Chattachoochee Skunkworks: Honda CB400F Cafe Racer

Honda CB400F Cafe Racer

Introduced in 1975, the Honda CB400F Super Sport is one of the most exquisite motorcycles ever to come out of Japan, a lightweight inline four with a 10,000 rpm redline, six-speed transmission, and quite possibly the most beautiful set of pipes — those 4-into-1 waterfalls — ever mounted on a factory bike. While the 400 Four was not a sales success, losing out to the louder, faster, and cheaper two-strokes of the day, contemporary moto-journalists and sport riders lavished the little Super Sport with praise. Today, the bike has lost none of that mystique, as expressed by Toby Jones of Georgia’s Chattahoochee Skunkworks:

“Their time-piece like engine, six speed tranny, light weight and Formula One howl just trip my trigger.”

Honda CB400F Cafe Racer

Hailing from the foothills of North Georgia — one of the country’s motorcycling Valhallas — Toby eschews high-dollar parts and the latest design trends in favor of building just what he likes — an attitude embodied in the words of George Thorogood:

“Filet mignon ain’t on the menu at our joint, but we make a damn good cheeseburger.”

Honda CB400F Cafe Racer

This is the fifth CB400F to come out of the Chattahoochee Skunkworks, and Toby aimed to build a “traditional style café racer” — and hit the bull’s-eye dead on. The frame and swinger were sand-blasted and powder-coated, and Toby fabricated the battery box, seat pan, dash panel, electronics box, various brackets, and the aluminum side covers:

“The ‘hole in the middle’ look has never appealed to me. Traditional café bikes didn’t have it simply because most were British and there was an oil tank that occupied that space.”

Honda CB400F Cafe Racer

The engine was freshened, a new set of hoops laced up, and a Dyna S ignition added.  We especially love the paint scheme, which harks back to the Gran Prix racers of the 60s:

“I’ve always been a big fan of the 60’s Lotus racers (Jim Clark was a childhood hero of mine) and I was looking for something a bit different, so I laid down the British Racing green and Competition yellow stripes.”

Toby went through some health issues this past year, and we’re absolutely thrilled to have him back on BikeBound, doing what he does best. Below, we get the full story on this 400F straight from the man himself.

Honda 400 Four Cafe Racer: In the Builder’s Words

Honda CB400F Cafe Racer

My name is Toby Jones and we call our little shop in the foothills of North Georgia the “Chattahoochee Skunkworks”. Chattahoochee for the nearby river and Skunkworks for the attitude we have about building motorcycles. You won’t find a lot of hi-dollar aftermarket parts on our stuff and we certainly don’t follow the latest design trends. We build what we like. George Thorogood summed it up pretty well when he said this about his band: “Filet mignon ain’t on the menu at our joint, but we make a damn good cheeseburger.”

Honda CB400F Cafe Racer

Although we’ve built a lot of different bikes, the CB400F Honda is by far our favorite platform to work from. Their time-piece like engine, six speed tranny, light weight and Formula One howl just trip my trigger. This is our fifth one and there is another one patiently waiting in the wings. You might say we’re getting to know our way around these little bikes pretty well. The frame for this particular bike was given to me by my friend Billy Aldrich. Billy builds some of the sweetest 60s “Hot Rod” Hondas on the planet and has taught me a lot about building bikes and not a little about living life. Many of the other parts came from a project bike that my friend Floyd Finch found for me in South Carolina. Floyd called me and said, “come buy this bike before this guy makes a bar stool racer out of it.” You might say this deal comes from humble beginnings.

Honda CB400F Cafe Racer

Since the frame had already been cut and a lot of the stock pieces were long gone, we decided to go with a café style build. I don’t like to use the term “old school” so we’ll just call it a traditional style café racer. The “hole in the middle” look has never appealed to me. Traditional café bikes didn’t have it simply because most were British and there was an oil tank that occupied that space. I whipped up some aluminum side covers with holes and stainless screens to hide the battery and the solid state regulator/rectifier. The frame, swingarm and a few other larger parts were sent to our buddy Rocky Webb for sand blasting and then to Monte Turner for his always slick powder coating. Both are local Cleveland Georgia guys and I can’t say enough about how great a job they do.

Honda CB400F Cafe Racer

Since this bike was going to follow the café racer design theme we picked up a bum stop seat from the (sadly no longer in business) folks at Hotwing Glass and a set of universal rear sets from Slipstream Cycle Works. We also called on our friends at Dime City Cycle for the gauges, grips and one of their sweet-sounding café mufflers to go with the stock header. Mike’s XS supplied us with some alloy hoops that we laced up with new spokes. Tom at True Disk machined and drilled the front rotor for us. A lot of hours went into fabricating the seat pan, battery box, electrics tray, custom dash panel, rear set linkage, tail light bracket and probably some parts I’ve forgotten.

Honda CB400F Cafe Racer

We also built a custom wiring harness to tidy things up a bit. After doing a leak down test and a compression check we decided that the engine wouldn’t need any other attention aside from the usual maintenance. We did go with new coils and a Dyna S ignition system. As for the paint scheme, what can I say? I’ve always been a big fan of the 60’s Lotus racers (Jim Clark was a childhood hero of mine) and I was looking for something a bit different, so I laid down the British Racing green and Competition yellow stripes.

Honda CB400F Cafe Racer

Health issues this past year have kind of slowed down the building process here at the Skunkworks but, thanks to a wonderful wife and supportive family and friends I’m back on track. It’s probably gonna be a bit slower track though. Just got back from a short ride on the bike and it lives up to its reputation. An absolute blast to ride! Like I previously mentioned, there is another one waiting so in a couple months (need to have some fun with it first) — this bike will probably be for sale.

Honda CB400F Cafe Racer

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Toby, what a great little bike you have there. Really like everything you have done. I too dislike the “hole in the middle” look and Jim Clark was THE MAN. I saw him race a few times in Australia in the Tasman Series and he was so good. Back to the 400/4, I bet it is a pleasure to ride. Congrats on a great build.

  2. Toby this is awesome, thanks so much for the mention.
    Tom @ TrueDisk LLC

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