Sometimes bad luck can be just the measure needed to spur life onwards with greater momentum. Marlon Jeavons turned up at Bike Shed London 2016 with a brace of bikes built as part of his new venture Marlon Motorcycles, one being the previously featured CX500 (click here) and the other was this CJ750.
Marlon’s dad had been enjoying a Honda XR400 supermoto until some scumbags stole it “He asked me to find him something completely different, something vintage maybe? I had recently made him grandad and he thought he should have a bike that better reflected his new status! The only limitation was the £1800 the insurance company had paid out, other than that I had a free reign.”
A budget that punitive wasn’t going to stretch to a donor of European or Japanese origin so Marlon had a sniff around eBay’s bountiful listings and unearthed a 1959 CJ750. The Chang Jiang is mechanically similar to a Ural or Dnepr, which both deprived post war from the BMW R71. Marlon looked beyond the bolt-on paraphernalia and saw an intrinsically decent bike beneath. A trip to Wales secured the purchase and within hours of it’s return to the Marlon Motorcycles Buckinghamshire HQ the CJ was stripped and his hunch had been proved to be a good one.
Seeing as grandpa Jeavons wanted a ride with a vintage feel patina would be embraced and preserved so Marlon sourced secondhand parts from auto jumbles and of course, the eBay. Everything else had to be fabricated. Any new parts were given an ageing treatment to help them blend in and maintain a low-key look and feel.
Although the bike was sold as a runner, it soon transpired that such descriptions differ from one person to the next. The only solution was a full engine rebuild, which proved just as challenging in parts sourcing as it did putting the thing together without instructions or previous experience of this power plant. Not a problem for Marlon, he’s a trained Aston Martin Works Technician.
Jeavons Snr really got into the spirit of this period build and insisted on a few extras, the vintage brass car horn will keep the MOT man happy (not that a pre-1960 vehicle needs one in the UK) and there’s a pocket watch set into the tank which connects to the ignition key.
Burly trials rubber adds to the dispatch rider aesthetic and suggests a slight whiff of off-road potential. After all, During WW2 the CJ750’s ancestors would have spent the majority of their service crossing some of the most inhospitable terrain possible. Marlon loves the incognito appearance, saying “The original bike was never branded; no tank badges, no markings on the engine casings, absolutely nothing to identify its maker. I thought this was pretty cool, it created intrigue. When my friends came round to see what I was working on the first question was always ‘what is it?’. However, I felt like it had to have tank badges. I eventually decided on stars as they reflect its Chinese origins but can also me misconstrued, adding to the confusion!”
“Now the bike is complete it’s a daily rider for my Dad, he loves it! Wherever he takes the bike it always attracts a gaggle of enthusiasts trying to outdo each other with their ‘guess the make’ suggestions. They never get it right… it remains an enigma.”
Seeing Marlon and his dad at our show exhibiting a pair of custom bikes was a perfect reminder of why Bike Shed became to be. A young man following his dream to earn a living and support a young family by customising bikes, and taking a commission on from someone who’d surely be a hard customer to please, all on the tiniest of budgets. That’s surely as important to the scene as a big dollar mega-factory-build.
Images by Lee Marshall with thanks to the good people of Bletchley Park