The New Breed V-Rod

Phil is proud of his Harley, and who wouldn’t be? After a lifetime’s involvement, he knows his way around high performance vehicles, and this is one that sets his pulse racing…

IT’S A V-ROD that originally belonged to Joe Pega in Melbourne, then my cousin Nick owned it, then I ended up with it. 

When I bought it, it was already customised with a paint job: it was black with some murals on it, a good looking bike. Then we sent it back to Joe just over a year ago and got a swingarm on it, big 300 back wheel, different tank, lid, guards, front end, handlebars, seat, the whole lot. Everything’s been changed on it — pipes, chrome work, headlight, mirrors —the whole lot.

The instructions for Joe were that it had to look tough and low, with a big back wheel, and a drag racing sort of theme. I’m into cars and drag racing; I wanted it to look like a drag bike. I left the specifics up to Joe; he’s got a really good eye and you can explain to him what you want. He was on it, definitely.

The paint was Joe’s idea. Nick, who I bought it from, had another bike he bought from Joe’s son, with a clowns theme. I wanted a clowns sort of theme, but because Joe never does two bikes the same, he went this way with a few little clowns but not all coloured in with reds, blues, purples, and all sorts. He stuck with the black murals, which I was really happy with. He surprised me, he wouldn’t tell me what he was doing, he just said, “You’ll be happy with it.” And I was. Extremely.

V Rod custom bike

It’s beautiful to ride; got heaps of power. It’s got Destroyer gears and it really goes. Destroyers are still V-Rods but they’re built for drag racing. First is a lot lower, and the gear ratios are different. Joe played around on the computer with the chip. 

It’s got Air Ride suspension; all fully air operated and electric, just under the horn button near the ‘Pay Up, Sucker.’ I can lower it, I can have it at any angle I like and it ride’s amazing. 

It takes a little bit to get used to because when you lean it, you have to lean more because of the big back wheel. It’s not like a normal bike that leans with you, you have to push it a bit harder, and if you hit a groove, the bike follows it a bit more. I can’t complain, it doesn’t scrape, doesn’t bottom out, doesn’t do anything silly. It rides amazing, absolutely amazing. I actually get off it and feel like I haven’t even been on a ride; I’m pretty happy with that.

Joe designed the wheels and had them made. I just said, “Joe, do whatever,” and left it up to him. The majority of the wheels he gets made have been black but I wanted chrome. He put carbon-fibre tape in the centres. 

He got the swingarm made; that’s all his design. The front air-dam, the vent for the radiator, is all his design. He made the lid, and he calls the headlight ET because of the way it looks. He had the controls, the pegs, and the handgrips all made — he’s got a guy who machines all them up — as well as the little black caps that hide all the nuts and bolts. He designed the mesh in the grill and the lid; he does everything, does it all. It’s got a different airbox and lots of the other little tricks that he does.

I’ve played with cars since the age of 14: had a little red Pro Street LC Torana I used to drive on the street and drag race. We used to run with the Wild Bunch in the old days, with Victor Bray and John Zappie and all those guys, and we used to be as fast as them. We’d qualify third or fourth against the big guys, and I’d drive the car to work in the mornings. From there it was building businesses, the wife, the kids, a house, all that. Now we’ve got a new race car, a ’69 Camaro. 

We went to Sydney a few weeks ago and straight off the trailer we ran a 6.6 at 215 miles an hour. In America this car won the record for the fastest naturally aspirated automatic in the world. That was with a small engine 935 cubes; we’ve got a bigger engine which is the biggest drag racing engine ever designed, 1005 cubic inches. Once we get a handle on it, she should go really, really quick.

So my background’s in cars and bikes; I love them. For years I used to restore and paint them, then I got out of it through running a business and now I just want to get into retailing or wholesaling stuff and supplying parts to people who need them.

I’ve got another Harley I call The Dinosaur I built back in ’95—’97. A gorgeous bike, but I rode it three times last summer while this was being rebuilt. The first time, I wanted to jump off as I was riding it. I thought, ‘Piece of rubbish.’

The Dinosaur was based on a Softail. We started with a New Zealand frame. Rai’s Cycle Shack built the engine, a hot little twin-plug 80 cuber and it still goes hard.

 Back in about 1997 it was the first bike to have braided hoses legalised. The cops would defect you for them but my bike was the first one to go through Regency with engineer’s papers, so we got braided hoses legalised.

We had a 180 back wheel on it, one of the first bikes to have what we called a big back wheel in those days. Everything was all handmade on that bike: a stretched tank, big back guard split and widened, billet headlight, oil tank and dash. Roger Keogh in the Adelaide Hills did all that. 

I’ve got The Dinosaur at home and this is today’s bike, the new breed. I rode it when it was still Nick’s bike, I fell in love with it and I didn’t want to get off it. 

I said, “I want that bike.”

He goes, “I’m not getting rid of it.”

I said, “I’m taking it home with me.”

Six months later he rings me and says, “I’m selling this bike,” and I ended up with it. 

And then from there it just snowballed, I probably would have been better off starting with a new one, like Joe says, and have him rebuild it. But there was something about it, and I said, “Get rid of all the bits and rebuild this one,” so that’s what we did. It was brand new anyway; it’d done no miles.

V Rod custom bike 2

Photos by Chris Randells

Words by Phil Rillotta

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