Farewell VTR: Honda VTR1000 by Francis Von Tuto

Honda VTR1000 Custom

For Sale: 1000cc V-Twin “FTVR” from Francis Von Tuto…

In the 1990s, Carl Fogarty had been putting the hammer down on the Japanese fours in World Superbike, piloting his booming Ducati to four championships. Riders were crazy for V-twin sportbikes, but Ducati couldn’t build enough to supply the demand.

“All this meant it was the perfect time for a Japanese invasion into the V-twin world.” —MCN

Honda VTR1000 Custom

In 1997, Honda unveiled the VTR1000 Firestorm, known as the SuperHawk in the USA — a 90° V-twin sportbike with a semi-pivotless frame, where the swingarm was bolted directly to the 100-bhp engine. The VTR also boasted side radiators, a single-casting engine case, and mammoth 48mm carbs — the biggest ever fitted to a production bike!

Honda VTR1000 Custom

The VTR ran an 11.03-second quarter-mile at 124 mph for Cycle World, but the bike’s true beauty was its power delivery and grunt:

“Riding a Firestorm is all about surfing that glorious mid-range….. When an engine makes such a satisfying shunt between 4000 and 8000rpm, you can forgive it anything.” —MCN

Honda VTR1000 Custom

Last year, our friend Francesco Tutino of Francis Von Tuto Moto Works picked up a ’98 Firestorm for a song:

“It wasn’t the best looking Firestorm I’ve ever seen — over 90,000 km on the clock — but it came cheap due to some running issues and the work needed to make it roadworthy.”

Honda VTR1000 Custom

After sorting a huge timing F-up on the part of the previous owner (a self-proclaimed mechanic), as well as replacing an array of bearings and seals, Francesco took the VTR on a few solid interstate rides and a track day before putting it up for sale. He’d planned a relatively quick flip but hadn’t anticipated the number of flakes and tire-kickers he’d get:

“After I’d gotten stuffed by the umptenth time-waster, I decided to strip it down and turn it into a custom bike.”

Honda VTR1000 Custom

Francesco has customized everything from enduros to cruisers, but the idea of a semi-modern sportbike got his blood pumping:

“This model is equipped with a bulletproof 100-hp 1000cc V-twin with decent-sized wheels and suspension — awesome start when you’re aiming for a torquey, corner-hungry machine.”

After an insane amount of work, he worked out the shape of one very cool one-piece fairing that both hides the side radiators and keeps them cool. He also fabricated a stainless T-bar that supports the removable lightbar unit, which has both headlights and indicators, and he retained the big original speedometer:

“I love the look from the inside, especially when riding chin on the tank, tucked behind that big ‘fishbowl’ clear bubble screen.”

Honda VTR1000F Custom

The livery is inspired by the mighty Honda CR750, but with a candy jade green akin to that of the CB500 Four. The 2-into-1 exhaust was his first-ever full handmade system, using 44mm stainless and Arrow silencers, and most of the major aluminum parts have been vapor-blasted. Francesco calls the bike the FVTR:

FVTR
Simple name, a real no brainer.
F(rancis Von Tuto) VTR?
F(inal)VTR?
F(arewell)VTR?
FVT R(acer)?
It doesn’t really matter, as it just works so bloody good!

Why farewell, you ask? Because, after about a decade living in Australia, Francesco is moving back to his home country of Italy. And he’s put the FVTR up for sale!  Priced at $10,000 and located in Brisbane, Australia. That’s right, you can own this bike, which was featured on Bike EXIF’s Speed Read, here on BikeBound, and built by one of the best in the business!

Below, we get the full story straight from the builder’s mouth, as well as more gorgeous shots from photographer Dallas Shultz (@dtrainphotography).

Honda VTR1000 Custom: In the Builder’s Words

Honda VTR1000F Custom

What you’re looking at was once a 1998 Honda VTR1000 Firestorm, last of the Australian builds for Francis Von Tuto. This bike was originally purchased to be used for a while and then flip for profit. It wasn’t the best looking Firestorm I’ve ever seen — over 90ks on the clock — but it came cheap due to some running issues and the work needed to make it roadworthy.

Honda VTR1000F Custom

Funny story since I bought it from a “mechanic.” Apparently, the original engine blew up and after fitting a secondhand one with half the mileage from a wrecker, they couldn’t work out why it wasn’t running properly. It was running on just two cylinders but sounded like a CRF450? Right…. They blamed the multiple cracks in the “artisanal exhaust” for making it sound that bad, but I knew there was something else. So, once in my garage, I pulled it all apart and started fixing that poo-cart to turn it into a motorcycle again, and while checking the valve clearances, I realised the timing was compltely off! The engine was firing at 90 degrees rather than 270. Anyway, I fixed that plus a wide range of other issues including front caliper seals, leaking suspension, slave cylinder, steering bearings, rear disc, and so on.

Honda VTR1000F Custom

I used it for a while, went for some good interstate rides and and a track day, then advertised it for sale. (This was way before Covid, when there were plenty of bikes on the market — now it would have gone in a blink of an eye.) After I’d gotten stuffed around from the umptenth time-waster, I decided to strip it down and turn it into a custom bike.

Honda VTR1000F Custom

This model is equipped with a bulletproof 100-hp 1000cc V-twin with decent-sized wheels and suspension — awesome start when you’re aiming for a torquey, corner-hungry machine. Especially after customising bikes ranging from cruisers to enduros from early 70s to early 90s, with my latest build based on a 2006 CBR, I’ve definitely enjoyed the power and race-oriented character of these little rockets as donors for my projects. I can’t say I won’t use a vintage or trail bike anymore for my future builds, but I’ve already got something in mind for a possible modern-based racer!

 

Back to the VTR. Once I’d stripped all the original parts, I started bending some steel to build the seat subframe and a support to install a Ducati SS replica fairing to find the stance.

I originally made it naked with a fiberglass top fairing and installed a central-mounted 7″ round headlight, but I got sick of it pretty quickly. I also went through a bit of a struggle with those side radiators. Tried to leave them uncovered, but they looked terrible.  I honestly would have kept this build “side panels free” if it wasn’t for those side-mounted radiators. In order to hide them, I found myself making a big mess by shaping foam, fiberglassing, bogging, and filing to find a nice shape to a pair of radiator covers. After a few attempts, I redirected my efforts towards a one-piece solution. Once happy with the shape, I called Paul Borowinski to build me a full mould and produce this cool one-off fairing.

Honda VTR1000F Custom

Once that was placed on the bike, I had to think about hot air extraction from the radiators, then headlights and instrument cluster. The fairing doesn’t meet the frame, so there’s already a decent air gap to let the the heat from the rads dissipate towards the back half of the bike, but a further solution for the hot air extraction was found by sawing oblong holes on the sides of the fairing, located near the end of the radiators to allow the air to channel from behind the front wheel into the rads and then out of the fairings — and it really works when the bike is moving.

Honda VTR1000F Custom

Having a soft spot for race bikes, I did of course love the look of the fairing without headlights, but being a road registered bike, of course lighting was needed, and I liked the idea of an easily removable lightbar unit, where I could have both headlights and indicators. Also the cluster had me thinking a lot. Although I was in love with the tiny LED speedo unit, inside such a large top fairing I couldn’t really see a small gauge. So I opted to fit the original, which fills the view and provides all the important data.

Honda VTR1000F Custom

To hold both the headlight and speedo, starting from the original mounts located in front of the steering neck, I put together a steel subframe using a main straight tube with a custom stainless T-bar holding the front lights. It slides in through a slot at the front of the fairing and the speedo bolts on right above it, centrally located inside the fairing, hiding the front section of the wiring loom — all topped by a very protective windshield. A support from the front tank mount to the top fairing also adds strength and prevents it from wobbling at high speed.

 

I love the look from the inside, especially when riding chin on the tank, tucked behind that big “fishbowl” clear bubble screen.
With such different bodywork up front, that long tail and front fender both needed to be shortened. Easy solution for the front — I only had to shorten the ABS mudguard to a much more suitable line. At the back, the old square-tubed subframe had left space for a custom-made shorter round steel tube one. Went with PBM 3-in-1 indicators and mini LED numbler plate light for very efficient lighting and a clean look. The seat has a carpeted aluminium base with a very comfortable dual density foam, and the upholstery is another amazing piece of work from David Webster.

Honda VTR1000F Custom

Under it all, the electronics and the main wiring loom are secured to an aluminium tray. The battery is held by a steel cage and the rectifier / regulator is bolted at the back under the seat, outside of the electric tray to allow better cooling. The sides are covered by two hand-shaped 2mm aluminium plates.

Honda VTR1000F Custom

The tank has been left untouched as per factory, only played with livery to match the rest of the bodywork. The livery is inspired by the mighty Honda CR750, but revisited my way. Same as the colours — to my knowledge, they’re only gold or orange with white number plates, but I’ve chosen the closest formula to the CB500 Four candy jade green, with yellow plates surrounded by thin black pinstripes and black band with thick white stripes on the sides.

With everything else looking pretty, some particulars like the swingarm and other aluminium parts did stand out for how old they looked. So I removed the engine covers (while at it, I also checked the clutch and decided to fit the mighty FVTR with a fresh Barnett clutch kit), then got the chassis brace, top yoke, rocker and engine covers, and the forklegs off the bike and vapour-blasted. The swingarm had disgustingly deep marks from the standard mufflers (I guess) rubbing against it. At that stage, with the bike already half stripped, I pulled it out, filled the marks by TIG-welding them, then spend a ludicrous amount of time hand-filing it, sanding it, and a final polish. And I replaced the old and cracked chain slider with a new one.

Honda VTR1000F Custom

Talking exhaust, when I bought this VTR it was fitted with those silly short Akra lookalike eBay specials, which I absolutely hate. They sounded okay once the timing and cracks were fixed, but they looked terrible. So for my first handmade full exhaust system I chose 44mm stainless and a 2-into-1 solution rather than the classic 2-into-2. The choice of the muffler was easy. I’ve used an Arrow silencer off a CB600, which happened to be hanging on the workshop’s wall. I’m pretty pleased by the result. You can like it or not, but it made a huge difference performance-wise, especially after a bit of fine tuning on those Factory Pro-kitted Mikuni carbs.

Honda VTR1000F Custom

Using the renowned Italian brand long muffler really helped to keep the exhaust “acceptably loud” without being stupidly ear drilling like some other less known or custom brands; it also has a baffle, which I didn’t bother fitting and will leave it up the new owner — because FVTR is actually for sale!

Priced at $10,000 — located in Brisbane.

Honda VTR1000F Custom

To think that only last year, I had lost nearly all interest in completing it, with only 60% of the work done, a workshop to downsize and move into a smaller garage, plus covid and a lot of paperwork and crap to be done to prepare myself for the imminent move back overseas…makes me laugh. The decision to move to Italy is still a lot of hard work and the road will still be uphill for a while, but now that I’m at the end of this process and the FVTR is finally completed — especially after a couple of pretty fast mountain rides, I’m glad I didn’t give up on it.

Honda VTR1000F Custom

I want to thank all my friends, customers, and whoever else supported me here in Australia. But a very special mention goes to my buddy Emanuele for sharing his super busy single car garage with me and my five bikes while in the process of completing and selling them, and my good friend Alex from Skinny’s Social Garage for the last year and half spent working side by side — plenty of good times in and out of the old Fortitude Valley shop where half of Francis Von Tuto’s builds actually came to life. Impossible to forget!

Arrivederci Australia!

More Photos

Follow the Builder

Website: www.francisvontuto.com
Instagram: @francis_von_tuto
Facebook: Francis Von Tuto

Photos by Dallas Shultz (@dtrainphotography)

6 Comments

  1. Nice bike. It would fly off the shelve today.

  2. Absolutely wonderful build! Good luck in Italia, Francis!

  3. For most up-to-date news you have to visit web and on world-wide-web I found this web site as a best website for most recent updates.

  4. Ed Flanagan

    We never got the Varadero 1000 , I always thought this would be a great Dual sport/Adventure bike basis !

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