Harley-Davidson Sportster Rat Rod Bobber

From a young age, Luke remembers his dad roaring up the street and pulling into the driveway. Luke’s time has come—it’s his turn to ride…

HI, THE name’s Luke and this is my story on how I came to love and own bikes. I guess my love for bikes started at a very young age. My ol’ man was in a 1% club and there were always bikes here, there and everywhere. Although I was probably too young to understand what was going on around me, I still have loads of old memories of hearing the sound of my dad and his buddies roaring up the street and pulling into the driveway, or those classic memories of dad putting me between him and the hangers and putting around at snail pace. I’m pretty sure mum wasn’t the biggest fan of this but boys will be boys. It’s definitely where the love started. 

Coming into my teens I was always on dirt bikes flying around the bush as fast as I could go, pushing myself and my two-stroke to the limits. This was bucket-loads of fun but I could never help twisting my neck when I heard that distinctive sound of a Harley-Davidson or an old-school Trumpy flying around somewhere in the distance. I would always stop dead in my tracks just at the slight chance that I might catch a glimpse of whatever it was making that fucking beautiful sound. It was a love/hate thing—every time I saw a bike roar past I loved to see what it was, but it pissed me off that I wasn’t the one riding it.

I think the thing that finally did it for me was my step-dad Bretto. He had a beautiful custom built Softail with an S&S, stage-five, big bore kit in it. This thing was a beast. You could hear it coming from miles away. I remember opening up old issues of Ozbike mag and showing off to my buddies pictures of Bretto on his beast either leaving Jap bikes for dead in slalom races or blowing up gearboxes in burn-out comps at the old bike shows they had out at Long Flat, NSW. 

For me, just to have someone living in same house who owned a Harley-Davidson was cool, but at the end of the day, it still wasn’t me though doing it. Although the closest I got was Bretto taking me to school on the back of his beast—shit! I thought I was the bees knees. The kids at school never gave me shit. I don’t know if it was because Bretto is 6’5” and 100 kg or it was because that bike scared them half to death; probably a bit of both. Either way I knew I needed to get one ASAP.

When it comes to Harley-Davidsons, it’s so hard to choose. There’s so many great makes and models but the ones that really stood out for me were the old-school rigid bikes. Anything pre-1952 really did it for me. I reckon you really can’t go past an old classic UL, Knuckle or Panhead.

Like father like son, the old saying goes. I finally ended up being old enough and getting my first bike and it was a little beauty. She was a 1967 rigid Bonneville bobber. Not quite a Harley, but none-the-less, a cool arse bike. Turns out it was one of my dad’s first bikes. I don’t think I’ll ever sell her. I feel like Fonzie from the Happy Days show every time I get on the thing.

My Harley-Davidson took me months to find. I spent time searching to get exactly what I was looking for but I got there in the end and am stoked with her.

I found a very polite family man by the name of Matt Bruce who lives out in the sticks of rural Queensland, a modest kind man who builds bikes as a hobby in his back shed. When I asked why he doesn’t do it for a living and make a killing out of it, he politely replied that when you start making money out of doing it, it’s no longer a hobby, it’s a job. Fair call I guess. I still think he should do something with it though as he clearly has a great talent. I’m sure if he got a break into bike building he would take it.

Here’s what’s been done to my bike:

Motor Modifications: Kingaroy Motorcycles.

General: 2001 H-D XL883.

Engine: 883 bored out to 1200 cc with Screamin’ Eagle kit.

Ignition: Screamin’ Eagle.

Exhaust: Modified Vance & Hines.

Frame: H-D with modified swingarm and fender struts shaved off.

Suspension: Hard and low.

Wheels: Genuine H-D with Avon whitewalls.

Handlebars: Ventura drag bars.

Lights: Custom Chrome.

Colour: Bare metal with clear coat.

Tank: Standard, raised above frame to hide wiring.

Front Guard: Modified standard guard.

Rear Guard: Blank guard, cut and shut with hidden fender struts welded internally.

Seat: West Eagle Red Diamond.

Cases: Brushed aluminium with decorative drilling.

Shifter: Modified H-Den spark plug.

It’s a cool bike with traditional style. Thanks to Matt and the boys and Kingaroy Motorcycles.

Matt Bruce is a trade qualified fitter and turner who modifies cars and bikes as a hobby. This is his third Harley he’s customised in his spare time and it’s a cracker.

Thanks for reading my story. Safe riding, Luke.

Harley-Davidson XL883 Sportster

Photos by Rod Cole.

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