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TURN AND BURN. The ‘Maverick’ ’81 Yamaha XV750 From Charlie James Customs


Posted on August 21, 2017 by Andrew in Café Racer. 19 comments

For a film about jet aircraft, 1986’s Top Gun sure got a lot of new riders onto bikes. Cruise’s Kawasaki Ninja 900 seemed to be the perfect match for his ‘Maverick’ character: fast, slick and more than a little bit rebellious. So when Ohio’s Jason Reihing from Charlie James Customs wanted to build a Yamaha XV750 with these very same attributes, it became clear that his own two-wheeled need for speed could only be called one thing.

After a couple years of pining over custom Viragos online, Jason knew he had to build one. “I found this bike in the summer of 2015, along with a bunch of spares, up in Detroit. The owner was very eccentric to say the least, but I left with the Virago as well as slue of other parts. Then the real work began in May of this year”.

First and foremost, my desire is always to make old bikes better than they once were. Apart from this, I would be lying if I didn’t say much of my inspiration came from ogling over Viragos that I really admire from the likes of Hageman, Plan B, Moto Adonis and Classified Moto. Without seeing theirs, I probably wouldn’t have built this one”.

“I knew there was certain things I had to have on the bike, like the GSX-R1000 forks, the aftermarket rotors, a bunch of the Motogadget goodies including the m-unit, m-button, keyless m-lock and motoscope mini recessed with LED pilot lights into a Cognito Moto upper yoke. There’s also the Harley Daymaker-style headlight and the Mikuni VM34 carburetors. But more importantly, I envisioned the black tank with gold flake and the aluminum side covers. I always knew those parts would be there”.

“During builds like this, I love seeing those marks on the case where someone’s foot has rubbed every time they shifted, or a chipped cooling fin from some random event many years ago. These old bikes earned their scars and stories. Unlike my previous bike, this build went pretty smoothly. With exception of the learning curve on spraying the flake and some tedious carburetor tuning, it was a fairly fluid build. I’m guessing I’ll probably be punished on the next one for saying that, though”.

“The hardest part of the build was the challenge to be different from the sea of other Viragos out there and to walk that fine line between tribute or stepping on someone’s toes. That’s why this bike sat in the corner of the shop waiting its turn; I literally thought of selling it a couple times, because I didn’t want it to be like every other one built”.

So to overcome this, he nutted out a few opportunities. “Side covers that help accent the head. The choice in headlight. The type of rotors I chose. The hand-cut inserts for the rear wheel. And there’s plenty of other little details that people’s eyes will pick up on”.

“My single favorite component is probably the tank emblems. They are made from stock steel, cut with a water jet, tacked onto a base plate and then cleared coated. I named the shop after my son, Charlie James. I wanted to show him what can be done with some sweat, tools and a little creativity. The tack welds are his, actually. While they might not be the prettiest of efforts, I couldn’t be more proud”.

[ Charlie James Customs – Instagram | Photos by Tim Whitaker ]








  • Dave Coetzee

    Love it! Those lines .. the gold bits compliment the green so well … the oh so tasteful extras.Took me a while to see how neatly the 2 pipes become 1.
    Would love to hear this big boy bark!

  • Andy Rappold

    Mmmh..slapping motogadget parts on it and cutting the rear doesn’t do it for me…and gold flake? Come on, thats so 90ths.

    • Charlie James Customs

      darn 90’s I missed the mark was suppose to be a throwback to the flaked era of the 70’s chopper…and ya got me on the Motogadget stuff just slapped it on called it a day lol, never mind the hand cut rear wheel inserts completely new hand soldered wire harness, the relocation of electronics not having a r/r hanging off the side like most the Virago builds or taking time to trim the rearset brackets of there access material, gutting and reworking the rear mono shock with new spring retainers/spacers to make way for the Katana spring to help the rear handle like the modern front, or the effort to try and be different by adding tins to the sub frame rails front motor mounts and inside rear set brackets. There’s lots of little things done to try and make it different but the Virago has been around for awhile hard to not make them all not seem familiar. I like it with modern electronics lithium battery better handling and braking better carburetors made to ride not sit in a garage.

      • rein skugler

        Well Andy, you asked for it ….!!

        • Andy Rappold

          I didnt say it was build in a week but innovative is something different considered the bikes out there.

      • the watcher

        Fair point, well made.

    • AB

      I want to see more flake. On the right bike I love metal flake.

    • guvnor67

      Ha ha, I must be getting old, as only a couple of weeks ago I re-did my old Shadow with ghost black flames n a plethora of gold n green flake!!!

  • Al

    I hope your son got inspired, Jason.

    • Charlie James Customs

      Yes Sir, he is a through and through gear head when he was real little he would run to the window when a bike would go by and come tell me what it was or if it sounded air cooled or like a twin lol, now he’s 9 he power washes motors pulls off engine side covers, runs the drill press every now and then etc.. he is real eager to learn. He’s been saving money a pretty good amount actually and keeps asking if we can go to junkyard to buy his first car to restore, I tell him he still has some years he just says well you can drive me around in it til then dad. lol

      • guvnor67

        Car?? Nah, get the lad onto a bad-ass trike project!!!

  • guvnor67

    Love it, absolutely brilliant!

  • The workmanship and detail is really good. Nice job! And it’s nice to see the seat a bit longer than most of the Virago builds on the net. Doesn’t have that chopped off “I don’t give a shit what the back half looks like” effect. A little more mass to the rear make a HUGE difference in the proportions of the bike. That said, it’s sure looks an awful lot like the hundred or so of these that we’ve seen on the net over the last few years. With the apparent skills available, time to bust out of the box..

    • Charlie James Customs

      Thanks, I guess my only defense is I liked these about 5 years ago or so when they started popping up maybe like 2011? seen one of Hagemans first and wanted to do one but then felt like they got played out fast so waited and waited and then finally said ah who cares, there really is I won’t say a plethora of small things different but enough to make it my style. You want to check something different head to my facebook Charlie James Customs and look under photos for a album labeled “Marty McFly” a little Suzuki GN I put more hours into that little bike then this and really nothing like it that I’ve ever seen. There is a pretty good description listed in the album header covering what was done

      https://www.facebook.com/pg/CharlieJamesCustoms/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1052177498208237

      • Jonesy

        25 or so years ago , a buddy got a Virago 750 in lieu of rent from a roomie. He could actually/ sort of keep up with a slew of Sport 600s that were all the rage. It was a little down on power but the thing handled! That when we took a look at it—-slender drive shaft—-monoshock etc. The Virago was way ahead of its time.
        This bike does what the builder intended— makes the Virago prettier and better. While not RADICaLLy different than the other builds— it just seems to do it BETTER/ prettier. Nothing wrong with metal flake!

  • Charlie James Customs

    Andrew and the rest of the guys at Pipeburn thanks again so much for sharing another one of my builds. I appreciate everyone’s feedback I get from multiple outlets that this helps get it out there to. All feedback is good in my opinion I always have my own thoughts or opinions of the daily articles I read hear on Pipeburn things I like or things I would have done differently, that’s the cool thing unless your building a bike for a customer with strict guidelines its your own template do as you wish, I never get tired of seeing even one specific thing like creating your rear set linkage/levers or mounting your headlight how its always the same goal we all have to get it mounted but how each persons approach or method can vary so much. That’s my passion to keep these old bikes rolling into the present seeing what I can come up with. Have some cool stuff coming up and really looking forward to keeping it going as long as I can. For those that may have missed it check out my past Pipeburn article the writings of Marlon really captured the struggles with completing that bike…http://www.pipeburn.com/home/2015/09/28/honda-cb750-charlie-james-customs.html

  • Fantome_NR

    I like it. I didn’t read the whole writeup, but just looking at the photos it feels like a very personal build.

  • Mayakovski

    Hmm, nice, but nothing special, no real creativity here, just a lot of copying, though looks like good execution. I always find it funny when “builders” say they want to “build” there own bikes, then just copy others work.

  • Michael Moncayo

    Nice job!
    I have 2- 81′ 920″s, got them for a good deal didn’t realize the starter issue I got myself into…what’s your starter solution please?