There can be little doubt that this is Australia’s most famous Honda CBX, it was built by Vaughan Ryan of Motorretro in Sydney and it’s been widely published in print, online, in film, and seen at shows over the past 7+ years.

With its hefty inline-six cylinder engine installed transversely across the bike the Honda CBX is one of the most memorable motorcycles of the 1970s.

When Vaughan bought one in the United States and had it shipped to Australia it was the beginning of a process that would see the bike completely rebuilt into a highly-capable modern cafe racer.

Fast Facts – The Motorretro Honda CBX

  • The Honda CBX was introduced in 1978 and it became one of the most memorable bikes from the era, the result of a technological arms race between Japan’s four largest motorcycle manufacturers.
  • The CBX is powered by an advanced (for the time) inline-six cylinder engine with double overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, six carburetors, a 5-speed transmission and 105 hp at 9,000 rpm.
  • The CBX you see here has been vastly customized, it now features a Ducati 1098R front end, hand-formed alloy body work, adjustable Öhlins shoe absorbers in the rear, a Ducati 999 rear wheel, and a slew of other changes that resulted in it losing over 100 lbs of excess weight.
  • The bike is now for sale for the first time ever, you can click here if you’d like to visit the listing.

Vaughan Ryan + The CBX Cafe Racer

The following interview with Vaughan Ryan was conducted by Andrew Jones, it’s the latest in a series of articles in which we turn over the keyboard to the person who actually did the work and let them tell the story in their own words.

Honda CBX Cafe Racer 17 Vaughan Ryan

Image DescriptionVaughan is the co-founder (alongside Georgio Rimi) of Motorretro in Sydney, a workshop that has become the home of classic automotive coachbuilding in the region.

Tell Us About Yourself And The Team?

G’day my name is Vaughan Ryan and I’m 1 of 2 owners of Motorretro in Sydney. Primarily there was 3 of us involved in the build: Georgio Rimi (my business partner and co-fabricator, machinist, and chief shit-stirrer), and the talented Mr Julian Lopez mechanic and electrical whiz. 

Tell Us About Your Company?

Motorretro was founded around the same time we built this bike. Our business is multifaceted eg. we specialize in repairs, restorations, and restomods of collectible classic cars. We manufacture our own cast iron wheeling machines and other industry related tools, including reverse engineering or prototyping of parts no longer available.

Both Georgio and I have teaching qualifications and vocational skills training as teachers. We love seeing students achieve their goals of building or restoring, we never struggle to turn up for work because everyday is different and challenging on many levels.

Honda CBX Cafe Racer 7

Image DescriptionThe fuel tank, rear cowl, and headlight cowl were all shaped from alloy by hand for this bike by Vaughan.

What Year/Make/Model Is This Motorcycle?

The bike was originally a 1978 Honda CBX 1000, a big heavy 70’s muscle bike in need of a diet and restyling.

How Did You Find It And What Kind Of Condition Was It In?

I found the bike via Ebay in the US, I had it packaged and sent to Sydney, complete with the US model high rise cruiser handlebars. It had 9,000 original miles on the bike.

Mechanically it was excellent but the paintwork was faded. I put rego on the bike and rode it around for 6 months. It really rode like a 40 year old in every aspect and I’ve owned modern bikes, but their styling leaves me uninspired.

What Was Your Objective When Building This Bike?

Approximately 6-7 years ago I embarked on this build, however the seed was planted many years prior when I built another CBX (A Mike Hailwood Honda 6 replica) for a client. Half way throught building the Hailwood replica I fell in love with the idea of it as a stripped down cafe racer. A raw unapologetic beast with no plastic and hand made bodywork.

Honda CBX Cafe Racer 12

Image DescriptionThe inline-six cylinder engine developed for the Honda CBX drew on the lessons learned when the company developed the Honda RC series six-cylinder race bikes in the 1960s.

What Fabrication Work Went Into This Build?

  • We fitted a Ducati 1098R frontend & modified the steering shaft, custom made the top triple clamp
  • Detabbed everything unnecessary from the frame
  • Widened and braced the rear swingarm fitting 5.5 inch wide Ducati 999 rear wheel
  • Designed and handmade the fuel tank, seat base/pan, rear café racer tail, rear hugger, headlight mounting brackets & instrument cowl, foot rests, modified the pipemaster exhaust system
  • All new motogadget wiring loom & instruments etc
  • Fitted velocity stacks
  • Ohlins rear shocks
  • Dropped nearly 50 kg from the bike

Did You Use Any Outside Contractors During The Build?

I did most of the prep work for the paint and polishing. Garry Hall assisted me with the expertise application of the paint.

Roger Warsop from Retroline signs did an amazing job with the hand pinstriping and the gold leaf striping. Hytone trimmers did the seat for me.

Honda CBX Cafe Racer 15

What Was The Biggest Challenge You Encountered During The Build?

All the technicalities of fitting the Ducati parts to a Honda so I suppose it’s a Duconda or a CBX 1098R. Problem solving and the creativity of how to go about it is the greatest problem with any build.

What Engine Work Was Done?

The block was machined to the next size because the bores were glazed. Along with a total engine rebuild with new parts, rebuilt clutch. Electronic ignition & new charging system compatible with a lithium battery. Shortened exhaust system that was cut and tiered for aesthetics.

The Motorretro Honda CBX Cafe Racer Is Now For Sale

The Motorretro Honda CBX Cafe Racer is now listed on Shannons where it’s due to be auctioned live online this week. Id you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can click here to visit the listing.

If you’d like to visit Motorretro and see more of the work they do you can click here to visit the website.

Photography and Interview by Andrew Jones – Machines That Dream

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Published by Andrew Jones -