Honda VTX Customs Showcase

Four VTX Customs.

In many ways, Honda's VTX1800 represents form over function. It is very nearly the antithesis of the "engineering first" asthetic that's dominated Honda products over the years. The VTX is big just for the sheer sake of massiveness, and not because bigger is functional. This uniquely American ideal has apparently helped the VTX win a comfortable niche in the V-twin marketplace. It's been over a year since Honda's full-figured flagship surfaced on U.S. asphalt, and backyard customizers have taken to the bike like piranhas to warm flesh.

At the latest Hoot in Knoxville, Tennessee, there was no escaping the sea of VTX customs, so we grabbed photographer Kevin Wing and captured images of some of the finest examples. Our impromptu shoot netted a few real beauties, which we're proud to display here. Enjoy.

It's The Motor

Sometimes the stars align and marketing departments get their new product promotions just right. Such was the case with the VTX1800C introduction last year, when the boys from Honda informed us (ad nauseum) in their marketing campaigns that the bike was all about the motor. Well, no kidding.

The point hit home with VTX owner Dan Shafer from Atlanta, Georgia,. who aimed to showcase his Honda's massive jugs in as flattering a light as possible. A stray red Porsche Boxster Shafer spotted in his neighborhood provided the visual inspiration for his project and the paint began to flow. Gallons of the red were judiciously applied by Pauleez Custom Cycles in Atlanta, who used the crimson shade as an accent for the engine, bodywork and lettering. The tank, fenders and fork tubes were painted black with red pearl fogged in over the base color, while the engine, brake calipers, tank panel and wheel insets were dipped in red for contrast. The rear drive and radiator received an ebony coat to blend them into the background.

A Power Commander ignition box was surreptitiously plugged in under the seat, with Vance & Hines Big Shots installed to expel spent gasses. Shafer pressed smartly styled DPM grips, levers, mirrors and turn signals from Planet Cruiser into service for a sleek European flair. The handlebar and front fender were also sourced from Planet Cruiser, with a chin spoiler from Honda completing the front end's clean, tailored look. A license plate bracket from Arlen Ness frames "XCESS" which is also embroidered on the seat. The saddle was recovered with Porsche leather and suede by Pauleez.

For ergonomics and function, Shafer slammed on a set of Progressive rear shocks and Galfer brake lines. A Cobra tach helps him nail his aggressive shifts more accurately. The final glimmer to Shafer's sleek custom was added with a chrome bath on the grips, levers, mirrors, wheels, fork ends, triple clamps and reservoir covers; this served to highlight the engine's twin cylinders even more.

There's no question it's all about the motor on this custom.

A Meaner Streak

Don Courte is no stranger to powerful cruisers. Before he began tearing into his current eye-catching 2002 VTX1800C, Courte says he was the proud pappy of a "semi-custom Honda Magna." But the Florida cruiser rider says he tricked that bike out so much, he ran low of customizing options and had to find a new project--which turned out to be the VTX. Courte ordered the big Honda in gray because, as he told the salesman, "Gray will make good primer." The salesman thought Courte insane to paint a new bike, but the determined customizer was already off commissioning a wild multicolored design from Taylor's House of Color in Louisville, Kentucky.

The real work on the VTX started in the engine bay though, as Courte and son Mitch (who, in a strange case of role reversal, rides a Gold Wing) looked to massage the bike's internals. The behemoth cruiser was up on a jack the better part of three months so that all necessary modifications could be made in one fell swoop. A Power Commander ignition module, Thunder Air Box and Vance & Hines exhaust system rebuilt the bike's respiratory system and added 10 horsepower to its Dyno chart.

Courte then addressed the VTX's visuals with low-profile Metzeler 880 tires mounted over chrome wheels from Cruise Concepts. Control levers, mirrors and bullet lights were sourced from the Kuryakyn catalog, and the tight drag bar came from Carlini. Southern Plating Specialties added chrome touches throughout. Up front, a Corbin chin spoiler integrated the radiator for cleaner lines, and Corbin's gator-and-ostrich solo saddle provided an exclamation point.

Courte is now retired, living in Florida and riding with a group of old guys calling themselves the "Over the Hill" Gang, but he says he still enjoys the fact that he's remained on a power cruiser all these years. Tangled Up In Blue

Tangled Up in Blue

If one were a large fellow, it would stand to reason that a machine of ample proportions would best appeal to one's big-boned frame. At six-foot-six, Harrison Hunter wasted no time questioning his comfort after he test-rode the then brand new VTX1800C at the 2001 Hoot. It was love at first feel, and Hunter promptly ordered one for his garage. The azure VTX was then modified by retrofitting Rivco highway pegs to a lower position, allowing the machine to fit its rider even better. After that change, however, Harrison did not go chrome-crazy. He chose to keep the bike spare and mostly functional.

A Memphis Fats shield, a Corbin Dual Touring seat with oval backrest and chrome rail and Corbin hard saddlebags clearly indicate Harrison's travelin' jones, and a Hondadirectline cowl, shaft cover and radiator cover clean up the dark unfinished gaps in the 1800C's design. Simple automotive chrome edging around the tank and fender lends a glimmer of elegance to the beefy cruiser.

That may have satisfied Harrison, but his wife Marion was also looking for an upgrade from her 800 Suzuki Intruder. It seems another new Honda was in the cards.From the first demo ride, the smaller VTX 1300R fit Marion Hunter like a glove, so she secured one the minute it hit her local dealership--just in time for the 2002 Hoot. (Either the Hunters are an impatient couple or the VTXs are just that irresistible.) In any case, Marion says she loves Honda's Mini-Ve even more after her brief time on it, for its sumptuous V-twin looks, the way it fits her and its 'feel appeal,' as she put it.

Unfortunately, there are few aftermarket parts available for the little VTX, so Marion has had to make do with Harrison's old National Cycle windshield, since it readily fit her bike's mounting brackets. In the meantime, Marion is patiently waiting for more parts to hit the market so she can turn her smooth blue ride into a real cobalt custom. For now, the couple likes to play the match game. Both bikes unabashedly sport Illusion Blue as their primary hue of choice. Luckily, blue remains the same color no matter what size it is.

On The Edge

When Dean Otto purchased his 2002 Honda VTX1800C new last year, he was pining for a special look, one that would separate his bike from the other big twins. Design guru Jeff Feaster of Extreme Auto in Humbolt, Iowa, who has worked on his share of custom bikes (including Theresa Otto's custom Honda Valkyrie) chose to impart this VTX with smooth, subtle, clean lines right off the bat. All the visible rivets were removed and weld seams smoothed out to create a seamless, flowing profile.

This readied the VTX for Feaster's colorful, aggressive paint job (though the base of the paintwork was rendered with a subtle black-and-silver basecoat). The "zigzag blast" effect of the design however, was created with a jagged edged ribbon of silver and red marbleized color outlined in bright yellow to give it depth. The graphics were finished with several applications of clear coat and sanded smooth for high-definition sheen.

Otto supplemented the VTX's new skin with a few high-end accessories. A D&D; slip-on pipe provided a clean horizontal axis on one side, and was balanced by chrome driveshaft and swingarm covers from Honda on the other. Handmade swingarm pivot covers finished the rear end nicely. Kuryakyn mirrors and grips added more polish, and a Corbin radiator cover deftly shrouded the cooling system. A Honda windshield and Corbin saddle give Otto solid comfort for the long road.

There's no way you'll be able to miss this colorful creation now, whether it's in a crowd or not. It's one of a kind.


Arlen Ness
(510) 276-3395

Cobra USA
(714) 692-8180

Corbin Motors
(800) 538-7035

Cruise Concepts
(888) 447-2869

DynoJet Research
(800) 992-4993

Galfer Brakes
(805) 653-5012

(715) 247-5008

Memphis Shades
(901) 853-0293

Metzeler Tires

National Cycle
(877) 972-7336

Progressive Suspension
(877) 690-7411

Rivco Products
(888) 801-8222

Vance & Hines
(800) 592-2529

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