Rocket Custom Garage Bol D'or
By James McCombe - 14 Jan 15
When the order for early retirement came through from his superiors, Ron Fairbrother found himself looking at life back in civvies with a lot of time on his hands. 'Yes Sir, no Sir, three bags full Sir' would be left far behind and the vacuum needing filling with a hobby. Rocket Custom Garage became the plug, letting Ron attack a lifelong passion as he would the enemy lines. Building bikes with a regimental attention to quality, the Bol D'or is the most recent bike to roll out onto the front line. This was to be no parade ground pony though, performance being just as important, so when thrown in the battlefield of a trackday, the old guard would embarrass a few of the young upstarts. His 4th major build, Ron has previously put together a Flatlands Racer framed bobber and a Harley V-Rod Cafe Racer. We've also featured his rather tasty Sanctuary-inspired Zephyr which got us all drooling. Next up on the block though Ron fancied a bit of old school European flair. The Ebay coin toss landed on a rather tatty 1980 Moto Guzzi Mille GT. Beneath the 32,000 miles of corroded aluminium and flaky paint lay the key ingredients; Tonti frame, big block engine and triple discs. This was the one. Once in bits the pile of useful parts was considerably smaller than the pile to sell on. Effectively just the frame, engine and wheels, nearly everything else was resold and recycled to go back in the build fund. The frame received a simple delugging and looped rear end; any other changes to the Tonti masterpiece is tantamount to sacrilege. A deliciously deep stove enamel coating of zinc oxide onto which the blue was overlaid makes for an incredibly tough finish and shows the simplicity of the frame to it's best. Weight saving was a key aspect of the build. As the bike was designed to be both a fast road bike and track tool, simplifying the electrics meant unwanted pounds were shed and non track-essential parts could be easily removed before trickling down pit lane. A GPS speedo reduced trailing wires while massive weight savings were made through the use of modern electrical componenets. Ron notes: "The battery was the biggest single weight saving, weighing in at 1.3kg, opposed to the near 13kg of the original, and is housed between the carbs thus keeping the frame clear under the seat. It was only after constructing this, did I see Kaffee Maschine’s method of hiding the battery under the gearbox. Hey, it is my first Guzzi build. Anyway, while we are on the weight saving, my estimate for the total bike is an overall reduction of about 35kgs." A very useful weight loss indeed, which will help the bike flik-flak through the twists and turns of UK circuits. That iconic engine is key to the look, and feel, of the bike. Rather than prat about, Ron handed it over to his friend Paul Curtis, an engine genius, who builds Laverda’s for himself whilst rebuilding engines of all makes for others. As he explains; "Once gutted, it was aqua bead blasted ready for my original plan of black enamel; however, once I had seen the immaculate blasted finish, I just couldn't bring myself to cover it in paint. Good move because it looks splendid now. He fitted new valve springs, valves, shell bearings and rings etc., along with a 2.3kg flywheel vice the 4.2kg original and a new clutch. The remainder was left untouched as it showed no sign of wear. The carbs were kept original too, just re-built with new parts and re-jetted for the bell mouths now the airbox had been junked. And the bloody thing started first time, sounding proper nice through the new stainless pipework and titanium end cans. I do like a loud bike." To further help turn the heavyweight Guzzi into a lean, mean fighting machine, the rolling chassis was thoroughly revised. Ron made sure the suspension could handle the rigours of fast road and track riding. "Front forks are pretty much all new with progressive springs, new stanchions and dampers, held together with the original yolks, only the black lowers are original. Rear shocks were sourced from The Shock Factory and are smashing quality too.Front and rear wheels are originals but with new rollers and spokes and a satin black enamel coating. Brakes were given the new treatment too, opting for more modern discs and new OEM Brembo callipers. This pretty much sorted the rolling chassis, bar the blasted and stoved swingarm and all new bevel gear internals." For rider controls, new bars made from thick ally tubing gave a wider stance that Ron prefers for riding. A new Brembo master and clutch lever, Ducati 748 kill switch and universal switchgear for the right side rounds out the spartan functionality in the cockpit. Transforming the Mille from grand-tourer to 'go-faster', the tank, seat and fairing combo work together along Lino's horizontal line for that perfect balance of purpose and beauty. "The seat unit and Le Mans tank were Ebay finds and the fairing is the Con1 from Airtech Streamlining in the US. It’s smaller than the usual BMW/Guzzi affair and fitted well with new bracketry, more to the point, it doesn’t dominate the front of the bike like the latter do. The screen was cut down by me for a more retro/custom look. The paintwork was completed by the master himself, Ty Lawyer at Pageant. The tank required much reshaping prior to coating and the overall effect is stunning in the flesh. The only thing I’m not 100% with is the seat, which I will have re-done in the new year; apart from that she’s awesome all over." Couldn't agree more, Ron. That classic Guzzi silouhette is unmistakeable, long, low and, in this case, lean. A fantastic tribute to the crazy Bol D'or racing at Paul Ricard in the '90s. As Ron reminisces, '"Mad days racing each other through the mountains, camping, drinking and generally being incompatible with polite society. Proper biking." Hard to disagree with that. Although he's yet to take her on a proper test ride thanks to the UK's inclement weather, the initial 5 miler went perfectly: 'she revs well, sounds the biz and looks exactly how she should'. That's the sound of very happy man and a job well done. We can't wait to see what comes next; here's to early retirement! You can see more of the build process, trials and tribulations in a build thread in our very own forum. Or pop over to Rocket Custom Garage, Ron's site for more on all of his builds.