Bill's CB450 PROJECT

The Beginning - UGH !!!
A sight that gives you that sick feeling.....
A disgusting, rusted hulk of a 1971 CB450 K4. Unknown mileage, obviously bad condition. Clear Title, coupla' hundred bucks.
Originally envisioned as a straight-ahead restoration, the project has mutated into a Tracker-type customization.
Some nice parts came my way, and I figured there were plenty of restored 450's around already  - so something different was called for.

Skip to Finished Project Photos



Step 1 - Disassemble and Evaluate

Following is a  partial   list of items I found to be faulty, upon tear down.
Keep in mind, the Previous Owner (PO) said that this bike had been given a thorough going-over by "someone who knew what they were doing".

Left side compression - 0 pounds, right side 100 pounds (170-180 pounds desired).
Oil drain bolt shot - replaced with spare CB200 plug, new part no longer available (NLA)
6 crankcase bolts not tightened at all, two bolts missing.
Lower crankcase broken at rear engine mount - replaced lower crankcase.
Ball bearing missing in clutch lifter - clutch ok, but didn't work due to the lifter mechanism.
Rubber part missing from chain oiler thing in countershaft - no sealing, big time oil leak in sprocket area. Replaced with K2 countershaft, which has no chain oiler thingy.
Oil pump bolt lock washer tabs not engaged.
Oil filter nut not tight, lock washer tabs not engaged.
Left piston rings stuck in grooves, cylinders in rough shape - bore out to 2'nd over ($80), new pistons/rings ($95).
Cam chain had permanent kink from improper master link installation - replace cam chain ($30)
All 4 valves leak badly - cut new valve seats and lap valves in ($140).
Exhaust cam and all 4 tappets fried - NLA, replace with good used parts (~$35, lucky EBay find).
Cam chain roller (lower) shot - replace with new part, still available and cheap.
Swingarm “dust seal caps” missing - allowed 3/8" side to side movement - replaced missing stuff, installed new bushings.
Rear wheel 7 mm off centerline of bike (probably came off the showroom that way) - combined with the loose swingarm, this could have made this bike a killer.
Seat shot - strip, de-funkify, and refoam/re-cover (~$100)
No air cleaners at all - got Uni sock-style foam filters.
Both brakes seized up, master cylinder leaks, but won't function. Replace master with aftermarket - ($50).
Tires shot - replaced with Cheng Shin Barracudas (~$100).
Chain shot - replaced with new (~$40).
Wiring harness butchered, all switches and devices shot - replace with good used harness and devices ($25 on EBay), new handlebar switches (~$150).
Forks/shocks shot - replaced shocks with 1981 CB750C shocks, about an inch longer and in great shape ($40).
Both wheels in terrible shape, all rusty/corroded - replaced entire front end/rear wheel with parts from 1979 CB400T, with some finaglin'.
New cables, all in black to match the color scheme. Tach cable was hard to find (NLA), eventually picked up a like-new CB500T tach cable.

From the Ground Up -

Frame and swingarm have now been powder coated, for just $100.
Hmmmm.... shiny (Homer voice).




Someone in the area just GAVE me a 1979 CB400T2, less than 3,000 miles, out of a barn.
Unfortunately, no Title, and a search with several States indicated they never heard of the bike.
I decided it was too much trouble to deal with a model I didn't care much for anyway.
So I tore it down, intending to piece it out on EBay.

But wait  - I like those wheels, and really like the forks. Way better looks than stock 450 stuff.

Hmmm.........So much for the Restoration.

Step 2 - Another Direction

Ok, the CB400T forks are 33 mm, the 450 is 35 mm. Fork spacing also different.
So this photo shows the powdercoated frame fitted with CB360 stem and clamps, with tapered roller bearings.
Now the entire 400T front end can be transplanted as a unit, no hassles.

The bare wheels were soaked in Milk Stone Remover (MSR) to de-rust and de-funkify. It's never a good idea to disassemble these Comstars, so I just filled a big cooler with MSR (about half/half with water) solution, then immersed half the wheel (or so) at a time, so the bearings were never touched.
Then some Duplicolor engine enamel, new tubes and tires.

The 400T front end fit the 360 tree and clamp perfectly. Fork ears are aftermaket polished aluminum (~$30).
Have to make a note to get a spare triple clamp - the 360's were notorious for cracking the triple clamps.

Now we're having fun.

Being a technically advanced kinda guy, I used the pictured Hi-Tech tools to establish the geometry -

Hey, the Egyptians built the pyramids, with those tools. The Wright Brothers built machines that flew, with those tools.

Photo below shows the plumb and string for the front end. Standing in front of the bike, it was possible to visually line up the front tire - string - front and rear frame down tubes spot-on together.
Some wooden carpenter shims under the side stand got things perfectly vertical and aligned.
At this point, a check with the levels showed the front wheel was also perfectly vertical - so perfectly aligned with the frame tools.
Another level check indicated the swingarm was dead level at this point (thank you Lord).
So the frame is at least overall aligned, along with the forks and front wheel.

Time for the REAL test , the rear wheel/sprocket and geometry.



The photos show a couple of lines I stretched from the steering neck back - if you stand a few feet back of the bike, you can sight down everything on the bike with a single line. At the point that line crossed the rear seat support thing, I dropped a plumb line to the wheel itself.
The photos make the lines look a bit off center.
The photos show the 400T wheel. When I started, I tried the original 450 wheel, and it was offset 7 mm to the left within the scheme of things.
Pretty scary, when you consider the swing arm also had about 3/8" side play due to the missing parts.

New wheel off-center, as you can see.

Now after some work on the axle spacers. Dead center.
Swingarm still level, wheels perpendicular, everything lines up.
Also had to fabricate a couple of little collars for the smaller diameter 400T axle.
They fit over the axle and within the axle adjuster holes in the swingarm.

Put a dummy engine in the frame and pulled out a brand new chain............ drum roll......

The sprockets line up fine, no side play on the chain or anything.

I am truly the most fortunate of men.
Note the '81 CB750C shocks.

So now it's looking like this -


I think I like where this is going.

Onward To The Engine -


Step 4- ENGINE

Not much going for it out of the box.
Many hours spent cleaning every individual piece.
Painted and baked all visible components.
Ordered stainless steel nuts/bolts for everything on the bike, about $100.

Replaced countershaft to correct the chain oiler problem.
Replaced a couple of gears and a shift fork with a great EBay find - $11 for a complete tranny.
Accumulated decent top end parts.

Let's go  -

First, the new pistons and rings in the partially assembled lower cases.

When I bought the bike, the PO gave me a complete Barnett competition clutch that he never installed.
I had originally thought to sell it, but - why shouldn't I have a Barnett clutch??

So I'll prep it for use -

All together, and on the bike - engine itself was painted a lower gloss black (tried flat black, didn't like the look), covers in semi-gloss black.
All paint was Duplicolor Engine Enamel, baked all the parts in the kitchen oven at about 200 degrees for an hour or so.
The photos don't do justice - it's really hard to get a good picture of all that black.

Note the Uni "Sock" air filters...



The wiring harness was in sad shape, so I got a better one off EBay and went through the whole thing.
I definitely did not like the look of the coils, so I got some Yamaha XS650 coils from Mike's XS shop, along with new wires and caps.
I had to fab up some little plates so I could mount them using the stock coil mounts in the "normal" space between the frame tubes.
It's important to keep the coils as close together as possible, as there is limited sideways room because of the tank. On my first attempt I had them too far apart and the tank wouldn't fit on !!!
The condensor then had to mounted somewhere else entirely, directly to the frame tube nearby.
I ran a separate ground wire directly from the battery to the coils, condensors and ignition switch.

The old ones - yuk.....

New coils, with fabbed mounting plates...

Yellow wires were all they had on hand (??!!) - oh well...

Now mounted on the bike, in the stock location....
Wiring was very simple with existing connections..

The headlamp shell was another EBay purchase, fit perfectly between the aluminum fork ears, and a nice look.
Not exactly in the right position here, needed to be moved up on the forks.

Also went to the trouble of splicing in a new blade-type (ATO size) fuse holder.
Prompted by blowing many hard-to-find metric tube fuses during the trouble-shooting process.
Also note the use of a piece of old inner tube as a battery cover. The last one I saw on EBay went for nearly $70 !!!
I'd rather eat worms than spend that kind of money on a stinkin' $1.50 piece of plastic.

Turn signals remain the old CB450 types.


Step 6 - BRAKES

The rear brake remains the stock CB400T unit that came with the wheel, no modifications required, just cleaned up and painted.
Front brake also remains the stock CB400T caliper and rotor, with an aftermarket master, purchased off EBay for $50.
The original caliper was rebuilt and painted (Aluminum Duplicolor, not baked).
Several attempts to rebuild the old 450 master yielded a still-leaky unit which was messing up paint and frustrating me badly.
Nice look, bolted right up, works perfectly - no leaks !!.


The chrome fenders (CB450 rear, CB400T front) were pitted badly, and the cost of re-chroming was out of the question.
So I soaked them in MSR to get rid of all the rust, then roughed them up well with a sander and painted them (top and bottom).
Paint was Duplicolor Self-Etching Primer, followed by Duplicolor "filling" primer, then Duplicolor "Ultra Silver", then two-part clear coat applied with HVLP.
I think they look great.
Tank was filled with MSR solution to de-rust, then Red-Koted inside.
Tank and air cleaner covers were stripped completely, then got the same paint process as the fenders.
Tank and cover emblems were hand painted using model airplane paint, then sprayed with rattle-can clear.


Step 8 - SEAT

The seat was completey trashed, seat pan was cracked.
I had a neighbor buddy weld up the crack (I'm the world's worst welder), and purchased some 6" thick extra-firm seat foam.
"Sculpted" the new seat foam as a single piece and applied the new seat cover - Wifey's hair dryer was a great help here.


My good buddy Steve Lohmeyer (Sixtysixsprint) very generously gave me an old 450 "D"-Model friction steering damper, which fit a modified CB360 steering stem. He welded up a 450 stem to the 360 bottom clamp, and the whole thing bolted up (with a bit of finnaglin').
Now I have a very desireable friction steering damper which works beautifully, and is much better looking than the typical external hydraulic rod-thingy you see.
(Excuse all the dust in the photos)

Also fitted a 17-tooth counter sprocket, to make up for the 37-tooth rear, which came on the CB400T rear wheel.
Stock on a CB450 is 15/35, so this gave me the equivalent of about 16/35. Didn't look like there was room for an 18-tooth counter, or I would have gone that route.

Was dissatisfied with the stock mufflers, so I got a pair of "RoadHawk" mufflers from CRC2 in Indianapolis. Easy bolt-up, though I did have to fuss with the exhaust pipe/muffler joint  - eventually used some muffler repair tape (from Auto Zone, I think) and sealed up the leaks at the joints. I did not use the "activator" stuff, just the fireproof fabric - a couple of wraps around the end of the pipe, and Bob's Yer' Uncle.
The cost of re-chroming the exhaust pipes is too much right now, so that will have to wait.
Rear footpegs are aftermarket.

Step 10 - TEST RIDE !!!!

Even though I didn't have a seat yet, the weather was looking like snow, so......
I put in some high octane gas, and it started immediately.
A quick static time and carb synch/balance, and off I went.

WOW !!!  This thing runs like a raped aped - it pulls HARD, all the way to red line.

However, a seat works way better than a battery, take my butt's word for it.

Only got to put about 10 miles on it before the snow flew, so it's waiting for spring now, and a seat.
Checked the compression, I'm seeing 180 pounds, will probably go up a bit more as the rings seat in.