Sonic's Workshop


Through winter it sometimes becomes difficult to find motorcycles of any description, especially a good fix-er-upper. That's not to say it's impossible, winter often yields much lower prices to those who venture out from the comfort of the TV's warm glow and into the snowy back yards of suburbia. For those others who may not be quite that adventurous, winter is also a good time to go bargain hunting at the local salvage and used bike shops.

As for this issues Sonic, I was faced with rather slim pickin's back in December 96. Of course, I could have wrote at length on changing a water pump on my '85 Ford pick-up in -15C, or having to remove it's rusty exhaust manifold in heavy snow, and have it machined to correct the vacuum/noise problem. I could have also spent quite some time discussing the re-assembly techniques of the wiper control arms that flew to bits on my '88 VW Fox in the first major snow storm of the season. But enough of this drivel, I had a bike to find and an article to do, with little idea of how to do it. The four wheelers were zipped off to Whites Road Shell in Pickering for a medical thrashing, and I picked up a new copy of the Tri-Ad (an Ontario 'Buy & Sell' newspaper) and a set of rose colored glasses for which to view it through.

"And when he got there the pages were bare, so poor C.M.G had none". Well that was almost the case until I spotted a 1983 Honda 650 Nighthawk for $1,000 as is. Although the ad looked as if it were a private sale, as it turned out the bike was being sold by Performance Cycle out in Cambridge, Ontario. Now $1000.00 is a lot of cash for a fix-er-upper, at least it is for me. However, this particular model is known for its great reliability, with Honda's four cylinder engine, six speed transmission and smooth shaft drive, neatly packaged in a sleek body style which leans towards the sporty look but has its feet firmly planted in the regular insurance class. In good running and well kept condition this model does run in the $1,800 - $2,200 area, so the potential for savings/making money is definitely there. One of the benefits of a dealer sale over the private sale, especially if you're buying an uncertified machine, is that you may be able to speak directly with the shops mechanic and better assess what the bike will need to safety before buying. In this case I was able to speak with owner Paul Goddard, who had looked the bike over before the ad went into the paper. I was told that the bike would need front brakes, fork seals and fork oil, plus a new battery in order to pass cert. These are all relatively cheap items to replace - as far as replacing stuff on a motorcycle goes! Now I'm sure many might say don't always believe everything you hear, and in the buyer beware world of the private sale that has a lot of merit (right Tully?), however unless the shop is in the habit of driving off new customers you are somewhat safer assuming that what they're telling you is correct. However, that doesn't mean that they missed something or that some little $0.89 engine piece is on the brink of causing a $1,500.00 repair bill a month after you buy it either.

After spending about twenty minutes looking over the Nighthawk with the rose glasses firmly in my back pocket, everything seemed to be just as I was told it was. The seat had been recovered and the mufflers had been replaced some time ago but were still in good shape. The tires were fairly new with good tread life and no side wall cracking. The bike was fired up and idled smoothly without the presence of strange noises or clouds of blue exhaust smoke (burning oil). All the electric's were checked out and found to be in good working order, and with that the deal was done. One down side to buying a used bike from a shop is that they have many expenses and overheads to cover, as opposed to a private sale, where you may often be able to talk the asking price down by a few bucks.More times than not, a shop asking price is the price you pay.

Once at home, Editor Rob, driven by over work and guilt for having the GS 750 project bike in my garage for the last year+, along with his XS 650 now taking up residence in my driveway (keeping his other GS 750 company), and yet still without adequate winter transportation, offered to lend a hand doing the seals and brakes on the Nighthawk. I smilingly accepted. Did I mention the fuel line to the garage furnace is frozen? No, oh well (bastard - Ed).

Nighthawk front end and aesthetics removed to allow for touch up and repair work.
As always, get a manual before starting, even the simplest job can go back together backwards if you're not careful. Fortunately, front end work is made much easier on the Nighthawk because the bike is equipped with a center stand. By using a small bottle jack under the front frame tubes, the machine can be tilted up and back until it is resting on it's back tire. With the front end raised in such a manor, the front wheel, forks and brake calipers come out quite easily - especially when you watch someone else doing it (bastard - Ed). The fork seals had failed severely, allowing fork oil to seep out and run down the fork lower and onto the brake pads, and although there was still plenty of material left on the pads, they were completely infected with fork oil. This will seriously reduce the stopping power of the best pads and no amount of cleaning will remove all the oil, buy new ones!

The forks came apart without incident (unless you count the old fork oil farting out onto the floor), and after an inspection and a thorough cleaning the new seals were installed along with fresh fork oil, and then reassembled. The oil soaked pads were removed from the calipers and discarded The calipers themselves were then cleaned using brake safe cleaner and their operation checked. New pads were installed and the front end put back together. A Yuasa battery was juiced and allowed to trickle charge slowly for about eight hours (very important) and then installed. The bike was then given an oil and filter change along with four new spark plugs before being fired up. The carbs needed a slight balancing but other than that it ran sweetly, a bit early, but ready for spring.

Oooh, aahhh...

Was a $1,000.00 'as is' special worth it? You be the judge.













Fork Seals


Fork Oil


Spark Plugs  




Oil Filter




© 1997 Canadian Motorcycle Guide