All-White CB77 and SL350 Honda Ownership
Follow two readers' early motorcycle ownership and original paint memories.
All-white Honda CB77
In the letters section of May/June 2021 Motorcycle Classics magazine I came across a query about “all white” Honda CB77s and CB160s. I am pleased to be able to answer the question definitively for the CB77.
Image by Dave Scott
In April 1968, I was 16 years old when I bought this brand new “in the crate” Honda CB77. The local Honda dealer had several bought on a closeout sale. It was the last year they were sold in the U.S. The deal was too good to pass up, but I didn’t want a white bike, so I stripped it down to the frame out of the crate and painted it black and silver. The attached photo is what I would call a near miracle. It is an accidental double exposure. My mom took a picture of me washing the newly sanded components on the curb prior to painting. The film did not advance in the camera and the next picture she took just happened to be a perfectly framed final shot of the finished bike! What are the odds?
I LOVE your publication and am happy to be able to make this humble contribution.
Dave Scott/Curlew, Washington
My 1971 Honda SL350
Image courtesy of John Ruffner
I bought my first motorcycle when I was 16 years old. It was a used 1966 Honda S90 that I bought from a friend with my paper route money. It was a great starter bike, and I really enjoyed learning to ride a motorcycle. I road that bike everywhere, even though I only had a learner’s permit. As much as I enjoyed that S90, it wasn’t long before I wanted something bigger. At the local Honda shop I fell in love with a 1971 Honda SL350 and with the help of my mom, who cosigned for the loan, I was now the proud owner of brand new motorcycle. To this day I do not know how I was able to pull that off. Not only did she cosign for the loan, but she also followed me home in the car even though I did not have a motorcycle license at the time. I may have neglected to explain to her that there should have been someone with a motorcycle license in the car with her to be legal when she was following me home.
I ended up taking my driver’s test on the SL350, and for the first 2 years it was my only transportation, winter and summer in Buffalo, New York. There were times during bad weather and snowstorms that my mom would ask me to please take her car to work, but I would just say my bike has knobby tires, no problem, don’t worry about, and off I went. After the first few years, when I started dating, I found out that girlfriends’ fathers did not like it when I showed up on a motorcycle and it was worse in the winter so I eventually had to start buying old clunkers for winter cars.
Because of all the salt put on the road over the winter, I would take the bike completely apart every spring and go through and replace everything that needed it as well as touch up the paint and grease and lube everything. Over the years I probably changed the color on the bike a half dozen times. It didn’t always look good, but it always ran great and never left me stranded. The guy at the local Honda shop never remembered my name but he knew me as the SL350 guy. He said he could always tell when riding season was coming around because I showed up every spring with a list of parts that I needed to get my bike in shape. I rebuilt the top end twice and had the bottom end done once by the Honda shop. I have no Idea how many miles I put on that bike because the speedometer broke at one point and I never replaced it. I just judged my speed by my tachometer. If I was in third gear at 3,000rpm, I was doing about 30mph, and in fifth gear at 5,000rpm I was at about 50mph. That was close enough for me plus most of the time you just went with the traffic.
Image courtesy of John Ruffner
When I met my future wife, we had our first ride together on this bike. Then one of the first things we bought together was a 1972 Honda SL125 for her. We went everywhere together on those bikes. As my kids got old enough, they each got their first ride on my SL350 and when they got married and had families of their own my grandkids got their first ride on the same bike. It became a tradition. One time, when I was taking my wife and my oldest son for a ride at Allegany State Park (he was about 5 at the time), my wife was sitting behind me and my son was sitting in front of me holding on to the handlebars and we were riding through a pine forest. The lowest branches were well above our heads and there was a thick layer of pine needles on the ground, so it was like riding through a tunnel on a soft carpet. The sun was shining down through the trees and it was just beautiful. My son turned around with a concerned look on his face and asked me if I knew what I was doing. I said yes, so he said OK and we continued on through the woods.
About six years ago, I decided to restore the bike back to its original condition. I had been neglecting it as I was spending more time on several bigger street bikes and it ended up sitting in my shed for a few years. I hated seeing it sitting there getting old and out of shape like me, with the mice and rust taking over. So, I brought it up to the garage and took it apart for what I hope to be the last time. Every day I looked on eBay for any new old stock parts and I went to swap meets and Honda dealers for anything else I could come up with.
All the body parts were sent out to be professionally painted back to the original Topaz Orange. I had the frame and swingarm powder coated and I had the new rims laced to my old hubs with stainless steel spokes. All the parts that could be reused I cleaned up and or polished by hand. Some things like the handlebars, taillight bracket and break linkage parts had to be re-chromed.
Restored back to original, the finished project.
In all reality the bike probably looks better than in did when I picked it up brand new and I spent way more money than the bike is probably worth. But its my baby, and I am extremely happy with the results.
Before eBay, when parts were becoming harder to get from the Honda dealers, I began to look for basket cases that I could scavenge parts from. The first one I found was a 1972 model, but a lot of the parts are the same. When I got it home and started to look through the boxes, it looked to be in really good shape. It turned out to be too good to use as a parts bike and ran great. When my son Tom showed an interest in riding, it became his learner’s bike. We had a lot of fun riding together on those SL350s.
Since then, I have collected four more 1971 SL350s and one more 1972 that I will bring back to life now that I am retired, as well as a bunch of other vintage Hondas. It’s been a lifelong passion that continues to get stronger every day. But the SL350s are without a doubt my favorite bike and will always be a part of my motorcycle collection.
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