Gasoline Alley in Indianapolis, Indiana, is home to many shops dedicated to machining and racing. Bret Johnson chose this location to open Northbilt Customs. His work fits right in with the rest of the shops in the alley, and it’s no wonder. Johnson has racing in his blood.
A veteran of IndyCar series, USAC midget series, and UMRA, Johnson has plenty of experience to draw on as a driver, mechanic, and fabricator. He’s also a legacy builder. Dick Northam, a driver, team manager, and speed shop owner for more than four decades himself, opened the shop that Johnson now runs (Northam is the “North” of Northbilt). The most recent project to come out of the shop is a concept custom that took a Honda CB350F and turned it into an “urban scrambler”—the Honda CL350F by Northbilt Customs.
The bike started out as a true barn find that the owner picked up for just $300. Northbilt took the stock engine and completely rebuilt it, including splitting the cases. They added in a Dynatek ignition as well as custom made shocks from Advance Racing Suspensions just down the street in Indianapolis. The carbs are still stock, but were jetted for the velocity stacks. For the forks, Northbilt recruited a set of CB360 forks that could handle the 19-inch wheel up front.
Buchanan spokes were used for the 18-inch tire on the rear. Northbilt machined the high mount front fender as well as the brake stay. “We built it like a race car so everything had to fit and work perfectly first and foremost, and we definitely pulled that off,” says Johnson.
“It was a fun exercise in the fact that we got to imagine ‘if Honda built this, would they have done this?’ and that carried through all the way to the paint even,” explains Johnson. Finished in black and gold, the choices may not have been made by Honda, but that hardly matters when you see the end result. The Honda CL350F by Northbilt Customs is a great bike that anyone would be proud to own.