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1973 Honda CB 250 “Brown Sugar”

Posted on August 14, 2012 by Scott in Café Racer, Classic. 76 comments

When it comes to motorcycles, $300 doesn’t get you much these days – especially down here in Australia. For 300 clams you’re lucky to get a set of new tires. But sometimes you get lucky. When I say “you” I’m referring to Simon Whittaker who managed to buy two old ‘70s Honda CB 250s for the princely sum of $300 for the pair. He is probably going to hell for pretty much stealing them off an old lady, but looking at the finished project I think it might be worth it (not that Pipeburn condones anyone stealing motorbikes off old ladies, old men is fine). Anyway, meet the very sweet little café racer they call Brown Sugar…

The bikes were found with a little old lady in a small Australian town called Nowra. When Simon discovered them they had been sitting in her garden shed for a number of years and one was complete with engine while the other one was in boxes. “I think she had a few tears in her eyes as we left realising I practically stole them off her” says Simon. As soon as Simon got back to his garage he started tinkering with his new purchase. “After a sort through of all the usable bits and rigging up carbs, header pipes, a battery and fuel I had the motor of the frame/engine combo idling away loudly in my garage” says Simon. “I then pulled it all apart and started the transformation.”

“The metallic brown paint was a close match to a Bell helmet I already had but I got the boys down at Edwards Spray South in Tuggeranong to add some gold metalflake I had left over from another project and they did a fantastic job in 2pak”. I spent a lot of time ordering parts of the net such as the GP60 seat from Tumbi glass, rearsets from Motobitz, grips, bars, cables, headlight, rear light etc from Ebay. A set of new Hogan “silencers” from a Harley were grabbed off a table at the local swap meet for $80.00 and easily modified to fit the little Honda which now sounds like slightly muffled open headers.

“Craig Crawford out at C&D Metal in Queanbeyan let me use his workshop once again to modify the rear frame with a hoop I bent myself and make mounts for the seat and rear tail light bracket and “Frog”, welded it up” . I also trimmed the front guard and cut down an old rear one for under the seat and dropped the battery box down for clearance”. Once all the fabrication was sorted Simon took the frame, rims and hubs over to “Chop” Harris and Luke at Mobile Fabrications also in QBN for powder coating. I didn’t want another black frame so I went with a dark gunmetal colour and agonised over the wheel colour. I already had the seat stitched up by Johnno’s seats in cream and brown stitching so I was originally thinking cream rims & hubs, but there was gold flake in the paint so I thought would metallic gold work too?”, As you can see Simon went with the gold…..

“Then I sent the finished wheels to Darryl at Moose racing who laced them up with thicker heavy duty stainless spokes and put a set of Hagon short shocks into the order too”. A set of old style Dunlops finished off the wheels…..“I got in contact with Steve at JNT performance in Albion Park after seeing some of his aluminium spun work on a Deus build off bike and I sent him a speedo so he could spin up a cover for that and the tach from alloy. Which he did perfectly”. Everything was back together after a few months and many hours of detailing the engine and lots of polishing and waiting for the post to arrive, Craig Helmers at Choice signs (who fortunately managed to find a vinyl that was a dead match to the wheels) designed the decals that are on all of Simons bikes.

Electroplating technology took care of the nickle and copper plating that adorns various parts over the bike, and a workmate of Simons, Alex Gibbs “who happens to own a lathe” made the brass retainers for the nickle plated front external springs. “It turned out well I think, goes good for a little 250, easy to ride and reasonably comfortable too.” And you should hear it just around midnight…

[Check out Simon’s previous street tracker here]


  • Adam

    Judging by his previous build he has a certain colour theme going on.
    And boy it’s lovely.

    Well done. I’d love to ride this.

  • davmo

    Super sweet. Great stance, balance, color selection. Even the pipewrap works. There is only one thing I would suggest: lose the headlight wing. Other than that, I love it.

  • Helene

    nice bike, but how long will it take until the copper gets oxidized and looks grey-greenish?

  • Wiggysan®

    I never thought an old CB 2.5 could ever look so good. Really nice work.

  • I’m no schoolboy but I know what I like,
    You should have heard me just around midnight…

  • tab

    That fork looks so cool! Want!

  • revdub

    Nice work. I like all of the polished bits. And the wheels look really great. A classy little 250 for sure.

  • Ugh

    Oh god, speed holes.

  • Here’s my custom bike. It was built by Electroplating technology, Moose racing, JNT performance, C&D Metal…

    • davmo

      Yeah, didn’t want to point that out, but it sounds like a group effort.

      • lol. Hey, if you can afford it and it’s what you want, knock yourself out. For me, I feel like I have to do it ALL if I’m going to do it AT ALL.

        • Oldnbroken

          Michelangelo had brush hands to paint the Sistine Chapel and it is still his product.


          • A motorcycle and the Sistine are hardly comparable, wouldn’t you say? And if you want to use that comparison, artists from history would use assistants and apprentices due to the volume of work, not because they lacked the skill or resources to finish it on their own.

          • Oldnbroken

            I would compare the two and did, both are works of labour and design. While building my bike I bought a few parts rather than have someone custom make them. I could have made or had someone make my turn signals, I chose to buy what a Japanese factory had already made. Like Michelangelo I choose not to use my time to do every thing myself to end up with what is a custom product. Time is also a resource. I would guess that Michelangelo lacked that resource so he used brush hands.


          • Sooo…our argument seems to be one of agreement?

          • Oldnbroken

            Quote Tony “A motorcycle and the Sistine are hardly comparable”, I disagree, as I stated both are works of labour and design.

            Quote Tony ” not because they lacked the skill or resources to finish it on their own.”, I disagree again as I believe Michelangelo lacked the “resource” of time and outsourced the brush work.

          • Quote Tony. “In 100 years, the Sistine Chapel will still be a world famous work of a master and this bike…well, let’s just say will not.”

          • Oldnbroken

            I agree, that is a point of difference between the two.


          • arnold

            I like dogs playing cards on velvet.

          • Why am I not surprised?

          • arnold

            77 years old. Elvis on velvet. I have to go into the vault to pull that one out.

          • arnold

            old Elvis.

          • arnold

            One for the money………………
            Two for the show……………..
            Three to get ready, man……………
            Go cat go……………………


          • arnold

            You can say anything………………………
            Just don’t step on my blue suede shoes………………………………………..

          • arnold

            Shoes, shoes, shoes…………………………shoes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • Oldnbroken

            Ha…I like the pool game, I reckon a few of them in the Sistine Chapel would just brighten the place up.


          • arnold

            I was just wondering which of you gentlemen was going to kick up his feet and drink a Zima , watching the sun set at 2:00 in the afternoon on your Colorado deck, quietly saluting all your neighbors.ald

          • arnold

            GS is awol for duty.

          • Oh, the “Sistine” Chapel”…I thought you guys were talking about the Cistern Chapel a couple of miles outside of Midland, Texas which, as far as I remember, might be compared to a Yugo

          • Well, it’s kind of funny since they are two totally different things other than having an artistic approach and time restraints. As an Art History instructor for the last almost 10 years, I could go into a long lecture about how different the two are, but I think the Pipeburn server might crash. Not to mention I just don’t want to.

          • Oldnbroken

            As a practicing artist for 20 years I could go into a long lecture about how they are comparable.


          • Now I’m confused. Are you talking about comparing the Cistern Chapel to a Yugo or the Cistine Chapel to Brown Sugar or the Cistine Chapel to the Cistern Chapel or Brown Sugar to a Yugo? And are Michelangelo’s brush hands like Edward’s sissor hands? Between a practising artist and an art historian somebody please clue me in cause I’m freaking out.

          • We’re discussing how a dude named Mike built a bike in a sewer in Italy out of old Yugo parts while snacking on brown sugar. Sheesh man, try and keep up.

          • Sorry, I forgot to mention I’ve been a practicing artist for over 20 years, the teaching history part was kind of a new thing after I decided to get my grad degree. Do we really need to continue this pissing contest?

          • Oldnbroken

            No need for “sorry” Tony. Seems we have a bit in common even if we have differing opinions. Is the bike you are building a piece of art, will you be exhibiting it as sculpture?


          • Form follows function in the case of my build…if I can ever get the bleeping thing finished. As an aside, what type of art do you do?

          • Oldnbroken



          • Cool. Medium?

          • Oldnbroken

            Mostly wood but I use a fair bit of mother of pearl and I like a bit of metal.


          • Any links where I could check it out? (Last one, Andrew, then it’s all bikes again 🙂

          • Oldnbroken

            I don’t have any stuff on the web Tony except one of my acoustic guitars and that is on the site of the guy who bought it. I sent a link to your Facebook.


        • Obviously you haven’t built many bikes. If you only build one, it’s awesome to say, “I did it all myself”. When there is only so much time or experience, help gets you through and after a while you can pick and choose what you like to do best. Maybe that’s doing it all yourself or maybe not.

          • No, I am actually working on my first bike as we speak…er, type. My comment was “said” tongue-in-cheek. Anyone who knows my posts here understand that I appreciate builds of many different types. It’s no disrespect to the builder as I have learned the (very) hard way that although a bike may look “simple,” it ain’t so simple sitting in a million pieces around your shop. But, that’s the way I like it. I expect one to respect my approach just as I am OK with the approach of others.

          • davmo

            Since all of us are building upon someone else’s work (unless you are are fabricating your own engines and parts,) there is a certain amount of collective engineering necessary. Even more so, if you decide to make it a business like Richard has. There is a point at which Paul Sr. with a coffee cup, barking orders is going to have a hard time saying HE “built” it. Tony is a fine dude, and is known around here for his playful nature, and I am sure meant no disrespect. The debate on “what makes one a bike-builder” is worthwhile, though difficult to ever definitively decide. Simon is a fine bike builder, have enjoyed looking at the “cherry bomb” and “brown sugar.” The nudge we all get from the comments section to do more, learn more, add and hone skills is why I am here. I will bet Simon will be doing even more of his fabrication as time goes by.

          • YEAH, WHAT HE SAID! lol. davmo is my hero…

          • davmo

            Hey Tony, ever since you built that rocket suit in a cave in 30 days, you were mine.

          • One would think that should count for something.

          • Seriously, though, if you happen to see this post, Andrew, could you throw up a link to ‘Cherry Bomb?’ I’m not sure that I’ve seen it and would like to take (another) look.

            Edit: Never mind. I found the link. It was hidden right there at the end of the article. lol

            Edit: I remember now. I had something to say about the missing headlight and brakes. Richard or Simon (?) let me know that the brakes were in a box in the garage. I laughed.

          • I like the bike and Simon did good. I was responding to the “Farmed-out” build angle. I’ve built over 125 bikes and I always need help in several areas as I don’t have an aerospace facility with tons of expensive equipment. I do as much as I can, as I expect everyone who builds a bike does. That’s the reward in the end. Saying, “I built that!”
            Paul Sr.? WTF? I think it’s probably more work screwing with everybody else all day than it would be for him to just shut up and build bikes. He’s beat when he turns off the lights at night and heads out to the minature golf course!
            Tony…..finish your frickin’ bike!

          • lol. Hey, I never mentioned Paul Sr., that was that other guy! And I will, I will. Just as soon as my garage isn’t 150+ degrees! (I know, excuses, excuses…)

            So why don’t we all just sing the famous Beatles tune. All together now, “I get by with a little help from my friends…”

            OK, enough of that, back to bike building (in whatever form it may take.)

    • simon

      appreciate everyones entitled to their own opinion, but I dont have
      my own lathe, welding equipment, paint set up or powder
      coating/chrome facility…….I gave a shout out to those who
      helped….They didnt build the bike, I did. Sure it cost a bit but I
      wanted a good job…. If you read the story I used my friends
      workshop to make the parts and some help welding….maybe
      next time I need a custom aluminium speedo & tach cover spun from
      an 8” disc Ill call you then?….

      • lol. Don’t get your panties in a bunch. Some shops have the resources and do it all, some guys hire it out for the very reasons you gave, while others (like me) perfer doing it all themselves. Whatever the case, my comment was an observation and I actually appreciate you giving credit where credit is due (some guys won’t do that.) It was said “tongue-in-cheek” so relax and keep cranking ’em out.

        Edit: You COULD call me for the aluminum speedo/tach cover, but I don’t think you could afford me.

  • arnold

    If I was forty years younger, I would be infatuated. But I’m not and I’m not. Well done effort, but doesn’t rev me up. Maybe it is just a copper hangover.

  • Beautiful. Well done except for the pipewrap. Chrome header pipes would be awesome on this unit!!

  • Oldnbroken

    I prefer this to the other “Brown sugar”, a lot sweeter and more reliable.


  • 400f

    Not bad. I like the copper…goes well with the color. I think the copper will actually look kinda cool when it oxidizes.

    But why, oh why must people drill holes into everything?!

    And whats the filter that’s sticking out of the ass end of the bike?

    • I was wondering the same thing about that back-end filter. Seems like it would catch a lot of road debris.

    • davmo

      Breather for the crankcase, common on dirt bikes. As far as holes drilled, it is as old as hotrodding is, and not going to go away. The obvious decrease in weight, and some people dig how it looks.

      • Ah. Still looks like it would get dirty.

      • Still a unusual place for that filter….destroys the clean look of ‘the ass end of the bike’.

  • Стефан ‘Dobermann’ Петров

    I think, the handlebar is little bit too high and so the headlight, it just doesn’t flow with the lines of the bike.

    • Those look to be clubman (style) bars, so they are naturally going to be higher than clip-ons. On the bike I’m working on now (well, rolling chassis with a bunch of parts that USED to be a bike,) I’m using similar bars. I like how they look with the forks slid 2-3 inches up through the bars.

    • He could have lived without the bar risers. Kinda defeats the purpose of having clubman bars. The holes in the chain guard are to compensate for the weight of leaving the center stand on.

      • Agreed. Although the risers do line the bars up nicely with the gauges, they seem like an odd choice IMHO.

  • Austin

    I love those light brown grips! Look so great with the right color tank.

    • I’d like to see a seat that matched.

      • Singletracker

        yeah agree would look cool in the same brown as the bar grips

  • Nice build with some cool details. Is that a mechanical fuel gauge built into the fuel cap? I’ve never seen one on a CB twin – cool.

    • Yeah, that was made by….(just kidding, Simon.)

      • Where’s GS when you really need him?

        • He is conspicuously absent…

          • His Yugo broke down some where between Colorado Springs and Midland on his way to the Cistern Chapel.

          • o_0

          • He commented on the BMW article up next. Maybe Brown Sugar just didn’t send him over one edge or the other.

  • Singletracker

    I like it Simon, great detail and looks fun to ride. Hope to see it cruising at a Sydney meet one day.

  • nobby