When introduced in 1979, Honda’s six-cylinder CBX was a ground-breaking machine. “It really was mind-blowing at the time,” says Ron Nichols, of the Honda CBX. “And, when one was recently offered to me, I couldn’t pass it up.”
Nichols’ first motorcycle was a Jawa, bought when he was just 10 years old. Growing up in a new subdivision on the south side of Calgary in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he learned to ride the bike and, most importantly, also taught himself how to repair it. The motorcyclist and restoration enthusiast from High River, Alberta had a motorcycle ever since, but he’s also spent time restoring a series of Volkswagens, a Messerschmitt, an Isetta and many American hot rod-type vehicles. A flying enthusiast as well, Nichols is competent at building and piloting ultralight aircraft.
Once owned by musician and pilot Cal Cavendish, otherwise known as Calgary’s Mad Manure Bomber, this 1980 Honda CBX was completely restored by Ron Nichols of High River and the motorcycle enthusiast says he’s happy to carry the Cavendish connection forward. CREDIT: Debbie Nichols Photo by Debbie Nichols
“A friend of mine had accumulated a number of Honda CBX projects and asked if I would be interested in one of them,” Nichols says. “I traded him a Honda CT110 and some Suzuki RE5 rotary parts and came home with this one in the summer of 2019.”
‘This one’ is a 1980 Honda CBX. The motorcycle was a runner with only 4,300 miles on the odometer, and Nichols was able to test ride it before cementing the deal. “It also had a crazy connection to Cal Cavendish,” Nichols explains, “and I found that fascinating. My CBX came with a package of a dozen or so old registrations, all with Cal’s name and address on them.”
Cal Cavendish was a musician and pilot who, in 1975, became known as Calgary’s Mad Manure Bomber. Apparently frustrated by the state of his music career, Cavendish dumped a load of manure and 100 of his records out of an airplane as he flew east along Ninth Avenue in downtown Calgary. Cavendish continued flying until he reached Brooks, where, upon landing, he was arrested for his stunt.
“I don’t know how or when Cal got the bike,” Nichols explains, “but he had it and it obviously wasn’t being used all that much. It had been kept in dry storage, and wherever that took place, it was sun faded all down the righthand side of the bike.”
The UV damage to the Candy Glory Red paint had completely bleached-out the gas tank and side cover, and all of the rubber on the right side was also completely rotted away. With the bike in that kind of condition, Nichols didn’t feel badly about restoring the Honda, rather than conserving what was there.
After completing his restoration, Ron Nichols upgraded the front fork of his 1980 CBX to one from a 1981 model. This gave him beefier fork tubes and four-piston brake calipers. Photo by Ron Nichols
Although the engine looks quite massive, the 1,047cc Honda six-cylinder was only 40mm wider than the four-cylinder powerplant in their CB750. Photo by Ron Nichols
Candy Glory Red is Honda’s name for the striking colour found on Ron Nichols’ 1980 Honda CBX. Photo by Ron Nichols
Instead of the standard specification three-into-two exhaust system found on the Honda CBX, restorer Ron Nichols installed a six-into-one header and capped it with a SuperTrapp muffler. Photo by Ron Nichols
Honda’s CBX featured ‘Double Overhead Cam 24 Valves’ and the manufacturer placed a decal on the tank to promote that fact. Photo by Ron Nichols
Honda’s CBX was designed by Shoichiro Irimajiri. He was the mastermind behind some of the company’s Grand Prix racing multi-cylinder powerplants in the Sixties, including six-cylinder engines in 250cc and 297cc sizes, a twin-cylinder 50cc and a 125cc five-cylinder. For the CBX, Irimajiri gave the 1,047cc engine dual overhead camshafts that operated four valves per cylinder. While that impressive bank of six-cylinders looks quite wide, the engine was just 40mm wider than Honda’s four-cylinder CB750. In 1979 and 1980, the CBX was a sporting motorcycle with dual rear shocks. For the next two model years, 1981 and 1982, the CBX was sold as a sport touring machine with a single shock at the rear, upgraded forks and a set of saddlebags and a fairing. As mind-blowing as the CBX was, the machines just didn’t sell and Honda pulled the plug in 1982.
Nichols completely dismantled his 1980 project CBX, ordered the necessary parts and pieces to restore the bike, had it painted and back on the road in 2020. “I put a six-into-one exhaust header on it with a SuperTrapp muffler,” Nichols says of his restoration. “After my first (post-restoration) test ride, I also found the front brakes were quite scary, so I upgraded the front end to one from 1981. That year, Honda had given the CBX beefier fork tubes and four-piston brake calipers.”
Other alterations from stock specification include a bikini fairing, and Nichols lowered the CBX one inch by sliding the fork tubes up in the triple trees and fitting slightly shorter Works Performance shocks at the rear.
“I had a few electrical gremlins at first, and the carbs proved to be something of an issue,” Nichols says of his first few miles aboard the restored CBX. “Once I got it all sorted, it’s so cool to ride because it sounds just like a Formula One race car.”
Now Nichols is happy to share the story of his ex-Cal Cavendish CBX, and concludes, “As a Calgarian I remember hearing about Cal’s stunt. He was something of a character, that’s for sure, and while I don’t remember his music, I can retell his story through his old CBX.”
Greg Williams is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Have a column tip? Contact him at 403-287-1067 or email@example.com.