Aviation-Grade: Honda CB350 Restomod by Merlin Cycleworks

Honda CB350 Restomod Cafe Racer

What happens when a jet aircraft mechanic builds his wife a bike…

The Honda CB350 twin is not only one of the company’s best-selling models, but one of today’s most popular vintage bikes for customization. We’ve seen a lot of CB350 cafe racers over the years, but rarely does a build of this caliber come along. The stunning CB350 you see here is the work of Mark Kouri, a United Airlines aircraft mechanic and the founder of Merlin Cycleworks. Mark has built a few hot rods in his time, but over the years he learned one of the great advantages of building bikes:

“I eventually discovered you can build a cool motorcycle a lot cheaper than a cool car!”

Honda CB350 Restomod Cafe Racer

Mark and his wife ride sport bikes together, and he wanted a retro machine that she could ride alongside his own ’74 CB450 brat. That said, she was accustomed to her Ninja, so Mark had to make sure this ’72 Honda CB350 could meet her expectations. He focused on improving the suspension, brakes, and acceleration:

“I like to think of this as something Honda would have presented, as a factory racer, if they had this technology back in 1972.”

Honda CB350 Restomod Cafe Racer

Mark did all of the work himself except paint and powder, employing aviation practices and aviation-grade materials in the wiring, hand-forming the aluminum bodywork from .060 aluminum, rebuilding the engine with Wisco 10.5 :1 pistons and a custom cam, and adapting a GSXR-750 front end with color-matched fork tubes — a signature element that’s sure to be copied by other builders.

Honda CB350 Restomod Cafe Racer

Below, we get the full story on the build, along with some stunning photos from Charles Thorpe (@tharleschorpe).

Honda CB350 Cafe Racer: Builder Interview

Honda CB350 Restomod Cafe Racer

• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.

I’ve been an aircraft mechanic for about 30 years. I’ve always enjoyed working on bikes and old cars, and built a few hotrods over the years. I eventually discovered you can build a cool motorcycle a lot cheaper than a cool car! My wife and I enjoy riding our sport bikes together, so I decided to build her a cool retro bike to ride, when I ride my ’74 CB450.

Honda CB350 Restomod Cafe Racer

At Merlin Cycleworks, I do everything myself, except paint: total rewires from scratch, engine rebuilds, frame mods & repairs, custom stainless exhausts, wheel building, sheet metal. I built the lower fairing on this bike out of .060 aluminum.

Honda CB350 Restomod Cafe Racer

• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?

1972 Honda CB350.

Honda CB350 Restomod Cafe Racer

• Why was this bike built?

One of my bikes is a cool brat style ’74 CB450. I wanted my wife to have something similar to ride, with me, instead of her Ninja.

Honda CB350 Restomod Cafe Racer

• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?

I wanted a vintage vibe, yet have modern performance, in terms of handling, braking, and acceleration. She’s used to a Ninja, so I wanted to make sure this bike met my wife’s expectations! I like to think of this as something Honda would have presented, as a factory racer, if they had this technology back in 1972.

Honda CB350 Restomod Cafe Racer

• What custom work was done to the bike?

Frame completely reworked from the tank back — factory back half cut off, replaced with 1” round tubing, and heavily reinforced in strategic locations. Complete re-wire, using aviation-grade wiring and connectors, and utilizing aviation practices and procedures.

Honda CB350 Restomod Cafe Racer

The engine was completely rebuilt, with oversized Wisco 10.5 :1 pistons and a custom ground cam from Megacycle. Handbuilt wheels, hand-formed fairings, custom seat, custom triple clamps holding a rebuilt GSX-R750 front end, high quality BASF Glasurit paint on bodywork, then protected with Ceramic Gold and XPEL protective film. Everything else powdercoated. All work except paint and powdercoating was done at Merlin Cycleworks.

Honda CB350 Restomod Cafe Racer

• Does the bike have a nickname?

No, other than Wife’s Bike!

Honda CB350 Restomod Cafe Racer

• How would you classify this bike?

Cafe racer. I personally don’t like that title, as it’s been so over done, and too often, poorly.

Honda CB350 Restomod Cafe Racer

• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?

Just the over all aesthetic, how the vision came to life, and is as good as I hoped it would be. It’s also very gratifying how well it’s been received, with well over 50,000 social media “likes” between all the re-posts and international interests. I think the vintage paint scheme really resonates with people. And the forks not being gold, silver, black, or that weird red on the upper tubes seems to be an attention-getter.

Honda CB350 Restomod Cafe Racer

Follow the Builder

Web: www.MerlinCycleworks.com
Instagram: @merlincycleworks

Photos: Charles Thorpe (@tharleschorpe)

8 Comments

  1. Taylor, thanks for featuring our bike!!

  2. You and your wife did a beautiful job in both the design and completion , great colors and and choice of suspension parts .

  3. Wayne Hennebury

    Great job on this bike and very nice workmanship, where did the tack come from or who makes it,

  4. something about it says 56 chevy to me; the 2-tone aqua and white paint colors and the very nice under belly fairing included in the paint scheme. luv the overall look, its ‘simple lines’ i guess is the term?

  5. Donald Gee Gardner

    Cool bike but are cafe racers the only bikes you guys think are good enough to feature?

  6. Love it! Looks Lean & Mean….”all Business”. Great color scheme and very well done in all aspects!!! Would give my left nut to own it! You should be very proud of this build.

    Reminds me of the 1966 Triumph T120TT/Special I bought back in 1969 as my 1st bike. It was a former flat track racing model with no lights / no ignition (kick & go) / real TT pipes (no mufflers), pipes just tucked under motor (loud). We wired it w/BMW lights and a squeeze horn a mirror and I ripped up the streets with it! Barely legal and a real handful for a 19 year old beginner.

    Still riding & collecting Big Bore Sport Bikes after all these years…keeps me young.

  7. Chuck Main, The Main Man, at Mainland

    Hey Mark, The bike came out as a first class job. I only remember seeing it half way through, and when we helped with the forks. Glad to see it can be viewed by all ! Great Job !

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