could simply transplant it and just paint up the frame? It was then when a Scottish friend of mine told me: “Ye canna bodge it like tha’. If it’s worth doing then do it properly: strip her doon!” The die was cast!

I made two resolution­s. Firstly, I wanted to do as much work myself as I possibly could. Secondly, I wanted my bike to preserve at least some evidence of its own past. Patina, some would call it, but I liked to call it SSOWM condition – ‘Sound, Smart, Original and Well Maintained’. I wanted all rust and oil leaks eliminated, paintwork and chrome clean, shiny and smart.

Armed with a can of ‘Plus Gas’ penetratin­g oil I set about the strip-down. My filing system for parts consisted mostly of the round plastic pots in which roll-mop herrings are sold in supermarke­ts. Larger parts were stored in labelled cardboard boxes, an old plastic potty (don’t ask) and Quality Street Christmas-sized tins.

The whole under-frame was either coated in sludge or was bare of paint and displaying heavy rusting where the sticky fluid had not rested and road salt had wreaked havoc. The wiring loom looked formidable and the multi-coloured spaghetti inside the headlight particular­ly so. Ok, they’re all colour-coded, but wires fade over 40 years and I also knew that I’d have to tackle the dreaded monochrome circuit diagram on reassembly. The mystery of the failure to charge was solved in the strip-down. The yellow wire from the alternator had been severed where it joined the rectifier deep in a frame top tube recess.

Yokes came off with little trouble and with the frame bare I looked at my pile of parts. Most were rusty, all were worn to greater or lesser degree, and a few were reasonably new replacemen­ts such as the rear dampers, silencers and almost certainly the swingarm, since it was virtually pristine amongst the mess of the rear frame area. Chrome on wheels and bars were badly pitted. I’m sure most would have binned the clocks. They were faded, lightly scratched on the lenses and with a missing milometer reset knob. But they still worked and above all they proudly announced a mileage of 75,112 miles. Looking at the giant pile of parts and fish boxes, I wondered what on earth had I done. Any idiot can dismantle a bike, rebuilding was a different kettle of fish – or pile of fish boxes in my

case! If I had to use profession­al services I was determined to source locally.

Robert Bensley ran a small garage capable of sand-blasting and zinc painting. Mr Bensley did a great job for what I think was a cost for blasting and paint of £140. Welding on of a new integral rear guard was done by Mr Bensley’s son for around £100, and final painting with three coats of black enamel was carried out by another local man using surplus black from another job for £60. By the end of these processes I had a frame which should be capable of lasting another 40 years.

Mudguards were sourced from the USA off ebay at £50 each. These were sound, but the chrome was tired and pitted. I laid out all of my sorry chrome parts, took a snap and got some quotes. I was flabbergas­ted: £650 was the best and £850 the worst. In the end I had to pare down the list to bars, indicator stems, exhaust downpipes and guards in the interests of cost, and spit and polish the rest. Eventually I spent £300 for a top-quality job done in Southend on Sea. When you know the process and chemicals involved, those that do it earn every penny!

I turned to the spare engine, which seemed to be seized. I found that the starter-motor chain had jammed on its sprocket. This sorted, I took the head off. At that time I was using a Haynes manual and I spent ages looking for the spring link it mentioned on the cam-chain – there isn’t one on the CB200 as I finally found out from reading the supplement at the end of the manual! I checked the cam-chain and bores, set the valve clearances, replaced a leaking side cover gasket, cleaned the oil pump gauze and centrifuga­l filter, and put the whole lot back together with new points and plugs.

My forks were shot. Replacemen­ts were acquired for £50 from DK parts and these were generally in far better condition. Rebuilt with new seals and bump stops the forks looked great.

The next few months saw me sanding and repainting all the black parts, mainly in smooth Hammerite, and some smaller parts in black enamel. Any chrome I hadn’t been able to rechrome was highly polished. Wheels were polished as best I could, but the seat was scrap. The pan had all but disintegra­ted so a tidy and original, but grimy one was sourced on ebay and cleaned up.

Time to re-assemble! Frame parts, stands/springs, brake pedal, yokes/bearings were fitted and with the bike finally on its centre-stand that gave me a buzz! Swingarm in, dampers, rear wheel then brake: but they soon came off again as the brake torque arm was seized! Once more the Haynes/honda manuals were useful guides! I connected up horn, coils, ignition switch regulator and rectifier, experiment­ing with wire routing if it was not clear. I was also helped by the biggest circuit diagram I could get (Honda shop manual, of course) and bought a Sherlock Holmes-sized magnifying glass. From there it was surprising­ly easy.

The engine went in (thanks for the help, wife)

exhausts on (not original silencers so a tight fit!), mudguards on – re-chromed and Hammerited underneath, rear light on, battery box, seat on. Test wiring. I knew it was going too well. All worked bar the right indicators; the switch was not connecting. This called for a new switch from David Silver as I could not split the original no matter how hard I tried: £40 for a pattern item. I had overhauled the spare carbs and cleaned everything, but still had issues so swopped to the old carbs. It started on the button, but that tick-over issue was still there. With the new carbs now fitted with old carbs’ float valves: success! She runs!

Paint time: NOS tanks are like hen’s teeth and go for over £500 when they do come up, and other ones for sale seemed worse than mine. If I wanted a smart bike I would have to paint it myself. I ordered three 400ml cans of Tahitian Red paint from RS Race paint. I also bought two cans of their lacquer. The colours went on ok (light coats, 10-minute intervals) the colour matched perfectly! I made a mistake being a bit too far away when applying lacquer – it didn’t give me the gloss sheen I was after. Two more cans of Holts lacquer sorted it. Decals sourced (£51) and with the wife’s help (calming influence) they were applied carefully… Then more lacquer! Finally, trim parts on, the finishing touches.

My CB200 is now finished and I’m mighty pleased with her. She’s Sound, Smart, Original and Well Maintained as I intended, and I have got a real buzz from doing so much myself!

 ??  ??
 ??  ?? ABOVE: Dave 1977, before fashion was invented.
ABOVE: Dave 1977, before fashion was invented.
 ??  ?? 3
3: At home: I got the engine going the same day.
4: Rust and bodged wiring. 4
3 3: At home: I got the engine going the same day. 4: Rust and bodged wiring. 4
 ??  ?? 1 1: More than 75K!
1 1: More than 75K!
 ??  ?? 2
2: Seen in the daylight on purchase!
2 2: Seen in the daylight on purchase!
 ??  ?? 6
5: Fish boxes keep parts safe!
6: Stripdown revealed more issues. 5
6 5: Fish boxes keep parts safe! 6: Stripdown revealed more issues. 5
 ??  ?? 7
7: Rust/slime on rear.
7 7: Rust/slime on rear.
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? 4: Coming together. 4
4: Coming together. 4
 ??  ?? 1 1: Frame ready for stripping.
2: Chroming bits: What I could afford to chrome! 2
1 1: Frame ready for stripping. 2: Chroming bits: What I could afford to chrome! 2
 ??  ?? 3
3: What goes where?!
3 3: What goes where?!
 ??  ?? 6
 ??  ?? 5

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