By Sam Longo
Dormant Dunstall Debate
I’m selling my Dunstall Honda, said my friend Mark Mulrenin. Are you interested? It was a setup from the moment he opened his mouth. It wasn’t so much the opportunity to acquire another CB750-based machine that piqued my interest; it was more the fear that someone else might get it. With that the deal was done.
I know this motorcycle well. Mark had owned it for over 15 years and despite its dormancy for the past six seasons it was still in restorable condition. Its most important asset was its period correct and now unobtainable British made Dunstall parts. After a summer of dismantling, rebuilding, cleaning and polishing the final outcome is pictured here.
Paul Dunstall was the guru of the then fledgling Café racer styled custom bike builders of the late sixties and early seventies, initially focusing his attention primarily on Nortons. His company offered everything from swoopy bodywork to high compression piston kits even including disc brake kits at a time when the British motorcycle industry was still hocking the virtues of the drum brake. If you had money and you wanted “show and go” he was the man to see. His kitted 810cc Nortons were legendary but as the Japanese market flourished he wisely jumped on the oriental bandwagon, producing bodywork and performance products for Hondas, Suzukis and Kawasakis. The later two makes could be purchased pre-built and modified with full factory backing.
On this side of the pond the Café Racer crowd were hungry for the products he produced, with status as a street racer or poser increasing with every additional Dunstall part bolted to your ride. The deeper your pockets the more you and your machine stood out.
In fact in today’s vintage bike market a fully equipped Dunstall could arguably be a rarer commodity, though never as expensive, as the equally desirable Rickman Honda. Produced by Derek and Don Rickman, these two British brothers were also successful Café boutique bike builders of the same era.
The base machine in this case is a garden variety 1974 Honda CB750K but its pedigree quickly builds. The engine has a Yoshimura high compression 812 cc kit with a mild street cam and externally reinforced cam towers. A Barnett clutch and Dyna electronic ignition add performance and reliability. The stock carbs were bored, rejetted, and topped with wire-mesh-covered velocity stacks.
Dunstall parts include a front fender, fairing, and fuel tank in fiberglass, along with clip-ons and a four-into-two exhaust system. A Dunstall seat was also included in the transaction but I opted to graft on a smaller solo seat originally designed for a Suzuki 250. Handling has been aided with the addition of Boge Mullholland shocks and Progressive Suspension fork springs, while drilled CB550 rotors with braided lines and a modern master cylinder improve braking. And though the Lester cast wheels are no lighter than stock, they are stronger, better looking, and period correct.
Riding the bike reveals distinct differences compared to my other CB750-based K bikes. The engine pulls strongly to redline but doesn’t quite have the torque of my 1973 750 fitted with a Wiseco 836 cc kit. The cam also requires more revs to produce the power and finding a smooth, consistent idle has been a challenge, perhaps because of the bored carbs. Handling is firm, stable, and predictable, with excellent (for the era) braking. The angular styling of the Dunstall bodywork generates mixed reviews: some like it while the rest loathe it. Many feel Mr. Dunstall pushed the sharp-edged look too far with the Japanese bikes, but 35 years later his unique styling really stands out.
Mark was also generous enough to empty his garage of every Honda 750 piece he had collected over the years as part of the deal. Despite the groaning springs of my Ford station wagon, his loss was my gain.
This time-period-hotrod now completes my CB750 Honda collection, a unique motorcycle that hurts my butt and massages my ego, while still going easy on my wallet. A combination likely lost to the modern rider of hyper-fast crotch rockets while ironically paving the way to their current reality. Paul Dunstall filled a niche and captured the imagination of my generation just as he had intended. Thanks to Mark, a little piece of that history now resides in my shop.