You’ve either got it, or you haven’t. Whether it be good looks, a big brain or a feel for all things mechanical. The latter is often perceived as nurture rather than nature but I don’t buy that one. Study hard, enrol on courses and gather all the experience a life spannering can throw at you and maybe you’ll make a decent mechanic or fabricator but it’s that inbuilt flare and vision that sets apart the good from the brilliant.
I met Ray Petty a few years ago when he rolled a V-twin Jap engined bobber into our Bike Shed London show at Tobacco Dock and fell in love immediately. Ray is a nice bloke but the bike is wonderful. Just to dispel any confusion, I’m talking about Ray Petty the London based Ducati specialist, not the Norton engine builder and tuner from a previous generation. Seeing as we’re Ducati owners here in the ‘Shed, in fact it’s pretty much turned into being a rite of passage, our bikes have always gone to Ray for specialist work. What he doesn’t know about Desmos, Bevels, Testastrettas isn’t even worth Googling but that certainly doesn’t make Ray a one trick pony, far from it. It’s this wealth of experience and aforementioned ability to see the world in blueprints and schematics that cemented the relationship between him and former advertising industry big hitter James Hilton.
James was infected with an acute form of the Motoinfatuation from a very young age, partly his uncle’s fault. Said grownup took James for a ride on the back of his motorcycle with the one caveat that James’ father wasn’t to find out. Being twelve and inquisitive the request was ignored and James promptly told his dad that he’d been on a bike and that it was the best experience, ever. “Motorcycles are death machines, son” was the stern response and advice dished-out. Three decades, or so, later and Death Machines of London ignored this pearl of wisdom and has hit the custom scene squarely on the jaw with two truly stunning custom motorcycles.
DMOL have already outgrown their Bethnal Green workshop and are in the process of moving to a purpose-built facility in Greenwich. The two-storey workshop will offer Ray and his team space to create metal masterpieces on the ground floor under the Ray Petty Meccanica banner while the DMOL design studio, retail space and bike showroom will operate above. I’m looking forward to visiting soon as I’m sure it’ll be a far cry from the cramped railway arch where the bike you see here was imagined, fabricated and sweated over.
Now, Ray and James are talented chaps but their combined efforts would never have been enough to complete two bikes to this standard alone. Ray heads the team and takes care of the mechanicals, with James contributing really useful things like ‘up a bit, down a bit’, while machining and fabrication is the domain of the super talented Max Vanoni. And literally holding everyone’s work together is welder extraordinaire Luke Morgan.
Up Yours Copper is an injected Triumph Thruxton from 2007. How many of those have we all seen over the last few years, for me plenty, perhaps too many. But on a cold rainy night last autumn I popped in to see Ray to pick up some boring Ducati parts. He had that glint in his eye, like he wanted to show me something a bit secret. The cover was peeled back on a bike in perhaps the worst stage of a custom build. There were some shiny copper bits but the rest was a mess of wiring, tack welds and things held in place with masking tape. Now I’ve got vision but when Ray lit-up describing the path that the project was going to take I became really excited. But fair cop, I’ll hold my hands up, I really didn’t expect to see quite such a spectacular display of exquisite fabrication and finish.
Right, now that I’ve blown enough smoke up the DMOL team to secure a decent deal on my next set of cambelts, what about the flipping bike.
Pretty much the first port of call on a Triumph build is dealing with the subframe, the standard structure is relatively easy to loop but there are varying degrees of neatness that result. Here an entirely new rear section has been grafted-in. As you can imagine Luke took his time and received a 10/10 and a gold star from Ray. The rest of the factory welds have been smoothed and of course, extraneous tabs ground away. Seams and unsightly joints (sorry robots of Hinckley, you don’t get a gold star) were re-welded and filed-back prior to what looks like an inch thick layer of Beluga Black paint. Powder coat was never going to flatter Luke’s handiwork the way a decent paint job does. Hopefully James wasn’t around on the day they had to put the engine back in, he’d have no fingernails left.
Max and Luke then set about bashing, planishing and rolling the aluminium bodywork. The tail section is proportionally sensitive to the tank and the bike’s overall lines while having to be large enough to cloak the unusual exhaust routing. The fuel tank was also formed in aluminium and incorporates further demonstration of Max’s metalworking capability. More on that in a minute. A slash cut cylinder shape houses a military grade LED headlight and one of the most meticulous speedos I’ve ever seen. The raw finish leaves no room to hide witness marks from a stray hammer blow or poorly selected file yet screams handmade exclusivity. Satin black sides to the tank aesthetically marry the top line to the engine beneath and allow other components a moment in the limelight.
While the shapely and artistic stuff was going on Ray had the task of matching the looks with performance. The cylinder heads have been gas flowed properly, not just a quick stab with a Dremel, and are now fed by a brace of DMOL velocity stacks. Air filtration is courtesy of etched brass mesh discs inserted into the stacks, with matching DMOL brass logo. A bespoke ignition and fuelling remap resulted in not only more power but a cooler combustion and a 15% reduction in running temperatures which prompted the decision to dump the stock oil cooler. The result is a much cleaner look to the front of the engine and with the external oil lines removed the powerplant is more reminiscent of it’s air cooled predecessor.
Powder coated engine cases were a must but the icing on the cake are a few neat touches. The cam covers and throttle body tops have been electroplated with copper and given a lustrous shine. Raw cooling fin edges are nothing new, so the guys took the concept a step further and polished the Death Machines logo onto the fins. An etched brass DMOL logo takes the place of the stock Triumph triangle on the right hand case.
The exhaust headers are subtle and curvaceous enough to be noticed yet blend into the background, winding their way up to the aforementioned tail hump where a modicum of decibel quelling takes place, not much though, this thing growls! A ceramic coating reduces external temperatures enough to negate the need for ugly heat shields and the routing is long and sufficiently open to the breeze so by the time gases have reached the tail their ability to burn and melt have been greatly reduced.
Inside the tail a carbon fibre muffler tunes the exhaust note, adds the desired amount of back pressure and protects the tail light from any remaining heat. Crowned by a copper tip the exhaust exits through a circular tail light, without even touching the sides. Again, nothing new but the execution is as close to perfection as you’ll find.
As you’d imagine this isn’t the sort of build to be let down by the sight of wiring, oh no. A completely new loom has been fed in and around frame tubes and within the handlebars to ensure the cleanest possible finish. The exception only part on the whole bike that hasn’t been polished, fettled or remade – the main ignition switch. A plastic Motogadget fob wasn’t going to cut the mustard here. Instead a magneto switch from a 1940 Supermarine Spitfire Mk1 lurks beneath the seat. The first toggle invites the battery to the party, the second spins the starter motor. Power is provided by a lithium battery mounted out of sight under the swingarm.
This leaves the dash completely unencumbered by electrical clutter. Wires run inside the hand-bent handlebars to micro switches set into the knurled lefthand grip. On the right side a throttle assembly with internal cable routing continues the super clean theme, again knurled on the lathe by Max.
The bars themselves are welded to the top yoke from below and spaced with copper plated bushings. Sourcing levers for such a setup was futile so the guys made their own to control the Fontana four leading shoe front drum brake. This much lorded unit is sexy in its raw form but black powder coated with copper accents is next level.
In a break from the custom norm the rims are copper plated, attached to the front drum and rear hub by black anodised spokes and nipples. Avon Trailrider tyres were chosen due their subtle tread pattern, a 160/60×17 out back and 100/90×19 in the front. Overly fancy shocks would have undone the benefits of this careful choice so a pair of Hagons, 20mm longer, were given a custom outer covers to mask the springs beneath. Disc brake mounts were removed and the legs smoothed before revalved internals were fitted along with uprated Progressive springs.
Max takes his craft pretty seriously and was more than happy to challenge himself. He spent ridiculous numbers of hours on the lathe and mill, which from where I’m standing seems to have all been worthwhile. From the widespread use of knurling on footpads and handlebar grips to the internally polished velocity stacks, his eye for detail is exemplary.
The aluminium sprocket cover is machined from solid aluminium and inlayed with the same brass mesh as the intakes, finished with a precision etched plaque. Ever wondered how watchmakers are able to engrave such neat and tiny lettering? Well, they use photolithography so it seemed only natural to employ the same technique on key parts of this bike. The speedo was made using this process and the result would surely impress the man from Patek Philippe.
The fuel cap hasn’t escaped the engraving process either. Machined from aluminium and finished with another brass plaque, this time featuring a quote from Hunter S. Thompson “Faster, faster, until the trill of speed overcomes the fear of death.” This is only visible during visits to the petrol station though as a bridal leather strap holds the tank firmly inlace and covers the intricate cap. A little something for the owner to enjoy.
And yes, someone does own this bike, it isn’t just an exercise in engineering dick swinging. The DMOL team have crafted a bike for an individual with exacting standards and high expectations. It would only seem right then that his arse should be measured for a perfect seat fitting. No less than 17 pieces of American Walnut were layered to ensure a consistent grain before being sanded smooth and liberally coated with Danish oil. Ben Heeney at Ian Dunn Woodwork and Design in London was tasked with producing a comfortable seat from an unlikely and intrinsically unyielding material. As the bike’s dimensions, geometry and proportions have been uniquely focussed on one man, his weight is well balanced between bar and pegs leaving his bum free to move around when the ride becomes more spirited. Hopefully spirited enough to gun that knurled throttle and scream “Up Yours Copper”
What I like about DMOL is their playful, boundless approach to producing custom motorcycles. In an incredibly crowded market, scene and industry producing something unique is becoming increasingly demanding yet somehow these guys have let their childhood creativity and desire to excite cut through the status quo. For this, everyone here at the Bike Shed applauds them and we’re salivating at the prospect of seeing DMOL 3 roll off the bench. Trust me, I’ve seen the sketches, order your rubber chin guards now.
Like all the best things in life, they’re better seen up close with your one eyes. Up Yours Copper will be on display at Bike Shed London – EC1V 9LT until late August.
Images by David Clerihew