“How much? Nothing”
Never look a gift horse in the mouth, they say. Especially when it’s a free CX500 “with history”
AUGUST 2013. Johnallen’s mobile pings at the arrival of a text from his son, Robert. “Would you be interested in a CX500?” reads the message. “Don’t you mean CB500?” replies John, one-time owner of a half-litre Honda parallel twin. He had no idea what it was. So, intrigued to find out, he arranged to see the it.
And quickly wished he hadn’t.the CX was a hound.a colleague of Robert’s had used the 500 for commuting back in the 1990s and early 2000s before a water leak led to a total loss of enthusiasm in the haggard Honda. It was then parked up in his garage. Out of sight, out of mind. Fast forward 16 years and its owner needed space.the CX had to go.
“It was a complete heap,” says John. “I wasn’t even sure I wanted it until we talked about price. I asked him how much.when he said ‘nothing, I was going to give it to the scrap man’ what had I got to lose?”
Rather than tear straight into the bike, John wisely chose to store the CX in a friend’s shed until he was ready to start the project. “I know what I’m like,” says the former garage owner. “If it was in mine I’d have been all over it straight away, but it was summer and I wanted to be out riding my Pan European rather than elbows deep in a new project, so it stayed at my mate’s place until I was ready.”
Not that he forgot about it completely.the CX’S motor was seized solid and the project
would be a non-starter unless John could get it to turn over again. “I poured easing oil into the cylinders and left it for a week.when I went back, I put it in top gear and pushed and pulled the rear wheel and pleasingly it moved just a bit.that was all I needed to know. From then I added more oil and moved the wheel every day for a week until it turned freely.”
Satisfied that the shabby ex-commuter at least had potential, John wheeled it into his own garage to see if it would run. Plugs cleaned and refitted, fuel tank removed and a clean bottle of fresh unleaded plugged in, plus a fully charged second-hand battery in place he was ready to press the starter.
“It fired second prod, and actually ran on the third. But what amazed me most was the fact that it didn’t smoke – not one bit. I’d opened all the garage doors and windows in anticipation of huge clouds of the stuff but to my surprise and delight it was clean as a whistle.”
The bike’s welcome reluctance to smoke was, John later discovered, no doubt helped by the previous owner replacing the rings and reseating the valves only months before he took it off the road – the fact he did makes it even more surprising he gave up on the bike once it sprung a water leak.
Being ex-motor trade John likes to do things a certain way. Just like when he and his business partner ran their own garage, John started a ‘job card’ for the CX resto, to show all the hours and costs involved in the project. All-told he’s put 300 hours into refurbishing this venerable Honda.and like any professionally trained spannerman he can’t stand his working environment to be messy.
“It would drive me mad, so the first thing I did was put up some very large shelves in my garage on which to store all the parts off the bike.the hideous Polaris fairing was the first thing I removed.the topbox and panniers then came in useful as makeshift storage boxes for bits that I took off.”
Stripping the bike was a filthy job.the worst offender by far was the spine frame. Corrosion had taken hold wherever it could and as a result three of the four lower engine mounts had rotted through. So too the notoriously vulnerable centre-stand mount that, despite a previous repair, was in extremely poor shape.
“I cleaned up the frame mounts, but I could press my finger into them from both sides.” Undeterred, John made some templates of the rotten mounts out of cardboard.when he was happy with them, he made them in the correct gauge steel and tack-welded them in place. “While they were hot I beat them into shape before a matetig-welded them properly.”
The badly corroded centre-stand assembly wouldn’t release its grip on the bottom of the frame, even when shown brute force.the centrepin had rusted solid so John hacksawed off the retaining pins to get it all apart.a used unit in decent nick – stand, pin and spring – was the only way forward. Once repaired the frame, along with the stand and 20 other metal components, went for blasting and powdercoat.
More head scratching lay ahead with the engine.a leaking water pump had led to the CX being laid up in the first place.with the motor on the bench John was able to give it the attention it needed.what promised to be an easy fix was anything but.
“The outer part of the pump’s spring-loaded seal is metal. Not a problem in itself but the replacement is 2mm wider than the recess it has to fit in to.when the housing was made they only produced the smaller seal.”
John’s known within his family and friend circles as a ‘fix-it’ man, so he wasn’t to be beaten. Removing the front cover he was able gain access to the recess without the pump spindle getting in the way. He made up a reamer and was able to remove 1.5mm of aluminium then, using a press at his old garage, rehouse the seal as an interference fit.the waterpump cover gasket is no longer available so John made his own.
Other than a thorough clean and degrease, respray with high-temp silver paint, tappet adjustment and a service, thev-twin lump was good to go; not bad with 64,000 miles and a long lay-up under its belt. No wonder they were so popular with despatchers.
Although the motor had fired into life after only three prods on the button, John was amazed the carbs were able to flow any fuel at all. “They were in a shocking state; absolutely filthy.” He stripped them down to the last component, being careful to keep each carb’s many parts in separate tubs, then handed them to a friend with an ultrasonic cleaner.they returned looking almost new. John then used an airline on all the jets and recesses before rebuilding the pair.
Comstar wheels are the bane of many a Honda restorer – susceptible to corrosion, tough to clean and impossible to strip and rebuild, they’re a headache all round. Frustrated by the hard to reach inners of the press-alloy stars, John thought it’d be much easier if he took the wheels apart. Having unbolted the middle sections he was then stopped in his tracks when removing the rubber covers for what he thought were bolts connecting the stars to the rims.
“I didn’t realise they were riveted, so I had to bolt the centres back up and send them off for powdercoating. It proved to be serendipitous though, because the finish looks great.”
John’s CX500 mug was in the dishwasher
Cutting a dash in Old English White