For those of you partial to a paradiddle and fond of flams, the Bonham name immediately conjours an image of flailing sticks and whiplash hair. Unfortunately the only thing John hit harder than his snare was the liquor bottle, and he sadly became another entry on the list of musicians gone too soon. But the numerous Zeppelin songs and rock folk-lore stories that litter popular culture ensure his innovation, aggression and legacy will long be remembered. It’s not hard to see why Bonham is a hero to many including Jez of La Busca Motorcycles.
So when a Guzzi V50 rolled into his workshop, it’s Zeppelin shaped tank immediately resonated with Jez and a Bonham based build direction was formed. The first build from the La Busca nest, their VXR400 based ‘Dispatch’ appeared on these pages last October, and while keeping with the small capacity V-twin flair, this time it’s with of a European nature. With the new build came new challenges for Jez:
“How far do you push to change what is already considered a classic? The V50 may not have the same kudos as the Le Mans but it does have a style that’s all of its own and right from the outset I decided to work with this, retaining the bike’s essential Guzzi-ness.”
“The Moto Guzzis of the eighties era remind me of body builders in stilettos, skinny forks and wheels holding up a bulked up engine and tank. I wanted to slim the looks of the bike down and show off more of the engine while giving the forks and wheels a touch more beef.”
With this in mind he fabricated some new side panels, moving the convoluted rear brake master cylinder inside the frame and sending a connecting rod through the panel. Neat.
And the number on the side? “The panels bear a subtle, embossed ‘32’ – the number of years John graced this earth, a tip of the hat to a true master of his craft.”
While the rear brake master cylinder is large thanks to the linked brake system, it meant Moto Guzzi were able to keep the bars clean and clear of clutter. The rest of the braking system was rebuilt using braided cables, and the high-riding calipers completely refurbished to make the most of the triple disc setup.
The original delicate wheels were powder-coated black, giving the illusion of a deeper profile tyre, without degrading the handling with balloon-shaped rubber. Gaiters on the the refurbished forks also beef up the looks of the front end of the bike, balancing the profile further.
Decluttering the rear was the next step, a simple ribbed seat, shortened to reveal the bobbed mudguard rising through the frame rails. A shortened system runs straight along the base of the engine, terminating in slimline silencers, revealing a lot more of the intricately cast swingarm and transmission.
Ensuring that the ever present worry of Italian electrics wouldn’t cause a roadside visitation, the bike underwent a complete loom rewire. The starter motor was rebuilt and the original speedo rehoused with new LED warning lights. The Guzzi headlight retained, it was repositioned slightly lower on the forks to give the front end cleaner lines. The large unit is a feature that almost threatens to dominate the bike but it’s such a classic shape that Jez deemed it worth keeping.
Rather than making sweeping changes to what was already a solid bike, Jez focused on refining and tweaking the key elements. In his own words:
“This build has been an exercise in enhancement, in working with classic lines that should be celebrated and allowed to breathe easy within new form. I kept and worked with as much of the original bike as I could and the build has responded to this, it rides and feels like a true classic, quick through the turns and sounds like the man himself, in full flow on his favourite Ludwig drum kit.
For a bike called Bonham, there’s an ironic subtlety to process. The next build for La Busca is already underway, a commissioned Triumph Sled, that will be appearing in the spring. Catch up on progress over on their Facebook.