Project Café: 1973 Honda CB500 Project Bike, Part 6

We're sure our restoration project bike, a Honda CB500, will dazzle the public when it's ready — which it almost is.

| November/December 2009

Yeesh, where does the time go? A few months ago it looked like we had all the time in the world to put our project bike, a1973 Honda CB500, back together for the 5th Annual Barber Vintage Festival on Oct. 10. Suddenly, the festival’s right around the corner, and we’re scrambling to get our café-d Honda up and running.

But it is all coming together, and looking sweeter by the day. The suspension all went together easily, which it should have since we’d already done most of the prep work. We rebuilt our forks with new fork tubes from Forking By Frank (Frank’s Maintenance and Engineering), installed a nice set of reservoir rear shocks from YSS (Y.S.S. USA), and after bolting on our gorgeous wheels from Buchanan’s Spoke & Rim with new Continental ContiGo! tires, we finally have a rolling chassis.

It took longer than we’d care to admit to get around to assembling the engine, but after having the cylinder head checked over and the barrels honed we installed a new set of piston rings and buttoned up the top end. That felt like a milestone, but still left us with the task of removing 35-plus years worth of accumulated grease and dirt from the engine case. Toothbrushes and cleaner weren’t doing the trick, but salvation came in the form of pal Brad Taylor, who came over with a wicked little steam cleaner that powered off all that muck.

With the engine back together we slotted it into the frame and mounted up our new Mac Performance 4-into-1 header system from We were expecting a little bit of trial and error to get the exhaust located to our satisfaction, but the Mac system bolted up without a hitch and looks great. We expect it’ll sound great, too. Carbs went on next, although we still need a new set of mounting clamps. We’ve ditched the stock airbox and filter, opting instead for a set of K&N pod-style air filters, which we’ll soon install. We expect to hold a little jetting session once we get the bike running, and we’ll report back on what we had to change to make our bike run well with updated filters and an unrestricted exhaust.

We picked up some killer extras for our bike, including a sweet café saddle/fender assembly from Omar’s Dirt Track Racing and a perfect little fiberglass front fender from Honda café madman Steve “Carpy” Carpenter at Carpy’s Café Racers. We’ve just sent both pieces off to be painted, and we’re looking forward to mounting them on the bike for good.

Probably the coolest thing we got from Carpy was a set of instrument gauge faces he custom made for us in metallic silver — complete with the Motorcycle Classics logo! Taking the gauges apart to remove and replace the face plates wasn’t as bad as you might expect; you can find a short primer on the process on our website, just type in the search term “Honda CB gauges.” Too cool.

Richard Backus
5/4/2011 10:43:54 AM

David, if memory serves, we didn't have any problems with ours, but that may be down to luck more than anything else. If memory serves, our indicator light wasn't working, and that may have enabled the turn signals to work. On our Triumph Bonneville Bobber project, we ended up having to wire in a diode so the indicator would work and the LED flashers would flash. Richard/Motorcycle Classics

David L Wilson
5/3/2011 3:46:26 PM

I recently purchased the Baja Designs LED mini stalk turn signals like the ones used on the Project Cafe Honda for my 1981 Honda CB650C. The lights come on but do not blink. We added load equalizers but this did not solve the problem. Anything similar happen on your build? Any suggestions? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks

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