Snore no more: an enigmatic Elsinore with modern upgrades…
In 1973, the Honda CR250M revolutionized the motocross world. Until then, Honda had only produced four-stroke machines, and all of its off-roaders were converted from street bikes. But the introduction of a domestic motocross championship in Japan, as well as the rise of motocross worldwide, pushed the company to start developing a two-stroke engine and dedicated chassis.
The CR250M became Honda’s first two-stroke and first production motocross bike. At 218 pounds, it was the world’s lightest motocrosser, cranked out around 26 horsepower, and undercut the competition in price, costing just $1145. Gary Jones won the 1973 AMA 250 National MX Series on the CR250M, and Honda also offered an enduro/street-legal two-stroke model, the MT250. Both models flew out of showrooms:
“It didn’t hurt that once it was available Honda released an advertisement with movie star Steve McQueen.” –Motocross Action
Enter Eric LeVine, who runs a design studio for a Seattle architectural firm and grew up in Southern California, cutting his teeth riding many of the legendary SoCal canyons, deserts, and dunes. Eric set multiple speed records at El Mirage Dry Lake and the Bonneville Salt Flats, and still holds a record of 147 mph in the un-faired 350cc class at El Mirage. This Elsinore build stems from his childhood obsession with dirt bikes…and that ultra-cool Steve McQueen advertisement:
“This personal project was inspired by a youth spent being obsessed with dirt bikes, and the famous photos of Steve McQueen riding the revolutionary Honda CR250M Elsinore for a press launch in 1973.”
Eric, who likes to build slightly enigmatic machines — the kind that require a double-take to identify — decided to build a street-legal supermoto version of the legendary Elsinore, capturing the sensation of riding a 70s motocrosser on the street. He started with a street-legal MT250 Elsinore, sometimes known as the “El Snore,” but swapped in the liquid-cooled engine and brakes from a 2001 CR250R…snore no more! Additionally, he added suspension/wheel/tire upgrades and all of the lighting and signals needed to keep the bike road-legal, blended with the original lines of the bike. The result is something of a vintage sleeper, which looks almost like a simple resto at first glance…
“The bike weighs 222 pounds, which makes it a quick, wheelie-prone bike to ride with friends to gatherings and confuse people at the local coffee shop.”
Below, we get the full details on the build, as well as more stunning shots from Norman Ai, an architect colleague of Eric’s.
Honda MT/CR250 Supermoto: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
Eric LeVine: Originally from San Diego, CA, Eric did lots of riding in 70s, 80s and 90s around the canyons and hills of SoCal and the desert…at places such as Ocotillo wells, Glamis, and all over the Imperial sand dunes. In 1989, Eric started racing motorcycles in the speed trials at El Mirage Dry Lake and Bonneville Salt Flats, and set multiple speed records. He still owns a record set in 1992 at El Mirage at 147 mph in the open (un-faired) 350cc class. Eric moved to Bainbridge Island, WA in 2000 and runs a design studio for an architectural firm in Seattle, WA. Owner of many KTMs over the years, he does lots of dualsport/adventure riding in the PNW, and his current favorite bike is a Honda CRF1000 Africa Twin. Eric has a home workshop and is in the process of building a 1974 Yamaha RD350 for the Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials. Current bike inventory includes Yamahas RD350, RD400, RZ350, DT125, Hondas CR250M Elsinore, Africa Twin, and a Ducati Multistrada as a daily commuter.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
The bike is titled as a 1974 Honda MT250 Elsinore. Eric used the MT Frame because it’s titled as a street bike and very similar to the CR250M. The motor and brakes are adapted from a 2001 Honda CR250 motocrosser.
• Why was this bike built?
This personal project was inspired by a youth spent being obsessed with dirt bikes, and the famous photos of Steve McQueen riding the revolutionary Honda CR250M Elsinore for a press launch in 1973.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The goal was to create a street legal vintage MX bike to get some of the sensation of riding an old motocrosser without actually riding it off-road. The project set out to make a Supermotard-style MXer that looks like an original CR250M Elsinore at first glance, but incorporates modern components, and is really fun to ride.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
First, a street legal donor bike was needed that could be converted into an Elsinore. Why not an actual Elsinore? The street-going version…1974 MT 250 street enduro was the choice. A semi-complete MT250 with a straight frame and a street title was found at a bike salvage for $200.
Next came the modernization process. A Craigslist-sourced Honda two-stroke MX donor bike was selected to keep it in the family: 2001 CR250R. The motor and brake systems are basically all that were needed from the donor. The motor got warmed up with some mild porting, and a milled head.
Many chassis mods were needed to address the differences between the MT frame and the newer CR components, such as stiffening plates, brake carriers, engine mounts and frame conversion to accommodate the 2001 CR250 center exhaust port (old Elsinore had an angled port exit to the right).
Eric made the expansion chamber which was designed and built to maximize mid-range power, and to fit the frame in the same manner as the original low pipe. There are two radiators, including one under the seat area.
Overall, the aesthetic reflects Honda 1970’s utilitarian engineering, with a fairly strict adherence to the look of the original CR250M Elsinore. Obviously, the wheel/tire combo and other components, like shocks, are upgraded, to make it a reasonably good handling bike to ride on the street. All of the lights, horn, signals, license plate are there…just sized and located in a manner that blend into the lines of the bike. Eric uses an app on his iPhone for the speedometer.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride the finished bike?
The bike weighs 222 pounds, which makes it a quick, wheelie-prone bike to ride with friends to gatherings and confuse people at the local coffee shop. Eric rides it in the annual “Isle of Vashon TT” and other rallies around Seattle, like “Backfire Moto”.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
Eric likes to build bikes that are enigmatic and require a second look to figure them out. The look of the bike is true to the 1974 CR250M Elsinore and a lot effort was made to fool the eye. The knowledgeable observer is initially puzzled and then cracks a smile when they notice that it’s not a restoration…but a vintage custom with performance upgrades.
Photographer is Norman Ai, who is architect colleague of Eric.
Follow the Builder on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/motersickle/albums
Nice job Eric. Ring-ding-ding down the street you go. I love it! Do the cops ever pull you over? I’m in Tacoma, hope to see you on the island.
Good job hiding the lights and turn signals I don’t see them at all.