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As the rear-view mirror gradually distanced the Coronavirus Pandemic, its lingering effects persisted in various ways. Stories emerged of workshops succumbing to the global lockdown's pressures, while others thrived as established and budding custom builders seized the abundant time at hand. The tale of this remarkable Honda CB400 café racer embodies elements of both narratives.
The skilled hands behind this masterpiece belong to Alex Style, the driving force behind the newly-formed workshop known as Casita Customs. Situated in a modest garden shed in Jersey City, New Jersey, Alex collaborates with his brothers-in-law, Victormanuel and Cesar Salazar, under the banner of Casita Customs. Interestingly, Alex, the workshop's linchpin, hails from the UK and had been residing in Shanghai until the pandemic swept the world.
Before the pandemic, Alex played a pivotal role at Shanghai Customs, the innovative workshop responsible for crafting the electric eTRACKER, which later evolved into the remarkable Switch eSCRAMBLER. However, as the pandemic's grip tightened, Alex managed to secure a flight out of Shanghai just before the lockdown. He soon found himself in New Jersey, describing his arrival as "bikeless and bereft."
"In a house packed with eight people and four dogs, we all found ourselves yearning for space," he reveals. "So, for the sake of our collective sanity, the three of us relocated to the garden shed out back."
Casita's inaugural project involved converting a Honda C90 into an electric variant, utilizing spare components from Alex's Shanghai Customs tenure. However, this diminutive C90 wasn't up to the task when Alex began commuting into Manhattan.
"We stumbled upon a battered 1978 Honda CB400T in a barn, a machine that refused to start, was ravaged by rust, and sported a tank riddled with pinholes," he recounts. "Its rear end had been brutally altered. It was in shambles."
Undaunted, Alex, Victormanuel, and Cesar embarked on a comprehensive overhaul, meticulously disassembling and rebuilding the engine and carburetors. Simultaneously, they showered the bike's frame with much-needed TLC. Alex painstakingly restored the frame, removing superfluous tabs and introducing a new rear loop. However, he was committed to preserving the distinctive kinked line of the CB400's frame.
"The bent bar subframe posed significant structural and aesthetic challenges," he explains. "Nevertheless, I was determined to retain this unique element, rather than replacing it with a conventional 'café racer' triangular subframe. This decision meant that the rest of the bike had to harmonize with these distinctive lines. Witnessing the fruits of this labor was immensely gratifying."
"Given the exceptional design and robustness of Honda components, our objective was to preserve as much of the bike's stock features as possible. This encompassed the carbs, controls, fender, rims, and brakes. I was resolute in salvaging the exquisite original tank, despite its sieve-like condition due to numerous pinholes. It demanded countless layers of Redkote, epoxy, and Bondo, but it eventually regained its functionality."
For the finishing touches on the rear section, Alex enlisted the skills of a talented artisan in China, known for their impeccable hand-rolled aluminum work. This collaboration resulted in a sleek rear cowl, complemented by an LED taillight strip. Subsequently, a fiberglass seat pan took shape, layered with multiple densities of foam to provide Alex with a comfortable ride amidst New Jersey's unforgiving potholes.
The seat underwent its final transformation at Great Buffalo, a Union, NJ-based upholsterer, who crafted an elegant diamond-stitched cover. These, along with the aluminum tailpiece, were the sole components outsourced in this endeavor. Every other aspect of this build, from the paintwork to the exhaust, was meticulously executed by Alex, Victormanuel, and Cesar. The makeshift tent outside Casita's shed served as their impromptu paint booth.
"As I embarked on the design journey for this bike, I couldn't help but draw inspiration from Patrick Godet's 1950s Egli Vincents, renowned for their graceful lines and iconic black and gold John Player-esque liveries," Alex reflects. "Inexplicably, I tend to 'Italianify' people's names when assigning nicknames, hence 'Vincenzo' was christened."
To add modern flair, Alex integrated a selection of contemporary elements, including an LED headlight, new gauges, Motogadget grips, and Highsider mirrors. He also rewired the entire bike and incorporated a compact Shorai Lithium-ion battery. Finally, the rusted exhausts yielded to a gleaming new two-into-one system.
#Classic #Custom #CB400 #CafeRacer