Cristian from Cocolea Furniture contacted me shortly after the completion of the GS550 Border run. He was after a show piece for his warehouse that complimented his aviator-style furniture. While I was apprehensive about building a Café racer that would never see the road, just starting out I had to see it for what it was. An opportunity to showcase what I could do with a custom motorcycle minus the restrictions of transport compliance at the end.
We talked over what it was he wanted and being a person that knew very little about motorcycles, I was left with some simple and open-ended ideas.
- Contrasts of bare metal, silver, and copper
- No black
- Vintage war plane paneling
- Re-cycled leather from his furniture on the seat
With that I contacted a mate in Newcastle looking for a bike, I wanted something Iconic and really well known as a base. He had a beat up 1980 Yamaha SR250 that would fit just nicely. I had free reign on the custom fabrication and wanted to take a bike that had been modified so many times previously that it forced me to dig deep and come up with new ideas. I drew on some old war-planes, and really really early land speed bikes for a little inspiration.
I’m a horrible sketch artist but I threw some Ideas in the build book and set to work. The points I started with were:
- Low slung inverted rear suspension
- Spade style pointed subframe with matching the tail cowl
- Layed out riding position
I started off with stripping the bike, setting the frame and doing the fabrication on the new subframe and inverted swing arm. The pointed tail was a pain, trying to have it line up perfectly down the centerline of the bike took a bit of doing, next round I’m buying a lazer. After that was stripping the wheels, sending for electroplating then re-lacing and wrapping them in some Shinko Rubber. They have this awesome looking dual stripe whitewall tyre that I loved so I went with the 5.00x 16 which is just about the biggest rear tyre you’ll get in that size swing arm.
As I was completely rebuilding the rear suspension, before I finalized that I dropped the front forks about 70mm and utilized an old fork brace from an RD350 I had lying around. I set the ride height and sent the engine to be hydro-blasted with Gold Coast Hydroblasting, giving me time to shape the custom tail cowl and fiberglass it. Then move onto welding up the new rear set mounts and single piece handlebars. The bars turned out to be the kookiest things I’ve ever built, but I dig them. Using the existing rubber mounts on the original triple clamp, they fix underneath and stretch out in front of the headlight laying you over the tank. I designed and prototyped a set of universal rear-sets for this build that worked out really well, a few tweaks and they’ll be ready for sale in the online store.
At this point the whole bike was stripped and sent for chroming and polish, I was left with the wheels, a tank and the tail cowl. I had a feeling Cristian was wondering what the hell I was doing, as anyone who has built a bike before will know, a bike 80% complete is in 1000 pieces being painted and polished, for someone unaware of what it takes to build a Café Racer from the ground up it can be a tough pill to swallow! He stuck it out however and assembly soon started.
I set to work getting the Aircraft style paneling on the tank and tail, I had been sent materials to use from Cocolea furniture that they use in manufacturing their unique lounges and armchairs. The tank was stripped and file finished on top with aluminum and copper paneling on either side, the custom fibreglassed tail cowl got the same treatment. Probably the most time-consuming process was the rivets and custom paneling, being super light gauge it was near impossible to handle without denting or creating imperfections (you’ll notice in the finish). I decided not to fight it, and tried to utilize the imperfections to create a bit of a worn look and brush finished the panels once fixed. I think it turned out well, allowing contrast between the finely chromed and polished frame and cases.
Once assembled we headed to our local Balter Brewery a place of awesome backdrops and better beers to shoot the finished project. I had Rank Productions turn out the photographs you’ve been looking at, hit Kevin up if you need a bike shot he’s currently travelling East Coast Australia.
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