I BOUGHT this bike in 2002. It is a 1973 FLH Shovelhead. I was living in Sydney then, but with work and other commitments I ended up selling the bike to my brother a few years later.
My brother, with the help from our dad, stripped the old Shovel back to nothing for a total rebuild. I was very surprised when I dropped into his house one day and saw what the guys were up to with it.
The rebuild took around six months.
The guys had the engine rebored and fitted a set of forged pistons and a performance cam shaft.
It had spoked wheels on it originally but my brother bought a set of custom wheels to give it a bit more of a modern look.
There was countless other bits and pieces they did to the bike while it was pulled down, like forward controls and handlebars, etc.
As Dad loved working with us boys on our cars when we were younger, he just loved helping where he could, so the Shovel rebuild was like going back to our younger days for him. Unfortunately, during that time, Dad fell ill and passed away before he could see the bike totally finished, with only the wiring and a few other things left to complete.
My brother and I quickly finished the bike off so my brother could ride it to our father’s funeral and park it out the front as a sign of respect. Dad, being an old fashioned Italian with true family values, would had seen this as the ultimate farewell with the respect he deserved.
My brother only rode the Shovel a few times after that; he didn’t have the time to ride because of his work and decided he wanted to sell it. I always said to him that if he wanted to sell the Shovel I would buy it back, even more now with the memories of seeing how happy Dad was working with my brother on the rebuild.
When I bought the bike back, I wanted to add my own personal touch to it. I had Penrith Custom Paints do the paint and had a portrait of Dad airbrushed on the new front and rear guards I fitted. The paint is called Chameleon Blue; it changes from blue to a purple coloured black in a shadowed or dark area, to a blue with a deep green base in the sunlight.
I also replaced the seat and had the Italian flag embroidered in the rear of it.
I fitted the fork brace to take the flex out of the front-end.
I replaced the bushes in the rear swing-arm and anything else that looked a bit worn went as well.
It still runs the original four-speed gearbox and has an electric start plus the kicker.
Eventually, in years to come, the Shovel will be handed down to my son Blake to keep it in the family. Blake flew up to the Gold Coast for this shoot, as this bike means a lot to our family. Hopefully, Blake will get the same enjoyment out of it that we all did when he gets a chance to ride it. Even though it’s a relatively new family tradition, when Blake has kids, he can share the story of his grandfather through the 1973 FLH.
Photos by Rod Cole; Story by Chris