1979 Honda CB650 Special

Derek Pauletto breathes new life into an unloved Honda and transforms it into a unique café racer.

| November/December 2011

1979 Honda CB650 Special
55hp @ 9,000rpm (est.)
Engine: 627cc air-cooled SOHC
Weight (wet): 415lb (189kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 4gal (15ltr)

There’s an interesting trend emerging in the motorcycling community, one that sees relatively unloved classic machines transformed into something the original maker would never have imagined. Many of them are based on Japanese bikes from the late 1970s and early 1980s that originally didn’t have much grace.

Take the humble Honda CB650, a four-cylinder model sold in North America from 1979 to 1982. Honda produced thousands of these motorcycles, yet how many of us remember them? The CB650 didn’t have the charm of the smaller Honda CB550, or the power of the larger Honda CB750. Like many other bikes of its era, the Honda CB650 just isn’t considered an important — or collectible — motorcycle.

That’s not to say it isn’t a good motorcycle, though. Calgary, Alberta, Canada, welder and fabricator Derek Pauletto learned just how reliable his 1979 Honda CB650 could be after he bought it for $300 from a co-worker’s older brother. The first time he laid eyes on the CB650 the machine was outside, leaning up against a garage. Covered in leaves, the Honda had been exposed to the elements for a few months, but it had brand new tires — hence the $300 asking price.

“I wasn’t attracted to it, and it wasn’t my style,” Derek says, remembering his initial reaction. At the time, Derek was interested in more modern, streamlined equipment, but, he adds, “I thought I might be able to get the thing running, and I didn’t have a complete bike to ride at the time.” It took him only a few days to sort out the carbs on the CB650 before it roared to life, and Derek began using it to commute to his last year of welding classes at tech school, and to his job at a local welding and fabrication shop.

It was while working at that shop that Derek became known by vintage motorcyclists for his skill with a TIG welder and his ability to bring back from the dead almost any cracked or seemingly destroyed piece of cast aluminum, including British motorcycle engine cases and primary covers. Derek now runs his own shop, Trillion Industries, and he continues to be a go-to guy for alloy welding repairs.

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