There is something about the South Bay style of choppers. The style revolves around rigid choppers with decent rake, some upstretch, long, skinny springers, American Racing 12-spoke magnesium wheels, and dual-strut sissybars. Many of my favorite bikes, including Dick Allen’s Locomotion and Joe Hurst’s White Bear, are good examples of the style.
I acquired a ’47 Knucklehead motor and transmission three or four years ago via a trade with my friend. The impetus for me to start building this bike came out of attending the Born Free shows. I went to the first two Born Free shows, which were both incredible events that really showcased the high level of custom, home-built motorcycles being built these days. I was really honored and stoked when they asked me to build one for Born Free Three. Therefore, in October of 2010, I started work on the knuckle as my builder bike for the show.
I started the build with a knucklehead frame acquired from my buddy, Chico. Although the price was right for the frame, it was in brutal shape—it had been cut and bashed to fit a later model motor. The lower downtubes had been ground down and flattened to within an inch of their lives and a heinous chop and rake job had been done to the neck. I cut apart the frame and only ended up using the motor cradle and the rear frame section. Using a repop bull-neck forging and sidecar loops, my friend, Gator, helped me modify the frame, stretching it up and out about 2.5 inches and raking and window-paning the neck. I made the backbone out of larger, 1-5/8-inch tubing, which (along with the stress tube) holds gas. A line from underneath the front of the gas tank goes into the backbone, and a petcock sprouts out from the backbone in between the spark plugs on the primary side of the motor. This added almost ½ gallon of gas!
The fork is an original 12-inch-over Harman girder. My good friend, Rick Brandt, machined custom triple trees for me that were slightly wider than the stock Harman trees so that I could run dual Hurst-Airheart calipers up front. I ran custom brake lines through the fork legs, and the stem of the trees is hollow and machined for fittings to act like a brake fluid reservoir. The wheels are original magnesium American Racing 12-spoke wheels. The front wheel is an 18-inch wheel with custom aluminum inserts to carry the cut-down brake rotors. The rear wheel is a 17-inch wheel, which is apparently extremely rare. Rick helped me machine the wheel to fit a standard HD rear mechanical drum which, after safety-wiring the bolts holding the drum on, works perfectly.
Now that I had a rolling chassis, the rest of the bike started to build itself. I wanted a long, skinny, but rounded tank to fit the stretched backbone, so I made a tank by cutting up the tank from some Japanese cruiser bike. My friend, Chris Lampman, helped me with some of the fabrication on the tank. The rear fender is a high-quality, heavy-duty rounded one from Front Street Cycle. The sissybar actually goes through two holes in the fender. To accomplish this (and to make it possible to run a shorter sissybar in the future if need be), the sissybar was made in two pieces. The bottom piece is securely fastened to the fender and frame. The top piece actually slides down into two sockets in the lower piece and is held there by setscrews. The top piece also has the sweeping, South-Bay–style dual mounts, which are mounted to the framerails via hidden mounts. The ends of these mounts were made out of cable guides that I got from Pangea Speed.
My friend, Jordan from Union Speed and Style, helped me make the fiberglass seat, which he then covered in leather. The oil tank is a heavily modified horseshoe tank, with extra oil capacity, an oil filter mount, and a repop H-D oil sight gauge given to me by my good friends Matt and Carl Olsen from Carl’s Cycle Supply. I also brought my motor to them in a panic before leaving for California, and with their incredible expertise, we built the entire motor in two days. The motor features S&S 4.5-inch stroke flywheels, an Andrews performance cam, a Morris Magneto, and a S&S Two-Throat carb. All of the amazing engraving was performed by Otto Carter from Abilene, Texas.
I built all of the other parts of the bike myself—foot controls, handlebars, pipes, and everything else. After some growing pains, this bike runs incredibly well and is a fire-breather. The bike was dubbed the “New Romantic” by my friend and painter, Jon “Harpoon” Haprov, who laid down the beautiful goldleaf and paint. Everything else that wasn’t polished aluminum got dipped in nickel plating.
It’s a little over the top, a little crazy, a little out there. It’s the New Romantic. And it’s my kind of bike. STC