When this SL125 left the showroom for the first time the rider would have certainly looked familiar in flared jeans, feet protected by yellow laced DM’s whilst the Can-Am peak-less open face helmet squashes wayward locks flat. It was the time of the three day week when fuel was 35p a gallon and people endured dinner parties with Smash and Angel Delight washed down with Double Diamond party packs. If any of this is familiar you may well remember one of these four stroke singles in your street, it was you who had to suffer a music scene dominated by the Osmonds and David Cassidy. Its little wonder your average teen craved escape, leaving behind the Jamboree Bag of youth. This time would be life changing, blasting around the streets at all hours; in 1972 it was the only thing that ensured sanity.
Let’s Get Ready to Resto…
Well, it seems there may well have been a few more SL125s arrived in ‘Blighty’ during the 70s than I originally thought; the big question is where are they now? The biggest problem I have is parts or lack of and even a well-known auction site can only offer bits from across the Atlantic. Example: required n/s (left) side panel, not fussed about colour and will take even if damaged; finally success but sold as a pair at £108 plus £44 postage from the USA, £150 for side panels!! So the search goes on and I contacted Nigel for an honest opinion from a guy that has already followed the SL salvation path and although he is still smiling his bank balance took quite a time to recover; worryingly his SL started off in better condition than mine. Whilst profit is not the objective I don’t want to spend a fortune on the old Honda but do intend to get the thing back on the road; one way or another. Nigel told me the costings for his restoration (that came out superbly well, www.oldjapbikeguy.webspace.virginmedia.com/Honda.html ) a figure way outside of my budget; but I have a cunning plan, Baldrick…
I must confess to being surprised at the interest this rather sad looking 70s relic has created when I took a look at the many comments posted on the Classic-Motorbikes.net book face page. Opinions are like plug holes, we all have one and many of those shared on the social media site took me somewhat by surprise, mostly extolling the virtues of my rusty Honda. Whilst I appreciate those looking back through ‘rose-tinted’ glasses to a time when they were able to terrorize their local neighborhood at all hours on such a machine, I have to be sensible. One post advised this restoration would be ‘a labour of love’ and I have to agree, few return your outlay but that doesn’t stop us folk having a go. I also have another such project already under way for the ‘fans of four wheels’ on the sister site of this great publication (classiccarmag.net) thus any large layout will result in one of two things. Firstly, the loss of my credit card when the wife finally ‘cottons on’ or secondly, plenty of space in the fridge and the kids going hungry; a compromise is therefore needed. I am going to get the SL mobile but will not be chasing ‘concours’ production, whilst the family can all go on a diet; brilliant. Last time, I let my over enthusiastic assistant take the old girl apart, this task he attacked with relish so now I have a garage full of rusty Honda but I will step up to the plate, one job at a time.
First Part Purchased
With just half a dozen bolts Honda’s single is removed from the frame and whilst it is rough to say the least it is complete; apart from the sprocket cover that has been replaced by a piece of tin plate. Best guess is a broken chain took out the alloy panel but surely it would have been just as easy to replace with a new one. From now on I would realize the full problem of obtaining parts for this 40 year old machine and by searching under SL125 results were ‘nought’ or lottery winner funds required; a little looking for CB125 parts though brought a result. Just the one from Moscow, not the place where the soldiers walk funny and it snows constantly but a town in Idaho (the lentil and potato capital of the world) that is home to ‘The Cycle Barn’. Several weeks later the package arrived and even at £36.00 for a used part this was cheap, as another identical SL version from across the pond was double. Several wire wheels would sacrifice their futures removing the corrosion and flaking paint from the engine whilst many more sanding discs would be worn down getting the tank back to bare metal. The mudguards resemble a colander but are fixable; they have to be as the internet revealed that any on offer were no better than what I already have. Some may consider I am working in a random fashion and not following the normal routine of strip followed by frame, engine then hopefully a rolling chassis. Now I have a grasp of the parts situation I want to work out how salvageable items actually are, little point going too far with the expensive items when I have little to re attach.
Bit by Bit
Rusty parts are now scattered around the garage and I decided to tackle the most tragic straight away, the tank now sits in primer and whilst not perfect it is no longer an embarrassment. The exhaust and the sump ‘bash plate’ were the most likely failures but once several pounds of mud was chiseled off both were not only orifice free but actually in excellent shape. The exhaust enjoyed a good workout with a wire brush before flatting back, then a lavish coat of ‘rust convertor’. Whilst I am unsure of the rust prevention properties of this stuff it makes a superb primer so everything is getting a coat or two. Heat resistant black and two coats of lacquer finish the job and although I faced plenty of complaints as it hung along-side the bash plate in the hallway, the drying process was overnight. Flushed with success I moved onto the muddy mud-guards where the story is somewhat different and whilst the front one is well underway (at time of writing) the rear may require my mate Alan’s finesse with the mig welder. I would do it myself but fear of setting the house alight keeps me from charging in and as my college has just returned from his winter break, his enthusiasm should be at its highest.
We hope to have the motor re-installed in the freshly prepared frame
The mudguards should be solid and sporting a primer coat
Rusty wheels, is there another way?
Honda SL 125 Specification
- Engine Single cylinder 4 stroke 124cc
- Output 12hp @ 9700rpm
- Top Speed 63mph
- 2 Valves OHC
- Gearbox 5 Speed
- Front tyre: 2.75-21
- Rear tyre: 3.25-18
- Front brakes: Expanding brake
- Rear brakes: Expanding brake
- Weight: 108.0 kg (238.1 pounds)
- Fuel capacity: 7.50 litres (1.98 gallons)