BikeSocial Publisher. Has been riding since before Frankie said ‘Relax’, owned more than 100 bikes and has written for, edited or published most of the UK’s best known bike magazines. Strangely attracted to riding high miles in all weathers, finds track days ‘confusing’ and describes the secret to better riding as ‘being invincible’.
Midnight Special | The late-night bikes we almost bought
Honda VTR 1000 FrankenStorm
What defines a Midnight Special?
Late night classified-ad browsing, possibly with a little extra hop-based lubrication. Suddenly that obviously bad buy that we’d usually scroll past becomes an object of two-wheeled desire. Will we resist? Here’s how the evening unfolds. Experience suggests it’ll be a close call
That doesn’t look like a Hayabusa. I was searching for examples of Suzuki’s sooper-dooperest motorcycle for another feature and this popped up in the ‘also consider’ box. To be honest it doesn’t look like much else either. The seller says it’s a 2001 Bandit 1200 frame with a Honda Firestorm engine done in the style of a flat-tracker.
That’s definitely a Firestorm engine, but the frame is like no Bandit I’ve ever seen. It looks more like a one-off, custom jobbie in the style of an old Harris or Moto Martin. Which is ok if you’re expecting something that handles like a custom bike. Everyone has to start somewhere and it could be that whoever built this is the next chassis genius in the tradition of Bimota or Harris or Martek. But then again, it might be just someone who knows how to use a welder, but doesn’t know too much about frame flex, swing-arm pivots and steering geometry. Whether or not the pointy things in the ends of the frame tubes are a good idea depends on whether you’re still a bullet belt type of guy or not.
The Bandit connection probably comes from a frame number and registration that was previously a Bandit. Transferring an existing frame and reg number from one frame to another was a way that many custom builders got around the hassles of having a Q-plate.
Thing is…the more I look at it, the more I like it. Sorry, but I have a thing for customs and for wraparound frames. And I like the fact that it’s called a Mutale. Hard to tell from the photos, but it might be that this is a well-engineered special just needing some finishing off that would make an absorbing project.
Twin-yoke forks, that’s a new idea. Maybe there’s a theory, maybe it’s just cosmetic, maybe the builder just has lots of old forks lying around. The actual forks are GSX-R items apparently, and the front wheel is from a Bandit, while the back end is from a Honda VFR800.
There’s a current MoT too. That’s interesting because it means it has been finished enough at some point to pass the test and so, presumably runs and rides. It’s running open carbs and apparently could do with a jet kit fitting. That doesn’t sound too promising – Firestorms run enormous caruretors and sorting the jetting out so it runs at low and high revs will be an interesting challenge, but I guess there wasn’t room for the Honda airbox in the new frame.
Stop. Now. Rosie. You don’t need another bike and this one will end up being another one of those ‘Course I can do it’ projects that sit around for a year and then get sold on or scrapped because it turned out (about 25 years ago) that I have zero mechanical ability. Or patience. Or time.
Truth is this bike might be a potential crowd puller, but it’ll go like a misfiring CX500, handle like a 1988 Suzuki GSX1100F with squared-off tyres (if you’re lucky) and let’s not get started on the potential electrical problems that come with all specials. There’s a reason it’s up for sale; the vendor fell for its charms at 11.54pm one evening, convinced themselves they could be the one to finish it and had somehow bought the flipping thing before they’d realised what it was.
It’s one of those bikes that’ll be passed around a multitude of owners for years before finally ending up with a bike-building genius who will turn it into a stunning show winner and make us all look daft. If that person is you, please get in touch with BikeSocial when you’ve finished it, we’d love to have a go.