The Hannover Express
A Bike's Story
Thanks and Acknowledgments
February 13th, 2004
After a consortium of CX and GL owners here in the UK bought a massive job lot of spare parts from a breaker in Hannover, Germany (many thanks to Eckart Fahrenkamp), the treasure trove of parts was brought to England and divided up amongst the members of the consortium. Apart from the two "A" Model and two "Eurosport" frames, there was every conceivable CX or GL item you could possibly imagine. Every member of the consortium went off with enough parts to keep his or her bike going for the next twenty years. We reckoned that for the Ebay price of 376 Euros and about £400 in transport costs, we brought back between £2,500 and £3,000 worth of spares. Not that the items are so valuable in monetary terms, though; their value is in how useful they are now, and will be in the future.
My haul was one of the two "A" Model frames (with German registration document), swinging arm with differential, front and rear wheels, front forks and headstock, a-frame, radiator, wiring harness, airbox and battery holder, water bottle and many smaller and useful parts. Add to this the parts already in my spares boxes (tank, plastics, clocks, switchgear) and you will see that I have almost everything I need to build a CX500A from scratch. Exactly as I want it, and all looking good.
This will not happen overnight ... but this page will document the process, which will take a long while, because there is a lot to do. My target is to have the bike on the road by early summer 2005, which would be on or about its 25th birthday.
Looking at the German log book and from what I can make out, the previous owner was Norbert Erich Ahrend of Ronnenburg, from whom I'd be delighted to hear. The frame appears to have come from a CX that was broken up in February 1994. So, ten years later, it's mine. I found out in August 2004 that the German frame was originally belonging to a 'restricted' CX500 model, presumably a reduced-BHP model designed for those who had recently passed their motorcycle tests.
I've tried unsuccessfully to contact Herr Ahrend so if anyone knows of him, please tell me.
February 19th, 2004 : degrease and test assemble
Today I collected all the Hannover parts and degreased everything. The frame cleaned up very well indeed and is in excellent condition, although it will still need powder coating. The swinging arm, front forks, driver and passenger footrests, radiator and cowl, water bottle, front and rear wheels, airbox, A-frame, toolbox, rear brake hub, actuating rod and centre stand all went on "to see how they fitted" and in order to take the photos.
The rear mudguard is from my spares collection, from which I'll be adding plastics, tank, CDI, coils, regulator / rectifier, instruments, propstand, front discs and switchgear.
As yet I haven't been able to register the frame in the UK, but from correspondence with the DVLA, I'll have to first get the bike in for an MoT test and then apply for a UK registration. At that point they should give me an age-related plate.
March 27th, 2004
I've just obtained an airbox holding bracket from Ebay, and now have enough parts to have the frame, engine hanger, swinging arm, airbox bracket, radiator cowl, engine mounting plates, front fork top yokes, centre and propstand shot blasted in preparation for etch priming and powder coating.
April 13th, 2004 : After shotblasting
Today the various metals came back from the shotblaster, who made a very good job of them and was particularly interested in the project.
The headstock has the frame number CX500-3002914, which makes the frame officially a restricted-bhp model.
Now all the main parts are all ready to go off to the powder coating works.
MCRP (Midland Coating Removal Process) Unit 38, Hadley Park Industrial Estate, Hadley, Telford TF1 6PY (01952 240849) did all the shotblasting for me and I recommend their services.
Monday April 19th, 2004 : after powder coating
This morning the metals came back from the powder coating works. I was stunned with the quality of the work and the overall finished effect, all the parts looking like they'd just come off the production line.
All I can say is, if you're restoring a bike, if you don't have the metals cleaned up and coated like mine, you'll kick yourself for the rest of your life. See the pictures and judge for yourself.
The swinging arm looks as if it's brand new, without a blemish or any whisker of rust pitting.
Who did this brilliant job?
KYOPS MANUFACTURING, Unit A8, Halesfield 9, Telford TF7 4QW. 01952 583988.
April 25th, 2004 : assembly
Today the rebuild started in earnest. The swinging arm, centre stand, airbox bracket and airbox, battery holder, regulator/rectifier equipment, rear mudguard and CDI were fitted, in brilliant sunshine, which has made the frame look a lot more blue than it actually is.
The bike looks like a dog sniffing the air!
Rear shocks are clapped-out units and just fitted temporarily to allow the chassis to be mobile.
Both wheels cleaned up really well and I don't think I'll have to spray the spokes with anything to touch them up. What I took to be surface rust spots were just dirty patches, and these came off with some kitchen cleaner and energetic use of a scouring pad.
Some light pressure with a wire brush removed what tiny flecks of rust remained.
Reassembled mid and rear frame back in the conservatory after a day's work.
May 8th, 2004 : tyres and electrickery
Yesterday the wheels came back from Wylie & Holland with new Continental Tours fitted, and the radiator front shroud arrived from the Ebay purchase. I spent a couple of evenings last week polishing up the front fork legs, a job I hate, but one that's worth while in the end; I even found that the fork seals looked new so I left them in..
So today it was fitting the wheels and hauling the growing mass back onto its centre stand, fitting the propstand and then trying to realign the centre stand spindle so I could insert the split pin. Then it was a case of scrubbing the rust and corrosion off the radiator shroud and spraying with half a dozen coats of silver polymer wheel paint.
Looking much better with wheels and boots on.
I used some hollow plastic trunking to tidy up the electrical wiring; just cut it to the correct length, slit it longways, tuck in the wiring harness and then use tie-wraps to hold everything in place. This looks neat and keeps things better protected.
May 30th, 2004 : before the respray
With refurbished brake caliper mounts, new rear shock absorbers and front mudguard, and the old tank and plastics temporarily attached, the Express is shown below "before the respray". Although I intend to use an electronic paintbox to try different paint schemes, I have more or less settled on straight silver for the paintwork.
The tank and plastics came from a Z model that was scrapped about two years ago in the Portsmouth area. The tank filler cap flap had a checquered-flag sticker on it and one of the side panels had an EBC brake pads sticker. I removed both of these before the respray but I wonder if the previous (name unknown) owner recognises the description? The tank's red paint was quite faded on the top surface.
Tired and faded paintwork quite obvious here. This is the photo I'll be using to try different paint schemes.
July 6th, 2004 : After the respray
Today the tank and plastics came back from the sprayshop and I was extremely pleased with the result. Steve Lawley of Court Autos did the work and made a first class job of it, colour matching the blue to get the tank stripe and filler flap right and spraying the rest in a deep metallic silver.
Anyway judge for yourselves - but remember - the photos don't do it justice!
New steel brake lines, refurbished and resprayed brake calipers and the wonderful paint job are all adding up to something really special!
I now have all the parts I need to complete the build (rear and front lights, indicators, instruments, saddle, silencers, H-box, downpipes), and as soon as my garage is cleared of the latest influx of spare parts, I'll finish the job. The bike has now been Datatagged.
September 21st, 2004 : After the engine was rebuilt
After again scrabbling round for some silly bits missing, like the pair of screws which hold on the ignition timing ring, the timing cover plate itself and the 4 capscrews which hold on the chrome pipe arches - thanks to the friends to sent me these parts - the engine is finished. This was a 500cc Eurosport engine but with the rear casing, new stator and pickups from an 'A' model so that I can use the CDI and existing electrics.
This engine has the automatic camchain tensioner, and I had to slightly enlarge the hole in the rear casing where the manual locknut would normally have passed through, because the securing bolt for the auto unit doesn't quite line up with the hole. The remaining hole was sealed with plastic metal from the outside, as there wasn't room for anything else.
The engine is here seen on its transport dolly, waiting for a gearbox oil seal which I've just ordered. The saddle is away being recovered, and the rocker box covers, water pipe and other bits are away being powder coated.
After some struggling with the spaghetti inside the headlamp cowl, I've finally sorted the wiring, and everything now works (despite having two or three wires left over ... )
Hands up if you didn't realise that the flasher unit can't be wired the wrong way ... don't ask me how I know!
October 2nd, 2004 : Engine installed
After spraying the engine block with Halford's silver heatproof engine paint, Trev Hadley and I fitted the engine block and radiator.
Taken at the end of a long afternoon, here is the Express with its engine in place and connected up. Still to come are the carburettors, which are currently being cleaned, and the exhaust system - I have a pair of new silencers ready to go on.
For the purposes of the photo-shoot, I've borrowed Valiant's saddle and sitting on the almost-complete bike was a view I've waited eight months for!
Next step is to start the engine. It turns over OK and pumps oil to the top rockers, and the oil light goes out, so it's all a good sign.
"Silver Dream Machine" !
THE HANNOVER EXPRESS COMES TO LIFE
I am delighted to report that the Hannover Express's engine came to life at 21:50 on Wednesday October 6th 2004. It did the usual CX trick of showing signs of life on the left hand cylinder, did a few goes like that and then was left for 10 minutes. On the first press after that, the engine sprang into immediate life on both cylinders, and although it sounded very loud in the conservatory, having only the downpipes fitted, it did sound absolutely normal.
This has been a great moment of triumph for the bike, as the frame languished in store for 10 years, only to be dragged to another country and then have all sorts of other CX parts bolted to it. However, come the weekend, I will be wheeling it outside and doing a longer engine test, with the H-box and silencers fitted so as not to annoy the neighbours too much.
October 24th 2004 : final assembly and test ride
The engine has now had several static runs up to full temperature, and I've trundled the bike up and down the driveway to check the gears.
Here is the bike with new silencers fitted and looking about ready for the road.
The number plate is, I'm afraid, fanciful! I don't know what it will end up with.
I've had the water transfer pipe, plus the short water pipes and junctions which carry coolant from the thermostat to the cylinder heads, powder coated to match the frame.
November 29th 2004
Everything seems OK except that one of the exhaust flange studs broke off the left cylinder head, and as there was not enough metal left to effect a helicoil repair, I've fitted a replacement head, very kindly donated by riding chum Trev Hadley, whose delightful pink CX500 "Miss Piggy" rebuild saw the road in January 2005.
The front brakes are now working after receipt of a brake master cylinder. The rear carrier and footrest brackets are away being shotblasted and powdercoated.
December 31st 2004 : rollout
On New Years' Eve afternoon. I fitted the rear indicators to the powdercoated rack, and retrieved the bike from the conservatory to give it another engine run up and down the driveway. Everything worked fine except that one of the indicator relay bulbs failed on the dashboard due to wiring fault in the headlight shell - now fixed.
A double copper crush gasket sealed the right hand downpipe to the head, so the blowing I had on the last engine run has gone, and the motor sounds sweet.
Finally, I've sealed the drain plugs in the front fork legs and filled the legs with fork oil. Then to get my saddle back after being recovered - and then the bike should go through an MoT test and I can see about getting it UK plated ready for Spring 2005.
Until then I'll have to stick with this fanciful number plate.
February 13th 2005 : teething trouble
A longer engine run revealed that oil was weeping from somewhere behind the timing adjustment plate on the rearmost part of the engine. I tried sealing this from the outside with silicone sealant, but due to the extremely restricted access, I couldn't stop the leak. However Trev Hadley gave me a most welcome hand in dropping the engine today and we helicoiled all 5 bolt holes and replaced the gasket. So far so good - no leaks - thanks again Trev!
This date is exactly ONE YEAR after the first diary entry at the top of this page.
The MoT is all that remains, and once I get some dry days, I'll get this done and see about a proper number plate. I was recently officially informed by the DVLA that provided the vehicle is insured for road use, you can drive it to and from a pre-booked MoT test, on the chassis number alone.
A very fortunate Ebay purchase turned up an almost-new saddle from a seller in the Bicester area, and a windscreen from the UK Owners Club Shop, plus a new zero-miles speedometer from David Silvers, completed the build. It seemed daft to have a speedo with 29,000-odd miles showing when the bike is, to all intents and purposes, new.
March 5th 2005 : MoT test, and the paperchase begins
The Express today went up for its MoT (UK roadworthiness test) and passed without any problems. The inspector said "We've never had a CX as nice as this." When I arrived back home, the temperature gauge wasn't working ... this was just a disconnected wire in the headlight shell. But I did show the bike to the chap who did the shot blasting for me, and he was very pleased to see it.
I've now filled in "Form V55/5:Application for a first licence for a used motor vehicle, and declaration for registration". I'll present this at my local DVLA office, with the German registration document, and we'll see what happens.
March 19th 2005 : all done!
With only one minor glitch to the paperwork - a self-declaration VAT form for a vehicle imported from the EU - the paperwork was completed quite painlessly. The registration fee was £38 and the year's road tax was another £45. A day or so afterwards I had a letter asking me to bring the bike in for a DVLA inspection, and they said it couldn't be ridden so I had to trailer it. However, the inspection proved to be a 10 minute check that the chassis and engine numbers were OK A couple of days later I received the authorisation to get the number plate made. The staff at DVLA office in Shrewsbury were helpful and friendly. The V5 document arrived two days later, but had an error on my name so I sent that back for correction. The documentation was all extremely painless, and much easier than I had anticipated.
Here is the Hannover Express on its maiden voyage.
They gave me DUJ63T, an age-related (1979) plate, with UJ corresponding to Shropshire. By coincidence, UJ also corresponds to the wartime aircraft codes for No 27 OTU (Operational Training Unit) at RAF Lichfield / Fradley, in which I have an interest.
The only snags which came up on the 50-mile test run were a noisy tappet and some exhaust smoke, so I'll check the tappets and do an oil / filter change soon. We think the engine has been re-ringed so I am not too worried about the exhaust smoke at the moment. I'll also balance the carbs properly.
This was a very exciting day for me, and the end of a 14-month saga which has cost me just over £1,600 plus a huge amount of time and effort. I've received unstinting help from fellow owners, who are all very bashful about the assistance they have rendered but who all know who they are, and how much I value their support.
One very happy owner! You can just see the small black PMR radio, between my helmet and gloves. Many of us are now using these for bike-to-bike communications. The most popular model is a Cobra MT525, with a proper helmet headset and remote press-to-talk button.
July 2005 update
The CDI-modified 500cc Eurosport engine, after a couple of hundred miles, started making some very unwelcome noises, so rather than risk the engine blowing up miles from home, I removed and scrapped it for spares, transferring the cam chain, adjusters, stator and mechanical seal to an engine very kindly given to me by Richard Todd. I gave the Eurosport engine centre section to another club member, who stripped it and found that the shell bearings were 0.75mm oversize and completely wrecked.
This new engine was a completely unknown unit but has proved to be reliable, and after attending the Welsh Rally and covering 300 miles, I've just removed it for spraying. I used Plasticote Hot Paint from Halford's and used rather less than a canful to give the engine two good coats.
It has also had a replacement pair of refurbished cylinder heads, and goes very well - even though I have no idea what the mileage is on it. The carbs needed a strip and clean as the bike was only doing 38 mpg, and as it's only returning 44 mpg afterwards, I am still tinkering with the carburation. A subsequent change of carbs gave the usual 55 mpg.
It's good to have the engine looking smart again - the casings were a bit tatty and stained, and it detracted from the general appearance of the bike. As at the end of May 2008, the bike has covered just over 2,700 miles and apart from the engine change, the only problem I've encountered was a lost bolt which had vibrated off.
This restored CX500 was sold to another MCC Member in June 2008, and since then has changed hands several times. I'd be delighted to hear from the current owner.
You are welcome to email me.
Thanks and Acknowledgments
Are you undertaking (or thinking of) a similar project yourself? See what I did Right and Wrong on the 'Hannover Express' work.