1970’s Far Eastern Finale
Kon’nichiwa and thank you to all that have persevered with this saga of our SL restoration over the past 6 months. I would like to conclude with great news of perfection and a smooth project, completed on time and budget…. but I can’t, as things went a bit ‘Pete Tong’ over the past month. We left off 30 days ago with decals to fit, lacquer to apply and the MOT to face; one of those has yet to be achieved. You see the number plate fitted to the bike fitted decades ago is no longer valid, according to the DVLA and thus the MOT with Sussex Rolling Road has been put on hold.
The paperwork is endless mainly due to the SL not sporting a tax disc since the dinosaurs roamed the planet; evidentially. Anyway, I didn’t help the situation by fitting the freshly painted original side panel, badly; being more brittle than the wife’s ‘Quiche Lorraine’ it shattered into eight pieces when pressure was applied. New rubber mounts and a smear of grease would have saved the day but now half a pint of JB Weld and a week’s cursing would be necessary. The decal kit came via Ebay from Derbyshire and whilst the Honda logo worked very well the 125 stickers for the side panels didn’t, far too much glue on the backing paper caused plenty of problems making the graphic allergic too lacquer.
Luckily on my travels locating parts I collected a pair of original 125 letters and they adapted perfectly. I wouldn’t ever claim to be the world’s best painter but she is run free and the match is passable. A new fuel tap from David Silver allowed us to shove in some gas and enjoy all 12hp, provided the single hasn’t lost a few over the years.
Road Test Tragedy
A sunny Saturday arrived and with camera ready the maiden voyage of our trusty Honda had arrived. A small crowd gathered including the bloke opposite and my whippet Lily to enjoy the spectacle. (At this point I must mention to anyone reading this from Her Majesty’s Constabulary or a large building in Swansea, this took place on a private road as did all the photographs). Primed with fuel and choke applied, it was all ‘high fives’ after three kicks brought the motor to life but with first gear engaged we stalled.
After repeating this process a couple of times, it became apparent that the clutch was seized. Unimpressed my old pal Alan removed the engine cover to confirm, we had to remove the pack and see what the problem was. ‘Where do you keep the special tool the manual quotes as number 07086-28301’ was his next question. All I could offer was a blank look that resembled someone who had just consumed a pint of 179% proof Absinthe. Therefore, the clever old fox made one from another special tool that I will no doubt need next week and the securing nut gave in after an hour or so. The plates were stuck together, not surprising after remaining static for a quarter of a century; released, cleaned and refitted all would be fine. Both the neighbour and dog had lost interest but the SL is great to ride, not least because the gear changes come every two seconds.
I had completely forgotten the joy of riding a 125cc, whilst ours has added interest because the brakes still need to ‘bed in’. Honda side panels have become the ‘bane of my life’, as many who have followed this sad tale can confirm. Whilst the JB Weld did its job my filler work failed miserably, many times, but after the 15th coat of primer the canyon like cracks were no longer and the rest is history.
One reader last year stated on the CBM facebook page that this resto would have to be a labour of love and that’s correct and I have loved doing it. I certainly wouldn’t claim it is of the highest standard, many other projects on-line offer far more ‘shine’, but it ain’t bad for two middle aged blokes in a garage completing the project ‘in house’. The last month has not gone as planned but I will be riding along the coast to Worthing for my MOT soon, I hope. Parts and locating them has been a real issue with the SL125, if they are about, they are expensive.
We calculated if perfection was our aim the project would not have been viable, either in time sourcing quality replacement parts or financially. These small Japanese machines from the 70s and 80s do make great projects but please do your homework before committing. Decide whether you want a useable classic or a trailer queen for ‘concours’ events; especially prior to dismantling.
We have exactly what we wanted, a nice, tidy bike that is fun to ride but didn’t cost a fortune to achieve; restoring, not replacing a lot of items made this possible. With the help of David Silver, Sussex Rolling Road and my mate Alan, this SL125 Street Scrambler is ready to be left outside any chip shop in the land; wearing flairs and DM’s whilst shovelling my fries down with Slade’s Mama We’re All Crazy Now playing on the radio. Although it wasn’t me that enjoyed this little Honda in September 1972 (being just 10) I was certainly jealous of the ‘biker’ that did.
Thanks for reading Grant Ford for classic-motorbikes.net
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)