The Honda CB 500 Twin (T) isn’t as well known or nearly as popular as its bigger brother, the CB 750. Yet, it is probably rarer than any of the other Honda models from that era. Built between 1974 and 1978, it was the direct replacement of the CB 450 Twin, which was a head-on competitor of the British built bikes in the late 1960s. At that time, even with only 450cc, it was already outperforming any of the 650cc British twins, only to be overshadowed by the shear performance of Honda’s own CB 750 which was first introduced in 1969. The CB 750 got instantly famous and earned itself the reputation of the world’s first production-built superbike. It makes sense that the CB 500 T wasn’t the success story Honda was hoping for.
Old but Gold
When Daniel Martin, a UK based Royal Marines Commando, fell in love with the old school looks of café racer and brat style bikes, he knew he had to build one of his own. The search for the ideal base soon commenced, and after some time searching, he found a Honda CB 500 T that ticked all the boxes. It was old, air-cooled, had a twin-cylinder, was completely stock, and it was running. Given the fact that this one was from 1978, this was one of the last CB 500 T to be ever built by Honda.
Given the fact that Daniel has been in the military for over 20 years, he wanted to build something that could have been used as a dispatch bike in the old days. The Honda needed to be functional but minimalistic, discreet but mean at the same time. We dig that. Daniel tried to keep the build simple by sticking to cosmetic changes and, since it was running well already, kept the engine untouched. Almost everything that could be removed, got removed or replaced with a smaller or lighter version. First the old air-box got ditched for a set of K&N pod filters. The indicators got swapped out for small black ones, that matched really well with the new black twin shock absorbers. The front mudguard was removed, and the rear mudguard was swapped out with a modified old Triumph rear fender. Any chrome parts got blacked out, including the rims and exhaust. The headers received a wrap treatment, making it look like it belonged in the 1940s or 50s. A new wider handlebar, smaller speedo/rev counter, and the custom-made Italian leather seat with a taillight neatly tucked in, added some nice touches to what turned out to be a brat style Honda.
There are some interesting and perhaps even frightening details to this build. If you look closely, you’ll see that the bike is more military than you would think. The custom battery frame for example, was made from an ammo box that dated from the Second World War. The toolbox that sits neatly underneath the subframe started out its life as a 40 mm shell casing before being commandeered to hold tools. The middle of the frame got tidied up, opening up the view from one side to the other, showing off some of these brass details. That’s not where the shells stop though. A 50 cal shell was repurposed as an oil breather, and another 9mm shell was used to cap off a cable connection point for the rev counter.
Long term project
The Honda was built on a fairly tight budget. But it wasn’t the money that was making this build particularly hard. It was the fact that Daniel got deployed overseas a lot. On top of that, he doesn’t have a mechanical background, making this entire project one big learning experience. The bike build took over 5 years and many times Daniel was tempted to throw in the towel. We are glad he didn’t! According to Daniel the bike rides well, it’s steady, and cruises nicely. Considering that this was his first ever customised bike, we would really like to encourage him to not stop now.