Hear Me Raw: Honda CBX1000 Café Racer

Words: Geoff Baldwin Photography: Luke Ray.

Vaughan Ryan is a trained coachbuilder and panel beater who works as a teacher in automotive collision repair. His skills were honed during an apprenticeship at Classic Autocraft in Sydney repairing, restoring and recreating exotic race and road cars. Under the guidance of several Spanish born master craftsmen he developed skills in hand forming and fabricating sheet metal and alloy. These experiences also left him with a strong passion for automotive design which he has used to develop unique custom creations for his clients. His most recently completed project though is a personal project. A café racer styled Honda CBX1000 named ‘RAW’.

The design of the RAW Honda CBX1000 was based on the idea of a modern factory prototype CBX Café Racer. “It’s a bike that I wish Honda would have built as a road going tribute to their multi-cylindered racers of the sixties. I’ve incorporated into the design many different inspirations, including ideas from my working life and the bikes I’ve owned previously.” Additionally Vaughan’s always been influenced by his interest in art deco designs and classic streamline industrial and automotive designs including marquee historical race cars and motorcycles. Websites also became a crucial and regularly referenced resource during the RAW build. Online information and images helped to expand ideas and to get a good grasp of the trends in custom bike building. “At times I went with trends but at others I went in the opposite direction because I wanted it to be unique. The websites I often referred to include (but are not limited to) Return of the Cafe Racers, Le Container, Rocket Garage, Silodrome, Bikeexif and the work of designers Holographic Hammer and Nicolas Petit.”

Vaughan’s had plenty of experience building ‘trailer queens’ in his day job and it’s an exercise he doesn’t undertake with his own projects. “I placed equal importance on the aesthetics and the practicality and usability of this bike. I fitted late model suspension, brakes, wheels and electronics. One of my design goals was to construct a motorcycle with clean uncluttered lines, aggressive looks and a sound to match. Too often bikes I’ve owned or ridden have left me desiring more in one way or another, with RAW this couldn’t be the case. It has modern benchmarked standards of performance with old school visual appeal.” For Vaughan the success of this build relied on his ability to turn the design he had settled on in his mind into a reality without losing sight or altering his original ideas. “I could have taken a much easier and quicker path but I couldn’t live with the end product.

“This isn’t the first bike or CBX I’ve done, the previous CBX was a Mike Hailwood replica constructed for a customer of mine. That CBX is now on permanent display out at Western’s Motorcycles in Penrith. That bike planted the seed for this build 8 years ago, I simply needed the right time in my life and the right donor bike to get started.”

Along with appealing to his own aesthetic taste Vaughan was eager to see how the general public would respond to the design of his RAW CBX. “In Australia I feel that we don’t have the same degree of appreciation for industrial art and design as they do overseas. I wanted the bike to be confronting and provocative to its viewer’s visual and auditory senses. So far the public's response has ranged from staring in silence for 5-10 minutes, madly shooting images with their smart phones or simply proclaiming “What is it ?”.”

The build, which began in 2012, has generated an impressive list of bodywork and engine modifications. Incorporating an eclectic mix of OEM parts, fabricated components and second hand items, Vaughan has blended them together to create his CBX vision. Some of the many jobs completed at his Motor Retro workshop include the frame de-tabbing and gusseting, the widening of the swing arm, structural bracing using oval sections of steel tubing, the custom mounted MCA headlight, modification of a custom made exhaust by Pipemaster (thanks Peter) and of course the impressive all alloy, hand-formed bodywork. Transplanted upgrade parts were acquired from the front end of a Ducati 1098R and the rear of a Ducati 999 and a few bolt on items like Tarrozzi foot rests and Speedymoto handlebars were modified to fit.

My first introduction to the CBX was before Vaughan had applied the paint. While the bare aluminium was breathtaking I was eager to see the next stage in the bike’s development, which would see it go from bare metal to the bold red scheme it now sports. "Painting the bodywork really stressed me. I wanted a 2K clear coat to go on the high gloss, hard surface of the polished/painted alloy bodywork. The CBX was eating up my spare time and I had to take a big step backwards when the clear 2K, that was supposedly “made for the job” peeled off before my eyes as it was being polished! It cost me 2 weeks of work and I had to pull some huge favours (many thanks for your help Francisco Granero).

With two weeks to go before the bike’s official reveal we had to complete the engine assembly and all we had was a white painted frame. We dedicated ourselves to the task and took sickies from our full time jobs (shh!). The bike was test ridden the day before the event. Thankfully it performed like clockwork and was an excellent result after everyone’s hard work."

Now that the RAW CBX is done and is booked to appear at several upcoming bike events, Motor Retro have undertaken the design and development of other customer bikes including a KTM LC4 café racer and a streamlined ‘Aero’ BMW. They have also begun the manufacture of Australian made, cast iron, bench mounted wheeling machines and are producing prototypes of an air cooled BMW cast alloy engine cover and BMW twin plug cylinder heads. Over the next 12 months Motor Retro have plans of opening a state of the art workshop with the latest engineering and manufacturing technology to compliment their old world fabrication skills. “We will be focusing on making our clients dreams of concept bikes and cars into reality.”

As Vaughan puts it the CBX is “A joy to ride, but ear plugs are a necessity!” For updates on Motor Retro’s projects or to be the first to see the upcoming RAW video you can follow Vaughan via Instagram.

This article first appeared in Tank Moto issue 04.

Follow Vaughan @motorretroaustralia.