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ASV – ‘Allan Special Vehicle’

Posted on October 30, 2012 by Scott in Bobber. 23 comments

By guest writer Ian Lee.

One offhand comment about Canadian bike customising has brought some rather passionate Canadians out, resulting in a raft of emails from Canadians wanting to show off their custom creations. Among these emails was the ASV, the Allan Special Vehicle, a custom bobber style bike built by Joe Allan, who wants to show just how much customising a Canadian is able to fit into one build. And what a radical, built from the ground up bike it is.

The build began when Joe picked up a Cushman Truckster from a surplus auction at his work, for the princely sum of $85. For those not aware of what a Cushman Truckster is, it is an industrial motorised cart, with a semi enclosed cab. Hardly the sort of thing one would consider when starting out on a build, however Joe could see potential in the air cooled opposed twin motor and three speed gearbox. After stripping the Cushman of it’s driveline, Joe fitted late model Kawasaki quad running gear to the Cushman, and put the factory running gear away for use at a later date.

This later date arrived when the Joe’s local bike shop sponsored a Biker Build, with the rules stating a $5000 limit on the build – including purchase of the bike. Joe was already in front, having a set of running gear and numerous items he could use in the build, squirrelled away at his workshop. Knowing he wanted a 30s/40s look for the bike, and the material required to begin, Joe started on the build.

Using a Suzuki 650 Tempter steering neck as the starting point for the frame, Joe bent up some scrapyard steel to make the frame around the motor. Running a driveline turned out to be a bit of a mission, as the Cushman transmission had the output in the centre at the rear of the case, right where the rear wheel is. This was remedied by putting a sprocket on the output shaft, a short chain running to a V65 Magna driveshaft output, along a hybrid Magna V65/Honda Shadow driveshaft to a Honda Silverwing rear drive hub.

Although the Silverwing hub and wheel worked well, the Comstar rim didn’t fit in with the flavour of the build, so Joe knocked out the Comstar spokes out and machined the hub down to take a 1970’s Honda CB750 rim. After welding up the arrangement together, Joe’s son laced up a 1972 CB750 and the driveline was finished. A foot clutch has been fashioned from a part on a Chevolet pickup, mounted above 70s aftermarket footboards.

The Cushman motor is rated at a factory 18hp, the single bendix carburettor being replaced by a set from a chinese dirtbike, the oil cooler pilfered from an industrial compressor. A Kobuta tractor alternator is the electricity supply, driven by a pulley off the drive stub, running power to the battery, and to the wooden coil box, picked up from a thrift shop for $1. Also thrift shop sourced are the air cleaner housings, fashioned from old silver plated wine goblets. The exhaust is a Joe Allan special, two stainless j-pieces, matched with reproduction Harley silencers.

Aesthetically, the bike aims to look period specific, Joe going so far as to paint it Bordeaux red – a 1949 Volkswagen paint code. The front forks and rim are from a Suzuki 250 Hustler, front and rear fenders courtesy of a Suzuki T500. Special touches have been applied all over the bike, enough to notice something different everytime you look. The oil and grease lines are all copper tubing, the front and rear brake levers both mounted on the hand controls.

Joe has fashioned the tail light from a 1970s aftermarket tachometer housing, fitted with a Honda cut down brake light lens. For seating purposes, a reproduction Penny Farthing Bicycle seat has been used, showing the variety of influences and sources Joe has access to. The ultimate personalising touch is definitely the ASV logos, cast from 50/50 solder and fitted all over the bike – surely making people hit google to find out what sort of bike it is.

Starting from just an engine and transmission, this bike has grown into the unique creation you see today. Although it’s style may not be to everyone’s taste, you have to admit that Joe is one hell of a visionary, to see that Cushman Truckster and know he could do something amazing with it. If this is the sort of bike ingenuity Canadians can come up, then I’m not sorry I questioned their custom culture – as we’d never have featured this one of a kind motorcycle.

Check out more photos of the ASV, including many build pics here.

  • motorshag

    Wow. Not a fan, but I respect it.

  • arnold

    Wow. I haven’t cruised the links yet. Did you win the build? if not, why not? Thanks for good pics and a unique build.ald

    • Davidabl2

      It’s a lovely little thing.. but it needs some tiny rollers to keep the hinged floorboards from scraping the tarmac. This is actually a a serious suggestion. Really.

      • Mike Cambareri

        That is my only quibble about the design. It’s a fascinating bike, and I think it’s gorgeous, but he certainly won’t be dragging a knee on her…

    • Davidabl2

      If he didn’t win he surely should have.

    • Joe Allan

      Hi, yes I won the peoples choice award 🙂

  • Mister Oddjob

    It’s an interesting (albeit ugly) build with a very cool engine, but with those floorboards mere inches above the ground, it doesn’t look like it can turn to get out of its own way. I just don’t understand why so many bike are built that that are barely ridable. What’s the point?

    • ccc40821

      Style, nostalgia, comfort vs. the ability to go fast around a corner. Besides the floorboards are hinged, so even if they scrape it won’t upset the bike’s handling.

      Simultaneously a horrible and a cool bike, btw.

      • Mister Oddjob

        My question was rhetorical although I appreciate that you are trying to enlighten me. I understand why people build bikes that sacrifice function for style; they’re not building them to ride, they’re building them to show. And that’s fine. But in my opinion, it’s more fun to build something you can ride the balls of off than to just look at.

        I’m a designer by profession and I obsess over the smallest design details when I’m building something, but never at the expense of functionality. Good design does its job beautifully.

        I had a Yamaha V-star that was pretty well known (amongst other v-star owners) when I built it a decade ago. I put hinged floorboards on it (with a lot more clearance than this bike has) and nearly ran off the road in a sudden turn on a backroad in WV because of the floorboards. I was only doing 35mph. So while they may not upset the handling, they sure can prevent you from aiming the bike where you want to go. I sold that bike soon after and haven’t built a bike since that made any compromises in handling or braking.

    • Joe Allan

      Hi, regarding the low floorboards, as the build had a time limit I basically ran out of time to really finish the bike. I planned to have it complete with a sidecar. The transmission is a regular “three on the tree” type complete with reverse and that coupled with the foot clutch I thought made it a perfect sidecar rig. I’ll complete it to plan one day, till then on to the next project.

      • Mister Oddjob

        Ahh, the lowness of the floorboards make a lot more sense then. Thanks for the info. Are you still going to add the sidecar?

  • itsmefool

    Fascinating little bike; BTW, was this the offhand comment that opened the floodgates?

    “To stay on topic, care to link some evidence of the Canadian West Coast bike scene? The rest of the f’in’ planet would like to see it.”

    If so, it was made by me in reaction to another poster who never responded with a link. Thanks for picking up the gauntlet!

    • Oldnbroken

      I thought this was the comment, from the CB550 ‘Ravenna’…….”Even our featured bike’s owner, Andre, admits “in Canada, café racer
      culture isn’t too vibrant, but I was lucky to find the one guy near
      Niagara that could make my dream a reality”.”


  • Very nice build – it has a pre-war Zundapp look to it. I had no idea the Cushman motor looked so cool. I’d love to see it run. So, Canadians can build custom bikes.

  • The only problem I can see with it is the odometer. There’s not even 2/10ths of a mile on there. If you’re going to spend all the time building something, RIDE IT! Love it!

  • revdub

    Very interesting. Some really cool work here, Joe. I’d like to see what you could do with a moped.

  • Cliff Overton

    First thought was, I am looking at some unknown old bike that has been fully restored, so to have built this from the ground up using parts from a wide range of bikes and cars *and probably washing machines too) is very impressive. The finished product looks like it is right out of the 30’s or 40’s – well done.

  • Oldnbroken

    Could we have a few more “offhand” comments from you guys about a few other countries so you can dig up even more incredibly interesting builds please.


  • Definitely a “Frankenbike.” Not to my taste, but clever just the same.
    With the floorboards a hair’s width off the tarmac, how do you turn?

  • Thiago willemann

    essa moto tem 2 milhoes de detalhes… maravilhosa…

  • michael

    A budget build with the looks of a nicely appointed gentlemans motorbike possibley from the small workshop of an aspiring bespoke marque circa 1938. The blending and synthesis of so many dissimalar sourced bits into a coherent and estheticly and mechanicaly balanced designg is pure genius.