OUT IN Perth, Murray has been letting his imagination run wild on his 1976 750/4 K2, resulting in a Rat Honda impressive enough to take out the Top Street Style award at the recent Perth Hot Rod & Custom Show.
The CB750 is a great machine to work on: Honda made 400,000 of them so parts are readily available; the four-cylinder SOHC engines are impressively powerful; and they’ve been making custom frames for these things for the best part of 40 years. So even though the Honda was a basket-case when he picked it up eight years ago, Murray has been able to create a fast and tough daily ride without breaking the bank.
The rat style was the only way this bike was heading: “I’d rather ride than shine,” Murray explains.
And who can blame him? The guy’s been into his classic bikes for as long as he can remember, starting with a Triumph Tiger 100. This turned out to be too slow so an air-cooled Yamaha RD250 was next on the list and proved to be a little rocket. He then progressed to a Honda CB550F that he fixed up to turn into his daily ride.
Confident in his bike building abilities after this, when the basket-case CB750 came along, he couldn’t resist it. “I found a Santee rigid frame with a two-inch stretch in the top tube in NSW from a magazine advert and made a chopper from there.”
Keeping the build cost to a minimum, Murray picked up other bits and pieces at swap meets, including his bike’s Softail guard and Sportster tank.
The tail-light is from a 1930s Ford and was bought for just $2; while the matte black paint used throughout cost just $10. He’s also recently splashed out a bit more with some pinstriping work performed for $50.
The bike still runs its original 750/4 hub but it’s laced to a Harley 16-inch rim rather than an 18-inch. This all helps its low-slung chopper style, backed by its rigid rear-end and Wide Glide four-inch-over forks (courtesy of a friend from the Vietnam Veterans) over a Harley 21-inch front wheel.
The engines in these old four-cylinder Hondas are pretty brutal in standard form so Murray didn’t feel the need to make any changes here. “For reliability sakes I thought I’d leave it alone. When you start messing with the engine that’s when things can go wrong,” he says. “It’s got about 140 bhp so is great in a straight line, and will do the standing quarter-mile in around 10.5 seconds. It gives the stock big twins a run for their money up to about 100 km/h.”
At nearly nine-foot long though, it’s not the best for cornering, but is ideal for cruising the 5 km Marine Parade in Perth where it is very well known on the chopper scene. It doesn’t escape the eyes of the local constabulary either, with Murray recalling a local copper on a Honda police bike stopping him just to have a look. “He asked me if I wanted to swap, but I told him I didn’t like the white colour or blue lights on his,” he says.
There are plenty of unique talking points on Murray’s Honda. The only dashes of colour on this otherwise fully matte black rat are the padded velvet saddle and the coated-red exhausts. The red may well have been chosen because Murray really aspires to have his bike look like the awesome Saxon Crown custom bike; ideally with red rims and white wall tyres.
Other touches include a couple of Iron Cross badges—one below the saddle and the other below the headlight—while a ‘Danger Live Wires’ plate is also a special feature. “I used to work as a linesman assistant, and the plate is from a bargeboard from a 1930s house that didn’t need it anymore. I thought I’d have it for the bike and look’s good for the rat style.”
Above all, this is a bare bones bike built in the backyard and shows you don’t have to spend a fortune or worry about polishing chrome all day to have a show-winning machine. Finding the likes of an unloved Honda CB750/4 isn’t too difficult with the amount originally sold, and in some states, Australian Design Rules don’t apply to pre-1977 bikes so these older Hondas—that are also brilliantly reliable—are top choices to build on if you’ve got big ideas.
Murray’s inspiration has come from Backstreet Horse magazine in the USA and Backstreet Heroes in the UK, while Rockers Choppers in Myaree, WA, who are big into home-built choppers, proved a great help and influence in answering questions about the build.
As for the future, the Honda Rat is all done and enjoyed as often as possible, and Murray now has another distraction in the form of a Harley Sportster in orange and black racing colours. Who knows if this will ultimately end up as a rat as well, because like Murray says, he’d much rather be riding than shining.
pics by Brian White; words by Iain Curry