Over the last couple of years Taiwan has become the Portugal of the Far East. Nearly a decade ago workshops from Porto to Faro developed a knack for building some of best looking yet uncomplicated custom motorcycles, often based on small capacity donors. Maybe the sea air gets everyone’s creative juices flowing.
One of our favourite Taiwanese outfits of is Cowboy’s Chopper, fronted by Alex Gao. And this little Hartford HD200 tickled our fancy. Hartford have manufactured pocket sized motos in Taiwan for over 20 years and now export to Europe, including the UK. Ahh, hang on. Europe and the UK. Watch out Herald and Mutt, there’s another kid on the block.
Despite the Harford usually being the preserve of the budget conscious rider, Alex found a customer willing to go the extra mile with this project. The fuel tank and one-piece tail unit were handmade from steel, and the exhaust was fabricated using a traditional sand-bending technique.
For the uninitiated – pack the steel tubing tightly with sand, to prevent compression creases on the inner radii of the curves, then heat to a cherry red colour before bending to the desired shape. Voila – pretty, swooping shapes without the need for a mandrel bender. And less show-off than the pie-cut TiG welded sculptures that bombard Instabook these days.
The Hartford’s frame, loosely based on Honda’s old CD200, has had extraneous brackets and tabs removed prior to a lustrous plating of chrome. The tail unit with its finned side panels hides a re-routed electrical system and the essential wiring that remains runs through braided conduit.
The vertically mounted, rectangular headlight is one of Alex’s signature features which along with wires routed inside the handlebars and polished levers make for a classical cockpit that belies the donor’s newness.
A 225cc bore-kit and Keihin PZ30 carb add a sniff of extra performance, reined in by an oversized front brake disc and modified calliper mount. The whole engine has a vapour blasted, raw finish which looks much better than the silver paint it left the factory with.
The 19 and 16 inch tyres look like the universally used Firestone Deluxe Champions but are in fact copycat rubber from Fuckstone. Presumably Bridgestone (Firestone’s owner) couldn’t be arsed to engage their lawyers as these tyres have been around for a few years now.
Here in London the streets are awash with Herald, Mutt and Bullit 125s and 250s but we’ve yet to see a Hartford. Here’s hoping that changes soon, the more the merrier when it comes to getting people onto two wheels. Especially if as handsomely presented as this one.