Woody Custom in Australia – Braaap ST250

In Cafe Racer, Custom by Tim HuberLeave a Comment

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The use of wood as a major body (or body panel) was once popular on cars, though the trait has yet to pick up steam or be widely emulated by the two or four-wheeled customs scene since the days of the iconic Woody Wagons. There was a slight resurgence of wood (or faux wood) on SUV’s a few decades ago but it had little success. Though the common myth that Morgan’s frames are wood – ash to be specific – is false, the elite boutique marque does employ the use of a lot of wood in its offerings. I’ve seen a handful of customs that have utilized woodworking such as the bespoke machines from George Woodman (not the builder’s real name, just a nom de plume).

This (faux) lumber-clad build started its life as a 250cc ST-250 cafe racer Braaap Motorcycle. The relatively small Australian outfit is the brainchild of Brad Smith, a young, award-winning Aussie entrepreneur from Tasmania who’s had a hand in various moto-business-endeavors such as ‘Adrenaline Plan’, a company founded after the recent global financial crisis that enabled customers to buy a motorcycle paid for in small weekly portions as little as a couple dollars a day. In 2010, Smith also was the highest ranked Australian rider at the World Mini SX Championship in Vegas, though he came one position short of finishing in the top ten in the 2010 World Finals.

Smith had his a vision for an Australian moto-manufacturer similar to Cleveland CycleWerks. The idea was to source cheap Chinese crate engines to power a small lineup of stylish motorbikes. At the ripe age of 18 Smith – with absolutely zero prior business, logistics, or manufacturing experience – traveled the 7.5K miles from Australia to China. Despite reportedly being laughed out the door on multiple occasions over the course of that trip, Smith would eventually find a manufacturing plant that agreed to work with him, as well as VC’s willing to fund the company.

In 2005, the Australian manufacturer – entitled ‘Braaap Motorcycles’ – opened its first store, though more would pop up around the continent as Braaap expanded. Over the course of the next several years Braaap increased the number and diversity of its two-wheeled offerings to include a factory cafe racer, full-faired sportbike, supermoto, and a small-wheeled Grom-like scoot, plus half-a-dozen small displacement MXers as well as an electric MX model, and lastly a handful of “youth” MXers and a pint-sized ATV. Braaap’s engines now come from Japan, as well as parts from all over the western world including “performance” parts from the US and exhaust systems from Europe.

So nearly a decade after Smith had founded the company, everything appeared to have worked out for the young professional. Until it didn’t. First Braaap’s retail outlets started closing with the first ceasing operation in 2013, proceeded by a couple other closures over the following years. Smith’s problems were then compounded in July of 2016 when the Federal Infrastructure Department suspended five identification plate approvals held by Braaap due to the manufacturer’s alleged non-compliance.

Though the suspension order was only temporary, this happened only a month after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission ordered Braaap to undergo a costly recall on account of the company supposedly being unable to verify the authenticity and manufacturing regulations for one of its models. Not long after the same Commission ordered the recall of another trio of bikes in Braaap’s lineup. Things then went from bad to worse for Smith that same Summer when he and Toby Wilkin, the general manager of one of Braaap’s existing retail locations, were charged with four counts of fraud and another offense for what essentially amounts to knowingly attempting to conceal a crime.

It appears Smith was (allegedly) involved in a complex operation illegally “rebirthing” stolen vehicles, information gathered during an eight-month New South Wales Police investigation. Multiple Braaap retail locations were raided by law enforcement and supposedly authorities recovered a punch-stamp set, compliance labels, computers, and other documentation police suspect were used in the rebirthing “syndicate”. NSW police released a statement saying Smith and Wilkin were involved in the selling of “up to” 85 bikes. Following the arrests Smith didn’t shy away from the media and was quick to deny all allegations.

Smith’s troubles were again exacerbated in late 2017 when he appeared in court on behalf of Braaap Motorcycles after the company was charged with half-a-dozen counts pertaining to “fitting identification plates on motorcycles” and three additional counts of importing vehicles requiring modification. The case was adjourned but Smith – who has yet to enter a plea – will appear again in a couple weeks on February 13th, 2018. Despite these tremendous bumps in the road, Braaap Motorcycles remains in operation today. All of this news came as something of a blow to Australians in Tasmania – where Smith is from and where Braaap HQ is located – who had touted Smith as a high-profile success story.

Back to the bike though. While the ad doesn’t specify exactly what model the donor bike is, I’m confident it started its life as a Braaap ST-250 Cafe Racer – a model with an MSRP of $4.5K. This example’s unnamed builder stripped the scoot down to the engine and frame before removing all superfluous tabs from the French-built chassis. The ST-250’s inverted front-end – which is manufactured in Italy – was seemingly deemed sufficient, though the Aussie bike’s stock dual rear suspenders were chucked aside in favor of adjustable aftermarket units. The build now inhales via an aftermarket pod filter and spits burnt fumes from a custom underslung one-to-one pipe.

A custom tail section was crafted and fitted with a tidy LED taillight and signals setup that includes a fender eliminator. Next came this bespoke ST’s bread and butter: its faux-wood paint. A surprisingly convincing polished lumber livery was laid down on the build’s stock tank and custom tail. A thick, dark blue, Hawaiian flower design stripe runs symmetrically down the middle of the bike – matching the seats Hawaiian flower saddle with leather sides. The ST’s stock “Braaap” engine covers were removed and given the same faux wood paint treatment, plus a handful of other minor modifications were made such as the addition of a custom “Braaap” gas-cap, aftermarket rear-sets, and bar-end mirrors that replace the stock lollipop style units.

Ultimately this bike hasn’t seen that much work, though it has nonetheless been pretty thoroughly transformed from a visual perspective. While I’m not personally in love with the wood-grain look, it is somewhat of a novel idea and will obviously fare far better than actual lumber would over time. According to the seller, the Braaap’s transformation is the result of more than $3,000 worth of parts and labor, and considering the bike’s stock $4.5k MSRP, this isn’t a bad deal for someone who already wants a Braaap and/or a 250 cafe racer.

Having said that, the add does include the statement: “BUYER IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ROAD WORTH, BIKE IS SOLD AS IS”. Though the seller – which appears to be a Braaap dealership in Australia – does say they are happy to ship the bike, I imagine one could very easily and realistically run into problems with importing this bike based on the previous snafus that Braaap has experienced.

This example (VIN supposedly: LV7NDM401FC000184) reportedly has only 1,200 or so miles on the odo and is in great shape both mechanically and cosmetically. You can find this custom Braaap ST-250 for sale in Chelsea, VIC, Australia with a price of 5,500 Dollary-Doo’s (Australian Dollars) which comes out to just under $4,500 – the ST-250’s MSRP. Find it

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