1974 Honda CB350F | ME & MY BIKE

Designing, building, and racing motorcycles was his calling.

  • NAME: Gary Ilminen
  • AGE: 59
  • HOME: Lone Rock, Wisconsin
  • OCCUPATON: Clinical Quality Analyst

Back in 1974, I was one year out of high school and attending Gogebic Community College in Ironwood, Michigan, pursuing a degree in mechanical design and drafting. Designing, building, and racing motorcycles and snowmobiles was to be my calling; I was sure of it.

That spring, with a small loan and a little money earned peeling pulp and making hay, I went shopping for my first real motorcycle. I test drove a glistening black Harley-Davidson Sportster that was far beyond my reach financially. Ave's Sport Shop in Hurley, Wisconsin, had some Hondas closer to my price range—including some of those four-cylinder superbikes we all wanted so badly back then.The smallest of these was the CB350F—complete with that distinctive four-into-four exhaust system that shouted to the world, "Yeah, it's a Four!" It was the only bike with that four-cylinder mystique that also had a price tag a pauper like me could even consider. Bad as I wanted one, I decided on the cheaper CL200T, a bike so regrettable that even Honda couldn't stand it for more than a year.

In the many years since, I’ve owned more than 20 motorcycles, but I never did get that dream bike Four—until May 2010. It sat among someone’s lifetime possessions at an estate auction, grimy and decrepit with burned electrics. Everybody else dropped out at my $600 bid, so I finally had my CB350F—36 years later. I repaired the electrics and miscellaneous other items and returned it to its high-revving glory.

That's not the end of the story. Back in my younger days, I never did give racing a try. Better late than never, I entered the old CB in the BUB Racing Motorcycle Speed Trials at the Bonneville Salt Flats in August 2010. The bike ran well enough to qualify for a record run and set an unofficial record in the 350cc production class. I soon found myself in the impound area pulling the Honda's head off for post-run tech inspection, with Alan Cathcart just 30 feet away after his own record run on the 961 Norton! My record didn't last the meet, but I'm getting the old Honda ready for another try.