14 May 2012

Old Machines- The Good, and Ugly.

 "They paid five figures for it."
 I've been watching eBay for one just like it. Kawasaki triples there are either too ratty, or,  like this one they are prohibitively $$,$$$. But somewhere from the far recesses of my skull I hear the shout, "You paid a little over a grand for yours when you bought it new in 1972!" 

She hates most of the shows, (except for "American Chopper, Senior vs. Junior"), so I mostly watch 'em when Sara Jean's out. But I am in awe of guys on those shows who can walk over to some expensive machine with a chunk of metal and fabricate, seemingly out of thin air, an exhaust system or a set of handlebars. Those guys would have no fear whatsoever of buying a "project" bike like the worn out old Kawasakis I could actually afford on eBay. Then they'd just start slowly-but-surely waking the thing from the dead and after weeks/months/years of work have a bike they could sell for "five figures" upon completion. 
But still, is it worth the total cost? When they're finished, they still have an old bike with old technology, and the "sweat equity" they'd expended is almost incalculable. Seems to me it's better to just watch/read and enjoy the shows and magazine articles about these craftsmen and the machines they complete, almost certainly selling them to some collector who hopes to sell them to a "greater fool" at some point in the future.

I had a revelation of my own this week. Winds were a little gusty when I left work on my '89 GoldWing Saturday morning, but temperatures have been comfortable behind the 'Wing's big windshield. The sun was shining, I had the two-lane State highway all to myself, and life was great.
I felt it more than heard it...
It was just sort of a "whuff"...
Not a big deal, but enough of a sensation that I actually ducked a little, then wondered what had happened. The bike didn't stutter so I slowed but didn't stop, assessing the situation. There was no "drama".
The six-cylinder engine continued to hum like a sewing machine. After thinking about it a few seconds I attributed the phenomenon to my helmet visor...
Behind the windshield on the GoldWing I ride with my visor up and I figured a gust of wind had made it move slightly with a resulting noise in my helmet.
At home I grabbed my stuff out of the trunk, then went into the house and opened the garage door to put the bike under roof. It was then I noticed I could see the battery, the reservoir for the rear disc brake, and other mechanical stuff on the right side of the bike. All that stuff is normally hidden by a big plastic side-cover with a fancy Gold "GoldWing GL1500" piece of trim on it.
My mind raced, trying to remember exactly where I had the "whuff" sensation so I could find the cover on my next trip. I could remember I was on a straight stretch, so I started thinking about where to search on my next trip home.
But what if I couldn't find it? This bike is now 23 years old and I'm sure Honda no longer supplies the part. That means I'd have to find it used, either on eBay or through some motorcycle salvage company and there was the possibility it wouldn't even be available there, meaning I might be riding around with my battery exposed until I could finally find a replacement cover.
What if I found my cover and it was damaged? Then I'd either have to repair or replace it.
That night, just to get an idea what I might be in for, I searched eBay for the part.
I found this cover priced at $230, but to make it look right I'd have to also find the gold "GL 1500" trim piece and add it myself.
It took my breath away.

Sunday morning again dawned sunny and mild. I reached the point where I thought the cover might have come off, slowed the bike to a near walking speed, turned my emergency flashers on, and started searching for the wayward cover. This road runs through farmland. In some spots, the farmers have trimmed the brush back ten or so feet from the roadway. In others the brush is three feet tall and thick. If it came off and flew into that brush, the only way I'd see it is if I was walking along the road. It was then I made up my mind if I didn't find it I would do just that... Walk this 8-mile stretch of road and find that expensive piece of plastic. I reached the end of the road where my "mind's eye" felt it had come off... No luck. My shoulders dropped an inch or so, I turned off the emergency flashers and accelerated toward home. Six minutes later I glance down and there it was... Just a few inches off the pavement in the foot or so of gravel before the brush starts, at least two miles from where I thought it had departed. I jam on the brakes and turn around... It appears undamaged. Amazing.

At home, further inspection of the adventuresome side cover reveals one of the fingers that goes through a grommet on the bike is broken off.
This is something that surprises me about Honda... it's really a poor piece of engineering. Vibration causes the fingers to wear. The grommets also wear. The resulting looseness almost guarantees these covers will get loose and depart the motorcycle.

I went out to the bike and found the broken finger still lodged in the grommet. So I can repair it myself, but I have to try to figure a way to keep this from happening again.

But I've dodged a bullet this time.
And learned a lesson...
Old bikes are neat, but the simple ones like the old BMWs, Triumphs, and yes... Harleys don't have so many fancy gee-gaws to fall off and cause you heartache.

I'll remember that from now on.


airman98 said...

If you restore a old bike more than likely you will have way more in it that what you could of just bought a nice mint one for. But for me its not about saving money, or making money for me its the satisfaction you get from taking something that most people would not take a second look at and turning it into something that turns heads. And this is one of those things like the Credit Card commercial-Priceless. Also its just one of those things if you love doing it then you really don't care about the money. Just my take on restoring old items.

Ed Bonderenka said...

Lot's of velcro.

Greybeard said...

Now see Ed...
This is why more heads are better than one!
Easy insurance.

Old NFO said...

I will guarantee you will NEVER get the sweat equity back out of a restoration... Done a number of cars, never recovered my actual costs... Just sayin!