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

For builders who create one-of-a-kind machines for customers, the process usually follows standard patterns: A client has an idea for a pro to flesh out, or the client, familiar with the customizer’s style, contracts the artist to work magic on a bike. Either way, once the project reaches completion, the bike gets ridden or shipped away to its new home, leaving its creator behind to start anew.

Several builders have told us that when they are completely immersed in a series of projects they often forget about how previous bikes looked as they went out the door. The next deadline or project immediately takes over, with the recent departure crossed off the To Do list. Later, at a bike show—or perhaps in a magazine—they see their work­­manship as if for the first time, and enjoy a moment of self-discovery, seeing the results of their handiwork out in the world.

Yamaha Shooting Star
When Baron was given the task of building this custom as if it were his own, he knew he was going to make it into something special.Fran Kuhn

John "Baron" Vaughan-Chaldy must have thought of one of these moments when the owners of Banzai Motorsports in Illinois asked him to build a Road Star. When the previously uncrated twin arrived at his shop, Baron was told to build this bike as if it were his own. While he is always one to throw himself into a new project, Baron decided that this bike would truly become something special. This Road Star would become a no-holds-barred expression of what the big Yamaha could be.

Gathering the Craftsmen

Before a single part was removed from the Road Star, Baron developed a concept and a rough plan—a theme if you will—for the bike he decided would be named Shooting Star. Once he had some thumbnail sketches, Baron created a list of priorities for the project. First, he wanted the bike to look like a hardtail, while maintaining full suspension travel. Second, the rear tire needed to be the widest one that could be shoehorned into the swinger. And finally, an aggressive look needed to be carried uniformly throughout the bike. The machine had to flow, to look like it was breaking the law while still on its sidestand.

However, Baron believes in giving credit where credit is due and stresses that Shooting Star would not exist if not for a couple of key individuals. For example, he could have referred to Dan Hatch as the paint and graphics guy. But, according to Baron, Hatch’s skills go much further. Baron discussed his plans for Shooting Star with Hatch, who proposed a few designs that were good but not quite what Baron envisioned. On the second day of pondering the project, Hatch had an epiphany at 2 a.m. Four hours later, he was banging on Baron’s front door.

Yamaha Shooting Star Gas Cap
Eye candy galore! From the two flush-mount gas caps to the wiring routed through the bar, Shooting Star sports the cleanest, most uncluttered lines possible. Converting the Yamaha wiring to link to the billet Harley-spec switch gear was well worth the effort.Fran Kuhn

As he stood in his driveway wearing a bathrobe, looking at the sketches Hatch had draped all over the hood of his truck, Baron knew that his vision had been captured. In his night of inspiration, Hatch had produced a four-foot-wide series of drawings on transparent paper that flipped down over a scaled photograph of a naked Road Star frame, showing various levels of his design. Hatch had also drawn out all the major body parts in three dimensions with rear, side, and three-quarter views to show how the bike would look from various angles.

Baron took Hatch’s drawings to Earl Cook, the man Baron turns to for all his metal work. Cook outlined what parts would be challenging and might require revision to make the jump from paper to metal. Then he said he needed the stripped chassis at the ride height that Baron wanted the bodywork to be built around. This posed a slight problem, because Baron still didn’t know how he was going to lower the Star an inch and a half while maintaining full suspension travel. Finally, they agreed that Cook would build the bodywork to accommodate the inch and a half of lowering. Baron just had to deliver it, or the bike would end up looking awkward. Shooting Star’s frame had to be modified extensively to allow the metalwork that Baron envisioned. The entire rear sub-frame was removed and redesigned for the new long rear fender and seat assembly.

Yamaha Shooting Star seat
The trickest piece on Shooting Star is the specially built rear pulley/brake combination. Rick Ball at RC Components created the most elegant means of providing braking power for belt-driven bikes. Corbin’s craftsmen took only five hours to complete the sultry seat.Fran Kuhn

The lip on the fenders and the tank were a challenge. In some places, it simply was not practical to put the one-third of an inch bend into the metal. Hatch assured Baron that the look could be carried by the graphics. Even the Headwinds headlight shell was graced with this stylish bend. The tank is a textbook example of the art of compound curves. Two flush-mount gas caps slip perfectly into the tank top. The sides flow down to the lip, which then swoops under the tank with nary a seam or ripple in sight.

Getting Down

While Cook shaped the metalwork, Baron was hard at work with a CAD (computer aided design) engineer who worked a little magic of his own. When they were finished, the relay arm on the rear linkage had been redesigned to lower the Star the required 1.5 inches while maintaining full suspension travel. Baron says he also managed to give the rear suspender better progression. (Other Road Star owners can reap the same rewards when the relay arm enters Baron's Custom Accessories' model line.) The fork was sent to the Race Tech suspension gurus for springs and Gold Valves to give the front optimum performance while incorporating Baron's 1.5-inch lowering blocks.

Originally, Baron had planned on resting the lowered suspension on a set of Performance Machine wheels, but when he saw a photograph of RC Components’ Slash wheel design, he knew they were meant to be on this motorcycle. The swooshes in the wheels embody the shooting star motif of this custom. When Baron contacted RC Components to order the 18-inch wheels to carry a set of the fat Avon tires, he also ordered matching calipers and discs.

Even with all the fabulous metalwork on the Yamaha, the trickest part on the entire bike has to be the belt drive’s rear pulley. The Rick Ball at RC Components has found a way to combine the rear disc and the pulley. The swept surface of the disc is really two discs on either side of the pulley held in place by recessed allen bolts. The discs act as the sides of the pulley, holding the belt in place. The extra-wide caliper hangs from the rear axle, squeezing both sides of the pulley, while the belt runs unmolested through the caliper—a truly clever system that allows the unobstructed right side of the wheel to get maximum exposure!

Yamaha Shooting Star engine
Beauty and brawn: The engine was taken completely apart and re­assembled with high compression pistons. With all the attention the head received, the ports are probably as pretty as the polished exterior. The Baron forward controls should be available in early 2000.Fran Kuhn

In keeping with the glimmering look of the bike, much of Shooting Star is either chromed or polished. Many of the bolt-on parts are either existing or prototype Baron’s Custom Accessories items, or select pieces culled from other aftermarket companies. The forward controls will be available from Baron soon. The chromed, billet triple clamp was created because he couldn’t get the stocker to chrome up. While he was designing the replacement, Baron decided to machine integrated turn signals into the lower clamp. The Baron’s bar and risers received a set of J Brake levers and Harley-spec switchgear. All electrical wiring was run through the bar for an uncluttered look. A Ness throttle and Aeromach mirrors round out the cockpit.

Powering Up

If the brake and suspension mods don’t tip off the fact that this bike is made to be ridden, then the engine’s upgrades will. Baron’s employee Tom Fortune stripped the engine down to its bare essentials. Exterior parts met both the wheels of California Polishing and the paint guns of Hatch. The internals received some polishing, too. How does approximately 36 hours of porting and head work by Teddy Boyko of Mission Yamaha strike you? The valves were lightened to fit into reshaped, larger ports.

Yamaha Shooting Star billet covers
That shiny slab of billet covers the meat of Baron’s Big Air Kit, which feeds the cylinders to the tune of approximately 300 percent higher volume than the stocker. Note the stylish scoop in the chin fairing. It directs cooling air over the relocated rectifier.Fran Kuhn

What good is porting if the rest of the engine isn’t sweetened, also? The cylinders embrace a pair of 10.1:1 JE pistons. Baron’s Big Air Kit adds 300 percent better breathing to the party, and a Dynatech ignition module gives the combustibles the optimum punch. Right now, the rev limiter is set at a conservative 4900 rpm but may get bumped up if testing shows that it will work.

And then there’s the pipe. The opening of this custom-crafted pipe is larger than those in some garages! Although the talented hands that gave this glittering piece of art form will remain unknown (Baron says they’re a trade secret), the pipe features the same delicate rib treatment as the fenders and tank, as well as a sculpted outlet.

Yamaha Shooting Star metalwork
This shot shows off the lip in the metalwork throughout the bike. The shadow caused by the lip is plainly visible on the shapely fender, the Headwinds headlight, and the sculpted tank. RC Components crafted the caliper, disc, and wheel package.Fran Kuhn

The Color Question

With a machine as polished as Shooting Star, choosing the right color scheme can elevate the project to star status or drop it to the nice-try level. Baron and Hatch discussed color and graphics for weeks before arriving at the proper shade of silver with citrus-toned highlights. Why did they have so much trouble finding colors? Baron wanted to be certain that the paint didn’t overpower the engine. Also, he didn’t want to use colors that anyone else had in their pallet. Still, even the color orange wasn’t subtle enough. The graphics ended up being more of a clear with orange tinting, allowing the silver to shimmer through the graphic. Hatch also added gray shadows below the metal worked ribs, and extended them to places where a rib would not have been feasible. From a distance, the paint looks like a shadow.

The taillight benefits from the same light touch with the airbrush as the faux shadows. Flush-mounted LEDs for the brake light and turn signals were molded into the rear fender. Then Hatch worked his magic. Just the lightest layer of color hides the LEDs, making them look like the rest of the metal fender, but when the lights come on, they shine through the paint! Other paint touches include painting the milled sections of the calipers and other billet parts with the same orange used in the graphics.

Roger Bowman performed the meticulous pinstriping. The crowning piece of paintwork is the Road Star emblem on the speedometer. The emblem was altered to resemble a comet or a shooting star, with a clear numerical face set down over the instrument face before reassembly. Finally, the tail of the comet carries from the instrument to the rear fender with a mottled, metallic-finished orange streak.

Yamaha Shooting Star rear wheel
The exhaust pipe features the same lip as much of the bodywork. The outlet is so large it could almost be used for shelter during a storm. The Slash wheel by RC Components isn’t hidden behind any hardware thanks to the brake/pulley on the other side.Fran Kuhn

The results are stunning. We saw Baron and photographed the newly finished Shooting Star just hours before it was to be trailered to the Star Days rally in Missouri. As soon as the event ended, Baron told us he would take the bike to its new home at Banzai Motorsports.

But something went wrong on the road. Maybe it was all those hours driving with nothing to think about but how much work had gone into Shooting Star. Maybe the fact that the project turned out unbelievably well—despite all the traumas associated with building a top-notch custom. Or maybe the guiding words of the project finally bubbled up from Baron’s subconscious.

Whatever happened out there, some­where on the road, Baron called the folks at Banzai to say they wouldn’t be receiving their Road Star. Baron had built the bike like it was his own, and he had to finish the job by keeping it that way. Sometimes, something unexpected happens when you're just following directions.