Best in Class: Garage-built neo cafe racer from a former USAF tech…
The Honda CB900F — aka the Bol d’Or, named after the legendary French 24-hour endurance race — was an air-cooled, DOHC roadster descended from the company’s RS1000 endurance racer. The 901cc engine offered 95 peak horsepower with loads of midrange punch, good for a quarter mile time of 11.84 seconds according to Motorcyclist, and many reviewers said the bike challenged the European makes in handling. Honda was proud of the machine, calling it:
“A thundering Super-Sports bike with devastating performance and an unwavering stamina.”
Enter James Berreau, who purchased his first motorcycle — an ’87 CBR600 — while serving as an aircraft electrician in the USAF. Later, he attended the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute (MMI) in Phoenix, and played with a custom ZX-11 and CBR-based track bike before getting his hands on an ’81 Honda CB900F — the first year the model was available in the USA. Says James:
“Initially, I was thinking of a simple cafe conversion. Then, slowly it transformed into a full blown, tear down creation. Every nut and bolt is new, refurbished and/or modified in some way.”
Highlights include the modified and reinforced frame, CB400F tank, Triumph swing-arm, Ducati subframe, Showa forks, Ohlins shock, Aprilia wheels, ported cylinder head with 1mm over pistons, lightened crankshaft, permanent magnet alternator conversion, Moto-gadget m-Unit Blue, and more. The result is simply stunning, a highly-executed neo cafe / restomod that James built in the garage where he keeps grandfather’s lathe, TIG welder, and a lift:
“It is a true garage build. I have almost two years and well over 500 hrs into it creating, machining and welding Tokyo Nights.”
All that work has been paying off. “Tokyo Nights” recently won won Best in Class at the Minnesota VJMC (Vintage Japaneses Motorcycle Club) show, and he has more shows lined up.
Below, we get the full story on this air-cooled stunner.
Honda CB900F Cafe / Restomod: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
Both my father and step-father were into motorcycles. While in the USAF, as an aircraft electrician, I was able to purchase my first motorcycle, a 1987 CBR600. Then the ZX-11 came out. I vowed to get one. After the Air Force I attended MMI in Phoenix. Moved back to MN, then finally found my ZX-11. I proceeded to swap forks (ZX-10R) and wheels (Ducati 999). Rebuilt the engine, ported the head and it pulled like a freight train. Meanwhile I built a track bike, frame and motor from a CBR600F2, Renthal bars, R1 forks and GSX-R wheels.
As far as my “workshop,” it consist of just the third garage stall (heated) with grandpa’s lathe, a TIG welder, and a lift.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
1981 Honda CB900F.
• Why was this bike built?
Personal, I wanted to do a full build.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
I started seeing bikes from AC Sanctuary and loved the concept of modern hardware on an older bike. Rob and Chris Chappell’s CB900 sold me on the bike I wanted to start with, and I like the colors of “FatMile” by Hans Muth. I tried to emulate the quality of builders like that.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
Hand fab’ed: Headlight bracket, upper triple, fender brackets, oil cooler brackets. Fuel tank hybrid, frame to accommodate single shock.
Modified a Ducati Monster subframe. Machined spacers and turned all the heads of the stainless bolts. Wire harness from scratch.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
• How would you classify this bike?
Almost a café/restomod.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
Besides the whole project; the fuel tank I thought was quite challenging. I’ve never done much sheet metal work/welding. To take a new tank then cut the bottom out of it to fit a the bottom of a 1981 tank. Then not have it leak on top of that.