Home Baked Harley-Davidson Sportster

If you start with a Sportster and change the motor and frame, is it still a Sportster?

FROM CUSTOMISING pushbikes as a kid, I became more seriously involved in motorbikes about 15 years ago. My first road bike was a Yamaha Virago 1000 Cruiser which I raked the front-end, put on a 21-inch front wheel and widened the fuel tank for more miles. I also added a heap of custom parts made to suit. It then got metalflake paintwork with scroll work and covered in a candy burgundy.

From there I went onto a couple of other Jap cruisers with minor modifications. 

My wife Sue organised my first Harley-Davidson as a surprise. It was a black 2006 Softail Springer. After plenty of chrome, trick bits and a big bore kit, it scored Best Harley at the Dubbo Rebels Bike & Car Show.

I bought the Harley-Davidson Sportster in boxes as a project about six years ago. It was originally a 1974 iron-head 1000. The motor was traded in on a 1200 Evo for more reliability. I had a few ideas as to how I wanted it to eventually look and started collecting bits from wherever I could. 

The original frame just would not allow me to do what I wanted so it was scrapped and I sourced a frame from Adelaide. When it arrived it had been altered and it was made up of what looked like exhaust tubing so some major repairs were made using proper seamless tube. We gave it a 43-degree rake with six-inch-over forks (thanks to Gary at Metcruise Dubbo for that and eventually the wiring job).

I scored the fuel and oil tanks and altered them to suit the frame and sit the way I wanted. 

I adapted the motor to the frame and most of the custom parts. 

Both guards were cut up and extended using a number of other guards to reach the desired look. 

I also did the paint job and all the graphics. I had not done much painting for many years so it took a bit longer than expected, like six hours to rub the frame alone. When it came to colour choice, it had to be orange with some sort of graphics. I drew all the graphics myself and had them transferred onto the proper paper for stenciling. Then I airbrushed the layers together with a few highlights. It turned out even better than I had imagined it.

It took almost as long to fit the rear guard, sissy bar and rear wheel as it took to build the rest of the bike. It was a bastard. If the back wheel and guard were fitted, the sissy bar would not or vise versa. I ended up getting Gary to line it all up, but when I got it home, I changed it again — this time it worked, thank God. 

All the custom hand controls, mirrors, grips, foot pegs, forward controls, twisted spokes, head lamp, and braided lines were sourced from everywhere over about five years.

Eventually the bike was put together and registered this year. It rides much better than expected for a rigid. Ol’ grandfather did some tune up work and a bit of fiddling with the mechanics (thanks, old mate). 

I have still got a few bits and pieces to play with and adjust but at least I can ride and enjoy it now.

It may only be a Sportster to some, but it is a Sportster with a difference and looks exactly how I imagined it five years ago.

Harley-Davidson Sportster

Pics by George; words by Darryl Donnelly

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