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The CB550 build begins.

Every custom restoration begins with the stripping down of the stock bike. I figured that this would not be an easy process as the bike had been sat in a barn for 34 years; it was certainly going to be a dirty one. However, throughout the summer, I had invested heavily in new equipment for the workshop.

Two items in particular that were to pay for themselves during this strip down were a Clarke hydraulic bike lift and a DeWalt high torque impact wrench. For obvious reasons (the main being the saving of my glass back) the hydraulic lift was an immediate improvement. Using it to have every part of the bike that I was working on at a sensible working height was fantastic for someone who was used to laying on his back to remove engine bolts or centre stands. When I was looking for an impact wrench, I went for the highest sustained torque I could get for the money. The DeWalt has just under a thousand newton metres of torque, I could probably dismantle the Humber Bridge with it if I tried! Stuck or broken bolts during a strip down can put days on the job and a friend of mine, Louis Wassell (an industrial plant mechanic), once said to me that every five minute job is one broken bolt away from a three day ordeal. I know this to be true. Anyway, the impact wrench made short work of even the toughest, most stubborn bolts the CB550 had to offer. The strip down took the equivalent of just one afternoon (I actually did it in two smaller shifts to work around other commitments) and all I was left with was the frame and engine resting freely within.

Because I don't have an engine hoist and because I am nearly always working alone, I had to get creative removing the lump from the frame. What I do have is a crude steel frame that holds up the roof of the workshop. So, I jerry rigged some rope with a couple of carabiners and used that and the hydraulic lift to take the weight off the frame while I coaxed out the engine. To my surprise, it all worked out beautifully and the engine was out and on the bench before I knew it. Job done!

As I mentioned in the first post, I decided early on that the engine would get a full rebuild. I also mentioned that I am intending it to be at home on the track. This was going to be a job beyond my skill set. So, I would need to farm this one out to a specialist. I had originally budgeted to upwards of 3k for the donor vehicle so the money saved would go some way to cover the cost. After some searching and a recommendation from another friend, I came across D&M Engineering in Newark who specialise in classic, racing Hondas. After a quick telephone conversation with Dave, I knew my block would be in good hands. The following day, I loaded up the engine and headed down to Newark to meet Dave and Peter. I thought my old man would get a kick out of it too so decided to take him along for the ride.

When we arrived, Dave gave us a tour of the workshop and showed us some of their amazing racing bikes. The place was full of classic, mid engine Hondas from the late 60's to the late 70's. They even had a 1977 TT winner in there! Anyway, we unloaded the engine from my car. Actually, Pete picked it up like it was nothing and popped it on a sack barrow? It made me feel a little inadequate for all the fuss I went to getting it out of the frame! I spoke to Dave about what I was looking for in the rebuild and he talked me through the process and costings. I also bent Pete's ear about other performance setups, exhausts and tuning. As I said on Instagram that day, these two had forgotten more about these Honda engines than I could ever know. We left that afternoon feeling confident and excited about what they could achieve with this project. So, it was back to Yorkshire to make a start on the frame.

Jonathan Hull

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