Dunlop's Custom Honda Shadow ACE Show Motorcycle

Most tires are built for motorcycles. This custom Honda motorcycle was built for its tires. From the June 1998 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser magazine

When you introduce an eye-catching new motorcycle tire line designed to help you customize that one overlooked part of a motorcycle, you don't want to roll it out on a stock machine. Since the exterior of Dunlop's new CruiseMax tire series was anything but the usual plain-looking black doughnut wrapped around a lot of sophisticated engineering, the Buffalo-based tire company decided to build a motorcycle that was as distinctive as the new cruiser tire it would showcase.

If you aren't familiar with Dunlop's CruiseMax, the tire was specifically created in sizes for the metric cruiser motorcycle market. The Z-groove tread design was designed for eye appeal as well as maximum performance wet and dry. The tread compound and innards are a slightly tweaked variant of a proven Dunlop street design aimed at offering significantly better wet and dry traction, wear, stability and performance compared to the tires found on most cruisers.

For most customers, however, the tire's principal attraction is the appearance of its sidewalls, which come in three versions to provide a look suitable for virtually any custom. There is a classic black-sidewall rendition with unique embossed detailing and no flash on the sidewalls. The raised-white-letter version seen on the bike here also benefits from the precise detailing and elimination of molding nipples, flash and other excess rubber made possible by Dunlop's Vacuum-Vented Molding process. Yet to be released as of this (March 1998) writing was the wide whitewall version of the CruiseMax, which combines the same precise detailing with a classic-looking wide whitewall.

To build the bike to frame the new tire, Dunlop needed a shop capable of running with its ideas, fabricating some unique pieces, modifying others, finding sources for specialized items and, hopefully, delivering the completed machine in time for the major motorcycle events early in 1998. Mike Buckley, who ram-rodded the project from Dunlop's end, made inquiries with Drag Specialties, who referred him to V-Twin Concepts in Janesville, Wisconsin. Jeff Fox of Drag Specialties acted as go-between and project manager.

The choice of motorcycle was easy. Honda's 1100cc American Classic Edition (ACE). V-twin was the most popular metric cruiser around, and made an excellent starting point. The bike was delivered to V-Twin Concepts with a need-by date and a basic instruction: "Go for it." Of course, there were other provisos, too. For example, the bike had to be truly rideable, not a no-go showboat. Dunlop didn't want to leave the impression that its tires were only intended to be looked at. Todd Harrington and his crew at V-Twin Concepts would have four months before the bike needed to head for the Indianapolis show.

"The first thing we wanted to do," recalls Harrington, "was clean it up." Much of the attention and a whole lot of the work to that end were focused on the fuel tank. V-Twin Concept's Dale Rowin lengthened the tank rearward, instilled a pretty curve along the bottom edge, which is flat on the stocker, and fitted a less obtrusive filler cap assembly. All the work was done with welding and sheet metal.

The plastic shroud around the radiator also irritated their eyes, so Rowen discarded it and fabricated an air dam, which included a key styling motif, that Z-Groove tread pattern. In this case, the pattern was cut into the dam. With the air-trapping design of the dam, the holes purportedly let enough air to the radiator to keep the engine cool.

New fenders were created from Drag Specialties items and a 19-inch wheel was used up front. Both wheels were built by Buchanan Spoke & Rim. The rear fender rails were reworked to fit the new fender using blind fasteners throughout. (That is, all the bolts were accessible only from the inside of the fender.) The side panels were reshaped slightly, more so on the left, where the battery was partially exposed by the stocker.

The seat was built from the stock pan by Stitches, a well-known Minnesota rod-upholstery shop. A Dunlop logo was digitized and stitched into the back of the saddle, and another one went onto the seat's face.

Headwinds supplied the headlight shell, and since the idea was to paint as much of the bike as possible, the plating was sandblasted off, and a tribar headlight element was installed. Pro-One turn signals and license-plate bracket were fitted. For the critical exhaust system, Dunlop wanted a Vance & Hines system.

The Parts Unlimited Cruiser catalog offered up pretty, precise VQ triple clamps and forward foot controls. Progressive Suspension supplied the rear shocks. Billet dress-up caps and covers from Cobra highlight the engine.

That yellow paint scheme was chosen after some debate. Dunlop's Buckley wanted the bike black. (Hey, he's a tire guy and therefore thinks black things are really cool looking.) However, Fox and Harrington eventually persuaded him that a bike intended to attract attention should be bright color. V-Twin Concepts applied the pearl paint with some assistance on graphics and logos from nearby Sullivan Signs. The tread designs incorporated in the paint are a successful design element as well as a statement about the bike's origin. By painting many of the components normally left in their bare metal, the V-Twin Concepts team completed a major transformation in the bike's appearance. You still the Honda precision and quality, but there is a fresh feel to the completed motorcycle.

We subjected the machine to the toughest test of all in terms of head-turning -- the streets of Daytona Beach during Bike Week. Unless you have something pretty unique, everyone seems to have attention deficit disorder. But the Dunlop A.C.E., now nicknamed the D Device, pulled lots of eyes and questions. And yes, some folks did ask about or comment on the tires. It was also successful in that other area. This custom Honda is as pleasant to ride as it is to ogle. And when someone asked what had been done to it, we could honestly say, "It's mostly just the tires."


Buchanan Spoke & Rim, Inc.
805 W. Eighth St.
Azusa, CA 91702

Cobra Engineering
4915 E. Hunter
Anaheim, CA 92807

Drag Specialties
9839 W. 69th St.
Eden Prairie, MN 55344
(612)942-7890, (800)222-3400

P.O. Box 1109
Buffalo, NY 14240

Headwinds Cycle Products
221 West Maple Ave.
Monrovia, California 91016

Parts Unlimited
3501 Kennedy Rd.
Janesville, WI 53547-5222
(608)758-1111, (800)369-1000

Pro-One Performance Mfg., Inc.
2700 Melbourne Ave.
Pomona, California 91767-1900
909) 445-0900

Progressive Suspension
11229 G Ave.
Hesperia, CA 92345

Sullivan Signs
620 N. Main
Janesville, WI 53545

Vance & Hines
14010 Marquardt
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670

V-Twin Concepts
837 N. Parker Dr.
Janesville, WI 53545

For more articles on custom bikes and articles about how to customize and modify your motorcycle, see the Custom Section of

Photography by Frank Kuhn
No matter which way you approach the bike, it catches your eye.
The air dam announces its arrival and establishes the tire theme.
The low-profile cap completes the tank rework.
Although the parts are stock, the yellow paint on the disc carrier, caliper and sliders change the front end's look radically.
Progressive shocks and Pro-One turn signals clean up the rear end along with re-worked fender supports.
The tread theme carries through as the bike changes color front to rear set off by shiny parts -- like the front hubcap and VHR exhaust.
The yellow-paint treatment was also applied to the Headwinds headlight shell, with its Tribar lens insert.