It takes a unique blend of patience, know-how, money, space, passion, imagination and stubborn dedication to pull off a complete, ground-up custom motorcycle build. Luckily, for those of us that lack one or more of these qualities, there are plenty of bolt-on options and aftermarket accessories makers doing the hard stuff so even the sub-novice wrencher can enjoy the satisfaction of putting personal touches on his or her ride. One such company that specializes in parts for Triumph motorcycles, British Customs, does notable work in this vein.
The southern California-based outfit is a well-frequented source for pieces relating to the Modern Classics line, bikes like the Bonneville, Scrambler and Thruxton, but has parts for everything from Tiger XCs to Thunderbirds. Recently, sensing a palatable lack of mainstream attention for a potentially fabulous custom platform, Triumph’s Speedmaster, brothers Jason and James (founders and owners of British Customs) decided to dedicate significant attention to the mount. The result is “Vintage Vendetta,” a sort-of board-tracker, sort-of café, sort-of cruiser custom machine based on a 2009 Speedmaster featuring a stripped-down, nostalgic look that has already turned heads on the IMS circuit.
One of the features of British Customs is that most parts have been conceptualized and utilized on a fully-built custom motorcycle produced in-house. These bikes serve as a showcase for what a bike could be if one were so inclined to recreate the finished product, but also highlight the look one can expect with a new headlight bracket, exhaust pipes or sprocket cover.
James explains, “Everybody has the passion to be their own individual, to be unique, to customize and modify whether it’s on the performance side or the looks side or how it rides. What we’re trying to do is provide cool designs, help give creative vision and allow people to use that, go out and pick and choose and make it their own. They don’t necessarily have to buy a British Customs bike, or put all the same parts on that they see on one of our builds. They can go out and with a couple of tools they can fix stuff up, bolt it on and relax for a couple hours in the garage and not be stuck with a project that’s not attainable.
“We really value and respect the diversity of riders who are out there. There’s only a certain type of guy that can go out and spend huge amounts of money on their bike and really make it their own. We see everything from the supercool guy that’s into design, to the dentist, to the foreman, to the student. The one thing across the board they all share in common is a passion for motorcycles and a passion for being unique and making something their own. Being able to be a small part of that is very satisfying.”
With “Vintage Vendetta,” the brothers sought to display the inherent potential in the Speedmaster.
“The modern classics have had a big wave of custom people doing work on them but the America and Speeedmaster have kind of been left behind,” says Jason. “So we started looking into how we could change this and make them look cool while at the same time remaining true to our design parameters which are always to do something we can explain to another if they want to go about it themselves.”
Starting with the aesthetics of the machine, one of the first orders of business was to replace the stock tank with one sourced from a Thruxton. Designers needed to do a small bit of fab work to get the piece to fit, but it’s not all that complicated according to Jason.
“The bike has a Thruxton gas tank on it but the modification is really just cutting a quarter inch off the front of the frame tube, the little mounting bungs, trimming the rear section of the seat and drilling a hole and putting a bolt in it. The average builder can do that and we feel comfortable saying ‘we can build a film showing how to do this.’”
This last point is another user-friendly feature of British Customs’ MO: there are numerous how-to videos available on the company’s YouTube page that walk home builders through each step of a part’s installation.
To get closer to an old board-tracker vibe they took a set of take-off handlebars and flipped them upside down. Mounted with a set of British Customs four-inch risers, the handlebars have generated particular interest among customers and BC is now in the process of manufacturing the bars for sale. The company is also developing a switch eliminator kit to make the task of achieving a clean look at the controls less challenging for home builders, since that was one of the more labor-intensive tasks on Vendetta.
Other pieces from BC include the flush mount gas cap, low-profile gel seat, battery box cover and clutch cable bracket. On the engine side, BC added its Stage 1 Cams, Billet Intake Manifolds and Exposed Air Box Removal Kit. The High Mount Exhaust is currently a prototype, but the brothers recently got Vendetta back in the shop after its country-wide tour and plan to dismantle the machine to diagram all the one-off parts that hadn’t yet been put into their design catalogue. The rear fender remains stock but BC designed a bolt-on taillight to replace the stock unit.
“Vintage Vendetta” also represents a somewhat new direction for the company. Since it began in 2003, much of the focus has been on Triumph’s Modern Classics line but now BC is making a fully focused effort to broaden its range of Triumph cruiser pieces as well. Fu
rther down the line they expect to extend more into the sportbike realm as well.
In addition to its work in aftermarket goodies, British Customs is also highly active in events like the Thruxton Cup, Hell on Wheels Dirt Track events, custom shows of various types and more. Bottom-line, James, Jason and the whole British Customs crew operate from a deep-seeded passion for motorcycles and a love of serving as a catalyst that allows others to achieve a unique place within the two-wheeled world. Click here to see the British Customs website and check out all the cool stuff they’ve done over the years.