The Quest for a Honda CB550
I've had some great rides out on my CB 350 Four this year and it's a delightful little bike for the roads here in Orkney and even an occasional sortie down to Caithness and Sutherland - in many ways actually better than my CB 400 Four which has too much of a sporty riding position for me with rear-set footrests and low handlebars plus a rather unnecessary 6 speed gearbox. With these shortcomings in mind I decided to see if I could perhaps find a suitable CB 550 Four, for times when I want to go a bit further afield. My life-long friend David Durham bought a brand new one back in 1977, a metallic maroon F2 - the last version they made. I seem to remember him paying for it with the entire contents of his 1 gallon Bells whisky bottle full of coins after he broke it open!
As is usual, I trawled the web and found quite a few for sale but many were 'mongrels' made up of parts from different model years or an occasional pristine low mileage example turned up with a very high price tag to match. I just happened to see one on eBay - also a mongrel and shared the details with the folks on the excellent SOHC/4 UK forum which I have been a member of for a good few years, just to see what they thought. One of the very well respected members (James) on the forum posted a couple of pictures of one he had and asked if it might be of interest to me. It's a US import 1976 model year 550 F1 version built in June 1975 and in very acceptable, mostly original and unmolested condition - quite rare for a machine approaching 50 years old! This is the kind of bike I like to have a go at - I'm not wanting a 'trailer queen' but something useable and very presentable.
I was very happy with his asking price and the equally reasonable cost of having it brought from near Brighton all the way to Orkney by our excellent couriers, McAdie and Reeve.
These were the first shots I saw of it - it will make a very nice rideable bike.
From the photos the parts needing attention are:
Left hand headlight 'ear' - straighten/repair or replace
Headlight bowl - fill and re-paint
Dress dent from front mudguard
Strip and re-polish fork legs, l/h engine cover/clutch cover (seals and gaskets)
Remove, strip and rebuild carbs - replace all seals
Strip and rebuild front brake caliper
Clean fuel tank
Polish cam caps
Change oil and filter
Replace air filter
Fit points cover (already have one of those)
Later (Winter layup) Jobs:
Refurbish clocks - cases dented, bowls poor
Find an owners handbook or copy
Re-plate wheel spokes
Polish wheel hubs
When it's here 'in the flesh' I know only too well there will certainly be more things to address, there are always things you spot later after you remove the rose-tinted specs but I've done so many bikes and cars in the past, I can live with that. It does have a NOVA certificate but no title, so I will need a dating letter from Honda - usually very straightforward. Then registering with DVLA of course, probably ending up with an 'N' suffix registration. The paint is called Shiny Orange - very imaginative! with the code YR26 R but will only have the small scratches and dings dealt with - no full re-finish for the foreseeable. It can be added to my multi bike policy with Peter James for very little outlay and being well over 40 years old will have Historic status and therefore be free from VED and not need an MOT - although I'll probably take it for one initially.
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