It started out with the sale of my 1961 CB77 to a friend up in the Bay Area. It was to be a straight-up sale and that, coupled with the pending sale of the 1963 CB77 project bike, which was built up from a parts bike, should have been the final chapter in my down-sizing of CB77 bikes and parts. The 1963 bike is to be picked up at the end of June, by the new owners who are driving down from WA State to take delivery of the bike and associated parts.
The day after the 1961 deal was struck, an unexpected Craigslist posting had a 1965 CB77 “complete project” bike listed for sale, mostly disassembled. After refusing to consider even inquiring about the bike for 24 hours, my curiosity overcame my good sense and a reply was sent to the CL ad. A quick reply gave some info about the bike and how “complete” it really was. I have been hunting for an affordable set of OEM mufflers for Lea Dennis’ 1963 CB77, which has been resting at Casa de Honda for the past week, since the fateful Borrego Springs desert trip. After the blown fuse/leaking fuel tank repairs were completed, the bike has been waiting to be reunited with its lovely owner. The bike was originally built on a budget (from another parts bike) and the exhaust system was a mix of aftermarket mufflers/header pipes which didn’t tuck in as well as the originals, so Lea was constantly dragging them in tight corners. The 1965 project bike did have used OEM mufflers, but one sounded like it was kind of beat-up from a crash, according to the owner.
The 1965 bike was up in Vista, CA, a good hour’s drive each way. I removed the rear seats from the PT Cruiser and headed up Highway I-15 for the journey to visit this latest find. The owner lived on the end of a LONG, winding, one-lane road, but it was in decent repair so not a hardship on the undercarriage of the PT. Ted, the owner, had too many off-road projects going on simultaneously and knew he would never get around to building the Super Hawk. Ted showed me a photo of him racing a CL77, back when he was seventeen years old and he had acquired a beat-up CL77 project bike that he hoped to put back together one day. He had a long history with wrenching on bikes and cars and even worked at the famous Milne Brother’s bike store in LA, for awhile.
The first order of business was to separate the CB parts from the CL parts which had all been tossed into a couple of plastic bins, years ago. I mentioned that I was pretty savvy about what parts fit which bikes, so we sorted them out, a few at a time, into separate bins. Finally, I was able to determine just how “complete” the CB77 was, in fact. The seat was fits a 1966-67 model, as was the chromed fender set. The 1965 bike was a Type 1 (steel fork) model, so the OEM Type 2 chromed front fender wasn’t going to be a bolt-on proposition. There were some little metal extensions bolted onto the fork housing fender mounting tabs, which apparently helped to secure the Type 2 fender to the Type 1 forks, at some point in time.
The engine cases were emptied out and grimy, but were the matching set to the chassis serial numbers. The cylinder block was missing a sleeve, the camchain rollers were all hardened, as expected and I suspect that more than a few of the hardware fasteners were gone, as well. Still, the speedo-tachometer, showing some 15k miles was in decent shape and the wiring harness still had the ignition switch with a key in place. It was a mix of good, bad and ugly, overall. After some haggling, which included a copy of my History of the Honda Scrambler book and my CL72-77 Restoration guide CD package, we struck a deal and proceeded to load up the rolling chassis and the rest of the parts. The OEM mufflers were sound, but the right one looked pretty scuffed up. The left one was decent and neither one had the baffles installed, which probably kept rust from building up inside the muffler bodies, causing the usual rust out and corrosion damage seen on the chromed steel mufflers from that era. They weren’t pretty, but should give some much-needed ground clearance to Lea’s already lowered CB77, which had shorter rear shocks and a thin, re-contoured leather seat installed.
There were some non-OEM medium riser handlebars on the bike, so we just loosened up the mounting clamps and rolled the bars down as low as possible. With no engine in the frame and no fenders installed, the chassis rolled into the PT Cruiser’s rear compartment and nestled into a comfortable place, behind the passenger seat. The rest of the parts were packed in around the chassis and we were ready to drive back home for a closer inspection of all the parts in the bins.
The last 1963 CB77 project bike needed little small parts like the brake pedal return spring, side cover knobs and a few other tidbits, which the 1965 bike had available. The 65 bike had rusty rims and spokes, some frame welding where the battery box and rear fender mount come together and was generally a rough piece to deal with. Obviously, I “could” bring it back to life again, but with the missing parts and damage to the rest of it, I am choosing to part it out and sell/recycle the remaining leftovers.
The mufflers were cleaned as much as possible, then installed on Lea’s 1963 CB77. Transferring her makeshift exhaust system onto the 1963 project bike proved to be challenging, as the Thai-made header pipes have several incorrect bends, resulting in the left header pipe rubbing up against the back of the fender, when the forks were compressed from just sitting on the bike to go riding! Reusing a pitted and rusty OEM CB77 header pipe cleared up the interference issue. This problem was noticed at first, when I took it for its first test ride around the block. I couldn’t immediately see what was causing the fork to bind up when the handlebars were turned to the right, so I first checked the steering head bearings to see if somehow a race had suddenly shifted in the steering head of the frame. The bearings were snugged up a bit, but then the problem arose once again. Finally I discovered the fender/header interference problem and fixed that issue. The engine sounded strong, but when I revved it up a little in the lower gears, the clutch started to slip.
The day before, on Saturday, my friend Mike in Coronado, emailed a request for repairs on his 1962 CB77 Super Hawk, which I had done some service work on a few months earlier. There were oil leaks and gasoline leaks this time, so he dropped the bike off Saturday just after noon. The shift shaft seal was leaking, along with the clutch cover, so the muffler was removed to access the clutch cover and new seals and gaskets installed. The carbs were checked for leaking float valves or inaccurate float levels, however all seemed okay there. The bike has an optional sidestand and some of them allow the bike to lean quite a ways over, which can cause the float valves to become unseated, allowing fuel to run out the float bowl overflow tubes, if the petcock hasn’t been shut off, which is what I believe happened in this case. A test ride was successful regarding performance and leak-checking the left engine cover, but when the bike was parked on the centerstand, engine oil was dripping down the right side centerstand leg, from beneath the kickstarter cover.
Removing the right side exhaust, this time, the kickstarter cover removal was accomplished and there were signs of the now-infamous crankcase seam leak, which occurs between the output shaft and the kickstarter shaft seal areas. I had forgotten about trying to address this before, but was reminded when the chain and front sprocket was removed. There was the remains of an old RTV patch that was plastered into the joint area, in hopes that it would prevent further oil leaks for awhile. The real solution is to pull the motor and split the cases, so that the case halves can be properly cleaned and resealed. There is an actual Honda tech service bulletin that mentions persistent oil leaks from that area and the possibility that the cases were not sealed properly at the factory.
So, back to Sunday morning and I am back into another clutch cover removal to ascertain the cause of the clutch slipping issues. I noticed that the clutch lever had a very light pull to it, when the engine was installed and the cable adjusted. Being a 1963 bike, the parts were a mix of old and new items, here and there. The outer pressure plate was a late model version with angled drain holes. The inner clutch hub was for the early 6-plate system, modified with a thinner friction and steel plate pair, which allowed the use of the clutch plate retainer spring wires. Those wires are crucial for easy clutch release to facilitate finding neutral at rest when the engine is running. The rest of the clutch pack was a later model 5-plate set, but the stack height was a little bit shorter than normal. When the stack height is too short, the pressure place will bottom out on the inner hub splines before the springs can fully compress the clutch pack. This may have been the case here, so I added an extra thin friction plate into the center of the clutch pack and found some heavier springs to help clamp them all together. Lever pull was slightly increased, but still well within normal range. Once it was all buttoned up, the test ride proved that the mods had worked well, with no more clutch slipping in any gear.
So, by the end of the morning, there were three black 1962-63 CB77s in the driveway, plus the skeleton of the 1965 bike tucked away in the shop, which was also a black bike. Two of the three bikes should be gone by mid-week, with the 1963 project bike awaiting CHP inspection on Wednesday. Lea’s bike will go onto the truck with the other 1963 machine, so they can both go at once and only one will return. I left a message to Mike about the engine oil and fuel leak work, but he has mentioned wanting to sell that bike, so he can get something faster to keep up with his AirHead BMW friends who go out for fast mountain rides on the weekends. His parting words were “See if you can find a buyer for it,” so it may or may not be gone this week.
When I made the deal with my friend Matt for the 1961 CB77, the next day he messaged me back to say that he had a black 1964 CB77 “hot rod” bike for sale, which had been built/restored in the 1970s and never put into regular service. The bike featured NOS 1-piece exhaust systems, polished out hubs and brightwork, new paint and a WEBCO-equipped 350cc piston kit with the H/C roller camshaft setup installed. We wrangled a bit on the price and then I agreed to buy it, just so I could see how fast a 350cc Super Hawk really is. The problem was that the bike was in Oakland, CA a good 500 miles from San Diego.
Paul, the WA-state buyer of the 1963 CB77 mentioned coming down to San Jose at the end of June, for a trip and then driving down to pick up the bike, here in San Diego. With my mental wheels turning as fast as they can, I proposed that Paul pick up the 1964 bike from Matt and bring it down with him. Paul’s 1963 bike was missing a few parts, which I had just acquired from Ted, so the trade-off was that his bike would be more complete with the additional parts that he wouldn’t have to purchase after buying the bike. Paul agreed to the plan, so at the end of the month, a 1964 350cc CB77 will join the W650 Kawasaki and the 1963 project bike will go back to Washington State.
So, by the end of the month, six different CB77s will have come and gone from my shop (five black ones and one blue one) and I will be exactly where I was two months ago. One CB77 and one W650 Kawasaki in my limited fleet of vehicles, except the 1961 CB77 will be replaced by the 350cc CB77. With pending knee surgery coming up in October, even the hotrod CB77 will probably go back on the auction block, but I am looking forward to experiencing the full effect of a “big-bore, roller cam” CB77 Super Hawk for a couple of months. That would be the perfect bike if it had one of the Nova 5-speed street transmissions installed, wouldn’t it?
If anyone needs parts from a 1965 CB77, let me know! That one will need to be gone in the next few weeks, as well. It is very weird that the harder I try to let go of the vintage 305s, the more of them show up in my life. Next week, a man from Orange County wants to bring down a CL360, which has 900 original miles on it, so I can get it running again for him. The beat goes on…
Bill “MrHonda” Silver