Wales. A rather quite place, all things considered. Unless coal mining or male choirs are high on your list of wow, it probably doesn’t cross paths with you all that often. But magically zap yourself back in time a few thousand years and Wales would be offering up a whole different set of attractions. And the foremost one amongst a list also featuring dragons, giant Celtic armies and beautiful maidens would be one Mister Myrddin Emrys, a.k.a. Merlin the Magician. So, inspired by Wales’ greatest ever son, our favourite Brit builders have taken inspiration from their wand waving western neighbours and conjured up this little wonder from their alchemic cauldron. Hey presto, meet Old Empire’s magical ‘Merlin’.
Written by Ian Lee.
Art: the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
An apt description for today’s feature bike, except that the latest release from Kott Motorcycles isn’t just built for show. A 1971 Honda CB750 built literally from the frame up, this automotive art piece has been engineered to look good and go hard, with engine power to match an aesthetic that belongs in an art gallery. The almost ubiquitous CB750 making for an excellent platform to build a café racer on, the Kott workshop has taken the build quality to a new high and produced an amazingly clean motorcycle. In Dustin Kott’s own words: “the opportunity arose for the shop to implement some performance and aesthetic enhancements that had not been utilised prior.” Came up pretty good for a first time try, don’t you think?
Ironically, Wenley Andrews from Sydney based Mean Machines is one the nicest blokes you could come across. But give him a wrench and a Triumph and he turns meaner than a junkyard dog on a particularly bad day. This Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde split personality is probably why he keeps building these bikes; they just seem to have the right dosage of toughness, style and simplicity. The latest bike to roll out of the Mean Machines ward is this beastly 2013 Triumph Thruxton – not bad for someone with an identity disorder.
Written by Martin Hodgson
The Norton Commando with its Isle of Man heritage and five times Motor Cycle News “Machine of the Year” award is special enough, but this particular 1971 Fastback Special has a tale that starts with the man who rescued Norton from its British grave. Across the Atlantic Kenny Dreer was the man behind Portland based Vintage Rebuilds who salvaged the Norton name in the 1990’s and commenced work on reviving the brand to its former glory under the Norton America banner.
George Kraus from GEK Restorations tells how his dream of building the ultimate Commando that is now pictured before you first came to mind. “It was an all-night drive back from the San Jose BSA Clubman Show, about 1993 or ’94 with Kenny Dreer. The sleep deprived drive developed a drug-like effect on us two vintage crazed individuals and in our hyperactive minds, we designed the perfect “Manx Commando”. To get his hands on a Commando, George designed Kenny’s original Vintage Rebuilds and Restorations brochure in exchange for a core bike and all the parts and services at cost price.
Written by Ian Lee.
Motorcyclists sure are a social bunch. Which is weird seeing as the act of riding is a solitary pursuit in itself. However, many a strong friendship has been forged over a rusted bolt or faulty starter motor. And some can lead to greater things. It is thanks to this social aspect that we have today’s feature bike, Vast Moto’s 1975 Kawasaki KZ400. Created in a small Portland workshop, the bike is built on the concept of motorcycles built for the people, by the people. Being the first build completed by a bunch of roustabouts who banded together for a common cause, this little Kwaka is proof of what can happen when you fall in with the right crowd.
The nickname ‘flying Scotsman’ comes to mind when describing Lindsay Young and his previous builds. Over the years, this Scottish Mechanical Engineer has built some super fast sports bikes. This time, he decided to build something a little more “sedate”. Not to say that this Bonneville Streedrod isn’t packed full of performance features – just not in the same league of break neck speed. So when Lindsay’s good friend was selling his stock 2003 Bonnie with only 3000 miles on the clock, Lindsay decided to try his hand at building his first classic styled ground up custom. “I did initially think of some sort of café racer but there are so many of them around and it’s all been done before many times over.” says Lindsay. “I wanted to do something a bit different and unique so my thoughts turned towards a retro style minimalist streetrod/streetfighter.” And so, the Streetrod was born – well, he still needed to do the work.
Written by Martin Hodgson
The phrase second time lucky tends to suggest that the first time around didn’t go as planned. For Sander Ziugov of Volure Cycles and his Yamaha XS400 all was looking perfect when he converted his stock red Yamaha into a stunning grey on black café racer. So good in fact it was featured on Pipeburn, until a misadventure saw the bike tumbling down the road.
Words by Martin Hodgson.
Martin is the newest member to the Pipeburn team. When Martin isn’t writing for numerous motorcycle and automotive magazines, he can be found either running his auto parts import business or in his workshop building café racers from bikes that usually have one wheel well and truly in the grave.
It was the era of the wild 2-strokes, from the mid-Sixties to the mid-Seventies; if speed was your thing then you couldn’t beat a screaming oil burner. But Suzuki took a slightly different approach, they combined what they’d learnt at the race track and produced a bike that was bullet fast but also reliable, the perfect street 2-stroke motorcycle, the classic Suzuki T500 Titan. Ralph Spencer had himself a gorgeous original example and motorcycle nirvana was his until…
This pretty little thing is named ‘Lucy’ and she is the 15th café racer built by Hot Sake Cycles in Orlando, Florida. We were surprised we hadn’t heard of them before, but that’s probably because ‘they’ are actually a single guy named Shannon Hulcher who builds these professional-looking bikes in his spare time. By day he works as a biology teacher who dissects frogs to show kids how the body works. By night, he dissects motorcycles to show the rest of us how to build a café racer.
“I don’t have a professional shop” says Shannon. “Lucy is a culmination of skills I’ve been developing over the years”. I wanted to build an ultra light weight bike that would be fun to ride. The whole goal was to make it as light as possible” he says. He started the build with no deadline, but then Cafemoto Orlando asked him if he could finish it for the AIM Expo. With the show only one month away, Shannon got to work.
The most recent of Gasoline’s two-wheel custom work, taking the title “Tomahawk”, manages to transform one of the world’s most popular motorcycles into a custom dream machine worthy of any garage. The Yamaha SR400 has been toyed and tampered many times before. It’s an old favorite to work with, being one of Japan’s biggest selling motorcycles for over three decades. So you’d think that the platform might just have been exhausted. If so, it looks like no-one has told these Aussies; they have pushed the boundaries to create a classic thumper with a streamlined, modern edge. At first sight the transformation looks deceptively simple, but peer deeper and you can see the beautiful details that has been included by the team in their East Sydney workshop, Gasoline Custom Motorcycles, run by Jason Gasoline.