Reimagining and Restoring An Original 1969 Honda CB750 Sandcast

It was July 15, 1942, a dark and gloomy Wednesday during the Second Great War. Poor weather and low visibility forced the emergency landing of six P-38 Lightning fighters from the 94th Fighter Group and two B-17 Flying Fortress onto the ice fields of Greenland. As they lay there, not worth the overtaxed Allies’ effort of recovery, decades of ice and snow accumulated, burying the planes over 250 feet deep in icy coffins. Then 50 years later, one of the P-38s was resurrected. Ten years after its resurrection, with much sweat, money and passion, the World War II fighter nicknamed “Glacier Girl” was flying again.

Anyone who asks the cost of such an effort is a fool. Asking why shows a lack of passion and no understanding of the importance of preservation of historical artifacts, flying or otherwise. Preserving this piece of history must be done, regardless of cost or effort. And the restorers? They don’t care what you think. They don’t care what anyone thinks. They love to restore planes then fly them again like they were designed. Bringing such a historical machine back from the dead appeals to their hard wiring.

Passion does not ask for opinions of the masses, it follows the heart.

The P-38 Lightning was, and is, an icon. It’s twin fuselages and slim waist made it one of the most beautiful and deadly warbirds ever built. The Germans simply called the deadly fighter “der Gabelschwanz Teufel”, or the Fork Tailed Devil.

In the motorcycle world, Honda’s 1969 CB750 was a fork tailed devil of a different sort, striking its own deadly blow to its slow, unreliable competition and irreversibly changing the course of motorcycling. Its innovations were previously unthinkable: disc brakes came standard, power came easy, size and weight became manageable, electronics became reliable, beauty was standard. It killed the competition. There was no reversing course.

A complete and original 1969 CB750, serial number 538, before the restoration process.
Time to press record.

Just like Glacier Girl’s five decades of slumber, the original CB750 was due a similar resurrection on its 50th birthday. However, instead of a decades long burial under hundreds of feet of ice, the story of this particular 1969 CB750, serial #538, starts in an Oregon barn. Every treasure has its hunters, and for this bike, his name is Sam Roberts.

Sam’s appearance is more surfer than motorcycle restorer, looking all Santa Cruz with sandy blond hair and stubble beard accented by trademark red glasses. Despite being a software designer, Sam’s mechanic roots run deep. His father was a traffic court judge, which prevented an early start on motorcycles, but gave him a sound mechanical background as he joined in his father’s passion for restoring Ford’s Model A.

“Lotus Root” exhausts were brought back to life and beauty.

A Peace Corps trip to Malawi gave Sam his first taste of motorcycling and the purchase of a Yamaha DT125. It changed the course of his life.

“It was a lemon,” Sam said. “But it forced me to learn how to work on bikes, how to diagnose problems and get it running by the side of the road with no parts, few tools and a massive language barrier. Ever since then I have been on two wheels.”

Upon returning to the States, Sam discovered Honda’s CB750.

“I heard about the CB750 and its place in history when I got into motorcycling. I bought a 1974 CB750, restored it and loved it. As a software designer, I appreciated motorcycles because I would take something apart and see a single part that played three different roles and think, ‘Now that’s a beautiful design.’ It made me a better designer outside of motorcycling.”

A beautiful design indeed.

Sam became the moderator of the CB750 sandcast website, dedicated to the preservation of the early models, and was contacted by someone wanting to sell serial number #538. It had been sleeping for decades in an Oregon barn but was complete, last turning its pistons somewhere back in 1992. The seller was hoping his father’s bike could be restored before his dad passed away.

Like any historian restorer, whether the project is an ice encrusted P-38 Lighting or a barn find CB750, love and passion, not common sense, make the decision.

Sam bought the bike.

“They look horrendous when they arrive,” Sam said. “And when they arrive, I go into detective mode. This one is the only bike I’ve ever had where every single part is there, the #28 embossed carburetor caps, the thin lip alternator cover, the double cut front fender, the wrinkled gas tank, the ducktail seat, I could go on for an hour. Every single part was there. My initial thought was that I shouldn’t restore this, I should leave it as-is.”

So Sam left it as-is, and in a twist of irony, put the bike back into storage for a few months while his designer brain considered options.

The cockpit of the CB750.

“I should leave it as-is,” he pondered. “That was the plan for a couple of months as I put it in storage and thought about it. Then after a few months I pulled it out of storage and realized that it was corroding fast. The wheels, motor, frame and red paint were getting yellow-orange gross. Then I thought, ‘I don’t care what anyone thinks, this is my bike, and I love riding motorcycles as much as I love restoring them.’ So I decided to restore it.”

Some might question the choice of tearing apart a perfectly original historic machine.

However, Sam didn’t care what anyone thought. Fate agreed with Sam’s decision. In the fall of 2018, The Quail Motorcycle Gathering sent out an email stating that their theme for the 2019 show was “50 Years of the CB750”.

“Excellent!” Sam said with an evil cackle and a wringing of hands. “It was perfect. My idea was that I wanted to show all three colors of the first year model. I had already restored a blue and a gold one so the red one was the last in that series.”

One of every original CB750 color was brought to The Quail.

Each day, Sam recorded the process.

“I had the idea during a previous restoration of filming the whole thing. So I set up the iPhone every day during the 5 month restoration. I would just press record and work all day.” Over the next six months, Sam spent 487 hours restoring the bike, doing all the work himself except machining the heads and chrome plating. Everything from the brittle intake boots to the original tank was brought back to life.

“I ended up with about 3 hours of time lapse video.”

Paint was the most difficult part. “I like doing my own paint. I actually repainted it six times because candy paint is tricky. When you mess up, you go back and start from scratch.”

Painting the candy apple paint to perfection took six attempts.

After the restoration, Sam brought all three bikes, one of each color from the early 1969 CB750 sandcast years to The Quail, the most prestigious motorcycle show in America. The candy red and gold stripped 1969 CB750, serial #538, restored to flying condition 50 years after it rolled off the assembly line, won Best Of Show.

“I’ve brought Honda Africa Twins to The Quail before, and when I go there wanting attention for a bike to win an award, it never works out. But when I go there with a bike just because I think its cool and I don’t care what anyone thinks, it gets more attention. Its funny how that works.”

Best Of Show at The Quail is every restorer’s dream. The secret? Please yourself
first. Results will follow.

Results follow passion, and true passion doesn’t care how much money it takes, how long it takes or what anyone else thinks. Whether pulling a P-38 from a 50 year slumber in an icy coffin to fly again or pulling a CB750 from a barn and restoring it for its 50th birthday, the results are worth it, whatever the effort or cost.

Joy comes from both the process and the product.

Seeing a plane fly again or an old bike made ridable is rewarding and the sweat in the endeavor is it’s own reward.

Fools ask the question of why someone would spend so much time and effort restoring a 50 year old Japanese motorcycle of which over half a million were eventually made. Is it really worth it? The answer…

Over half a million were built, but original models are rare 50 years later. This bike ensures the preservation of the legend.

It doesn’t have to be.

“I love the process of taking something historic and bringing back to life and enjoying it. I just love motorcycles.”


*All photos courtesy of Sam Roberts and one by The Quail. Find Sam here-

Share some thoughts and/or memories with us in the comments below!


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  1. RobC

    What a beautiful bike ,I had a blue 1 at only 18 years old, I seen it and when it came up for sale I had to have it I beleive the price was $ 1,000 ,What a bargain.This bike in this article is a true piece of art. The history of these 750’s speak for them selves. Thanks for this article.

    • Rob Brooks

      We love it too Rob, and the great story behind it.
      Appreciate you,

  2. Anthony Messina

    The CB750 was my first real road bike! Same color as the one pictured here. I loved that bike!

    • Rob Brooks

      Ah, the bikes we wish now that we had kept!

    • MIlt Herman

      Grinning and heart warming account told with The Edwards’ panache.
      Owned 72 cb750 purchased used in Chicago from original owner sooo anal he never used the front brake for fear of scratching it! Used the last of my student loan money to buy it…don’t tell anyone please. Keep sending your entertaining tomes.
      Uncle Milt

  3. Milt Herman

    Legendary bikes, worthily remembered.
    Uncle Milt

    • Ted M Edwards

      Uncle Milty, I seem to think that a CB900 would be destined for a garage near you. Keep searching barns.

  4. David Hammer

    Oh, I bought the third one in my hometown of Gainesville Florida at the age of 16 1/2. It was blue, just like the ones in all the magazine road tests. I was totally smitten!

    To this day, I’m pretty sure it was a sandcast. I’ve never been able to locate the registration, however, to verify. Today I own its spiritual successor, a 1979 Honda CBX.

    So thrilled to think, even now, that a CB 750 was the First motorcycle to which I ever held title. When you see the photos, you realize Hondas designers didn’t put a single line wrong. Long may they reign!

    • Ted M Edwards

      A 1979 Honda CBX. Congratulations.

  5. Don Stockett

    Sam did a great job on this restoration, and it’s also the first Japanese bike to win Best of Show at Quail. There were a couple of other 100 point previous Japanese Class winners in this group, but Sam’s was the best of the lot being a sandcast.
    Congratulations Sam!

    • Ted M Edwards

      It is a beautiful bike to see in person. Also, thanks to you Don, for all you do for vintage motorcycle restoration.


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