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Our goal is simple...provide you with the means to build your bike the way you want it, by offering top-quality parts and  services, along with one-to-one attention, not found elsewhere and without charging and arm and a leg. We constantly strive to give the biggest bang for the buck. We are fellow enthusiasts and know the difference between value and price. We also challenge the status quo. After all, some of the most innovative ideas come from thinking "outside the box". Anyone can retail items, cheap or high quality; few care enough to to learn the differences. Fewer still know the various idiosyncrasies of specific models, in other words what works with what. Only a tiny handful can, or will, modify parts for seamless integration into a given project. The best componentry in the world is worthless if you can't use it. While others routinely ask "why?", we continually ask "why not?". In numerous instances, we design, engineer & produce unique items that make it possible to simply bolt-on world-class running gear. The most expensive items are not necessarily the best values while the least expensive rarely deliver much value beyond the initial pricetag. Half-price engines, suspension and brake systems that last half as long offer less value and end up costing you more dollars over the long haul; they also bring the twin disappointments of poor performance and added downtime. We tell it like it is. Our focus: world-class quality, value and after-the-sale support. We remain the only true one-stop shop.





Motor City Minitrails began in late 1999. We were looking for a small bike to take along on camping trips to northern Michigan. The bike had to be able to carry two passengers over miles of hilly logging roads, keep up with normal road traffic  and it had to fit inside a small van loaded with camping gear. A visit to the local Honda dealer piqued our interest, but their lack of CT70 models sent us packing. Actually, we had been aware of the Honda Minitrails since they debuted in 1969 and had always appreciated the refinement of such a diminutive bike as well as its portability. A few months of searching netted what we thought was a nice candy ruby red K1 model CT70 with less than 3000 miles on the clock.

The bike was as we remembered ...mostly.  It rode surprisingly well, started easily and the transmission shifted as one would expect of a Honda. Unfortunately, it was a short honeymoon. The bike was, after all, nearly 3 decades old and it showed. We wanted a nice riding, nice looking bike, with enough grunt to cruise along at 50-55mph on the road with braking and suspension to match.  What we had was a marginally 40mph bike, with weak springs, dry rotted tires, pitted chrome, rusted-through exhaust and lots of surface rust.  With the `99 season over, we set our sights on 2000. This is where our odyssey began in earnest.


Blah-Blah-Blah...the rest of the story

Right from the start, we figured that it would take another $1000 to freshen the bike with a bore-up kit, replacement of worn out parts and partial refinishing. Then, by chance, we came upon a similar vintage JDM ST70 Dax that was missing everything from the frame top tube up. It looked like total junk, but would be a cheap source of spare parts and for the $200 asking price it was a no-brainer. After several weeks of research, we discovered that the cost to restore/modify either bike would be roughly the same! Parts were available, but finding good information was tough, if not impossible. Every parts and service vendor had his own agenda and that just added to the confusion. The question boiled down to whether we would start with a remarkably complete, unmolested CT70 or simply use the stripped ST70 as the basis for our custom minitrail. The same basic components would be used from either bike. It seemed a shame to discard most of a complete and restorable original, so we started with the pre-stripped, left-for-dead, ST. With 20+ years of automotive restoration experience, this was going to be a walk in the park. Well, anyway, that's what we thought...

By the time the rolling chassis was done, we had $1500 invested and that's without labor! The frame had been sandblasted by a commercial outfit and was so rough that the bare metal had to be hand sanded before it could be primed. It had the texture of 100 grit sandpaper. We cringed at the thought of all the metal that had been removed unnecessarily. The finished bike was a pleasure to ride but not without it's shortcomings. The new, adjustable, rear shocks squeaked and groaned over every bump, the "European" Honda copy 110cc engine turned out to be a Chinese knockoff with a weak clutch and balky-shifting transmission that refused to go into neutral when hot. The bike was capable of cruising at 45-50mph, which although adequate, was slightly disappointing. With the parts total of the completed build topping the $3000 mark, we knew that something wasn't adding up. We were just glad that we hadn't spent even more. Keep in mind that this was 1999 and the greenback was 50% stronger on the world currency market than it would be nine years later.  One dealer tried convincing us that we needed to spend $3500 to upgrade to front and rear to disc brakes, claiming that the OEM brakes wouldn't work at speeds above 40mph. It was clear that we had been dealing with outfits only interested in selling parts. We knew we could do better.

Picking up where others leave off...It seemed that everywhere we rode the bike, the questions and comments followed. Inquiries began coming in, just from word-of-mouth referrals. Clearly, these little bikes had a large following. We knew that we could implement major improvements in the restoration process by moving most of the work in-house. This gave us control over the separate processes and the ability to focus on detail in a way that the big commercial outfits could not. Soon, we had developed our own abrasive media mixtures that allowed even soft metal to be thoroughly cleaned without damage. By using low-pressure we quickly found that delicate parts like plastic headlight shells and even, in some cases, VIN tags could be cleaned of paint overspray without damage. Polishing and painting came next. By the end of our first year, we could turn out complete restored bikes for not much more than we had paid for parts, materials, and plating a few months earlier.

The restoration work continued at a fairly even pace through 2003. Late in that year we came to another crossroad. It was time to build another custom bike, one that would showcase our unique approach and also raise the bar. We began investigating top-of-the-line engines, front ends and brakes. It would have been only too easy to sink 8-10 grand into those items alone and when the suppliers' stories kept changing, for the worse, during subsequent follow-up calls, it was obvious that we were being sold a bill of goods...again! Even top-of-the-line products can be no better than the support of the seller and these guys were obviously not up to the task. When pressed, it was clear that they were interested in moving tonnage and once the discussion moved beyond simple bolt-ons, "I don't know" and "we've never seen that before" and the like became the universal replies. Following this path, it would have been a virtual repeat of our first custom build. We had to accept mediocre results the first time around, going with the same sources would have resulted in more of the same. This is where we parted company with the mainstream and began to follow our own direction. 

We had seen an ATC110 motor installed in a CT70. It was a hack job and the recoil start was silly on a bike, but did show promise if it could be done well. A CT110 engine was sourced, along with running gear from a number of other Honda models. Using the dual-range gearbox of the CT110 engine, we would have a true dual-purpose machine with a vastly superior clutch, transmission and electrical system. The clean design of CT110 shocks and heavier springs, along with the bigger bike's footrest/sidestand assembly would offer improvements as well. Thus it was decided that we'd continue along that line and build an all-Honda "parts bin" custom that would be finished like a piece of jewelry while still retaining an overall OEM look... a bike built "the way the factory should have done". It was a fairly tall order and the kind of challenge we sought. As luck would have it, we found a bare ST70 frame, that no one wanted, for $10 at a swap meet. There were many issues that would have to be dealt with in fitting the engine to a CT70 (identical to the ST70) frame and, unfortunately, the lower engine mount was the killer; it lined-up with the brake arm pivot and we weren't willing to make this kind of irreversible change to the frame.

From bad-to-worse, to better-than-ever... It was back to the drawing board. We had already begun looking abroad for ideas. From time-to-time a custom bike from Japan would pop-up at a show, swap meet or for sale through other means. These offered tantalizing glimpses of new and creative setups. It was during this phase of our research that we discovered a world of possibilities unimagined only a few months earlier. Bigger, better, more powerful engines than we had seen; shocks, wheels, exhausts, front ends, brakes, tires etc., that just weren't available here. This was it! The price/performance/value equation was overdue for some adjustments. Not everyone wants a fragile high-strung racing machine especially when the same or better performance can be had for far less money.

The first eye-opener came in the form of a new-generation Honda 110cc engine built for the Asian market. European tuners had been getting 20+hp out of these motors while retaining OEM Honda reliability and had been cleaning-up at the races. The ultimate racing tunes reportedly put down 23-26hp and had been flirting with the 90mph mark. A reliable 75-80mph street bike that wouldn't break  was now possible. The motors were't exactly cheap, but were about half the cost of the best aftermarket setups sold to the USA market. Plus, they came equipped with the beefiest gearboxes, clutches and oil pumps made...right from Honda. The first step was to test a bone-stock version in the red Dax, which had become the shop bike. To say that the new motor was a revelation is an understatement! The Chinese 110 had, after 750 miles, improved somewhat and the trans was shifting better, but still wasn't what we would call smooth or quiet. The new Honda was mechanically quieter,  far smoother running and shifting right out-of-the-box. It took less than 500 feet of riding to recongnize the difference. The Chinese motor had rubber-isolated motor mounts and a performance cam, the Honda did not. The icing on the cake was the additional 7mph it added. Now we could cruise at 55mph all day long and top speed rose to an amazing 67mph. The bike now felt more like a "real bike". Everything we had seen and heard about the new motors had turned out to be true...and we had begun with a "yeah sure, right, whatever" attitude.

We soon imported another one of these fine motors, only this time a tuned version with 140cc displacement and 20hp on tap. The saga of that build is detailed in "The Custom Special" section. As we had intended, the project grew into a tour de force of mechanical art. The finished bike set a new mark for "state of the art" - an 80mph mini grand tourer, with brakes & suspension to match, real Honda power and virtually no off-the-shelf parts to be found anywhere. The lion's share of the componentry was replaced with custom handmade alloy versions, all finished to jewelry-like perfection. The bike was an overwhelming success, fulfilling three main purposes: a good challenge, proving conclusively that such a project could be realized and lastly, showcasing the kind of skills available here - a "concept car" equivalent for the CT70 set.

Now, after years worth of research and development we continue to bring the high-end minitrail to you, continually raising the bar along the way and keeping the iconic little bikes viable for decades to come. Much has changed over the last decade. We have scienced-out many areas of both concours-level restoration and custom projects. Every year we receive glowing feedback from a number of happy clients with trophies for "best in show", "people's choice" and "best paint", along with a rapidly-growing number of serious riders who have chosen the restomod or full-on custom route. The USA small bike scene has matured and may is close to "critical mass", as we predicted. In terms of the purist/collector end of things, NOS parts and complete unmolested original bikes have become fewer & farther between. Fortunately, market values have largely kept pace and the CT70 is a well-established & legitimate marque. We have made and continue to make serious inroads into making museum-quality/concours restorations viable. For the growing contingent of serious riders, we've made it possible to transform these bikes into serious road & dual-sport machines, capable of easily covering 100 miles in an afternoon, without undue rider fatigue. Progress in this area continues through our "Skunkworks" program of in-house/made-in-USA custom parts & integrated packages.  And, of course, we continue to turn out custom-fabricated one-off parts at bargain prices. While the resto end is moving along predictably, as with any collectible machine, the aftermarket end (i.e. restomod, custom and PRC knockoffs) has split into distinct camps: high-quality and low-cost lookalike. We're sticking to our original "old school" philosophy: quality doesn't cost, it pays. Things like real Honda engines, KYB & Showa suspension, Nissin & Brembo brakes, and our skunkworks products all have one element in common, they work well & reliably. Taking a bike originally setup for 35-40mph speeds and young riders, in the era of 6v electrics & breaker point ignition and turning it into a well-balanced, reliable, 50-60+mph dual-sport tourer or road machine requires real running gear (engine, suspension & brakes). Circa 2009, we now have well-proven solutions with tens of thousands of miles of real-world testing & use and thousands of hours of development work behind them. The list of high-end aftermarket items has grown and continues to grow. At this point, we've partially distilled this broad array down into something manageable, providing a solid base while still allowing virtually unlimited potential for individual creativity.

Unfortunately, there can be even more confusion with cheap, low-grade, lookalike items. We've seen and continue to see items, retailing for less than the cost of the metal alloy used to make the real parts they pretend to be, this includes engines, front ends, brakes, etc. Ebay and other sites are rife with sellers of discount Chinese (PRC) parts, many of whom make ridiculous claims and it seems like everyone has a "pro" version of something, made to "highest quality" "top quality", "perfect quality", or other such meaningless claim. There's not a single relevant PRC brand moniker remaining on the US market that was around ten years ago, most disappear less than 2 years after hitting the market, usually via ebay. This applies heavily to engines. It's one of the reasons why we're sticking with known quality items. The same Honda engines available in 2000 are still available, as are replacement & tuning parts for them. What made these bikes icons in the first place, apart from the timeless design, was their quality, longevity and parts support. We are dedicated to maintaining that level of dependability. Everyone wants the maximum return on their investment, us included. But a bike that breaks 2 days before your camping trip, needs a complete new replacement engine for want of a $35 part that no one supplies, leaves you stranded on the roadside or easily bottoms-out over normal road imperfections and/or lacks the braking to match its speed are all bitter disappointments that can easily outweigh a too-good-to-be-true price tag. A large percentage of our clients who opt for "Skunkworks" and other high-end items started out with the cheap stuff, found it wanting and ended-up starting over with items that perform. A bike that runs well and reliably enough that it can be taken for granted takes a bit more of an investment up-front, but pays for itself many times over. If you've come here and read this far, then you are obviously looking for real substance and here, you will find it. Life is short...quality lasts.




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