The vast bulk of custom motorcycles we feature on these pages are carefully conceived, meticulously designed and then executed with surgeon-like accuracy to produce a result that is incredibly close to the original drawings. It’s a great approach, but it certainly isn’t the only one and the machine before you helps to prove the point. It was only ever supposed to be a cheap way of having some fun, but as his enthusiasm grew with every step, Marco Matteucci knew he couldn’t stop until he had totally transformed every bit of his beast. And he’s sure done that, with his Honda NX650 given the full Matteucci Garage makeover, to produce a rampaging Raptor ready to take on the zombie apocalypse.

We’ve been featuring works from the Italian garage for nearly a decade and it’s always been clear that Marco attacks each project with his own style and way of thinking. Having spent years as a photographer and graphic designer, no matter whether he starts with a concrete plan or simply gets carried away with a build as was the case with this Honda, he has the eye to bring it all together and arrive at a result that simply works. And that result is almost always one that is shaped by his left-field creativity, and yet, every bike he’s built has seen the riding experience greatly enhanced too.

And in starting this project, that was really all Marco had in mind. He’d previously built a very tasty and heavily customised Honda XL600, so he’s familiar with the platform. But this build was supposed to be about taking the budget dual sport machine and improving its abilities for some cheap and fun enduro-style riding. “Evidently something went wrong and we got carried away,” Marco laughs. But thank the custom bike gods that he did, because in getting caught up and carried away, he’s built a bike that serves the purpose, while getting seriously pimped out in the looks department.

Assessing the stock Dominator, Marco decided that the suspension and braking needed a serious upgrade if it was going to deliver maximum thrills off-road. To achieve this he sourced a Honda CRF front end, and utilising the forks and triple trees, adapted them to fit the NX. This single modification is a huge improvement over standard, and modern suspension called for modern braking to match. A massive 320mm disc has been called upon to scrub off speed, while a custom-made bracket allows for the fitment of a very bitey 4-piston caliper. Then to ensure he had precision control over this combination, a Brembo PS16 master cylinder was fitted.

Next, his mind turned to petrol and whether he had enough of it on board for long days of fun, answer, no! So, the next modification was to source an Acerbis oversized gas tank, which can hold a very healthy 23 litres of go juice, job done! “If we get lost in the tundra and it starts to get dark we will need light, a lot of light. Ok, Koso full LED headlight enclosed in a steel ring complete with protective grille and additional high-power spotlights. Practically the sun at midnight,” he says of the next logical changes he made. It was probably around now that Marco realised things were getting out of hand, and he simply embraced it.

“We like the handlebars clean, so I eliminated the classic controls and put all push buttons and a nice Motogadget motoscope-mini to leave free space for a Quad Lock support complete with wireless charging. Decentralised risers machined from solid to mount everything and, if it’s cold, Daytona heated grips.” Form and function were really starting to take shape now and the back end of the bike is no different. The seat is generously padded and the tail section not only helps to carve out a distinct look but has been designed to allow for three pieces of Mosco Moto luggage to be carried.

To continue the theme, a set of side covers were made and the engine protection bars formed with metal inserts, all of which were inspired by the mighty Velociraptor and gave the mega machine its name. A sump guard and additional protection for the brakes and forks was called upon and then Marco decided his beast needed a roar. The exhaust gasses run rearward via the standard headers, hugging the brilliantly painted motor, before making a line up and under the seat. From here a set of Dominator end cans howl into the moon and are protected by stylised 3mm alloy covers. To add some extra power, the engine was also fitted with a Keihin FCR 41 carb, with a modified factory airbox.

Now the bike was ready to be ripped apart and a group of piles were created, dictating which bits would go out to paint and which would be powder coated. The matte black, gold and white fits the theme to a tee and the saddle gets all three colours added to its upholstery. The wiring loom was found to be in less than good condition, so a new one was built from scratch. While the hubs were respoked to new rims, a fresh set of boots were thrown on and serviceable items like brake pads and fuel lines were all replaced. The finished product is wickedly good-looking, perfect for a movie set. And yet with thoughtful modifications, Marco has ensured his Raptor can rip up any road and will serve faithfully as one hell of a weekend warrior.

[ Matteucci Garage ]