Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 1st December 2008

A mate’s old Norton Commando engine, eBay and the happy coincidence of owning a precision engineerin

g company all played their part in winning the prestigious Custom Xtreme award for serial builder Larry Houghton!

The multi-award winning Salisbury-based customiser added another trophy to his cabinet after his genre-busting Cafe Rouge stole the limelight at the Carole Nash International Motorcycle & Scooter Show. It’s the second consecutive year Larry has won the award after his Lamb Chop II wowed Custom Xtreme judges in the 2007 competition. That prize winning bike is now being displayed on the Carole Nash stand at the 2008 show.

It’s not hard to see why Larry’s latest creation stole the show. Aside from the 1976 850cc Commando engine and a stock 4-speed Norton gearbox, the machine is entirely his work, including a stunning transparent acrylic tank and six piece machined frame lovingly hewn from two hunks of scrap aluminium. The engine, from a pal’s long neglected Commando was picked up for a bargain £600 whilst cost-conscious Larry scoured eBay for Cafe Rouge’s upside-down Suzuki K5 forks.

Amazingly the spectacular blood-red bike cost just £4,000 to build although that doesn’t take into account 16 weeks expert labour at Larry’s Lamb Engineering workshop. Cafe Rouge now looks set to follow in the footsteps of Lamb Chop II which collected no fewer than six heavyweight awards last year, including Best in Show at the Bulldog Bash and Rosmalen Big-Twin Bikeshow. In fact Cafe Rouge has already collected a highly creditable 11th in the Freestyle category of the 2008 World Championship of Custom Bike Building at Sturgis.

A delighted Larry commented on his win: “It’s really, really good. To be honest it’s a privilege just to have the bike displayed on stand.” He explained his inspiration for Cafe Rouge: “It’s all Harleys on the custom scene and I wanted to take a British bike to the US having won entry to the world championships with Lamb Chop II. I thought I could do better than the Lamb Chop too. It’s great because you’re now seeing Triumphs and BSAs alongside the Harleys, He added: ” I wanted to create a 21st century cafe racer but one that was rideable and that’s exactly what I’ve done.

Rebecca Donohue, head of marketing at Custome Xtreme Zone sponsor, Carole Nash, said that Cafe Rouge summed up all that was good about the UK custom scene. “Cafe Rouge embodies the pioneering spirit possessed by all the great customisers. Boundary pushing creativity, immense technical skill, consuming passion and sweaty endeavour are hallmarks of what will surely go down in history as a truly unique, legendary bike. It’s a fantastic achievement and a worthy winner.”


Engine: 1976 Norton 850cc

Transmission: 1976 AMC 4 speed

Frame: One-off fully machined six piece ‘downtube’ front loop

Front End: Suzuki K5 up side down

Fuel Tank: One-off 4 pint machined and moulded from single piece of clear acrylic

Rake: Adjustable from 25 to 38 deg

Swingarm: One-off twin sided cantilever Fournales shock machined from aluminium billet

Headstock: Fully adjustable to alter front end trail and rake

Front Wheels: 21 inch

Rear Wheels: 23 inch

Front Tyres: 21 x 90

Rear Tyres: 23 x 130

Front Brakes: Harrison 4 pot

Rear Brakes: Harrison 2 pot

Paintwork: Lee Westbrook, LW Customs, salisbury

Powder Coating: Wessex Metal Finishers, Salisbury

Polishing: Hi-Pol, Gosport