Cafe Racer SSpirit restores a rare French-Japanese kit bike…
From 1972 to 1986, France’s Moto Martin (pronounced Marteen) produced full chassis / body kits for an array of 1970-80s superbike engines, effectively marrying Japanese multi-cylinder performance with European taste, style, and a prime focus on frame technology. Founded by industrial designer Georges Martin — a man who spent a lot of time in 1970s race paddocks drawing inspiration from competition machinery — the firm drew comparisons to England’s Harris and Italy’s Bimota:
“In a nutshell, Moto Martin was something akin to a French Bimota; the boutique firm dropped the latest engines of the day — in Martin’s case primarily from Japanese manufacturers — into bespoke frames, adorned them in unique bodywork, and then tacked on the latest and greatest track-focused running gear. ” –Bike-urious
The frames were known to be made from bronze-welded 30mm steel tubing, with geometry geared toward fast touring and high-speed stability, and the bodywork that took cues from both the café racer and endurance racing traditions. Moto Martin even produced their own suspension and wheels. The bikes could be purchased as kits or fully assembled, and at its height, Martin had a full-time team of 35.
In 1982, no less than Kevin Cameron of Cycle World built and tested a Moto Martin with a Kawasaki J-model 1000cc engine, 42mm Martin forks, De Carbon rear damper, and tubeless cast aluminum wheels:
“Do you tastes run to long, interesting roads? Are you a bit of a Europhile, with an affection for Japanese power? Would you enjoy dropping down through Germany and the Swiss Alps to take in a 500cc international meeting on the Italian Adriatic Coast? The Moto Martin chassis kit exists to marry the two traditions — East and West.”
Later, Cycle World‘s Mark Homchick tested the KZ1000J-powered Moto Martin at Willow Springs Raceway, where he described the handling as stable with solid cornering clearance, though he stressed the Moto Martin was designed for the real world, not the the racetrack:
“You can certainly ride the Moto Martin ride to — and beyond — the limits of street tire traction, and, depending on your skill level, the Moto Martin won’t scare you doing it…. How you’ll feel on the Moto Martin touring the countryside Euro-style is the real test.”
Recently, we heard from our friend and phenomenal photographer Xavi Dynamische of Barcelona, who’d just finished shooting a Katana 1100-powered Moto Martin restored by San Sebastian’s Cafe Racer SSpirit.
The original owner, Jorge, bought the donor Katana 1100 new, then took it directly to Moto Martin for a full, no-expense-spared conversion, so that only the engine, carbs, and speedometer remained from the original bike:
“The Moto Martin preparation included all aspects. From the characteristic chrome handcrafted chassis, alloy wheels, better forks, brakes, full exhaust system, clip-on handlebars, rearset footpegs, swingarm, full fairing and the famous monocoque.” –Hugo, CRSS
Years later, and after some 21,000 original miles, the Martin had fallen into a deteriorated state, and Jorge had disassembled the bike with the intention of a full restoration. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with ALS, and Cafe Racer SSpirit took over the rebuild. While they handled the mechanical aspects, the fiberglass and paint restoration was outsourced to Sergio from Classic Garage Motorcycles.
“The complete restoration took just over a year. It has been spectacular and we are very satisfied with the work done.”
Hugo says the bike looks and sounds like new, with lots of power and style. Sadly, however, the original owner didn’t get to see his Moto Martin back in action:
“While the bike was being fixed to make it totally perfect, the first and only owner, and the one who commissioned the preparation, died of ALS.”
We can only hope that Jorge is smiling down on his old motorcycle, happy to see it back on the road where it belongs — and captured in the inimitable lens of Xavi Dynamische, for all of us to appreciate.
Below, Hugo from Cafe Racer SSpirit gives us the full story on the build.
Moto Martin Katana: In the Builder’s Words…
We bought it from a man named Jorge who died of a disease called ALS. This gentleman bought the new motorcycle in Gran Canarias and took it directly to the tuner Martin for his conversion. He spared no expense. From the original Katana 1100, only the engine, carburettors and also the instrument panel (complete speedometer) remained.
The Moto Martin preparation included all aspects. From the characteristic chrome handcrafted chassis, alloy wheels, better forks, brakes, full exhaust system, clip-on handlebars, rearset footpegs, swingarm, full fairing and the famous monocoque.
The motorcycle was bought in a deteriorated state, since it required cleaning up the fiber and painting it completely again. It was also certainly disassembled, since the owner’s intention was to restore it again. This could not be due to his illness, so he decided to sell it. With his indications of how the bike was before and some photos from the Internet to get a better idea, we were able to visualize it.
At first, we started the restoration of the fiberglass in the workshop, but for a perfect finish and a spectacular paint we decided to outsource the work, entrusting it to Sergio from Classic Garage Motorcycles.
The complete restoration took just over a year. It has been spectacular and we are very satisfied with the work done.
It has been fully restored. The mileage of the motorcycle is 34,000 original km and the truth is that it sounds like new. The bike has a lot of power and we also suspect that it includes some extra engine preparation, since it was usual to increase the displacement in all these models. For parts they used to use Yoshimura components.
To avoid any problem due to the modifications made by Martin at the time, we opted to approve the aesthetic reforms of the preparer himself.
We are in front of a unique copy, bought by its sole owner, low mileage, fully approved, restored and up to date. As a curiosity, the preparation itself cost more than the new bike itself. Together with the motorcycle, he gave us the period catalog with all the spare parts that could be installed at Moto Martin.
While the bike was being fixed to make it totally perfect, the first and only owner, and the one who commissioned the preparation, died of ALS.
Follow the Builder
Cafe Racer SSpirit
Based in San Sebastian, Spain.