Would I Own One Again?
When I started riding there was a rule here in Queensland that you were restricted to a 250 capacity bike for your first 12 months, after which time you could upgrade to an open class licence and ride whatever you liked. It didn’t matter if it was a Yama-haha cruiser or a Spew-zuki RGV (!), as long it was a 250. Now-days, you can ride up to a 660 as long as it meets the LAMS* restrictions.
One lunchtime at work, I was whingeing about the fact that I would have to get a 250, only to sell it 12 months later when I did the upgrade to open class. Most of my work mates ignored my whingeing, and continued to eat their lunch. Others said I should just get what I want and take the risk.
I’d thought about doing that, taking the risk, but reasoned that the odds of me getting nabbed by the local constabulary on my 120km (75 mile) round trip to work were not in my favor. I was newly wed, and had a mortgage hanging over my head. I needed to keep my job and the money it brought in.
The next day one of the blokes I worked with suggested “Why don’t you build a bike?”
This wasn’t as dumb as it sounded. I could build the thing up over 12 months, learn how it all worked so I could fix it on the side of the road if I had to, and I could start riding an “open” class bike without doing the 250 thing. I just had to be patient.
I decided the idea had merit, and started looking around for a basket case to rebuild. As it turned out I didn’t have to look very hard. Sully, another workmate, came up to me a few days later.
“Hey, I got a bike you can have for $200.” He said.
Suspicious I asked “What’s wrong with it?
“Nothin’ ya can’t fix” was the reply. “I just need to get rid of it, I keep stubbin’ me toe on it”
Sully had sold an old Honda 750 Four K2 to a mate as a going concern six (6) months earlier. The mate had promised to give him the money “next week” and took the bike home. Weeks tuned into months and nothing, no money, no bike, and the mate had shot through.
Sully went around to where his mate used to live in the hope that the bike was still there. It was, but it wasn’t ride-able anymore. The engine had been removed and stripped, and every conceivable part had been removed from the frame. Only the front forks and front wheel were still connected to the frame.
To my new brides horror, I paid Sully the $200 he was asking and took the bike home. I thought she would be excited about my new acquisition… She wasn’t.
I could trace the history of the bike back to the production manager where I worked. He owned it during his army days before he sold it to Sully.
Singlet had heard I bought the bike, and couldn’t help himself but regale me with stories about his time owning it. My favorite tale being the one when he pushed the centre stand down at 100km/h (60mp/h) showering his mates behind him with bright orange sparks.
This explained why I had to rebuild leading edge of the centre stand.
The tank had a huge 40mm (1-1/2″) deep dent just behind the filler cap when I got it. It had been bogged up with filler that had started cracking and was a mess.
I asked him how it happened, but he would only say he had the irrits+ about something and belted it, but wouldn’t elaborate any further.
Over the next 12 months I replaced bearings, repaired stripped threads, de-greased, cleaned, painted and chromed every part of the bike. I was on a budget and could only spend a set amount each week, a bearing here, a gasket there.
I sand blasted the frame after work one day and had it powder coated by the business next door to where I worked. There were a multitude of bits that went to the chrome works, and when I got the rims back I had them re-spoked by a local wheel builder.
The paint work was done by Al, another bloke I worked with, Al tinkered with classic cars and bikes for a hobby. He owned a 55 Chevy and a Harley Shovel that were nothing short of works of art, so I figured he would do a good job on my tank and side covers too.
The engine build was beyond me, I didn’t have the tools or the know how, so I handed that job to a bloke called Phil Mayo. At the time Phil was working for Phase Four on Logan Road Woolloongabba, he later went on to start his own business, Pro Flow, also in Woolloongabba.
Incidentally, Phil built my second bike too, a coffin tank Kawasaki Z1R MKII. But that’s another story.
After about 12 months the bike was complete. It wasn’t a true restoration but it looked a damn sight better than when I got it. The badge work was left off and the tank and side covers were painted dark candy apple red, complete with hand painted black go faster stripes.
The engine was bombed out to 850 with a mild cam. It had Koni adjustable shocks and the front end was off a K7. The bike still had a tenancy to handle like a piece of wet spaghetti so I added a steering damper which settled things down a bit . A new chromed Tranzac exhaust system finished the project.
The first time I rode it to work both Sully and Singlet were surprised at how well it had turned out.
“Giz a go”. Sully asked
I handed Sully the keys and watched him leave, while Singlet and I chatted about the rebuild. About 10 minutes later Sully came back, dismounted, and wandered over to where Singlet and I were sitting.
“How was it?” asked Singlet.
Sully paused for a minute considering his response.
“Well…” He said. It goes hard…. handles like a wet sponge… and doesn’t stop.
Quick a s a flash Singlet chimed in “Maybe you need to see a urologist?”
“The bike!” Sully shot back.
We both knew what Sully meant. It was after all an early ’70 bike, and the frame and brakes were not on par with current technology. The Sling-shot^ had just been released a few years prior and this was the standard by which all bikes would be measured.
I rode the Honda for a little over a year before I sold it to buy the Z1R. I learned not only how to look after the bike, but to respect it, and its limits.
Today a Honda 750 Four is considered a collectible,. It’s not unusual to see semi-restored examples selling for $10,000.
Would I own one again?
Probably not, but I don’t regret my experience with this old classic in the slightest