Dark Knight The Duke
By Gareth Charlton - 16 Apr 15
Hidden away in a shed, just a guy building bikes. Tony, aka The Bandit, had been selling his machines for around 15 years to those lucky enough to be in the know but he has never before gone public with a build, until now. Our apologies to all of Tony's existing customer's but your secret is out, this man builds mighty fine motorcycles. Operating out of a compact shed at his Staffordshire home Tony has finally succumbed to the interest in his wares and bestowed a name above the door, we proudly introduce Dark Knight Custom Motorcycles. Not that Tony even considers himself a Pro Builder, "I am just a guy who builds bikes because it’s all in the detail. I do it, because it is a passion of mine. It will never be about the money ever." The Dark Knight Custom Motorcycles media debut was entrusted to this glorious 89' Ducati Sport, a damn fine choice. A lucky punter who had already experienced the quality of Tony's workmanship on an XS400 custom called him up one day and asked if he could do Ducati café for him, naturally Tony responded in the positive, itching to get his teeth into some fine Italian metal. "His idea was that he wanted me to build him a unique Café but giving it an old school look. We found the donor bike in Wales; it was a 1989 bike from a guy who had kept it in his garage for the last five years. She was in fair condition really, but what happened next, some would say was an unforgivable sin. The bike was stripped and what was not being reused was moved on." - All sins are forgiven. The engine was opened up and rebuilt with new belts, pistons rings, gaskets and oil seals before receiving a fresh coat of satin black paint. Tony remarks that the motor is to this day as standard from the factory, apart from some performance coils. The frame was then cut and re-welded to accommodate the custom exhaust, sublime custom built aluminium tank, the seat unit and fairing. "The tricky part was getting it all to fit. The front fairing was a total nightmare. After many hours of fiddling and fitting, I finally got the seat, tank and fairing to fit, and I think you will agree it looks amazing." The loom was stripped out and replaced with a custom built unit. All of the electrics had to be moved to accommodate the superb under seat exhaust system. "I had to make a custom fuse box and heat proof the whole loom at the back end, so nothing would melt in the heat from that under seat exhaust. The exhaust was custom made in stainless steel. This was a tricky problem, getting that pipe to go up in between the swinging arm and the rear Mono shock was let’s say, very testing... No matter what angle we had it at, it kept hitting something. We done it in the end." The old brakes were thrown away and a special mounting bracket sourced so that later model front Brembo twin callipers could be installed. The rear brake calliper is a new item that was painted to match the front, for those shed dwellers who fancy copying the trick Tony helpfully provides the perfect colour match - Honda Y61P Inca. The original discs were then machined and re zinced in keeping with the original looks of the bike. The three spoke wheels are the original equipment, they were painted satin black to match the frame and engine and a new set of rare Golden Tyres were fitted. The rear spring was replaced with a Hagon shock and the front forks legs were re hard-chromed before being machined to original spec. The RWU forks look fantastic with yet more satin black paint to finish them off, they keep the bike firmly in period. For the bodywork the paint simply had to be that of all Italian machines with a sporting heritage, red, Ferrari Rosso Red to be precise. "But we also wanted the polished aluminium to come through the paint in the form of the Ducati lettering. This proved another problem at the paint shop, but was of course overcome with the help of lots of Beer and late nights. So YES, the Ducati logos on the tank and seat, are not stickers, that is the Aluminium base. As is the stripe in the tank and seat and the diamond pattern in the front light fairing." It was well worth those late nights in the Dark Knight workshop, the finished scheme is gloriously lustrous and the attention to detail of the exposed aluminium lettering is just the sort of detail to have you falling head over heals. "The fuel system was upgraded to suit the original Webber carburettor. The original Ducati Sport’s suffered with poor starting & running and it had an electric fuel pump fitted in the petrol tank. I threw that away, and fitted a vacuum fuel pump to help with the correct flow of fuel to the Webber. A handmade oil cooler bracket on the front of the engine was also fitted along with stainless brake lines and every single bolt was replaced with a stainless one where possible. A custom made throttle cable and unique quick throttle was also fitted. All the original switches were then removed from the bike and combined into one switch unit. The bike also features a one off handmade starting loom and push start switch located in the centre top yoke" Tony's meticulous attention to detail throughout the build process shines through in the finished product, a classically proportioned Italian beauty that must be a joy to ride. "It is smooth and responsive, even with the original Webber fitted. Is the new owner happy? A BIG YES. Everywhere the Duke goes, she turns heads, and she is loud!!! She sounds Awesome….." We wish we had been amongst the privileged few to have discovered Tony's work many years ago but will console ourselves by eagerly awaiting the next motorcycle to roll out of the DKCM shed doors.