Let’s be honest—Honda’s CX500 is not going to win any beauty contests. With a short wheelbase, high front end, awkward looking subframe and unflattering plastics, it earned nicknames such as ‘plastic maggot’ and güllepumpe (the German word for a pump used to shift liquid manure) when the Standard model was first released in 1978.
It had a lot going for it technologically, though. A water-cooled V-twin power plant, shaft drive and tubeless Comstar wheels put it at the cutting edge. Plus there was Honda’s legendary reliability, making it popular among couriers. But it was still ugly, a trait Honda tried to rectify with the CX500 Custom the following year. With a cruiser spin to it, the Custom was marginally prettier, with the biggest difference being a slimmer and sharper fuel tank.
Honda only produced the CX500 for five years, but lately it’s been enjoying a rise in popularity as a custom platform. So we’ve rounded up our five favorite custom CX500s—from builders that have miraculously managed to make the CX500 attractive.
Wrenchmonkees This brutal ‘chopper-racer’ is proof that the rather bland CX500 can be transformed into something radical. The donor bike was mechanically sound—the owner rode it all the way from France to the Wrenchmonkees’ shop in Copenhagen—but the frame needed some cleaning up.
Once that was sorted, they fitted the tank and wheels from a CX500 Custom, before chopping the rear of the frame and fabricating a solo seat and bobbed rear fender. The Wrenchmonkees also dropped the front forks, removed the airbox and relocated the battery box to open up the area under the seat.
A custom exhaust system was built to follow the angles of the frame, with wrapped headers and blacked-out mufflers. Tarozzi foot pegs and clip-ons were added, along with Posh grips. The speedo and headlight are from a Mini—wrapped in a handcrafted shroud. The bike was then entered into the Danish ‘Forever Two Wheels’ custom show, where it took first place in the Open class—right before its owner road it back to France. [More about this bike | Wrenchmonkees]
Hageman Motorcycles Greg Hageman’s builds all have one thing in common—great lines. This CX500, built for the first season of Café Racer TV (when Hageman was known as Doc’s Chops) is no exception. To sort out the CX’s lack of visual flow, Greg sourced a café seat made for a CB100 from Vietnam, and modified the awkward subframe to fit.
He then relocated most of the electronics to under the seat, and the battery to under the engine. The front forks were lowered and a Buell front brake installed. Greg also moved the foot controls back and up, and fitted Tarozzi clip-ons. The engine was left stock, but the carbs were rejetted and reverse cone mufflers added. Greg originally had the tank painted silver, but had a second candy tangerine tank painted as well. The bike has since, ironically, been sold to a buyer in Vietnam. [Hageman Motorcycles]
Moto Mucci An industrial designer by trade, Dave Mucci had a clear goal in mind for his first build, a 1978 CX500. “I wanted it to be two-up, a relatively inexpensive build, and not too pretty.” His original aim was to do all the work himself, but, since he was he was still learning, he called in the help of Analog Motorcycles to modify the frame and fabricate the seat pan. The upholstery was then done by Rod’s Designs. Dave lowered the CX by an inch at both ends—installing stiffer rear shocks and adding 20W oil to the forks.
He also rebuilt the carbs, wrapped the exhaust headers and installed a custom 8” Cherry Bomb muffler. Other aftermarket parts include clubman bars, natural Posh grips, a 7” headlight from SpeedMotoCo and NOS 70’s pistol grip levers from Japan. The fenders are chopped Gold Wing units, powdercoated black along with a few other select parts. A warm metallic grey color was chosen for the tank and side covers to complement the tan seat.
The result is an honest and muted custom that looks thoroughly rideable—Dave took it for an 800-mile two-up trip around Lake Michigan last year, ditching the clubmans for some low rise bars. He’s since gone on to customize a Yamaha SR250 for his girlfriend, and has a couple more bikes in the works. [More about this bike | Moto Mucci]
Garage Project To turn the lumpy CX500 into a lean café racer, Garage Project’s Rex Havoc enlisted the help of Brett Trutwein at Hand Made Vintage Kustoms. Rex stripped the bike before handing it over to Brett for fabrication and re-assembly. “I talked with Brett about the basic direction I wanted to achieve for the customer,” says Rex, “and he made suggestions which made it better.”
The donor bike came to them in tip-top shape—which was great, as the customer’s budget was extremely tight. They were able to leave the engine, carbs and airbox alone, and simply focus on cosmetics. The tank and side panels from a CX500 Custom were installed to slim the bike’s profile down, while the front forks were lowered to get the stance right. Brett fabricated a beautiful seat unit and made significant modifications to the rear of the frame. He also added the mufflers from a Harley Sportster, wrapped the pipes and cleaned up the wiring. Since the customer wasn’t planning on going fast, Firestone’s Deluxe Champion tyres were chosen. Other finishing kit includes clubman bars and Biltwell Kung Fu grips from Dime City Cycles and, my personal favorite, a triangular chopper headlight from Lowbrow Customs. [Garage Project]
Herencia Custom Garage This stunning 1980 CX500 scrambler was put together by Argentinian outfit HCG. It’s almost unrecognizable as a CX500—mostly due to the completely re-engineered subframe and seat. Another noticeable change is the fuel tank —as HCG’s Federico Lozada explains, “The CX500 in Argentina was not a much appreciated bike, so we decided to use a 1980 Honda XL250 gas tank, which was the most popular bike here.”
It’s finished in a classic Honda red, black and white scheme. The front end is from a 2010 Triumph Bonneville—including the forks, triple trees and brake caliper and disk. HCG also fitted Progressive shocks at the rear, a KTM 690 radiator, K&N filters and a lithium-ion battery, relocated to behind the gearbox. The stock wheels were powder coated black and treated to Coker tyres. Rounding things off are low-rise bars, MX-style foot pegs, smaller lights and blacked-out reverse cone mufflers. It’s a radical departure for the CX, and one that I wouldn’t mind having in my garage. [Herencia Custom Garage]