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CB750 Digger

  • Motorcycles
  •  | 
Long, Low, & Narrow
Words by Kurt Diserio — Photos by Kurt Diserio
Those who love the thrill of drag racing and the style of old choppers probably have a thing for diggers. If you’re unfamiliar with digger choppers, just think prism or geometric tanks, powerful engines, and often very wild paint jobs. These stretched and narrow bikes exploded onto the scene and filled the pages of many custom motorcycle magazines throughout the 1970s thanks to a name that needs no introduction: Arlen Ness.
When family friend and motorsports painter, Fred Marino of Wellsburg, West Virginia came across what could possibly be an original Arlen Ness build, I had to go check this thing out. The bike is somewhat of a mystery, but with Fred’s extensive background in all things wheels, the origins of this beautiful Honda will eventually come forward. I visited recently to talk about how he ended up with it, what kicked off his interest in choppers, and his history with drag racing.
Honda CB750 Digger Chopper Motorcycle Pittsburgh
What first attracted you to choppers and their unique style?
Fred Marino: When I was young, there was a TT track and a local motorcycle gang showed up. One guy’s panhead wouldn’t start because they were dumping beer down the tall pipes in the back. After the bike lit, it all shot out and rained beer. That was it. The next day I got a jean jacket and cut the sleeves off, took my mom’s sweeper pipe and ran it up the back of my bike, and shit-canned my front fender. When I started painting bikes, choppers were all I would do.
How did you come about this wild machine and who built it?
FM: I first found the CB750 on eBay. A guy used it as artwork, just sitting in his living room in Toldeo, Ohio. He eventually decided to make it run, but it was way more work than he could do. We’re not sure of the year but know it’s early 1970s. The story is that it’s supposedly a real Arlen Ness bike built by the man himself. It’s the right painter, the right time period, and all things seem to point to it being an original. The only thing we’re convinced isn’t original is the oil tank. My friend, Joe Mendel, and I are checking on the front end. Arlen built five of these springers in his shop as a prototype of whatever. During production he left the work to outside companies. We don’t know for certain about the front end just yet.
Since you’ve bought it, what work has been done, and what are your plans?
FM: The bike has been in Joe’s shop where a lot of the work was getting it to run. The motor was rebuilt. It’s going to be an ongoing project that I will restore slowly. I don’t want to change much, just fix up some small stuff—maybe have the chrome re-done but will leave the paint as is.
Honda CB750 Digger Chopper Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Since you’ve bought it, what work has been done, and what are your plans?
FM: The bike has been in Joe’s shop where a lot of the work was getting it to run. The motor was rebuilt. It’s going to be an ongoing project that I will restore slowly. I don’t want to change much, just fix up some small stuff—maybe have the chrome re-done but will leave the paint as is.
Tell me about your history with drag racing and what drew you to this style and period of bike.
FM: I started racing when I was fifteen at PID (Pittsburgh International Dragway) driving a friend’s car. Later, I tried road racing a bike and loved it, but drag racing was me. I raced the International Drag Bike Association for a couple of years, and did really good. I traveled with Frank Rayburn and got a couple runner-ups and a few semis. I’m still racing a rear-engine dragster with an eight-second bike and will also be doing some vintage drag bike racing. As far as the bike, I just love the look of diggers and that they’re similar to drag bikes—low and stretched. Back in the day there were guys that would come to drag races using a chopper frame. It was the easiest way to do it. Arlen Ness wasn’t the only guy who made these, but he started it. At times, he was building twenty bikes a year. It was a passion and his bikes were artwork. I’ve wanted one for a long time.
Do you still drag race?
FM: Yeah, I raced two weeks ago. I go to places like Quaker City, Keystone, and Columbus. Bike drags are back big, and I’m going to try to make most of the races next year. There are guys older than me still doing it, so that gives me confidence.
Honda CB750 Digger Chopper Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Honda CB750 Digger Chopper Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Honda CB750 Digger Chopper Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Honda CB750 Digger Chopper Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Honda CB750 Digger Chopper Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Honda CB750 Digger Chopper Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Honda CB750 Digger Chopper Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Honda CB750 Digger Chopper Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Honda CB750 Digger Chopper Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Honda CB750 Digger Chopper Motorcycle Pittsburgh
  • Featured in Issue 006
  • 1970s HONDA CB750 DIGGER
  • Owned by FRED MARINO
  • Words by KURT DISERIO
  • Photos by KURT DISERIO
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