Project Café: Motorcycle Classics Honda CB500

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Motorcycle Classics/ project bike: A 1973 Honda CB500, ready for the café treatment

It’s been a long year since we finished our last Motorcycle Classics build, transforming a 1971 Triumph TR6C from semi-derelict into a gleaming thing of beauty. Truth be told, our Triumph came out better than we could have hoped, and after the dust settled we planned to jump into our next build ASAP. Best intentions being, well, best intentions, the build we hoped to start months ago is just now coming together as we plunge into our next pseudo resto project, a 1973 Honda CB500 Four. A CB500? Is that a classic? Absolutely. CB500s are fab bikes, great to look at as well as to ride; although right now ours is fabulously ugly and only kind of running, as you can see in the video we shot and playing on our homepage right now.

But we don’t care, ’cause we’re pretty excited about the CB. Dreamers that we are, it’s easy for us to look past the ugly and broken Wixom fairing, the funky four-into-two aftermarket exhaust, the trashed fork gaiters and missing front brake caliper (it’s in a bag somewhere, I hope) and see a super-cool and café’d CB500, which is exactly where we’re going this time.

With the Triumph, save for a few details like the exhaust and carburetion, we tried to preserve as many stock details as we could. But this time around, we’re throwing away the Honda catalog and making up our own mind about what a CB500 should be, and we think it’ll look best getting the café treatment with a teeny little plastic front fender, a solo saddle with tail fairing, a little quarter fairing on the front, bar-end mirrors and a cool set of headers, although we’re still divided on whether they should be chrome or flat black.

Of course, our decision is helped by the fact that restoring a ratty old CB500 like ours to full stock is, as an investment, a losing proposition: A factory exhaust system – assuming we could find one – would probably cost more than the bike’s worth. So it’s not exactly a blue chip investment, but that’s part of the appeal, because we plan on riding the thing plenty once we’re done, and doing it our way, we won’t have to worry about splattering a newly repainted frame with road grime or dinging up a perfectly preserved set of pipes with rocks thrown up by the front tire. Like we did with the Triumph, we’ll source our parts from the suppliers who advertise in the magazine, although this time the folks at BikeBandit stepped up with an enticing offer to be our exclusive sponsor, promising us that if they don’t show what we need on their extensive web site, they’ll find it for us.

When we’re done, we’re figuring on having a good running, fun, cheap, easy-to-own classic that’ll draw stares with its good looks and make us smile when we ride it. Which, when you think about it, is what old bikes are all about. Look for our first update on our Honda Café Build in the November/December 2008 issue of Motorcycle Classics. – Richard Backus

Motorcycle Classics Magazine
Motorcycle Classics Magazine
Motorcycle Classics Magazine Featuring the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!