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Bike of the Month

May 2018

1965 Honda CB 450 

by Mike Leukauf

This months Bike of the Month is something a little different. Honda's biggest motorcycle in 1965 was the all new CB450 Black Bomber, nicknamed because of low sales at the time. Some say because of the odd-looking fuel tank. Today it is a sought after, rare collectable bike. The magazines of the day were impressed and gave it stellar reviews. 


What makes this Honda engine unique, are the overhead cams, with torsion bar valve springs. It was designed and sold to compete with the bigger, faster and better handling British machinery of the day. Weight is a claimed 450 lbs, horsepower was rated at 45, and top speed slightly over a hundred. A 4-speed gearbox was changed to a 5-speed in 1968 along with an all new fuel tank and disc front brake. An ultra rare kit was sold in 65-67 that turned these bikes into scramblers. It included high pipes and a different fuel tank among other goodies. 


This 1965 CB450 Black Bomber was bought brand new, in Reno, Nevada at Bill Rudd Honda. For those who haven't heard of Bill Rudd, he was an avid Ferrari enthusiast and his passion was racing them. To finance this hobby, he sold Honda motorcycles. The buyer of this bike was a man named Joe Sheppard. He was the chromer for the Harrah Automobile Collection from the mid 1960's to around 1985. Joe put 10,000+ miles on the bike then parked it in the chrome shop the in 1971, due to a problem with valve train. It sat in the chrome shop for the next 30 or so years amongst the toxic fumes and mists. Needless to say, the bike became completely rusted out from headlight to tail light from the chrome shop exposure.


Bob Abney, the current owner, became a very close friend of Joe Sheppard while working together at the auto collection. Bob mentioned to Joe one day that the motorcycle would have a good home if he ever wanted to part with it. Eventually, Joe gave it to him. For a few more years it sat unrestored, and was garage art in Bob's upholstery shop. When Bob finally got caught up on work a bit, he made a prototype seat, using disco red metal flake vinyl, just for laughs. These seats are almost unobtanium. When, and if you can find one, they're well over a thousand dollars, and still not done to Bob's ultra high standards of upholstery. Next up was to take the motorcycle to an expert on vintage Hondas to have a look at the damaged valve train and rebuild the forks. Comstock Chapter AMCA member, Peter Hipp, was given the task. The engine was gone through, parts were replaced, and it was given a clean bill of health before it was delivered back to Bob's shop. 


It sat a few more years ‘til Bob could get caught up again, when it was completely disassembled. Every nut, bolt and washer was removed, ‘til it was a bare frame. The hardware was blasted clean, threads chased, and polished on an emery wheel till everything looked better then new. 


Over the next few years the frame was worked over and sand blasted. It was then primed and painted by Roger Wilson. The metal was worked back into shape and straightened, all by hand with zero body filler, by Bob. Roger then primed and painted the tank, fenders, side covers and other small parts. When the paint was dry, friends in the neighborhood helped assemble the bike. With the engine re-installed, it became a roller. After months and years of work, it came together and looked like a new motorcycle again. Bob kept his word to his deceased friend, and Joe would be proud of this labor of love. 


Next up on the machine was a proper Connelly leather seat, made to the highest standards, by Bob himself. With the bike complete, it was time to kick the tire and start the fire. It started and ran and was ridden around the neighborhood. Fine tuning of the carbs remains, and this should happen in the near future.

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