If your passion is biking you don't want to be ill through the summer, even if the weather is bad.
I got ill in 2010 and mended in 2012 only to have a relapse in March.
Then on the 30th of May the worst thing to ever happen to me - what I would not wish on anyone happened. I got bacterial meningitis.
I can say the Royal Surrey intensive care unit is amazing. After some unbelievable steroids and antibiotIcs I write this now in a general ward with probably a week still to go here.
With the Vanquish coming within the next month I was going be preparing to ride it. No chance for a while. I am far too week. So that becomes a long term objective.
In fact thank goodness for the Honda 350 Four collection project. One twentieth of the engine size but a much more realistic riding project in my current weakened state.
Since we added the Panther late last year we have had thirty bikes in our icons collection and I have been thinking what else might be of interest – quirky engine, something unusual or some special history?
In its wisdom Honda decided to follow the SOHC 750 and 500 fours with a baby four. Released in 1972, the CB350 Four was the smallest of the family and it is questionable why it even got developed. With the small capacity engine it was relatively underpowered (34 bhp and under 100 mph top speed) and heavy (373 lbs), with the Honda 350 twin outperforming it. It was almost as if Honda just wanted to prove it could mass produce a four with tiny pistons (50mm stroke x 47mm bore), valves and carburettors (4 x 20mm Keihins). The bike was not released in the UK but in 1974 it was superseded by the 400 Four – which with its café racer looks and four-into-one pipe did become a UK icon.
The 350 Four had one-off bodywork and a four-into-four exhaust. This was extra light (under 25 lbs) and so very prone to rot. One of my best mates (Mike “Honda” O’Connor) had one back in the day in Johannesburg and hence this was the first four that I ever rode. All of this convinced me that this should be our next icon.
An EBay search revealed a US import as yet to be registered in the UK. Apart from the exhaust, most of the bike was still there – albeit not in great shape. So a nice challenge for our workshop. I won the auction and we got the bike in. Within a couple of hours we had it running (on 2 of 4 cylinders) and satisfied ourselves that the gearbox, clutch and bottom end are sound.
The back of the parts search has now been broken with bits sourced mainly from USA EBay, David Silver and CMSNL. The exhaust system is the biggest single challenge. CMSNL have commissioned after market 4-into-4 kits (almost as expensive as the bike itself!) and I bought the last one – only to be told by Gert that “mine” had gone the day before to someone else. So I am now on back order for a few months. Our objective is to be pretty faithful to the original. Paint will be one of the actual colours used – Candy Bacchus Olive Green. We expect to get the bike on a ramp next month and hopefully complete by year end. Watch this space for progress reports. Pictures show EBay acquisition on the shop floor, what the real thing should look like and the aimed for green paint.