1974 Honda CB350 – ‘The Red Rocker’
If Santa Claus was to ever ditch the reindeers and sleigh, we could definitely see the old guy riding this stunning little red CB350. Aptly named ‘The Red Rocker’, this bike was built by The Pacific Motorcycle Co. who are based in the city of Nelson on New Zealand’s picturesque South Island. The “Red Rocker” was an idea owner Ron Smith had for some time, as an old battered 1974 Honda CB350 twin had been sitting in the shop for a few months after being given it by one of their customers. As the story goes, one of their customers had broken down on the old black CB about an hour from Nelson. He called Ron and said, “I’ve left it there, she’s given up! If you want to collect her, she’s yours!”
There have obviously been numerous CB350 café racer builds over the years but the guys at Pacific wanted to make sure this one was unique. “Ron didn’t want people sighing at the sight of another one, so this HAD to be different!” says Alan. “It had to be red, so that was to be the main canvas of the project. The other inspiration was the 1950’s Corvette with its distinctive scallops in the wing and doors.” So with a very rough photoshop draught in hand, they got to work.
“First of all, as in most of our builds, it was completely dismantled and any unnecessary parts discarded. The standard CB frame is a bit ugly to say the least with its pressed steel and spot welded gussets, so that was tidied up, including a rolled trim around the inside of the frame, a rear loop with fillets to keep clean lines on the back of the frame to accommodate the seat unit and any unused tabs were ground off.”
“The next thing was the tank, this one was definitely going to be a focal part, as we said earlier the Corvette Stingray from the 50’s was used as some inspiration, so the tank was cut and extended by six inches, scallops were cut out either side and new rolled steel panels welded in to mimic the Stingray style. The original fuel capacity is still as original as the extension part of the tank was reserved to hide the lithium battery.”
“Being a red “canvas” another major component, the engine, would also be a focal point. That had to be red too! In the style of Honda’s famous Red Rocket, where the frame and engine was red, hence where the name was derived from, but christened Red Rocker as a play on words to the café racer scene. Engine internals have been lightly enhanced with a big bore using CB750 pistons, a ground camshaft and a bit of port & polishing.”
“Apart from the draught being….”she has to be red”, the exhaust system was a major area where we wanted to do something different, so the whole exhaust system was fabricated in house so that both headers were equal, then came together via a collector/muffler unit under the seat before exiting out the rear of the bike. It was quite a task to get it lined up and fit exactly, but satisfying when it was achieved, finished in red (of course) with a triple coat internal heat proofing and some much needed polished heat-shields.”
“Another kind of theme that began to take over were the slots, seen in the heat-shields, front air-scoop (which hides some of the electrics), chain-guard and headlight bracket, all manufactured in house.
Going back to the air-scoop, we decided to make this originally to clean up the front of the frame as it’s uneven at the front to mount the engine, so we decided to cover it, but it also makes for a great place to hide things!”
“One task that we employed was to use as little “off the shelf” bolt on bits as possible, so components such as the polished aluminium rear sets, tail-light, bell-mouths, aluminium fork boots, fork tops, exhaust clamps, tailpipe surround and everything else you see is manufactured by The Pacific Motorcycle Co. The only thing we couldn’t handle was the Pacific logo on top of the handlebar clamp which was CNC machined by Topliss Brothers Engineering.”
“To keep some classic Honda (nearly) recognisable parts we decided to stay with the original speedometer and tacho as it kept a more classic feel and fitted perfectly inside the Lossa clubman bars, but we opted to make our own overlays with Pacific logo inside the dials to keep with the whole theme of the bike.
“The seat unit was also made by Pacific, first attempt at fibre glassing, lessons were learned for sure and will much quicker task next time, we made the ‘plug’ and from that a mould was made for the final unit you see here, sounds simple, but wasn’t.”
“It was then time to strip and get everything painted and powder-coated, plated etc. a few parts were zinc plated too. As soon as the frame and tank came back, we knew it was going to look extreme, but that was intention, to grab people’s attention! The motor was slotted in, actually that’s a badly chosen word; it was far from slotted in! It did take a fair bit of levering in! Especially when you are trying to be careful against a newly powder coated frame and engine.
The seat pad was covered with an unusual pattern for the quilt stitching, again, just to be different. Then finally came the choice of handlebar grips and nothing we found would compliment the bike, so we decided to make those too and had the centres cushioned and covered with the same material as the seat.”
“We just about achieved what we set out to do with Red Rocker, which was a team build with Ron, Alan, Lee & JD all having had a significant hand in the build. We really wanted to see just what we could come up with and what we were capable of for our first build. Not all Pacific bikes will be quite like this, some more everyday rider customs are now on the agenda, but this one was to grab attention and to show what we could do.”
Well, it certainly got our attention and given it’s color, we thought it was the perfect bike to post on Christmas Day – although Santa might need to lose a few pounds before he could comfortably ride this one.