Why Build a 350F?
By Michael Rush

1974 Honda CB 350 F1
1974 Honda CB 350 F1

In 1969, Honda introduced the CB750. Industry insiders simply knew it as the ‘Pre-K’

Everyone else knew it as the bike that changed the world. Shortly thereafter, Honda added the CB500F, and in 1972, quietly introduced the CB350F. Quietly Indeed. Both the 750 and the 500 became instant successes, selling in staggering numbers. The 350 on the other hand, was not as well received because the category it occupied was rife with sterling performers. They Yamaha RD350 and Kawasaki S2 350 outgunned it in every way. The little 4 cylinder Honda engine was too complex, too heavy and under-powered. Only die-hard Honda types even considered purchasing the relatively unpopular and expensive CB350F. At the time, some believed that Soichiro Honda’s ego was not nearly big enough to make this little jewel a marketing success.

So why on earth did I pick this machine as my first restoration in over 15 years? First and foremost, those who know me have long since reconciled the fact that I march to a different drummer. So Be It!

In 1974, I was in 11th grade at Escola Americana do Rio de Janeiro. The ‘American School’ was privately funded by American corporations so their executives and embassy workers had a school for their children to attend while living in Rio. Just Google Escola American and look at pictures from back in the day. Not your typical block style American school. For me, it was paradise. Honestly, I was lucky to get out of paradise alive. Other than the touristy Copacabana Beach, the rest of Rio was a nightmare cesspool. For reference, watch the movie Cidade de Deus (City of God), a movie about an experimental favela (slum) built to move slum dwellers away from their prized city and in to a government controlled environment. It was horrid. I really was concerned and felt sorry those less fortunate than I.

EA’s library was fully stocked with American periodicals, one of which was Cycle magazine. Even though it arrived 4 months late, I vividly remember when the 1974 CB350F1 was on the cover. I must have read that article 100 times because, when we moved to Brazil, I had to sell my 1968 CB350 twin, so I was absorbing the knowledge necessary to make a good buying decision when we arrived back in the US.

Four plus decades later, after 15 major surgeries in 10 years, my body was broken but still, I was looking for a project, eager to determine if my body would tolerate such shenanigans…

I found the baby ‘F’ on Craigslist and the price was right. I spoke with the seller in Baltimore at 2pm Sunday, asked my son if he wanted to take a ride and by 7pm, the little bugger was strapped down to a trailer, crossing the Bay Bridge and I was giddy!

With great arrogance, I told Chase my budget was $500 and 8 weeks labor. What a silly pronouncement because it took me 8 weeks to get OEM piston rings from Australia and they alone cost $275!

Eleven months and $6000 later, the bike is finished and so am I. The bike is a ‘Survivor’ cosmetically, very light rust covers most of the chrome, minor oxidation covers most of the aluminum. Numerous coats of wax cannot improve what remains of the paint job and I know this seems counter-intuitive but the ‘patina’ is actually quite attractive. Other than the headlight bucket, rear shocks, seat cover, engine refreshing and hand made exhaust system, the rest of the bike is original, just as it emerged from the crate in 1974. A true time capsule.

So the vast majority of my labor and $6000 was spent on my attempt at achieving mechanical perfection. Clearly that is not possible but it didn’t stop me from trying. You see, I have been lucky enough to have spent my entire adult life in the motorcycle industry. I grew up in the garage with my father and at age 12, helped him rebuild my first engine. Man that’s all she wrote. The die was cast. 

Lefty Loosey, Righty Tighty – the totally logical component of basic mechanical truth appealed to my developing brain. In 1979, I proudly became one of the 1st 100 Registered Honda Technicians in the US. In 1985, I was recruited by American Honda to work for the company and today, I am Service Manager at one of the best motorcycle shops in the country. Blessed some might say. I have spent my life pursuing a career path that made me uniquely qualified to restore this little motorcycle. And now it has come to fruition yet again.

I can’t find anything else to fix on this Baby “F”

I scoured the Earth, attempting to locate OEM Honda parts to rebuild my engine. Chassis, Electrical and Fuel systems have all been restored to the best of my ability. Upgrades made where safety dictates, (such as the LED headlight and tail light bulbs). Stainless steel braided brake lines custom made right here in beautiful downtown Camden, DE apply hydraulic pressure to aftermarket Brembo brake pads that I found in France, improving what once was laughable front brake performance.

For some inexplicable reason, I chose to clean up the intake and exhaust ports AND, for reasons still unclear to me, I degreed the cam to exact factory spec. An engine that originally made 28 horsepower brand new now probably makes 28.5! Here are some pictures of the engine receiving a top end overhaul.

WHY DID I DO IT? Because I can! Because I have the skills! Because I like it! Pick One.

Primarly I built this bike to satisfy an urge. 15 surgeries in 10 years and the onset of old age made me doubt my abilities. I wanted to see if my body would tolerate it.

BTW – my body tolerated it just fine!. It does not however, tolerate rides longer than about 25 miles. At that point various movable parts of me become less willing. After 25 miles, things begin to hurt. Around 30 miles, I gotta stop and walk around. The 350F is a small motorcycle compared to the 750 F! For these reasons, I am selling it. Plus it’s time to look for the next project.

What’s Next? Only time will tell!  Best Regards Ya’ll

Mike


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