NINE MONTHS ago I wrote that I was building a “rigid, Evo-powered 70’s style chop”. I discussed the contradictions inherent in that statement but also said “trust me” and “wait and see”. Well, no more waiting—what you see is pretty damn true to that initial concept. And you’ll have to tell me if you think it’s “70’s style”.
Publishing a build-up project as you do it is a pretty risky thing to do. There are the regular deadlines, of course, but more importantly, you put your reputation on the line—if you stuff up, you stuff up in front of everyone. My approach was to put it all on the table—when I do something stupid, it becomes part of the story. But if I stuffed up the entire build and built an absolute dog’s breakfast, I’d be seriously annoyed with myself.
Personally, I’m damn happy with it. It’s different, but in a lot of ways, uniquely ‘me’. I built it for me, with the idea always in mind that I would be riding this thing a lot. That’s something that has really struck me about most of the bikes we feature in Ozbike. Many are top notch show bikes of amazing quality, and they’re really not built for any one particular guy to ride. So you might find a cool jockey shifter that would annoy the shit out of you after one ride in the city. Or you might find forward controls coupled with a really long reach to drag bars, almost causing the rider to be touching his toes while doing 110! But this bike was made by me for me, so it’s no surprise that when I sit on the finished product it feels just right.
The bike was never going to be a show bike. In fact, the quality of finish I was going for was lower than the Trumpy project. For example, when it came time to re-chroming parts of the motor, I decided against re-chroming the nose cone gear cover, even though it had a couple of small scratches. I didn’t strip and polish the brake caliper. Daz painted the frame in Killrust epoxy enamel. These options were taken not to save $50 here and there, or because I was in a hurry (the frame being an exception), but because the style of the bike is ‘garage-built’. A super-chromed PM caliper on the back would NOT have looked or felt right for this bike.
Personally, I would love to see more Aussies consider this style of approach to building a chop. It’s kinda funny, but building a bike to an immaculate standard of finish would be seen by most people as a positive thing. But to me, often it ‘sterilises’ the final product and sometimes forces people to put the wrong parts on a bike. For example, you’re building a chop and need a cool small brake caliper but the catalogue doesn’t have exactly what you’re looking for. Many people wouldn’t think of using a $50 Jap caliper from a wrecker’s, and fixing it up. But lots of Aussies used to do that and I still think it’s a great option.
I’m proud to say I built much more of this chopper myself than I did on the last build. I worked on it in my own shed, came up with all the ideas myself, and did almost all of the fabrication. Although I’m still not welding (I reckon I’ve got too many mates who can weld), a big thing I learnt to do was use a metal lathe effectively. This allowed me to create heaps of neat custom parts, in particular the mid-controls.
It became a bit of a joke that I’d machine smaller parts myself, then carry them in a purple ice-cream container to Geoff at Tuffy Mufflers in Camperdown. He knew that if I walked in carrying an ice-cream container and some beers, he had some work to do! Geoff would patiently listen and work out what I wanted, before welding it up for me. As well as the smaller welding jobs, Geoff worked a miracle with the bike’s exhaust, and also welded and re-welded that guard to get it sitting perfectly. I owe him some big thanks as he was there for this whole build.
Putting together a Harley for the first time, I needed plenty of advice and expertise. Thankfully I had two of the best and experienced guys around to give me that direction—Rob from Gosford and Chris from C&R Engineering.
Rob has built and ridden bikes for years and was available almost 24/7 to help me out over the phone. His advice has never been wrong and that’s the sort of guy you need lending a hand!
The only bloke that could possibly trump Rob in that regard is Chris, a guy who Rob respects very much too. Chris runs arguably the best Harley shop in Sydney in terms of being able to help you out whichever type of Harley you own. Chris saw eye-to-eye with my project from day one, and every time I saw him he was quick to ask me about it and lend a hand or some advice. As well as supplying me with great parts here and there, he helped me fix my mistakes and let me know how they “used to do it”. He also cast his eye over the bike a few times to make sure I wouldn’t kill myself when I first went down the road.
Via Chris I was put on to Phil the Wirer who lived up to the statement, “You won’t find a better wirer than Phil.” Phil wired the bike exactly how I wanted it without trying to give me the third degree when I called for no key-switch or horn, etc. It was ‘no questions asked’ which I appreciated.
Caine from Liverpool MCA was invaluable when it came to sourcing all of the many little bits and pieces needed to put together a bike. As one of our biggest Ozbike supporters, MCA helped with things from clutch cables to wheel-balancing. I especially appreciate the assistance given removing and fitting tyres in the early stages of the build. Thanks go especially to Mick and Caine.
Even though Kansas Charley has moved from Sydney to Wauchope, the trip to his place for a weekend of working on the bike was one of the best times I had last year. It was like the good old days of the Triumph build—two blokes working in the shed with a common vision. He’s my only source of TIG welding at the moment and definitely the best guy to work with because of his passion for bikes.
Although Von Daz was constantly harping in my ear about me building a “tractor” or a “Hardly Dangerous”, it was funny to see him occasionally acknowledge the possibility that there might be something to this Harley-Davidson thing. His help in the early stages to rake the frame was invaluable. And of course he painted the frame, then refused to get angry when I impatiently put a full size palm print on the top frame rail! Some Daz quotes to remember: “I normally don’t like Hardly Dangerous but this one looks pretty good.” Also, the always honest and often critical man said: “I think this is the best motorcycle tank I’ve ever seen.”
…which leads me to Santino Ruisi. He took five years off my life from the stress he caused me, but I like to think that the 50 dramas we went through to get the tank done was God’s way of telling us that Santino and I need to drink more Coronas together. The seed that germinated into this bike was my vision of a 70’s mural art tank. Although I was supremely confident, I don’t think many people shared my vision. Santino was one who did, and even more importantly, was one of very few people in this world who could execute it. Thanks again, mate.
I finally found a fastener supplier who had the range of stuff I need, and flukishly they happen to be brilliant and patient blokes who are located just around the corner from my place. I’m talking about Linsell Industrial Supplies (02-9755-1528) in Chipping Norton—first class.
To all the girls I’ve loved before—especially the ones who took photos of me working in the shed—thanks! Of course, Jerry Lee Lewis, Motorhead and Corona beer also assisted the enjoyment of my shed time. I can’t emphasise enough how much fun it has been. Looking back at that long list of ‘thank yous’ to people who’ve helped, I can see why it was. It’s no fun working with arrogant grumps, and all of the guys I just mentioned are simply the opposite—modest blokes with great attitudes. Hopefully they all feel like part of this build and hopefully the bike means something to all of them.
I have a feeling this bike will be special to me for a while. You’ll remember that my German Shepherd, Kipper, died about halfway through this build. Well, unfortunately, he wasn’t the only friend to pass away. Early on I had a vision of the type of girl I wanted to pose with the bike. I wanted a beautiful, natural-looking brunette. I found that girl—a 19-year-old Kayleigh. We became good friends and she agreed to model with the bike for the final photoshoot. Kayleigh was tragically killed in a car crash a few months ago. I never felt right looking for another model, and even if I wanted to, I couldn’t find one to match her. Particularly considering the beautiful mural work on the tank, in my mind, memories of Kayleigh will always be strongly connected to this bike.
Finally, I want to make a connection with you guys, the Ozbike readership. More importantly, I want to acknowledge the people who followed the build-up. Hopefully it lived up to my goal of making it slicker and more interesting than the last series. On many occasions at shows or in the street, I’ve run into people who followed the build, and it always gives me a boost. So often I’m writing to a ‘phantom’ audience who I rarely hear from. As always, feedback—both positive and negative—is appreciated, so email me! I love doing these stories, and as long as you guys want them, I’ll keep doing them.
The next challenge is clear: a fresh idea, and a new direction. Stay tuned…
Words by Wasko; pics by Wasko & Wall 2 Wall