If you grew up in Japan in the 1950s or 1960s, you probably wanted a ‘Sonicon Rocket.’ It was a little battery-powered spaceship on wheels, made by Modern Toys, with a most unusual mechanism: if you whistled at it, the spaceship would change direction as it rolled around on the floor.
These days, Sonicon Rockets are hard to find, and a good one is worth up to a thousand dollars. They’re also icons of Japanese style, and caught the imagination of Frenchman Séb Lorentz and his partner Laurence, who run Lucky Cat Garage.

Séb and Laurence were so taken with the toy, they’ve styled an entire bike after it—a custom Yamaha XV950R (known in the USA as the Bolt R-Spec).
The bike is a Yard Built commission from Yamaha Motor Europe, it’s called Space Explorer, and it’s one of the most original customs we’ve seen for a long time.

Lucky Cat wanted to keep the Japanese ‘cruiser DNA’ and soul of the XV950R, but play with the stance and go for a small bagger with a clear Japanese flavor.
Yamaha makes a little-known lowering kit for the XV950R, so that was the first change. A pair of short, adjustable preload shocks and progressive fork springs drops the ride height by an inch without compromising dynamics too much.

Lucky Cat then replaced the original tank with an SCR950 unit, offering a smoother design and a decent fuel capacity of 13 liters.
At the front, the lowered forks have been smoothed out with modified stainless covers originally designed for the Yamaha XVS. Lucky Cat have also machined a new upper triple tree and slotted in a new steel front fender from Custom Chrome to accentuate the vintage vibe.

The small bikini fairing is a tweaked TT&co unit from Japan featuring a clear glass halogen H4 headlight. Safely ensconced behind is a bracket for a smartphone, hooked up to a charging plug.
So far, so good. But it’s at the back where the heavy lifting is going on. The tail of this XV950R is sporting sleek panniers and a long, slim fender, all mounted using custom brackets.

They’re slim and beautifully styled, but there’s still enough storage capacity in the panniers for a decent road trip. Séb found them at a swap meet, and had new lids made and the rear sections redesigned to accommodate new taillights.
The ‘Bel Air’ cast and polished aluminum LED lights were supplied by Motone Customs and mounted in 1960s kustom car tradition.

To complete the bodywork, the side panels are revised to include XS650-style Yamaha badge—and also hide the antenna for a keyless RFID m.lock from Motogadget.
RFID keys have been integrated into a matching Shoei JO Helmet and REV’IT! jacket for ultra convenient operation, but the ignition can also be switched on via the m.ride app on the rider’s smartphone.

Motogadget also supplied an m.unit blue control box, which allowed Lucky Cat to dramatically reduce the wiring from the handlebar controls. The controls themselves have been stripped back to the bare minimum, with forged aluminum controls and a throttle housing from KustomTech.
The front master cylinder is cable operated, and placed under the fuel tank between the two cylinder heads. The chunky grips are new old stock Gran Turismos, in grey metalflake.

In another hat tip to the world of Japanese tin toys, Séb has fitted EMD lightweight aluminum alloy wheel covers, which have been satin brushed. The wheels remain in their 19/16 original sizes—even if the front wheel looks bigger than a 19-inch, thanks to the discs and the Avon Cobra whitewall tire.
The one-off exhaust is a work of art, with polished stainless steel headers flowing beautifully into a pair of DNA mufflers tucked under the panniers.

The internals of the 942cc V-twin engine are stock, but Lucky Cat have upgraded the aesthetics with 3D-printed covers and a cast aluminum air filter from EMD mounted on a custom-made bracket. A tiny window reveals the intake throttle valves in action—just for fun.
Above is a vintage-style single seat—made with the help of Sellerie Harley Grove in Normandy. But the crowning glory is the paint and decal work, the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

Lucky Cat Garage sketched out the scheme with London-based designer Machine 17, and Venom Design laid down the paint. It follows the style of one of the colorways used for the Sonicon Rocket, but amps up the effect with graphics mimicking the decals often found on tin toys.
The top of the panniers, the fuel tank and the bikini fairing are all decorated with neat 1960s sci-fi style touches—bold, graphic and strangely endearing.

It’s a fresh and super-creative approach to customising, and doesn’t even compromise the laid-back dynamics of Yamaha’s entry-level cruiser.
Hats off to Séb and Laurence for coming up with something truly original—and now please excuse us while we disappear down the rabbit hole of internet research into vintage Japanese toys.
Luck Cat Garage Facebook | Instagram | Yamaha Yard Built | Images by Yann Deret Photographe