63-year-old Michael Edwards is a retired foreman who used to oversee the council gardens in and around his Teeside home. The same sort of attention that went into his flowerbeds is now evident in his pride and joy, a rare 1978 Honda CB750 Phil Read Replica.
For Michael the Honda isn’t just another bike, its a way of life and, as such he knows all there is to know about the machine. “The Phil Read replica is a UK creation really, Colin Seeley having been commissioned, somewhat reluctantly by Honda, to celebrate the success of the race bike in the Isle of Man” Michael recalls “Ironically the year it came out, Read was soundly beaten by the returning Mike Hailwood on his Ducati, that victory proving to be a turning point for the Italian marque instead the one Honda had hoped for. Only 150 replicas were built by Seeley and way less than that exist to this day, I know were around 30 are, some all over the world, but most in the UK, and I am slowly building up the details of others as and when I stumble across them. Only recently I was put in touch with two more residing in nearby Hull and, as I build up the contacts I am also getting to know what parts are available and from where, talking to fellow owners and sharing information is crucial to keeping any such machine on the road. This year sees the 30th anniversary of the type and it would be nice to find all of the surviving Phil Read replicas. There was also a Seeley Honda that people often get mixed up with the Phil Read replica, but that machine used a full Seeley built chassis and prove popular with the touring brigade, whereas the Race rep is merely a standard Honda CB750 stripped of its tank, seat and exhaust before adding UK built Seeley items and a fairing too, they even left the original side panels in place, albeit now painted to match the rest of the scheme.
My machine was bought in 1988 for £1000, it was complete, but in a sorry state. The biggest problem was the original steel exhaust that had all but rotted away, luckily I found a chap in Castleford who fabricated a perfect replica out of stainless steel. This retains the looks and sounds too, the large megaphone having a much sharper bite to it than the weak sounding exhaust system of the original CB750 donor machine, with the added bonus of it staying in great shape, the standard mild steel of the original being a weak point. The rear shocks gave up the ghost some time back and finding a good pair of genuine replacements to maintain the correct look proved impossible. There is a big auto jumble regularly held at Rufforth near York, it isn’t far for me to travel so I do keep a close eye on any potential Honda parts on offer there but finding used parts for this particular machine does prove hard to do. In the end, I opted for a set of new Hagon shocks, after all they are based upon the original Girling units and do not look out of place on my machine, they work really well too. The paintwork has all been restored too, a local paint shop matching the colours of the bodywork to perfection and the end job looks superb, far better than when the bikes were new. A local firm has also redone all of the chome and anywhere there is a bit of alloy is regularly polished to a bright shine. The only thing that isn’t quite right, but I like it anyway, is the tinted screen, this being an after market item from Skidmarx, but it seems to match the rest of the bike far better than a clear one to me at least. A set of stainless brake hoses finish the bike off a treat and give a better feel through the lever than the standard rubber hoses that were the norm back in the 70’s.
As for the rest of the Honda, after 20 years of preening, and it is just about complete, but with a machine this age, and being in constant use, there is always something to attend to, it can take up to 5-hours to polish it after a long ride. I have never had the top end off the engine, the genuine pistons and rings are no longer listed by Honda, so any parts needed in that area would have to be pattern parts so I am not too keen to go down that route unless forced too, its done over 40,000 miles and so far hasn’t missed a beat. I have heard of people getting 80,000 miles plus out of the SOHC Honda four before needing to go in and attend to any wear, so I guess it has a bit of life left in it yet. I do like riding it and love the attention it gets whenever its parked up, the Honda race rep still looks great and draws a big crowd even after 30 years.”
David Silver Spares – Tel 01728 833 020
Hagon Shocks – Tel 0208 502 6222
Skidmarx – Tel 01305 780 808
Honda GB club
Cleveland Chroming – Tel 01642 244 911
Honda Phil Read rep register – Tel 07938 942 115
1978 Honda CB750 Phil Read Replica Specification
- Price: £1000
- Value now (est): £8000-10,000
- Power: 67bhp
- Torque: 39ft-lb
- Top speed 125mph
- Dry weight: 224kg
- Colours: Red/White/BlackTechnical Specification
- Fuel: 19 litres
- Rake/trail: 28deg/112mm
- Seat height: 800mm
- Wheelbase:1455 mm
- Engine: air-cooled 736cc (61 x 63mm), four-cylinder four-stroke. 4 x 28mm Keihin carbs. 5-gears. Chain final drive
- Chassis: Tubular steel, dual-down tube frame, 35mm non-adjustable telescopic forks, twin oil-damped rear shocks with adjustable preload
- Brakes: 296mm front disc with single-piston caliper, 180mm single-leading-shoe drum rear brake
- Tyres: 3.25 x 19 front, 4.10 x 19 rearTop Tips
- Do talk to fellow owners, any information no matter how slight can prove invaluable.
- Build up relations with local suppliers if at all possible, its far better than sending parts off and waiting for them to return, it its local a more hands on approach can be adopted.
- Don’t just sit and look at the finished result get out and ride it, my Honda pulls a crowd where ever I take it.
- Honda CB750 Phil Read Replica Gallery
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