Longtime Illinois Valley resident and motorcycle aficionado LeRoy Clouser knew a diamond in the rough when he saw it. Despite some dents and dings he knew the 1965 Honda CB450 was a special find, after all it was the first double overhead cam engine produced for the public. LeRoy gladly brought it home where it stayed safe from the elements in his basement for 5 years. Repeated attempts to fire it up were met with disappointment however.
In April he asked a fellow motorcycle enthusiast, Victor Calloway, to do some carbeuretor work on it. Victor drove up to Leroy’s house and pushed the beat up machine into the back of his pickup, no easy feat with two flat tires. Once the motorcyle was unloaded at his shop Victor quickly realized it wasn’t just the carbeurators that needed work. Not the type of man to send a friend off on an unsafe motorcycle Victor quickly decided this bike needed a full assessment. The bike had obviously been in a front end collision, as evidenced by the dented tank and headlight assembly. Imagine LeRoy’s surprise when, two days later, he made a stop at Victor’s garage only to find his prized Honda stripped down to the frame!
The damaged tank and headlight assembly were handed over to Jerry Lamb of Lamb’s Baaady Shop in Cave Junction for needed repair and paint. The bent front fork was straightened by Machinist Ray Baldwin and LeRoy with the help of Jack McCornack. The chrome had been destroyed, apparently steel wool had been used to clean it. All the chrome had to be rechromed. Victor then began to research replacement parts for the items that were beyond fixing. Since the CB wasn’t a “matching numbers” bike Victor felt that gave him artistic license to change certain key components.
The stock steel wheels and spokes were rusted and heavy so new light weight aluminum wheels were ordered. Victor laced the replacement wheels himself. Lacing a wheel is an art form, a game of concentration. He used his old GSXR swingarm as a stand to lace and balance the wheels.
Victor spent weeks cleaning and polishing. The carburetors were cleaned inside and out. The engine and frame were cleaned and painted. New brake and clutch levers had to be found to go with the new, shorter bars that LeRoy wanted to use.
In addition a new headlight on/off switch had to be found to fit the new bars. The original ignition was bad so a new ignition had to be found. It arrived without any keys, so new keys had to be made.
The tank badges were also beyond repair. One was badly warped, the other just a cheaply done replica,nothing more than a round piece of plastic with a Honda wing colored-in using a Sharpie. Since badges were hard to find and extremely expensive Victor decided to manufacture his own tank badges. After several attempts he finally came up with the best approach to create the best replica he could. In addition Victor scrapped the heavy metal seat pan in favor of a custom made seat pan and seat.
After 4 months of research and hard work it was time to fire up the engine. But the engine wouldn’t fire. New points and condensers were purchased. The timing was checked repeatedly. Yet still no fire. That’s when Victor pulled off the side case and saw a insignificantly small round pin lying on the bottom of the case. This little pin was put back into place and the Honda fired right up, four days before the Thunderstruck Motorcycle Show in Medford. Happily, LeRoy was there to see the inaugural ride. Recognizing the work and love that Victor had put into his Honda, he gave the motorcycle to Victor.
On Saturday Victor loaded up the little CB450 and traveled to Medford to enter his first ever competition. From the moment he pushed the classic into the event he knew he had a crowd pleaser. Surrounded by admirers, one even offering to buy it, he made his way to the registration booth. Paying his $10 entry fee Victor was directed to park the Honda CB450 in between a Norton and a Triton, both rare classics in the motorcycling world. There were only four bikes in the Early Classic category, but the competition was stiff, a Norton, a Triton, an EMZ and the Honda. The competitors however were friendly and eager to talk about their motorcycles. Each bike owner said it wouldn’t be a bad thing to lose to the other’s motorcycle, and they all meant it.
After seeing the response Victor was happy with his first ever motorcycle entry. Once the judges walked through it was just a matter of waiting for the decision and watching all the enthusiasts stop and look with nostalgic affection. It seemed that everyone had a story about riding a Honda CB. Finally, after a fun day with fellow enthusiasts the judges’ results were announced, the Triton taking second with LeRoy’s 1965 Honda CB450 claiming first place. That beautiful little motorcycle now has a place of honor in Victor’s garage.
Story and photos by Cindy Calloway