I don’t know how Tom talked me into it. I just don’t know. After all, Sundays are made for riding sickles, not selling them. But my bike was down with a forniscued upper end, and I didn’t feel like spending one of those all-night things getting it ready. Besides, my knee looked like Wilt Chamberlain’s head, so it could use some rest.
Anyway, he reasoned, “C’mon down to the house and help me get the bike ready and sell it and I’ll buy the beer and pizza.” Not only that, he said, “I’ll help you sell your bike when you’re ready.” How could I refuse? My old buddy Tom in dire straits and free beer and grunts for helping him. And I do mean dire straits.
If you could have seen that bike, it would have brought tears to your eyes. It was a ‘69 CZ, one of those red tankers that they sold a zillion of. And at the time, they were going for about $700 used … in decent condition.
But this one! Lord! Everything on this CZ was either bent or broken or both. The original red paint job now looked the color of a faded hot water bottle. Both fenders were still brightly painted, but the front one was from a 1967 Benelli, and it was brilliant green with a tasteful yellow stripe running down the middle. The back fender was steel and had been bent, straightened and re-bent so many times that no one could remember the original shape. It looked a great deal like it had once served as a barbecue pit liner. Grease and all.
Not a pretty picture, all things considered.
But if you took the time to inspect closer, it looked even worse. A mass of slobbering mung and drool was perched around each fork wiper, mute testimony to a stock fork-sealed CZ. Several spokes were bent and several more just plain missing. Large dents and dings were in both rims, and the chrome was peeling like some sort of diseased slippery elm tree.
Further inspection revealed further damage. Tufts of saddle guts puffed out of the seams of the seat where they were not contained with black electrician’s tape. Most of the still-air box consisted of duct tape–the fiberglass had long ago turned to powder from vibration and crashing. There were so many welds on the exhaust pipe that it looked more like a Pay Day candy bar than an expansion chamber. Four hose clamps held it sort of firmly in place. The chrome finish was long gone, having been replaced some time ago with Sherwin-Williams furnace paint. Gas dripped from the gas tank, fuel lines, carb and the engine cases. In fact, wherever it could leak, it did leak. Most of the knobs were left on the front tire, but the rear one was bald enough to get relatively good traction on the San Diego Freeway. In a rainstorm.
And here I was, on a Friday night, trying to make the saddest 250 CZ in the history of mankind saleable. We only had one evening to pull off the job, too, as the ad broke in several newspapers on Saturday.
We got the bike rolled out into the middle of his driveway and uncoiled the garden hose. I turned it on and let the CZ have the full blast. After 15 minutes of concentrated hosing, the only thing that came off was the saddle cover. Discouraged, we decided to mix up a strong cleaning solution to cut the grease and dirt. Tom went in the house to get a bucket, while I gathered up cleaning aids.
Gas mixes with oil, so we poured in some premix and Tide for starters. We figured the gas would cut the grease film and the Tide would act as a detergent. With any luck at all, there wouldn’t even be a film. Just to play it safe, we also poured in the remainder of a can of lacquer thinner and some penetrating oil. We gingerly sloshed the mixture over the entire bike and retired to the TV to catch a little Roller Derby while the chemicals did their work.
A half hour later, we checked our handiwork and nodded in satisfaction. Most of the oil and grease now lay around the cement like the La Brea Tar Pits, and the offending red paint job was blistered three-fourths off. A few quick minutes with the garden hose completed the initial cleaning.
Now we were down to bare metal and huge patches of orange rust. Apparently the mixture had been strong enough to encourage premature oxidation. No matter. The bike was to receive the full treatment, and there was nothing that could stand in the way of a little sandpaper and spray paint. We took off all the parts to be painted and set them to one side. Next, the seat and external electrics were removed. Now everything was out in the open where we could sanitize it. One trip the hardware store got us all the materials we needed–and for under five bucks at that.
The engine looked pretty bad–all gray and rancid. I suppose we could have spent about two solid days hand-polishing the aluminum, but we didn’t have two days to spare. The answer? A foo-foo can. Yes, the ubiquitous foo-foo can to the rescue. Many is the paint job that has been done with spray cans, and at a reasonable price. We had the good fortune to come across a sale on Kal-Kustom engine paint, heat-proof and aluminum colored–just the ticket to put some good looks back in the powerplant.
No masking was necessary; we just sprayed away until the barrel, head and cases were given a smooth coat. Even the carb got a fine layer of spray paint. Of course, there was a certain amount of over-spray on the frame, but that didn’t matter at this stage. The paint dried quickly, and we masked off the freshly painted parts carefully. We had to keep the next layer of paint from spoiling the appearance of the aluminum.
Tom was busily shaking the can of black lacquer as I put the last few inches of masking tape in place. Then he gave everything a nice coat of black paint. And I mean everything. Frame, tires spokes, footpegs, bars, levers, cables. Everything. I was curious about the bars and the levers being painted black.
“Won’t it look funny?” I asked.
“Naw. Just tell them they’re plastic levers and these are anodized bars. It sure covers the rust doesn’t it?”
I had to admit that it did. The bike was beginning to shape up.
I got busy running some coarse grade sandpaper over the tank and fenders, while Tom hand-painted the spokes with some silver model airplane paint–Testors, I think. By the time I had the parts sanded and coated with primer, Tom had the spokes neatly painted and was putting a quick coat on the rims. He was very careful not to get any silver on the tires, a real artist.
We peeled off the paper and masking tape and stood back for a look. Spiff-o! It was beginning to look like a new machine. The aluminum paint on the engine contrasted nicely with the crisp black of the frame, and the silver of the spokes and rims positively glistened in the glare of our 75-watt light bulb.
It only took a few minutes more to spritz a coat or two of Mandarin Red on the tank, the closest thing we could find to the original CZ red. Naturally, we used lacquer instead of enamel. Enamel is so… cheap.
Lastly, we hit the fenders and air box with a coat of Kelvinator refrigerator white, to try to match the CZ paint motif the factory had so proudly applied some years back. We were worried, though, because several highly unsightly dents and holes marred an other¬wise flawless finish. If you’re going to take the time to do a job, you should do it right. Three beers later, everything had dried and we started reinstalling components. Carefully. A wayward scratch could turn away a prospective buyer.
With everything in place, the bike looked good. However, we did have to admit that the dings and holes detracted from the overall package. Tom let out with an “Aha!” and ran into the house. Moments later, he appeared with a veritable armful of stickers and decals. We applied them carefully–a Castrol stickie here, a Champion spark plug decal there. The clever application of stickers did the job. Nary a bump or ding showed. And the bike was colorful. No denying that. I did have some reservations, though, about the Chiquita Banana sticker on the front fender.
But it was Tom’s bike, and if he wanted to screw it up, well, that was his decision.
Only one thing remained to be detailed: the seat. We took a long hard look at the tattered cover and the foam that was peering out of the cracks and tears. No way to save that! What to do, what to do? Aha! When all else fails , duct tape!!! It only took a half-roll of the wonder tape to make a very smooth cover with nice even rows of tape. Looked sort of like a tuck-and-roll job, but a little flatter. A coat of the black lacquer finished it off and we let it dry, then bolted it firmly in place.
A job well done. Now, all we needed were some customers.
The first one called about nine the next morning, and a half-hour later, he showed up in a Ranchero with a friend in tow. On the way out to the garage, the potential buyer asked Tom what the lowest price he would take for the bike was. Without a moment’s hesitation, Tom replied… “Ten-ninety-five. Not a penny less.”
Proudly, we whipped open the garage door and lifted the cover off the bike. The CZ gleamed and glistened. We heard the customer suck in his breath.
“I must apologize for the dirty condition of the machine, but ya see, I rode it last Sunday and haven’t had time to clean it yet. That’s the only chance I get to do any trail riding at all, on Sundays… and not much at that,” said Tom.
“I’ll give you four hunnert for it, and that’s tops,” said the customer.
“And I’ll take it — but only because I need the money for college,” snapped Tom.
“You look sorta old to be going to school.”
“I’m a slow learner,” said Tom.
The customer counted out his money on the hood of the Ranchero and a dribble of spit came down Tom’s chin. While they traded paper, the purchaser’s friend turned to me and asked, “Say, ain’t you the guy who works for that bike magazine? What’s the name of it?”
“Oh yes. You’re right. I work for Popular Cycling. Don’t forget to subscribe.”