A Japanese-Italian love story from Black Cycles Australia…
Introduced in 1977, the Honda CB400T was the successor to the CB360. Better known as the Honda Hawk (US) or Dream (UK), the twin-cylinder CB400 offered a 395cc air-cooled parallel-twin with a 360° crank layout and 36 horsepower on tap, good for a top speed of 100 mph.
“It was touted as one of the best all-around ‘little sportbikes.’” —Motorcycle Classics
Our friend Noel Muller of Black Cycles Australia, whose Yamaha XT500 and KTM 300 builds we featured last month, came into possession of this 1978 CB400T as an unfinished project from another Brisbane-based custom shop.
“The owner, Jay, just requested a 356 Porsche green, brown seat, and “cafe racer” style — so I went with what had been started! A retro classic contemporary cafe racer….”
Things got a bit more interesting when Noel tore down the original motor, finding that it would cost “thou$and$” to rebuild it back into fine fettle. Noel had other plans:
“So out with that and a Ducati M400 air-cooled motor was immediately the right choice from a 2001 Monster (6000 km).”
Easier said than done, of course. Noel says all that’s left of the original CB400 is the neck tube and part of the backbone. The bike is now rocking a custom W-frame, VFR800 single-sided swingarm, CBR600RR USD front end, and a whole arsenal of one-off parts: the 2-into-1 exhaust, stainless steel rear-set mounts, chain guard, sprocket guard, seat, a single Mikuni 40mm flat-slide intake manifold, and much more. Micro LED lighting and a host of Motogadget goodies round out the build.
The result is one sweet hybrid Honda-Ducati build, a lightweight cafe racer with a 43-hp Italian engine and unique Japanese-Italian pedigree:
“A nickname I’ve been using is ‘Duconda’ for obvious reasons 😄”
Below, we talk to Noel for the full story on the build, along with more photos from Matty of Gold Coast Studio.
“Duconda” 400cc Cafe Racer: Builder Interview
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
This one started out as a 1978 Honda CB400T….
• Why was this bike built?
The bike was actually commissioned through another custom shop here in Brisbane nearly 18 months ago! It had the USD front end, and the single-sided swingarm was “fitted” to the CB frame in the time at the workshop. I was contacted by the custom shop owner and asked to finish the bike for their client (for various reasons). So after contacting the bike owner, we received the bike and proceeded with the build for him!
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The owner, Jay, just requested a 356 Porsche green, brown seat, and “cafe racer” style — so I went with what had been started! A retro classic contemporary cafe racer….
• Does the bike have a nickname?
A nickname I’ve been using is “Duconda” for obvious reasons 😄
• What custom work was done to the bike?
Starting the build: Firstly we checked the original CB400 motor for condition, and after a quick tear-down and pricing, it was too far gone and the cost to rebuild would have been well into the thou$and$! So out with that and a Ducati M400 air-cooled motor was immediately the right choice from a 2001 Monster (6000 km).
To fit the motor, 80% of the frame an d past custom work was cut off and binned! So we’ve built the (W-frame obvious from side view) frame only using partial backbone and neck tube from the original CB frame (that is ALL that’s left of the CB400 now)….
Fitted the VFR800 single-sided swingarm and wheel to the Ducati motor by modifying the pivot, rebuilding the Gazi shock linkage, and machining spacers, etc.
The CBR600RR USD front end was attached with some machined spacers, and because the front wheel and discs are VFR800, we needed to mill the calipers for correct brake pad coverage to the discs!
Parts built for this one also include the 2-into-1 exhaust, aluminium caps, spacers and nut covers, stainless steel rear-set mounts, chain guard, sprocket guard, front custom alloy fender mounts, complete seat, single Mikuni 40mm flat-slide intake manifold. The fuel tank is an unknown aftermarket aluminium tank with Monza cap; the lower rear of tank was trimmed out for a better side profile.
Most aluminium parts on the bike were sandblasted and clear ceramic coated.
All lighting is micro LED and we’ve used Motogadget mini speedo and m-buttons for the minimal look!
Some new Dunlop tyres were fitted and Brembo hand controls were used, along with highsider bar-end mirrors with Motogadget bar end indicators.
I’m sure I’ve missed some things here, as there was so many things that were handmade particularly for this bike!
• Any idea of horsepower, weight, and/or performance numbers?
Weight and performance would be close to the original Ducati Monster M400 specs; I assume the new intake and exhaust would have improved it, of course?
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
Owner Jay has just started breaking in the bike around the Gold Coast, so as expected, we’re just sorting it running rich but otherwise he says it rides smoothly and he’s excited each time a quick spin comes up 🤘
The bike is grossly over-braked for a 400 motor, but works well !
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
Most proud of the overall profile of this beast, the amount of one-off parts, and mainly the intake manifold, because technically it “should not work” but does.