Honda CB500T Cafe Racer: Benjie Gear

The Honda CB500T Cafe Racer gets the Benjie treatment...

The Honda CB500T Cafe Racer gets the Benjie treatment…

Prior to us getting the Honda CB500T cafe racer into the shop for rebuild, the owner had purchased the custom cafe -style tank and seat from Benjie.  For years, Benjie has been fabricating and selling custom parts for cafe builds, becoming one of the original sources for such parts…

The Honda CB500T Cafe Racer: the Benjie treatment…

The tank and seat fitted to the Honda CB500T cafe racer build...

The tank and seat fitted to the Honda CB500T cafe racer build…

Having heard some stories of slight discrepancies in sizing and fitment, we checked the placement on the frame to make sure the bike would go together as planned.  There was some slight modifications needed to where the fuel cap attaches to the tank, requiring some filing to make the fit just right.

The next thing we noticed was that the petcocks, aftermarket purchases, do not sit snug against the bottom of the tank.  Some modification will need to be done there as well, ensuring a tight fit.  Suggestions have been made to use ‘big-ass’ gaskets to seal the deal.

These custom pieces are gorgeous looking, despite having the need for slight tweaks to make them function properly.  This Honda CB500T cafe racer build is going all out, and the owner will have the classic cafe look, once the bike is reassembled.

We look forward to building this Honda CB500T cafe racer, since it’s a bike we have yet to mess with, yet familiar enough from the other Honda 2-cylinders that frequent the shop.  Also, we have never installed the infamous Benjie gear on any bike, and it instantly has the cafe-style that has become so popular…

18 Replies to “Honda CB500T Cafe Racer: Benjie Gear”

  1. The body work looks good but my only complaint is the steel body work is extremely too heavy. It must add 75ibs. to the bike. At least the body work that we have dealt with from them. The carbon fiber versions of that body work I am sure sheds a little weight but at a costly price but, who said old motorbikes were cheap anyway?

    1. This seat feels a bit lighter than the other one we’ve had here at the shop. Still weighty, but not as bad.

      Good looking though…

      1. I have one of Benjie’s first seats for a SOHC4 and the thing is heavier than the stock seat it replaces. Any weight savings comes in the form of deleting the rear fender and taillight which is marginal at best. I bought the seat second hand, but were I to order directly from him I would absolutley order a steel tank and a fiberglass seat. Scott, if that tank is fiberglass it is going to need a liner. If it is steel, make sure you test it for leaks.

        1. Thanks Kerry. The owner dropped off a liner kit with the tank – so that will go in first thing when I’m back after the holidays. I’ll still check for leaks. These things make me nervous! 🙂

          1. Which liner kit? If it is a fiberglass tank then only caswell will work. If it is steel then redkote or Por15 are the preferred options. They shouldn’t make you nervous, this is why you do a “dry build” before you knock out the cosmetics. if the E10 is going to eat the tank resin it is better if it is eating primer rather than an expensive paint job. I rode my original dunstall tank honda for over a year while the e10 fuel ate the tank (once I knew about it, how long was it disolving it before I noticed is anybody’s guess), the hardest part was cleaning out the epoxy from the carbs and the tank is still useable once I put a liner in it and did a little gel coat repair work.

          2. Sorry. Not nervous about the liner, nervous about the tank!!!! The fact that the petcock holes are a little shady and the gas cap mount is slightly off center has me biting my nails about the I terrify of the interior. I’m sure it will be fine once I get the liner in. I think it was sent with the tank (from Benjie) – but thanks for the heads up. I’ll be sure to check it first.

          3. Kerry, just got back into town and the liner kit is indeed the Caswell 2 part sealer (parts A & B).

            Thanks for the heads up.

  2. I would stay away from redkote and por-15. We only use Caswell at the shop. It is easy to work with and it holds up better than any liner unless you go on the pricey side and have a baked in liner installed that is lifetime warrantied. I have seen todays fuel eat right through both the redkote and por15 brands.

    1. I used to work for a radiator shop and redkote was what we used on all the industrial equipment that came in. Like everything the prep work pays off. Never seen E10 eat redkote unless it was a really old can of the stuff. Can’t use it on fiberglass since it doesn’t adhere but I have seen people do it, I tried it and due to my own inabilities with glass the tank cracked and broke apart but the redkote liner held.

      don’t let benjie’s stuff scare you – everything can be fixed with enough marglass/epoxy/sanding/coating/etc…..

      The petcock doesn’t need to sit “flush” as long as the sipgot face sits against the gasket inside the petcock (assuming these are the pingle style cocks that screw on to a spigot). If you want me to take a look, ring me, I am around this weekend.

      1. Thanks Kerry. I think it should sit flush enough. Just might need to be cut and rewelded so it sits facing directly forward…

        Of course, the cap facing a bit left could be the new trend here in Williamsburg. Maybe we are trend setters! 🙂

      2. Yeah you are right about the prep work. I imagine that that may have been the cause of some of the redkote issues we have seen. Also like anything it comes down to what you know and use I guess. we have been using caswell to seal tanks for some time now and we have yet to see one fail. It also has a good price tag on it as well. It seems you have had some trouble with the Benjie products in the past so a question comes from that. Why is the product so costly if it seems to be poorly made? This is not the first time I have heard of complaints with this product. If you spend good money on something shouldn’t we be able to receive a quality product?

        1. I own two benjie products. One is a seat for a 69-76 cb750K that I bought second hand, and the other is a headlight/speedo combo bucket.

          The quality varies over time. The seat I have was one of the early ones he did back when he was still building bikes as well. You can tell he didn’t own a lot of the tools he needed because the pan is hand hammered and stich welded underneath which is probably what adds to a lot of the weight. I have seen later examples which aren’t as “homemade” as he bought tools, and the newer ones I am seeing look like they are stamped. I hear he is outsourcing production overseas to somewhere in Asia (these are just rumors) but that would account for a shift in quality. The handmade stuff from him was always “overbuilt” and I can kind of understand why someone would do this if they were making a part strictly for sale – always better to deal with a complaint about weight than a complaint about part failure and injury.

          The headlight bucket I bought from him was equally handmade. It must have been one of the first ones he made of this part because after I recieved it I noticed his prices went up. Overally it wasn’t bad quality for a handmade fiberglass part. The things that pissed me off were when I got it the holes were all slightly off center but I was kind of accepting of this because a) I could adjust it during mounting and it wasn’t noticable, b) these are 30 year old bikes he is building these parts for – somethings are just going to be bent somewhere. I now advise anybody who is seriously considering these parts to always get them undrilled and drill it yourself but I would probably still buy something like this from him again. you can tell he doesn’t have a production jig set up to drill anything – it wouldn’t surprise me if it was all done with a hand drill. Still the part is robust, I just sprayed it with some krylon matte silver and have run it for years without any issue or sign of cracking. The glass is thicker than it needs to be, but better thick than thin and brittle, and honestly it is a small part and I would gladly trade a few grams of weight if it meant I had a part with a long service life.

          The frustrating thing is that his stuff is really good looking. It is like fly paper for those with more ambition than talent. His stuff is no worse than some of the old 70’s fiberglass stuff I have seen over the years, each have their own issues and all need a lining. The problem is nobody is building bikes with the real cool old 70’s stuff like tracy 2 gallon scalloped short track racing tanks, corbin gentry ducktail fenders, etc… so the band wagon jumping cafe kids don’t know what real cool is – they just see benjie stuff everywhere and get locked into that one style. His website is the second problem – it makes it seem like this is a bolt and go kit when in reality you still need a working knowledge of bikes to build a custom bike. I have seen plenty of people who just bolt his crap together and they get all sorts of rubbing issues with the rear suspension and those tail hoops he sells, not to mention not knowing how to make slight fitment adjustments and ending up with misaligned everything.

          FWIW I pick the 70’s stuff up all the time for pennies (I have 2 NOS tracy tanks, and 2 more used tanks that cost me $45, as well as a full tracy body for an H1). There is some really really cool shit out there waiting to be rediscovered but popularity brings those seeking instant gratification, not people who want a long and fulfilling hobby, and an attractive kit that looks like you could do it in your living room will always outsell.

          1. As usual, very well said Kerry. The kid who bought this kit certainly falls into the category of having been sucked into the instant gratification of the style (“instant” for HIM since I will have to deal with the imperfections!).

            While I like the look of his work, the few things I’ve actually seen up close have all had their share of mods needed to make them “bolt-on.” It’s fine, but for the price, I think I’d wait to find a gem like you spoke about – or buy 10 tanks and hammer away until I got it right 🙂

            This bike will definitely have the pre-fab look, but for a kid who owns 10 sport bikes, I’m sure he will be happy with it.

          2. I can appreciate an overbuilt piece when you are selling it someone as well and I can also appreciate the fact that the product is being made for 30+ year old bikes and sometimes fitment may be slightly off. But like you said this should be made apparent to the buyer.There is definitely still great parts out there waiting to be found. Those bits you found are great finds man! Worth well more than what you paid. I always love it when those cool original parts find someone who will appreciate them.

  3. found a couple of pics of the headlight bucket in my photobucket account:

    literally it was a scuff, paint, slot, and dig through 50 headlights I had stockpiled as the stock cb750 one didn’t line up with his holes. I don’t know if you noticed but the stock one is in there in the pics and it is 90 degrees from where it needs to be.

    you guys should come by and see the genre busting “good old fashioned american street racer” I am putting together. Took me years to collect all the right 1970’s/80’s parts. how is it genre busting? it is K0 cb750 based, there is no need to cut the frame for any reason, it will be nearly 100lbs lighter, and it will look like the bikes I remember seeing as a young kid in the 1980s and not some reject “what if” from 1950’s england. It will have every trick I know from decades of playing with cb750s plus a few I am going to invent on the spot, and be race ready the moment you tape up the lights. I am almost positive the rocker and 59 club set will snub it but those in the know will love it.

    here is a preview of some of the parts:
    – Lester or Shelby Dowd Mag wheels (I own one set of each, not sure yet which to use)
    – Delorto weber IDA style side draft carbs
    – ARD Magneto
    – Tracy scalloped sprint tank
    – Koni Alloy body shocks, or Ohlins, or Marzocchi Stradas, or Progressive Magnums (depends on which look best when on the bike – I have a set of each)
    – stock front and rear fenders remade in fiberglass
    – Corbin Gentry cobra style seat.
    – 811cc full Yosh road race mill with real NY street racing history

    here are some of the buzzwords you WONT hear associated with this bike:
    – open triangle
    – clubmans
    – benjie
    – open frame loop
    – matte black
    – checkerboard
    – 59 club
    – slammed

    I am hoping that just by building this I can show people it is possible to have a really cool bike that isn’t a) formulaic, b) form over function, c) built with a “chopper” mentality, d) easier than it looks.

    1. I have to introduce you to the Venturi Moto guys next time they’re in from Columbus. Peas in a pod I suspect.

      Seems like this is going to be a masterpiece and better yet for the omission of those last terms mentioned.

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