Project Café: 1973 Honda CB500 Project Bike, Part 6

We're sure our restoration project bike, a Honda CB500, will dazzle the public when it's ready — which it almost is.

Honda CB500 project bike - nearly restored bike lacking gas tank and seat

Our project bike is almost done. Strap on a tank, wire it up, and our little Honda CB500 will be ready for prime time.

Photo by Richard Backus

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Yeesh, where does the time go? A few months ago it looked like we had all the time in the world to put our project bike, a1973 Honda CB500, back together for the 5th Annual Barber Vintage Festival on Oct. 10. Suddenly, the festival’s right around the corner, and we’re scrambling to get our café-d Honda up and running.

But it is all coming together, and looking sweeter by the day. The suspension all went together easily, which it should have since we’d already done most of the prep work. We rebuilt our forks with new fork tubes from Forking By Frank (Frank’s Maintenance and Engineering), installed a nice set of reservoir rear shocks from YSS (Y.S.S. USA), and after bolting on our gorgeous wheels from Buchanan’s Spoke & Rim with new Continental ContiGo! tires, we finally have a rolling chassis.

It took longer than we’d care to admit to get around to assembling the engine, but after having the cylinder head checked over and the barrels honed we installed a new set of piston rings and buttoned up the top end. That felt like a milestone, but still left us with the task of removing 35-plus years worth of accumulated grease and dirt from the engine case. Toothbrushes and cleaner weren’t doing the trick, but salvation came in the form of pal Brad Taylor, who came over with a wicked little steam cleaner that powered off all that muck.

With the engine back together we slotted it into the frame and mounted up our new Mac Performance 4-into-1 header system from BikeBandit.com. We were expecting a little bit of trial and error to get the exhaust located to our satisfaction, but the Mac system bolted up without a hitch and looks great. We expect it’ll sound great, too. Carbs went on next, although we still need a new set of mounting clamps. We’ve ditched the stock airbox and filter, opting instead for a set of K&N pod-style air filters, which we’ll soon install. We expect to hold a little jetting session once we get the bike running, and we’ll report back on what we had to change to make our bike run well with updated filters and an unrestricted exhaust.

We picked up some killer extras for our bike, including a sweet café saddle/fender assembly from Omar’s Dirt Track Racing and a perfect little fiberglass front fender from Honda café madman Steve “Carpy” Carpenter at Carpy’s Café Racers. We’ve just sent both pieces off to be painted, and we’re looking forward to mounting them on the bike for good.

Probably the coolest thing we got from Carpy was a set of instrument gauge faces he custom made for us in metallic silver — complete with the Motorcycle Classics logo! Taking the gauges apart to remove and replace the face plates wasn’t as bad as you might expect; you can find a short primer on the process on our website, just type in the search term “Honda CB gauges.” Too cool.

We love the minimalist Baja Designs LED turn signals we got from BikeBandit.com, which bolted right up through the stock headlamp shell up front and into the stock mounting points in the frame out back, but we still have to decide how to mount our handlebar switch gear. A stock CB500 routes all the switch gear wiring through the handlebar. Since our aftermarket bars don’t have the necessary routing holes, we’ll have to modify the switch gear housing to allow the wiring to pass through or drill the bars. Once that’s done, we’ll add the set of period, Japanese-made hand grips Carpy sent us. Probably 40 years old, they’re from a crate-full he found years back and still feel like new. Cool stuff.

Last but not least, we need to get our bike fully dressed. Craig McGlothlen of Precision Motorcycle Painting has been putting his considerable talents into the bodywork, and once that’s back our motorcycle restoration will be pretty much finished— and not a moment too soon, because we’re giving away our CB500 café at the Barber Vintage Festival Oct. 10! Wish us luck, and hold tight for a final accounting of the BikeBandit.com/Motorcycle Classics Project Café in the January/February 2010 issue. MC

Go back to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 or Part 5.