The Late Great DC8

By Sam Longo AME A&P

The “Douglas Commercial” DC8 and Boeing’s 707 were staunch competitors in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s as the worlds top airlines scrambled to bring intercontinental jet transportation to the rapidly expanding flying public.

Despite being a little late out of the gate compared to the 707 the first DC-8-10 took flight on May 30th 1958. After one of the most expensive proving and testing programs in aviation history, it entered commercial service with Delta and United Airlines in September 1959. Part of that testing involved extensive underwater pressurization cycling, due to lessons learned from the fatal crashes of 2 DeHavilland Comet Jetliners in 1953 and 1954 caused by metal fatigue failure. Douglas was taking no chances with their first jet-powered airliner, it’s long standing excellent reputation for reliability was at stake, so it had to be right from day one.

They need not have worried, their design proved to be built to a very high standard. Perhaps a little known fact that clearly proves this point was an event that took place on August 21st 1961. While collecting wing data during a test flight, a customer’s aircraft was put into a controlled dive from 41,000 feet and subsequently became the first commercial aircraft to break the sound barrier recording a speed of Mach 1.012. That very aircraft, a DC8-43 was later delivered to CP Air as CF-CPG and carried revenue passengers for many years until its eventual retirement from service.

When I started my employment at Air Canada in 1978, many of its DC8’s were still in service. By then they were mostly the 62 and 63 Series of aircraft with the late model Pratt and Whitney JT3D’s. We also had occasion to service a few of the much earlier 40 Series aircraft that had been sold years earlier to Air Jamaica, still flying with their original Rolls Royce Conway engines.

As my tenure at Air Canada soldiered on the DC8’s began to migrate out of passenger service and into the companies rapidly expanding Cargo enterprise. As the 1980’s emerged, passengers were now expecting the wide-bodied comfort of Lockheed’s L1011 or Boeing’s 747 for their long haul flights.

Another nail in the coffin of the DC8 and many other aircraft of its era was excessive noise. The early 1970’s spawned mounting issues demanding airport noise reductions culminating in the FAA’s imposition of its airport noise regulations in 1985 (FAR Pt 36-7 and 36-8). Despite various after market “hush kits” the old Pratt JT3D’s were just too loud.  For carriers like Air Canada this was an unfortunate reality. Despite its newer 60 series airframes having lots of life remaining and still generating excellent revenue hauling passengers and freight, its noisy engines were dragging it down.

Fortunately in 1975 General Electric saw the writing on the wall and launched the Franco-American CFM-56 engine conversion program. Delta Technical Operations and Air Canada as well as other airlines became licensed to do the retrofits, breathing new life into the superb original airframe design. Other modifications included the gutting of the antiquated Freon air conditioning systems and replacing them with more modern air cycle machines, as well as modernization of many cockpit systems. These revitalized   DC8’s became the new Super 70’s Series. Utilizing the, state-of-the-art, high bypass turbofan CFM-56’s the aircraft immediately became 70% quieter and 20% more fuel-efficient, easily extending its life into the new millennium.

When I left Air Canada in 1988 its fleet of DC8-Super 70’s were flying round the clock delivering millions of tons of cargo to points all over the globe. Many people even lobbied for them to return to passenger service, however by then the modern twin engine Boeing 767 was already arriving to take its place. In all 110 DC8’s were converted to Super 70’s status worldwide when the retrofit program finally ended late in 1988.

Success of any aircraft design can be measured in many ways. However, longevity and miles flown may well be the ultimate testament. In total, 556 DC8’s rolled off the assembly line in Long Beach, California between 1958 and 1972. Of those, over 200 were still in service in 2002. By 2009, 97 DC8’s were still flying worldwide, still making money and plying their trade, more than 51 years since the aircrafts first inaugural flight.

The Douglas DC8 has earned its place in aviation history. For millions of passengers all over the world it was their first encounter with the futuristic realities of safe, efficient, comfortable jet transportation. I am proud to have been a small part of that experience. It was an honor spinning wrenches for that short period of history, helping to maintain Air Canada’s DC8’s, an aircraft that will forever remain an icon of the commercial aviation community.     



“Notes from a Neat Freak”

 Sam Longo, AME, A&P

Being organized is not an absolute necessity in the ongoing endeavor to maintain modern aircraft, but it does have its advantages.  There is nothing worse than rummaging through your toolbox searching for your 9/16 wrench only to realize that it is most likely at 35,000 feet, currently westbound, heading for Vancouver!

Hello my name is Sam Longo and I am a self-proclaimed neat freak.  I just can’t help myself.  It is ingrained in my very nature, and started at an early age.  Raised in a large family in a home that was usually rather messy, I seem to have gravitated to the opposite end of the spectrum.  My environment must always be neat, tidy and organized.  There are no exceptions; my home, toolbox, office or workshop must all adhere to this often-strict standard.  I have been both praised and teased about this, and that’s OK, it’s just the way I work best.

The first time my older sister, Louise, entered my little motorcycle workshop ‘Honda Heaven’, her immediate comment was “Oh my gosh, it’s neater than my apartment.”  Yes, there is no doubt, it is a blessing and a curse, still I believe it is a personality quirk that lends itself well to doing quality work on any type of complex machinery, especially aircraft.  This is not to imply that being neat and organized is an absolute requirement. I have many friends and colleagues who achieve phenomenal results from a work space, that to me, looks like utter chaos.

My own Father was an appliance repairman and was one of the most disorganized technicians I have ever met.  He was a good mechanic and could fix anything but order and tidiness were not part of his personal equation.  The back of his van was filled with a mountain of scattered parts and tools.  Amazingly he could always find the exact required dishwasher inlet solenoid valve and immediately pluck it from the pile.  This seemingly impossible magic trick never failed to impress me! 

Repairing a domestic appliance is one thing, however working for an airline, adds some interesting twists to this issue of organized maintenance.  It is an operation that usually runs twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, with an ongoing turnover of tasks and personnel.  Simply put, the guy that removes the engine or aileron may not be the guy that reinstalls the new one.  This is where lack of systematic procedures can really hamper efficient aircraft repair.  An excellent example of this was thrust upon me at the start of an evening shift during my Air Canada days.

It was a routine job; replace the H.P. fuel pump on a Rolls Royce RB211, on the number one engine of a Lockheed L1011.  The H.P. pump is typically sandwiched between the accessory gearbox and the Fuel Control Unit (FCU).  It requires the removal of the FCU before gaining access to the pump.  If done methodically in sequence, it is not a difficult job, however this time it would become a special challenge.  Someone else had removed both units and dumped all the mounting bolts, lines, hardware and components in a disorganized heap on the hangar floor.  It was now my job to sort through the pile and reassemble it all into a functioning assembly.  After cursing the “technician” who left me the mess, I carefully sorted through all the parts and began putting them back in order for reassembly.  This little project alone, took quite a bit of time.  RB211 engines are assembled almost exclusively with thousands of 5/16 inch, 12 point, MS bolts, all of varying lengths.  Each had to be tried and matched to its appropriate depth of bolthole by trial and error.  Frustrating yet necessary.  As the evening progressed the maintenance shift foreman came around and made an inquiry:  “Sam, what’s taking so long?  You removed and installed one of these last week and you did it in half the time!”  He spoke the truth. It would have been far easier and faster if I had done the whole job myself, from start to finish, using my usual, sequential procedure.

So what are some of the advantages of being organized while performing routine aircraft maintenance?  As the previously relayed story so clearly illustrates, organization almost always saves time, and in this business, time is money. 

In addition, being organized, in terms of tools and procedures, will result in a safer aircraft maintenance operation.  Fewer distractions while looking for tools or parts means less likelihood of making a critical mistake.  Even a well laid out toolbox will result in fewer tools left in aircraft potentially reducing incidents and accidents.

Lastly, leaving a job neat and tidy at shift change will make the next mechanics job that much easier, not to mention, looking much more professional.  After all, being an AME truly is a profession, and one that we should all take pride in.

By the way, in reference to that westbound wrench at 35,000 feet, I am happy to say it wasn’t mine!  However, my lock-wiring pliers once flew to Calgary and back, in a 767 air conditioning bay.  What can I say? Even neat freaks make mistakes!


Long Ago by Sam Longo

The first motorcycle that I ever crashed was a red 1971 Yamaha XS650. Accelerating out of a corner, I hit a patch of sand and low-sided my friend John’s bike. I wasn’t traveling very fast and the parking lot was empty so both bike and rider emerged relatively unscathed. Needless to say, John was not amused. That was back in 1975, and like a lover scorned, I’ve always had a soft spot for Yamaha’s big four-stroke parallel twin.

In the sixties, Yamaha was best known for their blindingly quick, well made, two-strokes   but a special project began in 1967 that would forever change the course of their motorcycle building future. A small group of engineers borrowed two cylinders from a Toyota car engine and utilizing the computer in the musical instrument division, designed an appropriate crank and camshaft. Once their cobbled-together experimental engine was complete, they stuffed it into a YR-1 350 frame, and the concept was complete. Five prototypes later, the 653cc XS-1 debuted at the 1969 Tokyo Motor Show. Designed to look and sound like a Triumph or BSA, it has often been described as the best British twin the Japanese ever made!

However, being considerably heavier than a 650 Triumph, at 430 lbs (wet), it never quite matched the Bonneville’s handling or acceleration. What it did have to counter those shortfalls was a well-engineered oil-tight engine, coupled with car-like electrical reliability and a slick shifting five-speed transmission. The 360 degree, unit construction, overhead cam engine had horizontally split crankcases, utilizing roller bearings for both the crankshaft and cam. Fuel was metered via 2 Mikuni 38mm CV carbs, with the early higher compression motors cranking out a respectable 53hp at 7000 RPM.

Launched at the dawn of the Japanese inline four assault, looking back, it is hard to believe that the XS650 managed such a lengthy production run. Having been produced from 1970 until 1985, over a quarter of a million of these robust twins rolled off the assembly line. Triumph and BSA may have won the early races, but Yamaha clearly won the war. Often highly modified for dirt track racing and sidecar use the engines remained bulletproof and frequently hauled many racers (including a young Kenny Roberts) into the winner’s circle.

As sales for the twin softened in the late seventies, new life was given to the XS650 line by introducing the 1978 SE model. Instrumental in launching the “Factory Custom Cruiser” craze, Yamaha reinvented the wheel, tarting up the old design with fat mag wheels, stepped seats and pull back bars, soldiering on to yet another successful sales story.

For 1979 Yamaha added electronic ignition and began to further detune the design by lowering compression and changing to smaller 34mm Mikuni’s. Eventually switching to 34mm Hitachi carbs in 1981 until the end of production came in 1985.

Riding the early XS650 is very much like riding a British twin of the same era. Straddle the bike and rev the engine with your eyes closed and you could be on anything from a Norton to an AJS. Click it into gear, let the clutch out and the grunt is immediately apparent. Torque is what these engines are all about. The Yamaha’s vibration can get excessive at higher revs, but fortunately there is no real need to redline the engine. Just roll on the throttle in any gear at any reasonable speed and it pulls with a satisfying melodic consistency. The ideal scenario for these bikes is cruising secondary two-lane highways, rolling along at 90 to 100K in fifth gear. The revs are low and the engine is smooth, with quick passes a mere throttle twist away.

The bikes handling is quite adequate provided your due diligence maintenance includes, tapered roller steering bearings, quality aftermarket swing arm bushes and shocks. The earlier 650’s weak ignition (by today’s standards) can be easily remedied by installing a Boyer Electronic Ignition and modern coils. Fortunately the aftermarket supplies for this model are plentiful, with everything from big bore kits to flat track replicas, to café racers and every conceivable chopper part known to man. In addition there is an abundance of used parts available due to the sheer numbers of bikes produced.   

The XS 650 has a strong cult following with dedicated clubs spanning the globe from Australia to Finland. The early drum braked XS-1 and XS-1B’s are the most collectable, consequently fetching the highest prices but standard model 1973-1978’s can still be purchased for a song. With aluminum spoke rims and a standard seating position they are an excellent starting point for building a fun affordable café racer. In the end, the “British Bike” that Yamaha built outlasted all of its real British competition, survived the onslaught of the inline fours and evolved with the changing market to become a true classic in its own right. All things considered, it was a remarkable feat of excessive success.


By Sam Longo AME A&P

For most Aircraft Mechanics, getting to work continues to be a mundane routine reality. Over the years, however, being a diehard gear-head often made my Hangar commute slightly more enjoyable. The destinations remained the same but the diversity of vehicles always seemed to enhance the journey.

When Nordair in Montreal hired me in 1975, it was time to buy a car. In a last minute flurry of activity I received the insurance money from my recently demolished 1971 Honda 750 (that’s another story!) and hastily purchased a 1969 Mustang Mach 1. It was the day before my departure and despite the cars good looks and 351 cubic inch V8 it proved to be a rather poor choice. On that first run to Montreal its fuel and oil consumption were tied for first place. It soon became clear that beneath the gleaming chrome and shiny paint was just another clapped out, well abused, muscle car. That winter I recall walking to work…a lot! Fortunately I had an apartment on Dorval Ave. so it wasn’t far to “snowshoe” to the Nordair hangar.

In the spring of 1976, after returning from Frobisher Bay, I purchased a beautiful, low mileage, 1974 MGB. The Mustang at this point had a rebuilt engine and still proved to be a clanking, cantankerous beast, so I sold it. Two weeks later it threw a rod. I felt bad and gave the new owner most of his money back and told him to keep the damn car. I never wanted to see it again.

Fortunately the MGB proved to be a real gem. With optional electric overdrive, it was a joy to drive. On one memorable trip, after working all night followed by an equally busy morning in Dorval, I headed to Toronto. I was tired but figured if I kept the roof down the windblast would help to keep me awake. I suddenly awoke at the wheel with the sound of gravel under the wheels. The electric overdrive was doing a fine job and the speedometer was reading 95 MPH. I was gently fishtailing on the soft shoulder of the 401. I cautiously nudged the car back on to the asphalt and the subsequent adrenalin rush kept me wide-awake for the balance of my journey.

When I started work at DeHavilland I still had the MGB. Its two small six-volt batteries buried behind the seats was the cars one “Achilles heel”. To remedy this issue I extended the cables into the trunk connecting them to a very large 12-volt battery. I took great delight in the cold dead of winter, boosting stranded Chevy’s and Fords from the “boot” of my British sports car!

The MG was sold to purchase my current Honda CB750, which still resides in my garage. I then purchased a 1969 Semi-Automatic VW Beetle as a winter beater for $300. I always wore a full snowsuit and carried an ice scraper while driving in winter due to its rotted out heater channels, but it never let me down. I was constantly getting pulled over by the cops due to its different colored fenders, so on a hot sunny day I painted it with a gallon of gloss-black Tremclad using a quality brush. It looked great, and after three years of faithful service I sold it for $295 to a fellow mechanic at Air Canada.

Air Canada’s improved paychecks finally allowed me the luxury of another sports car, so I purchased a 1973 Datsun 240Z. I installed fiberglass fenders, an Ansa exhaust and had it painted Ferrari red. It was a terrific car despite its ongoing corrosion issues. Before its fall from grace I also installed stainless steel floor panels, severely testing my somewhat rusty sheet-metal skills.

Next came a pristine 1979 Ford Mustang, “Cobra Edition”. In contrast to my earlier bad luck, this Pony Car proved to be a reliable steed so long as it never saw snow. I subsequently sold it to a good friend to finance a 1985 Lotus Super Seven replica. The Super Seven was a Canadian built hybrid with a Toyota 1600 Twin Cam engine, utilizing twin Solex carburetors and a 5-speed transmission. The little Seven was a blast to drive but could only be used in perfect weather, so once again I went shopping for a winter beater. A succession of mid seventies Honda Civics got me through the next three winters. They were all cheap, rusty and reliable, with the added luxury of working heat.

The Lotus was eventually sold to the foreman of Air Canada’s Engine Overhaul shop in Montreal. On a sunny dry November day I bundled up and after a very long cold ride parked it in his immaculate garage. I was still shivering after flying home to Toronto on a company pass.

All of these cars were good fun and trigger great memories of my days working in the industry. As for that original Mustang, I got a call long after I sold it from the RCMP. Apparently it was involved in some kind of bank robbery. I sure hope it wasn’t their only getaway car because it rarely got me to work! I guess its true what they say about men and boys. The only real difference is the price of their toys. Fortunately, growing old may be mandatory, but growing up is still optional.     

Memories Of A Wet Christmas

By Sam Longo AME A&P

One of the bleak realities of working for the airlines is never ending shift work. Full coverage, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year means that for most employees, Christmas is just another workday.

It was always the luck of the draw, working in a union environment, whether you worked the holidays or got them off. Booking off vacation time was out of the question unless you had close to 100 years seniority. Unfortunately in the early ‘80’s I had about five whole years under my belt, so I was destined to work whatever schedule I was assigned. In those days, Line Maintenance worked a six/three rotation, of six days, six evenings and six midnights, each separated by three days off. Not exactly designed for a happy, stable, circadian rhythm, but hey, that was part of the deal, while working for the nations airline.

Over the course of my ten year stay at Air Canada, as luck would have it, I worked seven Christmases, most of which were uneventful regular workdays, however there was one particular year that I will never forget. I was of course scheduled to work the midnight shift, and was planning to join my family for Christmas morning festivities right after work at my parents’ place.

It had been abnormally mild that year in Toronto leading up to the Christmas season, and as I drove to work the rain was coming down with a foreboding fury. With temperatures hovering just above the freezing mark I secretly hoped for a warm secure night in the heated hangar, with perhaps a short nap thrown in late in the shift as a comfy Christmas bonus. Unfortunately fate was not planning a festive fairy tale, but rather a nasty numbing nightmare.

As often happened at Christmas, the Air Canada base in Montreal decided to give Toronto its usual Yuletide gift, diverting as many aircraft as possible to YYZ for overnight storage. With three times the usual number of aircraft on station we were swamped, with airplanes parked in every nook and cranny of the ramp. The shift foreman rapidly fired off the names encompassing most of the mechanics on our crew and sent us packing for our “ramp in the damp” evening entertainment.

It was a long cold wet night, with the thought of the warm hangar a distant memory, as we worked on aircraft in the freezing rain ensuring that they were repaired, inspected, heated and cared for in preparation for their morning departures. Returning to ramp headquarters at gate 91 towards the end of our shift, three of us were summoned and assigned a last minute tow job from the hangar to the ramp. We reluctantly climbed into the maintenance van for the ride back to the hangar and subsequently hooked up a Boeing 727 dragging it back with us to the already overflowing ramp. Jubilant that our ordeal for the night was finally over we hopped into the tow tractor and headed back to the hangar for our 8:30 departure. As we roared down Golf taxiway bound for freedom we were met head on by a company DC8 under tow. In his haste for our imminent departure, our driver, wet, tired, soggy and groggy decided to go around on the tarmacs grassy edge to clear the DC8’s wingtip and within seconds was instantly cognizant of his error in judgment. The heavy tug, weighing many thousands of pounds, was instantly buried right up to it axles and going nowhere fast.

We were now working overtime as we slogged through the mud to the edge of the taxiway. Cold and fed up we flagged down a ramp truck and hitched a ride back to the hangar. Then, after securing some heavy-duty tow chains and another tug, we returned to the scene of the crime to retrieve our crippled sunken treasure. By the time our rescue attempt was complete, after spending yet another hour in the unrelenting rain, we returned to the hangar, too cold, tired and muddy to care. We didn’t even bother to claim any overtime. As we cleaned ourselves up and changed in the now deserted locker room, someone miraculously produced a bottle of Brandy. We each downed a healthy shot of the fiery hot liquid, instantly warming our frozen innards, while toasting to a very Merry Christmas. Later that day, thoroughly exhausted, I fell into a deep sleep after feasting on turkey with family and friends.

Now that I am retired, that “ramp in the damp” ordeal is but a distant memory. Still, I can’t seem to forget that cold miserable Christmas night in YYZ and often think of the thousands of other airline employee’s still out there working 365 days and nights of the year, so that we might fly away to visit the people we love. As the Holiday Season approaches, I raise my glass to each and every one of those workers. May your midnight snags be few, and all your Christmases warm and dry! Cheers.             

I Love Motorcycles, She loves Dogs!

 (Hondigity Dog) Globe & Mail


Being an avid motorcyclist, it is not uncommon in social circles for the topic to gravitate towards bikes.  Consequently, group conversations often touch on the subject of motorcycle ownership.  I am always amazed when some guy spills the beans and says: “I’d love to have a motorcycle but my wife won’t let me.”  I usually bite my tongue, but my thought response is always the same, “Man, you obviously married the wrong woman.”  That may sound harsh, but there is definitely some truth in it. 

Many years ago, when my wife Irene and I were dating, I had three motorcycles in my fifth floor apartment.  A beautifully restored 1965 Honda CB160 was parked strategically in my dining room.  My tidy enclosed solarium balcony housed two additional vintage bikes. We are not talking greasy Harley engines in the bathtub here.  The point is, she really knew what she was getting into, and it was highly unlikely, at age 34, that I would change much.

Time has marched on and we have now been happily married for nearly 19 years.  I still own five motorcycles. One of the reasons we are happily married is that we respect and support each other’s interests. One Christmas, she even bought me a rare, Honda CB450 “Black Bomber” motorcycle to restore. I found it in very rough shape and negotiated a purchase price of $250 and she insisted on buying it for me as my gift. That’s when I realized, wow, I married the right girl.  Which brings to mind an old miner’s saying; “Once you strike gold, you stop digging.”

It wasn’t just the bike purchase; she also got her motorcycle license when I was a motorcycle safety instructor.  This was not an easy task for her.  She did not pass right away, nor did she give up.  She persevered and practiced until she was successful.  It was   obvious to me at that moment just how committed she was to our success as a couple.

Obviously there are two sides to this relationship business, and so I also have to be respectful and supportive of her interests.  As a licensed aircraft mechanic my passions all have engines attached to them, motorcycles, cars and aircraft.  Hers are a little more eclectic, gardening, live theatre and animals.  For the record, when I say animals here, I am referring primarily to cats and dogs. 

Here is a good example of how it works.  A few years ago, we traveled on vacation to England.  I took her to tour a few aviation museums, and she took me on a couple of garden tours.  The beauty of this exchange is that she now recognizes the difference between a Rolls Royce Merlin and an Anzani Radial aircraft engine, and I appreciate the difference between a rose and a rhododendron.  She took me to see Shakespeare at Stratford and I took her to Paris (Ontario…for the vintage bike rally!)  We both support each other’s interest and in the process expand our own horizons.

Of course we are married, so this scenario can at times push us each to the very boundary of our limits.  Irene grew up on a farm with lots of cats and dogs running around. Consequently, her need for a dog was intense, but not just any dog.  It had to be a Dachshund; you know the long legless type, the dog world’s version of a “low rider”. This particular breed captured her heart, due to Fritz, a beloved Dachshund from her past. I had always promised her that when I retired she would have another, and sure enough she called my bluff. Little Lola recently entered our lives, much to the surprise of Blue, our slightly used, low mileage cat.  Irene is over the moon with her new baby Dachshund. 

We still attend Woofstock and various Dachshund Rescue picnics in an attempt to keep her “additional” cravings at bay.  Still I know it is only a matter of time before we collect both Honda’s and Dachshunds.  Perhaps, when we are both retired we can set up a joint business venture…Sam’s Vintage Honda’s and Reenie’s Weenies.  Sales slogan:  Get ‘em while they’re hot! 

In any case, I often wonder about those guys with wives that won’t allow them to have a motorcycle.  Do the guys then get to deny their wives some unique passion like tennis or shopping, or is it just a one-way street?  “Ok, honey I won’t get a motorcycle, but no more designer stilettos for you…ok?”  I mean, let’s face it, they can both be extremely dangerous, in the wrong hands! Husbands take note; this kind of brash statement can result in lengthy amounts of couch time and/or serious injury.  So remember always wear a helmet!

I guess the bottom line is, when it comes to relationships, it really boils down to give and take to keep everyone happy.  Currently our little urban jungle consists of one cat and one dog. They seem to get along just fine and so do we. At least for now, all is well, with no additional Dachshunds in our immediate future. Thank goodness, despite my ongoing commitment to relationship compromise, I have never been a big fan of motorcycle sidecars. Especially when one sidecar could potentially carry dozens of Dachshunds!

The Enzo Escapade

The Enzo Escapade

By Sam Longo

1967 Honda CB77 Super Hawk

It all started out so innocently. I was simply looking for a few missing bits required to complete my own 305 Super Hawk restoration. That is when my good friend Enzo invited me to rummage through his enormous stash of parts. Knee deep in his basement was a treasure trove of vintage 60’s Honda parts. He allowed me to fish out a few much needed gems and then refused to take any compensation for the items. Just another swell vintage motorcycle guy looking to help out a fellow enthusiast, I thought. Seems you really do meet the nicest people “on” a Honda or apparently, even while foraging through their rusty recycled remains.

Then came Enzo’s question; “How would you feel about building a motor for me?” Well you can immediately see my dilemma, how could I refuse after he had been so generous?  And so the winter long journey of the Enzo Escapade began.

Building a motor in itself was not a big problem. I had done quite a few by that point for myself and others. My small 800 square foot shop, housing my own fleet of Hondas, would not be too taxed for space in pursuit of my engine building task. However not long after this gentleman’s agreement was cast a new situation transpired that would change the whole dynamic of the situation.

Around this same period Enzo was experiencing a subtle change in his living arrangements. He had to move and consequently his large stash of Honda parts and motorcycles suddenly morphed, switching instantly from an asset to a liability. As his personal status evolved so too did our discussions and the plot of the whole escapade began to thicken. I made a rather foolish suggestion and he jumped at the chance. Perhaps I could take all the Super Hawk parts off his hands, build him a complete restored bike from the best bits and as payment keep all the left overs for myself. At the time it seemed like the perfect solution. It was a win-win situation, right up until the trucks showed up. Then the gravity of the situation hit me hard, where on earth was I going to stash all this stuff?

My small workshop began filling up fast. Frames, wheels, motors and boxes of parts rapidly overwhelmed me. My tiny organized space was now hopelessly infected with floor to ceiling “Superhawkitis”. Now the real fun began. Every box and part had to be inspected and categorized for the future build. Over the next few weeks I painstakingly sorted the “A” pile and the “B” pile. Most of the “B” pile could then be stored elsewhere to give me a little more working space. In my estimation, close to 4 complete bikes were scattered in various states of condition and assembly.

The next stage was to get all the best “A” parts off to be sandblasted and painted. John Connery was chosen for the task and he did a beautiful job laying on the classic red paint with silver fenders and side covers. Enzo had also collected a fantastic array of “New Old Stock” parts in anticipation of the build including original exhaust pipes, mufflers, seat, proper grey cables and many internal engine parts. While waiting for the paint to be completed I began the engine building process. Although technically “over restored” getting the engine cases polished instead of painting really makes the power plant pop. All the polishing and additional chassis chroming was carried out by Mayfair Plating and as always Chuck Kotowick did a stellar job.

The other nice thing about having so much to choose from is I could build the project as a true “Numbers Matching” bike. With sixties Honda’s the frame and engine numbers should be within about 300 numbers of each other to be considered matching. Despite the fact that the engines changed little during the 8 years of CB77 production, having correct numbers always adds value to a finished restoration.

By the time the painted parts returned, the freshly assembled motor was gleaming on my workbench, a jewel of 60’s Honda technology. The newly assembled wheels and tires were also ready to go so it was not long before I had a rolling chassis ready to accept the motor. Enzo’s little Honda was progressing rapidly now and I was determined to deliver it by early spring.

My own Super Hawk, Café Racer was starting to look a little shabby sitting beside this pristine example rising from extinction, but fortunately the “B” pile of parts produced some really nice upgrades for my regular rider. Even this lowly little “Giro” bike seemed to shine a little brighter in the company of Enzo’s pampered prize.

The winter days passed quickly as I persevered through the wiring and final assembly stages. Finally it was time for some fuel, a battery and a push into the sunshine. Careful attention to engine set up and timing allowed the bike to fire right up. A few more carburetor tweaks and it was idling nicely with a reassuringly tight sounding top end. There was still snow on the ground, surrounding the patio outside the shop, but the roads were dry so I took it for a few shakedown runs. Thanks to all those NOS parts it was a joy to ride, with very few issues arising from a new build.

I called Enzo to come and get his new bike. He arrived with his trailer and a few knowledgeable cronies who really knew about Super Hawks. Each buddy took it for a spin in turn and each returned with a smile on their face. Satisfied that the transaction was done, they happily tied it down and off it went.

Unfortunately for me the Enzo Escapade was far from over. In the following months, yet another CB77 arose from the archaic abyss. A nice presentable “B” bike was completed and sold along with a few parts lots to help clear the shop. I had finally cured my workspace of “Superhawkitis” just in time for the next infection, a sordid, seized-solid, CB450 Bomber project. Mercifully, I was done with the Super Hawks. Sometimes a change is as good as a rest!  

Engine Change Escapades

By Sam Longo AME A&P

The tired and battered 1964 MGB filed its final protest by throwing a rod through its cast iron engine block. My good friend Peter and his much beloved car needed help. As fate would have it, at twenty years of age, this would be my virgin engine change.

Despite our woefully inadequate experience and equipment, the outcome of that first engine change escapade was a positive one. Peter’s MG continued providing enjoyable, albeit intermittent, transportation until the transmission expired along with twelve other major components, at which time it was mercifully removed from service. The joys of British sports cars aside, it was for me the beginning of a lifetime of various engine change adventures, on a diverse array of machinery, ranging from tiny Honda motorcycle engines to giant Rolls Royce RB211’s and everything in between.

My first engine change recollection as a professional mechanic (meaning someone was actually paying me to fix things!) was as an apprentice in Frobisher Bay. We had to remove an engine from a Twin Otter and ship it via Boeing 737 to Nordair’s Montreal home base. Apparently John Luty (Nordairs owner) had a fishing trip planned using the companies Turbo Mallard. Unfortunately the Mallard had an ailing PT6 that needed replacing, so the order came down to pull one off a Twin Otter stationed in Frobisher. That, no longer revenue generating, Twin Otter sat in the hangar for ten days, minus one engine, while the boss enjoyed his fishing trip!

As an Airframe Mechanic at DeHavilland  I rarely touched an engine, but those few fallow years were quickly compensated for when I landed at Air Canada. Working in line maintenance, a week rarely went by without an engine change on a Boeing 727 or DC9. If we hustled, a small crew of 4 or 5 seasoned mechanics could change a JT8D in an 8-hour shift and have the aircraft back in service. As with many jobs, the more you did it the easier and faster it became. Air Canada was also very good at putting together excellent equipment (Engine Change Kits) that helped facilitate rapid turnarounds on or off the main maintenance base. I can’t imagine how many engine changes I worked on during my first seven years with line maintenance but there is no doubt that my rate of engine change encounters soared when I voluntarily transferred to Check Crew.

Check Crew at Air Canada was responsible for most of the “Wide Body” aircraft, heavy scheduled maintenance. Consequently we were tasked with most of the Boeing 747 and Lockheed L1011 engine changes. As I recall the 747 engines seemed to stay put and happily pull their attached airplanes for thousands of hours undisturbed. The “Tin Lemon” however was the undisputed engine change queen. We averaged 2 to 3 engine changes a week on the infamous “Tri-Star” and consequently got very good at it. We often joked about how much easier life would have been if the Lockheed designers had simply had the foresight to attach the engines using giant Dzus fasteners! As it was, wing engines could be pulled by one shift and installed by the next, with the tail engine always taking just a little longer due to its height and lack of easy access. In fact we did them so often, that it actually started to get boring. Fortunately there were so many different tasks to do as part of the whole process that we changed up jobs to keep it interesting. Some things were a real pain, aligning and connecting the giant “S-Duct” translating ring as well as hooking up the 3 bleed air ducts were always a challenge on the number 2, tail mounted engine, not to mention climbing a lot of stairs on the specially built engine change workstands!      

When I finally left Air Canada in 1988 to pursue my aviation-teaching career, I thought my days of never ending engine changes were finally done. However fate decided to deal me just a few more engine change challenges. As the Professor responsible for second year engine theory, part of my curriculum was teaching the proper process of engine change. In addition to the classroom theory involved, every student participated in an actual engine change, as part of his or her mandatory hangar projects. With two Cessna150’s, a Piper Apache, and an additional Piper Seminole undergoing continuous non-stop engine changes, I must have supervised hundreds of engine changes over my 22 years of teaching. 

Now that I have officially retired from teaching, my only engine changes now are happily self-imposed, though incredibly just last week a buddy called me up and requested my assistance with his 1972 Honda 750. “I just need your help to get the motor back in the frame” he pleaded. Of course, as with Peter’s MG all those years ago, I couldn’t refuse a friend in need. Besides, like the old Check Crew mechanics used to say; “You’re only as good as your last engine change” and God willing, I haven’t changed my last one yet!    

Just like Peter’s white 1964 MGB
Lockheed L-1011 – The Engine Change Queen
Keith’s CB750 with the engine installed.

Kindred Karma

Motorcycle Mojo Magazine – May 2021


1976 Honda CB750 Café

For many of us motorcycles often transcend being mere mechanical devices. We often build relationships with them, name them and even speak to them as if they too were human. Occasionally   these “combustion fired companions” can reward us, becoming the catalyst to create or spark future friendships. The story of this 1976 Honda CB750 Café Racer clearly follows that unique phenomenon.

It was a lovely Sunday morning and the vintage motorcycles arrived in droves for some friendly bike banter and a good greasy breakfast. I was riding my own trusty 1973 CB750 Honda Café when a stranger approached and struck up a conversation. His name was Ed and he offered to buy my bike. At that point in time, I had owned it for over 20 years and was not interested in selling. He already had a very nice fleet of classic motorcycles and I was quite flattered that he was interested in mine.

As fate would have it, we became friends and over the course of the next few years I helped him build his own. The bike you see here is his creation. Originally commissioned and built by Carpy of California to Ed’s specifications, it arrived in Canada ready to go but still required some fine tuning and fettling. I pulled the motor and installed a Wiseco 836 kit, Barnett clutch, Dyna Ignition/coils and rejetted the carbs. I also did some minor suspension work and Ed worked his magic on the cosmetics. A little later Ed also opted to install 29mm CR Race carburetors. In the end it was a stunning example of the 70’s era Single Cam Honda. Parked beside my own 1973 Honda, at various rallies over the years, his always shone just a little brighter and always generated many admiring comments. Competition aside, the brotherhood created over these two bikes was complete.

As the years progressed Ed’s bike collection grew but he always had a soft spot for his hot rod Honda Four. Vintage Ducati’s, Norton’s, BMW’s came and went along with a plethora of modern motorcycles, but the Honda always remained as one of his favorites. He was an excellent rider and I soon learned to forget trying to keep up with him. Whether we were riding 60’s era 305 Super Hawks in the US Moto Giro’s or blasting up to breakfast on our CB750’s his riding ability always put me to shame. I am sure he put up with me mainly because I could fix whatever mechanical gremlins occurred if his bikes ever failed him.

Unfortunately, in the end I could only stand by and watch as his own body failed him. He lost his battle with cancer at the far too young age of 61. Before he left us, he called on my son Spencer and I to help him prepare for his imminent departure. It was a rainy, blustery, late summer day when we met at his garage. All the other bikes had been sold. Only his beloved Café Honda remained. He was getting rather frail so under his tutelage I gassed it up and installed the battery and it fired to life.

We had built it together and now he was passing its care and feeding to me. He had told me in advance that this day would come, though secretly I dreaded it. His reasoning was sound. He knew I would take good care of it. He also mentioned that because he had no children (and I had a son that rides) Spencer could continue to keep it rolling long after I was gone. He wanted to ensure that his creation would continue to dazzle others into future generations.

As I rode out of the underground parking lot the rain had stopped and the sun was out. The twenty- minute ride home was the only break in the foul weather all day. The pounding rain returned a few seconds after it was safely stashed in my garage. It was like a divine sign that the handover was meant to be. Ed Liu’s legacy was now my responsibility. We are after all only custodians of these mechanical companions while we walk and ride this planet. Our kindred karma had played its final hand. Twenty-five years ago, Ed wanted to buy my CB750 and through a sad twist of fate I ended up inheriting his. As it sits under the lights of my workshop it represents so much more than a motorcycle. It embodies the human aspect of our passion to ride and in its purest form represents the bond of a lasting friendship. Gods speed Ed, rest assured that your Honda is in good hands.

Technical sidebar.

I have since ridden Ed’s Honda several times and made some minor modifications and repairs to make it more “streetable.”

 The day I picked it up Ed pointed out a few glitches that required repair. Damaged brake light wiring and partially seized front caliper were easy fixes. Originally when I first worked on the bike, I had set it up identically to my own CB750. Stock cam, 836 Kit and rejetted carbs with Dyna ignition. However, in my opinion, when Ed installed the 29mm Race Carbs, its “street ability” was compromised. Yes, it made slightly better top end power but idled poorly and lacked the ability for carb synchronization. Since these photos were taken, I have returned to stock carbs, rejetted with velocity stacks.

 Ed also loved electronic gadgets, cell phone and Garmin holders were all removed from the top triple clamps for a clean ‘70’s look. I polished the bar clamps and installed period grips. Also, while riding, it bothered me to not have turn signal indication. The signals are tucked in so tightly they cannot be seen flashing. I ran a harness up through the steering stem with a modified Fender Guitar Amp jewel light for indication. (Ed would approve, he also loved vintage guitars!)  

Other things that offend my sensibilities like the 16-inch Harley rear rim will likely be left. Ultimately, I do not want to change too much of Ed’s original vision as it will always remain his bike. His tongue and cheek license plate “CAFEH” is uniquely Canadian and 100% Ed. Finally, as an homage to Ed I installed the rear seat cowl decals “Ed Liu’s Legacy.” The boys at breakfast will appreciate that.

1060 words

Written by Sam Longo