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A Honda CL90 swallowed whole… in a PT Cruiser!

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For many vintage Honda enthusiasts there is always a stirring to “recreate the past” or find that “first bike” again, to capture those moments of youth that now seem so long ago. The phrase, You Can't Go Home Again (the title of a novel by Thomas Wolfe) is oft-repeated, but never seems to be accepted by many motorcyclists that I know. My very first motorcycle was a 1967 CL90 Honda Scrambler, which has been featured in my personal story, riding it on a 1500-mile journey in just 3 days. In reality, I only owned the bike for perhaps 3 months, before trading it off for a 1956 Ford Wagon, so I could drive to my job at Shelby American, adjacent to the LAX airport.

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The bike did serve me well, obviously, running at near full throttle for 12-16 hours a day at temps down near 20 degrees. The efficient engine was getting right at 100 mpg and used perhaps a half quart of oil during the grueling trek up the back of California’s Hwy 395, then across the I-80 and finally down the 101 to Los Angeles. Just like your first love, you always remember your first motorcycle. Having owned more than 300 cars, trucks and motorcycles, I am not sure that I have owned a second CL90 until last weekend. They always look better than they really are, especially in Craigslist postings, but this one only had 4600 miles showing on the speedometer and the front tire appeared to be the original, so it seems to reinforce the mileage shown. It had been down once or twice, bending the brake pedal, handlebars, levers and scratching up the front edge of the chromed fender.

More signs of distress were seen on the end of the right side throttle grip and at the muffler heat shield, which had self-destructed for the most part. All the cables appeared to be original, gray and cracked. A gnarly knobby tire was mounted on the rear wheel and the chain guard was just about to fall off, due to lack of mounting hardware. A battery had been installed with a sheared off vent hose fitting, so the inside of the battery box area and just beneath it on the frame were all eaten up with battery acid. A mirror stem was broken off in the left side handlebar switch, which might have required switch replacement if not extracted successfully. The tail light was a “generic” Honda CB77 series, mounted on the correct bracket, but the tail light was supposed to be the oval type on the specific bracket, which has a different bolt hole pattern than the early style unit.

On the plus side, the gas tank was straight and pretty clean inside. The seat looked quite good, but when it was removed there was some junk yard yellow lettering on the pan, misidentifying it as a CT90 seat. The engine seemed to have good compression and the carburetor/air filter box was all the original parts. Even the headlight shell was still intact with a clean speedometer securely mounted in place. It did have a title from S. Dakota, but the whole transaction had occurred more than a year ago. The owner had purchased the bike long-distance with his college-age daughter in mind, who indicated that she wanted a “classic-looking” motorcycle to commute around on campus. Unfortunately, it only took one look for her to decide that this bike was not for her. So, Dad gets stuck with an unwanted bike, which has resided in his office for the past year.

After some evaluation and discussions, we made a deal and the next task was to get the bike back home, some 40 miles away. I mentioned that I was driving my PT Cruiser and thought that the bike might fit into the back, considering that I had removed the rear seat set prior to the visit. Generally, the bike hauler of choice is a 1995 F150 Ford with an 8’ bed. The truck belonged to my step-father who hauled bricks, dirt and lumber for almost 20 years, before he passed away in 2008. The neighbor wanted to buy it for his own hauling and promised to make it available to anyone in the neighborhood who needed it. The Ford gets 16mpg on a good day, while the PT gets mileage more in the low 20s. I felt confident that the PT would carry the CL90 with some ease, even if I had to remove the wheels, so it was the vehicle of choice for the 80 mile round trip adventure.

I had brought along some basic tools, which allowed me to remove the seat, tank and loosen the handlebars, so they could be rolled downwards, lowering the overall height of the bike. With a borrowed measuring tape, it appeared that the bike would indeed fit right in, so with two of his lifting the sub-200lb machine up, one wheel at a time, the bike slid into the back end of the car with the front wheel wedged between the outer edge of the passenger seat and the door panel. I relocated the rear wheel end at a slight angle and the rear hatch closed right down missing the tail light by a few inches. The Scrambler was swallowed whole without a hiccup! Rounding up some muscle from my neighbor, once I returned home, the PT disgorged the little Scrambler and the trip came to a successful end.

Stay tuned for the next CL90 installment.

Bill “MrHonda” Silver

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