HOW COULD I not be into custom cars and bikes. I was surrounded by families hooked on hotrods and anything custom. Chopped tops, hemi and flathead V8s, quick-change rear-ends—they were always the hot table topics whenever the family got together. Bikes for me started as a kid riding crazy as a BMX freestyler, but there was a string of early Falcons before I could afford a custom ’50 Ford F1 pickup project which I built into a wild flamed and slammed hauler for my first custom mo’sickle project.
I cut my teeth with custom bikes on a pile of Triumph bits; not knowing what was what at first. I had my dream of a 1960’s style chopper and chased key components to bring that dream to reality. Must admit, when I connected with some local custom bike and car guys called The Streamliners, my efforts became focussed. We’d work together like a club should, sharing ideas and skills. I’d built up my own skills on metal fabricating and custom painting.
I’ve always been artistic, and painted in surreal style, freaking out most who looked at my artworks. The straights just don’t understand my head space and how I execute my thoughts; their loss, I reckon.
I shifted from brushes and canvas to a gas axe, welders and steel; these new mediums I apply to my road projects.
That pre-unit Triumph was based around two old frames to make the one. A WLA springer front-end, a with bunch of candy paints and masking tape, and I had Californian Watson style panel paint job.
But after a year or so I was collecting swap-meet parts for another project with no set direction; just a pile of mismatched parts. I was envious of the extra grunt that the bigger Harley-Davidsons enjoyed when running with the Streamliners; I wanted more; and the look of the Shovelhead Electra Glides oozed kool!
Talking bikes and hotrods with a mate Peter and he told me of a neat FLH he knew about over in California. The price was fair except I didn’t have the money for it. I mentioned the FLH to another mate who solved my problem—sell another project to raise the FLH funds. He bought an XL Falcon delivery van that I’d lost interest in and I was on the phone to Peter to organise the purchase and import of my first Harley-Davidson.
It was a good runner. My mate Buzz in the Streamliners is good with the spanners so we trade skills. He checked out the Shovel’s mechanicals while I started prepping for a fresh paint job to make the bike mine.
Even though no-one down under had seen the bike, I still had to put my brand on it. I was after that crazy Mexicano look but without all the Tijuana add-ons. I cut flames out of steel for some of my sculpture projects and I run some on my 1950 pickup so my wild colours were going onto the three-and-a-half gallon tanks that replaced the five-gallon tanks. I got the primer down then added candies over a silver flake base.
Time became scarce to meet a deadline for the Streamliners’ annual Kickstart Sunday run down the South Coast. A mate, Karl Stehn, stepped in to lay out the flames and squirt the Candy Cola followed by clear and pink pin-lines highlighting the flames. It was a punt running pink lines but we all reckon it works; too late, mate, they are there to stay.
Instead of chrome fork shrouds and headlight surround we added satin black to let the fenders and tanks get the attention.
Low and fat! That’s what I was after in my version of an Electra Glide. Fat rims and fat wide whitewalls, and the dual pipes with fishtails, do it for me.
Cruising low, the ride isn’t much better than the rigid Triumph, but shifting with the suicide shifter, it runs with the pack easier than the Limey ride.
Story by Justin Zahra; photos by Rob Warden