That's a Stretch: Honda VLX 600 Chopper

This Honda VLX receives a new attitude without a lot of fuss or cash. "Real World Custom" from the April 2002 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser magazine.

Charlie Guss's 1989 Honda VLX 600 wasn't a traditional chopper platform. Guss grew up in the do-it-yourself days of the 1960s and '70s -- the era of the burly street chopper. So when it came time to hack away at his first bike, Guss knew exactly where he was going; how he got there, though, was pretty unconventional.

The mild-mannered machine wasn't going to hurt anybody in its stock guise, so Guss elected to modify the Honda with a more streamlined, modern twist. The diminutive 600's attitude adjustment began with a shakedown—the bike was stripped of its bodywork, down to the frame. The internal fender struts were hacked, which lowered the Honda's posture four inches. Its ride was made rigid by excising the single shock and replacing it with a shorter turnbuckle strut. Guss says he learned a few lessons about customizing along the way—like the fact that round frame tubes are not the place to test your sandblasting skills for the first time.

Guss decided to rake the front end to a whopping 41 degrees with a Highway Hawk triple tree raked six degrees at the stem. The standard handlebar was narrowed by an inch to fit the triple tree, and though the fork tubes remain stock, the lower covers were buffed and polished for contrast. After the skeletal alterations, the Honda's sleek new bodywork took shape. The rear fender was shrunk by five inches and narrowed to make the 170 rear tire appear larger. Guss also molded the side covers into the rear fender for a tight, flowing line.

The unassuming VLX tank was stretched to match the fender and side covers, and the front fender was slashed and narrowed, with the front tip shaped into a point, emphasizing the stock 19-inch rubber underneath. The wheels had their rims rechromed at California Chrome Wheel, the spokes were relaced by Buchanan's spokes and the bike's stock hubs were sanded and polished by Guss. A set of Highway Hawk drag pipes lowered the bike's horizontal axis, emphasizing the VLX's newly aggressive slouch, and the carbs were rejetted to give the powerplant a bit more bite. A slim custom seat was fashioned from aluminum and covered with imitation snakeskin.

A pair of two-tone Chrome Specialties handgrips and ribbed Highway Hawk footrests with Guss' polished peg extenders highlight the bike's extremities. Chrome Highway Hawk mirrors give the VLX even more of a sneer, and polished control levers, engine covers and axle covers from the same maker complete the shiny add-ons. Accessory brackets and the shifter linkage were painted to match the frame color, thus minimizing outstanding silhouettes. The VLX electrics were rewired and tucked into the frame, and Motion Pro stainless steel cables were routed in.

The wild paint job is what catches your eye first though, and for that, Guss slathered on House of Kolor Majik Blue for the base and then added hand-painted flames for highlights, finally covering the whole application with clear urethane. Guss's project VLX isn't radical in its design, but it's a perfect example of how you can re-create existing parts for great effect. In fact, this little custom took third place in the 650 and Under class at last year's Rat's Hole Show in Daytona Beach, Florida.


805 W. Eighth St.
Azusa, CA 91702

California Chrome Wheel
25107 Rye Canyon Loop, Bldg. 7
Valencia, CA 91355

Highway Hawk - Hardsteen Motorsports
(505) 770 6821

House of Kolor
210 Crosby Street
Picayune, Mississippi 39466
(601) 798-4229

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