The early '80s were a bit of a dark time, but it was a good era for evil empires. For one thing, Luke Skywalker found out that Darth Vader was his father, but, more importantly, Harley-Davidson was still under the burdensome yoke of AMF, which had done a lot of damage to the Motor Company's reputation. Three years later, things would be a lot different. Luke and his dad bonded while whacking the Emperor, and H-D was bought out from American Machine and Foundry to start its journey back to its former glory. But there was something else: It was the same year that Yoshi Kosaka moved to the U.S. from his native Japan and started what would eventually become the Garage Company in Marina del Rey, California.
Since then, he's seen a lot of bikes from the AMF era come and go to his shop, since he specializes in not only restoring old machines but also turning them into great custom rides in their own right. That's exactly what he did with this '81 FLH, which he converted from a full-blown dresser into a classic bobber.
Yoshi started by stripping the FLH down to the frame. From the fairing to the bags, all of the old touring gear had to go. But beyond that it's essentially the original article; the shovelhead motor, transmission, and frame all came from the same motorcycle and were restored to working order. There were, however, some modifications made along the way. The pistons and valves were replaced with units from CCI and Rowe, respectively, while the Garage Company made a new set of pipes to better suit the bobber image Yoshi had in mind for the project. The motor also got a new S&S; E-series carburetor to give it more mixture, and at the driveline the clutch was upgraded with a Primo unit.
But he got a little more ambitious with the frame. In its stock form the chassis was a two-piece with rear shocks, but Yoshi didn't think that would look right at all for the custom bike he'd envisioned. His shop went to considerable lengths by taking the time to weld the frame into a hardtail, then added a Springer frontend in keeping with the bobber look he was going for. The wheels were replaced by a set of 16-inchers he'd found at a swap meet. Both have Firestone tires and use H-D drum brakes for stopping power.
Major changes also took place with the sheetmetal, where Yoshi really went to town. He fabricated both fenders, using a ribbed one out back, then tossed the stock gas tank in favor of a peanut-style gas holder he had in the parts mountain that sits out in back of his shop. After he'd made a new set of bars to hold the new hand controls from Tedd Cycles (with matching controls at foot level), the mockup was done, and it was time for paint.
Yoshi turned the bike over to Jim's Cycle Paint, where it was shot with black and gray and then given a cartoon bird along the sides of the tank. The end result gives the bike a bit of a hard-boiled look as opposed to something bright and flashy.
But what's most unique about this bike is where it was put to use after it was made. Auto racer Rick Knoop gave it a home and uses it as a pit bike at the track between races (and takes it out on the road when he's not racing).
|Make/Model:||'81 H-D FLH|
|Build Time:||Three months|
|Primary Drive:||1.5-inch belt|
|Year/Type:||Springer (make and year unknown)|
|Year/Type:||Not so much…|
|WHEELS,TIRES, & BRAKES: FRONT:|
|Size/Type:||16-inch swap- meet special|
|Colors:||Black and gray|
|Painter:||Jim's Cycle Paint|
|Cycle Paint Chrome Plating/ Polishing:||Supreme Plating|
|Front Fender:||Garage Company|
|Gas Tank and Cap:||Old peanut|
|Hand Controls:||Tedd Cycle|
|Foot Controls:||Tedd Cycle|
|The Garage Company|