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Calgary Herald, Motorcycles worth their salt — CX650 racers at Bonneville, by Greg Williams

Photo courtesy Jim Wylie

Jim Wylie (left) and Joe Haseloh with their 1983 Honda CX650 Salt Flat racers.

First published in the Calgary Herald section Jan. 4, 2008.

The need for speed led two Calgary motorcyclists to the fabled Bonneville Salt Flats. While their adventure didn’t grab the same attention as Burt Munro in the film ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’, Jim Wylie and Joe Haseloh do have their own tales to tell.
From September 2 to 6, 2007 the pair raced two vintage Honda CX650 machines at the BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials on the Salt Flats in Utah. The week held both trials and tribulations — Haseloh struggled with his machine while Wylie set a record.
And now the Honda’s they built and raced are on display this weekend, from Friday to Sunday, as part of the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group’s booth at the Calgary Motorcycle Show in the Roundup Centre at Stampede Park.
Wylie and Haseloh had dreamt of hitting the salt for more than 30 years, and finally put a plan into action after flying down and visiting the flats in August 2006. Both men are seasoned motorcycle racers, having competed since the mid-1970s on Calgary tracks. Haseloh, in fact, was the Western Canadian Superbike champion in 1978.
Wylie was born in Calgary and raised on a farm near Crossfield. His first motorcycle — at 14 years old — was a Yamaha Twin-Jet 100.
“I think the only way to get around at 14 was on a motorcycle,” Wylie says. “All the farm boys had motorcycles. There were four or five of us with bikes, and we were a like a little farm boy’s motorcycle gang.”
Wylie soon moved up to larger machines, and rode a cafe-style Kawasaki H1 500cc triple-cylinder two stroke motorcycle
“It had a cafe fairing and low handlebars and expansion chambers, and I never saw another one like it in Calgary in the early 1970s,” Wylie says. “And then I saw a Suzuki 500 Titan done up cafe-style — and that turned out to be owned by Joe. We’ve been friends ever since.”
Between the two of them the Salt Flats were a recurring topic of discussion until 2006 when they finally traveled to Utah and watched some of the speed trials and walked among the pits. A chance meeting with Italian motorcycle enthusiast Tom Liberatore ultimately led Wylie and Haseloh to choose the machines they would prepare for their assault on the Flats.
Liberatore was racing a 1974 Moto Guzzi 750 V7 Sport in a 750cc pushrod class. During their conversation Liberatore said the only bike he figured might best his times was the Honda CX650, a transverse V-twin machine similar to the Moto Guzzi.
Upon their return to Calgary Wylie and Haseloh began searching for Honda CX650 motorcycles — machines that were never sold in the U.S., and only in Canada for a couple of years in the early 1980s. The reason Liberatore feared this particular Honda in his class is because the CX650 has four-valve cylinder heads while his Moto Guzzi has two-valve heads. Plus, the Honda is liquid cooled and shaft driven, making it virtually bulletproof.
As both Wylie and Haseloh wanted to race the pair located two used 1983 CX650s and a few spare motors and associated components. Wylie planned to contest the 750 Production Pushrod class, which meant his bike would remain mostly stock with the exception of a different set of handlebars and a larger rear tire. Haseloh wanted to run in the 750 Modified Partially Streamlined Pushrod Gas class, and his machine was altered with a complete set of new body components including a high-speed front fender. A set of Suzuki forks were installed and a side-mounted Honda Gold Wing air shock was made to fit out back so Haseloh could run a large rear tire. Haseloh owns and operates R.P.M. Cycle in Okotoks, so putting a bit of punch in the engine department was an easy task for him. He improved the valves and installed a set of Italian racing carbs on a pair of custom-made intake manifolds. As there aren’t many after market racing parts available for the CX650 Haseloh welded together his own exhaust system from scrap tubing.
Wylie and Haseloh borrowed a truck and made it to Bonneville, where Wylie ran in his class and hit 118.754 mph, up from the previous record of 117.503 mph. Haseloh, however, was faced with a few technical inspection details that he needed to fix, and he was chasing down an elusive coolant leak. After Wylie made his record-run some parts were swapped from Wylie’s machine to Haseloh’s so he could at least get on the track on the final day of racing.
While testing the modified bike in Calgary all of the runs were done on Haseloh’s dyno using an external fuel tank. On the salt, with the bike’s gas tank in place, the small gas petcock wouldn’t flow enough fuel to keep the engine running at full-throttle — the carburetors simply ran dry and Haseloh could only run at three-quarters throttle through the timed mile.
“We didn’t have a chance to thoroughly test everything before we left Calgary, and it bit us in the end,” Wylie says. “We plan on going back, maybe not next year (2008), but it should be a bit easier the second time around.”

Photo courtesy Jim Wylie

Joe Haseloh (right) of R.P.M. Cycles, and crew work on tracking down an elusive coolant leak on Haseloh’s 1983 Honda CX650.

Antique Motorcycle, Royal Ruby and Triumph Drag Bike, by Greg Williams

Take a look at the latest stories in the Winter 2007 issue of the Antique Motorcycle magazine. First, a piece regarding Royal Ruby, a little-known British maker building motorcycles in the early 1900s, and the second, a story about Jeff Thompson’s original, as-last-raced Triumph drag bike.

Does this Triumph motorcycle look familiar to you? Thompson would like to know more of its history — if you have anything to share please drop me a line.

Several photos of Thompson’s Triumph drag bike, photos by Greg Williams.


Calgary Herald, Alberta Auto Racing Association Dirt Track Racers, by Greg Williams

First published in the Calgary Herald, Nov. 23, 2007

Al Smith’s racer, seen here outside his mother in law’s house in Calgary’s Mission district, at 520 21 Ave. S.W. Photo courtesy Al Smith.

Calgary was a pretty simple little city in the early 1950s. If you wanted something done, you just pretty much went ahead and did it. Take, for example, the story of the Alberta Auto Racing Association.
The club formed in 1950 when a group of enthusiastic Calgary speedsters wanted to go racing.
“We wanted to get enough cars together to put on a show of performance,” says 81-year old Al Smith of Okotoks. “We couldn’t do that unless we had an association and everyone (who was building a car) was on the same page.”
The story really revolves around Smith. He was born in Calgary and raised on farms in surrounding communities such as Balzac, Sheppard and Priddis. Discharged from the Navy in 1946 Smith went to work at Acklands in Calgary, but knew he wanted to do something else. He put in applications with the fire, transit and police departments.
“I didn’t really ever think I’d end up as a police officer, but I did, if only for a brief amount of time,” Smith says.
He spent a year walking the beat, and notes, “In the winter time you’d get cold, and you’d find places where you could get in and warm up and then head back out.”
And one of those places happened to be Atlas Service, an Esso gas station on the southwest corner of 17th Ave. and 5th St. S.W. During the respite from winter’s cold, Smith spent time chatting with one of the owners of Atlas Service. He learned that the shareholder wanted to sell his half of the business.
Smith, 23 at the time, says he only had about $200 — but his mother in law loaned him enough funds to buy into Atlas Service. So he quit the police force to work in his garage, doing brake jobs, changing tires and water pumps, installing mufflers and performing tune-ups. “We could do a brake re-line and change a set of tires so fast it would make your head spin — it was a lot easier to do back then on those old cars,” Smith says.
It’s hard to believe now in today’s fast paced world, but Smith tells a story about how in 1950 a number of Calgary gas stations were talking about going on extended hours — basically 24 hour service. Not every station was allowed to operate extended hours; only a select location within certain quadrants of the city could be open. Atlas Service became a 24-hour outlet, and Smith soon became sole proprietor of the station.
He says that’s about when he met Frank Taylor, a local mechanic with a passion for auto racing.
“(Taylor) had raced Ford Model Ts, and we both loved racing so we had something in common,” Smith recalls. “I told him I needed a mechanic to work at Atlas Service, and Frank came to work for me.”
Taylor told Smith about the makings of his racecar — he had a chassis and wheels. Most importantly, he had a brand new flathead Ford V-8 engine that Universal Sales and Service (now Universal Ford Lincoln) had donated to his cause.
And it was around the same time talk about forming a racing association started. The inaugural meeting of the Alberta Auto Racing Association was held at the Palliser Hotel, with about a dozen enthusiasts laying down the specifications for their ‘dirt track’ racers.
“I had Taylor drag the pieces of the racer over to Atlas Service, and every evening we were working on that car,” Smith says. The pair worked hard, welding, cutting and fabricating, making the motor and transmission fit and shortening a drive shaft to meet up with the rear differential. They also had to make their own racecar body, including the rear tail, cockpit and hood.
“There was a dump out behind Tom Campbell’s Hill (just north of the Zoo), and (Taylor) and I went out two or three Sunday’s in a row looking for scrap metal to build the body for our car. All of the metal for that car body came from the dump, and we hand formed and welded together the pieces that we found.”


Frank Taylor (right) and his brother Fred with the racer built in Al Smith’s Atlas Esso Service. Photo courtesy Al Smith.

With the formation of the AARA the enthusiastic racers proved their mettle on tracks in Calgary, Nanton, Three Hills, Red Deer and Lacombe to name a few. Other notable names in the racing group include Jim Ward, Frank Janett (later known as ‘Leadfoot’ Janett), George LeMay, and Eric and Roper Clark of Clark’s Auto Parts.
There wasn’t ever any prize money — it was simply for the thrill of the ride. In Smith’s case, Taylor drove while he formed part of the pit crew, responsible for checking wheel nuts, coolant, oil, and ensuring there were no fluid leaks. Their car was successful, and they won a few races.
“We were just imagining ourselves in the Indianapolis 500; it was a far cry from that but it sure was fun,” Smith says.
Taylor moved from Calgary in 1953, and Smith went on to operate a number of gas stations before becoming a UFA bulk fuel distributor. While he didn’t lose his interest in automobile racing he stopped participating himself.
Smith says, “It was all about the excitement getting ready for the race, the excitement of the race, and then the journey to the nearest pub afterwards to rehash the race.”

Photo courtesy Al Smith

Click here to visit the Calgary Herald…

Bernie (J.B.) Nicholson of Nicholson Bros. Motorcycles Inducted Into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame, by Greg Williams

Prairie motorcycle legend Bernie Nicholson, of Nicholson Bros. Motorcycles, was inducted into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame on Oct. 27.
Together with nine other individuals and one organization, Nicholson was posthumously inducted into the fledgling Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame (CMHF) at a ceremony and banquet in Toronto.
This is the second year (2007) for inductions, and Nicholson joins the likes of Trev Deeley, the man behind Deeley Harley-Davidson Canada and Calgary?s own Walt Healy (
In its mission statement, the CMHF vows to ??record and preserve the history and heritage of the motorcycle and motorcycling activity in Canada; and to recognize, honour and celebrate those who have achieved excellence and or made significant contributions to the well being and advancement of motorcycling in Canada.?
Nicholson, together with his brother Lawrence, imported their first British machine to Saskatoon in 1931. In 1933 the pair established a well-respected shop in Saskatoon, and went on to sell and service almost every make of British motorcycle until the early 1970s. But perhaps Nicholson?s greatest contribution to motorcycling was his writing of seven editions of Modern Motorcycle Mechanics, a book that became renowned the world over. He wrote his first edition in 1942, and published his last in 1974. More than 100,000 copies of Modern Motorcycle Mechanics sold, making the book something of an unheralded Canadian bestseller.
Nicholson retired to Calgary in 1977, and died here on Dec. 17, 2001.

See the Nicholson Bros. Motorcycles page here…

Calgary Herald, The lift is King, by Greg Williams

First published in the Calgary Herald Oct. 26, 2007

Photo courtesy Ross Cameron/Lift King

It’s entirely possible to double the storage capacity of a garage — and you won’t have to apply for a building permit, or spend thousands of dollars constructing a new one.
Calgary company Lift King offers a variety of automotive lifts, or hoists ( Once seen only in mechanic’s bays, two and four-post automotive lifts are now available to the average consumer.
Essentially, a lift allows one car — or any variety of other equipment such as ATVs, motorcycles, lawn equipment or even a boat — to be stored above another vehicle. Lift King owner Ross Cameron, a 35 year-old Calgarian and self-proclaimed gearhead with cars such as a 1969 SS396 Chevelle, 1969 Corvette Stingray and 1970 Pontiac GTO convertible, was in the market for a lift two years ago.
“I was at a friend’s house and we were talking and he was showing me the lift he had in his garage,” Cameron says. “He had a car up in the air and I leaned on the lift and the unit started to waver.”
Cameron wasn’t impressed. First, he felt his friend had overpaid for the lift, and second, the unit was of poor quality.
“Safety is a big issue for me,” Cameron says. “If you have a toy up there, and if it ever hurt somebody — that wouldn’t be good.”
So Cameron — who also owns Calgary’s Floor King — used his extensive import and export contacts to track down a better-made, higher quality automotive lift at a reasonable price. He visited every Asian factory he could where lifts were being produced. After inspecting each maker and satisfying himself about the quality of the product, Cameron placed an order with one manufacturer for a container of lifts.
“There are 24 units in each container,” Cameron says. “At first, the lifts sold to friends, and to friends of friends. It was a hobby in the beginning, but (Lift King) has evolved into something I really enjoy.”
In fact, he’s expanded his Lift King range of garage equipment to include tire changing machines, stainless steel cabinets and a tough PVC snap-together floor tile.
While Cameron isn’t the first to market lifts in Canada, he might be the first to take the units mainstream. He says lifts have gone from being used by enthusiasts and hobbyists — for routine maintenance or storing a car — to the general homeowner to help free up garage space.
For example, Cameron says he frequently hears from customers who have two cars, and a two-car garage.
“Your average two car garage is full of equipment, either lawn gear or bikes and sports gear,” he says. “And that really only leaves room for one car at a time in the garage.”
With a lift, Cameron says the bulk of the gear can be placed on the lift deck and raised above the floor. The second car — the one that often sat in the driveway — will fit underneath the equipment and inside the garage.
Cameron currently offers numerous residential lifts, but the most popular is the Pro King 8. The unit is available to operate on either 110 volts (standard household outlet) or 220 volts (special household wiring required). The unit is electric over hydraulic, and the push of a button raises and lowers the deck. Available in black, red or blue, Cameron says he can also custom order the unit in a colour to match a customer’s garage.
The Pro King 8 is a four-post lift — which means there is a steel column at each corner of the rig. There is 236 cm of space between side columns at front and rear, which allows the average sedan to slot in quite nicely. It has a lifting capacity of 3,629 kg, and in its top locked position offers 180 cm of space underneath. The lift deck locks at 10 different heights, including the top position. Cameron’s Pro King 8 retails for $2,795 before GST.
The lift comes pre-assembled in large pieces, but still requires final assembly. Lift King is available to install their units.
Cameron has expanded Lift King into Vancouver, B.C., and Sydney, Australia. He will be opening soon in Saskatoon, Sask.

First published in the Calgary Herald Driving section, click here…

Photo courtesy Ross Cameron/Lift King

Calgary Herald, Von Dutch more than just a name, by Greg Williams

Photo courtesy Bonhams & Butterfields — Von Dutch Tempe, Arizon shop sign.

First published in the Calgary Herald, Fri. Oct. 26, 2007

Von Dutch.
You see it on Madonna and on Lindsay Lohan.
And you even see it on the local mall rat.
But Von Dutch is more than a name on a T-shirt, hat, or a pair of designer denims.
Von Dutch, or Dutch as his friends called him, was first and foremost a motorcycle mechanic. He was the self-proclaimed originator of modern pin striping. He was a machinist. He was a car customizer. He was one of the founders of Kustom Kulture. He was a knife maker and a gunsmith. He was an artist. And, according to some, he was crazy.
Dutch?s real name was Kenneth Howard and the man is arguably one of the most recognized names in both the hot rod and alternative art scenes. He died in 1992, and the legend of the man continues to grow. At an early 2006 auction Dutch?s personal brushes and paint box sold for $310,500.
And on Nov. 10 a number of Von Dutch tools and original artworks from the private collection of Stan Betz are up for auction at Bonhams & Butterfields in Los Angeles at the Petersen Automotive Museum (
?Von Dutch stuff is highly collectible now,? says Bob Burns from his home in Prescott, Arizona. ?I was at the auction where his paint box went for over $300,000.
?Never in a million years would I have imagined his box selling for that.?
Burns, 67, should know. In 1954 Dutch showed him how to pinstripe at a custom car shop in New Jersey.
?I got in line with the dash from my ?49 Ford (yes, Burns was 14 years old at the time). I watched (Dutch) stripe it and I though I could do that. He actually taught me how to practice to stripe, what kind of paint to use, and a few other pointers.?
For Burns, striping was something he did on the side while he held down regular day jobs. And he didn?t meet Dutch again until the 1960s, when their paths crossed in Arizona.
Von Dutch was born on Sept. 7, 1929. His father was a sign painter and gold leaf artist, and legend has it that by the time Dutch was just 10 years old he was skilled with the brushes, and could letter like a pro. He worked as a motorcycle mechanic in the mid-1940s in a Los Angeles shop, and would occasionally bring a bike home with him where he?d treat the gas tank to a pinstripe job.
For the uninitiated, a pinstripe is a thin line of paint carefully applied by hand with a special brush. A stripe job can be as simple as a straight line or a very intricate and complicated series of lines, loops and curves. Dutch?s fertile imagination gave him a seemingly endless variety of designs, and his flair with the brush created a buzz in the Southern California/West Coast hot rod scene.
News of his talent spread and rodders brought their rides thousands of miles in order to have them painted by Dutch. According to Burns, a customer didn?t tell Dutch what they wanted. Instead, they?d tell Dutch how much time they could buy. The designs were completely up to Dutch.
Apparently it was Dutch who started the craze for custom paint schemes, including the ever-popular flame jobs. However, he wasn?t alone in what he was doing. There are a couple of other names, including Ed ?Big Daddy? Roth ? creator of Rat Fink, the complete antithesis of Mickey Mouse ? and the Barris Brothers with their custom cars. These early trendsetters are the fathers of what has become known as Kustom Kulture, a term that loosely defines the Southern California/West Coast hot rod scene of the 1950s, and is a sub-culture that is still alive today.
Ironically, Dutch hated painting, and quit striping cars around 1958.
?He kind of got tired of it,? says Burns. Dutch preferred to work with metal, and felt that a paint job lasted only a few years before fading into oblivion. A talented machinist, Dutch made guns, knives and even cannons. He loved to put Volkswagen air-cooled engines in everything, except VWs. He built gas-powered roller skates. He constructed a steam-powered TV set. And while fabricating and working with metal usually requires exact measurements, Dutch never used a caliper or micrometer.
?He was a great fabricator,? Burns says. ?And he never measured anything, he did it all by eye. He was a real genius.?
Burns moved to Tempe, Arizona in 1966, and Dutch moved his wife and two daughters there in 1969. Dutch opened a custom car paint shop, which, according to Burns, was little more than a two-car garage. ?I started hanging out in Dutch?s shop, where he taught me more tricks.?
Burns still held a regular day job, but would stripe and sign paint on the side. ?I never thought I was any good at it, but (Dutch) thought I was okay ? I was good enough to fool the customers, anyway.?
The friendship between Dutch and Burns is interesting, because Dutch didn?t like many people.
?You never knew why he didn?t like you,? Burns elaborates, and adds, ?He didn?t like people in suits or uniforms, or anyone carrying a clipboard. He also had a dog he named Charger that was part wolf, and if the dog didn?t like you, then Dutch didn?t either.
?But Dutch and I shared similar interests, we both liked cars and motorcycles, and we got along.?vd-cleve_a.jpg
Photo courtesy Bonhams & Butterfields — A Cleveland motorcycle restored by Von Dutch

There are a few stories about how he came by the Von Dutch moniker. Burns says he doesn?t know which one is true, but says one explanation is the derogatory expression that he was ?as stubborn as a Dutchman?.
Dutch moved back to Southern California in 1975 where he went to work for Jim Brucker and his Cars of the Stars museum. When the museum closed in 1982 the Brucker family kept Dutch on as general custodian for their collection of vehicles. At this point in his life, Dutch lived in a converted transit bus that had his metal lathe and other equipment up front, and a small bedroom at the rear. Money meant nothing to him.
According to a quote circulating on a number of Internet sites, this is Dutch from a 1965 magazine article.
?I make a point of staying right at the edge of poverty,? he says. ?I don’t have a pair of pants without a hole in them, and the only pair of boots I have are on my feet. I don’t mess around with unnecessary stuff, so I don’t need much money. I believe it’s meant to be that way. There’s a ‘struggle’ you have to go through, and if you make a lot of money it doesn’t make the ‘struggle’ go away. It just makes it more complicated. If you keep poor, the struggle is simple.?
Sounds like he was the quintessential artist.
Andrew Reilly, a specialist in the Motoring Department at Bonhams and Butterfields in Los Angeles says, ?Like many great artists he?s known for working in a variety of different mediums.
?There?s the pin striping, there?s the metal engraving, and there?s the outright fabrication. I wouldn?t put him in the same category with Picasso or Michaelangelo, but (Dutch) did have a wonderful control of his craft. He could draw a perfect circle freehand, and the uniformity of his work was tremendous.?
Dutch did dabble in all kinds of art forms, including painting on canvas. Some refer to this art as ?low brow?, or appealing to the lowest common denominator.
Says Reilly, who attended the Rhode Island School of Design, ?I would classify his art as primitive or folk art; something that is honest, raw and confrontational. His art is difficult to describe, it?s something that was unique to its time and place.?
He is perhaps most famous for his bloodshot winged eyeball logo, something he used on his work throughout his life.
Burns says Dutch had a photographic memory. He could letter a sign on a truck door, and then switch over to the other door and duplicate his work exactly.
?You could measure the letters and they?d be exactly the same, and it was all by eye,? Burns says. ?When I?d ask him how he could letter so perfectly, he?d say, ?I just see it on the door, and I paint between the lines?.?
Burns sums up Dutch?s approach to life and work.
?If he liked you, he?d charge you a case of beer. If he didn?t, the sky was the limit.?
Dutch?s daughters, Lisa and Lorna Howard, sold the rights to the Von Dutch name and logo in 1996 to an entrepreneur, and the brand has grown seemingly exponentially. The company does a good job of getting its gear seen on movie stars, and the jeans and hats range in price from $9 to $185 ( But there is a backlash to Von Dutch clothing, with logos such as Von Sucks and Von Done cropping up.
And, it can be expected that Dutch would probably be turning in his grave if he knew where his name is now ? according to Burns, he detested fame, money and notoriety.

First published in the Calgary Herald’s Driving section, click here…

Also visit Von Dutch is Still Alive…interesting material

Bob Burns’ site, plenty of photos and links…

Photo courtesy Bonhams & Butterfields — Von Dutch’s engraved helmet. The baby pacifier was added as a jab at California’s helmet law.

The Antique Motorcycle, Honda CB77 Super Hawk Development and Restoration by Greg Williams


Photo by Scott Pargett

This story first ran in the Fall 2007 issue of the Antique Motorcycle, the publication of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America.

Some of the photos, as noted, are by Scott Pargett. You need to see his Flickr photostream as he details the restoration of his 1962 CB77. Please visit his site by clicking here.

Honda’s Super Hawk dramatically changed the face of the motorcycle world. No other motorcycle before it contained as many features for so few dollars. Powered by an inclined vertical twin engine that could be revved to 9,200 r.p.m., the bike also included 12-volt alternator electrics, electric start, chain-driven overhead camshaft and wet sump lubrication. Perhaps the biggest plus was the fact the Super Hawk didn’t mark its spot wherever it was parked.

In 1961, when the Super Hawk was introduced, it seemed acceptable for a British or American made machine to ooze and dribble lubricant. But with Honda’s horizontally split crankcases and proper seals around kickstart and gearshift spindles the Super Hawk was virtually oil tight.

In America, Honda introduced both the CB72 Hawk and CB77 Super Hawk at the same time. The smaller machine, the CB72, featured a 247cc engine. The CB72’s bigger brother, the CB77, had an odd displacement of 305cc’s. Regardless, the CB77 Super Hawk was really a firecracker.

One only need read the Cycle World Road Test of 1964 to understand the impact the Super Hawk really had. “Never before, in the entire history of motorcycling, has one company done so much in so little time,” Cycle World enthused in its report. “There are, naturally, excellent reasons for this progress: from top to bottom, the Honda line of motorcycles features good performance, good handling, good quality, and a high degree of technical refinements. The fastest and most refined of all Hondas is the CB77, and it is a remarkable machine in many respects.”

Let’s take a look at some of those respects.
One of them would be the tubular steel frame that used the engine as a stressed member. Developed from Honda’s racing machines of the late 1950s, the frame was stronger and considerably lighter than most other motorcycle chassis’ in use at the time. A large-diameter backbone (it measures close to 1 1/2″) curves from the headstock down to where the rear swingarm pivots are located. A trellis-like arrangement of smaller diameter tubes runs from the base of the headstock back to the backbone, and this is where the engine is held at the top. Substantial pressed steel brackets — welded to the backbone — bolt up the engine at the rear. More tubes, triangulated behind the backbone, carry the battery tray and toolbox and also provide the mounting points for the top of the rear suspension units and the base of the dual seat.

Another respect is the double-leading shoe eight-inch brakes front and rear. These were considered quite potent stoppers for their day, but complaints were heard from owners that the DLS arrangement wouldn’t hold the bike from rolling backwards when stopped on a hill. Both front and rear brakes are cable operated. Those brakes are at the center of 18″ wheels front and rear, with a 2.75-18″ tire up front and 3.00-18″ out back.

3110391676_43dd49470aPhoto by Scott Pargett

And last but not least is the all-alloy electric start Super Hawk engine. With its 305cc’s, the twin-cylinder engine produces 28 horsepower at 9,000 r.p.m. Lubrication is via wet sump, and the oil used in the engine also looks after the unit-construction four-speed gearbox, clutch and primary chain. A single overhead camshaft is chain-driven, with the drive sprocket placed directly in the middle of the crankshaft. Twin 26 mm Keihin carburetors feed fuel to the forward-canted engine. Early Honda twins featured 360-degree firing intervals, which means both pistons rise and fall at the same time. But the Super Hawk engine features 180-degree firing intervals; as one of the pistons goes up, the other goes down. Roller bearings support the pressed-up crankshaft, and connecting rods are one-piece items.

Hop-up parts for the Super Hawk engine were readily available. Honda offered a line of performance items, and the aftermarket parts industry also got involved. The August 1964 issue of Cycle featured an article, Road Racing the Honda Super Hawk, which details some of the modifications made by owners and racers, such as big bore piston kits and valve train improvements. With a stock 351 lb. curb weight, many of these racers pared the Super Hawk down to 275 lbs.

“It’s a remarkable engine, and most (stock) Super Hawks I’ve had will go 100 m.p.h.,” says Bill Silver, otherwise known as “MrHonda”. Silver has written extensively about all of the Honda twin-cylinder models, including the Dream, Scrambler, Hawk and Super Hawk, and has become something of an authority regarding these models. His self-published restoration guides and Classic Honda Motorcycles book, part of the MBI Publishing Co.’s Buyer’s Guide series, contain plenty of information regarding early Hondas. “And it’s some remarkable engineering expertise that went into those designs (of the twin-cylinder Honda motor).”


A scan from the 1968 Honda brochure, showing the CB77 and its replacement, the CB350.

The Super Hawk had a six-year model run, from 1961 to 1967. Production stopped in ’67, but Super Hawks were still available through to 1969. Super Hawk’s were replaced in 1968 by the CB350. In the U.S., 3,479 250cc Hawks were sold between 1961 and 1966. And between 1961 and 1969, 72,396 305cc Super Hawks were sold, definitely making this the most popular model of the two. In 1964, $665 would buy the CB77 brand new. Thousands of first-time riders cut their teeth aboard a Super Hawk, and author Robert M. Pirsig, of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance fame, also rode this model.

During the Super Hawk’s six-year run several small changes were made to improve reliability and performance, and while parts may look similar, they do not always interchange. This article will attempt to touch on a few key areas in respect to restoring a Honda Super Hawk motorcycle. While focused on the Super Hawk, it would be prudent to keep in mind that some of these tips hold true when it comes to restoring just about any motorcycle — regardless of country of origin.

If shopping for a Super Hawk, Silver says, “Buy the very best one you can find to begin with, rather than grabbing a couple of basket case machines.” He adds: “But it does depend on the individual doing the restoration.” Just how patient and up to the challenge a restorer is will make a difference. “There were many changes across the series, and just because it’s a Super Hawk part doesn’t mean it will fit another Super Hawk,” Silver says. Forewarned is forearmed, as the popular idiom proclaims.

Let’s assume it’s a complete, but tired, Super Hawk motorcycle we’re looking at. Start by taking as many pictures of the machine as possible, from every angle. Think about shots of the entire motorcycle, and then start working in to include smaller detail shots. The more photos, the easier it will be to ensure the bike goes back together the way it came apart. Good advice, you’d think. Too bad I can’t follow my own. I’m currently at work on a 1966 Honda Super Hawk, and I took only a few photos. I now wish I’d taken hundreds. Regardless, while taking the pictures, have a pad and pencil handy and jot down any disassembly notes. And when I broke down my Super Hawk I was making my parts list as fast as the bike came apart.

Always try and keep electrical items together, and the same with any fragile bits such as head or tail light lenses. Speedometers should also be handled with care. I like to have boxes of two or three different size Ziploc plastic freezer Baggies on hand, and will put as many pieces of related sub-assemblies as possible into the bags. A good Sharpie marker helps to keep track of what’s what in the Ziplocs. Trust me, it’s not always so obvious — even if it seems so at the time.

Large pieces are best set aside, and once the machine is apart it’s time to formulate an attack plan. It’s good to know just how far you want to go. If the restoration is purely for cosmetic reasons, it will be simple to sandblast, glass bead, or otherwise remove the old finish on the frame, tank, fenders and other tins, repaint, clean up other components and reassemble. But wait. If the original finish is still intact in certain spots, it would be worthwhile to get it color matched at an autobody paint supply shop. Honda never used a primer coat on their early bikes. I discovered on my machine, which was finished with a black frame, swingarm, and center stand and red gas tank, forks, and side covers that hiding underneath all of that paint there was white paint. The bike was originally white, which is a very uncommon color.

Super Hawks came in four colors; scarlet red, black, royal blue and white. Red and black were the most popular, with blue and white somewhere further down the list. The frame, swingarm and toolbox are the same color as the chain guard, gas tank, front fork ears, lower triple clamp, upper fork covers, fork legs, headlight shell and side lift handle. Side covers, fenders, horn cover, engine side covers and starter motor are finished in silver.

Except when it comes to the 1966-67 Super Hawks. These bikes have what are called Type II forks, and the lower legs on these are made of alloy, not steel. These legs are painted silver. And this is where it’s important to know exactly what year and type forks are on your Super Hawk. Mis-matched fork parts between the types will cause woes further down the road, as the triple clamps feature a different offset. That said, Silver says: “There are (also) at least three different types of Type I legs, and three different fork covers. You always have to be really conscious of (what you’re working on) and not just grabbing parts off eBay.”

Determine what needs to be cleaned and prepped for refinishing. On my Super Hawk everything needed a good de-greasing before I could really see what I was working with. Even though I’d thoroughly cleaned the bike before taking it apart, the frame, swingarm, gas tank and fenders were still grimy. Once de-greased, those items were sent for media blasting, while the rest of the smaller pieces fit inside my own small glass bead cabinet. When the various parts came back from blasting I went over them to ensure all brackets were straight, and that any damaged threads were repaired.


img_1233_2Evidence of the white paint can be seen on the underside of the gas tank.

The chainguard and fenders needed some panel beating, and all of the dents were removed. The flashy chrome panels on the sides of the gas tank really help set the Super Hawk apart in a crowd. My panels had a few nickel-sized dents, so I relied on a professional panel beater to remove those in preparation for chroming. The only other chrome plating my bike requires are the handlebars, everything else has polished up nicely.

Most of the metric fasteners that had been holding my Super Hawk together needed a little attention. I dressed up the flat edges of bolt heads and nuts (without removing too much metal) and tried to address the worst of the nicks with a file. Once cleaned up, I popped the fasteners in the glass bead cabinet for a quick blast. If you have a home plating kit, chances are you’ll be careful with your parts and won’t lose any of them. If you’re sending them out to a commercial plater for cadmium plating, then I suggest smaller items such as several washers and nuts can be strung together on a looped piece of wire.

I won’t go into details about rebuilding the engine. I will, however, note a few important items. Honda’s 305 engine features eight cylinder head acorn nuts. These are special acorn nuts. Not just any metric acorn nut will properly torque down, as they are not as deep as the originals. What happens is the nuts will thread down the studs but bottom out before reaching the proper torque, causing oil and compression leaks.

Another engine note is Honda’s use of a chain-driven oil filter. This little device sits inside the left engine or clutch cover, and spins on a shaft. And there’s been some confusion over the placement of a thrust washer — does it go inside, between the filter and the engine case, or outside between the filter and the steel pin at the end of the shaft? The washer isn’t even shown in the parts microfiche, but Silver says: “The washer needs to be outside, against the steel pin. I’ve taken apart engines where the washer was on the inside — and the result is a mis-aligned filter. The teeth (for the small drive chain) have been worn out on both the filter housing and the adjacent sprocket.”

3172703233_353ae0c424Photo by Scott Pargett

While the left cover is off, Silver suggests inspecting the clutch, as often the plates will be glued together if the bike’s been sitting for a long period. Also take a look inside the cover itself to see if the primary chain has been whipping up and rubbing on the case. If it has, it’s a good indication that the primary chain is stretched. And, it will be a hard item to replace as it has an odd pitch, and original Honda items are rare. Silver looked into having some chains reproduced, but was quoted a high-dollar figure for a batch of 1,000 chains.

“Honda built 250,000 of the 250 and 305 twin-cylinder motors, and I’ll bet probably every one of those bikes that remain out there needs a new primary chain,” Silver says. In other words, if you can’t find a replacement primary chain and you plan to ride the bike, take it easy. Or, try to find a better one than what you have. The chains were the same in all of Honda’s twins, including the Dream and Scrambler models.

Engine side covers are finished in a silver color, and are best painted at the same time as the rest of the silver pieces of the bike. There is a lot of metal to paint when restoring a Super Hawk, but thankfully most of it is just one color.

And that’s about as far as I’ve come with my Super Hawk rebuild. The final assembly hasn’t yet begun, and there are still items to detail such as the wiring harness, tail light, controls — it might be next year before we see a final product.

I have had success in obtaining parts from:
– RetroBikes Vintage Honda Parts in Port Angeles, WA:
– CMS parts in the Netherlands, plenty of NOS Honda items, and an online parts microfiche system:
And information from:
– Michael Stoic, webmaster of, and the forum
– Bill Silver, publisher of his own Honda restoration guides, or email

Here’s a list of suggested paint codes, from the forum on Paint:
-silver: DuPont Imron 45040U
-red: DuPont Imron 6543U
-black: DuPont Imron 99U
-blue: DuPont Imron 63203UH
-white: no available paint code

Calgary Herald, Honda CT90 Trail 90, by Greg Williams


New start for mothballed Honda classic


Greg Williams, For The Calgary Herald

Published: Friday, September 07, 2007


Warren Smistad’s 1973 Honda CT90, original and unrestored. Photo courtesy Warren Smistad.


Honda changed the two-wheeling world in 1959 when it introduced the Super Cub to North America.

With a step-through frame, small 49 cc engine, automatic clutch, plastic fenders and leg shield, the machine was rather innocuous and it certainly didn’t carry any cachet with the “real” motorcycle crowd.

But that was OK with Honda. It was after a different kind of rider, someone who had never considered riding a powered two-wheeler.

click here to read the rest of the story in the Calgary Herald Driving section…