One of the things that delighted me this year was seeing one of my favourite shed-built customs take part in our inaugural Café Racer Cup. Seb Hipperson's TRX850 not only looks mean, it's properly setup for the track, and it showed. Seb was blisteringly fast and held his own against riders piloting far more modern and powerful machinery. So, I've every confidence that this CX500, although slightly more sedate, will be well stuck together. This 1981 maggot needed more than just the suspected head gasket replacing, one bore was pitted and due to the way Honda constructed these engines a full strip, rebore, hone and piston kit was threatening to blow Seb's budget. He bought another 2 engines and made good from the pile of components, adding new bearings, shells, gaskets and seals. A simplified wiring loom is Seb's handiwork, although it's mostly completely hidden in a box under the Stan Leather upholstered seat. The stock CDI unit is gone, replaced by custom ignition maps via an Ignitech ignition system. US based CX500 tuning wizard Murray Feldman supplied a pair of Mikuni VM34 round-slide carbs and intake tracts. The stainless exhaust headers and silencers are Seb's own work too. The rolled sheet and reducing cone were welded to form the cans and are plugged by turned aluminium end caps, allowing for easy repacking. Preferring the Comstar wheels to spoke conversions Seb ignored the stamped warning not to disassemble the mags, instead he made a bastard pair using wider GL1100 and CB900 rims - 2.5 x 18" front and rear. Rebuilt hubs with titanium fasteners and race lightening holes are further testament to the builder's track aspirations - even if just visually. Spacers were machined to accept the CBR600RR USB fork, twin four-pot calipers and wavy discs. At the rear Tec Parts shocks have been re-sprung to suit Seb's weight and spirited riding style. 120 section Avon Roadriders offer enough grip, without letting him take too many liberties.
The cockpit is minimal and uncluttered with a single Koso all-in-one speedo grafted into the top yoke where the ignition used to be, just above a modified headlight bucket that's trimmed and mounted as far into between the fork as possible. The key and ignition now live under the smart looking saddle. Simple push-button switches and a lack of mirrors keep the whole look understated and focussed.
The ally mudguard up front is handmade and mounted to brackets fabricated using narrow stainless rod. The offcut was used as a snubbed rear guard and numberplate mounting point.
The fuel tank is result of a rather elaborate process. Using the CX's original Seb chopped the top off and welded-in the lid from a Yamaha XJ to give a unique and more flowing shape. Plus it meant a modern quick release filler cap could be added. A fibreglass moulding was then made to run along and under the lower edge to give a much more flattering, smooth profile. Gone is the ugly mass produced seam.
The new subframe tubing features a parallelogram section where the old airbox would have been, now filled with fibreglass panels. But when it came to paintwork a degree of procrastination set in, "I was never quite sure what would be best, just that it had to work with the gold wheels. I started with a red and white scheme like some classic racing Hondas but once I had done it didn’t like it, so started again with a metallic grey and using Valvoline colours for contrasting schemes with some classic Honda branding." Seb recalls. Good choice, looks slick.
But just before committing to paint the CX was let loose around Cadwell Park at a classic track day where it apparently performed pretty well against much more racy competition, despite the chunky front tyre.
"Currently the CX is being used as a trendy ride around London but will end up on the Bike Shed Classifieds before too long in order to fund my current project….. deadline - The Café Racer Cup 2019." By the looks of things someone ought to make Seb an offer before it hits our for sale listings, and I'm intrigued to see what rolls onto the grid next year....
Images by Sam Napper