There is a phenomenon in the medical world known as Synesthesia; the involuntary relation between one sensory stimulation into a completely separate cognitive function. In layman terms, it is best described as the ability of a person to see sounds, taste shapes or experience sensations not characteristically common from the stimulation of the five senses. While statistically rare, those who possess this gift tend to manifest it artistically. Actor Geoffrey Rush, cartoonist Michel Gagné and musician Billy Joel are among those that have openly admitted this ability and demonstrate it through their work. Much like writing a brilliant symphony or painting a masterpiece, crafting a perfect machine also requires an artist who can see the unseen; one with the ability to activate all of the human senses to achieve a raw yet refined, zen-like combination of beauty and functionality. Ladies and gentlemen, meet David Mucci. “I was inspired by the challenge of pulling the beauty out of a machine nicknamed the “Güllepumpe,” referring to the German nickname for his 1978 Honda CX-500. “With a nickname like “shit pump” there’s really nowhere to go but up!” Mucci explains, “I dug the prototype feeling the CX had to offer. A shaft driven, water cooled, transverse V-twin Honda from the 70’s sounded like it would be an interesting foundation to build from.”
Mucci, a naturally gifted artist from Boston, studied Industrial Design in the automotive capital of Detroit, Michigan. He traces his early inspiration back to the wall of a high school classroom where a simple poster of a car sculpted out of clay would shape his future. “I had always known I would pursue a career in a creative field and loved cars, so it was a natural step. My senior year at [design] school we had a motorcycle design class. The project was to pick a defunct brand and design a bike in their style as if they were still around today. I chose the Norton Manx, and from that point on I was hooked.” Until 2011, much of his automotive knowledge had been derived from turning wrenches on vintage cars, but Mucci succumbed to his love of two wheeled machines when he purchased his first bike, the CX-500, that same year. “Knowing next to nothing about how a motorcycle functioned or how to ride one were my two biggest challenges. It was definitely a crash course in motorcycle mechanics. As long as you’ve got a manual and you follow procedures there’s not much that can go wrong.”
Combining an artists touch, his knowledge of industrial design and an apparent sixth sense for seeing what others couldn’t in his 1978 Honda, Mucci was able to craft a machine that had both aesthetic appeal and raw functionality. “Ninety-percent of my purchasing decision was based on the tank. I loved the shape of it. There are no engineering marvels or exotic materials anywhere on the bike. What I did try to do was create the biggest impact with the smallest amount of effort and funds. In this way, it was all about how the elements would work together, as opposed to being a main focal point.”
[nggallery id=8] Like a sculptor, able to visualize the elements of a block of marble that need to be removed to reveal its inner beauty, Mucci was able to see beyond the otherwise gangly CX-500 to highlight the areas that would unearth a graceful charm often unseen from this model. “The alteration that provided the most visual bang for its buck was the seat. The frame rails were chopped down and reinforced. Then a seat pan was made to hug the kinked portion of rails. Following these lines was very important to me. It’s a detail that is commonly overlooked on CX builds, mainly because it is a complex area. Getting a flat seat to look good over a kinked frame took some time to hash out.” The result speaks for itself in the carefully crafted lines carved out of the CX-500 that reveal Muccis vision. “Good design should look effortless. It’s all about efficiency. I enjoy the philosophy of Sumi-e painting: visualize your work in the least amount of brush strokes.”
Even more amazing is the time that it took him to complete his build. “[The build took] about 3 months. I bought it in March and wanted to be riding when the warm weather hit.” With a perfect balance of skill and motivation, Mucci succeeded with his plan and was riding by summer. Since his accomplishment with the CX-500 has earned him such credits as being named one of Bike EXIF’s top 12 bikes of 2011, Mucci is taking advantage of the momentum from his rented two-car garage in Chicago. “I’ve slowly been outfitting it with the tools and machinery I’ll need for some future builds. I’m working at enhancing my craft, and acquiring the skills needed to build better motorcycles. I’m enrolled in metal fabrication classes at a local college currently, and I’m teaching myself how to make fiberglass molds. I’d like to take upholstery down the road at some point as well. The goal is to eventually start building bikes for resale, if I can ever come to terms with selling them.”
As for what is next, Mucci has plans for a 1981 Yamaha SR250 for his girlfriend, which is still in the early development stage. “I’m not sure what direction it will be taking. The only definite as of yet is that it will be 2-up. After the build is complete, we’re planning on doing some sort of extended trip on the bikes this coming season. We haven’t planned where yet, but likely in the states.”
Keep tabs on David Mucci and his current and future builds at his blog, Moto-Mucci.com.
Photography by Dave's moto lady, Kara Pierce.