Memory Maker: 1968 Honda CL350K1

A low-mile, original 1968 Honda CL350K1 twin that had sat for nearly 50 years is revived for its owner in the hospital.

| January/February 2019

  • The Honda 350 was designed for easy maintenance, enhancing the probability that owners would actually make the effort to keep their bike in top running condition.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • A “small” bike with a 5-speed gearbox was also newsworthy in the late Sixties, a time when many two-wheelers were still limited to a 4-speed transmission, and testers noted the smooth clutch and easy-to-shift transmission.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • The scrambler-styled CL350 pulled from 3,000rpm and would rev to 9,500rpm, thanks to progressively wound valve springs and a carefully engineered induction tract.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • Between the introduction of the 350s in 1968 and the last year of production in 1973, Honda’s mid-sized twin introduced many folks to the wonderful world of motorcycles, creating a host of memories in the process.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • “I saw this CL, and it brought back a flood of memories.”
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • Kelly received a new heart just in time, and while he was recuperating from surgery Trace gave him regular reports on the Honda’s restoration progress, but refused to send him photos so he would have a surprise when he finally got out of the hospital.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • Owner Kelly Ford aboard his low-mile CL350. Amazingly, the paint on the tank and sidecovers is original.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • The sticker on the right side cover is from Nelson Bros. Motorcycles in Oakland, California.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • The seat is original.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • For now, the bike still wears its original Bridgestone tires.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • The original inner tubes still hold air!
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • “He wanted it to be a surprise, so I had no idea what it looked like.”
    Photo by Nick Cedar

Engine: 325cc air-cooled SOHC parallel twin, 64mm x 50.6mm bore and stroke, 9.5:1 compression ratio, 33hp @ 9,500rpm
Top speed: 102mph (period test)
Carburetion: Two 32mm Keihin CV
Transmission: 5-speed, chain final drive
Electrics: 12v, coil and breaker points ignition
Frame/wheelbase: Single downtube cradle/52in (1,321mm)
Suspension: Telescopic fork front, dual shocks w/adjustable preload rear
Brakes: 6.3in (160mm) TLS drum front, 5.3in (135mm) SLS drum rear
Tires: 3 x 19in front, 3.5 x 18in rear
Weight (dry): 345.4lb (157kg)
Seat height: 31.3in (795mm)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 2.4gal (9ltr)/50mpg (est.)
Price then (1968)/now: $700/$700-$2,500

In February 1968, Honda released two versions of its new overhead cam 350cc twin – the scrambler-styled CL and the CB road bike – and they immediately started selling in large numbers. Estimates vary, but it’s believed that around 650,000 Honda 350s were sold worldwide during the six years that all variants of the model were in production. Decades later, an amazing number have survived, even after being put away wet – or being left out on the street and not put away at all.

The key to the 350’s reliability and longevity was over-engineering. In 1968, Cycle magazine took its test 350 to a shop in Pennsylvania for a teardown, and the editors were duly impressed by the engine’s four huge crankshaft main bearings, bearing supports and its massive flywheels, details that minimized vibration. The single overhead camshaft itself weighed 3 pounds, Cycle deeming it “a paragon of strength.”

Back in 1968, most motorcycles needed frequent attention to run well. The Honda 350, on the other hand, was designed for easy maintenance, enhancing the probability that owners would actually make the effort to keep their bike in top running condition. Contemporary reports noted the easy-to-adjust valves, the quick-disconnects dotting the electrical system, and the reliable carburetors. Many contemporary bikes of equivalent displacement were equipped with only the most basic equipment, but the Honda had turn signals, a push-button starter backed up with a kickstarter, and a reasonably effective double-leading-shoe drum front brake.



Testers were impressed by the little bike’s performance. The scrambler-styled CL350 pulled from 3,000rpm and would rev to 9,500rpm, thanks to progressively wound valve springs and a carefully engineered induction tract. The road version, the CB350, would rev to 10,500rpm. A “small” bike with a 5-speed gearbox was also newsworthy in the late Sixties, a time when many two-wheelers were still limited to a 4-speed transmission, and testers noted the smooth clutch and easy-to-shift transmission. The handling of Japanese-built motorcycles, including this Honda, was not the best in this era, and testers noted that the 350 “steered somewhat ponderously.” Yet contemporary riders gladly took reliability, easy starting and oil-tight cases over great handling, and the 350 sold like hotcakes.

The 350 Hondas were built until 1974, when Honda announced the CB360 and CL360 models. Between the introduction of the 350s in 1968 and the last year of production in 1973, Honda’s mid-sized twin introduced many folks to the wonderful world of motorcycles, creating a host of memories in the process.

Steffen
12/27/2018 7:47:34 PM

Such good reading! I am the proud owner of two CB350´s both from 1970. One is kept in original and decent condition (the red-white colour variant) and this one is used quite a lot on short trips. The second (the blue-white colour variant) has been transformed into a marvellous cafe racer; it is tuned and has the RSC production racing camshaft (used by Honda when they shipped 17 production racers to the UK and swept the field there until the two-strokes took over), stronger camshaft chain, Mikuni VM30 carburettors, improved oil feeding, polished and widened ports, bored to 340cc, electronic ingnition - and a wonderful Grimeca road racing drum brake. The brake is so wide so the front forks had to be switched to CB450 forks....! It pulls from 3500 and manages 11.500 rpm. Surely a bit rough but that goes with the performance! The tank is a Kawa 500 H1 tank from 1968, fits perfectly! Steffen Rosén Sweden


DONS
12/27/2018 3:38:37 PM

It's a very nice example of the early 350 model sympathetically refreshed to original survivor standard, the seat cover could be removed and the foam replaced, and the muffler shield could be painted flat black VHT rather than gloss black to duplicate the original finish. There in not a lot of these bikes left in this good of condition, most of them were rode hard and put away wet in the shed or garage.


ChuckL
12/27/2018 5:47:38 AM

As a Honda dealership salesman, I sold dozens of CL and CB 350s. They truly were great bikes, except for one minor flaw, which was a major flaw if you decided to race one; ... the surface of the intake and exhaust ports looked like a spelunker's dream cavern, with stalagmites and stalactites everywhere (look it up). Saying the port surfaces were "rough" would be a gross understatement. The good news about that was the fact that with even some minor port clean-up, performance improved considerably.




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