Whoever said “slow and steady wins the race” never spent any time with Herm Narciso and Jason Paul Michaels at Dime City Cycles, because if they had, they’d know that not only can you work fast if you want to, sometimes it’s the best way to get things done.
Proof comes by way of our latest Dairyland Cycle/Motorcycle Classics Race to Rebuild, the 1983 Honda CB1100F that as of last issue was a long way from done. In fact, in our last update two months ago, our project Honda hadn’t progressed much beyond a partially stripped hulk, with visible progress limited to the test install of a 2007 Suzuki GSXR front end in place of the original unit. More than one person politely asked just how we thought we could pull this together in time for this issue.
Well, to give credit where credit is due, “we” didn’t really do anything, but Herm and Jason have, in less than two short months as the accompanying photos amply illustrate, successfully morphed our Honda from an old school mid-1980s sport bike into a new school retro ride — a resto-mod.
This was a unique build for Herm and Jason, representing their — and our — first dip into the resto-mod waters. Dime City Cycles has strong cred in the café scene, with multiple super-slick café builds to their credit, including the recently completed The Ace, a modern take on the classic Triton theme.
Cafés are cool, but for this build we all agreed it was time to do something different, and after polling enthusiasts on Facebook we settled on the resto-mod route.
So what is a resto-mod? If you’ve been to the local hot rod show, you’ve probably seen one. Remember that sleeper ’57 Chevy with the LT1 ‘Vette engine and fully upgraded, disc brake-equipped chassis sitting on a nice set of color matched GM rally wheels, all hidden under a mostly stock, restored body? That’s a resto-mod.
But translating that to a bike is a different challenge, if only because the bike has fewer bits and, more importantly, it’s completely exposed. That makes it harder to hide the custom bits and puts more emphasis on the bodywork than it might with that resto-mod Chevy.
That translation is, to put it mildly, a challenge, but it’s one Herm thinks they met head on. “We wanted to leave the bodywork as original as possible but give it a modern flair and change the dynamic of the performance,” Herm says, adding, “We want people to look at this bike and know that it’s a CB1100F, even though we didn’t put that anywhere on the bike.”
Getting it done
The biggest roadblocks in this project tied directly to the resto-mod concept. The mechanical bits, the stuff that slows most of us down, didn’t really worry Herm and Jason, because between them, there’s clearly little they can’t do. Once the engine was out Herm pulled the top end apart, checked the bores and pistons, had the cylinder head cleaned up and the valves reground, then put it all back together. In a day.
Before the engine went in Herm had the entire unit soda-blasted down to bare metal before covering it back up with an industrial two-stage black epoxy paint. Mike McGee polished the cam cover to a high luster, and they also installed custom ignition and alternator covers spec’d for a twin cam CB750.
Keeping to the goal of improved performance, Herm swapped the stock constant velocity Keihins for a set of Keihin Roundslide CRs from Sudco. The carbs come as a kit, spec’d for the application, in this case netting a foursome of 31mm CRs complete with mounting hardware and any required spacers. The stock accelerator cable works the new carbs, which Herm equipped with aluminum velocity stacks in place of the plastic ones supplied.
The front end, the topic of our last update, was clearly a challenge, but once Herm figured out what would work, he steamrolled. Everything but the fork tubes went out for cleaning and powder coating, while the wheels were entrusted to Buchanan’s Spoke & Rim. Herm wanted spoked wheels from the beginning, so he had Buchanan’s lace up new black anodized Sun rims to spoked hubs, custom machined to stock Suzuki GSXR specs to match our GSXR upside-down front end. That let him use the stock GSXR axle, wheel bearings, brake calipers and GSXR-spec brake rotors for a factory custom fit. Nice.
Herm says the seat actually presented the biggest challenge, because for him it was the piece that would make or break the resto-mod look. “The Airtech seat we wanted to use just didn’t look right. But we couldn’t find what we wanted, so we built a new seat by hand, using the Airtech seat as the base,” Herm says. “I made my own mold; it took 10-plus hours to come up with something that would work. The rear of the seat cowl shares its shape with the front of the tank. I cut the entire back section off the Airtech and used their pan.”
If you’ve worked with fiberglass, you know it takes experience to get results, and you also know good results don’t always come easy. “I molded the fiberglass around the tank,” Herm continues, “but we didn’t have the side panels on, and when we put them on there was this huge gap we hadn’t considered because the stock seat comes down into the side panels. So we did it over, with fiberglass, extending the sides of the seat down to the side panel.” Two days later, the seat pan was done.
While all this was going on Jason was busy getting the newly powder-coated frame wired (reusing the original wiring loom, which was in excellent shape), the suspension hung and the exhaust mocked up. Jason welded up the dual 2-into-1 headers using an off-the-shelf Dime City pipe kit, matched to a pair of Cone Engineering mufflers tuned to the pipe size, all covered in high-temp silver paint. To keep things clean, he ran the pipes so he could hang them from what had been the centerstand brackets. “We didn’t cut anything off the frame, so we used a solid piece of steel through the centerstand brackets and bolted the exhaust to them so there are no long brackets. It’s super clean and tight,” Herm says.
That clean look extends to the rearset foot controls, which also took a little finagling to fit. “We made a couple different brackets that bolt through the swingarm mount and lower engine mount,” Herm says. “It was a bit of a challenge to get it just right. It’s not just about clearance; if you put them in the wrong place and you sit on the seat and your feet are too far back, the ride’s gonna suck. We made six or seven brackets to finally get it right.”
It don’t come easy ...
Outside of the Gazi shocks — a straight bolt-on — there wasn’t much on this build that didn’t require some degree of modification or fabrication. One surprise was the Motogadget Chronoclassic electronic speedo from Spiegler Performance, which plugged right into the stock harness. “It has a 9-pin connector,” Herm notes. “The stock connector on this bike is 9-pin in the same configuration.”
And there wasn’t any fiddling required for the Gustafsson windscreen, which Jason simply drilled and mounted to the Airtech bikini fairing, a replica of what Harley used on its now-iconic 1977-1979 XLCR café. The fairing houses a custom headlamp unit, chosen, Herm says, to pull the fairing closer to the headstock. “We wanted to shorten the bike to make it sportier because it’s already got a long wheelbase.”
After hammering through the build and getting everything where they wanted it, it was time for the final dress up: the paint. “You’ve got all these lines and transitions to figure out, it’s a challenge, so we put all the unpainted pieces on first,” Herm says, explaining how they determined the final look. “We wanted to use the original side covers, but when we put them on, they were so big we weren’t sure they’d work. Then Jason came up with the great idea of painting the lower part of the side covers black so that part, the lower part, kind of disappears. It looks like one piece with the seat and the tank, and that’s what we were going for. We wanted it to be almost factory like.”
That “factory like” ideal permeates the build, lending our CB1100F resto-mod an altogether different feel than the average café or custom. The look is all its own, and Herm thinks it came together perfectly. “We set out to accomplish a particular build goal. I think it’s my and Jason’s interpretation of a resto-mod. When you look at this, you should be able to identify with it.”
One thing’s for sure, somebody’s going to identify with Dime City’s interpretation of a resto-mod at a very personal level, because about the time this issue lands in readers’ hands we’ll have chosen the winner of our 1983 Honda CB1100F resto-mod in the Dairyland Cycles/Motorcycle Classics Race to Rebuild Giveaway.
The only thing left unfinished is taking our Honda out for a final shakedown run and fine-tuning it for its new owner. The new Continental ContiGO! tires need a good scrubbing in, and there’s always something that needs a little attention. Look for pics of our running 1983 Honda CB1100F resto-mod in the next issue along with, we hope, the winner of our Race to Rebuild Giveaway. MC
Race to Rebuild Suppliers
Airtech: Fiberglass replica XLCR quarter fairing and vintage seat pan
All Balls Racing: Steering and wheel bearing kits
Barnett Clutches & Cables: Custom clutch and throttle cables, Kevlar clutch plates, steel drive plates, clutch spring kit
Buchanan’s Spoke & Rim: Custom wheel build with anodized aluminum rims and stainless steel spokes
Cone Engineering: Mufflers
Continental Tires: ContiGO! tires
Dime City Cycles: Fabrication and custom/aftermarket cycle parts
Ferodo: Brake pads and rotors
Flatland Custom Cycles: Gazi Sport X shock absorbers
Gustafsson Plastics: Smoked windscreen and hardware for Airtech fairing
Kevin Bates/Tribby’s Auto Marine Paint: Body paint — (727) 581-8180
K&N Filters: Air and oil filters
Lance’s Tops: Custom seat upholstery
Motobatt: Absorbed Glass Mat battery and charger
ProFab Customs Powder Coating: Powder coating — (727) 331-7059
Regina Chain: Z-ring chain, replacement sprockets
Spiegler Performance Parts: Braided stainless steel brake lines, Motogadget digital instrument
Sudco International: Keihin 31mm Roundslide CR carburetors
Read about this project from the beginning in Race to Rebuild: Honda CB1100F, Part 1.