This is a somewhat bitter-sweet story written a few weeks ago, about my attempt to do a favor for my now-departed friend, Dr. Fred Bell. The bike is now in AZ awaiting the next opportunity to be auctioned off, probably in as-is, non-running condition.
1959 Parilla Fauno: The unfinished symphony of Italian style and design.
After doing an extensive restoration work on my friend Fred’s 1959 CE71 Honda, he kept badgering me to pickup his 1958-59-ish Parilla Fauno, which is a 98cc four-stroke single street bike. The model is typical 1950-60s era post-WWII Italian street bike and one which Fred apparently owned in his formative years. Fred tracked down this bike, from a bike collector somewhere up in the LA basin, and brought it home with the dream of having it restored. Fred was a much smaller man, back then, but the memory was strong and he just wanted it restored, sooner than later.
Reluctantly, I made the 90-minute drive up to Temecula and gathered up his little jewel, which had been drooling oil all over his garage floor for the past year, since he moved into the current house. He followed me down the hill into downtown Temecula, where we had lunch at the local “biker bar” hangout, which features a bevy of very attractive, young waitresses. After a fine lunch, we said our good-byes and I returned to Spring Valley, with this unknown quantity in the back of the Dakota truck. Sadly, that was the last personal contact I had with Fred, as he passed away suddenly in late October, 2011, before he could see the final results of an extensive restoration attempt.
Dismantling the chassis was fairly simple; however the front forks seemed to be jammed/bent in the lower fork stem. The “simple” push-rod engine came apart easily at the top end, but then I had a big problem with the output shaft nut removal. The nut is very thin and shallow and it was difficult to find a socket or wrench to grab it. I also didn’t realize that about half of the shaft nuts on these bikes are left-hand threaded! Such was the case with the output shaft nut and it needed to be removed as the counter shaft sprocket teeth were worn down to the nub and I wouldn’t be able to split the cases to inspect and clean the engine internals. There was some obvious knocking and bearing play when I turned the magneto flywheel, so I knew that a whole teardown was necessary to fix these issues.
Next problem was removal of the CEV-branded magneto flywheel. My trusty Honda flywheel puller didn’t fit the threads and when I started asking around and researching the thread size, no one else had anything to offer, either. Fortunately, we have a retired airline machinist who can make just about anything and for a reasonable $60 created a flywheel puller from billet stock and removed the flywheel before I picked the job back up from him. There were some signs of something interfering with the flywheel coil mounts and the wiring seemed to be “hot-wired” out from the normal harness connectors.
With the flywheel off, I was able to split the cases and find out the source of the knocking noises. Parilla used a lot of narrow roller bearings to support the crankshaft and transmission shafts inside the cases. These bearings had plastic retainer cages and as I pulled the case halves apart, it started raining bearing rollers all over the bench and down in the case bottoms. I gathered up all the bearing bits and set them aside for replacements. All the seals needed to be replaced, of course, so they went with the bearings to the local supply center. Some of the bearings were NLA, but the local shop scoured obsolete bearing houses in Los Angeles and found everything I needed, however the final tab was about $150 for a handful of parts.
The engine cases had a layer of muck/mud/grease lining the bottoms, near the flimsy filter screen that was designed to keep out large rocks and small animals, but little else. I took the engine cases and other castings to the local auto repair shop, equipped with a steam cleaner machine, to help strip off the crud and gunk that had accumulated during the last 50+ years. With new bearings and seals in hand, I looked at the shift shaft o-ring, which was an uncommon size and needed replacing. Finally, I searched the web and found o-rings in that size, but had to buy about 30 of them (minimum order) to get the one I needed to install the shaft in the case half. Everything went together pretty well, but the clutch was a 3 plate unit with a single compression spring in the center, held on with a special nut. There were “special tools” made for this procedure, which I did not have, of course. A trip back to the machinist led to some creative repairs of the nut sleeve threads and eventual installation of the clutch assembly, in the end.
There were odd things found on the crankshaft. The ball bearing race surface was peened with a punch to raise the surface diameter to ensure that the bearing would remain in place. One the opposite end, the normal keyway, which is generally cut in line with the connecting rod located at TDC, was filled with a ground down key and a second keyway was cut in about 45 degrees from the first one. The inside of the magneto flywheel has a point cam, but it was mounted on the flywheel with a return spring and weight to allow for spark advance, rather than a fixed advance, normally found on most magneto ignitions. With the keyway relocated and the spark advancer installed, it would seem like the engine would be getting about 60 degrees of spark lead at higher rpms. Most magneto systems are more in the sub-30 degree range. Very puzzling.
Two trips to Vista, CA were necessary to paint-wizard Blake performed dazzling work on the faded paint and dented/rusted fuel tank, re-creating the original factory finish and intricate fuel tank design, highlighted with gold-leaf striping and correct Parilla decals. Fortunately, I was able to send photos of the final paint work to Fred, just before he passed away, so he could appreciate the wonderful quality and luster of the final paint work. He was most happy to see it all done, as he had hoped and dreamed of recreating a few old memories of this cute, but quirky machine.
Fred had a contract with a chrome plating shop in LA, so I shipped all the plating parts to them and waited for their return. I spent many hours cleaning and working all the engine parts together, having the brake shoes relined and tracking down rare replacement bits to complete the task. After waiting a couple of months, I contacted the chrome shop who initially had no idea of what I was talking about! After contacting the owner and reminding him of the shipment from previous months, he looked around and found the box of parts, then shipped them down to me a day later. I really don’t think these guys are “motorcycle” savvy about what and how to plate bike parts. The most horrible example came when I unwrapped the alloy steering damper knob and exhaust flange. The details on the steering knob were all worn away, either from etching processes or excessive polishing. The exhaust flange looked like it was dunked in battery acid for days. All the fins were just slivers barely attached to the central flange ring.
Thank goodness for the Internet, as I was able to join a Parilla forum and connect with a gentleman in Germany, who kept coming up with the rare bits I needed for this bike. Parilla went out of business in 1964, as a motorcycle company and had made many models of motorcycles, ranging from 50cc to highly collectible 350cc racing machines. Parilla parts are NOT in good supply, especially new ones, but he kept fulfilling my requests for vital parts, when no one else even knew about the model, at all. The Fauno is not a highly-regarded model, due to limited displacement and performance potential, in comparison to the Grand Sport 175, 200, 250 and 350 machines. As far as I have been able to determine, only a handful of these bikes even exist in the US. A beautiful red-on-black Fauno is featured at the Barber Museum in Alabama and one or two have been mentioned on the Internet, to date.
With chrome received, I was able to start reassembling the chassis, wrestling the front forks back together again, thanks to large wrenches and soft hammers. I had to take such care not to damage the beautiful red paintwork, while feeding fenders inside the front forks and attaching other associated bodywork to the frame. Eventually, the bike came together again, but there were numerous problems discovered along the way. The original 13t counter shaft sprocket was not available, so I had to use a 12t unit. This caused the drive chain to drop down, brushing the swing arm. The sprocket is a keyed, tapered- hole design, which aftermarket companies could not replicate. They were able to build a billet rear sprocket for me, as the teeth on the rear unit were similarly ground down to nubs.
While waiting for paint, chrome and engine bits, I contacted an exhaust builder in Australia, who specializes in stainless steel products. Parilla used the same muffler for a similar two-cycle engine machine, so the shop was familiar with the muffler design, but they would need the header pipe shipped to them for matching. I shipped the whole exhaust out to them and a new one came back in about six weeks time.
A local plating shop offered polishing services, so I had the two outer engine covers polished to brighten up the otherwise dull finish of the engine assembly. More problems ensued with a chronic oil leak on the clutch cover and then I discovered there were about 6 ways to reassemble the shift selector parts, which bolt within the outer RH cover. No matter what I did and how I assembled it, the shifter would not function beyond selecting one gear and neutral. On top of that, I had to do a lot of rewiring of the old harness and ignition connections, which were not easily described in a few cryptic wiring diagrams which were offered from Parilla sources.
I could get a 6v signal to the ignition coil, but either the coil was failing or the wiring to/into the magneto was faulty OR the magneto damage was causing a no-spark condition at the coil/plug. Pleas for assistance have been ignored for the most part, for either the spark condition or the shift selection assembly, which doesn’t really match the parts illustrations of the sole parts book for this model, supplied by Fred as my only reference point for this machine.
While, as , I can crack the codes of most any Honda model from the 1950s, through the 1990s, this little Italian thumper has got me stumped, to date. There is a huge mess surrounding the disposition of Fred’s estate (they didn’t even know that he owned this bike nor did they know I was restoring it for him, until I mentioned it), so time is of the essence in getting this bike onto market, running or not. It will be picked up in a week or so, then off to auctions, unless private parties step up before then to adopt this little orphan bike and finish the last of the remaining unsolved mysteries of the Parilla Fauno.
Give me Hondas any day! Please!