Vintage Customs – The Drifter XS

The Drifter XS

Jay – I’m very proud of this build. I’ve been building XS650’s for a few years now out of my small shop; Vintage Customs, in central Florida. My first bike was a XS650, “Norma Jean” (posted on xs650chopper a while back) and I’ve been building them primarily ever since (Norma Jean, The Bandit, Copper Devil and many others that never made it out here). Over the past year I’ve really been into the bikes coming out of Japan, the usual guys, Gravel Crew and the like.. Ive been looking through blogs and studying pictures from past Yokohama shows looking to build something a little different than the usual bobbers we’re all used to.

The Drifter was my response and homage to those “brat” bikes I’d been studying so much of. I started with the typical neglected bone-yard XS650 and a scrap XS500 which donated the titled neck and steering assembly. The XS500 trees are a bit more narrow and happened to fit the mid ’70’s Honda 21″ front wheel I had been wanting to use. The 500 neck was grafted to the 650 frame a de-raked in order to keep the front wheel very close to the frame, the front forks were lowered 3″ as well, giving it that stubby brat look.

The rear frame section was bent up by me and the shock mounts were moved up and forward, combined with the 11.5″ Monza style springs to lower the bike down a good 3″+. The tank is from an old Kawasaki 100, the headlight is an old Honda trails unit and the rear fender was cut down from an unknown stock rear fender given to me by a friend.

The tins were then painted by me with a PPG silver base with silver flake, HOK Pegan Gold candy with gold flake & HOK Root Beer candy with Root Beer Red flake. The frame and custom fork covers, built by me, were also base coated in black, then flaked with a gold micro flake over top.

The motor is a mid ’70’s motor, fully rebuilt and upgraded with a factory electronic ignition, XS Performance high output coil & XS Performance PWK carbs. The pipes were custom built by me for the bike. The coil, battery and electronics are hidden away as much as possible. The rear wheel is a stock 650 16″ aluminum mag wheel, modified to fit the Mooneyes Starburst wheel covers, another nod to the Japanese custom builders. I love that solid disk look. The tire is a Shinko 240 on the back & an Avon Speedmaster up front. The handlebars were custom built for the narrow built-in risers on the top tree. Some vintage gold metal flake Schwinn bicycle grips finished it off with some fun.

Overall, the bike has been great! A lot of people ask how easy it is to ride with the narrow front end and really, it’s a lot like a bmx bike, really nimble. The bike was posted only a short while on my website, before it sold. I’m now completing another very retro/vintage style xs650 for a customer and already have plans for a couple more this coming year.

Thanks, ~Jay
-Vintage Customs-

A walk-around of the Drifter XS650 built by Vintage Customs.


  1. Ted says:

    Jay – like I mentioned in e-mail this is a beautiful XS. The lines from the seat to the tank to the handlebars really flow. Sick bike.

    I have a 16″ aluminum mag wheel on my chopper to – and I really dig the Mooneyes Starburst wheel cover look. I might have to “borrow” the idea. it looks like Mooneyes offers custom cut inside diameter wheel covers which would make getting a good fit easy.

    Here’s another one with Mooneyes Starburst wheel covers

  2. Kano says:

    VERY VERY smooth sexy bike! I really like it, job well done! 🙂

  3. pickles says:

    Damn she’s sweet! Attention to detail in this bike is outstanding!

  4. mike lytle says:

    very nice, super clean build. the attention to detail is quite evident…. thanks for sharing

  5. Stephen B says:

    Freakin awesome!

    Not a thing is out of place, a very beautiful build.

  6. misfitskinny says:

    Very detailed work,lines are great. Very sick little brat bike, haven’t seen one like this before.

  7. wally says:

    I like it alot!! Its great to see a BMX referance too……..

  8. Micke says:

    Really nice bike. I love the paintjob! Take a look at my project at .

  9. BUSTER says:

    Excellent work,I had a bobbed out K2 750 Honda in the 70 s which had virtually the same paint work as this bike so it brought back a lot of good memmories,I dig that paint.
    The front forks are a real nice touch,enjoy the ride !!!

  10. Scrapyard says:

    Excellent work. Great style and a lot of nice touches. Really dig it.

  11. El Gaucho says:

    I love this bike. It’s really making me want to grab a set of wheel covers! The only thing I take issue with on this whole bike is the points covers. Minor thing really, but man that bike puts out the vibe, big time!

  12. reynoldburton says:

    Thats one of my favourites for sure – just beautiful

  13. Chuck Jones says:

    Great build, very cool paint job. I would love a bike like that.

  14. Chris Newman says:

    Great bike! ive checked your site and you have a bunch of killer scoots.i’ve had a bunch of similar ideas as you but you’ve beat me to the punch. keep it up.

  15. Nemsis says:

    Very nice job, I like it very smooth and clean.

  16. idaho chad says:

    Great looking brat, killer paint and clean smooth lines.. love’n that 21″ front!! Great job!

  17. Barney says:

    Saw this bike in the Horse.

  18. Billy Jones says:

    This is a great bobber styled XS that looks very rideable. Well done!

  19. srbtjeep says:

    I REALLY like that it retains the rear shocks. I’d like to see how the frame was cut and bent to achieve that look. Awesome build. The world needs more like this one.

  20. copper wire says:

    Hi All,I am travelling from Uk to Hyderabad. I planing to buy the gold biscuit. i wanted to know what is the rules of airport customs rules.

  21. Very detailed work,lines are great. Very sick little brat bike, haven’t seen one like this before.

  22. Chuck Jones says:

    NIce I really like the old school vintage looking bikes.

  23. Shane says:

    Would really like to get more info on how you built those fork covers very clean and “classy” The bike is one of the best brats I ve seen and looks just amazing for the amount of cheap parts used and customized. Did you do exhaust tubing and a pie cut??? any input would be great I want to make some.

  24. Slither302 says:

    I may be biased…but I love this bike! Sounds great and gets attention where ever it goes. Check out Jay and Vintage customs for some great builds.

  25. Slither302 says:

    Just got back from Delmarva bike week/OC bike fest and the drifter won best metric at the Lowside magazine “Run what you Brung” bike show!

  26. McLeod says:

    Yeah, that’s my question. What fork covers are you using? Those are awesome!

  27. Slither302 says:

    Jay made them by hand; I believe he has only made 2 maybe three sets because they are so labor intensive. Jay told me the first set took 10 plus hours to make since he didn’t have a lathe etc; all done with basic hand tools!

  28. McLeod says:

    Okay, so I’ve got an XS650 that I want more narrow forks for my 21″ wheel set-up. I want to do what he did and run a more narrow triple tree. He welded the neck and the title with it to the XS frame. I have the title for my XS and so I need to keep the neck stock. Does anyone know of a more narrow triple tree set up that would accept the stock XS forks and fit in the stock XS neck (with new tapered bearings)?

  29. Slither302 says:

    Jays current build uses the same xl250 front wheel but keeps the stock xs650 trees and forks. Take a look at it on his site and maybe he can help you out.

  30. McLeod says:

    He said that he welded on the XS650 frame an TX500 (also known as XS500) neck to the frame and de-raked it to get the 21″ front wheel to sit closer to the frame. The TX500 neck stem is shorter than the XS650, so I believe the he used the title neck, and triple-tree set-up from the TX500 with the stock XS650 forks in the trees.

    My question is – is there a triple tree set-up that is more narrow (like the TX500) but that has a long enough stem to accept the stock XS650 neck (since I need to keep my neck the same for the VIN#s to match my title).