Cobra Honda VTX1800 Custom

Customizing under the gun helps Denny Berg and Cobra produce some memorable motorcycles, like this Honda VTX1800. From the June 2001 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser magazine. By

Visiting Cobra's display at the Indianapolis Dealer Expo to check out the company's latest custom bikes has become a tradition for many attendees. With Cobra's growing reputation as a trendsetter in customizing, an increasing pressure to deliver show-stopping bikes has developed. This year, Cobra's Special Projects Division, featuring the creative talents of Denny Berg and Mike Rinaldi, once again managed to hit the ball out of the park.

When considering the Honda VTX, thoughts automatically go to the beefy 1800cc engine. So, Berg and Rinaldi wanted to create a custom that would show off the motor but needed something to balance it. A massive 240 Metzeler and an eight-inch Performance Machine Villain wheel fit the bill. All Berg needed to do was figure out how to mount the rolling gear in the frame. While Rinaldi worked on design options, Berg stripped the pre-production VTX donated by Honda down to its engine, frame and stock wheels. He photographed the skeletal VTX so that Rinaldi could make his drawings to scale.

Once the design was agreed upon, Berg started his magic. It took quite a bit of cutting and hacking to get the wheel to fit, but when he was done, the monster wheel and the stock swingarm were compatible -- but the wheel had to be assembled to the swingarm before it could be mounted in the frame. The only changes in the frame itself were locating the battery and electrics at the bottom of the frame to free up space for the under-seat gas tank. Berg explained, "I think the true test of a customizer is when he can do as much as possible with the stock stuff."

Since Berg liked the shape of the stock tank, he took a splash mold of it using a coating of wax and a couple layers of fiberglass. Next, he trimmed the mold so the tank would be approximately five inches narrower at the rear to show off the bike's engine. He found a fender he liked, splash molded it and widened it to almost 10 inches to fit over the massive Metzeler. From the molds, carbon-fiber parts were made and mounted to the bike. Rinaldi's design called for one-piece bodywork, so Berg needed to link the two parts together. Normally, he'd sculpt something out of foam, splash mold it and work the three molds together. Instead, because of time considerations, he freehanded the side sections of the bodywork, like a kid would with papier-mach. After many layers of fiberglass and tons of block sanding, the fender and the tank were linked. Next, Berg laminated a single layer of carbon-fiber over the entire fiberglass piece. Inside the freehand section, he ground out the fiberglass and added a layer of carbon-fiber. The bodywork was block sanded to its finished state and mounted to the frame with one bolt under the seat.

With the wheel and bodywork mounted, the rest of the project was cleaning up what was already there. All of the wiring was tucked out of sight. The stock Honda controls were spiffed up. Progressive Suspension supplied the front lowering kit and shocks built to Berg's specs. Since Berg only wanted a single disc in front, the right caliper mounts were machined off the fork slider, and the caliper ended up on the rear brake. He modified the calipers to use all three pistons at once, instead of the Honda linked system in which the rear brake also controls the center pistons of the front calipers. The pipes were handcrafted by Cobra's Tim McCool. Polishing was courtesy of GQI, and Precision Plating handled chrome duties. Masters Apoulstery wrapped the seat in Mercedes 450SL seat leather.

Standing back and looking at the VTX, Berg says he had to scramble to make the deadlines: "I do my best work under pressure. I've learned not to worry about stuff. It always gets done." We can hardly wait to see what his next series of deadlines produces

For more articles on how to customize, maintain and modify your motorcycle and more of the work of Denny Berg, see the Tech & Custom section of

Photography by Dean Groover
With an 1800cc engine, only beefy rubber would do.
Berg liked the shape of the stock headlight but felt it was too far forward. He cut out the back of the shell to allow it to wrap around the frame neck.