The RC45 is arguably the most desirable Honda ever made. Between 1994 and 1999 there were just 200 of these made and finding a used bike in good condition today is a very tall order indeed.
The bike ticks all the boxes – fuel-injection, DOHC, 118bhp, 749cc V4, a single-sided swingarm, six-speed gearbox and an aluminium twin-spar chassis. In competitions it carried home some illustrious prizes including John Kocinski’s triumph at the WSBK championship and Jim Moodie’s glorious circuit at the Isle of Man in just over 18 minutes at an average speed just shy of 200km/h.
The 1994 RC45 we were asked to restore looked like it could still go some but it desperately needed some major repairs to its fairings and fuel tank. Some bright spark had resprayed the fuel tank the wrong colour for the RC45 and nearly all the fairings had splits or heavy scuffing in the plastic.
The front fairing had fared worst of all. It had long wide cracks in the plastic that called for some heavy duty plastic welding to reinforce it from behind.
Once our repairs had been made invisible to the eye we sprayed the plastic parts with an adhesion promoter before applying primer. This is essential for ensuring the paint adheres perfectly to the surface.
The RC45 was sprayed in 3 different colours – white, red and blue. We lacquered over the paint to create a shine and to seal the colours off. We needed next to apply graphics and the lacquer ensures that no marks from this would damage the colours or undercoats.
Applying graphics is a highly skilled job and one that takes a steady hand and the patience of a saint. It can take as long as half a day to get the graphics precisely placed and with no bubbles. How do we do it? Well let’s just say you need the correct liquid solution, applied with a trigger spray by someone who has done this sort of thing for many, many years.
The graphics applied were not laminated – this would not provide the desired smooth finish with edges so fine you can hardly feel them. To give them that glossy finish – and to protect and seal them – a final layer of lacquer is applied over the panels.
Aiming as ever for a faithful restoration we left the tailpiece without lacquer to give it that characteristic matt look. It’s an important touch because now this flagship bike is truly restored to its former glory most other riders will only ever get to see the back as it cruises on past them.
Restoration: the act of lovingly returning something to its pristine, original condition.
Desecration: the disrespectful or contemptuous treatment of a treasured possession or object.
Classic car restoration is, for us, all about love and respect – with a fair amount of oil, welding, blood, sweat and tears thrown in for good measure. Working on this Honda S800 really drove home just how badly a restoration job can go if it falls into the wrong hands.
We were given this S800 in an unfinished state and asked to complete the work that had been carried out on it to get this utterly irresistible sports car performing once more. The S800 is proof that great things can come in small packages but when we unwrapped our gift and took a look inside we found more evidence of desecration than restoration.
The work carried out on the bonsai supercar had actually done more harm than good. We quickly realised that we needed to rip it out and start again if this car was ever to match its pretty serious performance credentials and former stylish, sleek looks.
Let’s get back to basics then and start restoring.
- We needed to remove the engine, gearbox, dash board and all outstanding trims so that we had just the rolling chassis to work on.
- We left all the underneath running gear in situ but the engine and gearbox were in such a sorry state that they needed a complete strip down and vapour blast to make them look and perform as good as new once more.
- The body shell was blasted and zinc primed before the panels – bonnet, doors and boot – were fitted and their alignment fine-tuned.
- Once we were sure everything fitted perfectly we commenced with body repairs to fix wobbly panels, seamlessly repair dents. The bonnet had suffered worse of all in the hands of the previous so-called restorers but some artful re-fabrication and careful welding will have this lovingly restored and ready for the final paintwork.
Nothing is worse than seeing a classic car desecrated. And nothing is more satisfying than the sight of a classic car proudly driven from the workshops perfectly restored. Well, that is apart from driving that classic car yourself, of course.