By James McCombe - 30 Oct 14
It's a sad state of affairs when the only time Argentina gets in the UK news is when the Top Gear buffoons chase cod-scripted sensationalism to get Daily Mail reader's kecks all of a flutter. Thankfully in our little bikey world, Argentina is one of many Latin-American countries building outstandingly stylish steeds. After doing unspeakably delicious things to a CX500 and most recently a Hinckley Bonneville, Federico Lozada and German Karp of Herencia Custom Garage have turned their keen eye to the hardy perennial that is the BMW R100RT. Under the dowdy Merkel exterior hid trim Klum DNA, pert barrels and all. This Teuton can Tango. This build was for an existing HCG client, so very happy was he with the #22 Triumph Bobber, it wasn't the hardest sell to convince him a companion bike was a good idea. The condition was that the bike would be finished in time for the prestigious UtoClasica show. Held in San Isidro, a suburb of Buenos Aires, it takes place every year in October displaying the best vintage cars and motorcycles in the country alongside a Shed-tastic auto jumble. Held outdoors, at a horse racing track, the best customisers and restorers from Buenos Aires exhibit their cars and bikes for scrutiny under the sun. With a project use case requiring that the bike handle city streets, highways and weekend jaunts to the country with equal aplomb the 1980 R100RT is a great donor. The lofty riding position of a street scrambler added to the big bore boxer engine ticked a lot of boxes. A reworked rear end to allow a slimmed yet comfortable tuck and roll seat keeps lines sleek, contrast white stitching picking up the the paint.The stripped and neatened frame was treated to silver powder coat, with the majority of the drivetrain and running gear in black it helps break up what could have been an overbearing look. The engine was in great condition, requiring nothing more than a health check and a service before the tough cosmetic makeover. No retro touches, just black powder and plenty of it. With 1000cc on tap, the Bing carbs and standard airbox setup provide reliability and ease of maintenance. The RT oil cooler has been kept, to help the big pots stay cool in the Argentine city heat haze, tucked beneath the header it it's easily missed, but adds a nice safety net and piece of mind for Summer. Key to the visual transformation, a NOS Kawasaki KZ400 tank was prized from the hands of a serial tank collector, sounds intriguing... The paintwork takes the original Kawasaki design but exchanges the colours for a more understated palette, with hints of a fine Argentinian Merlot in there. The tank shape fits very nicely on the frame, meeting the seat and rear subframe in a natural manner. Keeping either end of the bike short, both lighting and mudguards have been reduced, ensuring the visual bulk of the bike lies between the two axles. Keeping an open dialogue with the client, each modification was proposed, discussed and developed, the in-house exhaust system a clear indication of the process involved. There's more than a few hours spent welding the dozens of pipe sections, tucked close in to the side of the bike, terminating in a raucous stubby end can. Right calf protected from the heat by a neat shield, avoids the use of scratchy pipe wrap, while the high level scrambler look is maintained. The Snowflake wheels remain, yet powdercoated black, the delicate design makes a strong case against the sought after spoked variants. Shod in Continental TKC80s, there's plenty of on/off road performance on offer, the transition from Buenos Aries backstreets to Dakar dunes will be a fun one. Front forks were shortened slightly and a set of Koni shocks out back, puts enough spring in it's step. Perhaps the bike will be back in the workshop later when the owner discovers how much fun the bike will be on gravel roads. The standard twin Brembo stoppers haul the bike up via handlebar mounted master cylinder removing the standard cable-hydraulic setup. Rider controls appear to have succumbed to Latin-style austerity measures; there's nothing there that isn't essential. Simple Posh switches and a clean Koso gauge supply the necessaries and with indicators tucked down by the cylinders there's an unobstructed view of the road ahead. Classic grips hold the bars with a light rise and sweep. The finely honed ergonomics of the original bike haven't been tampered with too much; all day comfort on those sunny weekends was the brief. There's a definite class to this build, without being at all ostentatious. The basic colour palette, lifted by the flash of red lets the silhouette and finishes shine through the lens of Leandro Villamea. Equal thought given to functionality should make it a hoot and a half wherever it may roam. Herencia are carving out a chunk of their own heritage, it'll be great to see where they go next. Now firmly established builders, check out the Herencia Custom Garage website and Facebook page for more builds from the Argentine duo.