Author Topic: 1978 Honda CB550 Supersport - My first retro bike rolling restoration!  (Read 621 times)

Offline woody928

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Well it only seems appropriate to start a proper project thread here following my previous intro a month or so ago. I'm certainly going to have lots of questions for you all as I go! 

Last night I went and collected my 1978 Honda CB550 F1 Super Sport (I believe? Please correct me if this is wrong, I'm a total novice). Does anything look non standard or out of place? It looks like the exhaust is a 'Marshall system' which I'm assuming is a relatively period piece?

The bike has sat in storage for a number of years unused and therefore is in need of some serious TLC. It managed the 35 or so mile ride home however it was very clear that it is in need of some servicing and inspection.

The throttle response was erratic at times, on occasion there was almost a total lack of throttle response. The bike wouldn't climb past 70mph on the motorway and I was having to tinker with the fuel adjustor to lower the idle and keep the bike happy. By the time I got it home I noticed that what I'm assuming are the carb overflow pipes were dropping fuel down onto the ground, the exhaust was popping and banging on overrun so I'm assuming is running rich and on inspection one of the HT leads had dropped onto the manifold and nearly melted through.

I'll be honest and say that I've never worked on bikes before, however I'm mechanically minded and have a workshop manual so intend to crack on and learn as I go. I'm hoping to end up with a reliable bike that can be ridden and enjoyed, originality doesn't bother me as I intend to do some brat/cafe style mods to the bike later down the line with a view to improving performance and changing aesthetics however for now I just want to get it running well and see where I stand.

With the above in mind, I'd be grateful of your thoughts on my current 'to do list'

- Change Oil/Oil Filter
- Replace Air Filter
- Fresh Fuel/ Fuel filter?
- Strip down carbs and rebuild?
- Check timing (never done this before so any guidance appreciate however there's the manuals and YouTube)
- Check valve clearances (never done this before so any guidance appreciate however there's the manuals and YouTube)
- Replace HT leads
- Replace Points
- Flush brake hydraulics
- Front brake rebuild, master too?

Anything I should be adding to that list or further input? Can anyone advise where is a good place to be searching for replacement parts in the UK? are there any good websites for basic consumables?

In particular where to get replacement HT leads and rebuild kits would be useful? I also believe I'm correct in saying I need to be very specific about the make and year of the bike as there were lots of revisions and therefore certain parts/kits won't fit?

Anyway, here's some pictures for you all.

Cheers, Mark

72DA583C-121C-4630-8110-816CA766A5AA by Mark Woodrow, on Flickr

IMG_7623 by Mark Woodrow, on Flickr

IMG_7618 by Mark Woodrow, on Flickr

IMG_7630 by Mark Woodrow, on Flickr

IMG_7631 by Mark Woodrow, on Flickr

IMG_7654 by Mark Woodrow, on Flickr

IMG_7656 by Mark Woodrow, on Flickr

IMG_7626 by Mark Woodrow, on Flickr

IMG_7651 by Mark Woodrow, on Flickr

IMG_7657 by Mark Woodrow, on Flickr
« Last Edit: May 19, 2020, 11:38:30 PM by woody928 »

Offline SPR

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That looks pretty good as it stands now

Maintenance wise I’m sure the experienced mob will be doing to point you in the right direction :)

Look forward to seeing how you progress

Cheers

Simon 

Offline Oddjob

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There are a couple of things I can spot that I'd change or correct but as you say originality isn't what your looking for so maybe you'll leave them.

First off yes it's an F1. Green clock faces and flat paint are F1, blue clock faces and metallic paint are F2. The F1 had fork bellows and the F2 didn't.

Your missing the reflectors off the side of the fork ears, saying that your also missing the correct headlight. The shell should be black plastic not chrome and I suspect the OE headlight is bigger as well, should be 7" IIRC. Always better to be seen and be able to see IMO so maybe revert to standard on that one.

The tacho cable appears to be broken, casing has split from the housing near the engine, someone clearly been mucking around in that area as the metal part of the cable shows pliers/grip marks. Be VERY careful removing the cable as it's very easy to break the housing on the engine it locates into, DON'T use an impact driver on the screw holding the cable in place.

There is a thread on site made by Ashimoto on repairing the HT leads on the original coils. Read it and see if you can do it. I've said this before and I'm going to say it again, turn the coils back to front so the HT leads come out of the back, you may need to swap sides on the coils but if your replacing the leads anyway just make them longer and trim down after. Get the leads running over the engine not dangling in the breeze like they are now, saves them shorting out in the rain and also of course getting melted on the exhaust. End cylinders use a long angled HT cap exactly like you got fitted, the inner 2 use a straight long cap.
Should look like this


Flush hydraulics, yes, always a good idea, you've no idea how long it's been in there. Rebuild kit, see how it works first. Remove the caliper and see how the arm it mounts on swings first. Might need some attention as they tend to stick causing brake bind.

Remove rear wheel and check drum lining for cracking, known problem with these bikes. You can get the liner replaced but check first is my advise.

Someone has replaced the left hand switchgear and fitted the wrong one, the UK version has an headlight flasher incorporated into the horn button, yours has the USA version fitted by the look of it, very faded as well so maybe source a new correct version, flasher does come in handy.

Remove the carbs and refurb, use original brass unless damaged. Lots of tips on how to do that on site, just have a good read first.

Change oil and filter, yep, change air filter, check to see how dirty it is first, change points, not unless they are pitted, use original points if possible as aftermarket can cause some timing issues.

Check tappets, yep. Also check camchain tensioner is working. How's the engine sound on tickover? lumpy? a bit noisy like a low down thumping noise?

Lots of advise on here, just heed the experts and you'll soon have her running sweet. Provided of course your prepared to spend a bit of money, parts ain't cheap these days.

Nice example BTW, a very good start by the look of it.
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Offline Bryanj

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Download the proper Honda manual, you have to start with the 500 and then the 550 "supplements"
Points gap is 0.35mm(14 thou) get feeler gauges with that size in there and spend a lot of time getting the points gap and timing spot on.
DO NOT put a screwdriver in the slot on the end of the camchain tensioner bolt.
If its been stood that long a new drive chain may be a good idea NOT  an O ring type.

Rest is easy------honest

Offline woody928

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That looks pretty good as it stands now

Maintenance wise I’m sure the experienced mob will be doing to point you in the right direction :)

Look forward to seeing how you progress

Thanks Simon :) It looks pretty complete to me, benefits from a recent respray and seems to be a great starting point.

There are a couple of things I can spot that I'd change or correct but as you say originality isn't what your looking for so maybe you'll leave them.

First off yes it's an F1. Green clock faces and flat paint are F1, blue clock faces and metallic paint are F2. The F1 had fork bellows and the F2 didn't.

Your missing the reflectors off the side of the fork ears, saying that your also missing the correct headlight. The shell should be black plastic not chrome and I suspect the OE headlight is bigger as well, should be 7" IIRC. Always better to be seen and be able to see IMO so maybe revert to standard on that one.

The tacho cable appears to be broken, casing has split from the housing near the engine, someone clearly been mucking around in that area as the metal part of the cable shows pliers/grip marks. Be VERY careful removing the cable as it's very easy to break the housing on the engine it locates into, DON'T use an impact driver on the screw holding the cable in place.

There is a thread on site made by Ashimoto on repairing the HT leads on the original coils. Read it and see if you can do it. I've said this before and I'm going to say it again, turn the coils back to front so the HT leads come out of the back, you may need to swap sides on the coils but if your replacing the leads anyway just make them longer and trim down after. Get the leads running over the engine not dangling in the breeze like they are now, saves them shorting out in the rain and also of course getting melted on the exhaust. End cylinders use a long angled HT cap exactly like you got fitted, the inner 2 use a straight long cap.
Should look like this

Flush hydraulics, yes, always a good idea, you've no idea how long it's been in there. Rebuild kit, see how it works first. Remove the caliper and see how the arm it mounts on swings first. Might need some attention as they tend to stick causing brake bind.

Remove rear wheel and check drum lining for cracking, known problem with these bikes. You can get the liner replaced but check first is my advise.

Someone has replaced the left hand switchgear and fitted the wrong one, the UK version has an headlight flasher incorporated into the horn button, yours has the USA version fitted by the look of it, very faded as well so maybe source a new correct version, flasher does come in handy.

Remove the carbs and refurb, use original brass unless damaged. Lots of tips on how to do that on site, just have a good read first.

Change oil and filter, yep, change air filter, check to see how dirty it is first, change points, not unless they are pitted, use original points if possible as aftermarket can cause some timing issues.

Check tappets, yep. Also check camchain tensioner is working. How's the engine sound on tickover? lumpy? a bit noisy like a low down thumping noise?

Lots of advise on here, just heed the experts and you'll soon have her running sweet. Provided of course your prepared to spend a bit of money, parts ain't cheap these days.

Nice example BTW, a very good start by the look of it.

Can I just start by saying a huge thank you for the detailed response!  ;D

That's great to have it confirmed that it is an F1, it should make parts searches infinitely easier.

Thats really interesting, I'll certainly be adding a 7inch headlight to the list then along with a new modern bulb to hopefully brighten things up. I'll be steering clear of chrome as I must admit on the whole I find it a bit much albeit it can also look fantastic.

I've had a look and the tacho cable behind the tachometer is also covered in electrical tape so I suspect its hiding previous bodges. It does however still work so I'll be leaving it for now while more pressing issues are addressed. Thanks for highlighting, are new replacements obtainable?

I've just had a look into this, on the basis of the work involved and also given the coils are an unknown, I'm tempted to just replace with new  items for peace of mind. That's a fantastic idea, no idea why it wasn't done like  that before, I'll get those switched around while I'm in there. Definitely seems like a no brainer to reroute them!

Duly noted, I'll take a less invasive route first and see how it stands. It certainly pulled up on the return home however I have no idea how efficient the brakes were assuming they're in good order. I know we're well behind modern counterparts! I'll check out the rear drum too then.

Is the correct UK version still available anywhere? I wouldn't even know what it would look like however I must admit it did look very odd as a pairing, a flasher could come in very handy!

Carbs are going to be my biggest initial challenge I imagine, I've been watching a video of a teardown by classic octane on youtube. I think it will be like my bible through out the process.

Noted on the service items, will proceed as such.

Those  are two new skills  I'm going to have to read up on and learn. I fired up the bike this  evening having stat it since I've been home. Clearly it wasn't getting enough fuel with current settings now that it's cold. Urm it sounds very noisy to me and far from healthy compared to before now however I'll defer to all of your experience and judgement.

https://youtu.be/KYzUYmTbiPk

I've realised that money will need to be spent however I'm keeping my fingers crossed that its far more affordable than my cars have been! I fear theres lots of jobs to do before getting on to fun modifications, the joys of classic motoring! 

Thanks again for all of your input, its invaluable!  8)

Download the proper Honda manual, you have to start with the 500 and then the 550 "supplements"
Points gap is 0.35mm(14 thou) get feeler gauges with that size in there and spend a lot of time getting the points gap and timing spot on.
DO NOT put a screwdriver in the slot on the end of the camchain tensioner bolt.
If its been stood that long a new drive chain may be a good idea NOT  an O ring type.

Rest is easy------honest

Thanks Bryan, I've found a few  in Aladdins cave and have begun reading thank you, certainly two things I'm going to have to learn to do. I fear that part will be a steep learning curve.

I'll keep this in mind, is there any reason I'd be tempted to do so? (showing total ignorance)

Would you recommend the X type chain instead, it could be a  good idea for peace of mind?

Offline Oddjob

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I have a 500 which has been converted to all the electrics off a CB550F2. The F1 and F2 are virtually identical on electrics. I've just bought a brand new L/H switchgear with passing switch so I'll post a pic of it for you when I can find it again. It may be for sale as I've completely restored my old one and I'm happy to use that for now. Be aware that some parts are cheap and others seem to be vastly inflated, it depends on how many are still sat on shelves I think. If it's very rare be prepared to pay over the odds for the part, petrol tanks NOS are very expensive and a genuine new 550 silencer will set you back and arm and a leg IF you can find one.

The black headlight bowl is readily available but be sure it's off a 550 as the 500 is deeper and won't fit due to the handlebar mounted ignition switch on the 550. The 550 is shallower as the handlebar switch wires go down under the tank and not into the headlight like on the 500. Headlights are easy to find as a rule, try and find a good 7" Cibie if you can as they are really good. I had one around a while ago brand new but no idea where it is now. If I find it I'll let you know.

Tacho cable is easy to find and replace.

Some bad and good reports on the David Silver coil replacements, I prefer to stay standard and it's cheaper to fix the old ones than buy new. The coils are usually fine, it's the leads that fail.

Some controversy now, everyone says DON'T fit an O ring chain on the 500/550 but I ran one for years and it was fine. The problem is that the O ring chain is wider than the standard chain and the link pins gouge into the crankcase where the front sprocket fits. This is true, however it's really only true IMO if you use a 530 O ring chain, the pins are longer. The standard chain supplied from new was a DID 50 chain with split link, this had a pin length of 21.9 according to the DID website, this is 0.8622 inches, (for some reason DID list the existing chain dimensions in inches and the old style chain in MM), a 530 chain has a pin length of 0.963 for an O ring and 0.931 for an X ring chain (O ring and X ring chains are the same except for how the rivet is riveted) so you can see it's much wider, however the 525 O ring chain has a pin length of 0.886 for O ring and 0.866 for X ring, so almost identical to the standard 50 chain. The O ring chain I ran was off a CBX550 which is the same chain as the CB650, the odd thing is if you try and buy an original chain off CMS you can only buy an O ring chain now, funnily enough the same as the CBX550/CB650. Take for that whatever you want,  I'll be running an X ring on mine when it's finally restored. Odd but DID list a vintage bike chain in O ring and it's the 525
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Offline Trigger

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I have a 500 which has been converted to all the electrics off a CB550F2. The F1 and F2 are virtually identical on electrics. I've just bought a brand new L/H switchgear with passing switch so I'll post a pic of it for you when I can find it again. It may be for sale as I've completely restored my old one and I'm happy to use that for now. Be aware that some parts are cheap and others seem to be vastly inflated, it depends on how many are still sat on shelves I think. If it's very rare be prepared to pay over the odds for the part, petrol tanks NOS are very expensive and a genuine new 550 silencer will set you back and arm and a leg IF you can find one.

The black headlight bowl is readily available but be sure it's off a 550 as the 500 is deeper and won't fit due to the handlebar mounted ignition switch on the 550. The 550 is shallower as the handlebar switch wires go down under the tank and not into the headlight like on the 500. Headlights are easy to find as a rule, try and find a good 7" Cibie if you can as they are really good. I had one around a while ago brand new but no idea where it is now. If I find it I'll let you know.

Tacho cable is easy to find and replace.

Some bad and good reports on the David Silver coil replacements, I prefer to stay standard and it's cheaper to fix the old ones than buy new. The coils are usually fine, it's the leads that fail.

Some controversy now, everyone says DON'T fit an O ring chain on the 500/550 but I ran one for years and it was fine. The problem is that the O ring chain is wider than the standard chain and the link pins gouge into the crankcase where the front sprocket fits. This is true, however it's really only true IMO if you use a 530 O ring chain, the pins are longer. The standard chain supplied from new was a DID 50 chain with split link, this had a pin length of 21.9 according to the DID website, this is 0.8622 inches, (for some reason DID list the existing chain dimensions in inches and the old style chain in MM), a 530 chain has a pin length of 0.963 for an O ring and 0.931 for an X ring chain (O ring and X ring chains are the same except for how the rivet is riveted) so you can see it's much wider, however the 525 O ring chain has a pin length of 0.886 for O ring and 0.866 for X ring, so almost identical to the standard 50 chain. The O ring chain I ran was off a CBX550 which is the same chain as the CB650, the odd thing is if you try and buy an original chain off CMS you can only buy an O ring chain now, funnily enough the same as the CBX550/CB650. Take for that whatever you want,  I'll be running an X ring on mine when it's finally restored. Odd but DID list a vintage bike chain in O ring and it's the 525


Not all headlight bowls for the 550 are the same. The early 550 K0,K1,K2 are the same as the 500/750.

There is a 500F1/F2 headlight bowl >>> https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Honda-CB550-F1-F2-SOHC-Headlight-bowl-61301-375-003B/164134785053?epid=675479719&hash=item263732101d:g:tn0AAOSwOM5edy6A


Offline Oddjob

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Yeah I meant the 550F Graham, keeping forgetting there's a 550K. Not sure what shell the 550K3 uses, could be the same as the F.
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Offline woody928

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I have a 500 which has been converted to all the electrics off a CB550F2. The F1 and F2 are virtually identical on electrics. I've just bought a brand new L/H switchgear with passing switch so I'll post a pic of it for you when I can find it again. It may be for sale as I've completely restored my old one and I'm happy to use that for now. Be aware that some parts are cheap and others seem to be vastly inflated, it depends on how many are still sat on shelves I think. If it's very rare be prepared to pay over the odds for the part, petrol tanks NOS are very expensive and a genuine new 550 silencer will set you back and arm and a leg IF you can find one.

The black headlight bowl is readily available but be sure it's off a 550 as the 500 is deeper and won't fit due to the handlebar mounted ignition switch on the 550. The 550 is shallower as the handlebar switch wires go down under the tank and not into the headlight like on the 500. Headlights are easy to find as a rule, try and find a good 7" Cibie if you can as they are really good. I had one around a while ago brand new but no idea where it is now. If I find it I'll let you know.

Tacho cable is easy to find and replace.

Some bad and good reports on the David Silver coil replacements, I prefer to stay standard and it's cheaper to fix the old ones than buy new. The coils are usually fine, it's the leads that fail.

Some controversy now, everyone says DON'T fit an O ring chain on the 500/550 but I ran one for years and it was fine. The problem is that the O ring chain is wider than the standard chain and the link pins gouge into the crankcase where the front sprocket fits. This is true, however it's really only true IMO if you use a 530 O ring chain, the pins are longer. The standard chain supplied from new was a DID 50 chain with split link, this had a pin length of 21.9 according to the DID website, this is 0.8622 inches, (for some reason DID list the existing chain dimensions in inches and the old style chain in MM), a 530 chain has a pin length of 0.963 for an O ring and 0.931 for an X ring chain (O ring and X ring chains are the same except for how the rivet is riveted) so you can see it's much wider, however the 525 O ring chain has a pin length of 0.886 for O ring and 0.866 for X ring, so almost identical to the standard 50 chain. The O ring chain I ran was off a CBX550 which is the same chain as the CB650, the odd thing is if you try and buy an original chain off CMS you can only buy an O ring chain now, funnily enough the same as the CBX550/CB650. Take for that whatever you want,  I'll be running an X ring on mine when it's finally restored. Odd but DID list a vintage bike chain in O ring and it's the 525

That would be really helpful, if you do find it and are happy to sell it then please do let me know, however a picture either way would be very helpful! That makes a lot of sense, fortunately for me items like those two items referenced  are less of a concern given my disposition to resto modding older vehicles, I'm doing my best to navigate the minefield of options.

Thanks again, that makes a lot more sense now. I'll be keeping my eye out while I work out what to do, my main goal is to spend funds on going it up and running reliably first before moving onto other items, however a decent headlight will be high up the list! Do these headlights use H4  bulbs or can they be modified to use them?

Found and ordered one now thanks. I've looked at the lead replacement guide and really don't fancy cutting the originals to pieces right now, its a  job I'll contemplate later so have just gone for replacement  items.

Wow, another learning curve there. Duly noted, I'm going to leave the chain for now while everything else is sorted however I would imagine I'll be going down the X ring route as and when I get there. Amazing that such small variations can cause damage to the crank case. 

Not all headlight bowls for the 550 are the same. The early 550 K0,K1,K2 are the same as the 500/750.

There is a 500F1/F2 headlight bowl >>> https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Honda-CB550-F1-F2-SOHC-Headlight-bowl-61301-375-003B/164134785053?epid=675479719&hash=item263732101d:g:tn0AAOSwOM5edy6A

Thanks, good to know what I'm looking for. It's now in my watch list.

Well its been a busy and expensive day ordering lots of service items and replacement parts. I've also bitten the bullet and finally ordered an Ultrasonic cleaner to assist with my carb rebuild. Fingers crossed I'll be starting to pull things apart and replace from next week.

On the subject of carb rebuilding, is anyone able to provide an insight on the rebuild kits available? I've seen the following two:

https://www.davidsilverspares.co.uk/CB550F1-SUPER-SPORT-1976/part_28930/

https://www.wemoto.com/bikes/honda/cb_550_f_f1_f2/75-80/picture/carburettor_complete_repair_kit

Alternatively and noting the advice to maintain the original brass components would I be better off with one of these complete gasket kits? Looking at the above two options there would appear to be lots of O-rings missing compared to the OEM option listed below?

https://www.davidsilverspares.co.uk/CB550F1-SUPER-SPORT-1976/part_4946/

Finally did anyone have any thoughts on the sound of the bike per the video below? (Certainly concerned that its noisy)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYzUYmTbiPk

Offline Nurse Julie

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It's really difficult to hear engine noises properly on a mobile phone video but it doesn't sound like it's firing on all 4 cylinders and it sound like either the cam chain is rattling, or the primary chain or both. But like I say, videos can be really deceiving.
Im a Nurse, trust me, this won't hurt.....much !!!

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Offline Bryanj

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You can get all the O rings for the carbs in a kit from Julie on here, the paper gasket is usually OK

Offline woody928

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It's really difficult to hear engine noises properly on a mobile phone video but it doesn't sound like it's firing on all 4 cylinders and it sound like either the cam chain is rattling, or the primary chain or both. But like I say, videos can be really deceiving.

Very true, it was more the rattle is what had me worried. Perhaps I should start with the cam chain adjustor as I imagine I'd have to open things up otherwise. Not firing properly would be explained by the melted plug lead and also what I discovered this evening. I could also use some new screws looking at the ham fisted efforts of a previous owner...

My points look pretty knackered and one has quite a large gap, I definitely need to get on with servicing and making factory adjustments before guessing where I really stand.

IMG_7707 by Mark Woodrow, on Flickr

IMG_7708 by Mark Woodrow, on Flickr

IMG_7710 by Mark Woodrow, on Flickr

Whats the recommendation with replacement points? Are aftermarket options ok or do I need to stick with the more expensive OEM option?

You can get all the O rings for the carbs in a kit from Julie on here, the paper gasket is usually OK

Thanks, presume you're referring to the same helpful Julie above? Any other advice on the rebuild kits?

Offline K2-K6

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If no headlight available from the forum,  these are good alternative  https://www.autoelectricsupplies.co.uk/mobile/product/986

Take H4 bulb of your choice, I use phillips white vision in them.

Offline Bryanj

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Now i have a diamond file to cure those points, you used to be able to get disposable flexi contact files.
It takes quite a bit of time and practice to get both the points gap(0.35mm) and the timing spot on the F as the gap alters when you move the plate and the timing alters with gap but getting it spot on is worth it.
As to the screws you get the standard answer "they are all like that sir" BECAUSE people use phillips screwdrivers instead of jis ones!

Offline Oddjob

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What's worrying about the pics of the points plate is that the wires are exposed on the condensers, they must be aftermarket as genuine Honda ones are potted on the end where the wire comes out. There is a risk of getting a shock with the wires exposed like that and I have to say as someone who's had more than a few belts from a charged condenser it's not a little belt either.

I'd imagine all the threads are now ruined on the 2.3 plate screw holes as those are most likely imperial screws and probably bigger than the original threads.

I found a complete points plate the other day lurking in a box in the shed, screws are in reasonable nick, PM me your address and I'll send it down as soon as I can get to the Post Office, genuine condensers and the points are in better condition as well. Plus it has a proper felt pad for lubing the advance/retard mechanism, that looks to be a piece of carpet.
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