The decision to complete another bike restoration several years since my last was not taken lightly. I still remember the pain and suffering that goes with restorations or rebuilds. I’m fond of two-strokes and have owned several in the 1970s and ’80s, so my first thought was to look at modifying a Suzuki T500, GT550 or GT750. But sourcing any of these at a reasonable price is almost impossible so I scrapped the idea and looked at the CB750 and discovered pre-1979, single-overhead-cam models can also prove costly.
I eventually found an affordable 1979 DOHC CB750M in June last year, which turned out to be just around the corner from home and in running order, having been registered until early this year.
I had to rev the guts out of it to get it moving but it safely made the epic, 5km journey home where, as I wrestled it into my shed, I discovered the front calipers were not releasing. The bike had been ridden for many years by a chap who worked at a batching plant so I soon learnt how fine cement powder can penetrate every nook and cranny. I’ve restored bikes that have lived unsheltered lives (every nut you try to undo can shear the bolts off) so my fingers were crossed that this wouldn’t be the case with this one.
The bike came apart with relative ease; not too much swearing or loss of skin. The only drama was removing the seized swingarm pivot bolt, which I managed to punch out with a bigger hammer, some applied heat and no damage to the bolt.
The rims needed a lot of elbow grease with countless hours spent cleaning. They came up okay but not perfect.
I like red frames, so that was done after removing unnecessary brackets and attachments. A tally of new parts was then completed.
I decided to keep the bike relatively standard to save money: stock rims, existing footpegs, instruments, headlight assembly and the like but I wasn’t sure how this combination would fit with the café racer look I was going for.
The bike needed new switch blocks, an ignition switch, front brakes, rear shocks and alternator brushes. Thankfully, though, much was to be found on eBay or through Ray at Pro Honda at Rocklea, in Queensland – he made the job a lot easier.
I ended up sourcing the tank and seat online from Benjie’s Cafe Racers in the US which provided excellent service and delivery.
The tank was made to fit the ’79 model and it fitted like a glove, complete with padded seat, taillight, recessed fuel cap and fuel tap. I opted for the fibreglass version with the Minister of Finance monitoring my expenses.
I’d seen a special-edition Triumph Thruxton adorned with a red and white stripe which looked good so I decided to run with a vivid white but larger red stripe. The paint job by Phil from A-One Motorcycle Paint and Repair in Nerang was first class, as was his epoxy sealing.
The engine looked pretty ordinary with oxidation, dirt and grime over the past 30-odd years showing the bike’s age. Due to limited experience in four-stroke engines, I farmed out the engine rebuild to experts Mark and Adrian from North Side Motorcycle Tyres and Service in Lawnton.
The engine required a rebore so we opted for a Wiseco 823cc big-bore kit, new cam chains and valves and a hydro blast which brought the motor and carbies up a treat.
The carbies were rebuilt and jetted to suit the new air pods.
A new set of four-into-one chrome headers was sourced from Transac Exhaust Systems in Carebrooke and I had the existing muffler re-chromed, along with the reshaped front guard.
Other changes include overhauling and recalibrating the instruments, revitalising the headlight, and installing a new set of chrome rear shocks and polished forks, which had already been resealed. I also fitted a set of clubman ’bars – they’re friendlier on an old fella’s back – and a set old-style blinkers from the Café Racer Shop.
I used the existing wiring loom, albeit after two cans of electrical cleaning solvent to remove the cement dust.
The bike was reassembled without too many dramas and the engine was carefully reinstalled without marking the frame’s flash hue. The existing side covers were trimmed to fit snugly inside the frame and I reckon they look neat against the red frame. The day finally came for fuelling and firing up the bike. My son couldn’t believe I’d rebuilt it but my major concern was the electrical system.
Fuel on; crank her over … and over and over. No go. Battery drained. I tested everything to discover I hadn’t flicked the kill switch.
My son was most amused. I guess you forget the simple things in the excitement of breathing new life into an old girl.
Battery charged, hit the starter button and away it went, idling adjustments complete.
The bike ran smoothly during the test ride and, with a minor clutch adjustment, all felt good.
The restoration took nine months to complete and was relatively painless, apart from the fact that I could’ve bought a brand new Honda CB1100 for less, but that’s the price we pay for something unique.
How would I describe the bike? It looks very different from standard but, apart from the seat, tank and a few other bits and pieces, it still uses a lot of standard gear.
I’m really happy with the outcome and the bike looks and performs great. Bring on the next one…