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MD Lifestyle: Unfinished Business

God-like fabricator Bob Guynes contemplates his Benelli-six/Honda CB750 hybrid. No big deal, right?

Most custom-bike shows feature an array of perfect, completed motorcycle projects with polished chrome and flawless paint, accompanied by squads of Hot Chicks posing for photos with drooling middle-aged men. Good stuff, but isn’t the process just as interesting as the completed project? Where the bike came from, what the builder wanted to accomplish, where the parts got sourced, what it looked like before the building began?

That’s why Jason Friend and Jason Anderson came up with their “Unfinished Projects” show around Christmas time in 2010. It started with Anderson renting a former sewing-factory space over San Francisco motorcycle dealership SF Moto to use as workspace for his design company. SF Moto had been using the space to store sales inventory and customer’s bikes waiting for service (there’s a large freight elevator to the street), but Anderson realized it could be a great studio space for local artists to show their work: “there are tremendously talented people in San Francisco’s motorcycle community.”

Jason Friend participates heavily with Bay Area Vintage Riders, a discussion forum for owners of older motorcycles, owners who all had unfinished projects in their garages and basements. Rather than wait (forever) for these projects to be finished, why not show them in their unfinished state? Unfinished Projects 2011 was born. Organized by Anderson, Friend and their wives Lori (Friend) and Tara, the event was a success, with 15 bikes on display and work from seven artists on the walls.

But 2012 turned out even better. Twenty motorcycles in various states of completion lined the walls of the newly remodeled gallery and 10 artists showed their sculpture, paintings, photography and other work. I was on hand on the opening night at the end of February, and was stunned by the crowds swarming through the show and out on the street. Not only were there large numbers of people (Anderson guessed around 300, but he had no way of really knowing), but they were much younger (and more attractive) than the usual gang of surly, pot-bellied middle-aged men seen at most S.F. Bay Area moto-events (I love you guys, but can you at least trim your ear hair every so often?). I’m no art critic, but I’ve slept through enough college art-history lectures to know the artworks on display were cutting-edge, fresh and interesting.

"Red Fred" Johansen's 1936 Indian Four will have BMW K-series fuel injection when finished. He told me he "should be the only one on the block with this kinda shit." Indeed!

But I was really there to check out the bikes, and this year held no disappointments. SF Vintage Cycle showed off a 1948 Triumph ST racebike, there was a very cool BSA Rocket III cafe racer, a 1936 Indian Four that “Red Fred” Johansen is converting to fuel-injection (“I should be the only one on the block with this kinda shit”), a ’65 Norton Atlas 750 getting the vintage racer treatment and an original Arlen Ness Panhead Digger from the ’70s being brought back to pristine condition by Darren Lee Rowe. Groovy.

But the star of the show, if you ask me, was master fabricator and Bonneville racer Bob Guynes’ incredible Benelli/Honda hybrid. It’s a 750cc 6-cylinder Benelli Sei grafted into an early Honda CB750 frame with a CB72 front end. The fabrication and engineering work that went into the finished (is that cheating?) project is incredible, made even more staggering when you consider the 70s-ish Guynes put the bike together in a month (not a big deal, according to Guynes, but a big deal to me when you realize it took me three years to build my CB350 cafe racer).

Clearly, the event needs more space for next year, and Anderson told me they’re working on it. In the meantime, the gallery will be used to showcase local moto-artists and will be open to the public. Even though he works in the space, he told me “I always love to have an excuse to put my pen down and have a chat about bikes or art.”

Gallery Moto SF is at 275 8th Street in San Francisco, and for more information about Bay Area Vintage Riders, you can visit the website.

Michael Shiro's 1964 Norton Atlas is classic cafe racer.

No, you're not having an acid flashback. This is an authentic '60s Arlen Ness Panhead "digger" chopper, being slowly nursed back to health by wild man Darren Lee Rowe.

Lanora Cox edits the Velocette Club of North America's newsletter and is waiting patiently for her 1946 GTP 250 two-stroke to get a freshen up. Photo: Pete Young.

This CL350 is owned by Pol Brown, who also puts on the Dirtbag Challenge chopper build-off every year.

SF Vintage Cycle's owners are working on this 1948 Triumph ST.

This Yamaha XS650 looks like sheer torture to rideā€”but don't you want to anyway?

21 Comments

  1. Thorwald van Hooydonk says:

    The Velocette GTP-250 is indeed a two-stroke. The exhausts are exiting the cylinder and the intake goes to the crank case (see clipped on drawing on the box). Four-stroke engines have intake and exhaust in the cylinder head, where the valves are. Velocette had a 249cc two-stroke in 1924. It is possible that the GTP-250 was an upgraded version that retained the external flywheel. I believe that they were built until 1939.

  2. Buzz says:

    You might want to re-check your notes on the digger. Those heads are Shovels.

    It may be a Pan-Shovel from back in the day.

    Report this comment

  3. brinskee says:

    Would love to see that Rocket III. My dad restored one in the nineties, we went riding (he on an old Bonnie, me on the BSA) and stopped off somewhere. When we went back to the bikes, I tickled the carbs to get the fuel flowing and when I kicked it over, it backfired, lit the gasoline that dripped down onto the transmission and burnt to the ground. Sad, sad day. I thought Dad would never let me touch another one of his bikes again, but there I was next weekend out on his Fat Boy.

    I miss that Rocket III, it was a sweet, sweet ride.

    He has since sold all of his bikes, but still loves to hear stories of me on my bikes, whether it’s a ride up to Tomales Bay, out to Woodside, or on the track, wadding up my Mille and tossing her down turn 11 at Infineon.

    Great article Gabe. I hope to bump into you one of these days around town.

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  4. wctriumph says:

    It must of been a real bitch to get that 6 cyl up on the centerstand. Cool job though.

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  5. ES says:

    The velocette is not a two stroke, and looks a bit older than 1946 as well.

  6. Provalogna says:

    Great article, as usual.

    I’m so old and it’s been so long since I thought about Benelli’s 750 SOHC Honda clone 6-cylinder that I thought the builder welded together 1.5 Honda 750 motors! It looks sweet. W-i-d-e, but sweet.

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  7. craigj says:

    Love that Benelli Honda, but really wasn’t the Benelli Sei just a CB500 with a couple of extra cylinders tacked on? I could see it being a relatively straight forward engine swap. I kinda dig the CL350 too.

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    • Goose says:

      Dopping the Sei into a CB500 frame would be a straightforward swap. Putting on in a CB750 frame and having look that good is another thing entirely. The 750 motor is longer, taller, has different cylinder (exhaust port) spacing. Look at how well the frame tubes fit between the headers and how well the engine fits into the cradle. I’ll guess there isn’t a tube between the steering stem and the swing arm mount that hasn’t at least slightly tweaked.

      Really, really good fabricators can change everything and you don’t even notice the part isn’t stock. Hacks (like me) can make it work but it doesn’t look this “factory”.

      Goose

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  8. Norm G. says:

    i love ‘em all. old, new, whatever. been to barber 4x since they opened and i’m going again next time i’m in ATL on business (2.5 down I-20). may even be some kind of a record…? :) one visit will change the way you view motorcycles and motorcycling.

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  9. Goose says:

    “God-like fabricator Bob Guynes contemplates his Benelli-six/Honda CB750 hybrid. No big deal, right?”

    What CB750 parts are in this bike? I assume the engine is the CB500 rip-off Benelli 750-6. Your could swap engines between the Benelli Sei and the CB500 without much effort, I knew a guy who did that while he was waiting (for years) to accumulate the parts to fix his Benelli. OTOH, putting a 750-6 engine in a CB750 frame and having it look that good would, indeed, take a very good fabricator.

    Goose

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  10. Trent says:

    Thanks for the writeup! Interesting bikes, but I’m grateful for the reliable, modern, fast, comfortable rides parked in the garage. And I had to do enough modding to get those tweaked just right.

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  11. Steve says:

    Bobbers are part of the natural life cycle motorcycles go through when they cost more to repair and restore than the end product is worth. There are countless owners who hacked old motorcycles that eventually would have turned into classics worth much more stock.

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  12. Dave Kent says:

    I love taking old bikes and making them serviceable and in many cases better than new. That’s why I detest bobbers so much.

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