It’s not often that we mention the hardships involved in a comprehensive build but let’s just say that some bikes become lodged in your memory. Some bikes birth so hard it’s as if they had a curse or a voodoo spell on them and it’s in that spirit that we eventually and oh so affectionately started referring to her as Satan’s bike. [Cue bubbling fiery brimstone]
It was never gonna be easy. Although the LTD440’s straight up twin holds a reputation of infallibility (until Rotax came along it was FAA rated for light aircraft propulsion, used by various companies) it’s only true when well maintained and so it was with grim trepidation we cracked open the engine only to have our fears confirmed and since a stationary motorcycle is only half as good as it could be, a complete engine rebuild was in order before even a single cut to the frame. – And so the little horns became visible. Bottom to the top. Everything from carbs to rings, clutch to crank had to be overhauled. Out of stock, out of production, lead times for new parts are ex-Japan. In our search for local assistance we even found an ingenious gentleman engineer who was experimenting with synthetic roller-bearings for superbikes.
Once all the mechanics were sorted and all 45-ish horses (ok so not many but they are Clydesdales) were back on the field we were able to set about the design with lifted spirits. Johann is a tall fella and used to riding his GS so the brief included making some space for his legs lest they cramp up even before he reaches the proverbial cafe. And so the process began with Johann picking the matte military green paint, black with silver accented engine, and some Hagon rear shocks from our inventory, and the rest was left to us.
The most difficult part of the aesthetic was getting the aged C-47 cockpit to look a little more Lear-y so we ditched the old dash panel but kept the rev counter internals and face-plate and remounted them to a single head unit. The custom stainless steel exhaust header also provided it’s own challenges but once completed paired nicely with a rather flashy GP style titanium slip-on. Then all electrics stripped, cleaned and relocated for the under seat key ignition, the custom battery box and it’s companion battery & wiring, replete with LTD440 brightwork.
Round the back a custom rear mudguard was fitted with LED flasher unit and the plate moved to the side with a neat LED illuminator fitted to keep things as road legal as possible. A custom leather cafe racer seat with matched leather grips lends an air of sophistication and sets off the matte green nicely against the seven spoke wheels, finished in satin black, and fitted with Pirelli MT60. Johann also wanted to retain the original crashbars which we gave a ceramic coating before refitting.
So all back together and ready for the road right? Not so fast.. Johann had his own designs and the moment the bike was finished (the very last moment!) and briefly test ridden it was pampered off to the Garage Built Show at the WMC in Woodstock and after that, on location for the shoot and though she didn’t win any prizes (what?.. not even the “Odd Tires” trophy?…c’maaan!) she’s certainly won over Johann’s heart.
And what’s Satan’s bike like to ride? Well this probably won’t surprise you but it’s.. fun of course.)