This article was originally published in the August 2000 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.

"It's like decorating your own house—you wouldn't pay someone else big money to do that, would you?" grumbles Bill Collier of Orlando, Florida. His incredulous rant is directed at the crowd of cruiser riders who shell out considerable cash to customize their bikes at designer chop-shops. Bill and his wife, Pam, run the Classic Cruisers cycle shop in Orlando, Florida, which specializes in metric cruiser modifications. Bill thinks a lot of cruiser owners are afraid to customize their bikes—but, if the philistines are shown how easy a procedure can be, they'll be more inclined to try hop-ups and chop-ups. The Colliers have been at it for nearly three years now, and Bill sees huge potential in the metric market. If owners can be enlightened to customizing possibilities, he believes they'll come running for more. Pam's 1996 Honda Magna is a bike built for just that reason—to show cruisers that custom beauty doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg.

Keep It Simple, Stupid

The beauty of this custom is more than just acres of gleaming bodywork over a stock bike. When Pam sold her 1983 Harley-Davidson Sportster, she ended up buying the Magna (to practice what she preached). Bill, being of the “keep it simple” school of customizing, juxtaposed stock parts snatched from other Hondas to create radical effects during the entire customizing process. You’d probably pay 10 grand to replicate this kind of look at a high-end shop, but Bill says using stock parts in unusual settings is not only challenging, but also cheaper and more accessible to the masses. Bill believes that when the average Joe sees the results of using ordinary bits, he’ll feel confident he can do it too.

1996 Honda Magna
Pam Collier's 1996 Honda Magna proves that you don't have to spend a fortune to get a beautiful custom.Dean Groover

Since this was Pam's personal ride, her preferences and suggestions were considered every step of the way. For instance, Pam didn't like the "dirt bike" look of the stock's rear fender—it was positioned too far above the wheel for her taste—so after a round of experimentation, they decided on a set of Arlen Ness Legacy fenders as replacements. Pam had always preferred the look of "full-figured" bikes too, so these broadly curved and sculpted pieces injected much-needed girth to the skinny Magna. The Legacys were longer and deeper than the stockers, however, and the front fender had to be radiused (by son Justin) to match the curve of the brake disc, and shortened proportionally. The rear end was dropped substantially, thanks to a Cobra lowering kit and a pair of the shortest Progressive shocks available. Honda A.C.E. shocks were utilized, since they're even shorter than the Magna-spec suspenders. The lowering step relocated the shocks rearward, thus minimizing interference with the swingarm. And since the exposed shock springs interrupted the clean look of the rest of the bike, Bill slipped on a pair of tube covers for a smoother feel.

Wow, That's Some Caboose

The main hook of this bike is its rear fender. Your eye moves instantly to the broad, downward swerve of plastic. It’s a coolly functional work of art, with its license plate recessed into the curve of the fender, and the LED taillights/brake lights running on either side of the plate, within the depression. The unusually bright running lights are a custom LED application by local light wizards Back Off. And Pam picked out the blinkers in back—the rear turn signals from Highway Hawk’s diminutive Devil’s Eye series are cleverly tucked out of sight under the passenger footpeg brackets. The effect is an almost seamless, blinking unit integrated into the frame of the bike.

Highway Hawk Floorboards legacy fenders
Top: Highway Hawk floorboards—meant for an A.C.E., but cool enough for the Terminator.
Bottom: Better call Jenny Craig—Legacy fenders and Jardine slip-ons pork things up considerably in the back. Find the tiny turn signal among the folds if you can….
Dean Groover

The fatness and swept design of the rear fender also lends depth and lengthens the bike. This machine doesn’t sit like your regular 750 cruiser. This fender, too, is radiused to a different line and trimmed so it hugs the tire more closely and curls up slightly off the ground. The slammed design makes even the factory Magna wheels—cradled in the context of the fenders—look custom.

license plate
Smooth styling. The license and taillights are seamlessly recessed into the rear fender. The Back Off LED lights hug both sides of the license plate.Dean Groover

Internal Medicine

The bodywork wasn’t the only part of the Magna that the Colliers revamped. Since Jardine Rumbler slip-on exhausts were installed to add girth—aurally and physically—to the V-4, a Factory jet kit was needed to smooth out burps emanating from the new pipes. A less restrictive airbox, which Bill crafted by punching out extra holes in the stock unit, helped boost inhalation and upped the power.

After basic engine mods were completed, work began on the cosmetic details. The stock front signal lights became cool Custom Chrome directionals, set almost flush to the Magna's fork legs. A Cobra triple-clamp cover prettied up the upper fork area and three-inch Cobra fork risers extended a Flanders pullback handlebar to within easy reach of Pam's fingers. Chrome and rubber Highway Hawk floorboards, originally intended for a Honda A.C.E., made a powerful, rugged visual statement when bolted onto the Magna. Square, futuristic mirrors, billet grips and a dazzling carved radiator cover also came from Highway Hawk.

Instrument visors supplied by Mirage served to brighten up the staid cockpit, and an A.C.E. headlight outer shell—combined with a Honda Aero inner piece—was craftily adapted to the Magna frame. Pam went through a variety of headlight visors before settling on the A.C.E. The result is a distinctive, heavy-lidded chromed eye.

Custom chroming on the larger accessories was done by Space Coast Platers, a local shop frequented by the Colliers. Braided stainless steel control cables from Motion Pro provided the final shiny touch to tie together the gleaming front of the bike. Now that the details were done, a grand finish was in order.

Obey Your Thirst

The paint on the bodywork normally represents the largest surface area of the bike and it’s what most people see first. To fuse the Magna’s low-slung street vibe with the more sculpted sensibilities of its fenders, the Colliers decided they wanted a “liquid art” look; they wanted it to flow, without a screaming paint job detracting from the bike’s overall subdued beauty. To that end, Bill enlisted award-winning former NHRA dragster painter Bob Abraham to slap a few coats of ’99 Harley-Davidson Aztec Orange over gray primer and platinum paint. The gray base colors flattened out the top orange finish to produce a smooth, wet look. And although the bike looks almost sinister in a certain light, we’d say the Colliers got what they bargained for.

Finally, Pam had to decide what kind of perch she'd prefer on her monster custom—after all, the entire bike was designed to suit her. Since she needed to fully reach the ground, Pam chose to shape her own seat. She molded the saddle to fit her parameters, finished it with a belt sander and had Sunshine Auto Interiors (another local concern) re-cover it with plush black leather to complete the soft touch. A tank bib from Mustang carries the same leather-and-stud theme atop the gas tank and keeps drool off the paint. The colliers decided to mount a homeless Suzuki Marauder seat latch under the fender, to make lifting off the seat a simpler process.

Custom Magna radiator cover
Left: We'd call that a super visor, but you'd probably groan…. The headlight's outer shell and visor—pilfered from an A.C.E.—is a real looker. The stock Magna wheels look almost custom if you squint.
Right: A wickedly styled radiator cover and stealthy turn signals lend a sinister air to the whole frontal lobe.
Dean Groover

Bill and Pam have quite a few metric custom projects in the works—some of which we glimpsed briefly at Daytona Bike Week—and each bike radiates a distinct personality. Bill’s mix-and-match creative process affords a wide range of possibility within a small budget, without sacrificing the soul of a custom.

But the Colliers’ bikes are not just showbikes—they happily report the Magna has made more than a few long-distance road trips in recent months without incident. This strikes us as real-world customizing, in which the sum of the parts doesn’t detract from functionality. A bit of A.C.E., a dash of Aero and a lot of Magna gives Pam’s bike a hybrid look and feel unlike any of the machines it borrows from. And Bill will tell you anyone can do it—when customizing your bike, you have nothing to fear but fear itself.