Explore the REV'IT! Urban Collection

Rescue Mission: A Penton Mint 400 restomod from Chi-Jers

1974 ½ Penton Mint 400 motorcycle by Chi-Jers Vintage Bike Works
It’s not often that we cross paths with a Penton, much less one that’s been customized. But when we spotted this terrifically reworked Mint 400 at the Mama Tried show earlier this year, we had to know more. (Especially since it had what looked like John Penton’s signature splashed on the fuel tank.)

It also helped that the Penton’s owner and builder, PJ Grakauskas of Chi-Jers Vintage Bike Works, is one of the friendliest and most forthcoming guys you could ever hope to meet. And as it turns out, his love for these vintage, KTM-made dirt bikes goes way back…

1974 ½ Penton Mint 400 motorcycle by Chi-Jers Vintage Bike Works
“The Story of John Penton and Penton Motorcycles actually starts in Amherst, OH, the same hometown as me,” PJ tells us. “My pops is a very recognized Penton guru in the States. His rebuilt and modded motors are on some of the quickest Penton machines here.”

“The collection of old Penton parts in the barn is massive. I didn’t have to go far for what I needed.”

1974 ½ Penton Mint 400 motorcycle by Chi-Jers Vintage Bike Works
PJ picked up the 1974 “½ Penton Mint 400” a few years ago, mainly because it had a title—and his plan was to build a road legal street tracker.

After he finished an Indian Scout Bobber for an Indian-sponsored build-off, he decided it was time to build something for himself. And so the Penton went under the knife—with no expectations and no deadline.

1974 ½ Penton Mint 400 motorcycle by Chi-Jers Vintage Bike Works
Naturally, PJ’s father was roped into the project too. “Pops handled the fresh motor rebuild, top to bottom, teaching me tricks along the way,” PJ says. “It has been brought back to life with a fresh bore and piston, and the infamous Carl Cranke mods to the cylinder and porting.”

The carb is a vintage Lectron unit, built up from a bag of parts that were rotting away in the workshop. And the stainless steel exhaust is custom—modeled after a smashed-up 70s Penton 400 flat track pipe.

1974 ½ Penton Mint 400 motorcycle by Chi-Jers Vintage Bike Works
PJ tore into the Penton’s frame, removing as much unneeded 70s hardware as he could. He also modified a 1981 Yamaha YZ250 mono-shock swing arm to fit, hooking it up to the shock from a full size (and similarly-weighted) pit bike.

“It took some math and engineering to make work,” he says, “including grinding down the rear motor cases a bit.”

1974 ½ Penton Mint 400 motorcycle by Chi-Jers Vintage Bike Works
A set of rebuilt 35 mm Ceriani forks went on up front, polished up by PSP Metal. PJ also added a 19” Yamaha XS650 front wheel, with a Dunlop K180 tire. The rear wheel’s a 19” Excel rim, laced with Buchanan’s spokes and shod with Shinko rubber (and fitted with custom spacers that left PJ traumatized).

There’s only one brake—a Beringer Aerotec setup with a gold finish. It plays nice with the Penton’s stock foot controls, which didn’t get the chop because they’re just too valuable to toss out. The bars are from Biltwell Inc., the throttle and clutch lever are from Joker Machine, and the blue grips are ‘new old stock.’

1974 ½ Penton Mint 400 motorcycle by Chi-Jers Vintage Bike Works
“Essentially the bike was built piece by piece,” says PJ, “rebuilding old, unused parts and sourcing the NOS ones I needed. The biggest Penton parts supplier is local to us—we have a tab there.”

Even the Penton’s new bodywork is a mash up. The fuel tank’s off a Honda CG125, and the tail section is a flat track unit that PJ had lying around for the right project. Ginger over at New Church Moto handled the upholstery, on a custom built three-piece base.

1974 ½ Penton Mint 400 motorcycle by Chi-Jers Vintage Bike Works
PJ finished it off with a front number board, and a vintage KTM fender mount holding a handmade aluminum fender from Revive Customs. There’s a spot to mount a headlight on the front fender, and an LED taillight strip out back.

The frame looks nickel plated, but it’s not. Instead, it’s been powder coated in ‘prismatic super chrome,’ by 6th City Cycles in Cleveland. And then there’s that sublimely retro paint scheme.

1974 ½ Penton Mint 400 motorcycle by Chi-Jers Vintage Bike Works
“The badass paint is by KC Elkins of Krossover Customs in Kentucky,” PJ tells us. “I told him ’70s’ and we agreed on colors inspired by a Hallman Racing jersey. Other than that, I let him come up with it—imagine my surprise when he sent me that!”

Kacey wasn’t too stoked when he later noticed Sharpie scribbles all over his artwork though. “I took it to the Penton Owner’s Group meeting which John Penton himself attends,” PJ explains “so I had to have him autograph the tank.”

1974 ½ Penton Mint 400 motorcycle by Chi-Jers Vintage Bike Works
“I was completely honored and humbled that he, his sons, and all the members enjoyed the build.” And why wouldn’t they? Some purists might shudder at the thought of modifying a rare classic, but PJ’s knocked this one far enough out the park to silence them.

1974 ½ Penton Mint 400 motorcycle by Chi-Jers Vintage Bike Works
And considering the amount of work that went into it (his last email said “I’m sure there is shit I’m forgetting”), the accolades are well deserved.

Chi-Jers Vintage Bike Works Instagram | Images by Mark Adams

1974 ½ Penton Mint 400 motorcycle by Chi-Jers Vintage Bike Works

SHARE THIS ARTICLE
770 Shares
READ NEXT