Honda 400 Four
Black Beauty returns
Things have recently taken another turn in my long running 400 Four saga - I had a call from my Cousin Neil in Hull recently, asking if I knew anyone who might be interested in buying his 400 four - the one which I sold to him about 8 years ago. This was a very early bike originally sold in Florida and when I registered it with DVLA they gave it an M registration, as they always went back to the beginning of the year of first registration on imports. This has kind of backfired on them now because under the new 40 year rolling program for Historic vehicles, it will be exempt from VED from Jan 2015! There will not be many tax exempt 400 fours about for a while yet. When Neil bought the bike he didn't want the brand new Varnish Blue tank and side panels, preferring instead a set which I had just finished in metallic black with gold pinstriping.
I decided to buy the bike back myself with a view to re-fitting the blue kit and generally tidying the thing up, especially now that I am able to re-finish all of the zinc plated bolts and brackets 'in house' at my leisure.
It still looks good after all of these years with quite a few more miles on. The paint still looks as fresh as when it was done 10 years ago and the chrome is no worse than I remember. The aftermarket rear shockers look a bit long, but other than that it's pretty much as it was. I quite fancy pulling the wheels apart, providing none of the spokes are seized - those and the spoke nipples will clean up a treat and should look rather good re-plated. The rim is not perfect but very acceptable. The engine pulls well but rattles a bit more than I remember and apart from the £200 for seals, gaskets, cam chain and tensioner, I will also enjoy stripping and rebuilding the engine. I have a few new old stock bits lurking around, so they will add to the cosmetic appearance too.
I got our local hauliers to pick the bike up from Hull and it arrived here in Orkney on the following Wednesday, so with a couple of gallons of fuel and a quick check over I rode to Kirkwall and then back with a fresh MOT on the Friday. I'd forgotten just how bad the standard mirrors are - I would much rather see what's about to run over me, than images of my own elbows! Not too sure what I might be able to do about that without it looking like a 'bodge'.
During the recent spell of not particularly good weather, I've spent some time tidying parts of the bike. I re-fitted the Varnish Blue petrol tank and side panels to bring it back to standard. I have also replaced the front indicators with new ones - because I had some! The fork legs were showing small signs of the usual lacquer failure, so I removed the front wheel, mudguard and legs. No need to dismantle them - it was all new stuff before Neil took the bike over, so they just needed the lacquer removing and the alloy re-polishing. Now that the Europrats have interfered, the previously fantastic Nitromors, now just sits there and grins at you, refusing to lift the lacquer. This means that you now have to expend much more of your own energy mechanically removing not only the festering (and very expensive) rubbish you have just applied, but also the untouched finish underneath. I know that we should not be using nasty chemicals, but this is all becoming too much for me - how the hell are you supposed to do anything these days? On the same theme, I used to pride myself on the finish I could achieve on paintwork in the house - not any more though, you can't even rub the undercoat down after leaving it 2 weeks to harden, it just rolls up into sticky balls.
The wheel came apart quite easily, with only 3 spoke/nipple joints needing a bit of heat to remove them. The spokes and nipples cleaned up really well, ready for the plating bath. The rim, whilst not concours is still in very good condition. I cleaned and polished the hub, then re-plated the spindle, spacers and disc bolts. The disc needed nothing more than a quick clean in the lathe and a few bits of paint touching up.
I've also re-plated quite a few of the nuts and bolts while I was doing the spokes and nipples. It sounds time consuming - but not as bad as you might think, you can get on with other jobs during the pickling and plating processes.
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