Period-correct AMA Superbike replica…
Flyin’ Fred Merkel is one of the most legendary — even notorious — American racers ever to swing a leg over a superbike. Hailing from California’s Central Valley, Merkel quickly became known for this bold, take-no-prisoners riding style and blond good looks. Says MCN:
“Flyin’ Fred was the archetypal American racer – with blond surfer hair, a deep suntan, and shiny white teeth, he was as much loved by the ladies as he was feared by his rivals.”
Merkel was known to fly a skull-and-crossbones flag in the paddock, wear a bandanna, and had a bold and brash motto tattooed across the back of his helmet:
“If you want blood, you’ve got it.”
In 1988, Merkel became the first ever World Superbike champion, winning both the inaugural and second-ever WSB seasons with Italian-based team Rumi Honda — and learning fluent Italian in the process. Before that, he’d won the Suzuka 8-Hour and three consecutive AMA Superbike championships from 1984-1986 — the last on the formidable Honda VFR750F.
Originally designed as a sport tourer, the VFR750 came with a liquid-cooled, 90-degree V4 engine capable of producing more than 100 horsepower in stock trim, along with gear-driven cams, 6-speed transmission, and twin spar / “diamond” frame. The bikes were campaigned with great success by such legendary superbike racers as Wayne Rainey, Bubba Shobert, Freddie Spencer, and Flyin’ Fred Merkel.
Enter Darren Begg of Canada’s dB Customs, who builds some of the baddest restomods and superbike replicas on the planet — with a special affinity for air-cooled Japanese fours. He was perfect choice for a USA-based customer who’d been collecting rare HRC parts from all over the world to support this stunning, period-correct Flyin’ Fred Merkel recreation. Below, we get the full story on this stunning superbike replica!
Flyin’ Merkel Superbike Replica: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
dB Customs, owned by Darren Begg, was established in 2015, and located in Canada’s national capital, Ottawa, Ontario. dB Customs provides turn-key builds, everything from restorations, custom restomods, and superbike replicas. The workshop is outfitted with facilities that include welding, forming, machining, and vapor blasting.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
The bike is a 1986 Honda VFR750 that has been meticulously converted into the superbike Flyin Fred Merkel campaigned.
• Why was this bike built?
dB Custom’s customer (from the USA) is very passionate about the VFR750 superbikes, ridden by the likes of Fred Merkel, Wayne Rainey, Bubba Shobert, and Freddie Spencer. He has been collecting rare HRC parts from all over the world to support two build programs, this Flyin’ Fred Merkel recreation, and as well as Wayne Rainey replica that will be released at a future date.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The 1986 Flyin Fred Merkel VFR750 superbike.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
Several modifications were made to make the bike period correct, including modifications to the subframe, recreating the HRC oil catch tank, HRC triple clamps, and rear brake stay, and of course the paint work (all paint, no vinyl decals) and livery laid down by our partners at Sketchs Ink.
• How would you classify this bike?
Period superbike recreation.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
All of it.