When I drove into the narrow Sunset Beach, California, street and arrived at Mark’s house, he was already at work in his tiny one-car garage. My view immediately fell on a gloss black and chromed Flathead chopper built in the authentic ’60s style. Just like many of his other bikes, this machine could’ve rolled out of an Ed Roth Choppers magazine straight away. Back in February 2011, when I visited Mark he had the ’48 Panhead frame sitting on the table in his living room with the engine mocked up in it.
Mark is a very humble guy and it took him a while to tell me that not too many people had even seen the bike when I showed up at his place. The story behind this bike is that he was actually going to build it together with this dad. Unfortunately his father passed away and the bike project, which wasn’t much more than a pile of parts at that moment, just kept laying in a corner of the shop. Mark always thought it was going to be a burden to finish the bike, but now that it’s done, he is very proud of it, and he should be.
When I saw the frame sitting on the table, I thought it was already chromed, but I was actually looking at Mark’s metal finishing and polishing. For about a year Mark worked on small areas of the frame on a daily basis. He would make a mark on the frame with a piece of tape, and would say, “Today I’ll polish these 4 inches.” He doesn’t even remember how many hours it took him, but he’s very sure that he put more time into detailing the frame then it took to build the entire bike. It’s no secret that Mark is a freak for the details. Look at the fender for example. The first thing that came to my mind was a ’59 Chevy Impala, and that’s exactly the way where Mark wanted to go with it. He wanted to do something special and he did. Look at the scoops on the tank. They are similar to what he did on his Triumph, but in a different manner.
The shifting on Mark’s bike is also special. He used an old four-speed housing, which is converted to a three speed. It contains an oversized Second gear, which works like Second and Third on a normal transmission. The clutch works with a mousetrap, and Mark shifts with a Thoro speedshift. It’s a pretty rare old gem, which converts a hand-shift Harley to a foot shifter way before Harley would use foot shifts on its production bikes. The ratchet, which usually sits on the transmission housing, now sits by your left foot.
Up top Mark used a classic 1942 clutch lever and an aluminum Panhead front brake lever. He describes the brakes as “nothing fancy.” Up front he makes use of a Triumph Pre Unit brake, which came with the fork. In the rear, the stock mechanical Harley-Davidson drum is used. Mark also installed a set of heavier springs in the forks, so they can carry the weight of the heavy American V-twin compared to the skinny British machine they came off of.
The list with impressive parts is endless. He’s running one of those neat 21½-inch front wheels combined with a skinny front tire, like on his Triumph. On the rear he runs a Beck Front Runner, also an original Harley-Davidson accessory. The ape hangers are 1-inch Flanders, but it has a 15/16 step down throttle area, so you can mount a Triumph Pre Unit throttle.
Last but definitely not least, is the beautiful polished ULH motor. It was bought from a friend. Mark had another one, which he sold, so he could upgrade to this shiny showpiece. It is a thing of beauty.
Mark’s dad was a man of the “real biker” kind. He always advised Mark to build closed primary bikesbecause he had some friends with missing fingers. The weird thing is that the bike Mark was gonna build together with his dad was going to have an open primary.
The sun had suddenly disappeared in Sunset Beach. We were going take it out for a ride nonetheless since it was going to be the bike’s first official outing. When I asked Mark where he was gonna put his feet, he told me, “On the brake pedal, like they used to do it back in the day.” And what about your left foot? I asked. “Well, we’re gonna have to see where my left foot goes.” Classic Drews. STC