Retro-futurism

If you think everyday life is too boring, you can always escape to your own private alternative universe…

Words: Charley Charles

Pics: Siwer Ohlsson

Our old friend Petri Ruusunen, from Turku, Finland, lets his unique imagination run wild more and more with each passing year, and the latest result is his Honda 750 trike ‘Futuromoteur’.

Faithful readers probably remember the wild-minded goldsmith from Turku and his very special creations. Since the first time we visited Petri in 2007, we have so far photographed eight of his bikes. The whole collection is kept in his own private museum and keeps on growing.

You can’t easily tell that his Futuromoteur started as an old Honda CBX750 from 1986. “I call this style ‘retro-futurism’,” he says, and it has the lines of 1920s racing cars. “By the way, did you know that futurism was invented in Italy in Mussolini’s age around 1920?” Petri says with a crooked smile and as always we really don’t know what to believe. (Editor’s note: from Wikipedia – futurism was an artistic and social movement that originated in Italy in the early 20th century.)

He started the trike project by chopping off the Honda frame right behind the engine and building a new rear frame from 30x50mm box steel beams. The fuel tank is located behind the seat and the controls are quite unusual; to the left is a clutch pedal, nothing strange if you are used to Harleys older than 1952, but the right side is more odd – it has a brake pedal, but also a throttle pedal like in any car. Up front is a brakeless wheel from a 1980s Harley.

The ‘ribcage’ up front is shaped out of 2mm aluminium, with each rib measuring 40x40mm, and Petri admits the most difficult part of the whole project was getting all those ribs matching straight.

Another unusual detail is all those little brass labels with French text. They are made with a kind of ‘photographic etching’ with acid that Petri has invented himself. After three failed attempts, he finally got it right. “The reason for the lettering being in French is that there were ‘golden years’ in France in the 1920s, which is the epoch when I imagine someone might’ve designed something like this. And besides, English is just so damned dull!”

The trike’s rear axle has one single brake disc with twin calipers, one for the regular rear brake and one for the parking brake, and all those white knobs on the manoeuvring panel are specially cast in a kind of high-tech super plastic called Polyoxymethylene, also known as P.O.M. Timo Pekkarinen of Riverside Custom in Turku helped make them a reality.

The Futuromoteur trike’s design could be considered bizarre enough, but it doesn’t even end there. With a big grin, Petri turns the switch marked ‘Premier Sous-Systeme’ that activates the ‘signal generator’ hidden under the hood. He asks me to take a couple of steps closer to the trike and this results in an eerie electronic singing sound going up and down in tone – a little like if you play a saw with a bow. Petri said the principle was the same as in the legendary electronic musical instrument, the theremin, invented in the 1920s by the Soviet scientist Professor Léon Theremin, which is played by moving your empty hands in the magnetic field above the machine itself. Among those who’ve tried playing the theremin are such luminaries as Jimmy Page, Brian Jones and… err, Hannibal Lecter. Petri’s signal generator is activated by a motion detector created with the help of a company called Olegtron.

If there was ever a dude who’d rather build bikes than ride them, it’s Petri; when he was finished spannering, he rode it just 50 metres to check everything functioned perfectly, then rolled it into his museum with the rest of his big collection to start the next project. After our photo session it’ll probably never eat asphalt again. “Riding my motorcycles is so boring!” he comments in his heavily accented English.

Hmm, I think there are a few out there who might disagree…

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