The engine of my dreams

Who would like to hear about my summer holiday?

What? Nobody?

There is a cry from the back of the internet –  “Get back to work you lazy so and so” and I suppose that sooner or later I must.  In the meantime though I’ve been playing with Little Project.   Just like in the Bobby Ewing post, as I lazed around the pool (did I mention I’ve been on holiday?) I decided that my last couple of days before going back to work would involve dropping an engine into the frame and riding off into the wide blue yonder.

You will remember that I have approximately four engines.  We need to generalise slightly here because there are four lumps of Tokyo’s finest bits of metal all with components missing.   A cylinder head here, an engine cover there, so the first challenge was to decide which of the four was to become the beating heart of Little Project.    Ideally it should be the original Little Project engine but rather surprisingly all of the nuts and bolts that hold the engine casings in place are rusted, rounded and/or sheared.   A couple of hours on the workbench with the impact driver did nothing to improve this so I’ve moved it to one side for one day when I am really bored.     The numerically astute amongst us will quickly have gathered that this brings us down to three engines.   Two with engine numbers starting CB125 and one starting XL125.

You’d think that when old Soichiro Honda issued his instructions to build a range of single cylinder 125 motorcycles he would have said something along the lines of “Okay chaps, we will build a trail bike, a trial bike, a sporty number, a commuter and then if we’ve any time left over we can knock up something for rounding up sheep, let’s use all the same bits and just stick different bits of plastic on them, oh, and just glue a bit extra on the forks of the off road ones so they’ve a bit more movement”.


The manual lists twelve different carburetor types for the 125 engines alone.   The wiring system is different on the XL to that of the CT and the CB is different to them both.

Still, nothing ventured…   The XL125 engine does not have a cylinder head on it.  This isn’t necessarily a point to rule it out but when I have two engines that do then they are going to be favourites.   I checked the compression on the two CB125 engines (I did this really technically by putting a kick start onto each of them and turning them over whilst holding my finger over the spark plug hole) and they both seem to have at least some compression so it was a case of using one of these.   But which one?

After much debate with myself about the various benefits of this engine over that engine that included things like “This one has a wire coming out of the points and the other one doesn’t” and “this one seems to have some oil in it” I chose the cleanest one.  This was roughly based on the principle that somebody in the past may have loved it more.   Based on these principles, you probably wouldn’t want me to adopt you but we all have to start somewhere.

So I put on my (not even slightly) pristine overalls and extracted my polishing cloth from where I had left it (fortunately I sniffed it first, I’d previously used it to wipe up some battery acid so it probably would not have been ideal for cleaning the new Little Project motor) and got to work on cleaning up an engine.

Then I put it in the bike.   It looks like this.


from one side and it looks like this from the other.


Now I’m not saying for one minute that we’re finished.  But.  There’s an engine.  In Little Project.

Buoyed by this I decided to look more closely at the electrics.   If you ignore the fact that everything above a certain point has been sheared off then then the wiring loom is (sort of) complete.  All I have to do is work out where all of the bits from a CB125 engine plug into their respective CT125 slots and Bob’s your uncle (I’m not sure how well known that saying is, it may just have been used by my Father, but it means that everything should be plain sailing).   Oh, and of course I need some points, and an ignition coil.   These are minor points in the grand scheme of things though.  After all, there’s an engine in Little Project!

For the rest of the week I plan to scratch my head over the carb collection (sadly this doesn’t involve choosing pasta, rice or potatoes) and just possibly put attach the CT125 stickers that I have been putting off doing for several weeks.

Thanks for popping by.  I do hope you come back again.

A Bobby Ewing moment

I was tempted to title this post with “Little Project does Dallas” but on reflection decided that I may attract the wrong sort of audience.

Temperatures have been running in the low 30’s in Twickenham.    The heat makes a body porous and a leaves the mind lazy.  It gets to man and beast alike.   The more energetic bumble bees are hopping languidly from petal to stamen and harvesting their crop with some effort.   Cats and dogs have ceased their antagonism and lay quietly at peace in the shade of sadly wilting trees.   The sound in the air is of leather on willow, occasionally followed by a beery cheer or derisory jeer, the uniquely British anthem of cricket on the green.

Sunrise brings the clamour of the dawn chorus.    Even before the clock hints at 4am the Wood Pigeons are squabbling over some half remembered slight.   Local immigration policies have not stopped the influx of Parakeets and squadrons of them assemble in the Spruce trees preparing for another day of bullying the local birds,  collecting the avian equivalent of their benefit stamp to help swell their population and aid in their take-over of the local parks.

By zero four thirty sleep is just a forlorn memory.  The only option is to dress in loose fitting clothes and follow the stepping stones down to the shed.    The early dawn light plays on Little Project and brings to life the paintwork so painstakingly prepared over the last few weeks.    The thought occurs that just dropping one of those engines from the engine shelf into the frame and we could be up and running in an hour.    Fifty grubby minutes later and it is all done.    Syphon some fuel from the lawn mower and with a deep breath and crossed fingers jump onto the kick start.

Four kicks later and there’s some coughing and spluttering.   Another kick brings a backfire and smoke from the exhaust.   One more crank of the engine and there’s the sound of a motorcycle running in the shed.   Hastening out through the door to beat the fumes and Little Project is running up the garden.    Weary neighbours, used only to the sound of hammers and swearing peer through windows.

Across the vegetable patch.  No heed taken of the Asparagus.   Through the bramble-heavy alleyways behind the house and out onto the street.   A shock for the milkman and a round of applause from the postie.   Little Project is up and running!

Sadly not.    I’ve woken up in the shower again.    The weekend has been an orgy of parties.    I celebrated the Ruby wedding anniversary of Gayle and Ken Perry on Saturday and cheered uncontrollably at the naming ceremony of young and beautiful Natasha on Sunday.    This has left me no time at all to work on the bike.    I shall try and sneak some extra evenings in this week before (and oh how I can’t wait) I jet off to have some Mediterranean relaxation.   When you imagine Italy as a boot.   You can find me down by the big toe.

Thank you for having the patience to get to here.

Are Friends Electric?

Welcome back.

Since publishing a picture showing that Little Project can stand up on its own two wheels and is beginning to resemble a motorcycle (albeit the sort that children scoot around on at the moment), I’ve been asked the same question several times.

It’s not unusual for all of the questions about the bike to be exactly the same.   The first repeater (so to speak) was “What on earth are you doing that for?” and then there was several weeks of “Any news on Seat?” – It was quite touching how people took the journey of Seat to heart.

The question on the lips of the locals is…

What are you going to do with it when it is finished?

I don’t have an answer.    Frankly, I can’t ever see it being finished but let us just imagine for a moment that it all works and passes an MOT and sits glinting in the sunlight.   The first trip will be down to see David, where Little Project used to live.   If only to get a photograph of the bike in the same position as the first photo that I took back in January.  After that though?   I was thinking that there are only two options.   Keep it or sell it.  There may be a third though.   There may be somebody who has a bigger bike that needs some love and who wants to swap for a pre-loved bike.  I just don’t know.

I have been studying the electrics again.   Mostly by hiding behind Seat and peeping through a crack in my fingers.  I have the main wiring loom.    I understand where all of the bits of this go.   I’ve found the little bits that connect to the battery (they were connected to the battery!), Where I am stuck is up by the handlebars…

The main wiring loom ends in an block with eight holes in it, there’s also another four or so wires nestling close by.   I have the mate to the eight block thingy.   This has been tidily sheared after about 12 inches.   Bear in mind there are eight wires in it.

On and around the handlebars there is (or will be) the switch with indicators/main beam/dipped beam/horn.   This has roughly ten wires.   There’s another switch that is potentially lights on/off.  This has six wires.   There’s the speedo, with four lights in it.  That’s another eight wires.    All of these have been cut.   Then we have the front brake light (two wires) the headlight (three or four wires, can’t remember) the horn (two wires) and an alleged kill switch (can’t find it but I think it should be around somewhere) another two wires.  Oh, and there’s two indicators as well.   That’s another four wires.

That’s 40 bits of cable.   Going into 8 bits of cable.   I can sort of see that the button that makes the horn go BEEP will possibly have a cable going to the horn so that sort of rules out two wires, and various other cables that are associated with the lights on the front of the bike will go to their associated lights, but blimey!   All I can think is that there was a big rats nest of connections joining all of the bits that have been cut together.  I can’t quite visualise it but I’ve vague memories of Honda’s past with a vast amount of cable stuffed into the headlight casing.

I spent an amusing few hours writing down what colour cable performed what function from each of the cut bits.   Then I looked more closely at the wiring diagram.   If you want to try and translate it for me then there is a copy on page 108 of this manual.

Actually, the wiring diagram on that manual is different to the one that I have been working on and a lot easier to follow.   I still don’t understand it though.

I’ve thrown my hands in the air and have asked for professional help.    In fact I am begging for professional help.

I shall keep you updated.

Red frame (and a paper hanky)

Do you ever wonder where the titles for my posts come from?  I start to write a post and all of a sudden there’s a little voice that says “This post is called blah de blah de blah”.   Sometimes they are obvious, but “Red frame (and a paper hanky)”?

It is a multi faceted title.   Obviously, somewhere down below there’s going to be a picture of Little Project.   It would be a ridiculous blog about restoring a deteriorating motorcycle if we had no pictures of it.   Secondly, it is hay fever season in the UK.   Especially, doubly or even triply so in my part of West London.  You can barely step outside without meeting a volley of sneezes.  Shares in Kleenex must be going through the roof this week.

One of the tracks that has been going through my head recently is “Lead Sails and a Paper Anchor” by Atreyu.   As a band, they are generally a shade too hard-core thrashy metal for my liking but this particular song is just splendid.   When you’ve finished here, go and take a listen to it on your favoured music web site and try telling me I’m wrong.   Finally (of course), Atreyu is a character in the film “Neverending Story”.   So that brings us nicely back to the unending saga that is Little Project.

We had a moment over the weekend when Little Project left the shed.    Not quite under its own power but most definitely rolling in a fashion that it may not previously have achieved this century.  I took the opportunity to take some photographs in the sunshine.   Forgive me for sharing them with you but I’m having one of those “proud father” moments.




It looks like a motor cycle!   There are a couple of obvious problems that will need sorting before I can go much further though.  Issue number 1 is that the suspension I have is for an XL125 and is 4 cm longer than the original Little Project.    This gives the bike a bit of a “wave your tail in the air” look that I am not overly keen on so I may have to source some slightly shorter shocks  (try saying that after a couple of glasses of gin).  The second challenge is the bit that holds the headlights on and the speedo and horn in place.   I am using the one from HOAP.    I mentioned in a recent post that the engines on the engine shelf all have holes for a rev counter.    What I didn’t have when I mentioned that was a little light bulb going off above my head with a caption bubble saying “So that bit holding the headlight on is going to have space for two clocks side by side and you only want one clock in the middle”.

I still have the Little Project bit for this, although (you’ll never guess),  it is filthy, there are some bolts on it that have rounded heads and are rusted solid into position.  This means I can have a pleasant week reminiscing about old times, bashing things with a big hammer and drilling holes through rusty nuts.   I can hardly wait to get going.

I suspect that I have run out of things to paint.   Shame as I was just getting the hang of it.   The scary bit now is that the stickers have arrived and are ready to be applied.  They look absolutely brilliant.   The colours have been matched very well and the shape is spot on.   Here is one for the petrol tank.


Lush by anyone’s standards.   The challenge is that I’ve got to get it stuck in the right place and without wrinkles and bubbles.   The instruction sheet for applying them is six pages long so even without reading them I know it is going to be complicated.   Fingers crossed that it all goes smoothly.

I’m off to do my proper job now.   Thank you for taking the time to visit Little Project.   Please come back soon.

I don’t want a pickle

I don’t want a pickle

I just want to ride on my motor sickle,
and I don’t want a tickle
I just want to ride on my motor sickle.

Arlo Guthrie, The Motorcycle Song.  You’ll find it here (and probably a dozen other places)if you like your Country and Western and enjoy a chuckle.

Sadly, I have a pickle.  I took a look at the engine shelf.   Oh lordy.  Little Project engine hasn’t miraculously unseized itself during the stay with better prepared engines.    The XL125 engine is missing a piston and a cylinder head.  Of the two CB125 engines, both are complete apart from the sprocket cover,  they’re obviously much sort after bits.    One has a carb fitted to it as well.   I’m going to go with this one being the best one and when the time comes I shall just drop it into the frame and turn it over to see what happens.   The challenge with all three of the HOAP engines is that they all belong to a bike with a rev counter.   Little Project has no concept of such an extravagance and the hole in the engine where the tachometer cable should go is blanked off.    I think that I actually want as much of Little Project engine in the bike as possible (it has all of the engine covers for a start), so my plan is to drain it of oil, turn it upside down, drill around the molten mass that used to be a piston and then remove the head and the attached piston in one go.   This should in theory leave me with a bottom end that is complete and free from nasty bits.   If the big end bearing looks okay then I shall stick a CB125 head and piston on it and try to work out just what the timing should be and how the carb should be set up.   If the insides of Little Project engine are in a shocking way then I shall split the crank and wrap the cases around a CB125 engine.   I’m sure that it can’t be that difficult!

The front wheel arrived!  The people at Central Wheel also sent me back a couple of the old spokes so that I could see just how bad it was and what a fine job they had done.   To be fair, they have done a very good job indeed.

Front wheel

See the rusty spoke sitting in the middle?   (You’ve no idea how challenging it was to get this picture without a reflection of me in the hub).   Wheel also has an inner tube and tyre attached to it.   Unfortunately the inner tube was somewhat compromised during fitting and so another must be found from somewhere.   We do like a challenge at Little Project HQ though.

Whilst I was talking to a man about an inner tube, we also discussed the MOT problem that I have.    For the bike to pass through its MOT the frame number much match the frame number on the V5 registration document.   The people who powder coated my frame masked off the little tin panel that holds the frame number but a bit of the masking peeled off during the sand blasting procedure and so this happened…

Frame number

That’s not really very clever.    It looks for all the world like I have tried to eradicate the identity of the bike by sanding off the frame number.    Mr MOT gave me several very good options.   If I can take the Little Project equivalent of a brass rubbing and the number is readable then that is just dandy.  Failing that, I can purchase a replacement VIN plate and stamp the numbers on myself.   That should prove to be an interesting little task as the VIN plates that are available do not match this one in any way shape or form and the VIN plate manufacturer tells me that an exact copy will be £125!

I did say in the last post that this week would all be about getting the handlebar equipment up to scratch.   Sadly I need some satin black paint to do so and I haven’t been able to find any so I fear a trip around a dozen different retailers is going to occur. On a positive note, I put some more bits of HOAP on eBay and 50% of them actually sold.   There are some bits there this week if anyone is looking for XL125k2 parts.   I’m sure they must be worth a fortune to somebody.

You know that moment when you press the wrong button on your keyboard?   Well I’ve just done that and published this post.  I’m not keen on editing after publishing (apart from this paragraph) so that is all for today.

Thank you for visiting.