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Sometimes when an artists hits that “BLANK” wall in designing something head turning, it can be way simpler to go “Back To Basics” and there it is, a work of pure art and creativity.
And this is the case with a Motorcycle shop in Cedar Rapids , Iowa. Trying to think outside of the box sometimes is a way lot less stressful than you may ponder upon and Chris Kent and his Team of specialists at the shop thought to themselves that as they were not that far away from the National Motorcycle Museum and as they have visited numerous times, they always seem to be drawn to the area of the classic “Board Tracker”. Simple in athstetics but complicated enough to make many builders turn away from that thought and into something a little more conventional.
The More that Chris thought about this build project, the more idea’s kept exploding in his brain and after a lot of looking at machines, the idea of using a smaller Motorcycle as a platform creation made sense, less clutter, less weight, less on the wallet to an extent as Japanese classic machines running or not are now demanding a premium chunk of change. Also the bigger machines would probably look out of place in a Board tracker the lines would maybe look to bulky and muscular in proportion to a smaller refined machines of the 1970’s.
Now, there is no machine you can just purchase and with small alterations, create a Board tracker, well not one that would be pleasing to the eye anyway, so after much thought and of course searching, Chris came up with a plan of using a 1973 CB30F Honda that they had squirreled away in the shed. This was the way to go and, with the help of some of the best skilled professionals in the industry, they went about their way in putting together what I think is one of the most iconic Board trackers of all time with a Metric heart and screams a Nostalgic message of Yesteryear.
Now, the CB350f is a great machine in its own right, but with a 53 inch wheel base and Telescopic front forks, the geometry was all wrong for the look of the build that they needed, but, the 350 Engine is a bulletproof little inline four that boasts a 34 Hp @ 10,000 rpm and the motor in stock configuration actually was an impressive 98 mph which is not bad for a 21.s cu in power plant.
Between them, they removed the 350 Honda from out of the shed and man handled the 373 Pound Classic machine onto the Build table to take a tape measure out and see what they had to work with on this 50 year old Japanese 4 Banger. “Initially I was going to try and modify the original frame but once we had the bike stripped down it was obvious that was not a frame that would stand any chance of meeting the design without serious fabrication and at the point, you just as well start from scratch,”
After a discussion and many phone calls, Chris located a frame designer and builder and approached him about creating a new frame to his requirements, as custom hardtail chassis builders are so busy this time of year and not wanting to have a year long fab on just the frame was not in the cards, but it would still take time as Geometry is everything if you want it right, especially with a beautifully curved single down tube for a tight steering angle.
Now, bringing this frame up to a rolling platform is another thing, Chris and the team thought long and hard on what application to graft to this Board Tracker Custom frame and came to the conclusion that a ’52 big twin springer front end with 19′ Excel wheels laced to the original hubs and Firestone Champion Deluxe tires would be the order of the day and boy did they ring a bell with that set up. But the Firestone tires did not have raised white letters like the trackers of old, so out with the old Rubber tire paint and Chris turned his skills into almost a sign writer and knocked out the lettering in no time at all and these really do stand out amongst the crowd of Blackwall tired machines that you come across. Just that “Attention to detail” That Smith Brothers are known for.
The handlebars were always going to have to be modified versions of another style and they started as 1” beach bars. But it’s the solid milled and knurled brass grips that hide beneath them a super trick element of the build and its tricks like that which really make you stop and look at the amount of time and energy that has been out into this machine that really does make you appreciate what has gone into such a unique build.
Wanting to keep things clean and have no levers at all the first step was to create an internal throttle, with the grips drilled and threaded to suit. Mitchell at Exile cycles had done this to many of his Harley builds and this was a great way of hiding any cables etc, as the tracker bars have a wide curve sweep and really is a good focal point of the motorcycle as there are so many great engineered pieces on this creation, it will take you some time to even notice the work that was done to make this happen. So an internal throttle and clutch set up was fabricated and this functions very smoothly indeed.
From that, the next step was that awkward fabrication of the bodywork that needed to be created, it may be minimalistic but it has to be right on the money to make it look like it should be there. Joe Cooper of Coopersmithing Co. was contacted as he is a wizard at fabricating fenders. With Chris explaining his desire to incorporate a 1.5” wide strip of rosewood down the centre, Joe knew the solution lay in a double rolled bead. But bending the tight fibres of the wood proved more challenging, 5 days in the bath and it still wouldn’t budge. Luckily a regular around the shop is a woodworker who steam moulded it and added the brass rivets before he turned his attention to the stunning battery/electronics box of the same rosewood.
Now it was time for the tank, “I spent no less than 25 hours mocking up different iterations and sketching out designs that ultimately paid off in the end thanks to our local metal magician Mike Frieden,” Chris says. Not wanting to go over the top with the paint, a single colour, antique white, was chosen. With pin striping star Hugh Hoffman taking care of the gorgeous detail work that has a true traditional feel. You just have to look at this machine and it screams Yesteryear, such classic curves that represent the Board track days and I really believe that even the purists would actually stop and take in the amount of work it took to create such a masterpiece.
There is over 25 hours just in the sketching and mock up drawings of the Petrol Holding receptacle, and gave the plans to Mike Frieden a Wizard of a fabricator to actually turn this design into a functioning piece. The Single Color “Antique” White was chosen for simplicity and gives that age of speed era and a great color choice I think.
The Engine in itself ran fine, as many inline four motors do as they are over built from the factory to be honest, but the carbs didn’t have a lot of spice left in them so a set of Keihin CR’s were chosen to replace the tired out stock versions. Also a reliable spark unit was required to feed enough power to ignite the gas from them race carbs, so a Dynatek Electronic unit was chosen and fitted. The stock headers were slash cut into a zoomie style and then wrapped with heat wrapping and this gives the machine an aggressive growl as you wind the throttle.
The wiring was also needed to be replaced and none better than an M unit from Motogadget made sure everything was minimalistically covered and of course reliability is warranted if you want people to see and hear a hand built machine and kudos to the lads from Smith Brothers for turning out a classic looking Board Tracker that’s a great piece of art and a functioning Motorcycle.
Who thought that a little Honda could turn out into such an Iconic Board Track machine and look forward to seeing it with my own eyes soon.