Rescue Build on 1983 Honda CX500 Café Racer

When Tom Gilroy, founder of Gold Coast, Australia’s, Purpose Built Moto, took on a rescue build for a Honda CX500, he inherited a challenge. The bike came to him through a customer who’d had a bad experience with a former custom motorcycle designer, and the dream build didn’t turn out how the customer had imagined. Seeking Tom’s help, the Honda owner listed his main complaints: the engine wasn’t running well, and there were issues with the electronics—all of which contributed to the bike feeling off.

Not only was the CX500 incomplete, but there were also several repairs Tom had to tackle first, like a rat’s nest of wiring issues, malfunctioning modifications, and a water cooling system overhaul, to name just a few.

When I asked Tom why the customer chose Purpose Built Moto (PBM) after his bad experience elsewhere, Tom replied, “We aren’t the cheapest, but we do good work and stand behind it for our customers. We aren’t professionally trained in mechanics or motorcycle engineering; we’re here because we love what we do. That shows through in our work and the way we treat our customers. I think our clients see and respect that about who we are, and I believe that’s why we get a lot of the jobs we do.”

Honda CX500 Cafe Racer front

Honda CX500 Cafe Racer back

The rebuild itself is best explained by Tom himself in the detailed video below. Tom says there’s no way to know how many hours went into rescuing the CX500.

We just took stock of the issues on the bike and started ticking them off the list one at a time. Don’t get me wrong, the motorcycle was well-built; the issues were in the finishing and small mechanisms. Some of those things require hours upon hours, which can often catch people by surprise.”

Honda CX500 Cafe Racer side

One of the features I like most on the CX500 is the tail end: the seat seems to hover in space, providing a slick, simple design far sexier than it first appeared in 1983 from the manufacturer. I’m also impressed with the idea to sink the speedometer into the gas tank, keeping the instrument cluster uncluttered. One can’t ignore the incredible paint job, either: an understated bronze nicely set off with the black detailing.

Honda CX500 Cafe Racer seat

Honda CX500 Cafe Racer speedometer

The client has since picked up his bike and, after riding it around, has offered feedback, which, Tom says, has been “hugely positive.”

With this particular bike,” Tom says, “it was just about making sure the client got the bike he deserved. I’m proud that our little shop could realize his goal.”

Tom genuinely seems to care what his customers think of his work, stating on his website that his purpose is “making you part of the experience.” PBM’s style is “as diverse as it is unique. The last thing I ever want to create is a motorcycle that doesn’t make you feel anything.”

Honda CX500 Cafe Racer purpose built moto

As long as a bike is handmade, uniquely styled, and interesting, Tom says he doesn’t discriminate when it comes to what motorcycles he welcomes in his shop.

“What PBM does steer clear of is bolt-on modifications. If you can pull the parts off a shelf and bolt them on, there’s really no need for us to get involved.”

With an electronic background, Tom helps his company manufacture PBM parts, designing a range of headlights, indicators, switches, and brake lights—all for purchase. PBM also makes a range of mufflers and fabrication parts, encouraging builders to work on their bikes.


“That’s a pretty unique aspect of what we do—a lot of other shops just resell other people’s parts, but we make our own.”

Bikes aren’t Tom’s only projects. He has been working on a film called Wide of the Mark, where a team of six riders takes hand-built bikes out into some gnarly Outback testing grounds. So far, Wide of the Mark can only be seen in Australia, but we’re hoping for a North American release date in May.

We’ll keep you posted.

For specifics on the Honda CX500 rescue build, see Tom’s in-depth explanation in this video. What do you think of the CX500 rescue build? Let me know in the comments below.


What’s your favorite custom moto build? Tell us in the comments below.


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Heather Lea has traveled to over 60 countries, 40 of which were on a BMW F 800 GS during a 708-day round-the-world motorcycle adventure with now-husband, Dave Sears (Trip Blog: Riding Full Circle). Heather has been a freelance writer for over twenty-five years and a book and magazine editor for more than fifteen. Aside from Expedition Portal, her stories can be found in Overland Journal, Canadian Geographic, Kootenay Mountain Culture, and Canadian Alpine Journal. She loves doing anything in the backcountry, including backpacking, four-wheel-driving, ski touring, and climbing. Heather is a Canadian now living in Bellingham, WA. Find her on Instagram @writer_heather_lea or on Facebook @heatherleawriter.