So you want to build a bike from the frame up?
Some times it seems like my full time job is hunting for junk to buy online. Just five minutes ago I should have been solving some engineering problem at work, but I was searching eBay for parts that I may, or may not need for my stuff.
My main passion is SOHC Honda CB750s. The focus is generally on vintage speed parts. I really enjoy finding them and learning the history of them. I have owned a bunch of bikes and even more parts.
To me the halo bike that I had dreamed of finding was a "special" framed CB750. Most commonly known of these would be a Rickman, but others will recognize names like Egli or Dresda. Fewer still will know the name Colin Seeley. Seeley was a frame builder and racer. In the mid 70s he made just over 300 frames that would transform your CB750 into something faster, lighter and cooler.
In 2014 I learned that this project existed. Was SHOCKED to find out that it was only a two hour drive from where I lived! After a little bit a deal was struck and the project was mine. Deal was a tank, swing arm, seat and frame. NOTHING more. I figured that with my massive stock of all things SOHC CB750 this build would be little different then putting any other Honda together...
I try to be as open and honest about my failings as I can me. I have thick skin and enjoy some self deprecating humor. It is always hindsight that is 20-20. For me everything is a learning experience and part of the process. No hard feelings.
My plan was simple. I was going to buy a parts bike and basically "swap frames". I had 90% of the needed Seeley parts and assume that all the wholes could be filled in by the parts bike. I ended up being slightly more then half right.
Actually I was mostly right, but I shot myself in the foot. I bought the cheapest and worst parts bike I could at first. Was just being cheap to be cheap, but I justified it by claiming I did not want to ruin a bike that could be restored. The major setback was when I came to the realization that I needed to undo all of my work and redo it with a more suitable parts bike in better shape.
Second thing that I did not account for was my motivation. At the beginning of the build I had this silly idea in my head. I wanted to keep the bike ugly and would bring it to MidOhio for Vintage Days. Goal would be to park it along the road and see if anyone would figure out what it was. Well what ended up happening was the bike stayed more ugly then I was into. I mean just look at that seat!
The conversations I was hoping to have with people and the point that I wanted to prove is that really rare stuff is out there and can be owned, built and used by average people. Also that it would not be that much more expensive then a stock CB750, but to some A LOT more interesting.
The plan was that over a winter I would clean up a few areas of the bike. Never going to some perfect restoration or anything like that. Had high hopes of wrapping up the project quickly and with little struggle. I failed.
Project also stalled because I was focusing on my 850 Norton Commando that same winter. Over the time I spent with the project I collected more then a couple rare and interesting parts to go on the Seeley. My aim was to have a period correct street legal semi race bike.
I ended up moving a few times with the bike in a semi unfinished state. It sat I the back of a storage shed for a while too. In the end it went to another home. I have mixed feelings about how this all ended up. I loved the bike, the story and the path to learn. The funds from the sale helped my Wife and I buy our first house. But I can't help but find myself searching for its replacement. Unsure what I would actually do differently.
Any others have stories of stalled projects? Projects that ended up being larger then expected?
What kind of rare and interesting stuff do you guys mess around with? Where did you learn to develop the eye to find it? What is the story of how it became to be in your garage?