PHIL: We built this bike for the S&S Australian National Chopper Show which we consider to be one of the most prestigious shows in Australia. It also has one of the best top prizes—an SS motor worth $15,000. Last year we were in the top five and this year we took it out. I’m very happy with the result. I put all the ideas we ever had into this bike and we won, against the odds, I reckon.
As you build these bikes ideas come to you. We firmly had an idea in our heads about what Lethal Weapon should look like but as it went together, we could see ways of making things look even better. Sometimes when you’ve got something sitting there it just sort of screams out for improvement.
Rusty: We both basically had Lethal Weapon built in our heads before we started. The gas tank was designed on the computer and the drawing sent to the framer. As soon as the frame showed up we started building the bike.
Phil: We followed the theme of the teardrop shape in the tank into the rear guards, then let it flow into the front guard and everywhere else it suited; we seemed to use it on everything!
Rusty: We actually made the gas tank, and the pieces we cut out of the gas tank we used to fabricate the front guard. A piece we cut out of the rear guard, we re-used as an engine cover. We’ve got sheet metal working machines to form metal. They will make a complete ball out of the sheet metal within 10 to 15 minutes of working it if you know what you’re doing. It’s a challenge to take a flat piece of metal and make it three-dimensional. It’s becomes a sculpture. We are really proud of ourselves that there is very little body filler in all those engine covers and guards. It’s just a skin coat.
We built the whole thing in six weeks. Every part was made within a three week period—all the sheet metal for that bike including bars, pipes, fenders, oil tank…
Phil: We only got the wheels a week before the show; the guys couldn’t make the guards without them. We were going to use Blade wheels but they couldn’t be supplied in time so we ended up using the Thunder wheels which actually suited Lethal Weapon better.
I would like to thank Little Mick for all his help. He probably spent four or five days airbrushing Lethal Weapon. I counted up to 16 naked women on the paint job. Little Mick is always out there where most of the bikes are painted, but he is part of our team now.
For the LED stuff, we decided to cut a big hole in the top of the tank, like a heart. We put a strip of steel down the middle to give us the same shape we had for the sides. Then we ran a LED blue light in there to give it a bit of depth. We also ran blue LEDs under the seat and mudguards. They were supposed to be red but we only had blue. Thankfully it turned out okay.
Rusty: We started to do a really radical exhaust system. We got it 90 percent finished; it incorporated a belt guard, struts and everything in the one piece. But we knocked it on the head and went to a different exhaust supplier.
Phil: There is a degree of trade off in the exhaust. If the bike puts out 130 odd horsepower, do I care if I lose a few with these pipes? There’s still plenty of horsepower!
Rusty: While we were building the bike it was pretty disheartening because people in the industry would tell us we were beating our heads against the wall. “You’re not going to win if you don’t use an S&S motor,” they’d say.
And then, just before the winner was announced at the S&S Australian National Chopper Show, I said to Phil, “You know, every bike in the competition has an S&S motor but ours.” I was really surprised when we won.
Phil: The result was great. It was against all the odds—especially the rain and the mud. We were doing photos on the Saturday and it started pouring down; we had mud all over the bike.
It continued raining for a week straight and I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. On the Friday we heard rumours they were going to cancel and I thought, “No, they can’t, they will have to do something.”
Despite the rain the show went ahead.
I haven’t got anything hard and fast with what I am building for the next S&S Australian National Chopper Show. Something will evolve. It always does. You have got to keep on inventing and discovering new ways of doing things and making them work better. One thing is certain—it’ll be mind blowing!
pics by Walter Wall