It’s one of the greatest marketing campaigns in history and certainly the most influential in kick-starting the global motorcycle industry; “You meet the nicest people on a Honda”. The idea was bought for Honda by Grey Advertising from a UCLA undergraduate student who’d created it for an assignment, but I don’t think any of those involved envisioned just what it would mean for Philippe Vincent from French-speaking Montreal, Quebec. Exactly a year ago he didn’t even own a motorcycle, didn’t have a motorcycle license and had only just discovered from a friend what a Cafe Racer was. Yet only a year later the proof he’s a faster leaner can be seen in the evidence of his creation, his first bike and build, a 1974 Honda CB750 with plenty of 1950s British inspiration, it takes the name “Majesty”.
It was during the build that after a day spent hiking on a fourth or fifth date, Philippe’s not quite sure which and I’m sorry my friend for mentioning it, his now girlfriend came back to his house to help him remove the engine from the ’74 frame. It might not have been on a Super Cub like the advertising people had in mind, in fact it wasn’t even technically “on” a Honda, but according to Philippe helping him with his project made her more than nice, “she’s a keeper”. But before he’d gotten to this stage of the build the project started as many do, a first bike that slowly started to get minor improvements and additions here and there. But after looking at images of beautiful Cafe Racer’s online for months the big decision was made to undergo a full build and with the long Canadian Winter fast approaching the Honda was taken off the road and into Philippe’s basement.
It was down in the basement with everything stripped off the bike but the engine that the big day came “I hesitated for a long time to take out the engine because I was scared of rebuilding the damn thing! But I really wanted to powder coat the frame,” and so with the help of his beautiful new friend they undertook the task together. “I really only focused on the design, which is my strong point. I’m passionate about interior design in general, architecture etc.” and he can also swing a welder and was more than willing to take the hands on approach to learning about this motorcycle caper. Now with a bare frame to work on he cut the back-end off and purchased a rear hoop from eBay that he then welded in. Next out was the angle grinder, cutting off all the extra brackets that he wouldn’t need and grinding as many of the welds and edges smooth as possible. With a love of the outdoors a luggage rack was added, with mounting points welded to the reworked subframe allowing it to be removed and ridden two up should Philippe want a passenger.
With fabrication going smoothly for his first build Philippe decided to add some brass to the build for more of the ’50s styling he was after and bought a new fuel cap for the classic CB tank. But when welding in the fitting for the new cap he hit a major snag, the welds not only went through the metal but the extra heat cause the tank’s steel to distort beyond repair. Most builders would never admit to this of course and pretend it never happened, but our man from Montreal is on his first build and we’ve all made plenty of mistakes, he’s just big enough to admit his. So the search began for another tank and not one to be put off by a mistake, a second crack at welding in the new cap came off a treat, parfait. Philippe has kept the standard oil tank but this too received a brass filler cap, again welded in by the man himself, while the side cover on the other side is replaced with a CB550 unit, a trick learnt from friends of Pipeburn.com Clockwork Motorcycles.
With the fabrication work done the tank, side covers and headlight surround were sent out for a professional paint job. The charcoal grey works beautifully to give the Honda a classic utilitarian look but Philippe was determined to track down a set of original decals and that he did, “it was very important for me to keep the vintage look of the bike.” With his own welder now having packed it in he sought out the help of local shop Garage Sheriff to do the fab work on a few more bits and pieces, including welding the mounts to the frame for the rear indicators. With a rear fender cut, measured up and the mounting points drilled the frame along with almost all the now black pieces on the bike were powder coated in the dark hue. To finish out the look and to work with the black and grey colour combination, Philippe found the perfect fitting seat he was after on that swap meet in the ether, eBay, a classic scrambler unit in dark brown leather.
Having made the decision to pull the engine from the frame with the assistance of his better half the engine was off to the mechanic for a light rebuild for peace of mind. This was the one area Philippe decided to leave it to the experts, but seeing how his enthusiasm for bikes has grown so rapidly I’m sure his hands are covered in grease as we speak. The engine was given the once over before receiving a new set of pistons, a new cam chain tensioner and then screwed together with an all new seal and gasket set. The exhaust duties were handed over to a four into two system that has been given a coat of black ceramic heat coat, including on the twin mufflers, before the headers were heat wrapped. While over on the induction side the bank of four carbs has a set of pod filters fitted up and Philippe had his mechanic rejet them to suit the new breathing mods. With the engine back in his hands and having been powder coated before reassembly he took the painstaking, but extremely worthwhile effort, of replacing every bolt with a stainless steel hex head items for a stunning finish.
The wheels had also been sent away for black powder coat, the rare Henry Abe items from Japan had come with the bike and Philippe had seriously considered swapping them for something else. But when the seven star rims returned in black he couldn’t take his eyes off them and with a Dunlop K70 on the 19″ front and a 18″ x 4.5 Firestone ANS on the rear, fitted by Garage Sheriff, they suit the build to a tee! To get the stance he was after a call was made to Cycle X for a set of their two-inch lower tubes that have been slotted into the front forks and rebuilt. Holding these tight in place, the lower triple tree and stem is stock but a machined aftermarket top clamp from DCC gives an extremely neat finish to the front end. The rear suspension is left at a stock height with standard replacement units that have been given the black powder treatment with the springs left in chrome. The front brakes have been treated to a new master cylinder and keen to get his hands dirty again Philippe drilled the front rotor.
The clip-ons were one of the original modifications he’d made before the full rebuild and have been retained, now with new brown grips and bar end mirrors. Rather than swap the switch blocks out for cheap Chinese replacements that often fail early in their life Philippe went to the painstaking task of rebuilding the stock units, finishing them out in black and hand painting the lettering in gold for a brilliant finish. A few more parts from Dime City Cycles finish out the build with new mini clocks and the front and rear turn signals to much the vintage styling. “In the end, what really appeals to me is its elegant but tough look.” But what appeals to us is the ability of a brand new biker and a first time builder to direct his passion into his bike and come up with an amazing result that will only fuel Monsieur Vincent’s new addiction.
[Philippe Vincent: Facebook | Photos by Olivier Blouin]