Matt’s Kickstart Classic Honda CB550 Project Bike

The CB550 stock with only the seat removed

I’ve wanted a low cost project bike for a while now, something I can rip apart and shape into a cool little custom. With the Motorcycle Kickstart Classic taking shape and poised to roll in October, I thought, what better time to pick up an old kicker and start wrenchin.

I set a total cost budget of $1500, decided on a cafe style build and started the search. I’ve got a few friends that have been down this road, and found lots of forums devoted to the subject, so info on a build like this, and good advice, is plentiful.

I went with a 1978 CB550 that I found on ebay. Usually these bikes in running condition can get anywhere from $1000 to $2500, but luckily I was able to pick this gem up for a cool 670 bucks. The good deals are out there, ebay, swap meets, just gotta do a little research and ask lots of questions.

I’ve got a month to get this bike running well, and looking sharp. I was told not to bother with the looking sharp part, just concentrate on getting the bike running well, and I should follow that advice, but what fun’s a bike project without a little pressure from a looming deadline.

With the bike on a lift, day one consisted of making a list of what I’d like to accomplish, and what my build time and budget would allow. A ground up restoration with shiny new parts and paint aint gonna happen. So for the Classic it’ll be the essentials and lots of elbow grease.

I decided to scrap the old exhaust, turn signals, bars and rear fender. This will give the bike a cleaner cafe style. Using Dime City Cycles out of Florida, I got a great deal on replacement parts, along with some helpful tips. As far as paint is concerned, I’ll sand and paint some of the smaller rusty parts, but that’s about it. If time allows there may be a rattle can spry job in that gas tanks future, but for now the essentials.

Week 1:
While waiting for the parts to arrive from Dime City, I tore off the old parts and cleaned the bike up a bit.

Click here for Week 2

Build Sponsors
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Dime City Cycles


After removing the exhaust rear fender and turn signals, the bikes taking shape.

Rusty brake lever tagged for paint.

Parts sandblasted and prepped for paint.

Makeshift spray booth, good way to keep the paint on the parts, and not everything else.

Used a heat resistan paint on any parts that may be exposed to high temps.

A few touch-ups on the frame covering up any blemished areas.


  1. Looks like a cool project Matt. Good luck and curious what it looks and runs like in a brief three weeks when we leave for Maggie Valley, NC for the start of the Motorcycle Kickstart Classic.

  2. Nice bike, Matt. The old CBs are great bikes and easy enough to get up an running. First check compression, after that timing and valve clearances. If those things are not right, you will never get the other stuff right. Once you got that, pull the carbs and get all the rubber bits out and give them a soak in carb cleaner. Check the slide diaphrams for holes and clean the slides and blow all the passages with compressed air. Reassemble. With any luck, that will be all it takes to fire that sucka up. Synch the carbs and the rest is all gravy. Time is ticking, better get that motor running right first, even if you have to bungee a cushion to the saddle for the ride.



  3. Awesome bike. I have a similar project and am looking for any advice relating to getting a cb550 running. I have a 1976 that I am working on myself.

  4. I Have The Exact Same Bike,Ive Got About A Month In Mine so Far,Had To Put Valve Guides In The Exh.Valves And New Valve Seales,I Think Its Strange That The Oil Pressure Is So Strong It Damb Near Fills The Top Of The Motor While Running,Mainly The Left Side ,1 & 2 Cylinders,And That Was The Main Problem When I First Started The Bike,Oil Was Blowing Out The Left Tail Pipe,Now She Runs Preety Good ,Geting The Points And Timimng Just Perfect Is A Real Bitch Tough It Seems To Change All The Time,Any Good Sugestions Thanks Rick

    • Hey Rick,

      Awesome bike! Was allot of fun riding to Alabama on it. The points and timing are a bitch, I’m actually gonna to replace my points with an electronic ignition. Check out and search Dyna Ignition, they have one for the 550 and according to them it’s bullet proof. Something like the Dyna Ignition should be more reliable and help out with your timing issues.

      Are you planning on building a cafe?

      Join our FaceBook page and post some photos of your 550, especially if you’re choppin and bobbin.

      Thanks, Matt


  1. […] 3, was here before I knew it, and we were packing for the trip. Our intrepid armada of an untried CB550 café racer, a brand-new Royal Enfield Bullet C5 Chrome, and a loaded-down camel of a Ford F150 departed our […]