Way back in the “stone-age”, circa 1980, I took possession of my first brand-new motorcycle.
I was all of 17 at the time, and had saved my pennies for years in order to get the bike of my dreams… A 1979 Honda CX500D.
The bike was a technological marvel in it’s day, 500cc’s of the best engineering that Honda could pack into a bike. This was Big Red’s first V-Twin, their first water-cooled machine, first all electric start, first transverse twin. A mid-sized touring machine without peer.
I loved that bike, rode it everywhere - and eventually out to California, where it was later sold for something faster and prettier. But I never forgot it,
Well, fast forward to about 4 years ago, and I was talking to some guy in a local pub. We got to conversing about motorcycles, and specifically our favorites from the past. I told him about my fist love, and he looked at me shocked, and said “I’ve got one of those in my garage! It’s a wreck. Do you want it?”
"Hell yes!" was my answer, and I trailered it away from him the next day.
"A wreck" was an understatement - it was non-running, and full of rust and faded paint. Dented and rusted tank, plus a slew of wiring issues.
But the engine turned over, so there was hope.
I worked on it in my garage for weeks, getting everything cleaned up, and re-building the carbs.
Soon, I was rewarded with some signs of life. She ran - but not great - could not get her to rev past 5000 RPM’s. After some research, I found out my stator was fried, and to replace it would require dropping the motor from the frame.
Consequently it sat for a few years, gathering more dust as my busy life did not allow for any further progress.
Well, this past year I turned 50, and I promised myself I would take on the task of restoring this neglected machine to running condition.
Luckily, I have a great mechanic in the neighborhood - Scott McCarty of Alpha Dog Custom’s in Glenside, Pennsylvania. I took it to him, and he jumped at the chance to work on this historic machine.
The initial plan was just to get it running properly, along with some paint and a little polish - but as you will see, as things progressed, we decided to take it to another level.
I wanted to keep it as stock looking as possible, but add crucial modern touches, like a front brake that actually works well, along with modern lighting and electrics.
The following photos show the progress of this build, all the way to it’s completion…
The first order of business was to drop the motor out of the frame, so we could get to that burnt stator. We replaced it with a new unit, and performed the “triple-bypass” that these engines usually require (cam-chain, water pump seal, stator replacement).
The internals looked surprisingly new…
Along with the stator issue, compression was low (75 PSI!) so we thought she would be needing new rings too. It was later determined, however, that the cylinders and rings were in remarkable condition, and that the reason for lack of compression was due to leaky valves and seals. Scott replaced the rings anyway and gave the bores a light honing - the valves just required a little lapping along with new seals. As a result, compression was raised to better than nominal spec.
Here are the cases getting prepped for powder coat.
We decided to powder-coat the motor with a slver-vein color (a mix of silver and black that produce a unique “hammer tone” finish, along with polishing, then clear-coating the valve covers.
Here’s a few shots of the finished motor…
Scott has an attention for detail that few posses, and he laid the same silver-vein powder into the recess area of the clutch cover, before a top coat of clear.
The paint scheme was to be red and black for the rest of the bike, so he even laid a little red powder in between the fins of the valve covers, and nice touch.
The tank badges got an undercoat of the same powder as the motor…
Almost, there - Here is Scott, looking things over…
Scott did a great job of re-jetting the stock carbs, but we soon realized that more work should be done. It was decided to replace the Keihin’s with a pair of Mikuni VM34 round-slides, from Murray This addition, along with dumping the obscenely heavy exhaust manifold under the bike (a 30 lb. weight reduction!), and putting on some pod filters and straight pipes gave a significant improvement in both HP and overall ride-ability.
We also decided to upgrade the front brake caliper with a 2 piston setup from a 1982 CB900 (a much-needed improvement), along with adding modern suspension components (new adjustable shocks out back, rebuilt forks with progressive springs and emulators up front).
She now not only looks better than new, but runs MUCH better than new!
I’m in love, all over again.
Here are some shots of the final product….