Fredrik Pål Persson has faced a few challenges in his time. First, he switched careers from chef to bike builder. Then he had to mortgage his house to keep his company PAAL Motorcycles afloat.
More recently, he picked up a client with a most unusual brief: build a Honda cafe racer to reflect an interest in vintage locomotives…
These days, PAAL is fortunately in a good space. The Swedish company has an investor on board, four people on the payroll, and two workshops: a custom studio in Malmö, and a garage specializing in engines and vintage Hondas in Växjö, a couple of hours’ ride north.
This is ‘PAAL XXX,’ the thirtieth build from the Malmö workshop, and it began life as a 1983-spec CB750—which means it has the DOHC engine and was sold as the ‘Nighthawk’ in the US.
“This build started with a very specific request from a Norwegian gentleman at the end of 2016,” Fredrik tells us. “He wanted us to build him a classic, vintage-style cafe racer showcasing the English racing heritage from Norton, BSA, and Triumph.”
“But it needed to be based on a 1980s Honda CB750—updated with modern performance parts, for reliability and the riding experience.”
The request came with a twist: the client also wanted PAAL to somehow reflect his passion for vintage locomotives, with a color scheme of black-and-gold.
Fredrik started hunting for a donor bike, and found a CB750 that had been sitting in the open air on a farm in Norway for roughly 20 years. “The bike was in horrible condition, but it didn’t matter—because I knew that we wouldn’t use much of it,” he says.
After the design work was completed, the PAAL crew decided to ditch almost everything except the frame—which included the all-important chassis number for registration purposes.
Fredrik went hunting again, this time for a new engine. “The old engine was taped up, but filled with rust.” He happened across a 1979 CB750 in better condition, owned by a friend, and bought it. The DOHC engine was taken out and completely rebuilt.
It’s now topped off with a brand new set of Mikuni RS34 smoothbore flatside carburetors, which offer an instant power boost and smoother running. On the exhaust side, PAAL have installed new headers terminated with a pair of handmade, vintage-style mufflers.
The handling gets a major upgrade too: PAAL have fitted Öhlins FGRT 205 forks, originally specc’d for the Suzuki GSX-R1000, and had them anodized to match the rest of the bike.
They’re slotted into new triple clamps from Cognito Moto, who also supplied the new spoked wheels.
These are shod with Shinko 270 Super Classic tires, which blend modern rubber and construction with a traditional sawtooth-type tread pattern. A custom-made swingarm and Öhlins STX heritage-type shocks support the rear.
Sitting on top of the thoroughly refurbished gold-painted frame is a new Manx-style aluminum tank, built by fabrication specialist Richard Phelps of TAB Classics in the UK. There’s a new seat unit too, with a traditional 60s-style leather pad from Copenhagen specialist Johnny Sadelmager, and a matching discreet aluminum tail cowl.
“The tank and seat create the long and ‘rustic’ feeling of a locomotive,” says Fredrik. “The tank is a classic English racing shape, and painted in the black-with-gold-pinstriping that’s a common combo on locomotives.”
Adding to the vintage vibe is a three-inch English Smiths speedometer, which echoes the looks of old pressure gauges in steam trains.
“I have to admit it wasn’t easy to accommodate all the design elements requested, and make them work together,” says Fredrik, “and also make it look like a PAAL bike—to stay true to the brand we’ve built.”
But he’s succeeded. The CB750 has that classic-yet-distinctive PAAL look, with the beautiful finishing and spot-on stance we’ve come to expect from the Swedish workshop.
It might have taken almost three years to finish, but it also takes a while to build up a head of steam. This one was worth the wait.