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My solar steel

Most old vehicles fail hopelessly if you compare them to what exists today. They are mostly to be enjoyed for what they were. I have found an exception and that is small motorcycles. They were in many ways more fun back then. Built according to the same standard and in the same quality as the big ones.

There was a large number of fine small machines from 50-350 cubic meters, which, even though they were mass-produced, were something out of the ordinary. I'm sure I'm not the only one who grew up during that period who remembers the little machines from Japan and Italy from back then. But when you were young, it couldn't get big and fast enough.

The shutter from 1971

In 1979 I was offered a small Honda motorcycle as partial payment in a car dealership. It was a Honda CB 175 K6 in Harvest Gold metallic. It was a cute little machine, and it sounded good, but I still thought it was too small, so I declined. I have often regretted that, because I could have enjoyed it a lot as a cheap means of transport. In 2007 I read a test of a CB 175 in an English motorcycle magazine and it dawned on me that I had missed an experience and I started looking for one. However, my search for an original machine quickly revealed that the small Japanese machines from that time had sunk into the ground. Almost all have been mercilessly driven into the ground. Many were used as a daily means of transport in summer and winter.

But I was determined to save at least one small classic Honda motorcycle from the metal container. The plan was to find one like this and take it with us in the caravan when we went on a long trip. My hunt soon changed character from an original machine to a good restoration object, and even that took its time. I started thinking about buying one in the US, where there are still many fine examples of all the classic Honda models from the 70s. But suddenly there was a fairly complete machine for sale in Gul & Gratis. It was aptly nicknamed "Skoddet" so, as the name suggests, it should have the whole trip.

The seller told the following little story when I picked it up: "When I bought the "Skoddet" back in 1986 from Agusta MC on Frederiksborgvej, I asked how much warranty was on it. "Well, it's up to you" was the answer. "It depends on how long it takes you to push it over the doorstep of the business".

I used it to drive to work before I sold it on. But many years later I wanted one again, and when I knew who owned the "Skoddet", I tried to buy it back, without success. So I found another one just like it. When the owner of the "Skoddet" suddenly wants to sell, I also bought it back in a fit of nostalgia, even though I didn't need two.

I thus became the 4th owner of "Skoddet" and set about the renovation task with great enthusiasm - it was in a sorry state to say the least. It quickly dawned on me that spare parts for such a car are not easy to dust off, you have to have a little patience. And really, it wouldn't be worth it at all, because it costs more to fix one like that than it's worth, but now it's not all that can be done with money.

Without eBay it would have been difficult. Parts were dusted up and arrived from all sorts of places. I had a lot of fun with it and all the while packages of vital parts arrived from far and wide for the little Twin, work went on parallely in my garage sanding, polishing, painting and assembly. I had taken it for a short ride before I took it apart, so I knew the engine was actually running pretty well. But I still took the cylinder head off to check the valves and installed a new camshaft chain. However, I found a complete engine in Germany from a K7 that had only done 13,000 km. It's the one that's in it now, and it runs perfectly.

After all, the original had barely driven 50,000 km. It now stands as a decoration on a small stand, ready for action if needed.

My ray of sunshine

It all stretched over a couple of winters, and in 2013 plates were put on it again.

This Honda CB 175 is a K4 model, and in typical Honda style, no two years are exactly the same. One must resort to the parts catalogs to see how a CB 175 K4 from 1971 was put together. I still haven't managed to find the rear fender that should be on a K4 from 1971. (So please let us know if you have one lying around.)

Honda's small 2-cylinder machines from that time (125-200 ccm) basically have the same engine construction, namely a 360 degree parallel Twin with an overhead camshaft, driven by a chain located between the cylinders. This means that you can make do with one set of platinums. A healthy little machine, but one that needs whipping to do anything. It provides approx. 20 hp, and with a liter output of 120 hp, it is heavily tuned. The sound of this little full screw machine surpasses most of its size. Back then, motorcycles had to make a bit of noise.

When it comes to the CB 175, the models from K3-K7 are all with 5 gears. They must be used diligently to get ahead in traffic. But with a weight of 130 kg and the modest size, it goes well, it feels a bit like driving a badly tuned moped.

There is no doubt for a moment that this little machine has its roots back to the small Honda Twins that conquered all the world's racetracks in the early 60s. When you study this little Honda in detail, you understand how careful Honda was with its products at the time. No wonder Honda became the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer.

You are a little surprised at how useful it is and how fun it can be to drive 80 km/h. As long as it doesn't go too steeply uphill, or the headwind is too strong, it goes really well. It follows the daily traffic with the greatest of ease. On the small roads and in the city it is a pleasure to drive, and there is quite a bit of sport in keeping the little mill up to speed.

My personal experiences with this little Twin have thus been a bit of a sunshine story, consisting of many wonderful little trips out into the blue, and despite its modest status, it causes a stir wherever it appears. So you usually have to set aside a little extra time when filling up with petrol, because there are often mature men (and women) my own age who just want to see and hear a bit about it.

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Less than 1000 km from new

Parts for old Japanese motorcycles are a problem. For example, Honda stops producing spare parts 20 years after a model has gone out of production. After my Honda CB 175 K4 was drivable again, I looked on Ebay for the last parts to make it just right, e.g. the rear fender that fits the year. There I came across a rare CB 175 K3 from 1969, offered for sale in Germany. It had driven less than 1000 km from new, and was intact and 100% original. I made an offer and didn't expect to hear back, but a reply came. After some shopping back and forth over the internet, we agreed on an approximate price. The problem was that it was 600 km south of the Danish border. We agreed to meet halfway a little south of Hamburg on a Saturday in December 2015. There was no doubt about the motorcycle's improbable originality, and therefore it ended up in my trailer after close study. The story was that a Honda dealer had imported it from the USA in 1995. As the model was not type-approved in Germany, it ended up sitting unused in the shop for years. When the owner died and the business closed, everything was put up for sale. Many showed interest, but wanted to hear it start up before buying. As this was not possible because the carburetors were in a cardboard box and the heir had no mechanical sense, I became its next owner.

It is always exciting to come home with such a treasure. You have to think a little about what to do with one like this, leave it completely as it is, or screw it apart and make it as new. I chose a middle ground, namely to keep the patina such a machine has acquired, even if it has not been driven very much. It was therefore allowed to continue its sleeping beauty as a decoration in my office, after a thorough cleaning. I tinkered with it a bit when the time was right. The front fender and chain guard were attacked by fly rust and were re-chromed. The wheels were taken apart, hubs cleaned and polished, and rebuilt from the same parts.

States after 40 years

In October 2016 I set out to get it started again. The claim was that it had not started up since the early seventies. After so many years of standstill, there is always a real risk that the engine has been damaged, so that all the stuffing boxes in the engine leak oil and that it smokes blue and uses oil.

The carburetors were ultrasonically cleaned, and new oil was added to the engine and front fork. It was a bit strange to do the first oil change on a machine that was over 45 years old. Unfortunately, both exhausts turned out to be rusted through at the bottom and had to be welded with the utmost care. At Honda in those years, things like exhaust pipes can undergo small changes from year to year. For the CB 175 there are at least 3 different variations and I could see with the naked eye that they were not quite like the ones on the K4 model, so I decided to make an effort to preserve them for the sake of originality, - and managed. In all, not so much as a screw was replaced with anything that did not come from this machine. Apart from hoses in the wheels, all parts remained on the machine, well polished and cleaned and in some cases surface treated. Another problem was rust in the gas tank, something I have found my own solution to. It's something with a concrete mixer and a few handfuls of gravel. But this one was as rusty as I'd ever seen before, and I have to admit that just reusing the gas tap was a bit of a challenge. Hondas in those years have two runs in the petrol tap, and it can be tricky to get petrol to both carburettors and at the same time.

After a bit of fiddling and a lot of speculation, it was probably a bit exciting to press the start button. First it started firing on one cylinder, and after a few minutes they both came to life. To my great joy and amazement, it soon went relatively clean. But as I have experienced before, nozzles that have been dry-laid for so many years can change size due to corrosion, and thus also this one. I had nozzles lying around, and when they came in, it went as it should.

It's crazy to start such an old case after so many years. And yes, it was still tight and the engine healthy and strong. The old Honda was back after what seemed like 45 years of inactivity.

A bit strange to think that I was in 4th grade when it was put aside. It has not yet completed 1000 km.

This is a museum object worthy of preservation, which is now in my care, but which deserves to be preserved for posterity.


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