Monday, 10 November 2014

Read All About It!

Take a look on the DSS website at the brilliant articles written about the CB400F restoration programme (et alia).  Articles by Classic Motorcycle Mechanics, Practical Sportsbikes, Classic Bike, Bike, MCN, Classic Bike Guide, our local East Anglian Daily Times and Ultimate Motorcycling dot com.


Latest CB400F off the blocks.

Read the Manual!

You may remember Kerry Cornish (Red Paint Makes Bikes Go Faster).  She is our CB400F1 restorer from Australia.  She restored an old Varnish Blue F1 into a beautiful Candy Antares Red.

Kerry has been undertaking some more restorations to the bike and has contacted me to let me know how things have been going.

Hi Jacqui,

Long time since I have posted anything to you about my 400, these last couple of weeks we have been doing some minor restorations to the bike. 

The most obvious one is the header pipes. As you can see from the before pics they were a very unhappy set of pipes. These I am led to believe are the original pipes and are extremely rusty, dented and scratched. Dents and scratches were done by the previous owner(s) not me. I don't know how many owners this bike has had. 

I bought new headers from Motad(UK) a while ago and have just been able to put them on. It was not easy either! When I bought the bike it came with a gasket set, which was minus a head gasket, but had exhaust gaskets.  Unfortunately they were too small so we had to reuse the old ones. I cleaned them up and refitted them.  We fitted the pipes but OH dear!  Something was wrong with the way the collars looked. A check of another 400 we have, found that they were in fact the wrong way around! So off came the fins and we turned them the correct way. ( It does pay to look up the workshop manual also). So much better fitting. Start the engine - there's a ticking sound! Loose gasket! tightened up -  all's good!. Tacho cable was replaced. Trying to remove the old rubber was interesting! Dean used a skewer to pierce the rubber and to  be able to remove it. He said the manual won't show anything! Yes it did, but too late he had already butchered the rubber which was okay as I had a new one!

Fuel filter was replaced after I was having heaps of trouble starting the bike and in general riding. We thought the battery was crook so I  bought a C-Tek battery charger which can be left on the bike permanently. Still having trouble. Check the plugs - they're fine. Dean said it sounded like the bike's not getting enough fuel. Removal of the fuel filter found it to be nearly totally blocked! New one fitted. On  rides the bike kept hesitating and lacked power. We then  drained the carbs and found they were also blocked with fine rusty bits. I am going out today, Saturday 13th, for a ride, to test whether the bike has more power than it did. Here's hoping! I also replaced the spark plug caps which was probably one of the easiest jobs.

The toughest problem and the hardest to track down is the minor oil leak. We can't find out where it's coming from. Head has been checked and tensioned, all bolts checked and tightened. The leak is not major and only drops when out riding - my boots get a light splattering of oil, mostly the right hand side but that could be from blowback. It only loses about 2 desertspoons in 4 -  5 months, it's just a nuisance we cant track it down. We have degreased the engine twice now and cleaned it off but still  nothing definite.

I have attached some before and after pics of the header pipes and a couple of the pipes after our first ride on Friday 12th, and as you can see they are going a golden/blue colour which I expected as they are a thinner metal than the original. I have sprayed the inners of the pipes with a heat proof paint.
No matter what - my CB400 still draws attention .At the service station before our ride on Friday 12th to check if the pipes discolour, a guy asked me about the bike. Apparently he had a blue one and a CB750 years ago and is getting the itch again to buy one. I encouraged him to do it.

My 400 is so nice and shiny now. Still love it.


Thursday, 3 July 2014

The Things I Used To Have Time To Do

Have you ever got rid of something because you had to because of financial or other circumstances?  I have; a foot spa.  I was bought one for Christmas about twelve years ago.  I used it for a while and I loved it.  Those warm bubbles danced playfully between my toes.  Heaven was only a jug full of warm water away.  Then....I had my third child and the foot spa soon found its way to the back of the garage and then on to the charity shop.  The memory of those bubbles was assigned to the "things I used to have time to do" box.

Fast forward twelve years - and suddenly the urge is there again.  I started to crave that feeling again.  But there was more than just wanting a foot spa - it was a much deeper appreciation of the whole experience.  I went for a Champney's Massaging Bubble Action Deluxe Foot Spa - with infra red heat.

Did I nearly lose you there?  On to my clever link to the CB400F.

In 1978, George Frederick (Fred) bought a Honda CB400F for his 19th birthday.  Fred paid the grand sum of £958 for his purchase from Tom Cowies in Newcastle, and using my historic inflation calculator [tap, tap, tap] I can tell you that that is the same as £4,773 in today's money, which is about the going rate for a restored one now.


The registration number was UNL 903T so if you have one festering away in your garage, check the number plate.  Fred added the Rickman top half fairing (painted himself to match the tank) and dropped bars.  He also added the Cibie headlight ("de regueur on a 400-4 in those days to replace the factory candle"), Girling rear shocks and Lucas electronic ignition kit.

Unlike in 2014 licence regs were very simple in the mid 1970's.  You applied for a provisional licence at 17, bought anything up to a 250cc and then rode it home.  Fred remembers passing his test as a "20 minute ride around the block with an examiner on foot pulling you in to issue the next instruction".  "L" plates were thrown in the nearest bin and the ride home was via the motorway if possible "just because you could".  The next step then was to buy any bike available that you could afford the payments for and then finally "try really hard not to kill yourself (many people failed this one)".

I asked Fred if he felt able to handle the bike at 19.  "People I knew borrowed a mate's bikes for the test then persuaded their parents to buy them the latest super bike if they were rich enough.  Most were killed or seriously injured within a month.  I never really wanted anything other than a 400-4 then; I stared at the brochure every day.  I was sure I could handle it, I was 19, I could have handled Barry Sheene's GP500 no problem!"

Fred circa 1980 at an old airfield near Morpeth where the local loonies used to show off.  "This was as brave as I got".
Taken near Coventry during the NEC bike show.  The other bike is a Suzuki GS550.  The helmet is a Barry Sheene Replica.
This race bike was on the Yamaha stand at the NEC and was Kenny Roberts' GP World Championship winning bike from 1980.
The CB400-4 was Fred's second bike.  His first was a Honda CB200, bought new in August 1976 for £498 on the road [tap, tap, tap], £3131 in today's money.  This was traded in for the CB400-4.

Fred's CB200 in 1976
Fred's next bike after his CB400-4 was a Honda CB900-F2B registration KBB 168X.  This was bought new in August 1981 (he doesn't mention the price on this one) and was kept for 10 years.  Fred sold this bike to pay for a new kitchen.  I can use a different calculator for this one - Fred was 19 in 78 so when the bike was sold in 91 he would have been 32 (other things to spend your money on I think).

Fred's CB900-F2B circa 1981
Fred's life story in bikes continues in 2000, when he purchased a Suzuki Bandit 600, which was then traded in for a Fireblade in 2003, which he still owns.

Full Circle

Fred recently purchased a fully restored CB400F from David Silver Spares.  One from the well publicised mass restoration project.  It was only bought in March this year so the relationship with this bike has only just started.  Fred has already done a bit of his own work on the bike and plans to do some of the remaining stuff himself when it take his fancy.

"[The bike] attracts a lot of misty eyed comments from men of a certain age.  I'm not a mechanic, I'm a time-served engineer, however when I started riding bikes as an apprentice you learned very quickly how to fettle them.  No diagnostic software then!".

So, what attracts "men of a certain age" back to the CB400F?

"I bought this one as it was the only bike I ever regretted selling, also I'm at that age and fortunate enough to have some disposable income to let me indulge my mid-life crisis".  There certainly are plenty of benefits of "knocking on a little bit".

Fred doesn't have any plans for the bike other than to enjoy all over again "the things I used to have time to do".

The original 400F back in 1978

The restored CB400F outside the same garage in 2014

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Hang on a minute....that's not a CB400F!

 No, it isn't.  This is a beautifully restored C110 (with a little Robin Redbreast on the handlebars).  I am sharing this with you for a very important reason.

This bike is owned by a customer of DSS, Paul Duley.  This bike started off looking like this:

Paul bought this bike last year as a non-runner.  He has completely stripped it and rebuilt it (engine included).  I am sure you'll agree that he has done an absolutely fantastic job.

Paul contacted us recently and shared the story of the restoration and the reasons behind it, which I will share with you now.

Paul's father is suffering from advanced prostate cancer.  Support and awareness of prostate cancer has been gaining momentum over the last couple of years, starting with the broadcast of the Sledgehammer fund featuring Bill Bailey, followed by John Culshaw.  Most of us are more aware of the illness now, with the Blue Man badges having been in the M&S shops for several years.  In fact Blue Man Group promote the Blue Man badges at their concerts, helping raise funds for Prostate Cancer UK.

Most people who have experienced first hand a loved one suffering from any type of serious illness such as cancer will tell you that they feel compelled to give something back to a system that is so supportive and full of wonderful people; to thank nursing staff.   Paul's most valuable source of help and advice has been Prostate Cancer UK.  He wanted to give something back and help raise awareness, and funds, for them.  Paul considered a number of ways to raise awareness and funds before settling on a challenging project. 

50 years ago his father, and 5 friends, entered the 1964 ACU National Road Rally on a fleet of C110s.  They wanted the challenge of doing the event (600 miles in 24 hours) on a bike of smaller capacity than their British bikes.  They were very successful, being the 2nd placed team and with most team members achieving Gold awards. 

Paul's fund-raising venture involved finding a Honda C110 to restore and having done this he intends to repeat his father's achievement.  I'll let you read his story in his own words here but please, if you can, support his fundraising in any way you can by donating or simply share his story.

Paul's Blog

Paul's Fund-raising Page

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Anything you can do, I can do......just as good!

Classic Bike Magazine have supported DSS's CB400F restoration project from the start. 

Their issue in February 2012 heralded the purchase of 50 CB400Fs from up and down the country (the final figure was far more than this).  You can read the article here

MCN had already run a small article themselves in January 2012 - read it here.

The restoration project evoked further media interest when the dry humoured presenter of Top Gear, James May, purchased one of the restored Cb400Fs.  He arrived in Suffolk with a photographer and journalist from the Classic Bike magazine and they then ran a very large article on "Why I had to buy a 400 Four" - you can read that article here.

James May collects his bike from David Silver Spares in Leiston
So, here comes Classic Bike Magazine again.   They are going to run a 6-8 month series on restoring their own CB400F, featuring the Parakeet Yellow bike below as the background to their project.  Their final bike may be slightly customized. There will be loads of useful tips on engine rebuilds etc so well worth following. 

I am looking forward to following the project with great excitement and I have today emailed the journalist who will be writing the articles to ask him to let me know how the project will be run and whether it will be just in the magazine or online too.  I'll let you know when I know.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Another one flies the nest

It's always sad when something you have loved and nurtured flies the nest - all those wonderful memories when your little beauty came home bruised and battered and you fixed them up as good as new is enough to bring a tear to your eye.....................................well, that's not how the mechanics feel at DSS! 

It is a wonderful feeling to see something that came in bruised and battered leave the workshop as a truly magnificent piece of art.  Our mechanics stand very proud with chests puffed out as they say goodbye to another successful restoration and they walk back into the workshop to start a new one.  They are the Nanny McPhees for needy CB400Fs (but without the mole).


This is the latest CB400F to leave the DSS warehouse.  This beautiful parakeet yellow with pinstripes went to a customer in Dartmoor in Devon.  This was one of the Parakeet Yellow bikes that DSS has acquired during the restoration project (pic below).  I could probably tell you where the above bike originated but haven't got any documents handy.

David delivered the bike himself and too the opportunity to have a couple of days away with the wife and daughter (being spotted at South Mimms service station by a customer). 

The bike was restored by our trusted mechanic Steve Last in his workshop.  The bike was bought by a customer in his mid-70's who used to work at Lloyds of London.  I don't imagine it will be ridden a lot, he bought it to replace his very heavy 1959 BMW when he goes out on club outings.  Once a biker always a biker - you just have to ride a more suitable bike as your body ages.

The customer saw another yellow CB400F ready to go out when he visited the DSS offices to place his order some months ago.  His instruction to David: "I want it to look like that one".  On delivering it David says that the customer's instant reaction was "yes, it's at least as good as the last one I saw".

1959 BMW
Of course it wasn't just simply a couple of days away, he also took the opportunity to collect a virtually brand new ST70 from near Southampton.  This will be added as a museum piece (another huge project that David is now working on).

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Virtually Helpful

So I joined the Single Over-Head Cam 4 Forum today.  I recognise some of the names on there from the DSS page.  I also recognise some of the bikes from previous Blog entries (hi Jamie Fitzharris).

It's great to go to a place where so many people have one thing in common, their love for a particular item/topic/place, etc.  It's easy to understand why people congregate to share their passion (except caravaners - who really understands the Caravan Club?).

Joining a group gives you a source of help and advice and an opportunity for friendship.  Lots of groups on Facebook offer the chance of riders meeting up for a day out on the open road.  Granted, you never know who you're going to meet up with.  That guy who constantly offers you invaluable advice could just be an annoying geek who has nothing else to share with you but, who knows, there may just be some good friends to make.

All I have to do now is find a group where I can learn how to change the time on my cooker and share stories of the lost hours over a glass of virtual wine.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Pillions with a spring in their step

The top CB400F was restored by our builder, Charlie Ridgeon.  He rode it up recently.  The engine has been stove enamelled and virtually all of our pattern parts have been used on this bike.  It is outstanding.

The bottom CB400F was restored by us, engine rebuilt and new primary/cam chains fitted.

Both of these are 76/77 models.  How do we tell?  Well, we can see that the pillion footrests have moved from the swinging arm to new brackets on the frame.  This meant that the passengers didn't look like they were going faster than the rider.  Their legs must have been like jelly by the time they got off the bike.

You will see that the Varnish Blue CB400F in the last post was an earlier model with the foot rests on the swinging arm.

I have to say I think I prefer the swinging arm model.  The pillion gets a more exciting ride than just sitting there.

Monday, 28 April 2014

New Zealand in April?

This is the latest CB400F to leave the DSS warehouse.  Lovingly restored it looks and sounds great.  Although I'm not so sure it's the perfect time on year for to buy a bike in New Zealand.  Their sunny days have drawn to a close and they are just entering into the long horrible winter that now seems a distant memory to us here in England.

What is your favourite stock colour?  The colours to choose from: Ruby Red, Varnish Blue, Parakeet Yellow tanks with black side panels or Candy Antares Red with pinstripes.

Is it important to stick with stock colours?  I mean Spiderman did don a black suit at times and nothing happened.  I have seen a few black CB400Fs and they look great.  We saw a white one in the last Blog entry owned by George Acolina which looks fantastic.  How about a tangerine orange?

Is the colour important?  Very!  Does it have to be stock to be perfect?  Technically, yes but who cares?

Friday, 28 February 2014

Dreams Can Come True

George Acolina shared with me his story of owning his first 400F.  What a great story.

"This bike, along with Karim's yellow 400, were the last batch sold in Gibralter in 78.  The white one was burgundy.  I bought in 79 and paid £825 for it because the owner (a guy in his sixty's) wanted what he had paid for it new £850.  It had 2000km and was in very good condition and such was the demand for these bikes then that everybody wanted one! 

Had a crash racing a Mazda rx7 that spun in front of me and a spinning car stops quicker than a bike, smashed the front end and i landed on my feet after flying over the bonnet unhurt but with my pride and joy with bent forks and dented tank.  I felt that to repair as soon as possible.  

I bought a CB250 front end, painted the tank in white and a week later was on the road again. In 1980 went to Greece from Gibvia Morocco the frontier was closed between Spain and Gib so we had to go to Morocco and from there to spain!!!  This road trip we did with three four fours as we used to call them, two friends and me we crossed Spain, France and Italy and then disaster; one of my friends 400 was smoking like a two stroke.  This was in the middle of August and in Italy everything closes in that month.  I remember they were playing the World Cup and Naples seemed like a ghost town.  We had stripped the engine in the camping site; the rings had broken scratching the cylinders we were looking for spare parts but every dealer in Italy seemed closed.  We found a place that had a smashed up 350 four and bought the top end with no new gasgets.  We repaired the engine in two days and soon it was running again but still smoking my friend threw in the towel and returned in train back home only to find out that after running for a couple of days the smoke disappeared.  It was the oil in the exhaust.  Me and other friend Eddie finished our plans and went up to Greece and came back home safe and sound.

I had the white bike til 1982 when i sold it and bought a Ducati Pantha 600 from UK and Eddie bought a BMW RS600 but that's another story. 

After I sold the bike it was smashed up completely in an accident and I always remembered that four four.  Years later I found a side panel off the white bike in the police compound and have kept it for years thinking maybe one day I could have one again.  Last year I threw it away thinking I'd never have one these bikes again - until i found out about you people, and it all came back.  I wanted one again.  The red bike I was looking in Facebook opened a page of cars and bikes for sale and there was my baby.  I called the guy and he had bought it in UK and brought it over registering it in Gibraltar.  The next day I tested and bought it.  It belonged to a lady for the past 28 years and now it belongs to me! So sometimes if you wish enough your Dreams Come true?"

Tensioning the Camchain

If you find that you cannot tension the camchain on your CB400F, this could be one reason. A loose cam chain gouges out the hinge on the tensioner arm so it cannot freely move.
Here is our solution to the problem:


The CB400F Bug

Visited one of our customers today to take him a 400four for his next project. He's already building one, but the quality of parts we are supplying enthused him to have another go, plus he really enjoyed the experience! He also has a rather splendid Triumph cruiser.

The Latest CB400F to roll out of DSS

This is the latest CB400F that Dean has proudly completed. It was acquired in a rather poorly state, smoking on high revs and a crossed spark plug thread. The engine has been stripped down to to crankcases, barrels and rings changed. The head was heli-coiled by John Appletons, a vehicle engineers next door. The bike was on display at the recent London M/Cycle show Feb 2014.  Around £1500 worth of our replica and genuine parts have been fitted. The exhaust is a genuine Honda one that has been re-chromed. — at David Silver Spares.

CB400F Restoration Fever Spreads

Our own builder, Charlie, seeing all our CB400F's, decided that he would have a go at restoring one himself; here is the result.  This is a meticulous ground up restoration, parts came from us at David Silver Spares.


What do you get when you cross a Crazy Mechanic with an almost new CB400F?

Karim Lopez, pictured here in 1979 visited us at the MCN show February 2014.  He showed me these photo's and kindly agreed to share the story behind the bike. 
"I remember Pink Floyd's wall concert in 1981 as I was there.

This was the last CB400F to arrive in Gibraltar in 1978 before the introduction of the Honda 400 Dream which i disliked. Although i was only 16 at the time and couldn't obtain my learners licence i persuaded my father to buy it. The cost was £800.00 approx new and we stored it at the Dockyard Naval Base for almost a year during which time my father would take me nearly every weekend to practice my clutch control and clean it !! ( First Picture).

On the 17th July 1979 the great day arrived and i drove it out ( Second Pic with L Plate on the front fork). I soon managed to clock the first 1000km and took it to the local dealer for it's first service. Disaster was about to happen. When i went to pick it up later that afternoon i was told that the mechanic had test driven it and suffered a serious accident. My gleaming Four Four was a total loss. ( Crazy mechanic broken leg !). I walked back home devastated helmet in hand.

I was offered a 400 Dream in replacement which i declined and after a long struggle i managed to convince them that either they gave me a new CB 400 F which they couldn't obtain or a new CB 650 F (Black) in the showroom. I drove out with the 650. I would later drive this bike from Gibraltar ( closed frontier with Spain) via Tangiers and Algeciras to Earls Court Exhibition London to see Pink Floyd " The Wall" in 1981.

I would later on trade it for the CB 900 F Bol D Or — in
— in Gibraltar, Gibraltar.