‘Cafe Terror’ XJ600 by Custom Operational Group
Written by Martin Hodgson.
When you nickname your custom build “Cafe Terror” you immediately invoke ideas of a bike capable of roaming a post apocalyptic urban environment and intimidating anyone that gets in your way. A statement not only true of this 1986 Yamaha XJ600 but the man who owns it and swung the tools, professional solider by day and bike builder by night, Piotr of Custom Operational Group in Warsaw, Poland. Before he could attempt to create a design all the hideous ’80s fairings had to be removed and destroyed in case any poor soul should stumble across their retina inflaming looks. Now with a clean canvas to start from and a few beers to lubricate his imagination Piotr knew the look he was after “It had to be aggressive, low, straight and it had to arouse respect on the road. A muscle car among motorcycles.”
With some good advice and tips from his friends at the biggest Polish custom bike forum, Bobber.pl, Piotr decided it would need more than the stock plastics of the XJ600 to head for the big wrecking yard in the sky if he was going to pull off the look he envisaged. The standard airbox, half of the wiring loom, instruments, bars, mirrors and even the gas tank were scrapped. Then the process began of mounting up replacement fuel tanks that would give the lines and styling he was after, the solution came in the form of a Kawasaki KZ item. The chin spoiler adds an extra layer of muscularity around the engine and the front fender has been cut back to within an inch of its life. Before the rear end could be tackled the rear subframe, originally designed to support panniers, got the chop and the back of the frame was welded up.
Part of the new rear is a seat with a little something special from the Soviet era from Wierchowina a company that peaked in the ’70s and is largely unheard of outside of Eastern Europe. With one of their gas tanks in hand Piotr cut, welded and shaped the old Soviet steel until he had crafted a cowl that was then welded to the remainder of the seat base. Covering the seat is hand stitched seat from raw tan leather created for the build by a craftsman who still practices the old school ways. Under the seat is where the remaining half of the wiring loom now hides, having gone to extensive lengths to get the metal work the way he wanted it Piotr didn’t want any mess crowding the view. With the bird’s nest of wires sorted out he fabricated a box just big enough to house the loom, fuse box and a brand new gel battery.
With the bulk of the big jobs taken care of Piotr got down to customising the Yamaha in a style that matched his original design. With the big ugly bars gone a set of clip-ons now take care of steering duties and wear a set of seat matching grips. The headlight of the XJ looked even worse without the big fairing so to add some more Soviet era paraphernalia a war-time headlight from a Russian military vehicle was adapted to fit and being barred out in black it adds another bad ass touch to this soldiers steed. Of course a tough look is no good if you can’t ride the thing on the street so small indicators are mounted to the headlight ears and some modern street fighter mirrors sit atop the levers. The finishing touch to the workstation is the single speedo that is held in place by a CNC machined housing that clamps down to a custom top clamp that also has been machined from single billet piece.
The power unit of the XJ600 defies its limited success and popularity upon its launch; as it was the first time a Japanese company had produced an inline four with a capacity of 600cc. So important has that basic foundation become to motorcycling nearly every manufacturer produces such an engine now and there are specific categories designed around that framework in Moto2, WSS and one of the premier classes at the Isle of Man TT, the Super Sport. Clearly not as technologically advanced as those that would follow, the DOHC Four with a high revving square bore still has many of the characteristics that make 600s so popular to this day. To add some extra power the quad Mikuni carbs now breathe through a custom meshed airbox. But it’s the four into four hand crafted, stainless steel exhaust, with twin mufflers exiting each side that really lets the XJ sing its brutal song.
Happy with what he’d created it was time for the bike to be stripped down so everything could be painted, polished and cleaned up for the final assembly. Still not sure on the colour scheme for the bike the first option tried was grey, but it didn’t work on the bike the way Piotr would have liked. So back to his friends at the Bobber forum for some suggestions and the idea of using Yamaha‘s classic racing colours came up. The Yamaha Yellow with black and white speed blocks is one of the most enduring exercises of branding in motorcycle history and it looks simply meant to be on the XJ600. The rest of the build has been largely blacked out for the bumblebee effect, apart from the cleaned and polished engine.
To bring the Yamaha closer to terra firma the front forks have been lowered through the trees, shielded by gators and the rear tyre now just squeaks by the cowl. Those tyres add some considerable urban warrior appeal, Dunlop K360’s with an ultra aggressive tread pattern. To finish off the build the twin 267mm discs have been refurbished and the same white paint from the body now lays down the Yamaha logo on the blacked out two piston calipers.
With his creation finished it was time to hit the streets “The Yamaha is very unique and it draws a lot of attention. It also inspires a lot of interest and respect on the road.” Also doesn’t hurt in the respect department that Piotr is a trained killer, but what he’s shown is that with the skyrocketing prices of ’60s and ’70s classics, many of them you could hardly call fast; there is a lot to be said for cafe-ing a much cheaper performance bike from the ’80s to truly fulfil the racer part of the cafe equation!
[Photos by Curoe Foto]