Full Circle On Number Seven

The Frame That Drove Two Careers

By Ari Henning, Photography by Etech Photo, Motorcyclist Archives

It handles great, I thought as I trail-braked toward the apex of Barber's turn 14A, one of the track's most challenging corners. Compared to my stock-framed vintage racer, this Drixton-framed machine was on rails.

This wasn't the first time a Motorcyclist editor had reveled in this particular frame's handling, or the first time a Henning had been involved with the bike. In early 1995, then Motorcyclist Editor In Chief Mitch Boehm received a call from vintage-Honda enthusiast Jack Seaver with an offer to pilot a racebike at the AHRMA season opener at Daytona. The Drixton-framed Honda CB450 was to be prepared by Seaver, Motorcyclist contributor Patrick Bodden, and vintage champion and renowned Honda tuner Todd Henning—my father.

Boehm took the bait and went on to compete in a thrilling race. Mitch's "Miracle in Garage 21" feature ran in the July 1995 issue. "It was pretty amazing," Boehm said when I asked him about the experience recently. "I still get goosebumps thinking of that race."

I certainly had goosebumps when I took the Drixton—now fitted with a CB350 engine for competition in the Formula 250 class—out for the first time at Barber during the AHRMA Vintage Festival last October. I've campaigned one of Dad's stock-framed CB350s for the past few years, and while every race is a sentimental experience, riding the Drixton was especially meaningful. This chassis represents the final step in the lengthy development of Dad's Hondas. The 60 hp he'd managed to massage out of his 450 engines overwhelmed the stock frame, leading Dad to search out a more suitable period chassis design.

Marly Drixl's original CB450 race frame debuted in the late 1960s, so it was eligible. For Dad, the Drixton was stiff enough to harness his engine's horses, and it offered dramatically better handling. The kit chassis also made Dad's 450 eligible for Premier 500, AHRMA's most prestigious class. Dad won the class regularly, from 1994 until an accident ended his career in 1999.

I landed a ride on the Drixton thanks to family friend Buff Harsh. Buff told me I was going to get to race a Drixton, but he didn't divulge the frame's full history until I got to the track: This was the same early reproduction chassis—stamped 007—that Dad had supplied for Motorcyclist 19 years prior. Talk about things coming full circle.

Mitch took third that day in 1995 while Dad secured the win—one of nearly 50 victories he racked up at Daytona over the course of his career. I did pretty well, too, taking the number-seven Drixton from a last-row start to a win of my own.

The Drixton chassis played a key role in propelling Dad to the pinnacle of vintage roadracing in America. It was also crucial in getting me my job at the magazine. Mitch's experience at Daytona that year meant my last name rang familiar when I emailed him a decade later as a 20-year-old reader. As cliché as it sounds, this chassis literally changed the course or my life—and my Dad's, too.

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