I've been into motorcycles for years, but always modern machines. A while Left: From staid ago I visited a local club, Louisville middleweight to cool dude.
Vintage Motorworks and after seeing their bikes, I was hooked.
I wanted to build something. I've always modified things since I was a kid and as a designer I always feel I can improve things, though that's not always the case!
Nevertheless, I was going to make this entry into vintage bikes a project as well. I found a lot of cafe racers but wanted to do something different. I stumbled upon the Gravel Crew custom website and their bikes were exactly what I was looking for. They'd done a CB500 Honda and that was my inspiration. The next step - find a bike.
I perused the internet auction sites, not committing to such a project with everything else I had going on, but between wanting to put some distance between me and my nutty live-in girlfriend and finding myself one morning nursing a bourbon hangover, the deed was done. I spotted an amazing 1971 CB450 in a neighbouring state, the bid on which was under $2k with a couple hours left. I clicked the buttons at $2100, and figured I'd check in a couple hours to ensure someone had outbid me and I had avoided buying something I surely didn't need. Nope, it was mine and after a few minutes of buyer's remorse, I was excited about the opportunity to be in the garage for hours each evening while the crazy lady whined about when I was coming upstairs...
Arrangements were made, cash scraped together and it was off to get the new old bike. I'm in Kentucky, bike's in Indiana, sweet - except it's in northern Indiana and I mean northern, more or less Michigan. Whatever, I borrowed a truck and eight hours later the bike was in my garage.
It was fall so I rode it as it was. Old bikes just have a vibe, smell, character that you can't get from a new bike. I loved it but it wasn't the look I wanted. I'd pull a part off here and there, but nothing that would keep me from being able to hop on it and ride. One night, after a few beers and a desire to avoid the codependent one, who had gradually moved in all of her stuff without asking, the deconstruction began. Hours flew by, I was greasy, skinning knuckles and loving it. It was the point of no return, excited about the possibilities, but worried about whether you've just screwed up a good motorcycle. I'd already had flack from the Lou Vin guys, so if I was going to butcher a mint CB450, I had to do it right.
Weeks were spent, reviewing photos, using Photoshop to line up the stock CB photo with the Gravel Crew photo to try and determine sizes and dimensions of parts, as well as a paint scheme. I wanted something more hot rod than custom -something to slightly bother the neighbours but cool enough they'd let it slide. I spent time sourcing parts. I knew the rim sizes had to be smaller to accommodate a much larger tyre. My first debate was single or double whitewall. I liked the double because it was different but they're hard to come by and in locating those, I also answered my rim questions. I didn't have powder coating equipment, I'd never laced a rim and there were 40 spokes per, it was time to find someone to do the wheels.
I contacted Zach at Woody's Wheel Works. I told him the tyres I wanted and he determined rim sizes, tubes and began gathering parts while I removed the stock wheels, cut out the spokes and boxed up the hubs.
At the same time I had to realise my skill limits and, more importantly, the lack of serious metal-working equipment in my workshop. So while I could cut, grind, sand and spray items for the frame, handlebars, fender and other sundry items, I was going to have to source out some work.
I'd been impressed with Benji's (www.benjieicaferacer.com/home.btml) work numerous times but wasn't sure if he'd consider doing something outside of the cafe box. I was pleasantly surprised when he agreed to work with me. We discussed the tank shape and he felt he could form something similar to the pictures, what's more a 450 frame in house, it would make fabrication easier. He also built the exhaust. We went back and forth mimicking the exhaust from the 500/4.1 insisted on outlets on both sides.
Then Christmas came early. Two large boxes from Woody! Cancel all plans, the next few nights were spent in the garage. I had the frame work done, cleaned up and painted, so I could now continue the build. Oh those parts were pretty! I was grinning like a little kid. I had the rear wheel on and drum connected in 30 minutes, and it was nice to see a little progress as I'd been looking at a frame and motor for a month now. On to the front wheel... much cussin', many Marlboros, more cussin'... deflated. The wheel fitted fine, but the disc wouldn't mount due to the reduced wheel diameter. I painted the hub and fitted it. Time to ponder. What about no brake lever, cleaner bars, and lets do an internal clutch or jockey shift. Two weeks later after much research, there are still no glowing reviews on internal (and expensive) clutches and jockey shifts are a little sketchy too. Hold that thought, more arrivals!
Tank and exhaust arrive, belated Christmas present! Stop everything and back to the garage -
nights, weekends - now I have most parts and can finish fabrication, do some troubleshooting, make some decisions, add some finishing touches and aim to be ready for Spring! Wishful thinking.
The next few weeks were spent mounting, modifying, remounting, sourcing bars, tail-lights, headlight, footpegs, licence plate bracket, etc. In the end, the headlight and footpegs stayed stock. Then the seat, foam sculpting, upholstery... lots of little details and hold ups along the way when I needed a welder, powder coater or some other tool that would make this already overly expensive job even more so. I did everything I could and then turned to a local fabricator, John Jenkins to assist in finishing.
The guy can do anything. It's amazing who you discover when you get into something like this. He was literally five miles from my house. So I packed up the bike and delivered it to him. We had numerous discussions about the best way to do things, paint colours, and ultimately agreed that I should go for a drum on the front and have the wheel rebuilt. I sourced a weathered but inexpensive drum from a 1969 CB on the internet, had Johnny powder it and tried to have the wheel rebuilt by a guy in town. Four weeks later, no progress has been made and Johnny needs the wheel. So fetch it back and over to Woody, for two days, disassembly, rebuild.
The pressure's on, Louisville Vintage Motorworks, Mods and Rockers show is 29 May and Beatersville Show's the day after. The plan was to be at both. The wheel delay has allowed Johnny to complete all his fabrication and paintwork. With the wheel rebuilt I can't collect until 26 May. I booked time off work and asked electrician, fellow bike enthusiast and Lou Vin member, Doug Devine to assist in bringing this thing to life.
It needed to be uncluttered - controls, gauges, starter, etc - I wanted gone. He knew he could wire a smaller battery to power the coils and run the lights from the alternator, albeit they'd fluctuate a bit. Making it happen proved a little challenging however. He poured over the wiring diagram, computer and bike for hours on end. 16 hours on Wednesday, 18 hours on Thursday and 12 more on Friday, but then it was done and running! We sourced a battery with enough juice to power the coils that would squeeze into the toolbox, rework all the fuel lines and solve a last minute oil dump.
Then it was time to bid farewells and stagger upstairs. (Note: Psycho lady friend has now departed. All is right with the world and I sleep peacefully) The bike's a blast to ride, raw, loud, rebellious stature, rumble, all while watching that fat front tyre wobble around and throw out pieces of asphalt. The rest of the day's a blur. Still exhausted from the week, I'm on a diet of Red Bull, Vodka and Bourbon for the next 12 hours and supplying the same to Doug who saved the day. Great day, great people, great bands and the bike wins Best Rocker and Best in Show despite some serious competition including the Vincati and a wicked Bonneville salt flats Vincent, as well as the other Lou Vin members' restorations, cafes etc.
Somehow I manage to ride the bike a few blocks and store it at a friend's house, then a new lady takes me home and puts me to bed. Wish I remembered this part a little better.
Next day I meet Doug and take the bikes to the Beatersville Show, mostly hot rods but with a few bikes. A fantastic show, the cars are amazing and the bikes increasing. The bobber took Best Jap Bike, so it was great! I'd like to thank everyone involved.
Since then, it's been out on bike nights and rides around town. It's great to ride. It's stiff, but other than that, you just kick and twist. We've cleaned some excess paint out of the tanks, reworked the fuel lines and made a couple of tweaks here and there. I'm already looking forward to my next project! Just have to come up with some funds. My calculations were a little off on this one!
Oregon Vintage Motorcyclists: Dedicated to the preservation, maintenance and enjoyment of antique, veteran and special interest two and three-wheeled vehicles. Meetings and events in the Portland, Salem, Eugene and Medford areas, www.oregonvintage.org Panther Owners' Club: Dibbo & Julie, 22 Oak Street, Netherton, West Midlands DY2 9U. Pathfinders MCC MT Shaw, 12 Coniston Rd, Old Woking GU22 9HU. Ponthir British Motorcycle Club: John Willetts, 33 Blaen-y-Pant Avenue, Newport, Gwent, South Wales NP20 5PU. 01633 852775.
Pre-6 5 Mo to Cross Club: Steve Gard, Robins Bank, Sandhills Lane, Virginia Water GU25 4BS. 01344 843186. www.pre65.com Professional & Executive MCC: 27 Mersey Close, Rugeley, Staffs WS15 2HB. 01889 58363.
Rainy City Harley Davidsoii Club: For all enquiries contact Barry Dunnett, Suite 1A, Warrington Business Park, Long Lane, Warrington WA2 8TX. 0161 301 4943. Royal Enfield & Enfield bulia: Mick & Sylvia Seager, 30/32 Causeway, Burgh-le-Marsh, Skegness, Lines PE24 5LT. 01754 810119. www.royalenfield.org.uk email: [email protected] Rotary Owners' Club: David Cameron, Dunbar, Ingatestone Road, Highwood, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 3QU. Rudge Enthusiasts: Richard Baileff, 14 Spynke Road, Norwich, Norfolk NR3 2SE. www.rudge.co.uk
Stdisbury MCC: 26 Queen Alexandra Rd, Salisbury SP2 9LN.
Scottish Classic Motorcycle Club: John
Hyman 01382 643083.
Scottish Classic Racing MCC: Agnes
Cadger 01294 833320.
Scott Owners' Club: Jon Hodges, Beiliglas,
Myddfai, nr Llandovery, Carmarthenshire
Was this article helpful?