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Remaking Dad’s Honda CB350 Racer

Making It Mine

 

Honda-CB350
Todd on his Sportsman 350 150x150 photo

My father, Todd, on his CB350 at Willow Springs some time in the late ‘90s. My dad travelled all over the country to race, but Willow was the farthest from our home on Cape Cod. “A good exciting California track!” is written on the back of the photo.

CB350 on the workbench 

A few years back I raced my father’s vintage Honda CB350 as part of my Legacy Racing story in our “Roots” issue (Nov. 2010, MC). It was a fantastic experience. Todd Henning, my father, developed the bike himself and raced it to dozens of American Historical Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA) and United States Classic Racing Association (USCRA) championships before an injury ended his career in 1999. Racing Dad’s bike was a dream I’d had since childhood, and at the time, I was committed to racing it in as close to the same condition as Dad had, leaving everything as it was when he rode last rode it at Daytona in 1999.

At the time I felt like I was racing his bike. Now, I finally feel like the motorcycle is mine.

I took ownership of the machine by rebuilding it myself, something I’d longed to do in the beginning but didn’t have the time, confidence, or skill to do. The motor, built with all of Dad’s own go-fast parts, was originally sent to me by my friend, Buff Harsh, fully assembled and ready to run. I felt conflicted about that. Racing this bike is hugely personal, and not being intimately familiar with the inner workings of its heart made me feel like I hadn’t quite earned the right to wring its neck.

Not anymore.

Over the last couple of weeks I stripped the motor down to the crank and built it back up with fresh parts. It was pretty exhilarating to fire the Honda up for the first time and have it settle into a nice, loping idle. There’s something powerful about taking a bunch of cold metal parts and turning them into a living, breathing machine. And it’s a powerful machine: 43.3 horsepower from a 40-year-old, air-cooled, 362cc twin is nothing to scoff at. Hear it howl in the video, below.

honda CB350 bottom end 150x150 photo

The CB’s transmission and crankshaft exposed. Splitting the cases was necessary to replace the cam chain. The most intimidating and challenging part of the rebuild was degreeing the camshaft.

 

Now that the CB is mine, I felt comfortable changing a few things to personalize it. My riding style is totally different from my dad’s, so I replaced his long fuel tank with a shorter one and moved the seat forward in order to get up over the front end more. I’ve upgraded to Continental radial tires in place of the bias-ply Avons, and I’ve opted to run K&N air filters instead of velocity stacks. I’ve also added an under-engine exhaust and Air Tech belly pan, which is required by rules that weren’t in effect back when Dad raced.

AHRMA returns to Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, CA, this weekend for the 18th annual Corsa Moto Classica. I’ll be there, paying tribute to my dad by racing the CB350 with an even greater sense of satisfaction.

Categories: Editorial, Honda  
 

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