Photos: Courtesy of the Honda CB 750 Four Owners Club of Australia
A bold decision by the Honda CB 750 Four Owners Club of Australia to restore three classic Hondas and raffle them off for charity almost came unstuck when finding a suitable CB 500 – and the parts to restore it - proved more difficult than originally imagined.
As fans of classic Honda Fours know, the CB 750 is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, with the game-changing four-cylinder being honoured at events throughout Australia and around the world.
And as most fans of classic Honda fours also know, the success of the CB 750 when new spawned several variants, including a 500cc version.
Why a 500? Well, as good as the 750 was, it wasn’t the ideal bike for everyone. Some found it too large, too heavy, too powerful and, at high speeds, too much of a handful.
Like most of its contemporaries, the CB 750 needed diligent – and sometimes complex - maintenance, too, so Honda believed that something that was both more sedate and easier to service could be a winner.
When it arrived in 1971, the CB 500, aka CB 500F (‘F’ for ‘Four’) or CB 500/4, copied the spec of its bigger brother in many areas, including the across-the-frame four-cylinder SOHC four-stroke engine with four carbies, four pipes and air cooling. There were some differences, though, including a wet sump and different primary drive, as well as extra frame gussetting.
The five-speed gearbox was as per the CB 750, as were appearance and convenience features, like chromed mudguards, electric starting, a disc front brake and preload adjustment on the twin-shock rear suspension.
With a wet weight of around 200kg and performance of 35kW (compared to the CB 750’s 225kg and 50kW), the CB 500 was a worthy alternative to those looking for something a little more docile and rider-friendly than the CB 750. For those wanting to chase down bigger bikes, it could still hit ‘the ton’ (100mph), though.
As good as it was, the 500 wasn’t perfect, with criticisms of its throttle, notchy gearbox and rear suspension. But for many, the CB 500 was a ‘Goldilocks’ bike – not too big, not too small and with the right combination of power, handling and weight. From its release in 1971, the CB 500 carried on virtually unchanged for the next two seasons before a 550cc version arrived in 1974.
A popular bike when new, the CB 500 doesn’t enjoy the reverence that the CB 750 does today, so survivors are in far fewer numbers. That presented a problem when the Honda CB 750 Four Owners Club of Australia went looking for an example to restore for their 50th Anniversary raffle in aid of mental health charity, the Black Dog Institute.
Andrew Barker of Pud’s Four Parts in Yarram, Victoria, would lead the resto effort of a CB500, as well as a CB 750 and CB 350 that the club had committed to. All three bikes would be restored to factory-authentic specification and all would – coincidentally – be 1972 models.
However, when this project gained momentum in late 2016, the hunt for a CB 500 for sale that would serve as a good base for restoration proved fruitless. Fortunately, a club member came to the rescue.
“There were none around for sale at the time, so we bought this bike, an abandoned resto, from a club member especially for the build,” Andrew explained.
Unlike the CB 350 that was being restored at the same time, the CB 500 came to the Pud’s Four Parts workshop in running condition… sort of.
“When we fired it up, it smoked us out of the shop!” Andrew laughed.
Stripping the bike down revealed the knackered engine was actually a later 550 Four. All three Hondas the club were working on were 1972 models, so this later engine wouldn’t do. Hunting for a suitable 1972-spec 500cc engine slowed progress on the project, but fortunately, the rest of the bike wasn’t in too bad condition; just worn, tired and with surface rust from nose to tail.
With this bike having come from one of their own, the 750 Four Owners Club felt a bit more “ownership” of this project than the others, so really got stuck in to the restoration, with 30 different club members contributing time and elbow grease to the build at various stages.
The CB 500 carries of number of bespoke parts, so many of the readily-available CB 750 repro and replacement parts won’t fit the smaller model.
“500/4s are so different to the rest and so many of the parts we needed were simply no longer available,” Andrew explained.
The lack of available reproduction parts meant that Andrew had to do some serious hunting for second hand and NOS CB 500 spares, while club members rifled through their own stashes to find the bespoke bits needed. As you can imagine, this became a time-consuming part of the project.
Fortunately, some of the more generic parts, like the fork tubes and gaiters, exhaust pipes, spokes, lights, etc., were available. Most came from overseas stockists, but local businesses helped out in a big way, too, supplying decals and badges, as well as specialty services, like zinc-coating, wheel lacing, sandblasting and painting.
“We have tried to keep this bike as stock and original as we could,” Andrew explained. “They are such a nice little bike - why would you want to add things that don’t belong?”
For practicality and reliability, an all-new wiring loom was added, as well as new rubber in the form of Dunlop K81s , which have the retro look, but modern compounds and radial technology.
From purchase at the start of 2017, the restoration took a good 12 months to bring to completion. The result’s been worth it, though.
“There was a lot involved, from the start to the finish, but this project’s turned out to be a stunner. So many people comment on it.”
Part of that praise is obviously due to the Candy Gold and black paint; a factory colour combo for 1972 and one that, in this instance, really sets the CB 500 apart.
As the style leader of the three bikes on offer, it’ll be no surprise if the first winning raffle ticket chooses the CB 500 instead of the CB 750 or CB 350.
Businesses that helped bring this classic CB Honda back to life include the following:
Yarram Sand Blasting - sandblasting of frame and metal parts (VIC - 0417 010 963)
Yarram Body Works - Painting of frame (VIC - 03 5182 5253)
Mach 1 Panel & Paint - Painting of tank and sidecovers (VIC - 03 5975 5367)
Greg Cook Wheel Lacing - Lacing new spoked wheels (VIC - 0407 212 038)
Big Zinc Metal Zincing - Zinc-coating bolts, nuts and brightware (VIC - 03 9728 8311)
Hardy’s Garage - Roadworthy inspection (VIC - 03 5199 2220)
Motographix - Tank decals and stickers (TAS - 0439 883 164)
Badge Replicas - Repro badges, tank and side covers (VIC - 0408 257 459)
Pud’s Four Parts - Supplier of spare parts (VIC - 03 5182 5704)
As well as members of the Honda CB 750 Four Owners Club of Australia: Stuart Tolliday, Kevin Gorton, Glenn Watson, Stuart McDonald, Rod Hill, Tom McDermott, Kevin Haines, Fred Russell, Greg Cook, Ray Knott, Craig Leveringston, Don Muir, Chris Bradley, Andrew Barker, Ian Richards, Wendy Lightbody, Frank Risseri, Gert Scheppers, Garry Smith, Ken Pearson, Ken Pearson JR, Mark Bell, Tony Gordon, Colin & Kerry Philmore, Lan Lowes, Craig Carson, Norm Hetherington, Wayne Collins.
Since the restoration was completed, this bike, along with its CB 350 and CB 750 siblings, has been doing the rounds of various bike events, including the Broadford Bike Bonanza and Phillip Island Classic, promoting the Honda CB 750 Four Owners Club of Australia raffle.
If you want the “golden ticket” for this golden Honda, you’ll need to get moving (see how to purchase tickets in the breakout).
Just $50 could see this classic ’72 Honda CB 500 Four in your garage.
Win this Bike!
For the chance to win this bike, simply purchase a ticket in the Honda CB 750 Four Owners Club of Australia raffle, supporting the Black Dog Institute.
Tickets are only $50 each and you can enter as many times as you like.
With three bikes up for grabs, all restored, the first ticket drawn gets their choice of any one of the three. The second ticket drawn can choose from the remaining two, with the third ticket drawn receiving the third bike.
Raffle tickets can be purchased by calling 0499 355 725 (9AM – 6PM weekdays only). Entries close on 17 November, 2019, with the winner drawn on 24 November, 2019.
For more details, call 0499 355 725.