1957 Softail Shovel

“I started work on it straight away, pulled it apart with a vision to build the Shovel so it could actually be ridden to suit my riding style — fast and hard in the twisties.”

I’VE BEEN riding, building and repairing motor bikes for more than 35 years now, and got my bike license at 16, many years before my car licence. Even though I drove cars I didn’t bother getting my car licence until I turned 32, that’s when I was married with a baby on the way and we wanted more seats.

I’ve owned eight Bevel Ducatis, many Kawasakis, a couple of Trumpys, and heaps of other Jappas, but there’s something about a well sorted Shovel that I can’t resist. 

I’ve owned seven Harleys over the years and this is my latest one. I came across this bike at a shop in Nerang in very different form than how it sits now! It was sitting outside in the pouring rain and I felt sorry for it really. I saw a lot of potential but the bike looked to me as if it had been thrown together by a custom shop or more likely built by a Staffy dog on heat with no thumbs!

 I attempted to ride it home which was about three km away. It rode like a dog, an absolute shocker that crabbed all the way home. I started work on it straight away, pulled it apart with a vision to build the Shovel so it could actually be ridden to suit my riding style — fast and hard in the twisties. 

The bike is registered as a 1957 Shovel. It started life as a ‘57 Panhead. As it sits now, it has a 1999 Softail frame. 

Up until a year ago it had a ‘57 front-end on it and I changed it over to a late model 49 mm tube Wide Glide front-end which was pieced together from many different countries around the world. I really like the way the clamps grip the tubes both top and bottom and they are very beefy looking and strong. 

Harley Softail

I’m running a 200 rear swingarm on it now with a 17-inch Night Train wheel with a 200 tyre. 

On the front is a 21 x 3.5 inch billet wheel from the States. 

I put a set of Fournales air ride suspension on the rear to get it to handle, and it handles awesomely; well, a lot better than a standard slop-tail. 

I fitted a set of Beach bars to it using 2012 Fat Boy risers. 

The engine is a S&S, 93-cube, Genny Shovelhead stroker fuelled by a 42 mm Mikuni carb running a billet manifold. The High Flow air filter is a S&S Desperado that I adapted to fit the carby. 

The pipes are LAF (loud as fuck) made by Twisted Choppers in the USA. 

The engine breather is a one-way unit which is great for this style of engine. 

The tranny is a Ultima six-speed. 

The rear brake is a HHI Sprocket brake and the front is a twin disc with four-spot Nissin calipers that came from a Triumph originally. 

The forward controls are BDL brand.

The seat is made from genuine crocodile skin hide.

Softail ride photo

It has taken me a while and 30 thousand miles to sort the bike to the way I wanted it. I really needed a bike that I could ride hard all day and remain reliable plus something that handled the twisties without the traditional Softail wallow. As I do all my own work and builds I wanted the bike to be mine, not looking like another late model black Softail. 

Yes, I think I can safely say you won’t come across another Harley Softail with the same specs as mine. 

Softail shovel 21

Photos by Rod Cole

Story by Mark

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