This article was originally published in the April 2002 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.

When a bike builder calls our magazine to tout a hot new custom, it's often a project he's been commissioned to craft for a customer. The creative cabal at Baron Custom Accessories is known for wringing sizzling horsepower out of stock Yamahas, so when John Vaughan-Chaldy (the "Baron") rang to let us in on his latest mutation, we chimed, "Who's it for, and what's the engine like?" We were surprised on both counts. For one, the bike was the builder's own 2001 Yamaha Midnight Star, slated for the beauty pageant circuit, and two, it was mechanically almost bone-stock. But Vaughan-Chaldy rushed to assure us the lustrous custom, dubbed "After Midnight," would not remain sluggish for long.

Owning a current-model machine is handy for a parts builder, since designs can be refined and tested during the production process. Vaughan-Chaldy knew his own Road Star would provide a perfect canvas for the sexy new parts his shop was creating -- it's what he originally wanted us to see. But a host of performance components were also being developed in conjunction with Baron's drag racing team, and the experience on the strip was being translated into applications for Baron's customers. When a batch of these hop-up parts finally cleared the pre-production stage, things heated up considerably for After Midnight. And that's about the time we started aching to finally see it.

The Lowdown

When it arrived at Baron's shop last year, the stock Midnight Star was dressed down to its frame. Signature Baron touches, like a lowered, hardtail-look rear end with a huge tire and flowing fenders were primary design considerations, but the builder also planned to display his trick new bolt-on accessories. The bike's stripped chassis was dropped 1.5 inches utilizing Baron's front and rear lowering kits, with a newly designed rear shock relay arm that maintains full suspension travel while allowing room for new bodywork. Baron's novel swingarm completed the rear geometry with its symmetrical lines culminating in a sharp point at the ends. Billet covers masked the axle bolts, and tabs were welded to the bottom to mount the tiny Bullet turn signals. (Currently, this ultra-cool swingarm is a pre-production unit that's being refined.) The rest of After Midnight's frame was left stock and painted gloss black.

RC Components' Marshall wheels fit the Yamaha, but Vaughan-Chaldy felt the six-spoke configuration was distracting, so he requested a special five-spoke version. The result added just the right amount of airiness to the bike's design. After Midnight also received RC's unique single-sided rear pulley drive with brake rotors to match and an extra-wide brake caliper suspended from the axle. This assembly shows off the bike's right-side swingarm and wheel perfectly. The 18-inch wheels were shod with hefty 200-series Avon rubber in back, while the front received a suitably chunky 18-inch, 3.5-inch-wide application.

Baron's custom Yamaha Road Star
The curvaceous fenders of Baron's build captures your attention.Dean Groover

Getting Dressed

We were instantly drawn to the bike's sweeping silhouette, thanks to its curvaceous fenders. You might even notice a resemblance to Yamaha's V-Star 1100 Classic bodywork, especially on intricate details in the center portion. That's no coincidence -- Baron's design team was so taken with the V-Star's rear fender that they made a mold of it, reworking the proportions to create After Midnight's more lengthy lines. A special sub-frame (Baron's Phat Frame) was fabricated to fit the portly rear tire and bolted to the stock mounts, allowing use of the stock fender support. (The rear fender and subframe kit will be offered in Baron's 2002 catalog.) Yamaha's own fiberglass side covers meshed nicely with the bike's new bodywork to complete the midsection.

Vaughan-Chaldy chose his details carefully. The seven-inch Mariah headlight is from Tradewinds (an offshoot of Headwinds), but all wiring and external indicators were eliminated except for the Kuryakyn Bullet turn signals mounted on either side of the headlamp. A lower triple tree cover and Bullet fork end caps further dolled up the front. Another accessory making its debut is the Radi'us Drag Bar, fabricated with the help of colleague Steve Ramelot. Because this bar is wider, its grip angle takes pressure off the wrists and elbows, making it more comfortable than a traditional drag bar. A pair of Yaffe mirrors with a devil's tail design added panache to the handlebar, and a beefy set of Baron's 1.5-inch Enferno billet handgrips enclosed the ends. Their milled Enferno Big Air Kit cover and Enferno push-rod-tube covers. A modified Baron license holder and taillight were rigged off the right side of the upper swingarm.

After Midnight's tank was then stretched 3.5 inches -- usually a pricey bit of bodywork. However, the effect was achieved using just a stock fuel tank with an extension Baron has created for those of us who like the look but don't want to spend the money. It's actually a small steel shell designed to fit over the tapered rear section of the fuel pod, which, once aligned, is welded into place. The metalwork is stripped, painted and polished for a nearly seamless, custom appearance. Future generations of this application will be made of fiberglass and installed with a simple adhesive in less than an hour, for under $200. A Corbin Boulevard Solo seat butts up to After Midnight's sleek new tank.

Even after all this primping was completed, there was still some clutter to contend with. Stock Road Stars have a gaping maw where the fuel tank meets the steering head, which reveals a tangle of ugly wires and cables. Baron had a fiberglass extension made that attaches to the tank and covers the gap. This sleeve and the instrument dash cover were painted to match the tank, thus blending both pieces with surrounding bodywork to give the illusion of a single unbroken unit. Stainless steel control lines completed the bike's classy finish.

Paging Michelangelo

This machine is a bona fide beauty, but it needed appropriate paint to convey its one-of-a-kind status. The bike went through many color incarnations at different shows on the circuit. In Sturgis, for example, the machine was covered in a rich maroon color scheme, but for the final frosting, Baron went to longtime collaborator Dan Hatch and asked him to "make it pop."

As an artist, Hatch was thrilled to impart color onto the bike's somber tone, and he chose an iridescent silver base coat for its brilliance. Vaughan-Chaldy tells us the painter even invented several new colors while choosing his palette. On the darker inset panels, Hatch laid down a black base with a marbleized mixture of silver and ebony, applying plastic wrap on top for a uniquely textured effect. The flames in the panels were created with a marbleized gold pearl and tipped with custom DuPont Chroma Chameleon, designed to shift through three different hues. In sunlight, the pearl paint mutates and the Chameleon color rolls from green to yellow to blue. Hatch added Chameleon-paint touches to the spokes of the RC wheels to complete the magical effect.

The added graphics cleverly emphasize the girth of each tire, presenting the illusion of a narrow fender with black and silver pinstripes. The final scheme flows well with the components on the bike, especially the flamed metal covers. After Midnight has already won Best of Show at the Del Mar Mile Star Show and captured second place in the Concept Class at the Del Mar Concourse d'Elegance as well. It's plain to see why.

Road Star engine
Holy...! Baron is still fiddling with the jetting to produce a more linear horsepower curve, but the numbers don't lie.Dean Groover
Dyno Chart
Here are the numbers. Potential customers can request dyno charts for their specific applications, too.Crusier

Power to the People

Remember in our first paragraph when we asked Vaughan-Chaldy about performance and he told us help was on the way? Well, when those hop-up components had cleared production he was ready to wow us with beauty and brawn -- all in one package.

Baron Custom Accessories is known for wringing serious power out of Yamahas, and Road Star owners clamoring for more ponies than the feeble 53 stock horses will be pleasantly surprised by the new performance parts. Baron runs a Road Star drag bike in the Pro Star series, and After Midnight reaped the benefits of features developed and tested for the strip.

The bike was undressed again for engine builder Chaz Chastine to determine alignment of the new pistons, cams, heads, pushrods, lifters and carb. A new ported manifold hadn't cleared production yet, so Chastine modified the stock one. The engine also retained its stock crankshaft and rods, but it received new Generation Z Pistons within the stock bore cylinder, set at 10.5 to 1 compression. (These forged aluminum pistons -- with an aggressively reshaped crown design -- will replace all current pistons in the Baron catalog.)

New Zen Heads, ported (with reshaped intake and exhaust) and polished to Baron's specs, top the pistons. They also boast a stainless steel valve arrangement and camshafts operated by a set of Zen roller cams, lifters and adjustable pushrods. A Baron Big Air Kit with a high-flow air cleaner brings oxygen to a 45mm Mikuni carburetor, before it's sparked by a Dyna 3000 ignition. A chopped set of prototype Nasty Boy drag pipes expels exhaust gasses.

Once the components were in, the bike was placed on the dyno to obtain preliminary readings for the fuel and air mixture. Chastine rejetted the carb, tuned the needle a bit and voila -- 99.8 horses, right out of the box. Then he grinned, adjusted the carb some more and bam! The next reading indicated 102 horsepower with 106 foot-pounds of torque. A few more adjustments on the carburetor and exhaust produced numbers running consistently over 102 ( and as much as 106) horsepower from there on out -- a nearly 50-percent gain in power over stock. The dyno charts reveal a torque curve that jumped virtually straight up and stayed there until it hit the rev limiter. The horsepower curve was less extreme, but it produced a similarly vertical jump with a slight dip before skyrocketing again and peaking. After a lot of backslapping, R&D; man Tim Rosse chuckled and hauled the bike in so he could refit the bodywork. "It's amazing how fast a bike can be put together when someone wants to be first to ride a 100-horsepower machine," said Baron. Luckily, that someone would be us.

Settling into the saddle and fondling the oversized grips, we got the impression this cruiser wasn't made for lightweights. A press on the starter button confirmed this, as small children in the neighborhood scattered for cover. Although the chopped pipes were painfully loud, the beefed-up engine promised us one hell of a ride. We were surprised at how manageably all that torque rolled out of the pulsing powerplant when we rolled on the throttle. The controls required a hefty pull, but once we acclimated, we could modulate inputs quite easily. The power came on smoothly, and we never did find its limits on the highway. After Midnight was simply not the out-of-control wild animal we expected, with a smooth roll-on, engaging pulse at idle and acres of torque waiting in the wings. She's no prima donna, however -- except for the racket, the bike is completely streetable with all the new Baron Speed Parts installed, and it runs on regular pump gas.

Vaughan-Chaldy says installation of this package -- which will be offered as a bolt-together kit -- should take about 15 hours with a professional mechanic, but we wouldn't recommend this as a first-time engine project. The parts will be available individually too, if owners simply want to add power accessories on their Road Stars. When the package becomes available in the spring, it'll be called the Stage 4 kit and will sell for $2875. It will include the Generation Z Pistons, an SR Ported Intake Manifold, Level III Heads, a Dyna 3000 ignition, Zen Roller Cams/Lifters/Pushrods, a 45mm Mikuni carb and stainless steel control cables. When you add approximately $600 for installation labor, you're looking at an expenditure of less than $3500 for a heckuva big power boost.

One for All

What most impresses us about After Midnight is that almost every one of its aftermarket parts, is or soon will be, available to regular Road Star owners. The Stage 4 kit, with its whopping power pop, can be had by anyone with 2900 clams. Vaughan-Chaldy's Speed Parts will now give Road Star owners the ability to increase output substantially, yet come away with a reliable street machine. And since these products have been tested under fire on the drag racing circuit, where the Baron has already bagged two world records with his Road Star, we'd say he means business.

Paint on Baron's custom Road Star
Size matters...This lengthy fender is known as the "Super Phat Daddy" and perches on a special sub-frame. Check out the mutable paint job on the inset panel.Dean Groover


(800) 624-7470

(888) 278-2819

(800) 538-7035

(626) 359-8044

(715) 247-5008

(888) 721-6495