1974 CB550 - Steve Eppy
Builder: Flying Tiger Motorcycles
This bike didn’t start out like most custom builds. After laying abandoned in a pasture for far too long, the bike was taken home and disassembled, with the idea of tackling a garage build. Steve came to Flying Tiger with a few dismembered and very rough pieces of an early CB550. He was mainly looking for some help refinishing larger component parts, and get some basic build guidance. The only new aftermarket parts Steve had were a headlight and a small LED taillight, which made all involved scratch their heads. We had to wonder how the lights would lead us to any kind of reasonable theme.
We started the project by first building a set of wheels and then moved on to some frame related projects such as powder-coating the swingarm, installing new bushings, and rebuilding the forks. Once those were out of the way, we cut the rear frame section and added in a three piece hoop. At this point none of us really knew what direction to follow in the design, or what the how the final product was to look. The bikes owner had plans to finish it off from there, but job demands hindered that commitment. Eventually we discussed what direction he wanted to go and set forth with a new objective; incorporate those lights into a cohesive build.
I kept seeing an old Ford T-Bucket in this build; all motor and little else. After countless hours of chatter and just plain aimless staring, we agreed on a minimalistic approach. We decided to incorporate a bit of color and felt that matching the copper screen on the Cognito Moto airbox would complement the satin black frame and engine. Once the color combo was set, we turned our focus on what to do with the tank. The stock unit looked abnormally large when fitted on the pared-down chassis. After we tried just about every gas tank in the shop we dropped an old CB200T tank on the narrow backbone of the frame and instantly knew we had the right look. The slim 200 tank needed a lot of work to fit properly, but after cutting the bottom out and refitting it with a new hand-formed piece, the tank sat in the stock mounting points and left just enough room to hide a host of Moto Gadget electronics underneath. The tank and other bits were sent off to Darrin at Liquid Illusions to work his magic on paint.
A set of FOX shocks were added to suspend the back half of the bike which was topped with a custom seat by our buddy Rich Phillips (Rich Philips Leather) wrapped in alcantara with leather accents. Rich extended his involvement with a beautiful, yet functional tank strap and battery cover to keep the small lithium-ion in place. The rest of the Moto Gadget bits filled out the handlebar controls and bar-end turn singles. One off mounts were fabbed to hold the lights and a double disk brake with cross drilled stock rotors were used to bring forward momentum to an abrupt halt. We figured that two feeble Honda disk brakes should equal one good disk brake; turns out that we were right and the little CB will stop on a dime.
With all but the exhaust finished, we muddled through several ideas until time became an issue. Sometimes the best solution is the simplest. We commandeered a set of MAC headers and relieved the muffler portion from the mid-pipe. We fired up the lathe and made a baffle and brass end-cap which was held in with a set screw. The exhaust note is surprisingly modern and not at all offensive nor overly loud. The powerplant, with its modern bits, starts and runs like new. With a third overbore and modern electronic ignition, the 44 year old Honda motor purrs smoothly. The bike is truly a joy to ride with smooth power, easy steering, and sufficient stopping power.
While this build was not methodically planned beforehand, the end result was something more than any of us expected. When all was said and done, I believe we ended up creating something timeless and iconic, an elegant blend of modern gadgetry and classic simplicity.