Class of ’46- Cycle Canada- July 2010


Class of ’46

Long Ago by Sam Longo

 

Often the biggest challenge of restoring and collecting vintage motorcycles is having a means to transport them. Besides hauling potentially fragile and expensive machinery to shows and swap meets, the reality of picking up parts and often-whole motorcycles to complete a restoration is a common phenomenon. In addition to the practical necessities of hauling all this stuff around it would be nice if that conveyance had a small modicum of class. Trailers are an inexpensive and viable solution but lack soul. Nothing quite makes a statement like pulling up to the swap meet at Paris Ontario, with a nice old bike nestled in the back of an equally cool old truck.

 

Enter Mr. Craig Godfrey, who is just eccentric enough to believe that the only correct way to haul around your 1946 BSA B31 350 single is in a 1946 Ford F1 pickup. Godfrey is no stranger to restoring old machinery. As a Precision Metal Fabrication instructor at Durham College he has, over the years, turned his hand at restoring a very diverse array of vehicles ranging from Suzuki RE5 Rotary motorcycles to Brazilian built Puma sports cars, not to mention countless old Honda’s, Norton’s and even a few vintage Jeeps.

 

This particular Ford pickup however spawned a rather eclectic evolution. The truck was originally brought up from Montana complete with its original seized flathead V8 motor, but Godfrey wanted to build it up as a reliable cost efficient regular driver. After doing some basic measurements and calculations it was realized that the entire body could be dropped on to a long wheelbase 1985 Chevy S10 pickup, complete with its 2.8 liter V6 and automatic transmission.

 

Purists may balk at the travesty of grafting an old Ford to a newer Chevy, but Godfrey had his vision and the project soldiered on. The dissection and merging of the two trucks was done in his West Hill driveway, over two years, subsequently achieving the final goal of a classic looking truck that is easy to drive and very economical to maintain. Being the ever-vigilant scrounger, Godfrey couldn’t resist a few whimsical touches such as the stainless Lexus tailpipes and custom front grill. The basic interior sports a leather bench seat spirited from the third row of a modern Chevy Suburban, along with a spartan dash consisting of a simple speedometer and a vintage Pioneer tape deck hidden in the glove box.

 The trucks slammed stance, thanks to its low profile Nascar tires and rims, adds to the curb appeal and is also beneficial to the loading and unloading of motorcycles. Despite all the good-natured “red neck” ribbing from his motorcycle buddies, Godfrey is happy with the outcome and thoroughly enjoys the attention generated by his latest project. The only thing left to do he quips is to install a rack in the back window. “This Class of ’46 hillbilly package just isn’t quite complete without having my vintage banjo along for the ride!”      

ZEN AGAIN….CYCLE CANADA

ZEN AGAIN by Sam Longo

 

Honda’s sporty CB77 Superhawk was produced from 1961 until 1968. Up until the introduction of the CB450 Black Bomber in 1965, it was Honda’s flagship performance leader. With 305cc’s, a 180 degree crankshaft and 28 hp at 9000 RPM, the little, overhead valve, twin could run with the best British 500’s of its day, topping out at a respectable 104.6 miles per hour. (Cycle World, 1962)

 

Now fairly collectable, it has become an icon of the sixties. Not to down play the CB72 250 Hawk, or the CB160 affectionately named the “Chicken Hawk”(both excellent motorcycles), the 305 Superhawk simply was the quintessential chrome tanked Honda to own during the early era of “Meeting the nicest people”.

 

Perhaps part of the bikes desirability among collectors is its direct link to a very successful book that was extremely popular in the 1970’s. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance may well be the most famous literary work that has ever focused on motorcycling. It certainly is, without a doubt, the best selling book in that category. Robert Pirsig’s epic journey across America, with his young son Chris, chronicles his troubled search for truth and the essence of quality. It is not surprising then, that his motorcycle of choice was the venerable Honda 305 Superhawk.

 

Interest in Pirsig’s book, and therefore by association the Superhawk, has recently been rekindled by Mark Richardson’s excellent sequel “Zen and Now”, where he retraces the authors journey while discovering his own inner truths. It is a great read, even if Richardson did ride the wrong motorcycle!

 

My own zen-like journey with this particular bike started last fall when I began this project. The two CB77 wrecks beckoned me from the front showroom of Ontario Cycle Salvage. I realize now that it was futile to resist the temptation, but at the time, I really secretly hoped someone else would buy them. The final result pictured here was not so much a restoration, but more a resurrection, as it arose from the ashes, becoming one decent bike from the decrepit remains of two others. Not entirely stock, I treated it to flat bars and had to live with aftermarket mufflers and a cut down front fender. Forty-four years after its initial manufacture, I was truly impressed with the ride quality and performance of this little twin cylinder, giant killer.

 Acceleration is best described as comfortably adequate, controls are light and the twin leading shoe front and rear brakes haul the bike to a stop with authority (for a drum braked antique). Even the vibration is minimal unless you spin the engine right up to its lofty redline. The fact that it runs so well is more a testament to the build quality of early Honda’s than any of my skills as a mechanic. The bottom line here is that Mr. Honda really got it right, and Mr. Pirsig did indeed choose a very well made, durable motorcycle. I doubt that I would ever consider this bike for a cross-country journey, two up, loaded with camping gear as Pirsig did. Nor would I attempt to match Cycle Worlds 1962 top speed, but for a quick run to the bank, with my smiling neighbors giving me the thumbs up as I pass by, it can only be described as simply zen-sational.