Unsurprisingly, the USA is our planet’s biggest market for motorcycles. If it was not for the American enthusiasts, many manufacturers would not still be in business. From superbikes to motocross bikes, dual purpose motorcycles to the obvious American styled cruisers; most of the European, British and Japanese production is destined for American riders to throw a leg over. Certain models are designed with only the US market in mind. Most models are designed with some consideration of the US markets positive reaction. The USA can however be a hard market to break into. The ever patriotic citizens would prefer to buy American made motorcycles before buying an import. This obviously does not apply if an American made equivalent motorcycle does not exist, as in the case of superbikes. The huge cruiser market is however very tough for foreigners to capture.
Certain manufacturers decided to make their models more appealing to American buyers by opening assembly plants in the USA. Honda opened a plant in Ohio in 1979. Citing the improved efficiencies of their new Japanese facility as a reason, Honda stopped motorcycle production in the USA in 2009. In its thirty years of existence, 43 different models and a total of 2 334 403 Honda motorcycles were built on American soil. The Goldwing, Honda’s flagship was built in the Ohio factory from 1980 until the 2009 closure.
In 1983 Honda launched the first of its Shadow models, a motorcycle which made no attempt to disguise its aim of securing Honda a slice of the cruiser market pie in the USA. Honda and the other Japanese manufacturers offered an alternative to the Harley Davidson. The Shadow was available in various engine capacities ranging from 500cc up to 1100cc. With the Japanese cruiser market reaching a peak in 1995, Honda launched the VT1100C Shadow ACE. This was to be Honda’s biggest poke in Harley’s eye to date. The distinctive Harley sound is due to both conrods being connected to the crankshaft on a single pin. Japanese V twins have the conrods mounted on separate pins positioned to counter balance one another for a smoother, vibration free ride. The “American Classic Edition” (ACE) Shadow’s 52 degree engine has a single pin crank and sounds and vibrates like a Harley. In 1998 Honda launched the VT750C ACE which also has a single pin crank. Both these Honda motorcycle models were clearly marked “Made in America”. When Honda ended ACE 750cc production in 2003, the new VT750 models were shaft drive and returned to the smoother engine version. The ACE has developed a cult following in the USA.
Our featured bobber is a VT750C Shadow ACE. Its watercooled 745cc single overhead cam V twin engine has three valves per cylinder and of course, the single pin crank. Fuel mixture is fed through two 36mm Keihin carbs and each cylinder has two spark plugs. In standard trim, before any modifications, the engine was detuned to produce a modest 36hp. Honda did this to ensure the engine’s durability. Over 160 000km can be expected from a properly maintained ACE engine. A five speed gearbox and chain drive get the power to the 15″ rear wheel fitted with a drum brake. The 17″ front wheel is fitted with a disc brake.
Mario took his ACE one step closer to being truly American by customising it into a bobber which oozes hot rod attitude. Most of the bobbing had already been done when Mario brought the bike to V Custom Cycles for some finishing touches. They made up the exhaust, fitted the ape hangers and installed the side mount Iron Cross tail light. An element which really looks good is the installation of rubber boots instead of the original covers on the top of the front forks. A small headlight replaces the large original.
Michael Cruz took the tank down to bare metal before he painted the Roadrunner images and applied the clear coat. The paintwork, or rather the lack of paintwork, together with all the performance product decals and the exhaust wrap are all central to the American hot rod culture. The jockey shift is actually the hand brake lever off a vintage car and is purely for show. Mario’s ACE is a shadow of its former self! It was made in America, by Americans for Americans and sounds and runs like an American motorcycle. The only possibly un-American feature of this motorcycle is the radiator for the watercooling but I guess that just adds to the coolness of a really cool bobber.