“How much? Noth­ing”

Never look a gift horse in the mouth, they say. Espe­cially when it’s a free CX500 “with his­tory”

Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - Reader Restoration - WORDS JIM MOORE PHO­TOG­RA­PHY JA­SON CRITCHELL

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

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