® The problem with vintage


Two years ago I had to stop rebuilding carburetors for Honda models whose ignitions are contact point based. The problem isn't the bikes, it's the owners who have no idea what it takes to tune them. The carburetors are only a piece of it, and not the most important one. Folks unfamiliar with point ignition have no frame of reference with which to comprehend the vital importance and serious implications of neglecting their ignition systems. Ignition timing is an art, and though not difficult for an experienced person, the process is unintuitive. There is real angst waiting there. As a result, vintage customers go "deer in the headlights" when you try to educate them. They don't have a clue and they don't want to, and it is virtually a guarantee I'll hear back from them that the "carbs aren't working right". If that weren't enough reason to stop rebuilding SOHC four and GL1000 carbs, and it unfortunately is, there is also the recent disappearance of jet needles and needle jets for these carbs, the highest-wearing parts. This also happened just about two years ago. They're gone. All of them. This means that about half of these carbs cannot be properly rebuilt.

The same culture of dispassionate indifference about ignition care prevails in all areas of vintage maintenance. Unlike modern vehicles, 1970s Hondas demand constant diligence to maintain mechanically, and restoring long-neglected machines to good running condition requires a level of effort that few are prepared for. Vintage Honda motorcycles are expensive to repair; quality parts (as opposed to Chinese crap) are hard to find and cost dearly. And it doesn't help that with only a handful of exceptions, these bikes have so little value that just a major service equals what the bike is worth. In fact there is precious little repair work that won't exceed the purchase price of a machine that at the same time is too little appreciated by the market and too neglected by the average person. This is very real.

This then is the environment that the 1970s Honda exists in. The kind of maintenance it typically receives simply furthers its neglect. The bike is perpetually in need of repair. Its value remains low and the sticker shock of professional repair increases. And the individual almost three generations after the original purchaser is at least that far removed from understanding.


Last updated August 2022
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