"Chicago" Honda CB750 Survivor Chopper
The idea, to hand build a one of a kind show stopper that wasn't a Harley Davidson. An idea that Bob Hannon of Schaumburg, Illinois had beginning in 1981 when assembling a team a various Craftsman all over the Midwest to build the “Project: Ultimate Honda.” “The goal is to build the show bike of show bikes, a machine that could not be beaten” said Bob in a Choppers magazine interveiw in 1982. The build was picked up by the publication Custom bike - Choppers magazine as an ongoing feature in multiple issues during the full build process and the hype really began to circulate about this one of a kind machine. Once completed Bob traveled the show circuit in 1982 winning award after award under the bike name “Chicago.” After a couple of years of racking up trophies, the bike laid dormant only to end up changing hands a couple of times and was then finally discovered again around 2005 by chopper enthusiast Jim Tigner. The bike at that time had been completely disassembled repainted bright purple and crated in a custom crate leaving Jim with the daunting task of collecting all of the 1980’s magazines and figuring out a blueprint to restore “Chicago” to its former 80’s glory. We caught up with Jim and the fully assembled masterpiece CB750 chopper at this year's Wauseon swap meet and he shared with us a little back story on how he came to restore this one of a kind show stopping Honda survivor chopper.
Upon meeting Jim he was kind enough to share with us some of the magazines and photos that helped him piece “Chicago” back together. We tracked down a couple of those original magazines the bike was featured in from 1981 and 1982. The bike had won many trophies during the 1982 bike show season for ISCA division and overall grand champion awards. Here is an excerpt from the December 1982 Custom bike - Choppers magazine explaining some of the work that was done and some of the technical aspects to the bike.
“Bob and Leon Otto of Otto brothers motor sales inc. were called in to work their expertise on the motor. They had already modified a turbocharger for compatibility with 20 pounds of boost on the 836cc displacement engine reworking the Turbo intake manifold flange so the compressor could be bolted directly to the flange itself. With 7.8: 1 compression pistons an MTC cylinder stud kit, Action 4 rods, and Russ Collins heavy duty valve springs with titanium retainers, as well as a lightened crank. The engine was blueprinted and balanced and the heads were ported and polished. Last but not least “Chicago’ was all was also equipped with a beefed clutch unit as added insurance for all those extra horses.”
So, Jim what are some key parts of this bike that you can tell us about and that you really like?
Well Bob and a group of guys built it originally 40 years ago and well, I like that keypad starter, also the engraving and you know what there's no nuts on this whole bike! The whole thing is put together with a spanner wrench all except right here (as he points to the swing arm) I couldn't find the bolts to that and I found them later on under the bike. It’s got a Drag Racing engine that is Turbo charged, balanced and blueprinted and all hand built and the body is all metal no bondo. I like that.
So did you know the original builder?
No, but the original guy was Bob Hannon of Schaumberg. It had won every major show there ever was back in that day and there's never been a bike built to this extreme. The way that he had it built, the engraving for instance was done by a master engraver and it's all by hand Jeremy Potts did all that engraving back in 1981, hes been a master engraver since 1973 he engraved a lot of guns back then and a lot of other stuff (as he points to the magazine) here it shows them working on the port and polish on the motor. Those Otto guys were Sprint car racers that were really good at Turbo engines back in the day and they did some wild stuff with the engine.
So the motor I'm assuming was bumped up to an 836 then right?
Yeah, they did all kinds of work on that thing. There's no other engine quite like it though (he flips to another magazine) it was even in hot rod show world magazine and you see here how the paint is different, well they had damage to the bike in the trailer they got a real bad flat and dinged up the bike so they had to do something with the paint when they got to the bike show so they put that paint job from the picture on to the bike. How it is now though is how it was original when it first came out. I had it painted to match the original design and color scheme.
So how long have you had the bike then?
I found it about 16 years ago. It was all in pieces in a big crate. I traded a 1969 Corvette for it at the time. That was a deal cuz this bike has got over 500 pieces of 24 carrot gold on it.
I love that you have just a stack of all these magazines that the bike has been in btw, you've really done your homework on this.
Oh there's even more than this too, haha (points to a stack of film photos and snapshots) here it was in the crate when I found it, but a guy got it before me and he painted it purple and I painted it back to the original green paint job just the way that it was when Bob built it.
So I've got to know what exactly does the keypad do?
Well that's how you start it!
Whoa! So you have to enter a special code to get the bike to fire then?
Yep and 1 and 3 are the signal lights and then theres a different code to start it. At 1st you know I actually didn't know anything about that keypad. So I had to hunt down the manufacturer of the actual pad itself just to figure out how to make it work.
So wow you had to really put this bike together like one elaborate and very rare chopper jigsaw puzzle when you got it then? So was everything there in the crate when you got it at least?
Yep, it was pretty much all there, except there were pieces that were missing but when I disassembled the crate I found them underneath of there. The bike was completely disassembled though. I had the task of figuring out how to put it all together, the engine even had its own custom engine stand that was built for it too. (flips to a picture of the motor on stand)
So how did you come to actually find the bike? It's gotta be an interesting story like something up there with unearthing a Picasso in a random thrift store or something?
Well it was about 16 years ago like I said and some little town we were riding through and there were some trikes that we saw out in the yard and this little old bike shop in back. Well we cruised right into there and we got to talking to the guy and he brought us to the back and opened up this crate and said come take a look at this and there the bike was.
So you did all this work restoring and rebuilding it to its former glory then after that point?
Yeah and I had to get it back just like it was, even the paint. It was important to me. I really had a hard time cause I had to find all these magazines to get an idea of how one side looked or went together and then the other side.
So when Bob 1st built this in the 1981 was it mostly him doing the work or did he have the bike sourced out to all these different people?
He definitely pulled in a bunch of special people to do each part of the bike. Each with their own skills for each part. Now I can't remember if it was in one of those magazines or if somebody told me but I believe it was around like $70,000 for him to build this bike in 1981.
Wow, so there's a spot on the bike here on the other side with the different names in the engraving, that was names of the people who built certain parts of the bike then right?
Yeah it sure was.
I also have to say I love this stubby kicker pedal down here too by the way what was the reason for that?
Well he probably had one to use to kick over the bike and then this one for show.
So it probably didn't fit with the Magneto and everything in that space then?Exactly.
So when you put this all together what exactly can you tell us about this wild suspension system or the design of this?
Well it's a central monoshock design that is molded under the seat and the gas tank comes around it. It's all metal and Chrome plated and shaped just like the body.
So did the shock come off of a sportbike at the time or something else or was it actually a custom made shock?
It was actually a custom made shock just for the bike. The biggest thing you gotta look at is the frame is really only 2 rods also the motor is part of the frame, so the frame itself, man it's so light you could probably pick it up with one finger. These are the details I had to go through and look at all these magazines and figure it out and when I finally got it figured out and it all started coming together it really was neat to see how this was all designed, they really made sure that this thing was one of a kind.
Well Jim, I can't thank you enough for talking with us today I think people will still appreciate just how wild this bike is today.
I agree that's why I still have it!
Photos and videos by Mike Vandegriff