FOR THE past six months I’ve been telling people that my mate Santino is going to paint a Boris Valejo-style mural art on this new bike of mine. I don’t think a single one of those people had a good understanding of what I was talking about! So it’s with great relief and joy that I present the finished tank, as it’s even surpassed my own expectations.

Now allow me to be a wanker for a minute and say that achieving true art is rarely a simple process, and the process of completing this tank was indeed far from simple. But we got there and I think the result speaks for itself. The idea of a 1970’s-style mural for this bike had been with me for the whole build but it was very tempting to ditch the idea and go for the ‘safer bet’ of a metal-flaked Sporty tank. I’m sure that would look great. As I said in the first story though—I’m taking risks with this one!

Santino and I had brainstormed this tank almost a year ago, and after much discussion had decided to do it in acrylic, rather than the usual two-pak. I wanted a more authentic 1970’s look which to me means it’s on the dull side, or at least not as vivid as two-pak.

The journey began months ago with this ‘Paughco Axed Gas Tank’ that no-one in Australia seems to have heard of. I had seen it used on Indian Larry’s bikes and thought that it might work with what I was trying to achieve here. I cleaned it all up, filled and sanded it, and ended up with…

…a prime-ed tank. This pic reminds me of the stupid things I do when I build a bike. I was super keen to get the tank to Daz for a base coat of acrylic white so I stayed up late prepping it all so I could drop it off in the morning. This pic was taken at about 1 am with the heat lamp on it in an attempt to speed up the drying of the primer surfacer so I could add another coat!

Enter Santino Ruisi of Artthrob, an extremely talented bloke. After lightly drawing some guide lines in pencil, he got stuck straight into it, working away non-stop for about two hours. At about this stage, he paused for a while and said, “Wasko, I’m not feeling it.” He wasn’t happy with where it was heading and wanted to start again. No arguments from me. If he’s willing to put the effort in to get it done to his high standard, I’m happy to wait.

So it was back to white. If only it were that simple though—it was a five day wait for the tank to be rubbed back and freshly coated. I won’t go into all the details and dramas but it was a monumental effort to get that tank back to a plain white base coat involving many cancelled appointments and a lot of running around Sydney at strange hours! After three or four days of hard work, we were finally back to exactly where we started, with a clean smooth white canvas. D’oh!

Then the magic happened. We decided upon a better design and Santino punched the whole thing out in one day. In this pic, he’s tracing some very fine pencil guidelines from a transparency.

Airbrush art is all about putting layers on in the right order—light stuff first, then progressively darker. Even with just yellow, Santino makes it look amazing.

This is after only two layers—red on top of yellow. Just when you think it’s getting really good, he throws on another layer, or puts in some white highlights and the artwork continues to come alive and grow. Santino doesn’t usually like people checking out his work halfway through. He prefers to just blow their minds with the quality of the end result.

Santino was well and truly ‘in the zone’ here, spraying for several minutes with his eyes closed. Ha ha! Kidding. This was about at the three hour stage. He then added more colours to the psychedelic hair that wraps around the tank.

After signing his name (’79 because it’s a 70’s style tank and he and I were both born in that year) it was back to Daz’s for some clear coats. This pic is after the first few coats.

And Voila. Absolutely stonking! It was bloody hard to take a shot of the tank that would do it justice but I think this shot gives you a good idea of what it looks like in ‘natural’ daylight. I think we achieved the 1970’s look by getting the artwork right and not making it too bright. The green in the tinting of the girl’s skin really helps locate it in the correct time period. I can’t say enough about Santino’s talent. I knew he was good at this stuff and he certainly proved it again with this art.

So I’m getting very close to completing the Rockin’ Roller now. There may be a delay of a month or two while I get everything organised but the next story will be a feature on the completed bike. I don’t wanna rush it or I’ll be spending too much time on the side of the road fixing things that I took shortcuts on. Now’s the time to make sure it’s all working—before paint and chrome are complete.

Since this build was always going to be shorter in terms or articles than the Triumph chop build-up, I’ve left out a few things here and there like making the pillion seat pan. Perhaps I can do a tech article on that in the future. Can’t wait to show you guys the end result. If it’s half as good as I think it will be, there’ll be plenty of Ozbikers out there diggin’ this thing!

words & pics by Wasko

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