Resurrection Road: 1973 Honda CL350 Scrambler

Five friends, with the determination to try, bring a beautiful Honda CL350 Scrambler back from the brink.

| September/October 2020

Flushing the engine with kerosene to remove leftover metal debris.

Maybe few people know that in 1966, the instrumental group The Sandals created The Endless Summer surf movie theme song and threw it into an album stuffed with more surf songs as well as several cool bike instrumentals entitled, TR-6, Out Front, Good Greeves, and best of all, Scrambler.

And so it was, while putting the finishing touches on the 1973 Honda CL350 Scrambler rebuild seen here, the album would spring into mind. As well it might have, because while living in New York City in 1981, I found the LP record in a thrift shop and bought it for something like $1.50 — a heavy hit at the time of 25-cent albums. I still have it somewhere, and it’s a perfect match for this Honda, scratched and weathered as it is.

Ah yes, scratched and weathered records — and scramblers. If you read the July-August 2020 issue of Motorcycle Classics, you might have seen an article entitled Big Bang Theory, in which this author adopted a CL350 with a seriously hurt engine for the mechanical challenge it presented, but also as a way to encourage readers to adopt and nurse back to health broken bikes. Doing so will “make us feel good,” I suggested. The process would create “rolling art,” I promised. It would build friendship and community. And it might even, eventually, turn a buck.

When we left off the previous article, friends Amanda and Napper and son Derek had helped pinpoint the engine troubles as a complete lack of compression in the right-hand cylinder. With one rocker arm loose, I hoped to find only a bent valve, or at worst a broken one. And so, I set out to find out, and to make it right.

Tearing into it

The first step was removing everything attached to the engine — or more completely everything attached to everything attached to the engine — including side covers, air cleaners and housings, carburetors, fuel lines, fuel tank and seat, exhaust system, footpeg assembly, and all wiring running from the under-seat area along the frame to the engine. That was a pretty enjoyable and straightforward hour, and I made sure to stash take-off parts and fasteners in separate boxes and Ziploc bags, labeled with a marker, to simplify and quicken reassembly. Parts lost in the garage is a bad thing!

8/28/2020 12:52:57 PM

Awesome article! I worked in a Honda shop in the 70's and, although my main ride was a CB77 305 Super Hawk, I bought a cl350 for fun and redid it (although it was nothing like yours). One of the great things about the 350 twins (CL and CB) is adjusting the valves with the engine running and warmed up at idle. Loosen the lock nut, twist with a screwdriver till you hear a faint tapping, then twist the other way until the tapping just disappears. We were very upset when the newer 360 came out and we had to go back to adjusting valves with a feeler gauge. This techniques also worked for 450s. Of course it didn't work on the later XL350 singles and I don't remember for sure, but I don't think it worked on the SL350s.

8/28/2020 11:58:45 AM

The article on the CL-350 really struck a chord with me as I was a mechanic at Bill Robertson's Hollywood Honda in the years from 1968 through about 1974. The CB and CL 350 series were very popular and dependable bikes. I must have worked on a dozen or more every week and I actually traded my tired Ducati 250 race bike for one, maybe not my best move but it was a good ride for a while. Many aspects of the refurbishing of the bike in the article frankly struck me as Mickey Mouse but after I read the authors statement it make more sense. I did laugh though at the "hoist" for lifting the engine out of the frame. I just lifted them out and put 'em on my bench solo. Never thought a hoist was needed. Thanks for a fun read, I really enjoyed it. Bill Meyer Prescott, Arizona

8/28/2020 11:51:21 AM

Want to trade your Ducati valve spring compressor for one of my sturdy C-clamp compressors? I'm working on a single. Classic shade tree mechanics! Nice when things work out. I did think you "cheated" a bit by using new pistons (hope they were the cheapest Chinese ones) and used fresh oil. It's a used bike and deserves used oil! Great story and loved the piston/valves picture! Bill

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