Come Forth, Lazarus!
It would need plenty. I took it on a longer test ride, putting about ten miles on it. I noticed the clutch wasn't disengaging like a clutch should, so I ordered new clutch plates and springs. It also had no horn, functioning lights or turn signals. Bad. It needed side covers, and forget about finding those in the original "shiny orange" 1976 paint (not to be confused with the 1975 "Flake Sunrise Orange"). The chain guard was missing, and I also noticed fresh oil dripping from the shifter shaft.
I gave it a good bath, rinsing off years of accumulated grease and grime. Underneath it all, I found some good news. The first bit was a rear IRC tire in almost-new condition, which means I didn't have to spend $25 buying a new rear tire. The chain was an O-ring model that also didn't look too bad. The next nice surprise was a motor that had probably been rebuilt, evident by new-looking gasket materiel here and there and a leak-free cylinder block, a rarity on mid-70s Honda fours. I also discovered the tank was original and didn't look half-bad.
A week later, armed with a fresh shifter shaft oil seal, new clutch plates and springs and a healthy sense of optimism, I set out to fix my new bike up. After I got the tank off, I attacked the cheese-head screws securing the engine and clutch covers.
Nine minutes later I was upstairs on my couch with a big glass of Scotch watching Mr. Roger's Neighborhood at three in the afternoon on a Tuesday.* I am not a patient man.
I'm not a particularly strong man. I have returned jars of pickles because I couldn't open them. However, give me a screwdriver and I will destroy the heads of screws, twisting and rending the metal with the mild torque from my small-but-hairy hands.
Clever people, those Japanese. They really didn't think anybody would ride a Honda enough miles to wear out a clutch or front sprocket, so why make the screws removable? Heck, why not just use rivets? I personally think the heads of these screws are designed to strip out as punishment for American motorcycles being so large and noisy. Either that, or the guy who designed these screws owned property in Nagasaki in 1945.
Three weeks later, the frustration had faded from my mind enough to make me want to take another stab at those screws, so I pulled out my trusty old impact driver and hammered away. And hammered. And hammered. After an hour of hammering with three different kinds of hammers, I realized you have to push the driver towards the screw and take up the slack in the spring, otherwise it doesn't work. With that in mind, the stubborn screws fell to my will, one by one.
Until the last one, that is. Number 26 (or whatever number it was) wasn't moving no matter what, as I had disfigured his cheesy little head with all kinds of screwdrivers and hammers. It wasn't moving, nohow. I could practically hear it singing "We Shall Overcome" in a tiny metallic voice as I slammed the hammer onto the head of the impact driver to no avail.
Phillips head screws were designed not to be easy to remove, but easy for assembly line workers to install. Stick a Phillips screwdriver into a Phillips screw and it almost magically winds up correctly aligned, where a slotted screw needs to be carefully aligned and held just right, or the screwdriver slips and jabs a supervisor in the neck. Hey, it was an accident. However, try to get a Phillips-head screw unscrewed, and you will more often then not end up with stripped slots.
I made a call to Ohanlon Motorcycles in San Francisco. Dave Ohanlon has been working on 70's Hondas for many years, and has dealt with millions of these stubborn little guys. Chris, one of the mechanics there, told me to make sure I had three things in my toolbox to get these screws off. One is a big can of penetrating oil. Spray this on before you attempt un-screwing, and then give each screw head a nice whack. The next thing you'll want is a good-quality (and we're talking Snap-On or some other professional-grade manufacturer) #3 Phillips screwdriver. Using the wrong-sized or crudely-made screwdriver will almost certainly strip out the slots. The last line of defense is an impact driver. They are cheap and infinitely useful.
Chris also said a lot of guys just replace these screws with Allen head fasteners: whole sets of them, pre-sized for various 70's and 80's Japanese motorcycles, are available on eBay and other sources. However, this seems kind of unsporting to me. If I see a guy with Allen head screws on his old Honda, I'll secretly scoff at his lack of will. Beaten by some little fasteners, huh?
All else had failed, so Mr. Screw, meet Mr. Dremel.
With a cut-off wheel installed, it was time to get all Medieval on stubborn #26. Metal shrieked and sparks flew as I carved into the screw head. Finally, after three cutoff wheels broke and went flying across my garage at supersonic speeds, barely missing my head, (wear safety glasses!) the screw gave up the ghost. The covers were off. Free at last!
My clutch plates were indeed worn past their service limits, but everything else looked OK. Even the clutch springs had life in them. I replaced them anyway with sturdy Barnett units, stacked the clutch pack back together and buttoned it all up. I then noticed a missing spacer thingie, and took it all apart again. After buttoning the motor up (again) and getting the exhaust system back on, I noted a suspiciously oily washer sitting on my bench. Was it supposed to be inside the bike, rather than outside? Or had it just been there since the last time I "fixed" something myself? Who knows. The only thing (to my way of thinking) would be to start the bike and see if the clutch worked.
After some half-hearted poking around with the electrics, in which I decided the best thing would be to replace most of the wiring harness and just try to return everything to stock, I slapped the seat and tank back on and rolled the bike outside. In the gentle rain, I shoved on the kickstarter, over and over, gently muttering "come on, come on" under my breath. Finally, the old Honda fired up with a rattly, wheezing sigh, like a nursing home patient enjoying a cigarette.
After letting it warm up for a few minutes, I pulled in the clutch -- which now had a nice, smooth feel to it -- and put the bike into gear. There was no dragging, or jerking. I released the clutch and the bike eased forward, with no pitching or juddering. I headed up the block, shifting up to third and then back down. Perfect!
So now it has a good clutch. It still needs a few things, like sidecovers, new shocks, a fork rebuild, steering head bearings and swingarm bushings, a tail light, turnsignals, horn, starter button, front and rear brake rebuilds a new front tire, new tubes front and back, and a functioning headlight. The camchain is noisy and who knows when the valves were last adjusted. The points are pitted and worn. It will probably take me years to finish all this stuff. And at the end of it all, I'll have a slow, buzzy, uncomfortable deathtrap that I'll know how to fix.
It all makes about as much sense as riding a motorcycle.
Coming next: Brakes, tires and suspension.
*Incidentally, I highly recommend watching Mr. Roger's Neighborhood at any time of the day. He was such a nice man.