Lack of excess
It seems to me that ‘retro’ is an ever changing scene.
Not so long ago, 1930s board tracker-inspired builds were all the
rage, followed by ‘40s bobbers and café racers. So,
logically, the next stop should be the 1970s, the decade which taste
Some might say that it, therefore, is fortunate that the retro
revival appears to have slowed down – after all, does the
world really need the return of flares and top to toe denim? Perhaps
I’m being unfair to the decade that did, after all, also give
us punk and Yamaha LCs. More importantly, if the ‘70s had
never happened, this Yamaha XS750 would never have been build, and
subsequently, Tim Rogers would never have been able to turn it into
the café racer it is today.
Most people might dismiss shaft drive 1970s Japanese bikes as good
base material for café racer builds, but Tim isn’t
most people. He has a bit of a penchant for ‘70s bikes, so
much so that he’s set up business with his mate Kev Taggart,
as Spirit of the Seventies, taking unloved bikes and making them
not just socially acceptable but desirable.
This XS750 of Tim’s is one of three machines that Tim and
Kev built when they decided to start the Spirit of the Seventies.
Their thinking was simple: a bike each and one to sell. Plus, they
figured, they would look more professional if they had three bikes
to show potential customers. Given the size of their order book
three years on, the plan worked.
The original build on the XS was quick and simple – clean
up the frame, shorten the seat subframe, swap the front wheel out
for a smaller one and then tidy everything up. Job done. In that
early guise, the bike did what was required of it, and that was
to act as a rolling advert for the shop. But it wasn’t quite
what Tim wanted and, when a problem with the original gearbox cropped
up, it gave him just the ideal excuse to drag it back into the shop
and tear it down again.
Confronted with a big pile of parts in the workshop, Tim started
sorting it all out, and the first job was to get the frame powder
coated. While that was being sorted he turned his attention to the
front end. The 18-inch RD250 wheel (which had been swapped for the
original 19-inch XS rim) was retained; fashion may have been dire
in the 1970s but bike tyres were even worse, and the selection of
19-inch rubber available today is little better. A set of FZR400
discs and a pair of R6 calipers also found their way onto the bottom
of the fork legs. (See my comment about tyres of the time and apply
it to ‘original brakes’ if you have any questions on
why.) The forks were okay, but a set of Hagon springs were dropped
in ‘just because’, while a Torozzi fork brace was fitted
to stiffen everything up.
When the front end was reunited with the refinished frame, the
LSL clip-ons from the first build were refitted, along with a headlight
and speedo mount, both of which are now both regular Spirit of the
Seventies products. Round the back of the bike, there’s more
Spirit of the Seventies products in evidence. The seat unit was
the company’s original prototype for the carbon fibre option
it now offers. It was used when a second petrol tank came Tim’s
way and he realised he could keep the first tank and seat from the
original build and get this second set of bodywork painted to suit
his own tastes.
As I said, in its first guise the XS was a rolling billboard for
the shop, but, with business now taking care of itself, this time
Tim had a free hand with the finish and that’s why the tank
still carries dents of its age – he feels they add to the
character of the bike, although I would argue that the character
comes from the art that adorns the tank and seat unit. This was
a joint collaboration between D-Luck’s Custom Paint Workshop
in Brighton and artist Definitely Mary from Bournemouth. Tim already
owns a number of pieces of art by Mary and uses D-Luck’s for
Spirit’s paint, so it seemed an obvious move to get everyone
together on this bike.
The bodywork was primed and prepared by Dennis at D-Luck’s,
and he then discussed with Mary her techniques and what kinds of
mediums would suit, which turned out to be a combination of marker
pens with acrylic paints and coloured pencils. Mary describes the
design as being, ‘from Japanese influences, and 1970s style,
as well as incorporating elements from previous ‘Spirit of
the Seventies’ artwork. I wanted to create something quirky
yet vintage, to suit the style of bike and incorporating my own
After Tim had replaced the original motor with an 850cc lump,
you might think that the bike was finished. And it was for a while.
But the 850cc engine turned out to be a dud; when Phil Lovett embarked
on a rebuild, he discovered that someone had put the rings back
in the wrong order.
With the engine back together and in the bike, it was dressed with
a set of ‘90s Triumph carbs and a set of ceramic coated pipes.
And, so far, Tim has managed to leave it as it is… but never
say never. If there’s a space in the Spirit of the Seventies
workshop anytime soon it could all change again!
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