I purchased my 1st CB400F in about 1980 or 1981. It was in really rough condition, but since my intention from the outset was to modify it, I didn't really care what kind of shape it was in. I was only 18 years old at the time and I learned an important lesson. I only paid $150 for the bike but by the time I was finished replacing the bent forks, triple clamps, frame, and fried rectifier, I was up to about $500, and I still had a cosmetic pile of s**t. I could have bought a really nice example for that same $500.
It's too bad that I don't have any photos of the bike in it's original condition. There was no digital cameras back then. The earliest photos that I have of the bike were from about 1983, when I put it together with a solo cafe seat from Racers Supply, Borrani aluminum rims, Ontario Moto Tech exhaust, Boge shocks, and fresh paint. (Actually Toronto Transit Red)
I rode this bike off and on throughout the 80's, either working on it when I wasn't riding it, or sometimes just keeping it stored in an apartment closet in pieces when I didn't have a place with a garage. I could disassemble the bike and carry it inside in about 2 hours, and re-assemble it in about 3-4 hours. Looking back, I should have left it like this, but I wanted the full cafe look, so I found a fairing off of a Ducati 900SS.
When I got the fairing it had a cracked and broken screen which I cut down to fit as shown, and I can't even find any pictures of it with a full screen.
Next was an attempt to build and paint my own bodywork. My buddy did a lot of the sanding and bondo work, and helped build the mold for the tail section. Not what I would call a rousing success, but we were kids working with little to no money, and even less experience. I did manage to shed a ton of weight, the finished bike scaled in at about 345 lbs with gas, but the heavy stock hubs, spoked wheels, and fairly large tubed tires meant that a lot of the remaining mass was in the wheels and it rode like a truck. You felt every pot hole and seam in the road. My buddies hated the dual headlights out front, but I say I was just ahead of my time. (Can you say "Speed Triple?) This photo was taken just before it was stored away in about 1989, I never really rode it much in this form.
Somewhere during the mid 90's I started collecting parts again. I had a friend who was the parts manager at a local Honda dealer, and he had the top half of an NS400 fairing, and a Fox Factory Twin Clicker shock that someone had ordered in and then never came back to collect. He offered the parts to me a few times, but the price was always too high. Then one day I got a phone call from him saying that they had just done a big inventory reduction and the parts had been taken off the books. Come down and make him an offer. I went down and got the fairing and shock for a few hundred bucks.
About the same time that year I was out for a ride and stopped by the local bike wreckers to see if he had anything interesting in stock. I noticed a rough VF500 Interceptor sitting by the front door so I went inside to inquire about a price for the forks/wheels/brakes. The operation had recently been taken over by a new owner, and he was the one I ran into at the counter. I asked about the VF and he said it had just come in, and he had just sold the motor that morning. He was pulling the engine the next day and if I came to get the remains he would sell the rolling chassis to me for $450. This was long before ebay, so that was a pretty good deal. I paid him right then and there, and returned the next day for the chassis.
I grafted the VF500 rolling stock onto a much modified 400F frame and rolled out the 400F once more, this time christened as a CBR400F. I had done some design work for a guy who happened to own a body shop. He never paid me at the time, but a couple of years later he phoned and said if I needed any body work done, to give him a call. I contacted him when I was looking to get the 400F painted, and it turned out that his brother in law was the actual painter, but he was really good about working with me to get the bike painted. He gave me some lessons in prepping, and taping, so I laid out the graphics, did the sanding, and had him just shoot the paint. It took a few trips to get all the colors shot, but it worked out well.
I rode the bike in this form for exactly one day. I took it to work to show the guys, dropped by the painter's place so he could see it, and then over to my buddy's house who had helped paint it the time before. Then I took it back home and stored it up on a stand in the garage for pretty much 5 years.
In about 2003 I again had the urge to have another go at the 400. I had bought/built a CNC mill and lathe, a TIG welder, and constructed a frame jig. So, I built myself a Tony Foale style big backbone style frame and got to work rebuilding the bike.
This was my CBR400F as finished in the spring of 2005. I was in a hurry to get the bike completed for the Bike Show in February, so I set it up with the Stock NS400 headlight because that was the quickest and easiest way to get it all put together.
I sent in a few photos that next summer to Motorcycle Mechanics Magazine in the UK. They had a "readers ride" section that features bikes sent in by the readers. I received an email from the editor, Rod Gibson, asking if I had any clearer, high resolution photos he could look at. I borrowed a good digital camera from a friend, and sent him in some more pictures.
He was impressed enough that he wanted to do a full article on the bike for the magazine. I was ecstatic! He inquired as to if there was anyone local here who could handle taking some professional photos of the bike. Luckily, my girlfriend has gotten to know one of the best photographers in this part of Canada, Paul Martens, and he happens to be a bike enthusiast also. He agreed to help out (what they offered to pay wouldn't have gotten anyone else a passport photo from Paul), the only problem being that by this time it was already getting to be late October, and that is within a couple of weeks of snowfall here in central Canada.
We had a couple of weeks of cold, wet weather with no opportunity to get out for a photo shoot, so when one semi decent day arrived, we jumped at the chance to get the shoot done, even though the temperature never got much above 40 F, and there was a chilling wind. We headed out to a deserted road near the city and managed to get some nice shots.
By the time we got this all finished it was nearing the end of October. Again, the editor reviewed the new photos and emailed me back to say that if I could arrange for some indoor studio shots, he wanted to put the bike on the cover of the magazine. I called Paul again, and we made arrangements to haul the bike down to his studio (it was now well into winter) using my buddy's enclosed snowmobile trailer.
To be continued...