Become a Member: Get Ad-Free Access to 3,000+ Reviews, Guides, & More

1980 Honda CX500 becomes a project

Honda CX500
Honda CX500 I bought for just $1500

On just my second ride on a 1980 Honda CX500 that I recently bought as a project bike, it broke down. And already I’ve learnt my first lesson in restoring old bikes.

It was going fine, then suddenly the bike had no electrics. I checked the battery and whatever I could that didn’t require any tools because I had stupidly ridden off without any. I was stranded 3.3km from home with seven big hills between me and my toolkit.

So lesson number 1 is: Don’t stray too far from home and always take a toolkit.

At 57 years of age, pushing a 34-year-old, 216kg bike uphill in the burning midday sun, you would think someone would offer me a push. I thought you met the nicest people on a Honda!

I borrowed a screwdriver from a nearby house to remove the fuse box lid, but the fuses were ok, so I pushed on. I did eventually get some help from two lots of two young men who pushed me about 30m on two occasions to the crest of a couple of steep hills.

After two hours I finally arrived home at the bottom of our steep driveway where it stayed until Mrs MotorbikeWriter came home to help me push it into the garage. And there she now sits, waiting for me to pull apart the wiring loom to find that elusive pinched wire, or whatever else it is that is causing the problem.

But you know what? I’m not disappointed in my acquisition. In fact, I’m looking forward to the challenge of finding a solution.

I’m more worried about becoming a bore. You know, that guy at the party who goes on and on for hours about carby slides and spends hours in the garage tinkering with his bike instead of tinkering with his wife!

Like many mature-aged riders, I’ve long dreamt of buying an old bike with grand plans to customise, modify or restore it to its former glory.

Over the past few months I’ve been checking websites for donor bikes, but I’ve been disappointed to find that there are obviously a lot of riders just like me who are interested in old bikes because we have pushed up prices to stupid levels.

I’ve considered old Italian bikes but I don’t have an electrical engineering degree. I’ve considered old British bikes, but I’ve just had my garage floor painted. And I’ve considered old Harleys, but I don’t have a large enough hammer.

So I took the “easy” option and went for a supposedly reliable Japanese bike – albeit a replica of the Moto Guzzi Le Mans with transverse V-twin and shaft drive. So I bought this unregistered Honda CX500 with an eerie 87654km on the odo for $1500.

It’s now cost me an extra $100 for a safety certificate (thanks Brian of Motorcycle Roadworthys) and $509 for the number plate, registration, third-party insurance and stamp duty. I’d be ignorant if I didn’t think it was going to cost me a whole lot more to restore it and keep it running.

The Honda passed the safety certificate with flying colours and had been running ok. That is, until its second legal test run.

After I sort out the electrical problem, there will be a bit of mechanical work to do on the gears as well as plenty of cosmetic surgery. First thing to go will be the ridiculous chopper-style handgrips!

Importantly there are plenty of spares available on eBay for old Japanese bikes. 

Typical of matured-aged riders who buy old bikes, I bought a model I used to own and very much enjoyed. The 1980 Honda CX500 I bought in 1986 cost me only $500. What a shame I didn’t keep it!

My next problem is, what do I do with it?

Do I perform a full and faithful restoration, leaving that nice patina of age on the engine, or do I go the full custom route and turn it into a bobber, cafe racer, scrambler, or street tracker? Over to you!

  1. I had a mate (who will no doubt read this) and he bought an old Kawasaki Tengai. He rode it from his home at Algester to mine at Clayfield to try it out. When he got it back home.. it died. Never to go again. The CDI unit had died at switch off… eventually he replaced it and it went again. You just never know with old bikes… ask me about my old Mini…Grr!

  2. Congrats on the purchase. 🙂 my experience with old Hondas, they have notoriously temporamental voltage regulators, and more so…spark units. Check them and replace if necessary. Also, change to electronic ignition asap to eliminate all those issues! 🙂

  3. Hi Mark. Great that you can restore an old classic. Regarding your ordeal of having to push your bike, at 57 (or indeed any age), pushing a heavy motorbike is not recommended (as you can surely attest!). For me, RACV roadside assist membership is a must. Just call them up, out comes a truck and on the back it goes. Now that’s how to deal with a breakdown.
    Cheers and good luck with the resto. I look forward to subsequent reports. Cheers

  4. Why don’t you ask the previous owner if he had similar problems?
    I would keep it as close as the original model!

  5. I have an old shovel that i keep threatening to leave to my son [as a sort of family curse].
    But I must say the Harleys are a good choice for restoration. Parts are plentiful and cheap due to a great aftermarket supply unlike Honda who charge eye-watering prices, IF they have the parts!
    I did up an old Wing over 10 years ago and the prices on such items as rings and valves were outrageous even then.

  6. Hey Mark, the CX doesn’t really tick any of the custom boxes you listed. Café Racer, nah just doesn’t look right, Bobber, ditto. Street Tracker, getting slightly better, but in the US at the time, I did read of one with the engine turned sideways, and they called it the Sidewinder, ridden by one Freddie Spencer – too hard. Scrambler, closer, but how about a soft adventure tourer?
    Nah, for that style of bike, I’d just do a full mechanical check, replace all fluids and associated seals, fix what is needed, clean it up to stop any further rusting or corrosion, and try and keep it as standard as possible. Only accessory I’d put on beside a battery tender would be a fork brace, maybe. The only other thing might be to replicate the original paint, but you don’t want it looking too out of place with the rest of the bike, so not too good that it looks better than new. My 2c.

  7. Ha ha, did a Honda CB175 k4 , and yes stay close to home , with a mobile. They have very small idle jets and it didn’t take long for a bit of something to block the jets. Lucky they had clips on carbie bowls. I would check if the bike is charging the battery ? dirty points ? Plugs ? Had a bike start and ride ,then just died, checked tank for fuel, had fuel and tried to start again , bingo started and running ok , till it stopped further down road , worked out it was the blocked fuel cap breather and caused a vacuum in the tank. So I was riding on a bowl of fuel and then stopped. Keep it stock as a rocker . They run better stock.

  8. G’day,

    regarding your electrical problems after you checked the obvious, google, youtube and user forums are your best friend.

    I would keep it original …

    Also, I am guessing here that we would all appreciate regular update videos on your youtube channel to see how the project progresses and what you end up doing with it.

    I hope you can stay focused to the end, until me. I am restoring my old 1978 Hercules and I took it apart and its been sitting that way for years. Just lost interest in putting it together. Maybe watching your progress reports gets me motivated again…maybe


  9. When I ran my Guzzi out of fuel – no reserve, and no warning light, what was that about an Electrical Engineering degree? – I found its 264kg dry weight surprisingly easy to push once it was moving, although I was almost horizontal when I got onto an incline. Fortunately, 200 yards down the road a complete stranger in a pickup stopped and rescued me.
    My 2 pennorth is that somewhere in your wiring harness there will be some connectors with corroded pins. It is, after all, a Guzzi clone.

  10. roadside assist is a option-but I once had a new BMW that would stop every 1km or so (broken wire at steering head)-roadside assist wouldn’t assist as the bike was running.

    i’ve owned a cx for 12 years now-no issues that left me stranded

  11. Hi Mark; I just stumbled across your MotorbikeWriter website and read your blog on the CX500. I had one of these and unfortunately sold it (still trying to find it to buy it back!), but regarding your electrical problem with it – did you ever figure it out? It’s now 2021,and I hope this site isn’t abandoned, but let me add my two cents: did you check/replace the spark plug caps and/or wires…? You can take them apart, and there’s a resistor in there that sometimes goes bad. Besides all the obvious – fuel, spark and compression – that *might* be the problem. It’s been seven years since your post, though, but I’m curious as to what you found. I found my 1978 CX500 to be among the most reliable bikes I’ve ever had.

Comments are closed.