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Bandit9’s ’88 Honda Bros 400 – “Hephaestus”

Posted on February 28, 2013 by Andrew in Café Racer. 29 comments

Now it’s time for a bit of education. Fear not, we won’t be attempting any calculus and the chances of us testing you are slim at best. See, in order to fully appreciate the bike you see before you, we’ll have to indulge in a little ancient Greek mythology as this bike has been inspired by a Hellenic demigod by the name of Hephaestus. If you were a metal worker, craftsman, blacksmith or sculptor in ancient times, chances are you would have been spilling a red wine libation to him on a regular basis. And as his symbols were a hammer and an anvil, it makes you wonder if more of us modern types shouldn’t be reconsidering our choice of big man in the sky. And as a matter of fact, there is at least one modern guy who’s done just that. His name is Daryl, and he’s the man who built the coolest Honda Bros this world, or any other, has ever seen.

A perimeter frame. There’s something you don’t see on Pipeburn every day

Here’s Beijing’s local custom bike God and owner of Bandit9, Daryl Villanueva. “Hephaestus is the latest creation by our band of two-wheeled pirates at our Beijing-based garage, Bandit9. We named the bike in honor of the Greek God of blacksmiths, fire, and volcanoes.”

“It’s an evolution of a 1988 Honda Bros 400, but we lost the bike’s original plastic exterior and refitted it with a modern, armor-like exoskeleton forged from steel. There’s nothing soft about the bike, except for maybe the seat, which is made of hand stitched black leather. The tank, gas cap, cowl, side covers and fender were all handcrafted by us from stainless steel.”

Baby’s got back. Lights function both for indicators and brakes

”The tank was designed to have a mid-line bevel that carries through to the cowl and the fender. The side-covers with the dotted grill pattern were crafted from sheet metal. The handlebars were replaced with clip-ons also designed by us. The rear lights function both as turn signals and brakes; when you signal to turn, the corresponding light flashes. However, both rear lights flash red when you hit the brakes.”

“However, there was one defining characteristics of the original Honda Bros that we kept. As it’s such a important part of the bike’s design, the diagonal cross beam made of an aluminum alloy guided the overall metal design theme. Besides that, the exhausts were shortened to expose the original single swing arm; thus making the rear wheel appear to float.”

Got wood? Daryl mounts his mythical metal steed

“This year, as Bandit9 grows, we are looking to move beyond the Chang Jiang. We are planning to increase our output and build more international custom motorcycles throughout the year. And Hephaestus is just our first step. To finish, we’d really like to thank Sofia and Niamh. Hephaestus would not be possible without your dedication and contribution. Cheers!”

  • nhsteve

    Most tasteful machine I have seen on this site in quite some time. Powerful yet restrained demonstration of the builders competance. Very nice!

  • bearshawk

    i would ride that in a second and i wouldn't even want a second bike…

  • Rory

    Ruined a great bike. What a shame.

  • motoTrooper

    Props for making an effort but it doesn't succeed for me. Lines don't flow and the flaccid exhaust can doesn't seem excited by the surrounding work. A great fun bike as I had a Hawk 650 (Bros 650) that I modified into an RC31 back in the early '90s. Crazy light, grunty power, and beautiful design by Honda. Removing the exhaust baffle liberated some great sound and changed the power curve for the better. I miss it.

  • lee wilcox

    I love this thing. If I were to ride it I would need geezer handlebars for my back but that probably makes me a minority of one. I would love to have it in my driveway.

  • Lewn

    Compared to most efforts in China this really is pretty good. However internationally it doesn't stack up to much. The raw look certainly does work, but the rear end is just too bulbous and ugly, the whole bike is far too stock to be much of a custom. Also I know for a fact this bike is not, and can never be street legal under Chinese law, it was unlikely road legal before customization, and would certainly fail its annual inspection in its current customized state. That's the law in China, it sucks, but that's the way it is for now. From small seeds great things grow, so don't give up, one day maybe you'll be the next Sanctuary.

  • Hephaestus was not a demigod. He was one of the 12 olympian gods, son of Zeus and Ira, god of fire and metalwork, married to Aphrodite, goddess of love.
    The Bros was loved in Hephaestus' country, almost bought one years ago, and it is nice to see it transformed into something other than a race replica wannabe. Great craftmanship

  • Wayno

    You did a great job. It looks very customized to me, and much better looking than stock.
    I agree with motoTrooper about the exaust though. If you would flip the exaust can 180 degrees it would take care of that minor detail.

  • revdub

    Such a quality build. The transformation reminds me of what Ellaspede did with that GS500. Modern bike, with a vintage feel. The tank and seat just look right to me. Another stunner, Bandit9!

  • Adam

    A Bros? On Pipeburn? About time! kudos for making a cult classic into a classic custom.

  • Lowflying

    Cool bike. Really like the custom tank, bodywork and exhaust. Not too refined – kinda has the racer look about it. The lack of colour seems to really work here too.

    This is not a criticism, just personal taste but I would like something different as a tank cap – it kinda sticks up too far. Otherwise the lines of that tank are perfect and the whole bike works for me. Bet it sounds cool.

  • BoxerFanatic

    As a former Honda Hawk GT owner myself, I can't say that I like the modifications. Even if they were accomplished with good craftsmanship, the aesthetics aren't sitting well with me. The stock bike has three pieces of bodywork that are great looking almost 25 years later. This bike's tank, tail, and front fender are not.

    There are some interesting custom Hawk GTs and Bros bikes out there… but really, the only thing else I wanted on the bike was a modest half fairing, and a little bit more size, but just because it was just slightly too small for me, as I am 6'2". (Oh, and not to have the financial circumstances that necessitated it's sale about a year ago.)

    But if the builder likes it… it's his bike.

  • bsa

    Have always wanted to see what someone would make of a Bros / Hawk GT / Revere, and what they would do about that fugly frame. Nice idea, blending the rest of the bike into the frame with all the stainless steel 🙂

    It must be really tough to get a smooth finish with bare steel, but I really like the shape of the tail. How about a Suzuki SV style tail light in that nicely angled behind? Also like the 'pinstripe' stitching on the seat.

  • Pilgrem

    I like a lot of it. I agree the silencer is a bit of a strange choice. But I disagree that this bike is not much different from stock.
    New tanks, seat, speedo, rear-end, lights, shortened exhausts and hand-made items. Plus several plastic bits replaced with
    metal….depends on your definition of a custom. This bike is now unique, it's been 'customised'.

  • Arnold

    Road legal in China or not, I find little fault in the construction or finish. The donor bike I do not know at all. It's good to have high standards in your evaluations, but geese 'o man a small shop putting out this level of work, is a pleasant change and rare.

  • Arnold

    Other than the wheels.

  • Nice bike. I admire the metal work. I give props to anyone who works in metal with his/her own two hands. I also like the color choice – the silver makes the bike look like sculpture. Sorry, Tony, looks like you're going to have to start all over again to set a record for the number of comments.

  • hey guys, thanks for all the feedback. for those with criticism, i'll be sure to look out for these things in the next bike. to those with positive things to say, my sincerest thanks for your encouragement. you've inspired us to leave our crappy day jobs and tackle the Bandit9 business head on. we're only a small startup and this is only our 4th bike so more feedback is welcome! we'll be back with ATLAS.

  • jallfree

    I owned a Bros 400 as one of my first bike – loved it! Glad some one has taken the time to customise one… just don't like the result. Don't feel the tank/seat match the the rest of the bike. Good choice of bike though.

  • Hmmm… perhaps all it needs is some pipewrap (only three quarters of the way down the exhaust system, of course) and to ride on those seismometer-graph treaded Firestone tyres. After all, this looks like a new commenting system so someone's got to be a bell-end, today it's me 🙂

    Away from the unfunny non-jokes, it's very good to see Pipeburn broaden its aegis slightly to include bikes like this. Do I like the bike? Well, I like the craftsmanship – fashioning curves and creases like that out of stainless steel shows proper skills – and I think that virtually the entire 'custom' portion is cohesive and appropriate. The character of the Bros frame and V-twin are matched by the smooth, almost satin-finished metal bodywork, everything a slightly different shade of grey metal with nothing *too* polished (fork stanchions and exhaust manifold excepted, but this looks like a bike you could *ride*, not park in your kitchen). Check out the shades of the crankcase, cylinders and heads, the frame, then up to the stainless tank. This isn't featureless by any standard.

    However, after all that work with the stainless steel (that filler cap is awesome – almost as if no welding has been done at all, and the entire tank vacuum-formed like some thermoplastic moulding – and also shows off contrasting metal textures again) – WHY on earth use those dog-awful OEM wheels? As with any enthusiast's choice of internal-combustion powered transport, wheels are one of the most important design and styling details. A bad choice of wheel can ruin the entire 'look' of a car – and until now I thought it was less of an issue for motorcycles. I was wrong, I reckon. The wheels on this bike are fighting the rest of the design – IMO they are a bad shape in the first place and look duff on anything, but even allowing for my odd taste, would anyone else agree that they seem inappropriate for this bike?

    Obviously I'm not calling for wire wheels and Firestones, that was unfunny BS at the start. But a more angular, well-defined alloy wheel would fit with the rest of the design so much better. Maybe it'd lose some of the instantly recognisable Bros 'heritage' – but it'd finish the bike properly. Some dark-grey metallic powder-coated magnesium rims similar in design to those currently used in MotoGP would work a treat.

    Lastly, the stubby exhaust either wants to be a MotoGP stubby silencer or a proper long pipe. Some of that superb metalwork skill could be used to good effect here, no?

    Great to see something like this on Pipeburn though. Water cooled V-twins and ally beam frames… perhaps if I take the plastics off my bike then it'd get featured! Ha ha. I bet this sounds fantastic – and that's my suggestion for Pipeburn – try to get each feature bike to submit a sound clip of the engine running and revving… the photography and great writing skills already bring the bikes to life, but the sound of a motorbike is a great proportion of its character – I'd love to hear what all these customs I've seen on Pipeburn over the years really sound like!

  • Apologies if you have left comments on this post and they have disappeared. We have been having a few issues with our commenting software. It all seems to be sorted now. Cheers.

  • Ken Lindsay

    Very, very nice! Its hard to look original or fresh and this one definitely stands out. Love the warm wood/brick background for contrast.

  • Props for the metal work. I respect any builder who builds his/her own boy work from scratch. The liens of the seat-tail sections look especially nice. Good choice of color, too. A fresh change from plastic covered naked/sports bikes.

  • NZman

    Nope this bike does not do it for me at all.

  • Joel E Cervantes

    Hey guys, great build here. Looks like a solid, trusted daily rider that cant help but turn heads.

  • That tail section is sublime…

  • Handcrafted stainless – I wish I had welding and fabrication skills like that. The smooth blend from the tank into the petrol cap tube is masterful – doesn’t even look like a weld, more like an extrusion or something. Whilst the bike looks too heavy for my tastes (even though it probably isn’t, by modern standards), I love V twins so I’d probably love riding this bike.

    More interestingly, does this signal a slight broadening of bike genres / styles that Pipeburn finds acceptable? Maybe I’ll get my bike on there (actually whilst I’m rewiring the entire bike, without bodywork in my kitchen (the girlfriend must love me… no lawyers have contacted me yet), it’s an interesting sight in its own right…

    If anything, my current work is defining exactly how hard it is to create an ‘art’ bike where essential-but-cluttery components (such as wires) are hidden but still functional, accessible, serviceable and within their engineering spec (i.e. not overheated in a ‘hideaway’ box). Maybe easier with old-school kick-start bikes sans indicators, proper headlights, etc. of course… but for a daily ride that’s a bit special… it’s damn hard.

    Big respect to those who achieve the ‘clean’ look whilst retaining road-legal electrics (esp. in highly-regulated jurisdictions where legal considerations *have* to compromise both design and art). It’s only when you try it yourself that you realise how talented these builders actually are (unless you already are a seasoned pro builder, of course). And my bike, whilst aesthetically very different to the donor, may not even qualify as a ‘custom’ to some of the more opinionated, mouthy commenters here.

    This one certainly does – and whilst the Bros (and UK market variants) seemed only popular amongst London couriers, the small-ish V-twin and Honda reliability ought to have more great bikes fighting to get out from under the unpopular standard bodywork, no? I guess the SV650 took that market away, but grey import Bros V-twins are smaller, and must be lighter, surely? And a damn sight more reliable than the 450 v-twin that I’ve chosen (Aprilia… may end up too unreliable to ride as regularly as I want)…

    • Adam Santella

      I’d have to say after owning a 647 GT Hawk (the bros is called a Hawk over here in the US), that it is almost as light and flingable as my 1970 CB350 was, around 400 lbs I believe? and draws just as many heads stock as the custom 350 did. I think the faster SVs that came out later overshadowed the beauty and remarkable chassis engineering of the hawk. The hawks styling is reminiscent of the curvy American cars of the 90s… the Mustang, Viper, Taurus. Cars I grew up loving. In my opinion, the original bodywork is beautiful. Just enough, not too much. I have to say that as interesting as the stock wheels are, I’d love to see someone do something wild with the wheel setup, as the single sided swingarm creates a showcase for whatever you slap on. For the amount of work spent on the metalwork, it seems like they ran out of steam when they came to the rims.. still an interesting build no doubt

  • barney

    Shame about the radiator.