Custom Bike Features

Blacky’s U-Model Chopper

Blacky’s old Flathead Harley came together with the help of his friends’ generosity.

THE ORIGINAL era of choppers dictated they weren’t meant to be a piece of jewellery. Guys like Indian Larry (rest his soul) understood that. Brackets fashioned from floor scrap, mates at a party swapping parts while having a beer — the way you’d end up with used bits made sure your ride had an interesting history.

I was doing the tuna seasons on the Naomi-B — one of my many trips to Eden back in ’81 or ’82 — when Dee (my girlfriend at the time) and I meet up with a bloke in a servo. I pointed at his four-inch-overs and mentioned to him that was my next add-on. He said he wanted to lower his front-end with flatter bars. We agreed to swap, so it was back to his place at Ulladulla, and with grease-covered hands as we devoured his wife’s steak sandwiches, a few beers later both bikes had what they needed. Dee and I set off the next morning in the rain with the forks I’d wanted, a set of apes, and we’d made some new friends.

As I look at some bloke’s high-dollar custom bike these days, thinking everything is available at the local store in blister-packs, the guy behind the counter pretends he’s your mate while counting your cash… maybe I’m becoming a bit cynical with age.

One night I got a call from a mate in Brissy about a 1946 U-model 1200 Flathead for sale. What the heck! I always wanted one so I bite the bullet and send up the cash.

A few days later it arrived. My buddy Keith shot some pics of it and sent them to Skol at Ozbike; he stuck the pics in Readers Rockets (Issue #326, page 38).

Over time mates who were visiting mentioned they had bits laying around that should work won it. Shaun at Titan Bike & Trike, Tasmania, sent me a saddle with five-inch springs for Christmas; Tony from Memory Lane Choppers, Melbourne, sent me a four-inch-over springer he had laying around. I called around to Salty’s one day; he gave me some old shifter bits kicking around his shed floor for a coupla decades. 

Greg, a young bloke from around the corner, stopped in one afternoon for a coffee. His jaw dropped when he spotted the Flathead. He spent a few minutes pacing around it, without taking his gaze off the bike, and asked me to give him the opportunity to tie it all together. Greg also works on hot rods and car restorations at a local shop, All Skool Customs. He’s built himself the coolest old skool rigid Shovel.

flat head harley

We discussed some goals for it — keep the tarnished fishtails, keep it simple, all black, leave some rat attitude, find a ribbed Triumph fender for the rear, dig up a beehive tail light. Greg said give him two weeks between jobs. I told him you’ve got free reign on it, call me when it’s ready, and off he went with it.

There’s no photos of me, and Greg didn’t want to be in the photos either, so we got Greg’s daughter to take our places. She’s better looking anyway.

Cop you later—Blacky.

Pics by Tony Sewell; words by Blacky

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