Motorcycle Classics

Honda Dream CA77

Claimed power: 23hp @ 7,500rpm
Engine: 305cc air-cooled OHC parallel twin, 60mm x 54mm bore and stroke
Top Speed: 86mph
Weight (dry): 350lb (159kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 2.5gal (9.5ltr)/50-70mpg
Price then/now: $595/$1,500-$4,000

All dressed up in angular sheet metal, the Honda Dream is instantly recognizable as a machine of the 1960s. Those sartorial straight lines and sharp creases of the Dream are also instantly polarizing — eliciting a love it or loathe it kind of reaction.

Regardless of how you feel about the blocky and chunky machine, for many who came of age in the era of the Dream the model brings back happy memories. Take Jim Jebavy of New Berlin, Wis. In 1966 he was a high school senior in the town of Two Rivers on Lake Michigan, and several of his friends had motorcycles. Many owned Dreams, and Jim remembers cadging rides aboard the 305cc Hondas. At the time he had never owned a motorcycle, having instead invested in a car. Come winter, he was the popular man with his friends.

Several decades later, Jim found himself reflecting on his high school days. Funny thing was, it wasn’t the car he remembered, but the Honda Dreams he’d borrowed and taken for rides. “Back then the Dream looked kind of strange — it had a unique and unusual shape,” Jim says. “But the bikes were very well put together, and they were also very simple to operate.”

Simple by design

Jim’s impression of the Dream is exactly the kind Soichrio Honda hoped to make with his products. From the first motorcycle Honda built, the designer believed that small displacement multi-cylinder engines were superior to large, thumping singles. And in 1957 Honda wasn’t beyond riffing on a concept that worked when the fledgling motorcycle maker introduced its C70 Dream.

The engine found in NSU’s Rennmax, with its twin forward-canted cylinders and gear-drive double overhead cam, inspired the 247cc 4-stroke twin powering Honda’s C70. Unlike the Rennmax, Honda’s C70 featured a chain-drive single overhead cam, but otherwise featured horizontally split crankcases with a pressed-together ball bearing crankshaft and dry sump lubrication system. After the C70, Honda developed the 247cc C71, which featured an electric starter. Bumped up to 305cc, the same engine was introduced to North America in the CA76 Dream in 1959. There were, in fact, several different versions of the 247cc and 305cc Dreams imported that year, but none in very great numbers.

The dry sump CA76 lasted a single year, replaced in 1960 with the CA77 Dream Tourer. Honda updated the CA77 with a wet sump engine and also offered a 247cc CA72. Both the 247cc and 305cc Dreams used a 360-degree crankshaft, meaning the twin pistons rise and fall simultaneously, but fire alternately. Fuel and air mixed in a single 22mm Keihin carburetor, and exhaust left the robust cylinder head via dual-wall header pipes before exiting through mufflers equipped with removable baffles. The 305cc twin was rated at 24 horsepower at 8,000rpm.

Early vs. late

Dreams produced from 1960 to 1963 are called “early” models, while machines built from 1963 to 1969 are dubbed “late” models. Differences between early and late are few. Visually, the shape of the gas tank changed, but the rectangular rear shock absorber upper covers and the square headlight nacelle, complete with speedometer, remained. Over its production run, Dream specifications continued virtually unchanged.

Honda built a surprising number of offshoot models based on the Dream, including the CSA77 Dream Sport; a 305cc Dream equipped with a high-level exhaust system to distinguish it from the Tourer.

Honda used metal stampings welded together to make the frame, which included the headstock and the rear fender. There was no front downtube; the engine bolts in at the cylinder head top cover and at two points directly behind the rear case, thus acting as a stressed member. A leading-link front fork (also made of pressed steel), while not known to provide razor-sharp handling, provided effective suspension.

Front and rear wheels were a stubby 16-inches each, and most Dreams came equipped with whitewall tires. Unlike the small C100 Cubs, which featured some plastic bodywork, the Dream is all steel, even the deeply valanced front fender and side covers. Dreams were available in white, black, blue and scarlet red.

We’d be remiss not to mention Honda’s sporting CB72 Hawk and CB77 Super Hawk, which used engines based on the Dream powerplant. However, the CB-series engines were modified with a 180-degree crank, and in the case of the 305, made 28 horsepower. Hawks and Super Hawks gave up the pressed steel frame, using a more traditional tubular steel chassis and hydraulic front forks.

Finding a Dream

Jim’s nostalgia for a classic Dream led him to the computer and the Internet, but his research quickly turned to an active search when he decided it was time to buy. He monitored Craigslist and eBay and placed bids on a few local Dreams, but wasn’t successful until late 2010 when he finally landed one in Sheboygan, Wis. It was more than one Dream — for $900 Jim got a package deal including a 1966 CA77 Dream, plus a parts bike of the same year.

Both were in rough shape, but the engines turned freely in both bikes. The better of the two Dreams was covered in mud and had been ridden offroad as a trail bike before being improperly stored. Prior to disassembling the main Dream, Jim took time to ensure the engine would run.

“I just wanted to make sure I had a viable engine. So I rebuilt the carburetor, put in new plugs, changed the oil, cleaned the points, put a battery in it and messed around with the wiring,” Jim says. “With some fresh gas the engine fired right up, but it ran rough. I shut it down right after that.”

Working in his cramped garage, Jim completely disassembled the Dream and then carried the various subassemblies to the basement. He says his wife, Ida, thought he was nuts but patiently encouraged the work. Cleaning as he went, Jim made a list of items he thought he’d need. Admitting his frugality, he was determined to use as many original pieces as possible from both the main Dream and the donor bike.

First was the engine. “The guy I bought the Dreams from had given me the name and number of a one-man shop,” Jim says. “He only works on one bike at a time, and because I’m not an engine guy, I called and asked if he could rebuild my engine.”

Murre’s Salvage Yard is just north of Milwaukee, and owner Dave Murre told Jim he could look at the 305 just after Christmas. So Jim continued cleaning parts and sandblasted the sheet metal before taking it to Leroy Gerber, a panel beater and painter in Oak Creek, Wis. Using a hammer and dolly, Leroy removed every dent and even reshaped the unique flare at the bottom of the front fender. “I always thought the flare looked a bit goofy,” Jim says of his early impression of the Dream. “But I like it now. Those fender flares are always damaged. They get smashed up the minute someone rides over a curb.” The Dream has a two-piece enclosed sheet metal chain guard, and Jim’s donor bike yielded a bottom half in good condition to go with the main bike’s upper piece. Leroy primed and painted all of the metal gloss black.

While Jim waited for Dave to accept the engine, he went through the wiring harness. His original Dream’s harness was “a bastardized mess,” but the donor bike had one in reasonable condition. He cleaned the wires and their ends, adding heat shrink tubing in some spots as deemed necessary, and replaced a couple of damaged connectors with those removed from the other harness.

Working with S.O.S cleaning pads, Jim cleaned every piece of chrome. “I was looking for a rider and not a show piece,” Jim says of his restoration philosophy. His cleaning went right down to the wheels: Removing two spokes at a time, Jim took the time to clean them up, buff the rim and hub, and reinstall them, working his way around each wheel. “The bike does show its age in places, but I got everything as good as I could,” he adds. Jim didn’t have to source replacement wheel bearings or brake shoes, as the originals were usable.

The donor bike’s handlebar was in better shape than the main bike’s, so it was cleaned and detailed for use. Without a decent set of levers and perches Jim ordered aftermarket parts from JC Whitney. But those perches, with larger threaded holes for mirrors, meant he couldn’t install the correct rectangular-shaped Honda mirrors. Instead, he ordered a set from JC Whitney.

Jim bought a replica seat cover and slipped it over the original springs and foam, and found a replacement chrome trim strip on eBay. “This project was made so much easier thanks to the computer and the Internet,” Jim says. “You can find parts and pieces, you can log on to a forum like Honda 305 and ask a question and almost always get an answer — I don’t think I could have done it without the computer.”

Together again

Jim delivered his main Dream engine, together with the donor unit, to Dave early in 2011. Dave took both engines completely to pieces and found that the main Dream engine, apart from a worn transmission shaft, was in reasonably good condition — the donor engine yielded up a clean shaft. Bearings and seals were replaced in the bottom end, and the cylinders were treated to a fresh bore and new 0.010-inch oversized pistons and rings before being buttoned back together. Jim brought the finished pieces out from the basement to the garage and assembled them into a rolling chassis. When the engine came back, it slipped easily into the frame.

Jim finally poured gas in the tank and fired up the Dream in the fall of 2011, but it was running rough. Snow came before he could fine-tune the Dream, but early in 2012 he took the bike to The Shop in Milwaukee, where the timing was found to be out 180 degrees. Once corrected, the Dream fired and purred like a sewing machine. Jim originally had a set of ill-fitting mufflers he bought on eBay, but he bought another CA77 project with a set of original mufflers. He had these cleaned and chromed, and installed the proper baffles.

“I’ve put on probably 600 or 700 miles, and it’s great to ride to the hardware store or over to a friend’s house. It’ll do 50-55mph, and it’s great on the slower roads, but I wouldn’t want to take it out on the freeway,” Jim says. Of photographer Jeff Barger stopping him at the Rockerbox Motofest in Milwaukee and asking about the Dream, Jim says, “This is my Oscar moment — I’m thrilled that I did the work and that someone else appreciates the irregular styling of the Dream.” MC

  • Published on Dec 10, 2013
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