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Tattoo Project’s 1970 BSA Lightning

Posted on February 4, 2013 by Andrew in Café Racer, Classic. 83 comments

Building a custom bike can be one hell of a challenge. And we’re not just talking about the skinned knuckles and cold nights with nothing but a greasy lump of metal to keep you warm. No, what we’re really getting at is the more intellectual aspects of a customisation. The seemingly simple decisions you have to make about what to do with the bike that will successfully take it from ‘hate’ to ‘great’. Having done this ourselves, we are all too familiar with just how infuriating choosing a seat, picking rubber, or routing an exhaust can be. Thoughts race through your head. “Is this a cliché… is it original… will it look cool?” These things can eat you alive if you let them, but then along comes a bike that slaps you right in your navel-gazing, self-important face. Cue the latest build from Rudy Banny’s Tattoo Project Custom Motorcycles. It takes no la-di-da, avanté garde approaches, yet like a simple slice of apple pie and ice cream, it totally manages to hit the spot.

Here’s Tattoo’s chief, Rudy Banny. “I bought this 1970 BSA Lightning 6 years ago. Apparently the dude at Quality Custom Cycles in Cali brought it back from the dead, and sold to a friend of his that then sold it to me. I kept some of the stuff that QCC did the same, but then I added quite a few of my own touches which I hope make it really sing.”

The stuff that Rudy didn’t bin was a short as it was sweet. “I kept the simple Wassell pipes with the brass tips, the Triumph front end, and the vintage King Bee headlight.”

“Apart from many smaller mods, the main modifications I made to the Beezer include removing the side covers to expose the kick-ass dog collar battery strap, cutting off the frame loop and replacing the stock seat with a NitroHeads unit,” he notes. Let’s hope it was one of ours, then.

“I also added an old-school tail light to the underside of the rear fender, and lengthened the swing arm 3.5 inches. This gave me the more aggressive stance that I was looking for.” It’s the little touches that make all the difference. A simple twist on what you’d expect for a brake light mount seems as revolutionary as it is simple. Impressive stuff.

Who let the dogs out – pooch collar as battery corraller

Lastly, Rudy went new-school to add a little contrast. “The final and most expensive touch was mounting the Ohlins shocks. To me, they really make it.” He concluses by saying, “I love this scrappy bike. It’s as loud and fast and mean as it is beautiful.” We hear you Rudy. Well, we would hear you if you’d just kill that British parallel twin idling next to you.

  • Lewn

    Love the lines, the way the bike sits, silver tank, lamp, Triumph front end, uprated shocks and wire wheels, bike being street legal, and it’s a BSA!

    Not such a fan of messy wires and battery visible under the seat, drum brakes, messy pipe wrap and straight though mufflers, seat and vintage style tires. But the negatives ain’t no biggie, it still looks a sweet ride, good job!

    • professionalxcafexracer

      bahah! thanks for sharing a-hole

      i’d also like to note the varnish on the motor, and i’m not such a fan of the back of the seat being just a little raised from the frame, and i don’t know how you feel about drop down mirrors, but they aren’t safe in my opinion, and i think your kickstand is bent at a funny angle, also, i know those shocks add a ton of performance along with that triumph front end, but it’s just not my style. BUT, alas, the negatives ain’t no biggie, it still looks like a sweet ride, good job!

      ps: i noticed in one of the pictures your right muffler sits about 1/8″ higher than the left, i’m not such a fan of that either.

      • Less attitude would be nice. Thanks.

      • tattoorudy

        Hey professionalxcaferacer, your review makes my ass sorer than tearing down the highway at 80mph, for an hour and a half, on this 650!!! Dang!!! But, in the end, I’m glad you think it’s a sweet ride. Thank you.

        • professionalxcafexracer

          bro, i love your bike. my comment was a satirical reply to the negativity in the comment above it. it’s your bike, if you love it, i love it. and i really do love it

          • professionalxcafexracer

            i also love the exposed wires, and the inline improvised fuse. those are the touches that make your bike yours. haters gonna hate, they can fuck off and die

      • Lewn

        Drugs are bad.

        • Remember, if something looks like crap, don’t say anything, cause you’ll be a hater and that’s bad. I’m sure anything you see that initially looks unfinished, poorly executed, shoddy or all wrong was by intent. Which means in reality it’s sweet and you need to show more love.

    • tattoorudy

      Thanks Lewn.

  • Lars Gustavsson

    Fantastic – this is a true favourite. Realy nice contrasts between all the metal surfaces.

    • tattoorudy

      Wow! Thanks for that, Lars.

  • itsmefool

    Yep, coolness.

    • tattoorudy

      Thanks, man.

  • revdub

    I love it. I’d ride it everywhere. Man, I want to fit one of those NitroHead seats to my RD. This bike is straight classy.

    • tattoorudy

      Revdub, you could,too! This Beeser is a daily rider, starts with one kick, every time. And I love Nitroheads seats. They’re often the first thing I get for my builds, then everything else just seems to fall into place. Thanks.

      • arnold

        One kick, with Amals too! You da man. I’m betting a nickle that you don’t have points in there any more. Now about that swing arm……………………

  • John in Pollock

    wiring looks like ass

    • tattoorudy

      Well, Mr. Pollack, I have always been an ass man!

      • revdub

        This had me laughing. Thanks, Rudy.

      • I’ve seen some asses that look pretty good.

      • Sounds like a compliment to me.

  • TirekickerTX

    I don’t like the wires either, but everything else on the bike seems to fit nicely.

    • tattoorudy

      Thanks TirekickerTX. It’s just a part of this bikes nasty disposition, I guess. Runs like a top, but she’s mean and ornery, for sure.

      • Spyker May

        Absolutely tattoo.., when you’ve got Heather Graham in your bedroom, you do not call into question the ‘appropriates’ of her specific choice of Marie Jo Anais…

  • Marcus

    Lovely bike however like it’s been said the wiring lets it down a little bit. In my opinion if you’re going to expose the battery at least tidy wiring to an aesthetically pleasing manner.

    Love the rawness of the rest of the bike though! Looks like a hell of a lot of fun to ride!

    • tattoorudy

      Thanks Marcus. I hear you on the wiring and I’ve done much tidier jobs, for sure. In, this case, I just liked the raw, “Holy shit, this thing looks like a time-bomb, and it’s gonna blow!!!” vibe.

  • ccc40821

    No anti-Firestone rant here, but while the squarish sidecar tires look the part, they aren’t really all that good for a solo bike. I know because I use them on my own bobber….

  • arnold

    Now yer talking. Triumphs may make men, but BSAs make mechanics. I am glad you have a happy, sorted motor. I’ve got two on the bench now and am not looking forward to them. I would be proud to look after the bike for you if you need more space for some reason.ald

    • tattoorudy

      Thanks Arnold. I’ve been fortunate with this motor. Runs strong, fast and loud!

  • Zipper

    Nice ride, to bad you covered the pipes. Very cool. ..Z

    • tattoorudy

      I like the wrapped look – my legs LOVE it.

  • Fowl

    Not a custom. All strap on parts. No real artistry. Stick to what you’re good at and stay off the trends.

    • arnold

      Really? Do tell. Possibly a chromed head steady would have cinched it for you.

    • John Hossley

      Wow, fowl. It looks like he’s really good at taking a 40 year old bike and making it rumble louder than the San Andreas. WHat do you do, if I may ask?

    • nathas909

      Seriously people have got to re-read their comments before hitting the “POST” button.
      It looks pretty custom to me, it is a 1970 bike that looks like a hoot to ride and it does say in the title “Pipeburn, bringing you the worlds finest cafe racer, custom and classic motorbikes”
      I recon it covers all three bases pretty well….
      I will say it again, if everymorning when he walks out the door to go to work, reaches in his pocket to grab his keys and smiles everytime he walks over to his bike. He has done a good job.

      • tattoorudy

        Amen to that, nathas909! Thanks

    • What is this, Douche week? Play nice or face the consequences.

      • Now&Zen

        #1 Its the man’s opinion and thats what you’ve got the comments open for ! Our honest and unbiased opinions . So deal with it … or close the comments down !

        #2 I’m in total agreement with Fowl

        #3 Refer to #1

        #4 And to the rest that commented negatively on Fowl’s opinion … jess wait till ya all reads my take on this badly executed little joke of a ” Custom ” M/C .

        • tattoorudy

          #1 Regarding #4 – Not very Zen of you, Now&Zen.

          And #2 See to response to Fowl.

        • arnold

          Thanks GS, an entertaining afternoon. A bargain at twice the price!

        • You’re just going to get the boot again.

    • tattoorudy

      Yeah, this was my very first project, ever. And I know I have a looooong way to go. But, nothing on lengthening the swingarm??? I that that kicked ass!

      • Never pander. Just do what you do and don’t worry about the blowhards or buttkissers. You won’t get much from either group.

    • Fowl

      Well you can’t complain about losing a bike becuase the guy couldn’t handle the critique. Sounds like a softy to me. Anytime you open yourself up to criticism esp. on the internet you have to be ready for the abuse. If this was just one big circle jerk, where we all got together to talk about how wonderful a build was, no one would come here anymore.

      I remember when Blitz would regularly get torn a new ass hole every time this site posted one of there TRUELY custom bikes. Its just part of the game. For some reason you guys feel its your duty to pop your titty into the mouths of every amateur builder you bring onto this site. We’re men for christs sake. We’re animals and at the end of the day we still love bikes. Get off your high horses and let go of everyones cocks and lets be real here.

      This bike isn’t the best but its not the worst. I was only saying that its not a custom, its very trendy and lacks a certain craftsmanship found in people who only build bikes because they said it was getting popular on the net. Thats it. No one got hurt, just my opinion.

      • Fowl

        I mean come on. You buy a pre-fab seat off Motolana, buy some tires and shocks, spend some cash to chrome it out, buy some other nice things off the web and then dont even bother hiding some wires, or even re-routing them a bit? It’s just not custom, it’s like a hurried stab in the dark. Pretty bike sure, work was invested, but this site has lost direction and is becoming very cliquish. Same ppl always posting the same comments, its like now become some closed off little elitist club where the admins walk around with sticks trying to force everyone to conform to their idea of a “cool mc blog”

        Theres no passion here. When this sight launched I was on it everyday as I searched for inspiration for my builds but now its a dull. I’m not being a dick, I just want this site to prosper like it once did. People are dropping off like flies and its a bummer. Please try and freshen this up or else this site might not make it another year. I would hate that.

  • John Hossley

    Having sorted a 68 from nuts to sloop once myself, I completely applaud the wiring. Once you get it to work, leave it the hell alone. If the smoke gets out of the wires, you never get it back in. That 68 didn’t belong to me and I always smiled when the owner brought it back around for a tune. The back roads never seemed like much fun until I got on that bike.

    • Man, do I identify with that. I had an old Velocette MAC350 basket case and the toughest part of putting it back together was sorting out the wiring. Just when you think it’s finished the Lucas gremlins start little fires in the most curious of places.

  • The Badger

    Oh yeah Baby, now you’re talking. If it had decent tyres it’d be perfect.

    • tattoorudy

      Ha. I hate to say it but I’ve got a set of Deluxe Champs for it, I just couldn’t pull the trigger, out of fear of the harassment I was gonna get from all you cats. 😉

      • lol. At least you know what to expect.

  • Now&Zen

    OK …. so lets see . Its not April Fools Day yet . Halloween’s months away . Mardi Gras yet to begin ! So why then is this unfinished and poorly assembled travesty masquerading as a custom on Pipeburn’s most esteemed pages ?

    The better question might be . Why are so many here accepting and applauding this hideous example of a total lack of craftsmanship and quality : not to mention zero pride in work ?

    I’m sorry guys … but once you’ve had a look at the details ( not even a close look .. just a look ) this bike is a bit of a joke and in fact I’ve seen 2nd year HS IA students do better quality work and finishing .

    • itsmefool

      Then please submit said high-schooler work to Pipeburn and let’s see how it fares!

    • And that’s Now&Zen on the blacklist.

      Guys, a quick reality check.

      Builders like Rudy work their asses off on these bikes and then graciously allow us to show them to the world. Armchair assholes that have nothing but bile and vitriol towards a bike need to keep their “expert” opinions to themselves. No one cares.

      Just a few days ago we lost an incredibly cool new bike due to the fact that the builder just couldn’t be bothered running the gauntlet and having their art rubbished anonymously.

      And for those that cry “freedom of speech,” would you rock up to a builder standing next to his bike at a show and say that his bike is “a badly executed little joke of an MC”? Didn’t think so…


      • I didn’t think Zen would last long; same cat, same spots. Many times it’s not what you say but how you say it.

        • nathas909

          That I think is the main key here.
          It is not what you say, it is how you say it.

      • I’d walk up and say it to their face. But then, I’m a glutton for punishment. When (if) I finish my (current) bike, I’ll send you a pic. It’s less about wanting the exposure that Pipeburn affords and more about wanting to hear all the rhetoric.

    • As my french riding buddies would say: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. In other words, GS=N&Z.

    • Durka McDurk

      Hey look, a fucking retard.

  • Will

    What are the forks? They look cool as hell!

    • tattoorudy

      1970 Triumph with some sweet tube covers.

    • They hold the front off the ground and facilitate turning. Glad I could help.

  • DP Customs

    Looks like a fun ride tatoorudy! Thanks for sharing man. That last pic with the lightning bolts & fire is the tits. Cheers and best wishes from Justin and Jarrod at DP Customs!

    • tattoorudy

      Hells yeah! Coming from a couple of BADASS’s, like you two, that’s quite the F’ing complement. #dpcustoms kicks ass.

      • DP Customs

        Thanks Rudy! It is ‘you’ that kicks ass and all others like you that turn their bikes into something that makes them happy. By the way, F’ the haters man, if it puts a smile on your face when you ride, that’s all that matters! Cheers from the DP’s.

    • Hot tip – there’s a new DP bike in the Pipeburn holding pen. Stay tuned…


      • revdub

        I can’t wait. I love DP bikes. Something to look forward to.

        • I like them too.

          • Joel E Cervantes

            I too like them.

  • Cool – looks like an old class C flat tracker BSA with the minimum of road equipment and ready to tear up the highway. I’ve always loved the streamlined shape of the BSA tank that carries over to the engine case covers and even the rocker covers. The patina says it all – this is a real rider.

    • This is one of those bikes that the more I look at it the more I want to ride it…and ride it…and ride it. ;^]

      • tattoorudy

        That KICKS ASS!!!! Thanks Manxman.

  • just a thought

    Maybe there wouldn’t be so much negative feed back if the quality of the bikes featured as of late improved. How many times do we have to see a bolt on, or someones first go around. I’m not sure where the QC went , but since the new year minus a few exceptions it’s been some what of a yawn fest.
    This bike is no different. Overall there is nothing wrong with it, but the same goes for cold pizza.
    We want to see better bikes. They seemingly have no issue with content over at the other site, so why are we getting punished here

  • xsbank

    The problem is you have modded a very nice BSA and I’m one of those old farts who liked the original design. In fact, one of my parent’s friends showed up on one at one of their parties when I was a teenager and I went out and bought a brand new 1970 Bonneville because the Lightning knocked me out. I bought the Bonneville because I thought the Lightning was too hot for me! I would like to see the original side cover because I think its a piece of art itself. Lose the tires (you talked about it) and put some TT100s on it. Put a front fender on it – how does it ride with the longer swing arm? I had a stock Lightning much later and the old Girling shocks were pretty good but I’ll bet these modern ones are better? Kudos to have the balls to chop up this classic. By the way, the side stand is correct.

  • Good for you. I like exposed stuff like the wiring. Most bikes I decide to like or not based on my sense of aesthetic. That’s just my take. You’re the one with the bike being posted while mine still sits in pieces.

  • Hodge

    Love it. Would ride the crap out of it then stare at it when I wasn’t. I dig the oil pressure gauge. Sweet.

    Cheers and beers

  • Richard Brandt

    Nice job, Rudy – what material did you use to cover the battery with? Am working on something that will have an exposed cell as well right now and i like that look..

    • tattoorudy

      Thanks Richard. It’s a sticker that I printed at Kinkos, on the outdoor print stock that they sell for signage.

  • OldDaytona200mechanic

    If the bike isn’t using an electronic ignition, the battery should be deleted and a capicator wired setup used instead. Rear frame loop needs to be welded back on in abbreviated form, otherwise handling suffers. Footrests are too far forward for those bars.

  • John Hossley

    You know…having watched the bikes of Pipeburn for a ‘long while’ now, I realized that this bike, an most likely others, really classify as a particular style of art. It’s not that the ‘naysayers’ aren’t naysaying, it’s that the bike caused them to feel something strong enough to comment at all. Thanks again Rudy.

  • cptmatt

    I wish my BSA looked like this. Except that I have a 71, and between the big oil/frame tube running down the center, and the extra-wide rear subframe, its harder to modify without completely hacking it. But its such a beautifully aggressive bike.

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  • bill2009too

    That’s is a very nice looking bike. Congrats.
    Also, thanks for the idea on the battery strap. I might not use a dog collar but I like the basic idea very much.