The US show circuit is booming. The One Show, the Outlier’s Guild show, Mama Tried and the Handbuilt show all happen within a couple of months of each other. And each one is curated with a stacked roster of jaw-dropping machines.
It’s great news for custom moto fans, but for builders, it makes it harder to stand out in the crowd. But walking around Mama Tried earlier this year, it was impossible to take my eyes off this track-inspired Honda CB400F.
It’s the work of Shawn Smith, and the first build out of his part-time shop, Innovative Motosports in Ankeny, Iowa. Shawn spends his nine-to-five working in I.T., but after hours he runs Innovative as a one-man-show.
“This 1975 Honda CB400F started life as a roached-out roller, with a motor rotting away in the Arizona Sun,” he tells us. “I always loved the 400Fs that Kaz Yoshima used to campaign, known as the Z1 beaters. So the motor was rebuilt around how he used to set them up.”
We give Shawn ten out of ten for stance, lines and proportions here. But it’s refreshing to see how much work’s gone into that motor. It’s been bored out to 466 cc, with a stage two ported head and Kibblewhite valve springs.
There’s also a Webco cam with an adjustable cam gear inside, the crank’s been lightened and balanced, and the rods have been shot peened. Other upgrades include a Dyna ignition and coils, and an oil cooler to keep temperatures down.
The stock carbs were bored out and jetted, and now run K&N filters. The exhaust is an exquisite hand-bent four-into-one from Outex. Shawn outsourced the porting, boring and crank work to local machine shops, but handled the rest of the motor work himself.
He’s done a number on the CB400F frame too. The subframe’s been shortened, the kickstand relocated, and the exhaust mount tweaked.
There’s a new subframe crossmember, and the whole setup’s been detabbed with all welds and joints smoothed down. Shawn’s even ditched the original side stand for an adjustable aluminum one from a Honda RVT1000R (RC51/VTR1000 SP1).
Then there’s that alloy swing arm, sourced from Framecrafters. It comes with adjustable shock mounts and two-position axle adjusters, giving Shawn control over his setup. It’s hooked up to a pair of custom built Racetech G3 shocks and the stock forks have been upgraded with Racetech Gold internals with preload adjusters.
A set of Excel hoops are laced up with Buchanan’s stainless steel spokes and nipples, and wrapped in Avon Road Rider tires. A drilled and thinned EBC brake rotor does duty up front, along with a braided hose and a Brembo master cylinder.
Small billeted parts lurk everywhere. There’s a 20 mm race axle, custom lower triple tree, a new brake stay, new motor mounts and a cam chain adjuster. You’ll also spot finned engine covers, and a whole bunch of drilled out bits.
Up top are a set of Woodcraft clipons, wearing Domino grips and ASV levers. The gauge is a Speedhut GPS-driven unit from Cognito Moto, with a large analog tacho dominating the display. The rear sets are from a TTR400, and are mounted on custom-made brackets.
Though the front of the CB400F is dominated by an alloy number board, there’s an LED from Clearwater mounted lower down by the left side fork leg. Despite its compact size, it’s equipped with adjustable high and low beams.
Rick’s Motorsport Electrics rebuilt the CB’s stator and supplied a new regulator/rectifier. A Speedcell Lithium-ion battery powers the system. It’s tucked away under the seat, along with the rest of the electrical components. The taillight’s a small LED, flush mounted into the tail.
For the bodywork, Shawn kept the CB400F’s tank, but built a new tail section. He started with a foam mold, then shaped it with six layers of fiberglass. The front fender and rear hugger are carbon fiber, made by Tannermatic.
We’re betting Shawn’s CB—now dubbed ‘Goldie’—goes like stink. And it’s got a paint job to match. Shawn shot it himself, combining jet black with ‘GM’ white and metallic gold. The frame stands out, resplendent in ‘Buckwild’ gold metal flake from Arizona-based Painthuffer.
Dane Utech handled the seat upholstery, combining Alcantara, leather and perforated leather with gold stitching. And everything that hasn’t been treated or painted is aluminum.
Goldie sits halfway between a cafe racer and actual racer, and that’s completely intentional. “I built this bike to be a barely legal street bike,” says Shawn, “that could be ready for a track day in ten minutes. It’s roughly 270 pounds (125 kilos) wet and is a blast to ride.”
Now that sounds like fun for all concerned—unless, perhaps, you’re on a Kwaka and trying to keep up.
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