VINTAGE TECH: CALFAB SWINGARMS

When three-wheeler racing was king, so was CalFab!

VINTAGE TECH: CALFAB SWINGARMS

VINTAGE TECH: CALFAB SWINGARMS
A CalFab swingarm is mounted to a 1986 Kawasaki Tecate 250 three-wheeler at ATC Addiction.

THE LOST ATV TECH OF CALFAB SWINGARMS

This week for Vintage Tech, we’re jumping back to the 1980s when three-wheeler racing was all the rage, and the major manufacturers – namely Honda and Kawasaki – were doing everything in their power and pocketbook to trim down lap times at the track. One time-tested way to accomplish this was by shedding weight. CalFab manufactured aluminum swingarms that weighed about three pounds less than OEM steel swingarms. The difference not only cut down the overall weight of the machine but also reduced un-sprung weight, allowing the rear suspension to rebound faster. This created a big advantage in the whoops and rhythm sections.

An autographed race photo of Jimmy White and his CalFab swingarm equipped Kawasaki Tecate.

“There were a lot of swingarm manufacturers back then, but CalFab was one of the elite brands because all of the Kawasaki and Honda team racers ran them at one point or another,” claims David Wylie, owner of ATC Addiction. Wylie owns several CalFab swingarms, and he points out that CalFab made swingarms for several different brands and models. “I’ve seen these swingarms for first and second generation Tecates, all three generations of ATC250Rs, the ATC350X and the Yamaha Tri-Z. They made them for the majority of vintage sport quads, too,” said Wylie.

VINTAGE TECH: CALFAB SWINGARMS
A Honda ATC250R with a 2-inch extended CalFab swingarm at ATC Addiction.

It also appears that no two CalFab swingarms were created exactly alike. “CalFab made the swingarms in various lengths that included minus two, minus one, minus one-half, standard length, plus one and plus two inches. A lot of the Honda guys ran the half-inch shorter swingarm. The plus two swingarms are the most common because those are the ones that the public bought for sand dune setups,” said Wylie. “The CalFab swingarms for the Honda race team were also reinforced and built better than the ones manufactured for the general consumer. On the Kawasaki team machines, they mounted the rear shock reservoir right in the middle-bottom section of the CalFab swingarm. It actually had slits in it where the clamps would go to mount the reservoir. As for the swingarms CalFab sold to the public, every single one of them appear a little different, whether it’s the welds or additional tabs.” said Wylie. It would seem that CalFab allowed some custom tailoring to their designs.

 

CalFabalso made a few aluminum gas tanks back in the day, mostly for Team Green factory racer Jimmy White. Check out the restoration of this original CALFAB tank on this Jimmy White Kawasaki Tecate replica. And yes, you read that right, this is a sleeved down 200cc engine like the ones built back in the day to compete in the 200cc class.

Production on CalFab swingarms for 3- and 4-wheelers ceased decades ago, so for the serious three-wheeler collector looking to build a replica trike from the glory days of three-wheeler racing, finding a CalFab swingarm for purchase is rare – and expensive! In today’s market, collectors have driven up the price of a CalFab swingarm anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000 at auction – not bad for a part that originally cost about $325. CalFab also made skid plates and other pieces, like the aluminum fuel tank seem above that was built for one of Jimmy White’s factory Kawasaki Tecates. It goes without saying that if you’ve got CalFab three- and four-wheeler parts collecting dust in the garage, there’s cash to be made!


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