Building a custom motorcycle with a good friend can be a rewarding experience. Sharing your ideas, struggling through the challenges and when it's done, celebrating the achievement together. Recently I heard from Steven Wilson an ex-aviation mechanic and father of 2 living in BC, Canada. He shared with me the story of a special bond with his father-in-law Peter, which grew from a common love of working on cars and motorcycles. After years of advising each other on their individual projects the pair decided to restore a motorcycle together. Tragically their plans took an unexpected turn for the worse before either man could place a tool on the bike. Driven by the desire to finish the project they had started together and to work through the pain of the tragedy, Steven immersed himself in the build to accomplish their goal. This is Steven's story of how their 'Pedro' Honda CB750 Cafe Racer came to be...
"My wife and mother-in-law used to call it the “Peter & Steven Show" whenever we would get together because we'd always be off somewhere doing something. One day we came up with the idea of restoring a bike which we had both owned at some point in our lives, a Honda CB750 SOHC. We began our search on the internet and soon enough Peter found a worthy candidate, literally hanging by leather straps in a barn in Prince George, British Columbia. I quickly made the call and bought the bike from a very nice gentleman sight unseen. Apparently it had been hanging in his barn for roughly 20 years and was being sold as he was getting too old for the farm life. I quickly made arrangements with a local friend to make payment, pick up the bike and drop it off at a trucking company.
Tragically, less than a month later, Peter passed away of a sudden heart attack while mountain bike riding with friends. It was a huge blow to the whole family as Peter was so active; always on the go and showing no signs of slowing down. He was taken from this world too soon and would never get to see the project bike that we were looking forward to restoring together."
"Trying to deal with the grief, my first instinct was to get the bike in my possession as soon as possible. It was almost as if I needed to protect what I had left of Peter. I pushed the trucking company hard and finally got the bike into my possession and into my garage. In trying to deal with the sudden loss of Peter this bike became my therapy. As time went on, I realized that simply just restoring the bike would not be enough and that I wanted to create something special to honour Peter, the man he was and the special bond that we shared.
I tried to recycle and repurpose as many of the original parts as I could. The vision was to build a motorcycle that looked of the same vintage as the original, but also incorporated modern upgrades to enhance the riding experience. My first commitment to building a café racer was the purchase of a Legendary Motorcycles “Thruxton” seat pan. I had seen the seat pan on the 'Mabel' Honda CB750 that Dime City Cycles had built and I knew instantly I wanted it as one of the first pieces for our bike.
This was my first ground up build and I very quickly realized that what I wanted to create was going to take more than the limited tools I had in my possession. Seeing my struggle my wonderful mother-in-law graciously gifted me with Peter’s sandblaster and welding equipment. Being able to use Peter’s tools impacted me on so many levels and inspired me to soldier on with the build. Slowly but surely the bike started to take shape."
"I soon had the Honda stripped down to the bare frame and with the purchase of a rough looking '75 Super Sport tank I started figuring out how to mount the seat. I chose to use the Super Sport tank because of its beautiful shape and the 4 inches of increased length that would allow me to properly position the Thruxton seat pan. I had planned to hide the battery and electrical components under the seat so I repurposed the stock locking mechanism from the original bike for easy access. I then extended the tubular frame to the back of the seat pan so I could support the battery and integrated a cat-eye LED brake/tail light to the end of the frame.
The next task was to overhaul the heart of the machine. The first issue was how to disassemble, clean, paint and reassemble the engine within the confines of my townhouse garage. The only feasible option was to build an engine stand which would allow me to move the engine around, rebuild it and store it safely once it was completed. Building the stand also gave me the opportunity to try out Peter’s welder and practice my welding skills."
"The engine overhaul did not start out well. Three out of the four spark plugs were seized in place and I'd tried all the usual tricks to get them out. Eventually with the help of Luke’s Custom Machine shop, the spark plugs came loose and while they were at it they honed the cylinder walls in preparation for new piston rings. Once the head was back in my garage, it was time to sandblast it and inspect and reseat the valves.
After finishing the engine, it was back to the frame. I fit the new Dime City Cycles rearsets using custom mounts that double as supports for the exhaust. To actuate the brake and gears I then repurposed the gear shift lever and the spline connection from the original foot brake to create new linkages. I also added the oil tank from a '78 CB into the frame as I thought the square edges and sharper corners were better suited to the Super Sport tank and the new seat pan."
"I'm particularly proud of the exhaust headers I fabricated. I really wanted to have a 4 into 2 system so that both sides of the bike could be complemented by beautiful stainless steel mufflers, I just couldn’t seem to find any aftermarket versions that fit my vision, so I decided to make my own. I was able to purchase pre-bent tubing which I then cut, fit and welded in my garage. The biggest challenge was to get the two sides symmetrical while having both headers tucked up as tight to the frame as possible. I then reused the original exhaust pipe flanges and mounted the exhaust adding a pair of “quieter” cone mufflers for a more gentlemanly sound. As a compromise between pod filters and the stock airbox I designed a new, smaller air box that holds a UNI foam filter. It flows much more freely than the stock item, lets me tune and balance the carbs perfectly and ended up being significantly lighter that the original item.
One of the more enjoyable challenges of this build for me was the electrical wiring. With the new switches, multifunction gauge, solid state rectifier/regulator, new lighting, fuse panel and relocation of the battery, I decided that the best thing was to rewire the bike completely. My starting point was an original wiring diagram pulled off the internet. I then used an ohm meter to figure out the wiring order for the new switches. Slowly, circuit by circuit, I was able to build the wiring harness. I fabricated a tray and mounted it using the original frame mounts and fit almost everything under the seat."
"My goal on this build was always to do as much of the work on it as possible. I only outsourced the frame sandblasting, frame painting, wheel powder coating, cylinder head repair work, cylinder wall honing and seat upholstery. When it came time to paint the bodywork I knew I had to do this myself and it needed look as good as the rest of the bike, if not better. This necessitated building a small paint booth in the garage. As spray equipment was outside of my budget I ordered custom mixed spray cans from a professional supplier. I was thoroughly impressed with how nicely the 2K Spray Max clear coat finish came out and with some 2000 grit sanding and machine polishing, the paint turned out like glass. For the fun of it, I decided to weigh the bike once it was completed. Pedro now weighs 60Ibs or 27kgs lighter than when I first got the bike.
The building of Pedro has changed my life. It has helped me through some tough times and in the end left me with an experience that will always remind me of Peter. I hope that he is looking down at me and is proud of what I have created in his honour. I am especially grateful to my wife, Nicole, who has amazed me with her strength after losing her Dad. Despite the devastating loss, she supported me throughout this build, helping me to fulfil one of my dreams and for that I will always be eternally grateful."
In honor and memory of Peter Beltgens, 1954 - 2014
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