Baja Red: Honda XR628 Desert Racer

GPgarage Moto builds a ’90s Baja dream racer…  

Introduced in 1985, the Honda XR600R was destined to become one of the most successful off-road motorcycles in history. In a recent retrospective on the mighty air-cooled machine, Dirt Bike marvels at the unexpected success of the XR600R in the world of both competition and recreation:

“Do you think that anyone at Honda knew? Do you think that when the first XR600R rolled off the assembly line, anyone had an inkling that it would become the definitive off-road bike, not only of a generation, but for two or three generations? Do you think they knew that they had just built a wildly successful race bike as well as general purpose campground cruiser?”

The XR600R won the Baja 1000 five times, competing against the mighty Kawasaki two-strokes for desert domination, while Scott Summers ruled the woods in GNCC, ISDE, and Hare & Hound competition. The bike would be produced nearly unchanged until 2000, and today the XR650L dual-sport continues to carry on the legacy.

Honda XR628

One friend Matteo Gualandi of Italy’s GPgarage Moto has been slowly building his stable of Honda Baja race replicas, becoming something of an air-cooled XR whisperer in the process. A former motocross racer, Matteo has not only built machines such as his Johnny Campbell XR628R ’94 XR680R, and XR667 Baja Monster we’ve previously featured, but his workshop also fields a pair of modern CRF rally bikes in the Italian Rally Championship.

Matteo wanted his factory Baja replicas to be as authentic as possible, which meant scouring old magazines, tracking down interviews with Honda team members, and visiting various museums and collections, then fabricating many of the exotic one-off parts in his workshop — much like the factory race teams had done.

Big Red Baja: Honda XR680R Desert Racer

With his stable of factory Baja replicas complete, Matteo is now moving on to builds that allow him a bit more creativity:

“After a lot of XR Baja replicas, I’m finally free to build an XR with my own ideas, as if it were the XR of a privateer who raced Baja in the early 90s.”

Honda XR628

Nicknamed the “XR628 Baja Red,” this build represents Matteo’s dream of the ultimate privateer desert racer, with function and aesthetics blended into one hell of an off-road weapon. The engine has been rebuilt with a 628cc big-bore kit, breathing through an FCR carb and custom-built exhaust, while a front oil-cooler keeps the engine temps in check — always something to watch with these big air-cooled singles.

Honda XR628

A large-capacity Clarke fuel tank means plenty of trail time for the rider, while an array of vintage Acerbis plastics keeps the bike armored and looking good, too. Most of the major parts have been Cerakoted for a handsome, highly durable finish. Matteo even had a custom helmet done up as a Baja homage to accompany the build.

Honda XR628

Matteo is rightly proud of the bike’s aesthetics, but the ride is just as important:

“The bike is very fun to ride and the engine is a kick in the ass when you open the big carb.”

Honda XR628

Below, we talk to Matteo for more details on this Baja Red XR628 desert racer.

Honda XR628 Baja Red: Builder Interview

Honda XR628

• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?

Honda XR600, 1995.

Honda XR628

• Why was this bike built?

Personal collection.

Honda XR628

• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?

After a lot of XR Baja replicas, I’m finally free to build an XR with my own ideas, as if it were the XR of a privateer who raced Baja in the early 90s.

Honda XR628

• What custom work was done to the bike?

Oil radiator kit, custom exhaust, oil decanter kit, 628cc engine kit, FCR carb kit, Cerakote painting, Clarke fuel tank, old Acerbis accessories, and more.

Honda XR628

• Does the bike have a nickname?

“XR628 Baja Red.”

Honda XR628

• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?

The bike is very fun to ride and the engine is a kick in the ass when you open the big carb.

• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?

Yes, the aesthetics of the bike — it’s all from my own ideal bike dreams.

Honda XR628

Follow the Builder

Facebook: Gpgaragemoto
Youtube: Gpgarage Moto

More GPgarage Moto Builds

Honda XR628R Honda XR628R: Street-Legal Baja Tribute - Hot Rod XR from Italy’s GPgarage Moto…  Introduced in 1985, the Honda XR600R was destined to become one of the most successful off-road bikes in motorcycling history. The air-cooled thumper would win the Baja 1000 […]
Honda XL500 Motocross Triple XL: Three Honda XL500 Motocrossers! - GPgarage Moto builds a trio of four-stroke Honda motocrossers…  Introduced in 1979, the Honda XL500 would become one of the most successful dual-purpose bikes of the era, combining a 32-hp version of the XR500 engine […]
Honda XR667 Baja Monster Baja Monster: Honda XR667 Desert Racer - GPmoto Garage recreates Honda’s 1991 “Stealth Boomer”…  In the 1990 Baja 1000, Honda’s XR600R entry ran a near flawless race against the mighty Kawasaki KX500 two-strokes…and still lost, keeping pace in the rough sections but […]
Honda XR680 Baja Big Red Baja: Honda XR680R Desert Racer - From 1988 to 1996, the big-bore Kawasaki two-strokes ruled the Baja 1000, ripping across the desert chaparral at more than 100 mph, covering the 1000-mile race in 10-20 hours. However, their arch-rival, Honda, has never […]
Honda XR600R Flash Red: Honda XR600R Golden Years Edition - Italy’s GPgarage Moto builds an 80s-style XR600R…  The Honda XR600R is the big-bore four-stroke weapon that unseated Kawasaki’s KX500 two-stroke to become the new king of Baja. Over its 15-year production run, the open-class thumper […]
Honda XL600 Restomod Honda XL600LM “Bulldog” by GPgarage Moto - The Honda XL600LM was a tribute to the HRC Paris-Dakar Rally machines of the 1980s. In 1982, Cyril Neveu won the legendary trans-Saharan race on an XR550, and Honda was intent on repeating that victory, […]
Honda XL500R Restomod Baja Commander: Honda XL500R Baja - GPgarage Moto builds a Baja restomod! The XL500R was Honda’s 500cc dual-sport in the early 1980s, a mono-shock (Pro-Link) evolution of the twin-shock XL500S, featuring a 32-hp SOHC engine with counterbalancers, long-travel suspension, and a […]
Johnny Campbell Tribute: Honda XR628R Baja! - Desert King: GPgarage Moto builds a tribute to the King of Baja… Johnny Campbell is a living legend of off-road racing, a man known as “The King of Baja” for his 11 Baja 1000 victories […]

One Comment

  1. Johnny Mochan

    Do you do private builds?For sale ?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *