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Honda’s domestic CL72 Type 2 Scrambler… one of a kind in the U.S.A.

Details about the Japanese version of the classic Honda CL72 Scrambler. As found in the seller's garage after he first got it running.
Details about the Japanese version of the classic Honda CL72 Scrambler. As found in the seller's garage after he first got it running.
Bill Silver

Just when you think you have “been there-done that” with most all of the Honda 250-305cc variants, which for me can include Police Bikes, solo-seat, rotary-gearbox Dreams, and first-year production Scramblers, something new pops up, quite unexpectedly. In preparing my book, “History of the Honda Scramblers” (Silver, 2012), all the data and manuals available helped to shape the story and filled in some gaps in the author’s knowledgebase. One of the reference material items was a Japanese-language Honda Scrambler Parts Manual, which included CL72, CL77 and CL300 editions. Tucked inside one of the production charts was a mention of some Type 2 (360 degree firing) CL72s.

Early US shop manuals showed the Type 2 engine option for 250cc Scramblers, and I have been aware of an early 1964 version, but overall these are very rare bikes to find in this country. In the Japanese CL parts book, it appears to show that the Type 2 engine was available in all years of production, from 1962 through 1965, at least. Generally, the only way that one of these machines turns up in the US is usually due to the actions of a 1960s-era servicemen, who bought one in Japan and had it shipped back when after a transfer or discharge from the service.

While researching the History of the Honda Scrambler book, I interviewed Dave Ekins (who was test-riding early pre-production models) and he stated that American Honda needed to make a decision about whether to bring in Type1 or Type2 models and asked him for guidance. Because the Type2 engines have more pumping losses at high rpms, he recommended that AHMC only bring in the Type1 powered machines which produced more power overall, even in stock form. Rather than bring in both, requiring extra parts inventories, the decision was made to stick with the Type1 models for US consumption.

Fast forward to March 2014 and an interesting Craigslist posting popped up during one of my recurring searches for vintage Hondas located in SoCal for sale. Their numbers are dwindling, but periodically something unusual or previously unseen/unknown turns up as a surprise. In this case, the headline title of the CL posting was: 1966 Honda CL72 Dream Scrambler. With only two photos to go by, a quick look revealed that the bike had DLS (double-leading shoe) brakes, seen only on 250 Scramblers made in 1965 (CL72-1008851 for US bikes and CL72-1502911 for domestic Type 2 models). The serial number shared by the seller over the phone was CL72-1503108! Considering that Honda began the seven-digit serial numbers at the beginning of 1965 for all models of 250-305s, the production date must have been in early 1965, the 3108th one built then.

The posting was both specific and vague, causing numerous replies to the ad to question the authenticity of the machine. Some thought that the tank badges were incorrect or fakes and others thought that the bike was built up from parts of other bikes. The frame and engine numbers were both close to each other, thus a factory pairing, but people were confused to see a CL72 with “big brakes.” Closer examination of the photos revealed a heel-toe shifter and turn signal switch on the right hand side of the handlebars. The handlebars appear to be unbent except at the left end and the cable system is that of the early CL72s, using the “mousetrap springs” with matching lever brackets and the large knob adjusters, which were eventually replaced with standard CB72-77 lever brackets and adjusters.

Once he gave me the serial numbers the next question I asked was “Does it have TYPE 2 on the points cover?” “Yes, it does!” he answered. While the owner was fairly informed about the 250cc Scrambler bike series, in general, he realized that “MrHonda” was feeding him all the confirmation of the bike’s features over the phone that he needed to make sense of what he had in the garage and why it wasn’t matching up with his on-line research of the 250cc Scramblers. What he had was a genuine Japanese domestic CL72 with the optional Type 2 engine, right from the factory. The “Dream 250” tank badges were superseded to “Honda 250” types in 1964, for the US machines, but I have seen domestic 1965 CP77 Super Hawks with “Dream 300” tank badges in place on original bikes. The AHMC rules here don’t always apply to those of the Japanese domestic market models!

An appointment was made and kept promptly, then spent an hour and a half reviewing the various features of the bike, one-by-one. The bike had steel fenders, just like those of the early CL77s sold in the US, along with the solid-mounted rear fender. The seat pan was the early-style double hook type, but the suspension pieces were all “late” CL77 style, featuring alloy forks and the “big brake” wheels. The rest of the parts which were Japanese domestic specification included the turn signal switch, kph speedometer, rigid driver footpegs, a Ministry of Transporation sticker on the swing arm, replaceable headlight bulb and front turn signal stalks coming out of the headlight shell bolts. The headlight switch was a 3 position type and the headlight reflector accepts the removable round base bulb. Revealed in the Japanese parts book was that 2nd and 3rd gear ratios were unique for this particular engine style. The main product code for the Type1 250cc Scramblers is -273-, however any Type2-specific parts are coded -274-. Those -274-coded parts include the camshaft, crankshaft, condenser and the two sets of transmission gears.

CL72-77 rims are always an issue with these models, as they have deep grooves which strengthen the rim, but also becomes a rust, dirt, mud channel which can ruin the rim completely in extreme cases. Today, even getting decent rims re-plated can cost upwards of $200 per rim, so this can be a big consideration. The rims on this bike had a few small areas where the wheels were left in one position for many years. There are some small pitting areas, but overall they should clean up pretty well.

Missing were the rear turn signal brackets and the top shock covers. Bonus items included the original Japanese language owner’s manual, service booklet and the tool kit/with tools still in place! Most of the rubber items, like the side cover bumpers, speedometer packing, tank mounts are degraded or missing. The fuel tank knee pads are in decent condition, however. The centerstand bumper was missing altogether, so the stand comes up above horizontal when retracted.

The engine compression readings were 180/170, which are quite good for bikes of this age, but the clutch lever pull was very difficult and the clutch adjuster lineup marks were off a ¼,” so something is amiss with the clutch assembly. The clutch cover screws are all looking a bit chewed up, so someone has been in there mucking around. When the clutch cover was reinstalled, the shift lever was misaligned so the toe portion was too low for the footpeg location, which didn’t help the shifting issue.

The stock exhaust pipes had the standard small baffles installed, but there apparently was no muffler installed in this 1965 model. It appears that the rear mount bolt, which ties the exhaust pipes to the frame, at the rear of the frame, has been replaced perhaps with a larger bolt. These mounting holes are often damaged when the bolt loosens up and backs out a little at a time, which causes damage to the thread holes. The special muffler mounting bolt is 8mm, so perhaps the stock bolt was lost and a plain 8mm bolt was installed in its place.

The bike fired up on the second kick, however it went into an artificially high idle and the speed screws could be backed all the way out with no change in rpms. A drive down the street yielded only 1st and 2nd gears after pulling firmly on the shift lever, so either the shift selector parts are worn/broken or there is something amiss inside the transmission. Some investigation is in order to remedy this issues, plus a few others before the bike is fully safe to ride again. The license plate is stamped 1984 and the student parking stickers on the fork legs date back to the 1977 era. This bike has been sleeping for a LONG TIME!

So far, the known history is the local seller got the bike from his father, who was in the Navy in the 1960s, bought the bike from a buddy when they were in California. The bike was titled in CA, then he moved to Indiana and the bike was registered there since 1966. The bike went into storage in the 1980s and just came to light recently when it was brought to California at the end of last year.

Stay tuned for the arrival, evaluation and repairs required to bring it back to full function once again!

Bill “MrHonda” Silver