Silver Iron-Head Sportster Bobber

“Like everything, nothing fit first go and I learnt very quickly that I knew nothing about Harleys, but you’ve just got to have a crack so off I went…”

THIS STARTED out as a 1979 Iron-head Sportster; I bought it from a guy as an already running and complete bike. As the ‘79 model is ugliest thing, I think, Harley has ever put out, I bought a KraftTech frame and decided to do a full rebuild on it. 

The motor had a freshen up — like the heads just to clean it up. 

It’s a bit of a rattle-can rebuild. I painted the cylinders. We had the vapour, wet blasting done on all the aluminium stuff; a mate of mine, Heath Balcher, does it. Everyone was matt clearing these to protect them but I threw gloss clear on it and it’s come up as a matt finish but looks wet and industrial. I didn’t want to keep polishing because, let’s face it, nobody likes polishing aluminium. 

I had to rebuild the gearbox and re-weld a section because I split the engine in half being an idiot, and not knowing what I was doing, I put the washer that the bearing rollers sits against in on the wrong side of the circlip which caught the bearing rollers, chewed the bearing out and made a massive oil leak spewing oil everywhere. So the gearbox came back out again. I had another engine on the stand, robbed the bearing from that. I was so scared of Iron-head gearboxes; I’d never touched one before. It took a few days to nut it out but I am pretty confident with them now. 

I decided I didn’t want to buy anything cheap and I wanted to build everything. I’m showing all the older guys that us young guns are getting into it. The thing I’ve found in Australia is that the old guys shun the young guys in this industry. I had to go to America to get guys to help me. I even had a guy Skype me just to help me with the gearbox. I find the old guys aren’t interested in us and that was across the whole industry but that needs to change, otherwise, it’s just going to die in the arse. 

I made the top engine mount the old school way — heat and bend, heat and bend, with a half inch solid rod — made a template up and did it myself; it shapes around the heads really nicely and follows the line through. 

The oil tank started out as a stock, round oil tank and I hated the way it sat so hard up against the rear cylinder; it made the whole bike look short and tiny so I moved all the mounts, moved the tank back as far as I could, lined everything up, cut the back off the oil tank to hide the Ultima control box, and got it to contour the back of the primary. I made that and the battery box myself. 

The oil lines are all stainless and I’ve got a Honeycomb oil filter which acts as an oil cooler too. I was doing a fit-out in NT on a mine site and came across all these oil lines and the stainless fittings and thought, hang on, I could use these! I didn’t steal them, I actually went out and bought them but realised how expensive they are; there is about $400 in oil lines there but I like it; it looks good. 

I built these mounts for the seat posts three times before I got them right, and then I had to machine up some little spaces for them and welded them all on. 

I wish I had done the seat myself — I am learning how to do the seats — because it’s the only thing on the bike that I didn’t do; it’s a floral pattern, tooled leather seat by Mother Rod and Customs in America. 

These wheels are brand new genuine Invaders. There aren’t many in Australia and they are the reason it took so long to build the bike. They’re hand-made and took three months just to get them over here. The guy who made them is just amazing; he designed them in the ’70s. They really finish the bike off. Guys often ask me if they’re Taiwanese knock offs, but no, they’re genuine.

I bought new triple trees. It’s a full billet front-end with hidden steering stops.

The handlebars are just a cheap $40 aftermarket set. I milled out the centre of the Dakota digital mounting cup and sunk it down onto the handlebars — file, weld, file, weld — so it actually looks like it’s one piece; recessed and integrated. 

The braid on the electrical is Techflex which hides it in really well. I haven’t seen it in Australia before but I’ll do it on all my bikes now as it’s got a real retro look. 

I’ve done away from the rubber mounting on the CV carby; it’s just an interference fit to the manifold for the Low Brow Custom support bracket. The carby sits so much further in; it’s great; it’s solid. 

It’s a Cole Foster fuel tank with a recessed Sinner — I think that’s what they call them. 

I saw the pipes while scrolling the internet one day and managed to track them down; they were about $400 shipped to my door from America in four days; super cheap. 

I recessed the ignition; I like it under the seat post; it’s neat.

There were so many little things that were done on the bike, which meant a lot of time was involved in the build. It’s not a fast bike, and being an Iron-Head, it’s never going to be a performance bike — although, they were originally the drag motors of the ’60s and ’70s with the quad cam, but they’re notorious for running too hot.

It rides really well; it’s nimble and you sit on it almost like you are on a sports bike; you feel like you’re on a rocket ship and it goes. 

I cop a lot of shit from the traditional bobber guys but it works and it’s comfortable and I know where I’m going; I know where my turn signals are, you know. 

Words by Chris Hamilton

Photos by Brad Miskiewicz

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