Andrew’s Honda CB750: Old Empire meets Japan in a Neo-Antique Masterpiece
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Andrew’s Honda CB750: Old Empire meets Japan in a Neo-Antique Masterpiece

By MarkOastler - 07 November 2022

Visualise a classic English gentlemen’s lounge, rich with dark wood panelling, thick Persian rugs, fine handcrafted furniture carved from mahogany, oak and walnut, the chimes of a grandfather clock and perhaps the heads of a few wild animals affixed to the walls.

And there, among the vintage sports memorabilia, antique books, steamer trunks and faded photos, Andrew Knott’s hand-built custom Honda would look right at home, because such a setting provided the inspiration for his stunning self-built creation.

“I’ve always liked that sort of old gentlemen’s lounge style,” Andrew says. “Leather Chesterfield sofas and banker’s lamps, different metals like copper and brass. I also like having timber on bikes and enjoy finding old bits and pieces and repurposing them, so the inspiration came from many different things. The whole bike started with the idea of springs and timber under a little solo leather seat and it sort of grew from there.”

At first glance it could be a genuine relic – but looks can be deceiving.

Hobart-based Andrew is a graphic designer by profession, which might explain why this bike reflects the work of an artisan who can blend many random items and materials into one cohesive theme. It’s automotive artwork that rewards close examination due to its creator’s surgical attention to detail.

At first glance it could be a pre-war British classic, if not for the CB750’s unmistakable inline four; the air-cooled Japanese powerhouse that triggered a seismic shift in the big-bore performance bike world in the late 1960s.

As a result, there’s irony in the marriage of these two historical themes, given the CB750 was the beginning of the end for the UK’s global two-wheeled dominance.

Hard to believe Andrew’s creation is derived from the legendary Honda CB750! 

When Andrew started riding motorcycles in his 30s, his inquisitive mind led him to learn more about what made them tick. So, he bought a clapped-out Honda CB350 for the sole purpose of pulling it apart and putting it back together, while carrying out a full restoration.

Given his artistic background, he also thought it would be nice to personalise the bike with a few custom touches, learning some of the skills of custom bike-building along the way. He then wanted to tackle a more ambitious project and again chose an old Honda as his blank canvas, only this time a larger CB750K2 from the 1971-73 era.

However, when we describe this hand-built part-bobber-part-bagger-part-hardtail as a CB750, the only original Honda parts that remain are the engine, forks, front half of the frame, brakes and a few other ancillaries. The rear half of the frame is a custom hardtail, which forms the backbone of a machine that gives new meaning to the term ‘retro’ in more ways than one.

Chesterfield-inspired leather saddle is one of several classy tributes to Andrew’s grandfather. Note the  copper 'wine goblet' indicator bodies.

You see, Andrew also likes to pay homage to his family’s heritage in his bike builds, which is why he named his CB350 ‘Isabel’ in honour of his grandmother. It’s also why the names ‘Keith’ and ‘Douglas’ are discreetly displayed on the CB750 in a respectful nod to his grandfather.

Sir Keith Douglas Seaman (twice knighted, in fact) served with distinction during the Second World War, which included parachuting behind enemy lines in Europe and liberating POW camps.

That’s why the buttons used on Andrew’s exquisite hand-made spring seat, with polished wooden base and Chesterfield-style leather upholstery, are the same buttons used on RAF uniforms during the war.

Speedo and tacho showcase Andrew’s peerless craftsmanship and attention to detail.

It’s also why the leather securing strap along the centre of the fuel tank is modelled on the famous Sam Browne belt that was worn as part of the British armed forces uniform at the time.

The speedo and tacho display evocative old-world names like Keith’s Infallible Speed-o-meter and Keith’s Faultless Revolution-Gauge. Although they look like authentic pre-war pieces, they are in fact based on the CB750 1970s gauges which Andrew has masterfully reworked with brass bezels, old clock needles and (thanks to his graphic design talent) redesigned faces with skilled use of a mild tea-staining effect to create such an authentic antique appearance.

The gauge-backs are made from Tasmanian Blackwood with laminated Huon Pine strips, which have been meticulously chiselled and sanded into shape on a wood lathe. Andrew’s fine woodworking skills are also showcased in the laminated and finger-jointed battery box located in front of the rear wheel, complete with leather securing straps and another of his wonderful retro gauges; this time it’s ‘Keith’s Magical Ammeter’ keeping an eye on the battery charge.

Finger-jointed battery box is hand-made from Tasmanian Blackwood and laminated strips of Huon Pine.

The polished and clear-coated mild steel fuel tank is also hand-made, given that Andrew started with an old donor tank which he’s cut, stretched, reshaped and enlarged to perfection. A brass lever on top of the tank, surrounded by an ornate wooden ring secured by hooded brass nuts, is the kill switch for the engine and lights.

And the polished brass tank under the seat started life as a funeral urn (ash-free we’re assured!) which Andrew has also enlarged and repurposed as the engine’s dry-sump oil tank.

Whitewall tyres are another old-world touch, shrouded by custom mudguards English-wheeled from mild steel which like the fuel tank are polished and clear-coated. The front wheel is the original 19-inch CB750 item with copper-plated spokes, while the rear is a 16-inch Harley rim laced to the CB750 hub. The latter has dual benefits; more rubber on the road and baggier sidewalls that provide some cushioning effect for the hardtail frame. “Between the fatter rear tyre and the spring seat it’s not that bad to ride,” Andrew says. “It’s not comfortable, but it’s not terrible either.”

Tank-mounted kill switch and WW2 Sam Browne-inspired leather belt exude character and history.

Andrew has also retained the stock CB750 front disc/rear drum brakes, with the front’s hydraulic caliper controlled by a cable-operated master cylinder mounted on the right-hand fork slider. The handlebar controls include an old brass throttle set-up with leather-wrapped grips and inverted brake and clutch levers.

More evidence of his clever repurposing can be seen in the leather satchel mounted next to the rear wheel, which makes it “more of a ‘satcheler’ than a bagger” he quips.

And then there’s the lighting. The steel and brass headlight and taillight are original carbide-fuelled lamp bodies from the early 1900s fitted with modern LED internals. And the polished copper bodies housing the front and rear LED indicator lights are repurposed wine goblets with their stems removed!

Speedo and tacho gauge-backs are lathe-turned from laminated Blackwood and Pine. All timber is exclusively Tasmanian.

Which only leaves that wonderful engine, complete with Andrew’s personalised old-world touches like polished aluminium cam covers, brass velocity stacks on the carburettors and a unique Douglas-scripted side cover.

He’s also upped the displacement to 836cc with a 100cc big-bore kit, matched with a hotter camshaft and polished stainless steel four-into-one pipes. The custom wiring loom is controlled by a compact M-unit which shares the battery box.

More exquisitely detailed wood and leather in the handlebar controls.

Understandably, this bike only hits the road on sunny days, but always brings more than a smile to Andrew’s dial. “It’s hilarious to ride. It just makes me laugh most of the time because it looks quite ridiculous, but puts out lots of power so it’s also very quick in a straight line.

“The 1970s brakes are adequate and the handling is pretty good, although it’s quite low so you can’t get it leaned over too far through corners. It’s not a canyon carver or anything like that, but it is quite fun to ride.

“I also allow some extra time when I want to go places, because there’s always someone who wants to stop and have a chat about it. It’s a conversation starter, that’s for sure. The first question most people ask is - what is it?”

Yep, that's one cool-looking ride!

This one’s a keeper of course, for obvious sentimental reasons, but Andrew is open to expanding his horizons by building custom bikes for customers under his Atomic Contraptions banner. You can check out more of his amazing work on Instagram:

In the meantime, we’ll continue to indulge in the staggering level of craftsmanship evident in every hand-fettled millimetre of his remarkable CB750, which is like no other. It’s so good in fact, we reckon even Soichiro Honda would have approved!

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