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Building a Themed Bike - Splurging on a Budget

Although custom-themed motorcycles aren’t what I specialize in, I had a great time using my creativity when designing my own pirate themed bike. My friend, Steve, showed up at my auto body shop riding a 1997 Suzuki LS 650 setting the wheels in motion. The motorcycle, although basic, was old school. Lots of chrome with bright red paint. Simple & nice. I had to have it. It just so happened at the time I had started the restoration of his 46 Chevy Stylemaster. A partial trade was made for labor and I got a cool bike. 

1997 Suzuki LS 650 - Custom Pirate Themed Motorcycle

The Pirate theme concept just started from a repaint idea that was to ghost in subtle bronze & gold pearl into the base coat. While looking for stencils, I found some pirate images with cool pirate coins. I laid out the patterns and mixed the pearl to the desired bronze-gold look, then mixed in clear for a translucent effect.
1997 Suzuki LS 650 - Custom Pirate Themed Motorcycle
I had previously fallen in love with a base color when I first saw it on a Lotus Elise. It’s called Chrome Orange and I knew I would have to use it someday and this was it. The paint was as expensive as gold, at least it seemed that way. The paint process is a tri-coat and the orange pigment is rare, making it even more expensive. It cost over $650 dollars just in materials to paint the bike. The mid coat gave the paint a translucent candy-like glow.
I then added affordable pirate embellishments on the bike such as a skull, swords, mini muskets, old pirate coins, a pirate head, custom headlight with a skull in the light, skull kickstand, skull flame muffler shields, and skull & bones mirrors. Yeah, I know, perhaps a little over the top.
1997 Suzuki LS 650 - Custom Pirate Theme Motorcycle
The final touch came from wanting to customize the seat. I thought, what would be cooler than to have a treasure map stitched into a leather seat. It took a lot of time to find the right map design and then I added words, emblems and an old world compass to finish the look. Next, I stenciled out the drawing so it could be digitized by a computerized sewing machine, which required programming. This added to the price. The original seat cushion was then reformed. The foam was given a sleeker shape and a gel layer was added. All done and said, the seat set me back $850 plus all my design time. As a token for taking so long on the seat, I was offered a black driving jacket with my business name and a matching treasure map stitched into the back.
1997 Suzuki LS 650 - Custom Pirate Theme Motorcycle
Now I was ready to cruise down the highway full throttle. Old school look, not over the top, gives this custom project a timeless appeal that started affordable and remained in a reasonable budget*.
* Overall, customizing this bike through Competition Auto Body would set someone back about $4200 in labor, materials and parts. Not too bad considering I splurged on the paint materials and seat. Of course, every custom restoration job is unique and brings its own challenges.

posted by Marty on April 19th, 2010 at 10:37 PM


Isaac says:

Thanks for the post.

July 30th, 2010 at 12:14 PM

Paul says:

Awesome Bike! You did a great job on the paint, the treasure map stitched into the seat is very cool.You were very creative. enjoyed your article.

May 8th, 2010 at 12:54 PM

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