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Bike Profile - Posted 21st April 2009

1972 Honda CL350-K5: On Obtaining Unobtanium , Part 1
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The trouble with old Japanese bikes is they don't last and you can't get the parts. Or that's what they told Kevin Dean when he bought is American import Honda Street Scrambler. He begs to differ....

As some of the RealClassic Message Boad regulars may know, I have recently acquired a 1972/3 Honda CL350-K5. This was a North America-only model that was never sold in Europe, so as you can imagine with the fact that it is 37 years old, the fact that it was never available in the UK and the fact that it is Japanese, finding spares can be a tad interesting.

Not sure if this is before or after, but it's looking good. 1972 Honda CL350-K5

I've owned other 70's Japanese bikes in the past and I am not daunted by the prospect of finding the "unobtainable". Having made a list of what I would like to replace and what needed to be replaced, I started by talking to UK Honda parts suppliers who, to be fair, had some of the items I needed although not the major parts. The UK suppliers all seemed to enjoy telling me that the parts I wanted were no longer available, and that I wouldn't be able to get them. It would seem though, that no one had told Honda this. But more on that later.

My first port of call was American eBay, and a quick trawl located the missing side panel fixing rod that I needed, so I could get rid of the gaffa tape holding them on. The two chrome covered grommets that I also needed for this came from David Silver in the UK and are still made by Honda.

The bike's cables are all cracking through old age, and are all finished in grey, so are a little harder to find, but I kept looking. Back in America I found a new 'sealed in the bag' battery strap and the model specific front brake light switch with grey cable, also new.

Next up, and from Canada, I found a NOS (New Old Stock) front brake cable, again sealed in a bag, and then I located a NOS twin throttle cable in Bangkok, which is sitting here on my desk as I type; again it is finished in the grey colour.

There is one thing I have struggled to find, and that is the upper chrome exhaust pipe with built in muffler. It comes as a complete part, and although there are a few used ones on eBay, either they are as rotten as mine or they won't ship to the UK! What to do?

Trail Hondas on eBay.co.uk

First of all I asked around on a couple of old bike forums to see if there was one sitting on a shelf somewhere and there was, but it was not for sale. Damn! This approach did lead me to the news that the parts are still listed by Honda, but with an upgraded part number. So much for them not being available any more. Armed with the new number I let Google do some work, specifically aimed at US Honda dealers.

And I got a hit; somewhere out in the Mid-West a dealer had the upper exhaust on his shelf and was happy to ship to the UK. Fantastic, and even better he gave me a discount on the price (although I am sure Customs and Excise will take that back!).

Not overshadowed. 1972 Honda CL350-K5, hiding behind a BSA

While I waited for the exhaust parts to arrive (they could take up to twelve weeks by surface post and then going through customs clearing) I decided I might as well use the bike as it is; it's not too noisy and it would give me a chance to see how it feels. So I joined a few other RealClassic types at Matt's Saturday lunchtime meet, at the Four Horse shoes, Long Sutton.

I gave the bike a quick check over, the usual stuff; oil, air filter, and so on. That was when I noticed that the front tyre was probably the original and was rock hard and covered in cracks. Oh well better take it slow then...

I was about half way to the pub when I lost the use of the gearbox. Just as I was trying to change down for a set of twisties, the gear pedal appeared to seize "Not good," I thought, "and possibly a rescue needed" but I pulled in the clutch and drifted to a stop at the side of the road, before having a look for the cause of my breakdown.

A bolt was the problem, a sprocket cover bolt. It had vibrated loose and come out under the gear pedal, stopping it from moving. So I wound it back in by hand (no tools with me, I have faith in old bikes) and carried on regardless. I had to do the same on the way home as it again did the same thing, but it is fixed now and has not moved since.

At home in Kevin's workshop 1972 Honda CL350-K5

It was a good little meet at the pub, and the CL350 was received well by all who were there. It actually performed quite well considering, but there are a couple of things to sort out, mainly carburettor related.

Oh, and that old front tyre. I can't tell you how bad that made the handling. It was scary stuff indeed, but a trip to the Ardingly show had me in possession of a new tyre and new tube, and those have made a world of difference.

My next outing was to the Reading MAG show, not too far from my house, and again the bike was received well by those who saw it. By this time I had replaced the old non-standard mirror with a new pair of the original correct type, but I again had trouble with the carbs sticking and dumping a load of fuel, so a pair of carburettor rebuld kits are now on order to get that sorted.

So there we are up to date, still waiting on the exhaust, but the bike is looking better all the time as little bits are put right. In fact this weekend should see some new cables fitted; that will really tidy things up, I may even break out the chrome polish.

Japanese strret-trail bikes: A moment in time 1972 Honda CL350-K5

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