I built a rat cafe bike out of a 1983 VT500 Ascot I bought for $200 that was crashed and left beside their house since 1998!
by Dave Giordanengo
(Pismo Beach, Ca, USA)
My goal was to build a rat cafe bike for less than $1000, but didn't quite make it! I did splurge on the seat, gauges, and tires, taking my total outlay to $1400, not bad! We'll start at the front and move to the rear; front end was completely removed, as one of the fork tubes was bent from the crash, and both were extremely pitted. I got a pair of VT500 Shadow forks on ebay for $100, broke them down, cleaned and new seals installed. Scotch-brite was used on the front rim and brake rotor to remove some surface rust, new brake pads, rebuilt the caliper and master cylinder. I then machined a new fork brace, as the stock brace was MIA. I then put the front end back together, pushing the tubes thru the top tree by 1.5 inches, lowering the stance a bit, and installing a Pirelli Speed Demon tire up front.
I used the stock headlight, but installed the ears on the bottom of the tree mounts rather than the top, dropping the headlight about an inch from the stock position. I'm using Drag Specialties gauges with internal blue LED lighting, and the speedo has LED lights to replace the stock indicators (turn, oil, neutral, highbeam), though I use the turn signal LED for my overdrive indicator (OD is sixth gear in 1983), and made a dual light turn signal indicator setup that's external to the gauges. Of course, clubman bars and bar-end mirrors were a must!
Now the tank was pretty beat up as you can see by the before pics. It had a hole punched thru, and several dents and scratches, and completely rusted inside. These tanks have an extremely wide tunnel to accomodate the twin tubed frame, making a replacement
very difficult to find, as well as being quite expensive. So, I got out my rubber mallet and ball-pean hammer and went to town beating in the sides to not only lose the dents, but to also make room for the controls on the clubman bars, and to make room for my tucked in knees! I then took it my local radiator shop who welded the hole, dipped it in his acid tank, then boiled it in his neutralizing tank, baked it in his oven, then lined it for me, all for $50, a steal! Using kitty hair and bondo, I smoothed out the hammering and gave it a rattle can paint job. The coils were moved forward (made new brackets) to make room for the cone pod filters, carbs were torn down, cleaned, and rebuilt with a stage-one Dyno-jet kit. I could see very minimal surface rust inside the combustion chamber when the carbs were off and plugs removed, so I sprayed some WD-40 inside, and turned it over a few times dry, everything moved freely. Changed fluids and filter, new plugs, removed the stock airbox (thing was huge), and cut off the resonator chamber from the exhaust and welded a plate over the exposed opening on the collector. I'm using Shadow exhaust shields and front fender (chrome). Seat foam was done by me and covered by Mitch's in SLO. New rear brake shoes, a BT-45 rear tire, and it's a such a blast to ride. It fired right up after a new battery, only a couple rotations after fuel got thru the carbs. I also have a BMW R1100S, but much prefer this rat bike for running around town and some of the local backroads, I'm already looking for a CX500 for my next project!