Written by Martin Hodgson
Forget the disco-era 1970s or even the golden age of the Renaissance, turns out men have been strutting the streets wearing colourful velvet since 200 BC in China. Personally I’ve never got the trend; unless you’re the legendary American pimp, Bishop Don ‘Magic’ Juan, then you’re probably best leaving the velvet in the draw! Thankfully there’s no goblets, canes or seedy side streets here, just a perfect stripped down and sleek 1985 BMW R80RT. From the creatives minds at North Carolina’s Tattoo Customs comes ‘Blue Velvet’, the only kind that will make anyone look good!
The workshop is unlike most others, “Born in Tattoo Projects ad agency, Tattoo Motorcycles applies the same principles of creative strategy and showmanship to customs as we do to making creative brand campaigns for our clients. Any given day at Tattoo, bikes are being built alongside TV spots, digital campaigns, print ads, and package design. This kind of creative influence produces bikes with an unusual and memorable style,” owner Rudy Banny explains.
Having already built a bunch of sweet BMW R series bikes, Rudy took to Craigslist to find a new donor, when he stumbled across this ’85 model. Sure it had seen better days, but with the popularity of bimmers now even a wreck can run a fair price. With the bike secured the goal was to restore it back to excellent running order and then bring out the soul of the machine; bigger tyres, sleeker profile, cool colours and plenty of custom tweaks. But how did the Honda tank fit into the puzzle you ask?
“There was a CB360 tank that we had sitting around the shop. No idea where it came from but it was in great shape, no dings. We painted it, put a new cap on it and set it on a shelf. It was literally just sitting there for a couple of years. When the R80 came in, the tank was shot. We stripped it down and stood back and stared at the naked frame like we do when we’re searching for the spirit of the bike; low and behold the CB tank was perched on a shelf directly behind the R80’s carcass,” for Rudy, it was fate!
To get the new tank fitting over the frame the angle grinder was fired into life and all the steel was smoothed out and shaped just so. Then the back-end was cut off, the passenger pegs removed and any and all unrequired tabs cut off. While for the new subframe some inspiration was drawn from their previous BMW/Bultaco mashup; with a short and kicked up design, this time also incorporating a built-in LED tail light. Now the frame and wheels could be sent out for some black powder.
Rather than try to disguise the tank in any way at all, the CB unit is resplendent in full factory Honda decals and badges, complete with that beautiful signature blue. With the frame back the 360 tank could finally be positioned one last time and it sits perfectly parallel to the ground. To match an old-school 5-3/4” King Bee chopper headlight was fitted with the lens painted in the crews current favourite hue. While beneath the generous black leather scrambler seat with plenty of room to move is also some more blue light.
To get the bike into a roller Rudy had found the perfect rubber for the job, a set of all terrains in the form of Pirelli Scorpions. While up front the R80 gets slammed to the ground with the forks moved down through a set of Toaster Tan’s CNC triple trees. Not to be outdone, the rear end gets closer to terra firma and handling drastically improved with the stock mono-shock replaced with a big dollar Ohlins unit that is adjustable in every way imaginable.
Shifting over to the engine and the Tattoo Customs team has the old girl ready for many miles of trouble-free motoring. Feeding the fire a pair of new carburettors draw their air via K&N filters ducted toward the centre of the bike for a clean look. Continuing the theme the exhaust is short and brutal, twin stainless pipes that end in their own reverse cone mufflers, “you can feel in the pit of your stomach.” Rudy smiles. The custom bars provide for a hell of a comfy ride, a result of cutting and bending a set of flat tracker items to suit.
The refurbished switch gear and controls look a treat and things are kept simple and sleek with a GPS speedo. While ensuring everything has all the power it needs is a Ballistic EVO3 battery neatly tucked away under the tranny. All finished up Tattoo Customs have once again shown that throwing off the ‘rules’ can lead to breathtaking results! Then when Rudy describes selecting the name “Cuz it’s blue and velvety smooth,” I start to wonder if this is just the ride for the Bishop Don Juan to use as his chariot on the way to the Players Ball!