Envy the Big Green Chopper

“What prompted me to call it one of the seven deadly sins was the amount of people who got jealous when they saw it,” said Nigel.

I LOVE choppers and God (not necessarily in that order). I suppose both of these things have got me where I am today. I am 46-years-old but think I am 26. Building bikes didn’t come naturally as I started when I was 30. My trade was in motor vehicles which are totally different to bikes.

My first bike was a Harley-Davidson Sporty fixer upper, blessed to me by a friend (some friend… just kidding, thanks, Dave). It felt alien at first working on a two-wheeler rather than four, but a love for bikes began — until I fell off, breaking both wrists and unable to wipe my arse or feed myself (not necessarily in that order). But getting back in the saddle I did (thankfully). 

My next bike (another Sporty) was blessed to me again by a good friend, Jock Bamford. This one was actually going (thanks, Jock). I rode it for two years straight before it blew up (sorry, Jock)!

This brings me to the story of Envy, the Big Green Chopper. I didn’t name the bike Envy till it was nearly finished. What prompted me to call it one of the seven deadly sins was the amount of people who got jealous when they saw it. She has lived up to her name, and being a preacher, this raises a few eyebrows (who cares).

I’ve been a Harley Shovel man for the last 16 years. This is my third chopper. I don’t think I could ride a normal bike now (probably fall off). I’ve always worked by the rule: long, low, loud.

Envy started out just a humble 1984 Shovelhead motor (the last Shovel motor, I’ll add) in need of serious repairs. I bought the donk out of Melbourne and rang up my good mate, Les Gillibrand from the Tribe of Judah, who promptly told me it was stuffed and needed a full rebuild. I told him I wanted it built strong to last, not fast, and also to make it look brand new out of the box; not easy for a 1984 motor but ‘the heart wants what it wants’.

During the next six months I started watching that stupid program called Orange County Choppers which is where I got the bug to build a big green one! The more I watched, the sillier I got.

From start to finish, it took three years, with many changes. She is now running a full S&S bottom-end with a Crane cam, S&S pistons and conrods, Black Diamond valves, a S&S carby, plus something to note, Shovel-men, two oil coolers!

The primary is a 3.38 inch wide, BDL system, the same as top fuel bikes use. I also chopped down a set of Vance & Hines pipes to suit a Shovel because they didn’t make them at the time. Les then decided to change to a Fireball ignition system that suited the bike as overheating plagued the old ignition system. 

We started with a Badlands frame with 45 degrees rake and 10-inch-overs, but because it was two inches off the ground, I couldn’t ride it around corners. Les suggested we change the front-end to 38 degrees rake and 14-inch-overs but I still couldn’t corner (especially riding in a pack; sorry everyone else). I was also running a 250 rear tyre and a five-speed left-hand drive which made it pull left all the time. 

After much umming and arrring, we realised the frame could not be converted cost effectively to right-hand drive, which would remove the drift, so we opted for a new frame, an Ultima which we purchased on eBay.

The Ultima frame was set up to run a maximum 300 tyre so I purchased a 300 rear wheel from overseas, but when it got here, it was a 330! Being the pig that I am, I had to make it fit. Of cause Les said it was impossible, but as you can see, the 330 is in there, running a neat little Ultima sprocket brake.

The final change was a six-speed, right-hand-drive gearbox and an external chain tensioner for the over-length chain-slap (to stop her jumping teeth).

The paint work was done by me, of course, having been a spray painter for many years. I opted for a metallic green with a blue pearl (as you can see, I like green; lucky for some).

Running in Envy was fun for me, but a cloud of rubber and smoke for everyone else for the first 500 km. Being the President of a Christian motorcycle club, I was riding up the front, of cause (LOL)!

By this time I’d had a gut full and an empty pocket (fifty grand later). Les was rich and I was poor. But I had a chopper that actually tracks straight down the highway — although she still doesn’t corner that well, but God, she looks good — isn’t that what matters?

Photos by Jules @ Top Gun; words by Nigel Edwards

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