CL350: A Montana Barn Find
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    Junior Member JamesWillmus's Avatar
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    CL350: A Montana Barn Find

    A bit of background, skip this if you don't care that much.

    It's amazing what a bit of talking can get a person into. Too much talking or talking in the wrong way can get a person into a lot of trouble. But talking the right talk can bring a lot of opportunity.

    So her we are, two people manning a deli in Missoula, Montana. I'm a college student, 24 years old and full of energy (fueled by the hope of one day getting a real job) and I'm paired with this woman who's 60 years young. She's been a lifelong hippie of sorts, just the kind of person you'd see around Missoula. She and her husband traveled the country in their 20's and just kinda ended up stuck in western Montana and never bothered to leave. They've spent the last 4 decades building a life up in the Swan Valley. They have a few acres tucked into the woods about an hour out of town, had a couple of kids, and generally managed to have a pretty decent life.

    But my co-worker isn't old enough yet to cash in on all the social security she's been putting in with decades of work and she needs health insurance in case something happens in the next few years, so here she is, working with yours truly in a grocery store deli. Usually we're working our butts off to keep up with the endless stream of customers but on this April night things are pretty slow and we're almost done for the night. On nights like these topics wander from politics to personal stories. That night we were talking about transportation, and how hard it is to get for a reasonable cost these days. In Missoula at least, it's really hard to find a decent car for under 5k. She's got an old Toyota that's served her well, I've got a Chrysler. During the conversation I relented on the used car situation:

    "It would be really great to find something cheap and easy to maintain. My Chrysler won't last for more than a couple of years and I'm selling the old farm truck, but it's too bad cars here are too damn expensive."

    Well, be careful what you wish for, because her response was three words:

    "You want a motorcycle?"

    My co-worker went on to explain that about 20 years ago her son was given an old Honda motorcycle by a neighbor who was moving away. This neighbor bought the bike new or nearly new in the 70's and kept it on his property in Montana so he'd have something to play around in during the summer months when he was in town (apparently he lived down in Arizona or California). Sometime in the 80's this gentleman got a bigger bike for both himself and his wife, so this old Honda only saw some sparse use. But he kept it clean and maintained.

    In the late 90's this guy was moving out of Montana, so he gave the bike to this 11 year old kid. Now, I still remember being 11, it's an age of discovery and exploration, but not an age where attention spans last for very long. So my co-worker's son and her husband began to "restore" the bike. They got as far as taking the exhaust pipes off and disconnecting the fuel lines and spark plugs before giving up. Now, two decades later, my co-worker just wants this thing gone. In her mind, her son has had all the time in the world to retrieve the bike and rebuild it, and her husband is the type of person that takes on many projects, but rarely finishes any. He didn't even finish building the barn this bike was stored in!

    Well, after being shown a few photos, the condition doesn't look too bad. At the very least the Honda has been under a roof in the center of a building where it was kept away from rain and snow. Any rust that was showing up in the photos looked to be skin deep at the most, nothing structural. She also confirmed the model, it was a CL350. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a biker. Up until this point I only had a passing interest in motorcycles, so it never crossed my mind to go out of the way and find a motorcycle. But, I do love machines of all kinds, especially vehicles, and making a few bucks sounded good to this college student, so I happily agreed to take the motorcycle off her hands, in exchange I'd give her an old camera I had to replace the broken one she'd been using for several years.

    By the middle of May I was driving my mother's truck up to the Swan Valley. Loading the motorcycle didn't take much effort and it looked as good as I had hoped. Besides some surface rust and the exposed carbs/exhaust holes, everything seemed in great shape. One stroke of the kick-start and the motor spun a couple of times. The battery was long gone but the wiring seemed to be in great shape. Other than that, there was two flat tires and a dozen parts that needed to be put back on. Anyways, the bike was loaded into the truck and headed back to Missoula. I figured, "easy money."

    Well, weeks passed and this bike was still on my back porch. Sooner or later I knew someone would come by, cut off the cable lock, and walk away with the motorcycle, so it needed to be gone. Apparently, people are cheaper in this town than I thought, especially considering everything is so damn expensive. Sure, people sell a Ford 8N tractor for $3k, but I only get an offer for $150. I guess you could call me the Charlie Brown of used vehicle sales. People by complete junk from other people but not from a college kid who needs money, not piles of junk. Well, feeling stuck, I asked myself, "if that's all I'm going to get for an old motorcycle, then what should I do with it?"

    Restore it!

    I figured that if I can't sell this CL350 in the condition it's in, I may as well rebuild it and use if for something useful. Motorcycles tend to be cheaper than cars, especially when maintenance is done at home rather than hired out. I've got plenty of tools and anything I don't have can be borrowed without effort. Plus I have connections with a lot of the machinist students at the college, so if anything needed welding, sanding, or machining there's a relatively cheap option available. A quick internet search revealed that a lot of the small parts can be replaced if need-be for pretty cheap, and all the large parts seem to still be in great condition.

    So far, all I've invested into this bike is a Clymer repair manual. But since I've never tackled a motorcycle before, more help is likely needed. Internet forums are a great source for information, as I found out with guitar-playing and photography.

    And thus, the project begins! I hope this becomes a lengthy and informative build log. A long story like this is not ideal, so I thought it best to get the background story out of the way first before commencing on the rebuild of this CL350.

    --James
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  2. #2
    Junior Member JamesWillmus's Avatar
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    With story time out of the way, this post is going to cover a couple of important things for people who see this build log down the road:

    Contents: As the thread grows I plan to add links to pages where different steps start such as tear-down, painting, engine/transmission rebuild, etc... If this lasts for several months, I imagine this log getting to be quite long.

    Index: Here I'll be listing links to my sources and other topics. If I have a specific question, I'll likely ask that in a different thread in the appropriate place where I can get a detailed answer. In such instances, I'll add the links throughout the build log where they are most relevant, but I'll keep a master list here.

    Motorcycle information:

    Make: Honda
    Model: CL350
    Frame VIN number: CL350-4038642
    Made: February 1972
    Mileage: 11,428 miles (as of start on project)
    Color Scheme: Magna Red

    As I find out more about this motorcycle, I plan to add more info here. Basically, I'm trying to build this motorcycle's story. Maybe the original owner will see this and fill me in on details, who knows!

    Project Goals:

    I'm seeing a lot of cafe-racers, modifications, and generally a lot of cool stuff on this forum, but my specific goals are a bit different:

    1) Small Budget. Being a college student, extra cash is hard to come by. I can't afford to hire out all the labor necessary so most of the work will be done by myself. I'm also going to be using original parts whenever possible.

    2) Keep it standard. While everyone's bike has a certain beauty, I was drawn to this motorcycle by it's classic looks. The designers at Honda sure knew what they were doing and I don't plan to deviate much from their vision. Any modifications made will be done out of necessity (like updated wiring)

    3) Learn to build and maintain. It's one thing to own a classic motorcycle, it's another to have completely rebuilt the bike. When I'm done, I want to know how this machine works inside and out. Not only can these skills transfer to a variety of other projects, but if I happen to break down in the middle of nowhere, I'd like to be capable of fixing the bike and limping it home.

    4) Learn to ride. I'm not a motorcycle enthusiast, however knowing how to ride presents and opportunity. Not only does this skill open me up to a whole new world full of wonderful and interesting people, but I think a few hours on a motorcycle will make me a better driver in a car. This Honda will be the bike I learn all this on.

    5) Take my photography, writing, and film making in another direction. Other hobbies in the past opened me up to the potential benefits of knowing how to write great articles and back them up with quality photos and video. In the past, I've written about model trains on a blog, but that's being put on hold for several years. Plus I'm severely out of practice. Typing about something informative and technical again is just what I need to get back in the saddle on other hobbies.

    Everyone has their own reasons to tackle this type of project, but I want to make it clear right out of the gate that if someone wants to restore and ride a motorcycle, there are few reasons better than to learn new skills that can help in a variety of other subjects. It's just like when I build a tiny house as a teenager (it was more of a shed with a folding bunk). I didn't do it for convenience or money, because it was difficult and expensive. But that tiny house taught me a lot about building structures, which is something I can do in the future whether it be renovating an old house or building a garage.

    --James

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    Junior Member JamesWillmus's Avatar
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    Day 1: Project Start

    With the background and other info out of the way, now I can post about the actual rebuild project. After unloading the bike, my first step was to give the motorcycle a thorough look-over. At this time I also ordered the Clymer manual and made the decision to not touch a wrench or hammer until I've looked through the repair book.

    Anyways, this is what I'm dealing with:

    CL350: A Montana Barn Find-dsc03489.jpg

    Here's the whole package. The bike, it's exhaust system, saddlebags, and various smaller parts.

    CL350: A Montana Barn Find-dsc03491.jpg

    Closer look at the engine. I didn't notice much rust, just a lot of a dust and dried grime that needs to be cleaned off.

    CL350: A Montana Barn Find-dsc03492.jpg

    Close-up of the bade on the frame. I hope people can interpret the info here, or at least point me in the right direction. I'd like to know more about this bike's history.

    CL350: A Montana Barn Find-dsc03493.jpg

    One thing that I haven't seen on any of the bikes pictured on the internet are these hard-sided saddlebags. A small motorcycle like this couldn't carry a ton of weight, and I'm 240-250lbs without a bunch of gear on. That said, I can't think of anything better to put a rain-jacket, water, spare tire, and camera bag. It would be fun to get photos up on forest service roads or on some rural highway without having to find a place to pull my Chrysler 300 off the road safely. The smaller profile of the bike makes weekend jaunts around the state a much cheaper and more convenient affair.


    My next step was to buy a cable and lock, then park it under my porch. I live in a studio apartment owned by the University, but with rain a constant threat in western Montana and snow in the winter, it would be impossible to consistently work on the motorcycle outside, so I've been spending time getting the apartment ready. The first time I had too much stuff and the bike was crowded. Tonight I finally got enough space cleared and so the bike has been brought indoors.

    More photos to come as time progresses, I'll be trying to post several times a week as well as make a vlog series on my Youtube channel.

    Thanks for sticking with me this far!

    --James
    Last edited by JamesWillmus; 07-16-2019 at 03:05 AM.

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  5. #4
    Senior Member ancientdad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JamesWillmus View Post
    If this lasts for several months, I imagine this log getting to be quite long.
    Oh, it will... but most of us here who have done a total makeover or restoration have project logs that are quite long and ongoing, so no worries. I'm sure by now you've noticed the "view first unread" link at the top of each thread, that makes the lives of those following your adventure easier

    Quote Originally Posted by JamesWillmus View Post
    2) Keep it standard. While everyone's bike has a certain beauty, I was drawn to this motorcycle by it's classic looks. The designers at Honda sure knew what they were doing and I don't plan to deviate much from their vision.

    3) Learn to build and maintain. It's one thing to own a classic motorcycle, it's another to have completely rebuilt the bike.

    4) Learn to ride. ...I think a few hours on a motorcycle will make me a better driver in a car.
    Completely agree with all of the above. Though I deviated heavily from stock on my 450 build, there's a story behind it and it was something that had been simmering in the back of my mind for 40+ years... but too many of these bikes get bought and chopped up by people with so little knowledge and so much attention to trendy style that when they fail to finish because they totally underestimated the task, they're left with a pile of parts that few people want and even fewer can make something decent out of (think chicken salad out of chicken... nevermind). There nothing like the feeling of having touched, cleaned up, repaired and reassembled every part on the bike - it gives a feeling of confidence and understanding that is invaluable, and you WILL learn a ton. And as for being a better car drivers... absolutely, it's something I've always believed in having started on a Honda 50 at age 14 and not owning a car until I was 17 after a long list of bikes graduating up in size that taught me more than I've learned from a car since.

    Quote Originally Posted by JamesWillmus View Post
    At this time I also ordered the Clymer manual and made the decision to not touch a wrench or hammer until I've looked through the repair book.
    It's a shame you bothered... here's a link to a FSM (factory service manual), the best thing you can get for proper information about it. Now you can use that Clymer for a doorstop or beer coaster

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8R...1maVkzb0E/edit

    Quote Originally Posted by JamesWillmus View Post
    Close-up of the bade on the frame. I hope people can interpret the info here, or at least point me in the right direction. I'd like to know more about this bike's history.
    I'm sure you meant badge with reference to the VIN tag... unfortunately, it only helps give you the year, model and VIN from the bike, no other info is encoded in it. It was a much simpler time in Japanese motorcycles.

    You're off to a great start.
    Tom

    Ride along at the drag strip - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20jFPazXlvU



    running points... because I'm too old for mysteries that begin with pushing

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    Junior Member JamesWillmus's Avatar
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    Thanks Tom!

    The contents will be for non-members or people looking for a certain topic. On this build, I plan to photograph and video just about everything.

    Thank you very much for the link to the repair manual PDF! The Clymer book was only 20 bucks, but it has colored wiring diagrams and a lot of helpful drawings. No such thing as too much information and both will prove useful.

    Too bad about the VIN number, it would have been nice to get some history on the bike. I suppose I can go to the DMV, I'll have to anyways in order to get a bonded title for this thing, but that's quite a ways down the road.

    --James

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    Junior Member JamesWillmus's Avatar
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    Day 2: Going Indoors

    This post will pull this build log up to the present.

    After doing a quick once over on the bike and laying out all the parts outside, the bike sat under the porch for a few weeks. Besides some light rain occasionally, nothing was going to hurt this thing. But to prevent any further rusting, the motorcycle needed to be indoors. Now then, I live in a studio apartment, so space is at a premium and the apartment looks like a storage unit more than a living space. However, after selling/giving away some junk I don't need all my stuff got condensed enough that I could bring the bike indoors. This happened just yesterday and now the motorcycle is sitting on some cardboard in the middle of the livingroom/bedroom/kitchen!

    CL350: A Montana Barn Find-dsc03659.jpg

    CL350: A Montana Barn Find-dsc03666.jpg

    CL350: A Montana Barn Find-dsc03661.jpg

    CL350: A Montana Barn Find-dsc03658.jpg

    CL350: A Montana Barn Find-dsc03663.jpg

    --James

  8. #7
    Senior Member Pops's Avatar
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    Hey James, great start to your story. As you've no doubt learned if you've lurked here long - we love pictures! And I've seen plenty of writeups of bikes (and cars) being totally ripped apart and restored in apartments, storage units, sheds just big enough to store the bike and a toolbox...you name it!

    Looking forward to more.
    Butch
    72 SL350 Basket Case

    Age and treachery will always overcome youth and enthusiasm

  9. #8
    Senior Member ancientdad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JamesWillmus View Post
    The Clymer book was only 20 bucks, but it has colored wiring diagrams and a lot of helpful drawings. No such thing as too much information and both will prove useful.
    While it can be useful in some situations, trust me when I tell you that often we see people here finding incorrect specs or information from their Clymer or Haynes manuals and the last thing you'd want to do is take it as gospel on something critical and find out later, after the fact, that it was dead wrong
    Tom

    Ride along at the drag strip - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20jFPazXlvU



    running points... because I'm too old for mysteries that begin with pushing

  10. #9
    Junior Member JamesWillmus's Avatar
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    Day 3: not much

    Tom,

    Taking things with a grain (or a bucket) of salt is sage advice, especially concerning documents written about machines made a half-century ago. I'm just glad to have you guys here to help point me in the right direction. I guess what I'm getting at though is that having multiple documents means that I can cross-reference stuff. And when something doesn't add up, there's always the online forums.

    Anyways,

    Today I didn't accomplish much. I'm taking summer classes at the University and the session is almost over, so finals are my primary focus. However, I did talk with the co-worker who graciously gave me the bike and she may be able to track down the title. If so, that will make things a lot easier once this thing is running and road-ready. For those of you who don't know, Montana doesn't do a "lost" title for vehicles, only a bonded title. Montana is also one of the few states that require a notary to sign a bill of sale. In most states, that step is recommended, but optional. Now that I know that, I'll have to redraft my sale document and take it in to get signed. But, if I have both the sale document and the title, then getting the new paperwork is much easier. The good news about Montana is that everything is generally pretty cheap when it comes to vehicle licensing and registration.

    Besides that, I noticed a small (1.5 inch diameter) puddle under the motorcycle engine today and realized that not all the oil has drained out over the last 2 decades. It looked empty from the top, but the puddle said otherwise. So I backed out the drain plug and put a container under the engine. I'll leave that part of the bike alone for a couple days in order to allow the remaining oil to find its way out. So far about 1-2 ounces has oozed through the hole. The oil was thick, black, and dirty, so it has reaffirmed my decision to pull the whole vehicle apart and clean everything. I don't trust any fluid that's been sitting around for 20 years picking up who knows what.

    Oh yeah, and I also took a scuff-pad to part of the front fender to see how it will clean up. I'm happy to report that any rust on the chrome should be easy to remove with a bit of scrubbing. But since those thick green pads can mark up stain-less steel, I'm going to have to get the softer version to avoid making more entry-points for rust.

    So far, so good. I plan to take things easy and do everything right. Even if I could get this bike ready by fall, I still wouldn't be ready to ride legally anyways. Hope spring comes early to Montana in 2020!

    That's all for now!

    --James
    Last edited by JamesWillmus; 07-17-2019 at 11:48 PM.

  11. #10
    Member Manabozo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ancientdad View Post
    While it can be useful in some situations, trust me when I tell you that often we see people here finding incorrect specs or information from their Clymer or Haynes manuals and the last thing you'd want to do is take it as gospel on something critical and find out later, after the fact, that it was dead wrong

    Honda CL350 Shop Manual (179 pages)
    https://www.manualslib.com/manual/90...#product-CL350

    Honda 250 - 350 Shop Manual (220 pages)
    https://www.manualslib.com/manual/89...nda-Cb250.html
    Last edited by Manabozo; 07-21-2019 at 05:52 PM.
    1968 HondaCL350K0
    1988 Honda Hurricane CBR1000
    2007 Harley Davidson XL1200C

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