One of America’s most talented builders creates a bike just for himself…
In 1984, Honda unveiled the VF500C, better known as the V30 Magna — a potent 500cc cruiser whose sophisticated V4 powerplant boasted technology carried over from Honda’s famed V4 racing engines: double overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, liquid cooling, six-speed gearbox, and more. In fact, the same engine was used in the bike’s sportbike sibling, the VF500F Interceptor. In print ads for the new bike, Honda made sure everyone knew this was not your run-of-the-mill middleweight cruiser:
“The V30 Magna. The most powerful midsize custom in the world.”
Cycle magazine was clearly impressed, as evidenced by the title of their 1984 road test of the Magna and Interceptor:
“Honda 500 Vee-fours…Honda’s stunning, magical 500 engine finds a home in two places.”
In that test, the V30 Magna would clock 0-60 mph in just 3.9 seconds and a quarter mile time of 12.79 seconds at 103 mph — better than many 750s of the era! Unfortunately, the fiesty V4 cruiser would be short-lived, lasting only two model years. Today, the bike is almost forgotten…
“This particular build is actually one that I finally did for myself. No outside influence except maybe my wife’s welcome opinions. So if you don’t like it then I am the only one to blame.”
While perusing Facebook Marketplace, he came across one of these midsize Magnas, realizing that it had a tubular frame and chain-drive — helpful elements for a donor.
“I was curious what other builders have done with them and my search turned up pretty empty. That actually got me excited because I could ride my own path with this bike and hopefully make the V30 the next CX500.”
Sean proceeded to find a “super cheap victim” of a donor and begin transforming the machine into the tracker/supermoto-style backroad burner you see here, complete with an Interceptor swingarm and monoshock, CBR600F2 forks and wheels, Suzuki T500 tank, lighter 520 chain, and much more. After all the fabwork was done, the bike was torn down for paint, polish, and powder. The best part? Putting the whole creation back together, every part falling back into place:
“Getting to see it reborn right before my eyes is the best part of being a custom bike builder. All the hard work comes down to this. Being able to see the excitement on the client’s face makes it all worth it. But for this build the client was ME! So I sit and stare at it sometimes.”
As you should, Sean! The “WeeVee30” weighs just 370 pounds — nearly 60 pounds lighter than stock — and Sean says the exhaust note at the 12,000 rpm rev limit is music to his ears. Who knows, the Magna may just become the next newly-rediscovered custom platform, much like the Honda CX500 and Yamaha Virago — we’ll see!
Below, we get the full details on the build from Sean himself, as well as more stunning shots from photographer Jonathan Thorpe (www.jthorpephoto.com).
Honda V30 Magna Street Tracker: In the Builder’s Words
The bike began as a worn-out 1984 Honda V30 Magna 500. AKA VF500c. This particular build is actually one that I finally did for myself. No outside influence except maybe my wife’s welcome opinions. So if you don’t like it then I am the only one to blame. I saw one of these bikes while flipping through Facebook marketplace. I noticed the tubular frame and saw that it was chain-drive. Two things that definitely help when building a custom bike. I was curious what other builders have done with them and my search turned up pretty empty. That actually got me excited because I could ride my own path with this bike and hopefully make the V30 the next CX500. Probably not. I knew then that I had to find a cheap donor and Ol Marketplace did not disappoint. I found a super cheap victim to take home with me to start my project.
Now the Magna has a weird gas tank set up. It has two. One that’s in the usual spot and one that hides under the seat. After stripping away everything to see the “bones” of the bike I quickly saw why the bike had two tanks. The air box is huge and takes up a lot of space under the tank. My first order of business was to see how I could reduce the square footage of that mess so I would know what sort of gas tank I could run.
Once I removed everything from the top of the air box I saw that Honda used the bottom of the box which is aluminum to hold the four carbs together. This gave an excellent base to start a new air box. I cut out aluminum plates to sandwich a custom-sized K&N air filter in. Once I had the spacer machined and the air filter assembly properly aligned I drilled and threaded the base to hold it all in place. It really worked out well. This gave me much more room for a single gas tank so I could focus on cleaning up the under-seat area and the rear suspension.
With all of my builds I get the suspension and ride height/angle dialed in before starting any bodywork. As luck would have it the 500 Interceptor swingarm fits perfectly in the Magna frame. Same odd pivot bolts and everything. This allowed me to build a custom subframe and use the Interceptor’s monoshock setup. For wheel choices there is a wealth of information on the web about swapping CBR600F2 wheels onto an Interceptor 500. To get the rear wheel to work I had to use the stock Magna cush drive. It needed a bit of machining and bearing changes to work but it fit. For the rear brake it required the use of a VTR1000 caliper bracket and the CBR caliper/rotor. The swingarm had to be machined for the bracket to fit properly. Then new wheel spacers machined to line it all up!
As for the front, it was considerably easier. I used the complete CBR600F2 front end but had to use Honda Nighthawk triples due to the long steering stem of the Magna. I lucked out with the fork spacing being almost the same! I contacted EPM Performance and spoke in great length to Klaus. Klaus walked me through everything I needed to make a HyperPro rear shock from a VF1000 work with my set up. Some valve and spring changes and it was perfect! When the custom shock arrived I got to work on the subframe and shock mounts.
Now that the bike is finally a roller and I can work on how I want the bike to look. I chose the tracker/supermotard look because I love the riding position and the look of Protaper handlebars. This made me think about tire choices and how I’ve always wanted to use slicks (even though they are illegal for street use) whatever, I’m using them. They just complete the look in my option.
I decided to use a gas tank from a Suzuki T500. It has a great shape and was big enough to work with the custom airbox. Once the tunnel was cut from the tank I was able to see what I needed to do to make a new tunnel to work well with everything.
With the tank mounted I could focus on the seat and tail. This needed to flow with the race bike theme so number plates and a tracker shape were a must. Once I got the seat shaped to flow with the bodywork it was sent to Wes at Counterbalance Cycles. I sent him a poor drawing of how I wanted the pattern to go and he knocked it out perfectly.
The headlight and front fender were fun to make. I actually used part of the stock front fender and made a few brackets to hold the LED lamp to it. The mini flyscreen faring is a one off piece I shaped from aluminum. The entire setup is held to the bike with two bolts.
Moving on to the exhaust was next. I contacted Cone Engineering for all of my pieces to make two 2-into-1 stainless systems. The front set was easy and fairly straightforward. The rear set was a bit challenging to snake around the shock and up through the back trying to keep all of the pipes nearly the same length. The V4 sound is incredible.
One last challenge I decided to take on was machining the sprockets down to fit a thinner and lighter 520 chain. Why a Magna 500 had a 530 chain is a mystery. No one makes a 520 sprocket set for a Magna so I had to chuck the sprockets in the lathe and trim them down to the correct size. The rear one was easy. The hardened steel front sprocket required it to be faced with a grind stone to get the correct taper and thickness. It was not fun but it worked and now the bike can run the lighter 520 chain.
Now that all of the fabrication has been completed the bike was torn down. I finished the final welding and frame clean up so everything that’s being coated could be taken to Right Away Powder Coat. I was very nervous about pulling the trigger on the red used for the frame because I’m used to having my frames kinda disappear into the build but this one would be the first thing you see! I just trusted my gut and knew that it would be ok. I have to say I love it. The gold wheels just add that extra bit to make it all pop off the screen.
While the parts were away I got to work on the little powerplant. The engine was de-greased and cleaned up for paint and polish. It also got new gaskets and seals along with re-plated OEM bolts and some new stainless hardware.
The job of painting my creation was tossed over to Danny Knight of Knights Kustoms. I chose to go with some very popular Honda colors that worked perfectly with the frame and wheel colors. It all came together nicely.
With all the puzzle piece back and accounted for I got to work reassembling. I had a great time putting my creation back together. Every bolt cleaned or replaced, the fit and finish spot on. All of the parts falling into place. Getting to see it reborn right before my eyes is the best part of being a custom bike builder. All the hard work comes down to this. Being able to see the excitement on the client’s face makes it all worth it. But for this build the client was ME! So I sit and stare at it sometimes.
I was very impressed with how the bike handled and performed. The bike feels so light and easy to maneuver. The stock Magna weighs in at 428lbs wet and my version is 370. Not a bad weight reduction to help with its 65 hp! The Honda V4 engine is unbelievably smooth and that exhaust note near the 12k rev limit is music to my ears. Who knows, maybe we’ll see a few more of these custom builds based on this platform. I’d like to say I helped get it started.
Thanks for reading.