A North Carolina hot-rodder sets his sights on a rare, US-spec NX650…
In recent years, the Honda NX650 Dominator has become one of Europe’s most popular platforms for customization, but this 44-horsepower, XR-based dual sport is uncommon in the United States, as it was only available here for two years: 1988-1989. In stock trim, the “Dominator 650” — as it was commonly known in Europe — offered a small bikini fairing, electric start, twin mufflers, and an enlarged version of the XR600 engine with gear-driven counterbalancer. Said Rider magazine in a recent retrospective:
“One could look at the NX650 as Honda’s first go at building an ‘adventure’ motorcycle… However, in truth, with the NX, [Honda] had come up with an urbanized trail bike, much like the successful street-scramblers of the recent past.”
Enter Matt Butts, a project fabricator for none other than Detroit Speed, the North Carolina-based company that builds high-end muscle cars, hot rods, and related components for clients across the world. For his first two-wheeled project, Matt decided to track down a US import of the NX650 — a search which ended up taking a couple of months. Finally, he found a low-mileage example a couple of hours away, picked it up, and began stripping it down after a short run around the block. Matt says of the design concept:
“I wanted to keep it super simple and somewhat true to the scramblers and trials bikes of the 70s. No mirrors, no speedo, no frills.”
Four months later, working on a tight budget out of his two-car garage, Matt had built one of the few American-made NX650 scramblers we’ve seen…and she’s a doozy. We especially love the CL tank, the custom 80s-inspired decals, and the TIG-welded exhaust — all built using scraps from the factory unit! Given the rarity of the Dominator in the USA, along with the level of customization, the bike is an object of curiosity among the riding public. Says Matt:
“People constantly ask me what it is.”
Of course, we we knew what it was as soon as we saw the bike and were immediately intrigued. As many of you know, BikeBound is headquartered in the American South — Wilmington, North Carolina, just a morning’s drive from Detroit Speed. Interestingly enough, we first discovered Matt’s build while perusing our local Craigslist ads, back when Matt put the bike up for sale. Since then, his wife has earned his motorcycle permit and claimed the bike as her own — lucky lady!
Below, we get the full story on the build from Matt himself, along with some incredible photos from Alex Stivaletti (@alex_stiv_fxdb).
Honda NX650 Scrambler: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I’ve been into fabrication and mechanic work pretty much my whole life. I learned a ton from my dad who restored quite a few cars during my childhood. That pretty much lead me into my current job of 8 years as a project fabricator for Detroit Speed. We build high end muscle cars and hot rods for clients all over the world. I’ve had a handful of project cars over the years and decided it was time to change it up. I’ve always liked motorcycles, in particular scramblers and dual sport bikes so I decided to build something for myself.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
1989 Honda NX650.
• Why was this bike built?
I knew since it was going to be first motorcycle and two wheeled build it needed to be cool and something that would stand out. I initially was considering building a cafe style bike, but in my searching of the world wide web I kept seeing these really rad Honda Dominators that people were building in Europe. A little more research and I found out that these bikes were sold in the states for two years as the NX650. I searched for a month or two without much luck until a mint ’89 popped up within two hours of me and only 2,300 miles on the clock. I picked it up, brought it home and rode it around the block once. I had it completely stripped by the end of the week.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
I wanted to keep it super simple and somewhat true to the scramblers and trials bikes of the 70s. No mirrors, no speedo, no frills.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
-Fuel tank from Honda CL.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
Nope, but people constantly ask me what it is.
• How would you classify this bike?
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
I did it on a pretty tight budget and start to finish the build took me 4 months. I did everything myself with the exception of laying down the color and clear on the tins. Also the entire exhaust is built using all scraps from the factory dual exhaust. It was built in my two car garage at home with pretty basic stuff. It turned out so good that my wife has now claimed it as her own.
Photos: Alex Stivaletti (@alex_stiv_fxdb)
Follow the Builder: @matt_butts