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Retro Moto’s ‘81 Honda CM400

Posted on March 10, 2013 by Andrew in Café Racer. 34 comments

When you get down to brass tacks, being a bike customiser really is all about the metal. Whether you’re welding it, grinding it, or shaving it off on a lathe, it’s the way you use it that makes or breaks a great design. Some like it seamlessly smooth and reflective like a B-29 bomber. Some like it matt black like a charcoal cat hunting in the night, and some prefer it rough and corroded so it looks like it’s 1000 years old. But which ever way you cut it, the more you love it and understand it, the better your handwork is going to look. Retro Moto’s Junior Burrell is a guy that clearly loves the stuff, which was immediately obvious when we first saw this, his latest build. The wealth of intricate details, handmade parts, and array of different patinas says it in spades. If you love metal, we’re guessing you’ll love this bike.

Here’s Junior. “I am a fabricator from Fort Worth, Texas. I run a part time motorcycle fabrication shop called Retro Moto. It’s a single man shop and I specialize in hand forming steel tanks.”

I am inspired by an old man craftsman that didn’t have technology at their disposal. I chose to build motorcycles because the options and possibilities for creativity are endless. I build to be able to transform raw steel into art.”

The bike is a 1981 CM400; I purchased it the day after my previous build was stolen. It was just frame, wheels, and a locked up engine. I was able to find an ’82 450 with a six speed, so it was purchased also. Since I was building it for myself, I wanted to make as many of the parts as possible.”

These bikes are not popular because of the shape of the sub frame, so I chopped it off and built a more aggressive one. The hand formed steel tank is inspired by old Italian race bikes.”

“I built the tail to follow the lines and the seat is wood base with leather pads. I freshed up the engine and had the head ported and polished. The clip-ons are tach and headlight brackets are all connected and are one piece.”


“The rear sets are composed of the original engine’s
oil pump and a pocket bike transmission”


“A couple of buddies of mine talked me into building the pie cut under tail exhaust, and I’m glad they did. The rear sets are composed of the original engine’s oil pump and a pocket bike transmission. The bike is a blast to ride and do so every chance I get.”

(Photos by the obviously very talented Dat Mai)

  • arnold

    Quite a shop and output. Thanks for sharing it with us, Junior.

  • Lewn

    Sweet rough and ready functional bike, but the slammed front end and low clip-ons are playing nasty with the brake line routing. Love the rear sets and the tank.

    • OldGuyOldBikes

      Sorry Jr…but gotta agree about the brake line length. Kind of a pimple on her pretty face.

  • junior is a talented dude! great to see him featured here.

  • The gear-shifter rearset with sprocket/chain connector is too cool. CMs are hard to make look good but this one turned out great. Props for making own tank!

  • Ivanao

    Great looking retro machine, if we consider that CM is not the best looking bike as a base, he had a tough job to make it look like this. I like the tank and the exhaust solution which I saw once before and was a great idea.

  • 66replica

    Here’s a cool video about Junior:

  • Troy Helmick

    I actually had the pleasure to see this bike in person and was in love at first sight. There are many cool touches you easily miss the first time around. Its one of those bikes you keep coming back to. To top it off, not many people pounding out their own tanks and one off pieces so that puts it in a class all its own. Major props to Junior. I also personally know the builder and have nothing but respect for the man.

    • Nick Brakhage

      Likewise, I met him and the bike yesterday and was blown away! Really nice guy and obviously very talented. It’s amazing how much thought and attention to detail has gone into this bike. I literally would not be surprised to find even more details if I spent hours going over it with a magnifying glass! This is the very definition of “one in a million.”

  • OldGuyOldBikes

    450 engine right?… I see an oem oil cooler not put on the 400’s?

  • Cool ride. I think bike thieves should be handled in the same manner as horse thieves of the old west…

    • taka-tz

      Plus thieves who use a weapon.

      • arnold

        Plus thieves that pretend to represent us at the Federal level.

        • A thief’s a thief. His other bike wasn’t stolen, it was “redistributed.”

  • George S.

    This is super great! Anyone know what the metalworking technique on the tranny is called?

  • That would be "matte" black.

    But that's an awesome bike. Any chance Burrell will beating it to the Dallas Rockers vs Mods shindig next month?

  • sinbad

    the gear linkages!!!


  • Junior Burrell

    Thanks everyone,yes it is a 450cc. I jknow that line looked out of place,but I didn’t have time to get the shortened line for the shoot.

  • revdub

    Beautiful work and photography.

  • Great bike and great guy, sad to not be in Texas any more with a great group of bike builders and friends. Everyone should be on the lookout for plenty more great builds from Junior!

  • He didn’t shave the forks or tame that brake line. HE’S NOT A REAL BIKE BUILDER!!!! lol

    • arnold

      Sarcasm is not Tony’s strong suit.

      • Sarcasm, and commenting on custom bike blogs…

        • My comments are valid. Just ask me, I’ll tell ya.

      • That’s because my comments are so poignant sarcasm just doesn’t fit me.

  • Junior Burrell

    RETROMOTO on instagram or rmspeedparts.tumblr in response to not being a real buider

  • Chris

    Awesome bike awesome craftsman, have to hear this thing though. Louder than my 1098 was or my open piped harley.

  • Kevin

    mint job dude …but why are you standing there like you want to kill someone?

  • Neal English

    Everything about this bike just screams “grit.” I am hard pressed to find anything else to say other than I absolutely love this machine. Everything from the colors used to the combination of raw and elegant make me melt with lust for this machine. I hope that someday I will develop any kind of skill close to this builder.

  • Brock

    I have an 81 cm400 it was my first bike an my engine locked up what are my options for an easier motor swap?

  • mr. Burrel handcraft . very nice

  • Ebola

    very nice build 🙂

    I have some CB400 parts in the garage, they share a lot with the CM400 … and I find the Frame butt ugly … any place to find details about the frame mods? 🙂

    From France.

  • tommysalomie

    do you still have the 16 inch rim on the rear?

  • Richard D’Amato

    Oozeing kool