Wednesday, January 6, 2016

So, I Have A Project...

Cleaning out my father-in-law's house last weekend, I inherited a project:

1974 Honda CB360. Father-in-law bought it new. I'm the second owner. It hasn't run in the time I've known my wife, so it's been dormant since the early 1990s at the latest. Probably mid-1980s, if I were a betting man. It lived under the porch at the old house (in-laws moved about 10 years ago) and in a shed at the new house, so it has been protected as long as I've known it.

I'm trying to decide whether I want to have it professionally restored or work on it myself. A co-worker who's into motorcycles brought up a good point: it's a 41-year old motorcycle. If I ride it, there's a good chance it will break down. If I do the work myself, I'll be better prepared to fix the little things to get it back on the road. On the flip side, there's a very good chance it will sit in the corner of the garage for the next decade while I work up the courage to work on it.

I've described myself as "mechanically declined," only half-jokingly. I can assemble furniture from IKEA with the best of them, and I've built my own ARs plenty, but when it comes to engines I just panic. I can change oil (although I don't) and perform the most basic of maintenance, but in general I prefer to let the professionals handle such things. Part of it is time-related: there just aren't enough hours in a day. I know myself; I'll put it off as long as possible.

In any case, it will be restored as best as possible. The body is in surprisingly good shape; it needs new tires, of course; the exhaust is rotted out; but the tank is solid. It looks like it won't take much to get it cosmetically back together. I might get the motor restored and running professionally but do the wiring/brake/exhaust work myself. We'll see.

Any and all tips on restoring 40-year old Japanese motorcycles would be appreciated...

That is all.


Wraith said...

Awesome find!

You may not even have to open up the motor at all--it's surprising how tough those little guys can be. Pull the plugs and try the kickstarter--if it moves, I'd say don't worry about the engine internals, just fresh gas, new plugs and a carb clean should get it up and running.

They really are simple machines. If you can build a rifle, you can fix a bike. Good luck; I await further updates!

Wraith said...

(Oh, yeah---you'll want fresh oil, too.)

Anonymous said...

1. If you screw it up, you're out $0
2. There is only one way to get experience
3. Other than a lawn mower, I can't think of a simpler machine to learn on
4. At the end of the project, you will KNOW if you like tinkering with engines
5. Where's the satisfaction of having someone else do it?

lordjim said...

Sounds like a good Father/Kid project for which ever kiddo likes the bikes more. The only person I know that likes old Honda's is James May but I think he's busy with getting that new show of his off the ground. (I hope he does, it sounds interesting.)

C-90 said...

After you get it restored, just don't go driving past any american warships.


Ratus said...

"Any and all tips on restoring 40-year old Japanese motorcycles would be appreciated..."

Ummm... Get the now sixty-year-old Japanese guy who put it together to help?

Anonymous said...

That's an excellent project! I agree with Wraith on getting the engine running again.

The brakes may need some work. (Master cylinder, caliper, hoses.) Due to the rubber drying out over time, they may not hold pressure. Intake manifolds also may be dried out and cracked. They're all easy to fix/replace. There are vintage parts places out there. A search found a good selection of parts at the Common Motor Collective in TX. I really thought they'd be insanely expensive, but was wrong.

Have fun with it!

Don T.

Jim said...

Invest in a quality torque wrench, you'll need it.

You'll want to rebuild the forks. The fork seals will be toast, count on it.

Do NOT tackle everything at once. Do the engine, get it running right and set it aside. You might want a pro to rebuild the carbs, that's as much art as science.

Once the engine is done, strip it down to bare frame, do the frame refinish, then reinstall the newly cleaned up wiring harness, and make sure that you've cleaned up all the connectors and grounds.

Once the frame is back in the refinished frame w/ wiring harness, then do the forks and rear shocks. (repack the steering head and swing arm bearings while you're there.)

THEN, you can attack the remaining stuff such as brakes and cosmetics.

Once it's back together after that, it should be as reliable as new, which was nearly 100% bulletproof.

Oh, and rent a soda-blaster to bring the engine cases and fins back to "as new" appearance. As a previous commenter stated, give it new brake lines, clutch and throttle cables.

After final assembly, give it back to a pro to do all the fine tuning and tweaking of the fiddly bits.

When you're done, it'll be an absolute gem.

Sunk New Dawn
Galveston, TX

Mark Matis said...

I bought a used Honda CL350 a number of years ago and rebuilt the engine. It was almost idiot-proof. Two cylinders ain't much of a challenge. Valve train is unbelievably simple. Could not get the electric starter to work reliably, but one kick was always sufficient. If you do non-Honda replacement parts (bolts, etc), make sure you use the appropriate grade. Don't stuff in low strength for automotive grade. Didn't even need a shop manual to do the work, though. And wrench tight seemed to be sufficient even for the head bolts. Used it as my daily driver for a couple of years, except when it was raining. Rarely had any problems with it.

Mark Matis said...

One other thing worth noting is that the engine is big enough for you to use normal tools when rebuilding it, but small enough to for you to be able to pick the WHOLE thing up and carry it wherever you need.

Anonymous said...

I have just finished a 1997 Suzuki Savage ( ) and I had a blast doing it. The best advice I can give you is to find the owners club (and there will be one) and join their forum. The most ridiculous question you have will be answered kindly and accurately. I could not have done without the good guys at

Armed Texan said...

No courage is required. You inherited it and you do not need it as a daily commuter. There is nothing you could do, short of taking a cutting torch to the frame, that could screw it up irretrievably. There is very little you screw up so badly that it would cost you an arm and a leg to fix by a pro (or more than you spend without trying to fix it yourself in the first place).

If your worry is about safety, you can always take it to a mechanic afterwards to have him see if you left anything in an unsafe condition.

So, have at it and have fun with it. Take your time and work one system at a time and you will succeed. (Also, I agree with above; some fiddly things are just not worth the hassle trying to get right on your own, i.e. carbs.)

Wolfman said...

I've had old bikes, and I've had good-running bikes, but I've never taken one from the first group and put it into the second, so I don't have much to offer than way, but that little bike is BEAUTIFUL, and a fantastic little runabout! Good luck with it!

abnormalist said...

I'm going to agree with everyone else, the only way to learn, is to do it!

jump in, you will get wet, but its the only way to learn to swim

abnormalist said...

I meant to add in, its how I learned to build my camper! :-D

John said...

What Jim said. Without the engine, this turns out to be a fairly useless paperweight.

Might want to spend some time looking at Youtube.

Take a look at the motorcycle work platforms at Harbor Freight.

Decide if you just want it running, or a factory level restoration, or where you want to be if neither end of the spectrum suits you.

You are just a little far from Philly to offer actual help, but I will offer virtual help.

I got a '57 Cushman motor scooter running in the late sixties. I think my parents arranged for it to be stolen when I was in Navy boot camp. (smile)

Anonymous said...

I restored a '65 Honda 305 last year. You will find out that it takes quite a bit more work to bring a motorcycle back from the dead than you think-I ended up spending much more money than I thought I would. I never did pull the engine apart, because I knew it had been a runner even though it sat for decades. I rebuilt the carbs, and made sure they were sparkling clean inside. The gas tank has to be very clean inside,too. I replaced the old ignition points with "Charlies Place" electronic ign-very worthwhile. I was able to save the original wiring harness, but make sure every connection is tight and clean. Your front forks are probably filled with some muddy sludge by now-they need to be cleaned out and the oil replaced.
You have the benefit of lots of specialist websites and forums-just about any problem you run into has happened to someone else, and solved. Good luck with your bike!


The Neon Madman said...

Go for it, and do as little or as much as you want to. Like the man said up above, you've basically picked it up for free, so you're already starting from a good point. Do a full blueprint job if you want or just fix what needs fixing' and use it as weekend around-town plaything.

Parts shouldn't be a problem. Honda sold a metric s**tload of those bikes in the US during the 60's and 70's. You might be surprised to find how many of them are still around. The vintage Jap bikes are pretty basic compared to something new today, of course - just like a car. That's a blessing in a way, too - they're simple to work on and damn near bulletproof. I ran an '82 Kawasaki LTD for 30 years. Had a '74 Honda 400 before that I still kick myself for not keeping.

Sarthurk said...

I did a '73 Honda CB 200 abut 8 years ago. It was run for 4000 miles and parked. The worst part was cleaning all the gunk in the carbs, and repairing the rusted fuel tank. The rest was just cleaning everything. I rode it to work for nearly two years before I wanted a modern bike and got a KLR 650. My brother has the Honda now and runs it up and down the driveway once a month. He's also got a '76 CB 360 with 4 miles on it, but he hasn't tried to get it going yet.

Heath J said...

Wrenched on LOTS of Hondas, and did a complete rebuild of my old 76 Sportster. This bike would be great to learn on.

You know where to find me if you need anything :D.

(If you do choose to go hands on, I have a Chilton manual you're welcome to)

ASM826 said...

+1 for Jim on the carb comment. Get the carbs done by a pro. Everything else sounds like a fun project.

Terrapod said...

First dibs when you put it up for sale, assembled or dismantled is OK , always wanted to dink with one and my neighbor has one, so it is a keeping up with the Jonses thing.

Jeremy Brown said...

Just a small tip, before you try to turn the engine over pull the plugs and put a bit of 3 in 1 oil into the cylinders. There hasn't been any oil in there in a lot of years and this will help protect the cylinder walls a bit. My first bike, 23 years ago, was a Honda CB550K that was a year older than me. I've loved those older Hondas ever since.

mbumgua said...

The brakes on this bike are all cable operated; not hydraulic as some earlier commenter stated, so no worries about master or slave cylinders. Also if you have put together an AR you can do the carbs on this. I have a 1973 Honda XL350, so I know quite a bit about this model range. Engines are almost identical and are easy to work on.Good Luck!

Hammerbach said...

Another second to all the enthusiasm = I love working on old Hondas! And with the web, you are living in a Renaissance for old bikes.
I'm jealous.

Glen said...

Use your phone to take photos for each think you remove. Make sure the fasteners are in the photo. Ideally, bag and tag parts. Don't depend solely on memory for this sort of long term project. If you bag&tag fasteners, use sharpy to write the needed wrench size on the bag.

Organization takes most of the profanity out of the rebuild.

Glen in Texas