Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Dads and Lads

I have two sons; one is 16 and one 13.  You may remember from previous posts that my 16 year old had a Kymco scooter for his 16th birthday and he has slowly been getting more and more into motorbikes.  He now wants a CB125 when he is 17.  Although, when he came back from Germany this summer, having visited his cousins who have cool cars, he wanted a VW Golf with a banging sound system for his 17th (fickle).

My 13 year old, however, is a complete mini incarnation of his father.  He is his shadow.  It is quite sad for me as he always used to be mummy's boy, loving his cuddles and dressing up as spider man but you could see his nose twitch every time he watched his father disappear into the garage a clean man and come out smelling like a grease monkey.  He was soon ensorcelled by the smell of 2 stroke and the sound of a crackling engine fire up and reverberate off the garage walls.  Now, at 13, my son now goes to bed in the same clothes he has worn all day and the first thing he does when he wakes up his stumble his way down to the back of the garden to the "man-shed" and starts up his Honda XR80.

One thing I have noticed with the stories being offered to me is that there is usually a common link - dads.  Some Dads are very good at nurturing their children's natural curiosity, especially in the garage.  I guess it's like having a playmate.  My dad liked alcohol.......but I'll save that story for another day!

Some dads are amazing.  I am very proud to say that my husband is an amazing dad.  Mums have their strengths too and their roles to play; my husband used to be amazed at how long I could carry our kids for, he struggled after 5 minutes in the hip position whereas I could carry them for miles whilst shopping and paying for goods, without noticing they were there.  Some dads are good at building things and repairing things and it is so important that these skills are passed on to their children (although don't hold your breath when it comes to teaching girls how to disassemble a gear box, you may find they are just not interested).

Meet Jamie Fitzharris, a 26 year old from Cork City, Ireland.  He is a qualified Engineer and has been working in the aerospace industry for the last 2 and a half years.  His interest in motorcyles takes up a good percentage of his time and where did he get that interest from?  Yes, his dad.

Jamie with his dad and his grandad.
Here's a lovely picture of Jamie's dad's dad with his dad's motorbike.
Jamie recalls his dad always talking about bikes as he grew up and told him about all the bikes he had owned when he was younger.

"One of his first bikes was a CB125 and he progressed through another few bikes from there.  One bike he always talked about in particular was the 400 Four, which was the bike he had always wanted when he was younger but could never afford to buy one.  Instead he got a Yamaha XS400 (pictured above).  He was always talking about how the 400 Four was such a lovely bike and the very distinctive sound they had and the 4-1 headers, which were the real eye catcher of the bike.  I remember a few times sitting in the back of the car when I was probably 6 or 7 and a group of bikes would pass and he would spot the 400 Four in the group if there was one.  Most of my mechanical knowledge came from him and then as I got to the age of getting a car and bikes I started to teach myself by doing any mechanical work that was required.

My first bike was a CB200, which I bought in December 2010.  The bike itself was in ok condition but the engine wasn't in great condition but I didn't really know this at the time.  I did a bit of work to it, stripped it all down and repainted the frame and the engine and just made it look a bit better and I then got insured on it.  I ended up selling it in March 2011 and I bought myself a 2002 Honda Rebel 250.  The Rebel 250 was sold again in July 2001 and I got a 2009 CBF600, which I still currently own.

A few weeks after getting the Rebel 250 I saw another CB200 for sale on a classified ads website and went for a look with my dad.  I ended up buying it.  Whilst we were there the guy said he was sure he had most of a 400 Four up in the attic over the garage as well.  My dad asked him if he would ever consider selling it and if he ever did would he give us a call because I might be interested in it.  So we went off with the CB200, which is still being worked on at the moment.

A few months down the line we did get a call from the guy to say that he had gathered up all of the bits for the bike and would we like to come for a look.  So we went back for a look at what he had and ended up buying the lot for €400.  This included 2 engines, 2 frames, 2 tanks, forks and a load of other bits and pieces.  So I was trying to decide what to do with it, split it all out and sell it and make a few euros when I decided I would try a restoration and make one complete bike anyway out of what I had."

These were the parts that were collected

Starting to look a bit more promising

Got to start somewhere
The bike is a CB400F2.  It was originally an English bike, imported into Ireland about 10-11 years ago.   Jamie still has some of the old English MOTs.  The bike also came with the original V5 registration document and Jamie had no problems registering it in Ireland.

Where do you start with a project like this?  I am trying to put myself in Jamie's position when looking at this.  When have I ever been faced with a project so daunting?  Oh, hang on, I have teenage boys and sometimes I venture into their bedrooms - so comparison found, on we go.

"The restoration began very soon after picking up all the bits and pieces.  The first thing I did was to try and get the engine running as I wanted to make sure it was in ok condition.  I learned this lesson from the CB200.  So I got the few bits and pieces that I needed just to get it running and got it started with relative ease.  I did have a problem with the points at first as one set wasn't making contact so it was only firing up on two cylinders.  These were only the crappy points that were on it when I got it so it was understandable.  Once this was sorted though it ran pretty good so I decided it would be worthwhile going ahead with the restoration.

After this I stripped the whole thing down to nothing and started working on getting the frame and any other bits I could stripped and cleaned and ready for painting.  I got the frame hubs, top and bottom yokes done over a few weeks.  I then got nice new chrome rims and chrome spokes.  I got the wheels re-laced and trued myself, my first time doing this and it probably took about 12 hours in total per wheel done over a week or so in my free time.  New bearings and the wheels were ready.

I then started on the forks, new seals and new stanchions and polished up the fork lower legs to a chrome like finish, once these were done I then put together a rolling frame.

After this I just worked on it bit by bit and started to add more and more to the frame over time when I could afford to buy parts for it.  I bought a lot of the parts brand new as a lot of the time there wasn't a whole lot of difference in price between second hand parts that mightn't be in good condition and new parts, which were perfect.  I cleaned every connection on the wiring harness and had to solder on a few wires, which had previously been just cut off by somebody.  I had to take apart the handlebar controls and solder on all new wires as again these had just been cut off by somebody previously.  All the electrics themselves are the original parts, the regulator, rectifier, etc.

I got the engine soda blasted and then painted it myself, which then was another thing done and in the frame.  New genuine chrome mudguards front and back, which set me back a small fortune.  I got the reproduction header pipes and exhaust to keep the original look.  I wanted a chrome taillight bracket like the American models so I was able to pick one up online along with the larger taillight to go with it.  I decided also to use the American style indicators, whichI prefer and so had to pick up an American headlight bracket and rear stems to accommodate these.  All new genuine Honda throttle, clutch, speedo and tacho cables and then some Goodrich stainless steel braided front brake hoses.

At this stage I decided to have a go at painting the tank and side panels black myself using spray cans.  It worked out fairly ok but with everything else being brand new and shiny I just needed to have them look perfect as well so a few months later I got them professionally sprayed and this really finished off the bike.

I was as this stage now where the bike was roadworthy in about December 2011 but I decided to leave off getting it insured until February 2012 when the weather was getting better and my insurance was due for renewal anyway.  I was really getting excited to finally get to drive it properly on the road and February couldn't come round fast enough for me.  So, eventually it came round and the bike was put on the road.  It ran very well but I was having one problem with the clutch slipping so I decided to just go ahead and replace the clutch at this stage again after having put so much into it.  Once this was done there was just  a small bit of adjusting with the carbs and it was running very well and I put a few hundred miles up on it over the summer 2012.

One problem I was having though was with starting so after a bit of investigation I decided it may be a bit poor on the compression side of things.  Time for a top end rebuild.  So I picked up a big bore kit online and over the Christmas of 2012 I tore down the top end of the engine myself and had the bores machined to take the bigger pistons.  I lapped the valves and git it all back together and she fired right up no problems.  So I got it run in this year and put up about a thousand miles on it over the summer.  I did get Hagon shocks for it too this summer and they have made a huge difference in the handling of the bike.  I had just picked up a set of cheap shocks online previously so this and they were rubbish.

It is now finished and on the road but I still end up doing more and more jobs to it the whole time.

The restoration from start to the bike being in a roadworthy condition took about a year and a half.  In total it cost a bit over €3000.  After putting so much time, effort and money into it, the bike will stay with me for some time yet."

Jamie with his CB400F2, his dad with his CB350F and Jamie's uncle

You can read more about Jamie's restoration on the following links:

There is a Photobucket account with about 200 photos from doing this restoration.

And a project thread on the SOHC4 forum.

Monday, 16 September 2013

From CB400/F Frame to Chevy Camaro!

Well, that's not strictly true but there is a link, which will become clearer as you read on (although I'm sure Bumblebee can become whatever he wants (sub-bracket to explain that Bumblebee is the Chevy in Transformers)).

I like to read about your restorations, not only because I am in awe of your skills but also I like the stories behind the headlines.  For example, my last entry was about Steven from Norfolk who spent his childhood working on bikes and bulldozers with his dad.  Then there was Ian Fife whose passion for bikes goes back to 1961 when he was only 16 years old.  Lets not forget Dom, a 17 year old restoring his CB400F that he can't even ride until a few years time.

Today you are reading about Corey Chandler, a 21 year old who caught the bug from his dad who was a hot rod and motorcycle enthusiast.  Corey helped his dad restore his muscle cars (I feel another bracket coming on - you may know what a muscle car is but do you know what a pony car is?  I didn't until I looked up what muscle cars were).  When Corey was 10 he began riding dirt bikes and started to do all the maintenance needed on the bikes himself.  At 21 he is now a dab hand at working with cars, dirt bikes and motorcycles in general.

Corey has a 1976 Honda CB400/F Supersport, which he bought in 2012 from a neighbour.  It hadn't run in over 15 years and was in a bit of a state.


The project was for Corey and his father to turn the bike into a cafe racer.  His dad wanted to make it all original because the first motorcycle he ever bought was a ......yellow 1976 Honda CB400/F Supersport.  I think fate may have had a hand in this.  His dad bought his bike brand new when he was just 17 years old.  Between them they decided to keep some original features but with Corey getting to make the modifications that he wanted to as well.

The handlebars, tank, side-covers, headlight and most of the other parts were kept original but the seat is a custom foam seat with a leather cover giving it the appearance of a single seat just like the cafe racer style.  

Corey removed the large blinkers, tail lights and fenders and put bar-end mirrors on the back. The rear fender was simply cut down smaller and rounded.  A new, smaller tail light will be put on the bike.  

The rest of the bike was cleaned up, polished and made new again.  Corey uses the word "just" here.  "Just cleaned up".  I know from visiting Steven's workshop (and seeing the pictures above) that this in itself is a huge task.  The wheels were re-laced and painted black and new tyres were purchased.  The exhaust headers were wrapped in fibreglass wrap, and the muffler was cut down shorter and hollowed out.

So the link between the Camaro and Corey's CB400/F?

The tank was repainted as close to the factory yellow as he could find - using the yellow that is used on the 2010 newer Chevy Camaros.

Corey began tearing down the bike in December 2012 and now in September 2013 - the bike is nearly finished.  The carbs need to be fine-tuned after rebuilding.  Also the rear tail light needs to be wired in and mounted, then just a few more shake down rides and ensuring everything is safe to be riding and it will completed.

I always ask the question "will you keep the bike?".  Oh yes, it's here to stay.