Tony Prust of Analog Motorcycles:”El Matador”

January 13, 2014
Byron Wilson
Byron Wilson
Associate Editor|Articles|Articles RSS

Byron's sure to be hunched over a laptop after the checkers are flown, caught in his own little version of heaven. Whether on dirt, street or a combination of both, MotoUSA's newest addition knows the only thing better than actually riding is telling the story of how things went down.

Tony Prust of Analog Motorcycles always wanted a vintage Triumph bobber  so he decided to build one. The result  El Matador  features a 72 Triumph Bonneville engine and a 68 frame along with plenty of custom-built parts.
Tony Prust of Analog Motorcycles always wanted a vintage Triumph bobber, so he decided to build one. The result, “El Matador,” features a ’72 Triumph Bonneville engine and a ’68 frame along with plenty of custom-built parts.

If you’re a fan of the Velocity show “Café Racer” then you’ve probably seen Tony Prust of Analog Motorcycles turn a bulky 1996 Bimota DB3 Mantra into a stripped-down retro racer for Chevelle drummer Sam Loeffler. Prust was also a winner at the 2012 Chicago Ultimate Builder Show, where he took top Retro Mod Class honors for a 1973 Yamaha RD350. He earned the nod again in 2013 for his ’72 Bonneville, affectionately named “El Matador.” It’s to the second of these winning bikes that we turn for a closer look, since it’s Prust’s personal bike and the realization of a goal that took years to achieve.

Prust got his first streetbike in 1994 and started small, focusing on custom paint and powdercoating, but it wasn’t long before he was swapping out parts and fabricating new ones. His early work on a pair of Ducati Monsters, followed by his first full build (a CB750) flamed the customization spark and by summer 2009 Analog Motorcycles had officially opened.

Analog’s founder cut his teeth in the early days on Japanese models from the ‘70s because parts were easy to find, turn-around time was faster and bikes from that era were more widely attainable. His personal goal was to have a vintage Triumph bobber though, and the one he had in mind wasn’t going to be easy to build.

“I have always been drawn to them for some reason,” says Prust. “I knew it would be a challenge because everything I’d built to that point had been suspended, so you don’t have to worry about the rigid part of things or breaking things. I knew there was going to be a learning curve.”

So he started looking and it turned out a friend’s brother-in-law’s buddy had a titled Triumph sitting in a barn he wanted to sell. At first the price was far too high, so Prust decided not to bite. Years passed and the bike stayed-put, but eventually the owner got hard-up for cash and Prust returned to the table. After some negotiation he walked away with the machine for 400 bucks.

It was in need of serious repair though, a veritable “Frankenstein” bike with a 1972 650 engine, a ’68 frame and a ’74 front end. He started stockpiling items from swap meets and antique shows and ordered things online he thought he’d want to use. Work on the bike was slow to start, Analog was getting busier and he was still committed to a job outside the garage, so the project was repeatedly pushed back. A few more years passed before he finally got down to work.

“My initial design thought was that I wanted to do a negative of what most bikes are,” explains Prust. “Typically bikes have black frames with a raw aluminum engine. So I wanted to do a raw metal frame with a black engine. It also coincided with the way the new Triumphs were. It kind of throws some people off when they see an old black Triumph engine. I’ve had people mistake it for a new engine.”

It’s the original ’72 Parallel Twin though, refreshed by Ed Zender at Morrie’s Place in Ridgewoord, Illinois. After Zender’s update it was powdercoated wrinkle black and fitted with a Bob Newby Racing primary belt drive. Prust didn’t want a battery on the bike, so opted for a Joe Hunt Magneto instead. Maund Speed Equipment velocity stacks round out the updated engine work.

Prust added a Dave Bird hardtail to the original ’68 frame and ditched the entire front end. He had picked up a BSA front that included the twin leading shoe braking set-up that currently provides stopping power out front, which Prust says works like a dream. He also added a slim Low Brow Customs exhaust that runs parallel to the lower lines of the frame, almost blending the unit out of sight when viewed straight-on from the side.

It’s all part of Prust’s aesthetic, which is minimalistic and raw.

“Analog is about taking off the things you don’t need and trying to hide some of the things you do need, or making the things you need look cool,” explains Prust.

This design ethic results in some unusual touches on “El Matador.” Perhaps most striking is the vertical oil tank underneath the seat, looking like a miniature grain silo with brass tubing snaking its way to the case and oil filter. Prust also likes to see machinery at work, which is why the filter is housed in a custom glass case. It’s why he cut out a portion of the primary case too, in order to see the belt spin.

Prust did all the brass tubing and welding himself. He also built a front headlight out of an old brass cigar tin, which still has the lid on it. The taillight is fabricated out of an old brass bowl and the brass fender was made by 7 Metal West in Milwaukee. The seat pan is custom made and the leather work was done by Rod’s Designs. The brass bike-pedal kicker comes from Low Brow Customs. “El Matador” sports a 19-inch black powdercoated front wheel and 16-inch rear shod in Kenda K761 dual sport tires.

Up front are a set of upside-down superbike-bend handlebars and reverse levers from Maund Speed Equipment. The levers definitely add to “El Matador’s” vintage, rare feel and were inspired by a visit to the National Motorcycle Museum in Iowa.

“In the couple years I’d been picking up parts, I’d been to the museum out in Iowa and I saw a bunch of vintage bikes with these reverse levers,” says Prust. “I’d seen them before but to see them in person that many times, there were probably a dozen bikes there that had reverse levers, got me to thinking ‘that’s really cool, it’s not something you see all the time.’ It took quite a bit of machining on my end to get them to work with that bike, but it was totally doable and they work great. From a leverage point they work better than standard levers.”

As a complete package “El Matador” exudes a 19th Century Industrial Revolution vibe, it’s even been called “steampunk” by some, but Prust explains that it was never his intention to fit this bike into any type of category.

“I just like organic raw metals, seeing things move and work. It was one of those things, where I was building this bike and I knew what I wanted. The idea behind it was to keep it in its barest, rawest form and just enjoy riding it. At the time I was building an RD350 and then a Bimota. In those bikes, when I build them, if I get the customers approval to do what I want I think about what people are going to think. When I was doing my bobber, I never thought about any of that. I just built what I wanted to build.”

Prust doesn’t let this one just sit anymore either. He’s taken it on rides up to 200 miles, though long stints like that can be a bit hard on the back. Normal rides take him the 40 miles to Chicago and back, to meet up with friends, join a bike night or just enjoy the cruise. “El Matador” causes a stir nearly everywhere Prust goes, which comes as something of a surprise to the builder.

“There was a Norton owner’s club meeting I rode out to for fun because there was some lunch and I was starving and I didn’t leave the bike for an hour. People were coming up constantly, asking questions. It was so weird. I never imagined that that was the kind of response I was going to get.”

And while Bonneville’s aren’t exactly rarities, his work on “El Matador,” the Bimota DB3 and others, like the Montgomery Wards Riverside Racer, have inspired Prust to explore more obscure motorcycles and more difficult projects.

“I’m trying not to pigeonhole myself,” says Prust. “As of late, the last few builds I’ve done have been really rare birds. A Ducati Indiana, the Montgomery Ward. I’m also doing a ’49 Indian Scout now. I am starting to prefer the rare things. I like the challenge of them.”

We’re definitely looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Analog and Tony Prust.

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