A CURSED SOFTAIL GETS REBORN
A Cursed Softail Gets Reborn ..................
This bike came to be because I traded a buddy a 1948 Hudson that I put on a 1994 Cadillac chassis for this turbocharged Knucklehead and transmission. The story with the motor goes that it was built in the early ’90s with the intent of taking it to the salt flats to attempt the land-speed record for the world’s fastest Knucklehead. Sadly, the guy who was supposed to ride it committed suicide by stepping off of his nitro-injected Panhead and hanging himself. The motor was then passed to a friend of his who was diagnosed with brain cancer and passed away. From there, my friend got it and wasn’t ever able to do anything with it. It was supposed to be a 200-hp turbocharged, 5-inch stroke, 113ci Knucklehead. I had the driveline in the corner of the shop for almost a year before I decided it needed to be built.
We started with the back half of an aftermarket Softail frame and a stock swingarm a buddy gave me. The whole build time from when we set the frame on the lift to the first show was only 10 weeks. My dad and I spent 18 to 19 hours a day, seven days a week to get it finished. Shane Gilsdorf put in an enormous number of hours trying to get this Frankenstein of a motor to actually run. We had some great help from friends at the end to get it finished in time.
Design wise, I figured that Softails are up and coming, so we decided to just go all the way with the first one by laying frame, running a 26-inch wheel with a turbocharged Knucklehead. I have never really liked the Softail suspensions, so I took our Fl-style shocks and mounted them on top of the swingarm. I decided to do copper after seeing a flat-black diesel ’54 Cadillac at SEMA with all-copper trim.
We also build hot rods, so the car influence is heavy with us. We will take the shop on field trips to the old car junkyards and just look around for miscellaneous parts we can use on bikes. For instance, the headlight is from a 1935 Ford, the dash is off of a 1958 Ford hood, and the spot lamps are original 1930s aftermarket fog lamps. The kicker pedal I had on it (but broke it) was a turn signal housing from a 1941 Oldsmobile. The taillight was a fender-mounted rearview mirror from a mid-’60s Cadillac.
We love the old-school way of building. All of the sheet metal, minus the front fender and the front half of the back fender, was made from flat sheets of 18-gauge steel that I hand formed on the power hammer and English wheel. The backbone and downtubes of the frame I bent using the receiver hitch of my truck. During the build, we posted videos on our Facebook to document the chaos.
“THE HEADLIGHT IS FROM A 1935 FORD, THE DASH IS OFF OF A 1958 FORD HOOD, AND THE SPOT LAMPS ARE ORIGINAL 1930S AFTERMARKET FOG LAMPS.”
When it came time to paint it, we couldn’t decide if the bike was going to be green or blue or burgundy. I painted everything in large orange flake (our hot rod disease coming out). Then I laid out the silver and blue graphics on the fly with no real plan. After that, Steve Gillette came in and pinstriped and lettered everything. I then stood over the paint/fab/bodywork table and had a can of Green Candy and a can of Blue Candy on the table. I closed my eyes and grabbed one and it turned out to be the blue. Little did I know until after I sprayed it, when the sun hits the paint, it turns green. So, I guess we got both colors after all.
I never believed in “cursed” things before, but after this thing, I’m starting to reconsider. I can’t say enough about all the people around me who have helped make this shop and this build work. First and foremost are my parents who came out of retirement to help me as if it were their own. And my wife, who brings our kids and supper to the shop every night so that we can have a couple hours of family time a day. Jen and Tommy make the shop tic every day without fail and my friends who, after some beer bribes, always end up showing up when it’s crunch time. HB