A Hornet-Hued Custom Honda A.C.E.

A rolling sculpture with yellow jacket-like paint

A Hornet-Hued Custom Honda A.C.E.
Fantastic form and vibrant paint give this custom Honda A.C.E. its appeal.Mark Langello

This article was originally published in the April 1999 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.

Gets your attention, doesn’t it? Your eyes can’t help avoid this bit of rolling sculpture, they are drawn in by the bumblebee-like black and yellow slashes. And when they land on this motorcycle, your inquiring mind just has to know more. The first question, of course, is: What is it? Your second glance supplies the surprising answer as you look closely at the engine. That fantastic form is built on a Honda American Classic Edition, an 1100. That explains the polished finish of the engine but it also raises more questions. Such as, how did the bike come to look like that?

That question becomes even more interesting when you get up close to the hornet-hued A.C.E. A good, long look tells you that this isn’t some complicated megabucks project with every part replaced from the frame on out. In fact, there are surprisingly few aftermarket parts and even fewer custom-built or modified components. Even the saddle and wheels are stock Honda pieces.

To create a custom machine that is as unique as it is striking, the folks at Pro Paint and Fabrication of Baltimore, Maryland, started with a motorcycle that wouldn’t normally be selected for this sort of project. (That is, they picked something besides a Harley big twin.) They applied some carefully chosen bodywork sculpture to radically alter the bike’s profile and then lowered it. The bodywork was accentuated with a wild paint treatment. A few minor aftermarket pieces completed the Honda’s transformation.

A Hornet-Hued Custom Honda A.C.E.
That emphasis on removing clutter shows up again in the rear brake, where the caliper was remounted to hang out of sight at the bottom of the disc. The tank was cleaned up by smoothing out the seams.Mark Langello

The most significant change made to the A.C.E. is the custom-built fenders. Pro Paint fabricated them from a set of scrap fenders it had on hand. By reshaping and augmenting them with additional material, Pro Paint creates pieces that could never be mistaken for stock items. The new fenders are deeper, so that they fill much of the space behind the wheel and give the front end more weight all around. The resurrected Harley fenders also extend almost to the road to accentuate the motorcycle’s lowered profile.

To ensure an uncluttered curve at the rear end of the motorcycle an LED taillight was molded into the rear fender. The seams of the stock Honda fuel tank were filled and smoothed out, giving the tank an almost custom-built look. To clean up the rear wheel, Pro Paint cut off the disc brake’s caliper and fabricated a new mount that positions the caliper out of sight at the bottom of the brake disc.

A Hornet-Hued Custom Honda A.C.E.
Aside from the radically altered fenders, this motorcycle hasn’t changed much from stock. Along with lowering the bike, the oversize fenders change the entire profile of the Honda. They also provide more acreage for Pro Paint’s stunning color scheme.Mark Langello

As you move toward the bike, the amazing paint job looks even more exciting than it does from a distance. Pro Paint’s Robert Bedford told us that the process started with a coat of black, which was followed with flakes of prism-style paint. On top of that, ghost flames were added. The eye-stopping spikes of bright yellow that trail off into orange follow the quiet flames. The final highlight that completes the color scheme was the application of the green pinstripes that separate the yellow and black. And of course, there are coats of clear on top of it all. Back at the rear fender, the design is carried right through the fender rails.

Components of the paint scheme were carried over to other parts of the bike to give them a bit of eye appeal. For example, the black with its sparkling prismatic flakes graces the radiator shroud. And the orange shows up in the front brake disc’s carrier, where it adds a colorful highlight to the front wheel. The final result is a paint scheme that draws you in for a closer inspection to absorb its subtleties. And, of course, the prism-paint coat changes color when your angle of view shifts or the light strikes it from a different direction.

A Hornet-Hued Custom Honda A.C.E.
Keep it clean. The taillight is an LED set flush with the surface of the custom-fabricated rear fender. The design carries right over the rear fender rails, making them almost vanish. Drag Pipes by Samson reiterate the clean-and-simple theme.Mark Langello

Most of the rest of the changes performed on the Honda were made to rid it of clutter and accent the drama­tically altered profile. In keeping with the “No Stock Pipes” slogan emblazoned on the rear fender, the stock Honda exhaust system was discarded in favor of a set of straight, simple drag-style pipes from Samson Motorcycle Products of Anaheim, California.

The big standard Honda turn signals were sent to the shelves in favor of smaller, much less obtrusive pieces from Mirage. At the rear, the signals were located at the lower edge of the fender and painted so that they almost disappear. The two little squared-off front signals were simply tucked in inconspicuously under the handlebar. A horn liberated from a Harley Springer Softail fit right in below the radiator, adding a pleasant chrome highlight and getting the stock item completely out of view.

Many of the Honda’s components—such as wheels, headlight, mirrors, hand grips, footpegs and handlebar—some people would normally expect to replace in a project resulting in such a major change in appearance, are stock. Even the saddle is original equipment, although the detachable rear section (along with the rest of the bike’s passenger accommodations) was put in for early retirement while the A.C.E. was cleaning up its act. This is not a catalog custom festooned in billet, chrome, leather and studs.

A Hornet-Hued Custom Honda A.C.E.
Larry McCullogh's custom definitely fits the bill as being one-of-a-kind.Mark Langello

The lesson, of course, is that if you get the big things right in a custom motorcycle, you don’t need to sweat the small stuff. Burying the Honda under a ton of billet, leather and other bolt-ons would not have had anything like the impact that Pro Paint and Fabrication achieved simply by creating those stunning fenders for the machine and finishing the bike with such a bold paint job.

Owner Larry McCullogh can cruise anywhere on this unforgettable Honda A.C.E. and know with total certainty that everyone except the legally blind is looking at it. And even though the vast majority of its parts are completely stock, McCullogh can be absolutely certain that no one will walk up to him in a parking lot tomorrow and say, “Yup, they sure build ’em pretty, don’t they? I got one just like it at home.” More likely, he’ll hear questions like, “Is that really a Honda?” or “What kind of motorcycle is that?”

Of course, the answer to that latter query should almost go without saying. “It’s my kind.”