1988 Honda Bros/Africa Twin/Suzuki RGV Hybrid

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A special I built in the late nineties using the engine from an XRV750, the chassis from a Honda Bros 400 and the front end and bodywork from a Suzuki RGV250. How did this start? Well, way back in 1991 I fell in love with V-twins, and especially Ducatis. I tried a 900SS and loved it, and then an 851 and lusted after it. Couldn’t afford either of them and when the 916 came along, well… Couldn’t afford that either. In between, I tried an RGV250 and loved the handling and looks, but I’m not really a 2-stroke fan. Then a friend let me ride his Grey Import Honda Bros 650, and I was absolutey blown away – massive fun. Then I saw photos of racing Hawks from the States (the Bros is the Japanese market version – it was called the Hawk in the US) and started wondering if I could build something that combined the best of the RGV and the best of the Bros. I photocopied side-on pics of both, cut them out and glued them onto a bit of paper, and it looked good!

So, I bought a crashed RGV250 (and sold the engine), and the frame and swing arm from a Japanese market Bros 400 (exactly the same as a 650). After a long search, I found an Africa Twin 750 engine, which shares the same layout as the Bros, and picked it up from a breakers yard. Then I turned round and took it back five minutes later when I realised it was actually a Bros 650 lump! Later still, I found another Africa Twin motor, and it slotted straight into the frame (you have to take the front rocker cover off for clearance, but that’s all).

The RGV forks fitted more or less straight in (had to modify the lockstops), and a modified early Fireblade rear shock just needed a bit grinding off the mounting eye to go straight in as well. Both forks and shock would later be set up properly by Dave Parkinson.
Simon Martin of NWS made the RGV subframe fit the Bros frame, modified the fuel tank, and made a custom fairing bracket. I made up some brackets, modified a Honda XL250 battery box to fit, and adapted an Africa Twin wiring loom to work with the RGV lights and clocks. Its first outing was a track day at Cadwell in about 1996 or 1997, with a cobbled together exhaust which grounded out everywhere and eventually wore through completely. But it worked – big wheelies over the mountain, smiles all round.
Too me another three years to finish it! Mark Hill of MHP made a superb one-off exhaust system in stainless steel, and Plastec in Malvern did a superb paint job in metallic green (it’s a Vauxhall cavalier colour), which was inspired by the single metallics of early nineties Kawasaki ZXRs – I had a blue 400 and a cherry red 750 and I still think they look beautiful.
In this form it was featured in Bike magazine in 2000, in an issue guest edited by Carl Fogarty, who looked at it and said, “Why did he bother, why didn’t he just buy a 748?”. Miserable bastard.
I rode it a few times, notably at another Cadwell track day where I had fun with a few supermotos and a guy on a race MZ Skorpion, That led to me being invited to ride in a support race at the German GP at the Sachsenring, but that’s another story.
Fired up by this, I removed the engine and gave it to tuner Dave Stephenson at Louth to give it a bit more firepower. He stripped it and came back with the bad news that the crank was scrap due to the camchain having skipped on the crank and damaged the teeth. Bugger.
And that should have been it – I’d moved to France and couldn’t register it there anyway, so the engineless bike just sat in the barn getting tatty. But during the same period a friend called Paul Tothill had built another heavily modified Bros – and crashed it a few times. Eventually he decided enough was enough, and I bought the remains from hi. Most of it was moved on quickly enough, but I kep the engine for my bike. This one had also been to Dave Stephenson, and he’d raised the compression, fitted bigger valves, changed the cam timing and modified the carbs with RC30 parts. The result was well over 73bhp on the dyno, which considering the standard engine made about 45bhp, was pretty impressive!
And that’s about where it is now – the engine’s in, but I need to go back over the wiring to correct a load of crap work I did when I didn’t know any better. Then I need to sort the fuel tank. The original rotted through over time, and it was too small and didn’t really look right with the RGV bodywork, so I’ve got a VFR400 NC30 tank to try and fit, which will look lovely, but means modifying the side panels a bit as well, and then more paint. At the moment I just don’t have the time. It’s sitting in a bike bubble in the barn now, so at least it’s not deteriorating, and it looks like I might be able to register it here in France as a classic when it’s 30 years old – so I’ve got ’til 2018 to get it sorted….

This is what happens when you leave brake fluid to go off in the master cylinder for ten years. Yuk.
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Another spread from the Bike magazine article.
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Last page of the Bike magazine article.
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The Bros with some of its friends - 1991 Ducati 400SS and 1997 BMW R1100RS.
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Here's how it looks at the minute - not so pretty....
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Over the mountain at Cadwell - it works!
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The bike was featured in Bike Magazine in the December 1999 issue. It got a great write -up, which wasn't much of a surprise, since it was me writing it....
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The original photocopied mash-up to see if it looked possible - it did!
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Bike Tags

Africa Twin, Bros, Hawk, RGV, Special

MANUFACTURER
Honda
MODEL
Bros 400
YEAR
1988
COLOUR
Green
OWNED FROM
1994
OWNED TO
I still own it!
Engine size
750cc
Top speed
120 mph
Fuel consumption
40 mpg