That, pictured above, is Sunshine State of Mind.
It’s the most badass custom bike you’ll see today: a legendary 1978 Yamaha SR500, chopped, screwed and built-to-measure to its bygone glory.
It’s the latest from Federal Moto, the Canada-based custom bike garage and studio that just partnered up with local gearhead Mike Muller to open their first U.S. outpost in Chicago.
The SR500 is one of the most reliable and easy-to-maintain bikes ever built: a simple, noble racer with a four-stroke single-cylinder engine thrumming under the seat.
The mods Muller and co. added: rugged dual-sport tires. New fuel tank. Upgrades from suspension up to the cockpit, not to mention a streamlined paint job with a vintage appeal. Needless to say, this thing sold faster than Burt Munro at Bonneville.
But fear not, intrepid seeker of two-wheeled adventure, because Federal Moto’s for hire.
Need some advice on what to order? We sat down with Muller and his garage to get their take on three storied models they dream of overhauling into a one-of-a-kind bike you can call your own.
1940s Harley-Davidson ad
1947 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead
The steed Fred Hamm rode to break the world-record for endurance riding in 1937 is an American classic. A holy grail find for any Harley-Davidson enthusiast.
Says Muller: “I’m not a big Harley guy but the old ones are benchmarks in engineering. I’d love to work on this bike essentially because when it came from — 1947 — was the last year Harley used the Knucklehead engine before it was retired for the Panhead model. The Knucklehead began production in 1936, so imagine a time when resources and material [steel, alumium et al.] were low because of the war, while most bikes were being shipped overseas. It’s just a cool era.”
“Honestly, I wouldn’t do too much to the bike,” he adds, “keep it original as possible.”
Steve McQueen, On Any Sunday (1971)
1970 Husqvarna 400
The Husqvarna — or “husky,” as it was called, since Americans can’t pronounce Swedish — was a rally bike most famously white-knuckled by Steve McQueen on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and later in the 1971 Bruce Brown-directed motosport doc On Any Sunday. Thing was a real mud-slinger, Muller says. “Just a really fun dirt bike. Really versatile and adventurous, too, which are my favorite bikes to work on.”
“Motocross as a sport was increasing in popularity, and this bike set a new precedent for the era. Extra big gas tank so you can go the distance. Easy to ride. Precise handling.”
1974 Ducati 750 SS
1977 Ducati SuperSport
There have been many a Ducati, but perhaps none represent performance quite like the 750 SuperSport — a bike that pays tribute to the Ducati 750 Imola Desmo, the racing model that found success in 1972 at the Imola 200-Miles. It’s built for speed … or anything else.
“This one’s very rare. Ducati did not make many 750 SuperSport models. I love the front fairing, that it’s a single-seater with a backrest so you can lean back. It was all very aerodynamic. Definitely a classic, timeless look, and a true cafe racer in every sense of the word.”
This article was featured in the InsideHook Chicago newsletter. Sign up now for more from the Windy City.