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 forgot.

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 creative twist.’

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!


Back to written word