HEAVY METAL

A CURSED SOF­TAIL GETS RE­BORN

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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

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