Made in Britain. Chopped in Japan

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Custom British choppers and bobbers were the main feature at the Mooneyes Show in Yokohama, the world’s most prestigious custom bike show of 2011, and it was a fitting tribute to the halcyon days of British motorcycle engineering.

But Japanese builders have a unique appreciation and an idiosyncratic interpretation of the versatile twins and singles that dominated the world of motorcycling for so long.

Their angle on the Brit bike thing spurs them on to scour the world to find the most exotic, rare and interesting machines and parts to work with – and anything they can’t find, they make. Not only that, their level of research is absolutely mind-blowing.

Some of the bikes could have been barn finds straight from the UK or the States, but there were also perfect recreations of early ’60s desert racers, period-correct ’50s customs and the ubiquitous ‘SoCal’ style show bikes, mixed with uniquely Japanese customs.

The American guests also set the tone, with a Scott Craig-built reverse-head 650 pre-unit-construction Triumph.

The British influence was present throughout the show this year, with UK-based vendors and the sighting of the first Japanese-built Norton and Vincent machines.

All the best custom builds take some influence from racing, where the desire is to tune engines and strip off unnecessary weight – the same kind of mindset that influenced American WWII vets to strip their Harleys to create the very first ‘bobbers’.

Road racing, drag racing, flat-track, boardtrack and enduro all influence the custom builder – and the Yokohama show is one of the best places in the world to see all the different styles in one day under one roof.

Conrad Leach

By Conrad Leach