Let’s face it: A 1970s Honda CB is a pretty easy bike to customize. It looks good straight out of the box, and custom parts are a dime-a-dozen. This CB550 from California-based Raccia Motorcycles is something special though.
Raccia builds are inspired by the production racers of yesteryear, and this Honda is no exception. “This time round, the Honda RC181 was the source of my enlightenment,” says Raccia main man Mike LaFountain. “I’ve always had a schoolboy crush on the entire Honda RC line up, and the RC181 is absolute perfection.”
The CB550 was not intended to be a replica, though. (“That is a whole different animal.”) It’s LaFountain’s attempt to create something with a parallel beauty, using parts from Japanese production bikes and altering them to create a look reminiscent of the machines that tore around racetracks forty years ago.
The modifications are extensive, starting with the frame: Only a third of the original CB550 metallurgy remains. LaFountain has reverse-engineered a double-cradle race frame to fit the Honda engine and ergonomics. (Given the huge amount of work involved, he’s replicating the custom frame and offering a handful for sale.)
The motor has been heavily upgraded. It’s now running a performance cam, oversized pistons, and a ported and polished cylinder head. The wheels are 18” Excel high shouldered aluminum rims, shod with Avon tires.
The front end is from a CB750, heavily modified, and matched to Works Performance shocks at the rear. The exquisite rear drum brake started life as a CB77 fitment, but like just about everything else on this machine, it’s also been reworked. The front brake is from a Suzuki GT750.
The beautifully-painted tank is not a Honda item, either—it’s from a Kawasaki KZ1000R. It’s a mix-and-match approach, but due to LaFountain’s unerring eye, it all works. He simply enjoys re-engineering old components and unlocking their potential.
“People sometimes ask me, ‘Why don’t you put an engine in a featherbed, or buy an alloy Manx tank? That would make a sweet bike.’ And they’re right,” he says. “But it’s been done.”
“I find my zen in the art of motorcycle building by creating something unique.”