The story of the SYM’s Fi-Fitty has already been told. If you recall, one of the last things that was mentioned was that the SYM needed a bigger bike.
He had heard from some friends that the Japanese government had just passed a law banning the ownership of any bike larger than five hundred cc’s and that bike shops had a plethora of bikes they were willing to sell for incredibly cheap prices, or else sell them for scrap.
So the SYM thought about it for a little while, then decided that’s what he needed to do, sell his Fi-Fitty and go to Japan and find a bike.
As it happened, another Sgt. he knew had been bugging him to buy his bike, as it was the last of its color. The Sgt. agreed to pay an amount that exceeded the original cost of the bike, but less than the cost of one of the new models. Everyone was happy!
The SYM was now able to make plans for his trip to Japan, but needed some friendly advice as to where to look, how to get it back to the Philippines and help in reassembling it, as he had never disassembled and reassembled a bike before. He checked around and was introduced to his soon to be new friend Bob, of the Night of the Wild Sabong.
Until you got to know Bob, he came across as a rough character and didn’t mince words. Bob informed the SYM that if he wanted him to assemble his bike for him, he couldn’t afford his price. However, if he would come over to his house everyday and work on the bike, Bob would show him what to do and what not to do, at no cost. This was the deal of a lifetime and the SYM quickly extended his hand in acceptance of his generous offer. Bob also armed him with knowledge which would help in selecting the best bike possible, which bike shop to go to first and how best to get it back home.
It was a pleasant day in March when the SYM boarded the military hop bound for Yokota Air Force Base. At that time, in 1974, the Yen to Dollar exchange rate was much different than today, as this photo from the Chase-Manhatten Bank at Yokota AB can attest.
The SYM proceeded to a bike shop called “Curly’s,” which was owned and operated by the Japanese gentleman it was named after. Curly was a delightfully pleasant man with very limited English skills and he employed a cheerful young man of high school age as his translator. His shop was packed full with bikes over five hundred cc’s, including the Suzuki 1000cc police bikes, which the SYM had no interest in; he was looking for a Honda CB750K of which he found one that met his criteria, except for being a butt-ugly Olive Drab green. After looking at all that was available, he decided the OD green bike was the best of the bunch and Curly even threw in a set of brand new carburetors at no cost. (What was he going to do with them?) The grand total, including having them completely disassemble the bike, bag the parts, cut the frame in half and box everything for mailing, came to just over $300 U.S., including tips. The SYM hired a taxi and took the seventeen boxes to the base post office and mailed them back to the Clark AB post office, in the Philippines. A few days later, he went to check his mail and the boxes had arrived…all seventeen, of which he had doubts that they would. His relief and renewed faith in the system was invigorating. Now for the assembly.
The SYM took the boxes to Bob’s house and they began unpacking and sorting the bags and cartons. When another of his friends showed up on his candy apple red Honda 750, he went straight to the frame and started looking at the cut ends. This was the guy who was going to weld it back together, as he worked in the Precision Instruments shop on the flightline and he did a superb job, taking measurements before and after the weld and delivered it with a guarantee that the frame was perfectly straight.
It took about two weeks to complete the assembly, as he only had a few hours each day after work and days off, but finally the bike was complete, it was roadworthy and ready to be registered. This photo was taken after getting the bike registered and just prior to it’s first road test.
Shortly after this photo he asked a friend to come with, as they took it out for a spin North on MacArthur Highway, north of Mabalacat and back. When the road opened up a little the SYM rolled the throttle back and was soon going 105mph…in third gear. He shut it down and cruised…he was pleased! After going past Mabalacat they turned around and started rolling through the gears again, when suddenly a disturbing grinding sound emanated from the right side of the engine case, but only when he activated the clutch. The SYM saw a Sari-Sari store coming up on the right side of the road, so he quickly slipped the bike into neutral and coasted to a stop. With only limited tools in a kit under the seat and still not quite certain what the problem was, he asked his friend if he would go back to Angeles City and bring Bob with tools. The SYM handed him a wad of Filipino Pesos and hailed a jeepney for him. All the SYM could do now was wait and hope that help came before the sun went down and the Hukbalahap started prowling around and took a liking to the SYM and his new bike.
As he sat at the counter of the Sari-Sari store, some of the local villagers began approaching out of curiosity. The children wanted money, but the older gentlemen wanted to talk about politics and the SYM wanted to know about the Japanese occupation. It was a pleasant day, as was the conversation. The SYM had a deep affection for the Filipino people. After a while, a tour bus pulled up and stopped, and about thirty Japanese tourists got off. The tour director gave them instructions and then carefully escorted them in single file across the busy highway to a field on the other side of the road. The SYM hadn’t noticed the path leading into the sugar cane field, with a swath cut out surrounding a memorial. He asked one of the gentlemen he had been talking with what the monument was and he informed the SYM it was a memorial to the first Kamikaze Squadron of WWII. The SYM was shocked, as he had always thought the Kamikazes didn’t begin until Okinawa, so as soon as the tourist had left he crossed the highway to see for himself, and the proof is here and here.
It wasn’t long after that, that a roar could be heard in the distance and soon a pack of motorcycles could be seen flying towards the stranded SYM. It was the whole gang from Bob’s house, with Bob leading the way with his friend riding with Bob. Of course the obligatory ragging and leg-pulling came first, then the business of determining what was wrong came next and it was soon discovered that the clutch housing bolts had come loose and were grinding against the clutch cover. The SYM had failed to torque the bolts properly, and more ragging and razzing followed. The repair was made and the band of merry bikers soon were forming a flying V, headed south and home.
The very next day the SYM went to a paint shop to remedy the awful paint color on his new bike. He sat down with the owner and discussed his idea, at which time the owner called his artist into the office. He explained what he wanted and the artist’s eyes soon lit up, as he really liked the idea, which was to paint the tank Mediterranean blue and then paint a gold metallic comet streak with a Tiger’s head at the end, with it’s mouth opening and roaring the word Honda. The artist asked if he wanted his helmet painted with the same scheme. The SYM hadn’t even thought of it and when the artist stated it would be easy and his eyes showed a genuine enthusiasm for the project, the SYM smiled and agreed. The deal was made and the project was finished in only a few days.
After assembling the bike, the SYM developed an affection for this bike and it was more than just a thing or a possession, it was a part of his life, of his discovering what he could accomplish and he had found some wonderful new friends and artisans that he otherwise would have never known. This bike was special to him and as he knew every bolt, wire and spoke on it, he had a great deal of confidence when he rode it and always treated it with respect.
After a few months of cleaning, polishing and buffing, the patina on the engine case was gone and now it was shiny again. He kept the engine in peak tune, as he knew the abundance of reserve power was more important to his survival than the brakes, which he also took care of. This became very important, one overcast day at dusk.
After getting off of work, the SYM headed home to hook-up with his bud and their girlfriends, for a night out of dinner and dancing. There was a slight drizzle as the SYM was cruising the main drag, looking for his companions. Looking at the road ahead, it was clear for quite a safe distance of vehicles and pedestrians when he noticed an attractive young lady wearing a short skirt walking down the side of the road. Instead of glancing, the SYM was completely distracted and lost concentration on the road and instead focused on the young ladies attributes. It was at that time, that everything that he thought was happening on the road ahead had changed.
When the SYM did look ahead he found that a jeepney had pulled off of the same side of the road as he and was trying to merge into traffic which had stopped and another jeepney was crossing the street and turning left in front of the SYM and the other jeepney. The SYM had, at best, two nanoseconds to make a decision; either get off of the bike and let it slide into the jeepneys, or try and save it, which could mean a lot of pain. The SYM, being immortal, decided on the latter.
He instantly factored in the position of the vehicles and saw a gap between them. He also factored in that the roads were slightly wet and sandy, so traction wouldn’t be the best. The SYM then, almost instinctively or with Divine Intervention, jammed the bike into first gear, rolled hard on the throttle, while simultaneously locking the rear brake so the bike’s rear wheel slid slightly to the left. As he approached the gap between the two jeepneys, which was at about a 52 degree angle, the bike slid on the rear tire and the bike was now aligned with the opening. He released the rear brake and shot through the opening and was soon on the sandy area just off of the roadway. As the SYM passed between the two jeepneys everything was in an adrenaline induced slow motion mode and the SYM could see many peripheral aspects of the scene. He saw the shocked men and women on the jeepney directly in front of him as they were preparing for his impact into their broadside. He could also see the jagged, rusty steel bumper of the jeepney on his right as his leg passed by it, only inches away from a permanent injury.
As the SYM was now clear of the conflagration, he poured the coal to his Honda and got home as quickly as he could. Arriving home he parked his bike inside the front porch area, sat in a chair and alternately vomited and cried for several minutes, until the adrenaline overdose had subsided.
After processing what had just happened, the SYM had some new perspectives. He was angry at himself for losing concentration, as he knew that bike riding is an exercise in concentration and to not know this is a recipe for disaster. He also knew that his bike had performed superbly, a testament to it’s design and the aggressive maintenance program he followed for it.
Finally, he realized he had handled the situation with a skill he did not know he possessed and was proud of the decision he had made and the manner in which he had handled it.
Nevertheless, he decided he had to punish himself for his foolishness, so he decided to park his bike for a few days and just work on it without riding it and to think of what he had done and what could have been. So for three days, when he came home he would work on it. One night he pulled the plugs and checked the gap and how they were burning. Adjusted the valves, synchronized the carburetors, adjusted the cam chain tension and changed the oil and filter. The next night he washed it, compounded it, waxed and polished it. The next night, he polished all of the chrome on the bike, from the mirrors to the spokes on the wheels. On the fourth night, after much reflection and self-admonition, the SYM got ready to ride.
Sitting on the saddle, the SYM inserted the key into the ignition, pulled the choke control out, turned the key to the on position and gently tapped the electric starter. The engine fired effortlessly and immediately. Allowing the engine to warm, the throaty sound of the inline four cylinder SOHC engine was inviting. Pushing the choke control back in, the engine signaled it was ready. The SYM rocked the bike forward, releasing the center stand and the wheels were now touching the pavement. Engaging the clutch, he clicked the shift lever to first gear and the bike made a pleasant sound of engagement and the SYM gently rolled on the throttle, while letting the clutch out… he was rolling.
As he eased onto the roadway, the wonderful and familiar sounds of his bike were present and as he increased his speed and shifted gears, he could feel the wonderful mechanical actions, sounds, and the smells.
Not only was the SYM pleased to be riding his 7-Fitty again, but his 7-Fitty was also very happy.