Sweet Return

By Mike Seate

In a Hammonton, NJ garage a drag racing legend has accepted the most emotional 2-wheeled challenge of his life; the same motorcycle that he raced the quarter mile on as a teen, the same motorcycle that killed his father in 1982, has come back into his life and he’s rebuilding it for season 5 of Café Racer TV.

Rickey Gadson is a ten-time World Drag Racing champion and a brand ambassador for Kawasaki. The self-proclaimed “Fastest African-American on 2 wheels” (217 mph), Gadson came up on the hard, inner-city streets of West Philly where, as a scrawny teenager, made his bones in the winner-take-all world of outlaw street motorcycle drag racing.[nggallery id=94]

The entire Gadson clan were bike riders, including his late mom and brother, both of whom encouraged him to take his skills to the strip where he’s dominated. In 1982, at 14, he raced his father’s 1979 Kawasaki 1300, a fearsome, 560-pound six-cylinder beast of a bike, at New Jersey’s Atco Raceway. Later that same year, his father was killed in a crash on the big Kawi and the damaged bike was sold. He never saw it again.

Nearly 30 years later, without notice, the second owner showed up at Gadson’s garage with the 1300 in tow. “It had been sitting outside his house on the street in Philly,” Gadson told us during a recent visit to his bike-packed workshop.

It was a real mind-blower to be back in possession of the first motorcycle he’d ever raced, let alone the streetbike that claimed his father’s life. Bad demons aside, Gadson will appear on season 5, trading in his leathers for welding gear. His goal is to tear down the Kawasaki and transform it into a sleek, street-worthy café racer.

And the test ride? “We’re definitely taking it back to Atco where I first raced it,” Gadson promises.

The Budget Bike That Time Built

By Mike Seate

Twenty four hours isn’t much time to build a custom motorcycle, or even customize one. We learned this lesson the hard, sweaty way in the summer of 2010 during production of the first season of “Café Racer TV”. In a series we called the Budget Build-off, two teams squared off at Mid-Ohio during the AMA’s annual Vintage Motorcycle Days, one of the largest motorcycle swap meets in the world.

I was paired with A.J. Fulgado and Frank Ford from New York’s XPO Streetfighter, while CRTV’s narrator, Ben Friedman was partnered with Long Beach, Calif. builder Jay LaRossa of Lossa Engineering. Each team was given $1,000, a golf cart and a garage, and let loose in the sea of parts and bikes that is VMD. The mission was to show the viewers how much you could do with just a little bit of money. But, unlike the viewers, we only got 24 hours.

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A.J. Fulgado, left, gets pressure form producer Brad Jones. “15 seconds builders!” It was like being on an episode of “Chopped”.

Our team found a clean, stock 1978 Suzuki GS 750E but we spent $800. We only had enough money left for a seat, handlebars and a bikini fairing. Ben’s team clearly came away smarter, having purchased a pair of running Honda CB360s for half that much. The shoot, which was in July, was the warmest, wettest, most humid weekend this side of a Panamanian rain forest. It was challenging, crazed but, I admit, fun. In the end, crowds liked both bikes but A.J. asked that he take the bodge job Suzuki back to his New York shop so “People don’t think I can’t build a better café racer than this,” he said.

So off it went to the Big Apple.

Two years quickly passed before I started wondering what had become of our budget build. Not much. A.J. got busy with other projects and left the 750 to rust in his yard. After retrieving the old girl from a weather-induced fate, we decided to see what sort of custom streetbike could be salvaged from the bones of a motorcycle that had clearly experienced a hard knock life.

Almost four years after the initial purchase and, (ahem), rebuild, the Swap Meet Special GS 750 is finally looking like the sort of motorbike any self respecting road burner would be proud to own. The lengthy rehab has been chronicled in the pages of Café Racer magazine where the final assembly and road test will run in our October/November issue, which hits newsstands October 1.

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You’ll barely recognize the old “‘Zook” when you read about it in the Oct./Nov. issue of Cafe Racer Magazine, on newsstands Oct. 1

Most of you who recall what the GS looked like at the end of the Velocity show build will hardly recognize the old girl, proving that given enough time, you can make any motorcycle shine.