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1975 Honda CB550K – “Le Mans Special”

Posted on May 10, 2011 by Andrew in Café Racer, Racer. 34 comments

Although the carpark was completely empty, Chris still managed to park on the only rock for miles…

Want to freak out a graphic designer? Make him pray to a higher power and start rocking back and forth on his fancy bent-wood chair. Then give him a job where he can only use two colours – safety orange and turquoise, and then watch him squirm. All the rules of colour theory say “no, this absolutely cannot work.” And yet behold the beauty that is the Gulf Oil livery. Is that angels I hear? Beautiful retro motor racing angels playing heavenly engine music through trumpets that look remarkably like velocity stacks? Chris Trotter from Bozeman, Montana heard that music too. And that music said unto him “build the world’s sweetest Honda cafe racer and paint it like the world’s coolest race car, then send it over to those incredibly great guys at Pipeburn so that they may show it to the world.” And beholdeth, he did. And it was good.

Chris thus spaketh. “This bike started life as a stock 1975 Honda CB550K. I never really had a definite plan as to where I wanted to end up with this build, more of a general goal. I will say that the folks over on Do The Ton played a large role in shaping the overall look.”

“I’ve always had a thing for the Gulf racing colors, especially the old GT-40s, so that’s how I narrowed down the paint scheme. The Gulf logo and number “3” were airbrushed on by a friend and fellow DTT member.  Some fairly extensive modification took place, including reworking the frame, building a one-off tank and seat from a mix of Kevlar and fiberglass, and a whole slew of parts replacement/refurbishment. I learned a good many things while building this motorcycle, and while it was a fairly massive commitment of time and effort, I’m pretty pleased with the outcome.  I won’t call it finished yet though, as there’s still a few things on the back burner, namely a 590cc engine build. All in good time though.”

And it’s been a good time since we’ve seen custom tank and seat work that good. It’s damn original too, come to think of it. And that brake light treatment? Über impressive stuff. Check out the full build story on Do The Ton here. Tell the angels I sent you.

  • SportsterMike

    Nice looking bike
    I wasn't sure that the first 2 pics showed the correct shade of Gulf Blue – it must be all that sunshine..
    other pics look fine though
    I fancy a Gulf Scheme Porsche 911 (my Harley wouldn't look good in these colours)
    I'll start saving although at £1.40 a litre now for fuel in England its gonna take a while

  • Beautiful! Love these colours, hence my iteration of a '72 Bonnie in them, the orange frame takes the biscuit though, wish I'd done that! Perhaps another rebuilt! Lovely work.

  • That is one VERY impressive machine. The shapes of the tank and tailsection are truly beautiful to look at…and they compliment each other perfectly. Congratulations on a job well done.

  • Dave in Kalifornia

    VERY nice!

  • VonYinzer

    Greatest bike ever. Chris is a straight pimp. Remember that he HAND MADE that tank and tail section from scratch!!!!!

  • Hurley209

    Hell yeah, awesome bike, awesome skill! Goes to show you a mans hands are still the perfect tool for the job!
    and i agree, chris is PIMP!

  • mothgils

    That bike is truly amazing! Chris, your level of craftsmanship is top notch! That is one bad-ass CB550!

  • revdub

    I am amazed. Beautiful bike!! Even the exhaust is awesome.

  • SrgtBear

    Honda should really start paying attention to all this recent customization around the CB550 and CB750. Chris has turn a 36 year old bike into something I would expect to see at a motorcycle show as a concept bike. Perhaps one day Honda will release these beautiful machines back on the the market with some modern upgrades and cafe lines. Great build.

  • Frank

    I am a graphic designer and can't get enugh of this colourcombinaton. Right now I'm wearing a gulf Polo Shirt

  • Todd

    Way to go, Ringo. Looks and sounds fantastic.

  • paul

    Not normally in to this sort of thing…..but, this is one very nice bike. Congrats to all involved.

  • hangaround

    Although i dont't dig the color scheme, the bike is stunning an a perfect match!

  • Kanticoy

    Superb work Chris. Well done sir, well done.

  • Followed this one from the beginning. An amazing amount of careful consideration and attention to detail went into this project, and it shows. Everything lines up just right. It was a thrill to have the build chronicled over at DO THE TON.

  • FrostyMcBeverage

    Only thing I'd have done differently is a more period-correct number plate/font to emulate more closely the GT40, and do that old matte white ceramic coat on the exhaust like race cars back then used to have. But these are small and trivial in comparison to the combination of beauty and and purpose seen in this build. Great job.

  • Glenn

    Well done Chris, A bike to be extremely proud of!

  • Kev in Iowa

    Top Shelf build Chris! Its perfect

  • the oge

    Aaaaaaaarg! That is NO FAIR. A nicely done cafe racer in Gulf Oil racing livery? My brain hurts with how much I want this bike. Very tasty, indeed.

  • Angus

    Such a nice bike!!! that cant be a legal number plate position though!?

  • Ola

    About the colour scheme; it's not so strange that it works so well as it does, since blue and orange are indeed complementary colours. As long as you have that base covered, it's all about finding a matching saturation and luminosity of the respective hues (the idea is that if you mix two complementary colours, they should produce a neutral gray).

  • Sampson

    Ola, you beat me to it…

    I was about to say, most graphic designers are color nerds, or at least know a bit of theory. Basic theory suggests that blue and orange are natural complements. Colors work perfectly… Like Red and Green, Purple and Yellow

  • JustinLonghorn

    Yes sir, I can dig it.

  • Andrew

    @ola @Sampson – Yes, but that's not blue, is it? That's turquoise. And that's not a primary orange either… The plot thickens!

  • Chris

    Well just so we're all on the same wavelength here, the indoor shots are the true-to-life colors, at least on my monitor. Th outdoor pics are a little off. I suppose I should have made sure both sets had the same color balance!

  • Sampson

    ahhh yes Andrew, my has the plot thickened…you see as you shift around the color wheel away from "true Blue" to turquoise, you also must shift away from "true orange" to more of a red

  • dannyb278

    i had this same idea. You beat me to it. Mine would be a cb750 with 3/4 racing fairing with steve mcqeen gulf color scheme from LeMans. Very nice build. Congrats.

  • My, now mediocre, Gulf bike rebuilt last year pales in comparison to Chris fantastic work – see link. However I love by Bonnie no end! I didn't want to spend a lot on painting yet ($1200 quote!) so Rattle Canned it to see if I can live with it.

  • David

    The seat pad is only on in one picture?

  • Chris

    David, the photos were taken over a week-long period. The pad was only made before the last couple photos. Besides, it's race-inspired–comfort, what comfort? 😉

  • Kelvin

    Chris, great job on the bike.
    Good to see a cafe racer that stays fairly true to the origins, yet has some real contemporary flair added to it. As a designer, I am highly impressed with your skill….ever thought of doing this sort of thing as a job?!
    It was great to read your blog on the entire build, once I started reading, I couldn't stop!
    Well done once again.

  • Johnt

    OK so we're all hung up on if it's the correct color for the Gulf Porsche? Let it gooooo!!!…… I will comment on the fact that it's stylized simplicity and incredibly artistic take on a cafe' is stunning, trick and a masterpiece of eye candy!! The tribute to the Gulf Porsche was apparent before I even looked at the logo. BRAVO for this bike …… I've wanted to do a tribute bike to the Trans Am Sunoco Corvette from 67…. this may have just been the inspiration I needed!! Once again ….. an incredible bike!

  • IED

    Awesome mate, what are the RAL numbers for the paint.

  • Malbnm