Okay, send me pictures of the worst things you see on the road, I’m ready for them. Car bras, rims worth more than the car, bad stick on customization, rolling on the donut spare, cardboard or saran wrap windows, awesome custom airbrush vistas, driving while fat, get the idea?
Marlon Bondo (Parkwood60@yahoo.com)
I realized a few months ago that I have an almost irrational, bigoted hatred for the bike that many dispatch riders refer to (affectionately?) as “The Plastic Maggot”. Because I’m an intellectual, and I don’t lead an unexamined life of quiet desperation I have kept coming back to this hatred every time I would see one of these bikes online. And the more work, and the better the quality of work and amount of time and money put into it, the more it annoyed me. So, since these bikes seem to be a plague spreading faster than Ebola is in Africa right now, I figured I better share my conclusions with people. Maybe I might just be able to save some poor young ambitious kids from starting down this worst of all possible motorcycle project pathways.
There she is in all her glory. The bike which may have literally delivered a billion packages around the world in the past 35 years. These bikes were so unloved they became the favorite of motorcycle messengers worldwide once they entered the used market, often times at prices that could barely buy a week’s worth or groceries in the 1990s.
Firstly, why I hate them:
They don’t do anything well.The German Honda ad says its a great all-arounder, but the CB400/450 or CB650 that was sold right next to it at your local Honda dealer was an ever better all-arounder. Now 35 years later looking in the used bike classifieds its a duck-billed platypus, evolutionary dead end of a bike, and better bikes out number it in the for sale section like 10 to 1.
It’s top heavy. Its just plain heavy (compared to other 400-500cc bikes of the era). It doesn’t have a lot of low end torque. It doesn’t have a lot of top end power. Its slow. Its frame is flexible. It doesn’t handle. Its complicated. Its water cooled. Its shaft drive.
And finally, to my eye, its ugly. My favorite version (besides the oh so 1980s TURBO versions) is that red bone stock version with the mini fairing above. Any time or money spent on making one of these look more “cafe racer” is like time and money spent dressing a fat hairy dude up to look like a beauty queen. In the end its just a dude in a dress, and I’m not into that.
Now, a little justifications for all that blather, you can do your own googling for my sources. At the same time the CX500 was for sale the SOHC CB650 was for sale next to it with nearly 20 more horsepower and weighing just 3 more pounds. The CB400 was also for sale, with just 5 less horsepower and weighing 50 pounds less, FIFTY POUNDS!!!. Either of these bike would have been a better choice at the time, and now after 30 years of a neglected cooling system are likely going to need 1/4 of the work to make it a reliable daily rider. And that is just Hondas. There are Suzuki GS400/425/450 twins, and GS550 fours. Yamaha bikes in all displacements and configurations, and Kawasaki KZ300/400/440 and 750 twins (if you aren’t in America drop the Z from the name), and KZ550/650/750 fours which were not only better bikes right out of the gate new, but enjoy better support if you wish to make them faster.
Now, why they make lousy cafe racers,
In order to determine this we need to define cafe racer. In my mind a cafe racer was just a street bike, stripped down to the bare minimum legal necessities to make it faster, then modified to improve the handling and performance. Back in the day when the term was coined (the late 50s), they were British bikes for the most part, because the Japanese were still digging out from WWII. If you are a fan of old magazines you will see it applied to things like modified CB750s and Kawasaki Z1s in the 1970s, as well as other smaller displacement bikes. Today it seems to apply to things that are more like choppers with less rake to them, but the majority of them are still based on 1970s and early 1980s bikes.
Some of the major visual design elements from back in the day are a cut down, flat (skate board) or humped (bum stop) seat. Lower handle bars, either flat, drop bars or clip-ons. Flyscreen, front number plate, bikini fairing or frame mounted half fairing. Megaphone exhaust. Then everything else minimized.
Lower suspension, wrapped headers, Firestone tires, all that crap is modern fashion, not vintage function.
Back when cafe racers were racing between bars and cafes there were no water cooled bikes. The closest would have been the Suzuki GT750 “Water Buffalo”. Now if you made a GT750 cafe racer that would be awesome, and I would give you all kinds of mad props for it. Honda did come out with the GL1000 about the same time, but that was another bike that was never meant to be a sporty bike. It was a little more powerful than the CB750, but a whole lot heavier and complex.
All these bikes have a classic look to them. The CX500 was made to be the bike of the future, it is very 80s styling. You basically have to toss out everything and start over in order to get they 1960s look everyone is going for. The CX500 looks similar to the Moto Guzzi V-twin, but without the cooling fins that give those bikes their classic look. Most bikes of the era are chain drive, which lends itself well to changing gearing so you can get better acceleration at the expense of fuel economy and relaxes cruising, but not the CX. Most of these other bikes had a spoked wheel version from the factory, or since they are chain drive, can be converted with a hub from a more modern dirt bike, or a custom machines hub. The CX requires you to find an old GL1000 rear wheel (if memory serves) or stick with the Comstars.
So there you have it. In short the 4 reasons not to build a CX500 cafe racer 1) Water cooled 2) Shaft drive 3) The lack of frame, and extra weight of the water cooled motor makes them irredeemably lousy, unless you plan on making a new chassis, but then you will have all that weight. But it all comes down to 4) Its so far from the look and function of a cafe racer its like starting to climb a mountain from the bottom of a well, in comparison to other bikes of the era.
Any time, money and effort put into a CX500 Cafe Racer would get you so much further if applied to any other model bike it’s not even funny. Do yourself a favor and ride a bone stock Honda CB450 Nighthawk, Suzuki GS450E or even a Kawasaki GPZ305 before you dump thousands of dollars into a “Plastic Maggot”
Stock pots are sometimes “Dutch Ovens” and gin is sometimes called “Dutch Courage”, and I could not think of a more fitting name for this bike. It certainly seems as if the builder was stewed when he made it. Looking at this bike, its as if a reality show had challenged contestants to build a working motorcycle out of a wreck, using only things they could buy at Walmart. I’d tell you more about it, but honestly I am tearing up from laughing every time I look at this thing. Here’s what the craigslist ad says:
“One of a kind rat bike. Runs great and turns heads. New tires, new carbs. Some extra parts come with it.”
Someone needs to tell this guy that not all attention is good attention.
Yes, it is exactly what it looks like: A stainless steel stock pot, bolted to the rear fender, with plumbing fitting feeding fuel to the carburetors through several feet of clear line. And all this can be yours for just $1200! Serious offers only, no tire kickers!
He didn’t even bother to take the sticker off the pot.
Going back thru old Facebook posts, I started this project in earnest in August of last year. Here we are 10 months later and finally I have what can be called a motorcycle (with a straight face) again. It isn’t finished, not by a long shot, but it is good enough to ride around town, and maybe on the freeway or to cruise nights and bike nights. I proudly present my 1972 Honda CB750 Cafe Racer “Goldbrick”.
Websters says “goldbrick” is slang for something that appears valuable but is in fact worthless, or “goldbricking” is when you appear to be working but in reality you are goofing off. Considering what I used to pay for CB750s when I was a messenger in LA riding this very bike about 100 miles daily, the current price people are paying for bikes like this seem absurd. Plus time spent in the garage working on this was time I could have put into something productive, so its like goofing off. On top of all that both the tank and the motor are big square bricks, and I chose to paint it gold metal flake.
The recycling center down the street’s truck scale confirms that with a 1/2 tank of gas this bike weighs about 450lbs, not bad considering they were 525lbs or so from the factory. What is left to do to it? Well it certainly needs badges and emblems, tires, fork seals, a matching aluminum side cover for the left side, and most importantly a matching spoked front rim.
Here’s the first start from last month, before the carbs were really clean
So what do you think? Constructive criticism and questions are always welcome. Nonconstructive bullshit will get deleted pretty quick.
Nearly everybody who has ever ridden a SOHC Honda CB750 at freeway speeds has lost a left side cover. It’s an affliction they have been cursed with since day one. You may notice all the “customs”, “cafe racers”, and “brats” running around with pod air filters and no side covers. That is because without the factory airbox in place your legs direct high pressure air into the empty space behind the side cover. It has to go somewhere and often times it blows the side cover off.
Because of this left side covers are at a premium. The right side has the oil tank & cap to prevent being blown off, so there are plenty of those around. My current 1972 Honda CB750K2 build is almost done, but I was in need of a good cover on that side. Ebay came thru with a beat up cracked cover with 12 coats of paint on it but 3 good mounting tabs. I had a clean, slightly damaged cover which was missing 1 tab, so we will attempt a tab transplant!
First thing you need to do is get the right glue. I have had luck using flexible parts repair made for things like bumper covers on cars, and my favorite for healing cracks on the back side where they can’t be seen is any of the Goop or even Shoe Goo products. Crazy Glue and Super Glue doesn’t work, J.B.Weld and fiberglass tend to be too inflexible and crack over time. A trip to the hardware store yielded 2 plastic bonder products. Since I needed to fill in a little space, and wasn’t just gluing a broken piece back on I ended up using the Loctite Epoxy Plastic Bonder. Side note though: who spends $5 on glue to fix a $10 plastic lawn chair?
First cut off a piece to transplant, leaving it bigger than the hole you have to fill. Then cut the hole slightly bigger until the 2 pieces are almost exact mates to each other. The CB750 side cover makes it pretty easy. I just cut a straight line where the crease is between the round & flat sections, then 2 small cuts at the ends. The way I did it means a lot of surface area being bonded, which is better if you want it to last.
Sand the 2 pieces until they match with a tiny gap, to be filled in with the epoxy.
Mix the epoxy, spread a little on the edges and just stick it on there. Twenty minutes later…
…and the Loctite Plastic Bonder Epoxy is hard and the bond is so solid you can pick it up and wave it around by the tab you just transplanted. Only time will tell how strong it is, but for now it seems about as solid as if it were never broken at all.
A little sanding to blend the edges, a little primer, some more sanding and some paint and your never know (from this side) that it was ever broken. Its such a shame though that I could not get the last 6 coats of paint off the donor side cover and keep the fabulous candy metallic lacquer underneath in good shape.
Went to the gym today at my lunch hour (or two) and coming out I thought I was hallucinating.
Could it be? I thought these had all died out years ago! And in such great shape! Surely not just the nicest one with wood grain on its flanks, but one of the nicest ones left, period.
Even the interior is clean.
Unfortunately the 25 year old repair to the driver side fender is no longer the same color as the faded 35 year old rest of the car. And it looks like the passenger side has been a little banged up recently.
You know, if Haggerty Insurance is going to keep track of nearly extinct cars, they really ought to but a bounty on finding them in the wild, don’t you think?
Forwarding this on to the Secret Society of the Simulated Woodie.
I got these pages at a swap meet years ago. It covers (most) of an aftermarket exhaust system shoot out between Dunstall, Triple A, Action Fours, Racecrafters and Jardine. Its missing the last page, but it does have the comparison chart with all the important numbers. Hopefully the images are big enough for you to read the text. Click the image to see it way bigger. The Jardine was the fastest, but also the loudest, Racecrafters came in second in both noise and speed. Triple A however came in third in the speed measures, but was the quietest except for the stock Honda system.
More gold from Craigslist, via the cars for sale section of the 24 Hours of Lemons forum. Its the Poser Mobile! I’m assuming used by Poserman, who travels the cities of the Pacific Northwest telling saving people from posers and telling bad guys their scene is OVER!!!
From the look of this I’m assuming Poserman sports a handlebar mustache, and a crown, with a orange and blue uniform and a gold cape. His hair is a shaggy mane of unkempt white fur, much like the dash.
Now for just $1000 you can assume the mantle of Poserman, as long as you like the AE86 BEFORE THEY WERE COOL. Oh, and the cost of fixing the cracked cylinder head (which must have been sustained in battle, because with all these gauges there’s no way it overheated”
This thing is so awesome/oddball I hardly know what to say.
No expense was spared in making this special Super Bowl XVIII promotional vehicle, except the expense of a sign big enough to write out the words “Super Bowl”
Found on Craigslist, in Tampa, Florida: http://tampa.craigslist.org/pnl/cto/4279887326.html
“This is a custom made helmet football car built on a Honda 600 microcar chassis… built for Super Bowl XVIII in 1984… football rotate end over end like it is being kicked for a field goal… One look at this car with it’s spinning football and people will want to pull over and come in and watch a game!!! This thing will pay for itself in attention getting and customer draw.”
Not much info on this ad, but you know what they say: A picture is worth a 1000 words.
Put the first base coat of paint on the tank today. I think it came out pretty good. Not sure if it needs a 2nd coat, or just go straight for the metalflake top coat and then the clear.
I also mocked up the frame mounted 9″ headlight. I think its still a bit too high, and the brackets have not been finalized yet.