January 4, 2011

The Beginning (as I recall it)

I came to the concept of the cafe racer less by a driven passion for the style than by a process of elimination.  I didn't like cruisers, I do like tourers (but only for functionality), I didn't like choppers (yet, but that's been an interesting road...), and I certainly don't like sport bikes in their current form.  Unless you want to split hairs and start talking about rats and brats, those are pretty much the styles we have to choose from today, at least for a young man starting out with his bike building career.

The first bike I saw which brought to light how pretty fast can look was the Moto Guzzi Otto Cilindri (sans the dustbin fairing). See Fig. 1 below.

Fig. 1: Front and rear drums, springer front end. Yet history goes on to show us that neat-o vintage styling and a top speed of 290 kph is a concoction of suicide only softened by the adreniline it brings from the glands of it's victims.

I'll be honest, I just liked the gas tank, and the aggressive 500cc V8 nestled beneith it.  Further research into the bike only deepened my love for it.  At 180 mph is was one of the fastest bikes of 1955.  I could go on and on about this bike, but why bother.  180 mph, V8.  What more is there to know?

I'm pretty visual, and things usually start off as a picture for me.  Either in my head, or in front of it.  That being said, I decided to make my own picture of what I would like to build.  Once completed (in my head) it looked exactly like Fig. 1 (See Fig. 1 above).  But you won't believe how hard it is to get ahold of a 500cc Italian made V8 these days.  And if you want that with a titled frame, forget about it.  That's probobly because they only made, like, six of these bikes, and most of them are owned by museums.  There are a smattering of working replicas, but these are all possessed by single, european men in their sixties.
My attentions turned to the Honda CB550 sitting in the backyard of my then girlfriend's (now wife's) house.  She had acquired it on a whim from her neighbor by simply asking for it, then gotten just about every male in her family to wheel it over to her house (on a skateboard, as the brakes were locked with corrosion).  There it sat for about three earth-sun cycles, weathering the typically brutal Chicago winters.  Finally, her father announced that it was going to be scrapped unless someone manned up enough to take it.

I am that man.

Sights being set on the CB550 engine and frame, I made the following composite:

Fig. 2: Note the obvious presence of the Otto Cilindri tank and seat on Demoto's early design for the CB550, and that darling front fender.

I currently had some bids in on a small aircraft oil cooler, and I intended to encase said device in the pictured belly pan for some added awesomeness (see Fig. 2 above).  I lost that bid to a terrible individual known only to me as "dxxxr".  I have not seen an aircraft oil cooler designed to go on anything smaller than a Supermarine Spitfire since.  No worries though, the design changed, and changed...and changed.  But as the old cliche goes; "It was a start".

No comments: