Hidden in a backstreet in the busy Port of Amsterdam is a small fabrication shop called Tin Can Customs. Amidst the clatter and clanging of ships unloading their cargo, Chris Dekker gets on with building motorcycles, furniture, and anything else he feels like.
Being smack-dab in the middle of a huge seaport may explain the somewhat industrial look of this Honda CB550, which sports a battered tank from a German Zündapp. Either that, or whiffs of something strong from a nearby coffeeshop have been drifting across Meneer Dekker’s workbench.
“It’s a commissioned build,” Chris tells us. “The owner, Coen Ruijter, had a CB550 donor bike that used to be his Dad’s. It was stolen many years ago, and returned recently after the bike was ditched in a high-speed chase with the cops.”
Coen wanted an exact copy of another custom he’d seen, but Chris diplomatically steered him in a different direction. “We sat down, and I tried to figure out what he likes and what makes him tick. Eventually we ended up with a few themes: rust, road-worn, authentic.”
Chris hunted down old parts at swap meets—like the headlight and taillight, and an oil tank to use as an electrical box. The Zündapp tank he discovered in a scrapyard, and the beautiful BSA M20 girder forks were a lucky find on eBay.
After grafting on the front end, Chris started reworking the back. “There aren’t many hardtail CB550s around,” he notes. “Probably because the angle of the frame makes it difficult. But after a night’s work, we had some strange curves that defined the bike.”
Chris modified the bottom of the Zündapp tank to fit the frame, and added peepholes to check the fuel level. The handlebars are one-offs, as is the exhaust system. “I could have done the bends in one piece, but the practice of making little segments was worth it. It sounds great.”
The battery box is still there, but the electrics are now hidden in the oil tank under the seat. Sparks come from a Dyna ignition, and the engine itself has been refreshed by another seaport shop, Pancake Customs.
The CB550 rolls on matching 18” wheels: the front is a Honda CM250 hub laced to a BMW rim, and the back is a stock Honda CB750 unit. “With about 1.4 bar in the tires, the ride is an awesome experience,” Chris reports.
All that was left was to give the bike a name. “When rummaging through my old tools, I found a spanner bearing the words ‘Special Alloy’,” says Chris. “So there we had the name.”
“The bike’s not what Coen expected, but it turned out far better than we both hoped for. That’s the fun in hunting down old parts. You don’t know what you’ll find when you don’t buy stuff from a catalog. It makes the build much more organic and fun.”
‘Special Alloy’ premiered at the recent Cosmic Nozems Motorshow in Zwevegem, Belgium. Organized by Motokouture Bespoke MC, it’s a showcase for around 100 customs from some of Europe’s top builders.
After pulling several all-nighters, Chris finished the Honda at 5pm the day before the show. Then he pulled on his helmet and rode ‘Silver Alloy’ 170 miles south, across the border, to the venue himself.
Not surprisingly, the bike was one of the stars of the show. The raw industrial style won’t be for everyone, but in a world of cookie-cutter café racers, it’s a refreshing blast of bracing North Sea air.
Brand: Honda CB550
Air Filter: Velocity Stacks by Steel Dragon Performance
Exhaust: Tin Can Customs
Engine has been taken apart and inspected. Basic gasket replacement, hone job and new rings. No major modifications
Tin Can Customs modified CB550 frame. Rear axle plates are Harley-Davidson.
Front wheel: 18″ BMW rim
Tire: Firestone Deluxe
Hub: Honda CM250
Front Fork: BSA M20 Girder
Handlebar: Tin Can Customs
Levers: Inverted levers
Headlight: Unknown, found at swapmeet.
Wheel: 18″ stock CB750
Band: Firestone Deluxe
Fender: Flat Fender
Light: Unknown, found at swapmeet. Modified to carry 12 LED lights.
Sissybar: Tin Can Customs
Batterybox: Tin Can Customs
Electrical Box: Tin Can Customs modified oil tank found at swapmeet. Holds coils, springback ignition switch, fuses and starter solenoid.
Controls: Vintage Honda steps
Gas tank: Tin Can Customs modified Zündapp tank. Found the tank in the scrap bin. New bottom built in, added looking glasses and new gas valves. (Don’t know the English word for this). Petcock! Yeah, that’s it.
Seat pans: Tin Can Customs
Upholstery: Silver Machine
Frame was powdercoated, and the oldschool parts were left untouched in order to accentuate the detail and balance between the new parts and old.