Motorcycle Classics Blogs >

From the Owner
The ups and downs of owning a classic motorcycle

John Froude’s 1982 AMA Replica

John Froude’s 1982 AMA replica, built as an homage to the 1982 Freddie Spencer Daytona bike. Street legal, it currently runs a tuned CB1100R engine. Photo courtesy John Froude

AMA fan

I am sitting here in our London, England, motorcycle dealership reading the November/December 2016 issue of Motorcycle Classics. I have become a convert to the rag. The format was unusual at first but easy to like. I guess being in that “certain age” bracket is a guaranteed shoo-in to the content that always has something for everyone. But this issue personally delivers in bucket loads! There are (over on this side of the pond) still a huge number of good people who look upon the early 1980s AMA Superbikes with fondness and awe in equal measure. They were cartoon Superbikes on steroids with a superhero in the saddle. More of this please!

Condensing the AMA fans down a wee bit, there are some of us here who keep these legends alive by building homages to these hot rods. We have Klinzman Racecrafters Kawis, Moriwaki KZs, Lawson and Rainey reps, too.

I personally have a deep love of the 1982 Honda CB750Fs as raced by Pietri, Wise, Baldwin and Freddie Spencer. Shown is my personal AMA replica. Freddie actually rode the bike at Donington Park in 2012 and gave me some very gracious feedback and some nice words about the ride. — John Froude/via email

Bob Vail’s “Similaria” Motorcycles

Bob Vail

Builder extraordinaire Bob Vail and his “Similaria” BMW (left) and Harley. Photo courtesy Bob Vail

Rider: Bob Vail, Cleveland, Ohio
Construction management consultant
Current rides:
Too numerous to list!

The story of Bob’s “Similaria” motorcycles: “I like to make things and inspire others to make things. In particular, I like to make motorcycles that are at the intersection of form and function. Old motorcycles have an elegant look of gracefulness and simplicity, where nothing is hidden. The eye picks up the distinctive colors of brass, copper, aluminum and nickel. My goal is to make similar motorcycles with that old look, but capable of running continuously at 70mph, with good brakes, good lighting, enough electrics to use heated clothing and good for the next 20,000 miles.

“The Harley-Davidson is made to look like the 1914 era. The main features of Harleys I wanted to include were the flat-sided gas tank, handshift, thin, large diameter wheels/tires, an antique headlight, a springer front end, long wrap-around handlebars and the Prestolite acetylene gas bottle on the handlebars (to power the headlight), and belt drive.

“This motorcycle was to be ridden, so features I wanted to include that were NOT on these older models were good brakes, a bright headlight, a large bright taillight, and a good amount of electrical power. I started with a 1997 Harley Sportster 883 and transferred the engine to an Arlen Ness hardtail frame. The gas tanks (left and right sides, separated by the frame) and oil tank were my first attempts at building tanks. The headlight is an original B&L brass light, but it’s gutted, with an H4 halogen reflector and bulb installed. On the handlebars I fabricated a steel bottle made to look like the Prestolite, but it has a cut-out for my speedometer and tach. Effort exerted: 195 drawings, 273 fabricated pieces, 1-1/2-year build time, completed in 2011 and ridden over 10,000 miles, including attending the Motorcycle Classics ‘Ride ’Em Don’t Hide ’Em’ rally in Pennsylvania in 2016.

“The BMW is a similar story, but I wanted it to look similar to a 1928 R52. The main features of the real R52 I wanted to include were a frame that goes over the top of the gas tank, a distinctive wedge-shaped gas tank, a loop frame behind the engine to the rear wheels, a leaf spring front end, a cylinder-shaped headlight, handshift and footboards.   

“I bought a functioning 1974 BMW R75/6 and proceeded to cut the frame up, adding twin top frame tubes, and relocating the steering head. This time the gas tank was made of aluminum, hand beaten around a plywood form. The unique shape of the headlight was achieved thanks to two KitchenAid 8-inch sauce pans. The front brake is the perimeter type, custom made by HDW. I do have rear shocks on this bike, but I located them inside the rear frame’s loop to make them more obscure. 

“Effort exerted: 277 drawings, 257 fabricated pieces, 2-1/2-year build time, completed in 2015 and ridden over 3,000 miles.

“For both bikes, I started with the wiring harnesses and made the needed modifications. To keep track of the changes, I made a digital copy of the original 8-1/2-inch x 11-inch black and white wiring diagram from the manual, then digitally added the color to each wire. I saved this original file, then added the changes I made to these bikes, and printed it 24 inches x 36 inches. This is quite time consuming, but well worth it for building and future reference. A big thank you goes to my wife, Lynn, for her support of the time I spend building in the basement and out riding. Riding these motorcycles is great fun, and the handshifting adds a mellowness and rhythm to the journey — and takes me back to a time long ago.”

900 Dual-Sport Miles on a 1972 Honda XL250

Ted Guthrie

Ted Guthrie (left) and his 1972 Honda XL250 Motosport. Photo courtesy Ted Guthrie

Your last column really hit home. Vintage bikes do indeed provide at least the potential for some diversity in the motorcycling experience. A couple of friends and I take a weeklong dual sport ride in a different part of the country each year. This year the ride was scheduled for the week following our Ohio Valley BSA Owners Club Spring Rally.  Unfortunately for me, a mechanical issue sidelined my modern dual-sport bike during the course of the rally’s Reliability Run Dual-Sport Ride, just hours before we were scheduled to head out on our trip.

The only other bike I have which was prepped, licensed, insured and ready to ride was my 1972 Honda XL250 Motosport. Stone-stock original save for aftermarket shocks, I strapped luggage onto the back of the seat and hit the road.

Nine hundred miles later, following a week which featured plenty of gravel roads, some weather challenges, and a lot of great riding, the old Honda came through with flying colors. Started within the first one to three kicks every single time, and never once even hiccupped. Kept the chain lubed, and didn’t even have to adjust it. The only mechanical attention required the entire week was the need to once snug up the headlight adjustment screw. So while this particular experience did not include need for any roadside repairs, the fun, enjoyment and pleasure of riding a vintage bike is undeniable. Additionally, I received many, many favorable comments on the bike everywhere we went. This ride certainly reaffirmed for me that old bikes are perfectly viable for touring and adventure. – Ted Guthrie/Toronto, Ohio

Robert Drews' 1977 Honda GL1000 Gold Wing

Robert Drews

Dad and I at the Vintage Motorcycle Show in Golden, Colorado, in  2015. Photo courtesy Robert Drews

Rider: Robert Drews, Englewood, Colorado
Marketing manager
1977 Honda GL1000 Gold Wing, 2004 Kawasaki ZRX1200

Robert’s story: “I wanted to say thanks for the feature on the Honda GL1000 prototype in the July/August issue. It was nice to see such an iconic bike get coverage in the pages of your magazine. I am the proud owner of a 1977 GL1000 and love the machines greatly. 

“My bike’s story is pretty noteworthy — in my book at least. The bike was purchased new in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1977 by my father. It didn’t leave the dealership until it was fitted with the Vetter fairings and bags (still aftermarket add-ons in those days). My father used the bike as a daily rider while he and my mother raised a family of three kids in the early 1980s in Colorado. With only one car at their disposal, my father rode the bike year round. In 1989 he bought a pickup and the bike got ridden less and less. At one point around 1990 it was as good as sold to a buddy of his, but second thoughts kept the bike in the family. During the early 2000s the fairings were removed and it was returned to its original showroom state. I was fortunate to buy the bike from him for $1 in 2009 with a shade over 50,000 miles on the odometer. I had been talking about buying my first bike at the time and I think my dad would have rather I spent my money on a wedding ring for my wife than a motorcycle, which I in turn did. 

Robert Drews 

Dad with the bike in 2014. Photo courtesy Robert Drews

“In 2012 I rode it up to Yellowstone from Denver where I encountered some issues with the electronic ignition, which resulted in it intermittently dropping a cylinder. Looking for some advice I called my father, and though not expecting to get bailed out, he was in the truck with a trailer in tow almost before I could hang up the phone. I felt bad about him driving through the night to pick me and the bike up. I felt like it was my duty as a motorcyclist to find a solution on my own.

“I asked why he’d done it after almost begging him not to come, and he told me about a time he’d broke down on his 1971 Kawasaki 175 several states away from home and wishing he could just call someone to come get him. Being that he was in a position to do that now, that’s what he did without even thinking twice. 

“Today I work on maintaining the bike that my dad so meticulously cared for. The bike is all original save for the blinkers and parts lost during the original kitting. The bike gets taken out for day rides in the mountains of the Front Range and to bike nights and vintage shows around town, where it always gathers a crowd. It’s a pleasure to show others Honda’s original vision of the Gold Wing as it’s much different than what the name conjures up today. The false tank is always a surprise to those less familiar with the model. GL1000s are as much a pleasure to own as they are to ride. 

Robert Drews 

My dad and I on the GL1000 circa 1983, fully dressed with a Windjammer and a CB radio. Photo courtesy Robert Drews

“I just wanted to share my story as the bike means so much to me and my father. Its continued care and enjoyment is a thrill for us both. We are currently hoping to find a 1971 Kawasaki F7 175 to work on restoring together.”

— Thanks for sharing your story, Robert!

Peter Brunner’s 1953 BMW R25/3

Rider: Peter Brunner, Ashland, Oregon
Pushing 74, riding since 1964
1953 BMW R25/3, 1971 BMW R75/5, 2005 BMW R1200GS

BMW R25/3 

Peter Brunner's BMW heaven: An R25/3, R75/5 and an R1200GS. Photo by Peter Brunner

Peter’s story: “In 2013 I was looking for a winter project and found this 1953 R25/3, which had been stored in a garage since 1993. The bike was originally brought to the U.S. by a G.I. in 1976, then sold to the previous owner in 1992, who started a serious restoration soon after. I have a stack of parts receipts from the early 1990s, including receipts for an engine and transmission rebuild by my local BMW dealer. I started on my ‘winter project’ in the fall of 2013, but soon became sidetracked selling my house, then buying a house built in 1904 that needed a substantial remodel. As part of that project I built my 900-square-foot dream garage with a rental apartment above. When I was done with that I went back to the BMW in 2015 and finished it in 2016. Along the way there were the usual dead ends and hiccups, including discovering that the transmission would only engage one gear. Hansen’s BMW in Medford, Oregon, had done the rebuild in 1994, and they fixed the transmission for free when I brought it to them — how’s that for a 20 year warranty!

BMW R25/3

Peter's 1953 BMW R25/3 before restoration. Photo by Peter Brunner

BMW R25/3

Peter's 1953 BMW R25/3 after restoration. Too cool. Photo by Peter Brunner

“The new high-gloss black paint and hand striping looks great, particularly on the ‘elephant ear’ front fender. Mechanically it is stock, except for a PowerDynamo 12-volt conversion, and it puts out 13 horsepower. The bike starts on the first kick (when done right) and plonks along comfortably at 55-60mph in top. A friend challenged me to a race on his riding mower, and I easily beat him. BMW claimed a top speed of 74mph with the rider crouched, but I don’t think I’ll try that. This model was the everyman’s daily transportation in the Fifties, and with over 47,000 units produced it is BMW’s highest-selling model ever. Many were used with a Steib LS200 sidecar, which is the next item I’m looking for. It’ll make grocery shopping easier.” MC

Malcom Gruver's 1970 BSA Thunderbolt

Rider: Malcom Gruver, Wichita, Kansas
Age: 75. Malcom’s been riding since he was 14
Occupation: Retired
Rides: 1970 BSA Thunderbolt

BSA Thunderbolt 

Another BSA saved: Malcom Gruver's 1970 Thunderbolt as found. Photo by Malcom Gruver

Malcom’s story: “Four years ago, after unloading at a power plant in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I pulled out of the loading dock, looked across the street, and saw a half-covered bike under a tarp by a garage. It was a 1970 BSA Thunderbolt. I contacted the owner, made a deal on price, loaded the bike that was missing the tank, seat, bars, one wheel, and three milk cases of parts into the trailer and headed back to Wichita, Kansas. Over the next three years I located parts, had the frame powder coated and started the restoration process. The engine and transmission rebuild and restoration were done by Barnyard Restoration in Baldwin City, Kansas, the chrome and paint by ACC Co. in Haysville, Kansas, the pinstripe work was done by Signworks in Park City, Kansas, the polishing by Choc Taw in Clearwater, Kansas, and I got all my parts from Klempf’s British Parts. I saved approximately 14 pounds using a 2-into-1 exhaust and a dry-cell battery. This has been a joy for me, as I have been riding since I was 14 years old, almost 61 years ago.”

BSA Thunderbolt 

Another BSA saved: Malcom Gruver's 1970 Thunderbolt today. Wow. Photo by Malcom Gruver.

Mike Common's Custom Honda CBX

Mike Common and his custom Honda CBX

Mike Common’s custom Honda CBX. Photos courtesy Mike Common.

My long-serving Yamaha SR500 tossed me into a ditch a few years back. Part of my laundry list of injuries was a severe concussion. The neurologist I was seeing recommended that I start doing mechanics again (I work for a Toyota dealer) as soon as possible to develop my motor skills.

I had secretly been scouring adverts online for CBXs and managed to track one to an owner 1-1/2 hours from my place. My buddy, Gordie, drove us out for a look. Owing to my injuries, I couldn’t try the bike, but the accommodating owner did a few passes on it in front of us for our gratification. A deal was duly struck, and a month after leaving the hospital the “X” sat in front of my tiny garage.

I savaged my Visa card with online purchases and in short order, boxes were hurriedly whisked into the tiny garage away from the ever-vigilant(ish) gaze of my wife.

Suzuki GSX-R1000 suspension was grafted on, as was a Ducati Monster saddle. The rear subframe? Don't tell my wife, but SOMEHOW her lawn chair went missing! Headlights? $10 backup lights (modded for HIDs) for tractor-trailers. Save your cash where you can, right? To wit, the upper mount for the rear shock is a modded foot from a car jack. Fit up quite well, actually. The rear suspension/chain alignment/wiring/carb and motor work kept me up more than a few nights. I had to constantly remind myself that I was doing this for fun.

It got punched out to 1150cc as well. There was nothing for it, cylinder #1 was too corroded to save. I HAD to do it! That's my story, and I’m sticking to it :-) For a while there it seemed most times I looked at it, it cost me money.

I tacked everything into place and trusted the final welding to a good, certified friend. I painted it beside my house. The kid’s old swing set made an excellent place to hang the frame and mags while spraying.

Was it worth it? More than I can say! Funny, when they were first on the market, I had nothing but loathing for CBXs. Too expensive, too complicated, too heavy, too much! Now I can’t stop singing their praises. I've been lucky enough to have owned a bunch of bikes, but none ever drew the attention of folks or were as much pure fun to ride as this one. I kick myself for having waited so long to, finally, get one.

It’s not that I wanted to build the bike, the doctor ordered me to do it.

Good news, the prescription worked. The only side effect is a BIG dumb smile I can’t get off my face.

Mike Common's custom Honda CBX

Have a classic motorcycle you'd like to have featured on our social media, website and possibly in a future issue of Motorcycle Classics? Email information and photos of your bike to