ugly duckling CM400T build - Calling it finished

fresh_c

Been Around the Block
Howdy! I picked up a CM400T on cl a few weeks ago and I've made some decent progress on turning it from a pretty ugly cruiser to a cafe-styled bike with a touch of modern styling. This is my first motorcycle build and I started with a base model that many would argue is not very friendly to cafe styling. Fortunately, there is this site and I'd like to share what I'm doing. I've taken quite a bit of inspiration from the Twinline CB400 and the "slowest build" from this site.

Let me catch everyone up to speed with what has been done in the last month. I picked up the bike for $400 and started hacking away the bits I didn't like. As my buddy says, "You've got to be able to see through the ugly." That is the best advise I have heard or could give when picking a project. The CM400 would be a great bobber project because all it would need is a new seat but I'm determined to go more cafe. So here we go...

What my bike looks like now:


Here she is on the day I picked her up:
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I started by putting on some Renthal dirt bike bars flipped upside down and flipping the headlight ears. Removed the side fairings and took off the rear fender.
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Air box and battery removed; I'm going to run pods and I'll need a new hiding spot for the battery.
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Carbs removed and needing a clean.
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This what the bike looks like the tail section from a 79 KZ750 on the back end. I like the shape of the tail, but it doesn't really work with the stock tank.
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fresh_c

Been Around the Block
Re: ugly duckling CM400T build

With that little bit done it's time to get the front end cleaned up a little. I'm going to go with gloss black wheels and modern tires. Here is the front wheel hanging in my apartment's kitchen to dry while I pick my girlfriend up from the airport.
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While the front end was apart I drilled the rotor to add to the looks. Those are 5/16" holes made on a drill press and cleaned with the light touch from a countersink.
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Finally got some paint.
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And here is the complete assembly.
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The previous owner thought it a good idea to use silver rattle can on everything so the front fork legs needed some serious clean up. Before and after; started with 180 grit and worked up to 600 grit wet. I like the somewhat brushed look and don't have the desire to keep up with polished legs. Old on the right and the clean on the left.
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fresh_c

Been Around the Block
Re: ugly duckling CM400T build

Got the carbs cleaned up. They looked pretty good on the inside so hopefully everything works good. The screw heads were pretty stripped so I ordered all new hardware from boltdepot. I'll use antiseize with the new stuff to make maintenance easier in the future.
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I didn't like how the headlight looked with the ears flipped upside down and I really didn't like how high the gauges sat. When I ordered carb fasteners I ordered bolts from mounting the headlight elsewhere and longer bolts for spacing down the gauges. My buddy let me borrow his lathe and I turned some spacers to drop the gauges by 2".
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I think the idiot lights/ignition switch makes the gauges stick out too far so I a fabbed and formed a bracket to bring everything closer together. This should look good once the headlight is back on.
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fresh_c

Been Around the Block
Re: ugly duckling CM400T build

Back to the tank. It's not that I dislike the stock CM400 tank, it just doesn't work with the look I'm going after. I found out the Twinline bike used a CB400F tank and I really like the shape so I searched eBay to find one in good shape that was less than $100. I got lucky one night after class and scored on for $80 plus shipping. I sold my stock tank for the same price the next week so that counts as a win for me.
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I also found a rear wheel from a 78 Hawk on eBay in decent shape with zero bids. Now I'll have 18s on the front and rear.
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Here is the front end put back together, minus the caliper. Like.
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And with the KZ tail.
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fresh_c

Been Around the Block
Re: ugly duckling CM400T build

As you might have noticed, I ditched the Renthals and picked up clip ons. For $50 they can't be beat.
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The headlight needed to be mounted up, but I didn't want to use universal brackets because I wanted to keep the forks as clean as possible and because I can make my own for free. Using the jig saw and my vise I came up with the following. They are 1/8" aluminum and should hold up well and not vibrate. Once I get enough parts together I will paint them black.
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My buddy that gave me the tail section offered the stock light was well. It stuck out pretty far so I frenched it to where it was flush.
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It still looks too big so now I'm thinking of going with a small LED unit that can be had for $10 off the interwebs? Besides the tail light being huge, the tail is too wide to work with the tank. I cut a small section out and used blue tape to bend to the right shape.
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At this point I didn't know whether to make some brackets to hold the tail in the right shape and try to extend it as well. It was really starting to look like using the KZ750 tail wouldn't work, but I got some advise from my buddy who said just fiberglass it. You can see in some of the pics the boat I'm building in addition to the bike. I started drinking one night and started layng glass and here is what I got.
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With the KZ tail as a mold, I used cardboard to extend the piece to the length I wanted. I used blue tape to cover everything, but I should have added something as a mold release. I know from a little bit of gunsmithing that shoe wax is a good release. Hindsight is 20/20.
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fresh_c

Been Around the Block
Re: ugly duckling CM400T build

Here is the 18" Hawk rear wheel painted and mounted with fresh rubber.
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I somehow got the fiberglass to release from the stock tail but now everything is super flexy and not strong at all. The glass I used on the outside was 4 layers of 3" and 6" cloth and epoxy resin and has a nice finish but the inside would need something with more strength. I went to the auto parts store and picked up a package of the chopped mat for $8 and laid it down. I'll add a stripe to the rear of the tail to match the tank but that will come later. The aluminum plate is 1/4" and bedded in fiberglass. It will serve as a solid, flat mounting point for both the frame connection as well as the seat pan. Those are 1/4-20 screws sticking up through the aluminum for attaching to the frame support. More to come on the support.
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The stock choke unit was broken when I got the bike so I picked up a new cable for a few bucks and I'm going to mount it in the now empty riser holes in the triple. Remember how I modified the gauges to bring them closer and at the same time get rid of the idiot lights and stock ignition? The ignition is now located in the other riser hole. I used a 1" forstner bit, usually used on a wood router, to open the riser hole. Aluminum is pretty soft so no expensive bits are needed to open the hole.
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And that's where I'm at right now. The tail section is currently being finished up and I found a small LED tail light that is going to look good. I started building a support structure for the tail section but I'll need to a welder before I can proceed with that. I'm hoping the battery will fit under the hump but we'll see. I tried to add some longer shocks, but they were WAY too long. 14.5" was too long on my bike so I'm going to try and use the stock shocks but remove the chrome covers. I'll post more pics as I go.
 

fitbmxseries1

New Member
Re: ugly duckling CM400T build

i really like what you did with the headlight, gauges and ignition. Giving me some good ideas! also were did you get the clip ons for 50$?
 

hallin222

aka: HonkyKong
Re: ugly duckling CM400T build

Hello, all. I'm the speaker of the "You've got to be able to see through the ugly." quote and have loved being a small part of this project. Thanks for letting me help out, fresh_c. This bike is coming along SO nicely. While its easy to throw money at a project to complete it quickly and with blingy parts, I love that many of these are being built by hand, with little-to-no financial investement.

I, too, love the creative, but simple and clean modifications to the cockpit area, as stated by fitbmxseries1. The gauge mount is very clean. You should post up a few more detailed photos of that, or an image of your template, as I'm sure this particular bracket may be copied by many. Possibly the headlight bracket(s) as well.

Other improvements / modifications that are visible in the photos, but not mentioned in the text above are:

- removal of the ugly and heavy unnecessary items (turn signals, mirrors, engine guard / 'crash bar', rear fender and tail light assembly, inner fender, etc)
- hours spent cleaning and hand sanding other bits, like the engine sidecover, which also got the speedo home treatment like the rotor
- the common trick of sliding of the fork tubes up through the triple clamps to acquire the lower front and more balanced look and better / quicker handling
 

fresh_c

Been Around the Block
Re: ugly duckling CM400T build

fitbmxseries1 said:
i really like what you did with the headlight, gauges and ignition. Giving me some good ideas! also were did you get the clip ons for 50$?

Thank you. I'll take hallin's suggestion and post pics of the gauge bracket and headlight mounts when I take them off for paint. The bars are from a seller named etshark1970 on ebay. Here is a link to the current action. http://www.ebay.com/itm/33mm-Fork-Clip-Handle-Bars-1-pair-Black-/261007253070?pt=Motorcycles_Parts_Accessories&vxp=mtr&hash=item3cc53e9e4e
 

fresh_c

Been Around the Block
Re: ugly duckling CM400T build

hallin222 said:
Hello, all. I'm the speaker of the "You've got to be able to see through the ugly." quote and have loved being a small part of this project. Thanks for letting me help out, fresh_c. This bike is coming along SO nicely. While its easy to throw money at a project to complete it quickly and with blingy parts, I love that many of these are being built by hand, with little-to-no financial investement.

I, too, love the creative, but simple and clean modifications to the cockpit area, as stated by fitbmxseries1. The gauge mount is very clean. You should post up a few more detailed photos of that, or an image of your template, as I'm sure this particular bracket may be copied by many. Possibly the headlight bracket(s) as well.

Other improvements / modifications that are visible in the photos, but not mentioned in the text above are:

- removal of the ugly and heavy unnecessary items (turn signals, mirrors, engine guard / 'crash bar', rear fender and tail light assembly, inner fender, etc)
- hours spent cleaning and hand sanding other bits, like the engine sidecover, which also got the speedo home treatment like the rotor
- the common trick of sliding of the fork tubes up through the triple clamps to acquire the lower front and more balanced look and better / quicker handling

A huge thanks for all the help and ideas you've given me so far. Like you said, it's been very rewarding to build up something with little financial investment besides the initial purchase. When are we going to make this thing run?
 

LtGeorge

Been Around the Block
Re: ugly duckling CM400T build

thats really aweomse lookin bike cant wait to see it done!! is that a stock honda seat that was just cut down to fit or and actual aftermarket?
 

fresh_c

Been Around the Block
Re: ugly duckling CM400T build

LtGeorge said:
thats really aweomse lookin bike cant wait to see it done!! is that a stock honda seat that was just cut down to fit or and actual aftermarket?

The tail I used as a mold is from a 1979 Kawasaki KZ750. I'll make a seat pan to match and have it upholstered.
 

hallin222

aka: HonkyKong
Re: ugly duckling CM400T build

fresh_c said:
A huge thanks for all the help and ideas you've given me so far. Like you said, it's been very rewarding to build up something with little financial investment besides the initial purchase. When are we going to make this thing run?
Anytime you're ready to give it a try. Later this week, or next weekend maybe(?). You could prep it by re-installing carbs, throttle and cable, etc, so it'll be closer to ready when we have time to rig up the remote fuel tank temporarily.

I was going to post up some of my paint concepts for additional feedback, but don't know if I need a minumum of posts before I can do so. I'll try.....

Opinions are welcomed. I'm pretty sure fresh_c is wide open regarding color and graphics. Here's just one of my ideas.....drawn in ghetto fashion via MS Paint.

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bravestghost

New Member
Re: ugly duckling CM400T build

Thanks for posting this along with so many pictures! I was given my mum's '82 CM400C and I'm hoping to do some cafe style work on it with my limited knowledge. I like the 'learn as you go' approach though.
 

Frankenfe

Coast to Coast
Re: ugly duckling CM400T build

Great job so far. Glad you changed out the 16" rear, makes all the difference. The tail and tank comb work very well together, ain't ugly no more.

I'll be adding you to the So you Bought...Now What thread.

Frankenfe.
 

fresh_c

Been Around the Block
Re: ugly duckling CM400T build

Thanks for the complements! The more I get into this project the more I want to do, but that just delays riding the bike. Here is what I've done since I last posted.

When I got the CB400F tank it was very straight but had a little rust on the inside. I could either live with the rust and constant fuel filter replacement/carb cleanings or I could coat the inside. I did my research and it seemed like Kreem would be a good option but what I heard about POR15 seemed better so I ordered a super starter kit. The kit comes with a powerful degreaser called Marine Clean, and surface treatment called Metal Ready, and the POR15 paint itself.
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Before I started coating the tank, I used electrolysis followed by shaking sheet metal screws to remove the large bits of rust from the inside of the tank. Electrolysis is a pretty simple process even though I don't quite understand it fully. I get the gist of it, though and I would suggested anyone needing to get rid of large amounts of rust give it a try. There are a bunch of different articles on the web about the process so I won't go into detail.
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From reading the instructions, POR15 likes a little bit of rust to bite onto and perfectly smooth metal is actually bad for adhesion. So I let the tank sit around for about a week and flash rust. From what I read, POR15 is very picky and getting a botched job out of the tank is a nightmare so I followed the instructions to the T.
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The marine clean just degreased the tank, but the metal ready is some serious stuff. After about 15 minutes the tank was starting to look pretty good on the inside.
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Before adding the POR15 the tank needs to be extremely dry. The paint is activated by the humidity in the air so any water drops would be bad news. I put the whole tank in my oven for 45 minutes at 200*. After it was dry I added half the can and started shaking. The paint spread surprisingly well and using a rubber hammer to tap on the outside I was able to get a very thin, even coat. Two days later I added the second coat of paint. Now I will let it dry for a couple weeks before adding gas.
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fresh_c

Been Around the Block
Re: ugly duckling CM400T build

I got some work finished on the tail ridge as well. The gas tank has a raised section that runs down the middle and I want the tail to have a matching ridge. I used 4-5 layers of chopped strand to build the ridge and I've been using epoxy resin/micro spheres/silica as a body filler. This stuff is super easy to work with once silica is added. Otherwise, sanding the straight resin mixed with micro spheres leads to gummed up sanding discs. It is kinda tough to tell what is going on is this stage.
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Here is the tail light bracket I made is place as well. It is 1/8" aluminum held in place with a fat bead of epoxy and micro spheres. I'm hoping I don't need to trim it higher but I'll have to wait until the tail is mounted and I compress the rear suspension. I'll add a license plate bracket on there in the future as well.
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No need to go sparing with the body filler.
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And here is what I got to tonight. Blocked out up to 220 and shot with primer to see what imperfections remain.
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I'm thinking one more small batch of filler should do the trick followed by a rattle bomb paint job. I found the thread on spray can paint jobs so that is what I'm going to do. I also contacted the local graphics place and they are going to cut me some Honda "Wing" masks to go with Hallin's concept.

Any ideas on paint colors? I'm looking at Toyota Indigo Blue right now.
 

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