“As a child my father used to race enduro and motocross professionally but had to retire early because he had broken almost every bone in his body, doctors orders. The race bikes always needed repairing and I would usually be hanging around whilst he and his teams worked on them. I guess I got my foundation of motorcycle mechanics from that early period in my life. My mother (who was the total opposite) was really into the arts and noticed that I was a natural when it came to drawing and pushed me to translate my thoughts onto a blank canvas. So I spent most of my childhood painting, drawing, and making things. It was through this that I developed a good hand for design and that I acquired the skills to use my imagination to create something tangible.”
“Whilst in boarding school in Sweden my father called me up one day and told me to apply to University. Being young and not having a clue what I wanted to do in life, I asked him “what should I study?” He told me to apply for something economics or business related. So I did just that and spent four years studying economics and human psychology.
After I left university I worked a couple office jobs here and there and realized pretty quickly that this was not for me. Meanwhile in my free time I had been working on an “art project” to transform a stock Honda GL500 into a café racer. The project took me about a year to complete as I learned through my mistakes. When the bike was finally finished I began riding it around Bangkok where I live and would get stopped/approached by random people asking where I got the bike from and whether they could buy it off me. Eventually I decided to sell that bike and used the money to help fund the setup of my own workshop. It was an opportunity to go apply my childhood experiences of drawing and building beautiful things, leaving the office life behind.”
“Three years later I have just completed my 25th custom motorcycle. “Galgo” (greyhound in Spanish) was built for a good friend of mine, KP. The bike that he wanted to base the project on was a ’75 CB550. I drew up a couple design options for him and that was it, he paid a 50% deposit and I started work on her pretty much right away.
The donor bike was in a pretty weathered state to say the least. I had to totally rebuild the engine and change all of its electrical components. Because of the state of the donor this became one of my most challenging builds taking 6 months to complete. I built the bike with one of my mechanics and my metal fabricator who has the amazing ability to hand beat sheet metal into whatever shape I can think up. He used to make chopper style bikes and is one of the most respected metal fabricators in Thailand. My role with the bodywork was to draw out all the patterns and figure out the proportions before he shaped the steel and welded it all together. We make an excellent team and I could not have done it without him.”
“I’ve always been into the vintage aesthetic. Whether it’s clothes, architecture, landscape design, cars or furniture. I feel as though the same design aesthetic is no longer available today and instead manufacturers are just pushing out water downed designs that won’t last. If you look at the deco lines of American cars from the 50’s, the Miller house by Eero Saarinen or the palace in Brasilia by Oscar Niemeyer you will see a simplicity in their form. Streamlined curvaceous shapes that evoke true emotion and a sincere state that was designed to bring people joy. This is the approach I have tried to adopt with the motorcycles we build at Half Caste Creations.”
“The extra 2 inches in length from the swingarm swap and the slimmer fuel tank that we chopped and narrowed came out great, but I am most proud of the overall shape of Galgo. It’s elegant, classic and quite aggressive at the same time.”
Turning your passion for building motorcycles into a business isn’t something everyone can achieve. For Dennis Karlsson it came about after the realisation that the career that awaited him at the end of his studies wasn’t for him. Thankfully as a child his parents had given him the essential skills and knowledge he needed to make the transition, but it wasn’t something he’d planned. Soon after selling his first custom he opened the doors to his ‘Half Caste Creations’ workshop and hasn’t looked back. Today we talk to Dennis about how his life as a custom motorcycle builder began and about his latest build, the Honda CB550 ‘Galgo’.