Father/son workshop AMP Motorcycles rebuilds an 80s thumper…
In 1982, Honda introduced the FT500 Ascot, a single-cylinder four-stroke named after the storied Ascot flat track (RIP) just outside Los Angeles:
“Located between the posh Hollywood Hills and the roaring Pacific Ocean, thousands of local thrill seekers would gather on a regular basis to witness American motorsport history. Between 1957 and 1990, Ascot Raceway became a celebrated hot-spot in Gardena, California where spectators could get a close up look into the dangerous, competitive and entertaining sport of dirt track racing.” —Ascot Motorsports
Many believe the FT500 (FT for “Flat Track”) was inspired by the Yamaha SR400 — a thumper destined to become a cult classic, but which didn’t sell well in North America, possibly because it was kickstart-only and vibrated like a jackhammer. Honda sought to address both criticisms with the FT500, which offered a reliable electric start, a pair of counter balancers, and a slew of other features:
“The Ascot…featured cast aluminum wheels, dual-piston disc brakes front and back, a 35mm constant-velocity carburetor with an accelerator pump, and air-assisted front forks. Even with all these niceties, the Ascot still weighed about the same as the SR500, coming in at 374 pounds with a half tank of fuel.”
The engine was a version of the four-valve single that powered the XR500 enduro and XL500 dual-sport, making around 34 horsepower. While that might not sound like a lot these days, the FT500 came together as a killer canyon-carving package:
“The FT’s real strength comes from its performance as a sport bike. The snappy but steady handling, its light weight, wide powerband, click-stop shifting and fine brakes make the Honda a superb tool to carve through twisty roads.” —Cycle, 1982 (source)
While Ascot Park itself is sadly gone, there are builders, riders, and mechanics keeping FT500 Ascots on the road, such as the father/son team behind Germany’s AMP Motorcycles, whose Suzuki GS550 “Cappuccino Racer” we featured last summer. This commission came by way of a previous client, for whom they’d already built an XS360:
“He saw an FT500 in a magazine built by our buddy Uwe Kostrewa (@hombrese.bikes) and wanted something similar. So this bike is a homage to Uwe’s build.”
The bike is now running a Honda CB250 tank, custom subframe / saddle / stainless exhaust, completely new wiring harness and LED lighting, upgraded suspension at both ends, and much more. The result is a vintage-style thumper that’s lighter, quicker, and more head-turning than the original.
Below, we talk to father (Michael) and son (Allen) for the full story on this build. Shots courtesy of photographer Rick Parker (@rick_parker_motografie).
Honda FT500 Custom: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
We are father (Michael) and son (Allen). We are from Offenbach nearby Frankfurt, Germany. We love building bikes together. We’ve been customising bikes as our hobby for some years now. Lately we are getting more and more requests from people wanting us to build them a bike. So we decided to do a couple of customer projects a year. Not too much because we don’t want to lose the fun of it.
In “real” life, Michael has a metal fabrication shop and Allen is a car mechanic and is studying mechanical engineering.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
Honda FT500, 1983.
• Why was this bike built?
We already built a bike last year for this customer. A Yamaha XS360. He saw an FT500 in a magazine built by our buddy Uwe Kostrewa (@hombrese.bikes) and wanted something similar. So this bike is a homage to Uwe’s build.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
- We adapted a Honda CB250K gas tank.
- We changed the rear subframe
- Built a custom 2-1 stainless steel exhaust
- New seat
- Open air filter
- LED blinkers
- Completely new wiring harness, electric control module, switches
- New LED lighting
- Daytona digital tachometer
- Lithium battery
- Everything cleaned, painted, or powder coated
- New brake lines
- Aluminium Fenders
- LSL flat track handlebar
- Koni rear dampers
- Fork was shortened
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
Rides super good. The flat track handlebar and light weight make the bike handle well.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
Nothing special. But the bike before was in super condition. We had no issues during the build. Normally there’s always something that goes wrong. Not this time. This was really fun.
Follow the Builder
Photographer: Rick Parker @rick_parker_motografie
Nice build. I recently owned a 1983 Honda FT500 Ascot, sold it last fall. I had to laugh when I read the line “Honda sought to address both criticisms with the FT500, which offered a reliable electric start….”. They did not succeed in their, search anyone that has owned a FT500 will tell you the electric start is the Achilles heal of the bike and the parts are no longer available from Honda and sourcing them has become quite difficult . I saw in one of the Facebook forums for the FT500 that their is a guy in Europe manufacturing them in small batches but I haven’t heard what the results have been for those that have tried his solution.
Io li ho acquistati e provati, sono eccezionali!! Antonio Parise e’ un ingegnere appassionato anche di FT500. Sono davvero felice che questa sia la soluzione alla piccola fragilita’ della FT500 amoremio
Hi, can you provide a link or contact? I can’t find anything about Parise or his starter motor. Grazie
Mi sono guardato la tua pagina, belle moto e belle trasformazioni mi piacciono, come anche questo modello, bello anche il colore, una bella motoretta.
Very nice. And the paint job must have taken a lot of work.
I can tell you from experience, I still own my 1982 FT500 , that the starter issue is one that will eventually cause most owners to give up and want to suck start a pistol. Honda never solved the problem