THE CHROME NUN
BUILDING IT THE WAY I WANTED, NO MATTER HOW MUCH TIME IT TOOK
Building It The Way I Wanted, No Matter How Much Time It Took
The Chrome Nun project was started in early 2011 to replace my personal ride White Heat (featured in the April 2005 issue of Street Chopper), which I had sold to a friend a few years earlier. Due to a combination of limited spare funds and a full house of other clients’ builds, I stopped working on it mid-year of 2011. I decided if I was going to build this bike for myself, I was going to build exactly what I wanted, regardless of how long it took. I resumed building The Chrome Nun in early 2012, and it took three years of saving every spare dime I could for it, stealing late evenings and Sundays to work on it, and, like I said, no compromises to finish it exactly as I originally envisioned it back in 2011.
Let’s start off with The Nun’s foundation. West Coast Choppers built me this frame in 2005. Jesse agreed to build the frame, but his guys needed his okay to start. I have to thank Mark Nelson and Chopper Dave for their lobbying efforts to get that accomplished. As far as I know, this frame is one of two frames that ever came out of WCC in this configuration. I stored the frame for six years before I was ready to use it. It’s basically a CFL frame back half, with an El Diablo-type front, featuring a curved backbone and a curved single downtube. The dimensions are 1 inch out, 2 inches up, 35-degree rake, with a one-off spiderweb gusset.
Originally the frame was built to house an Evo-style engine, so I had to notch the downtube to accommodate the Shovelhead’s front exhaust spigot. The only other frame touch was to porthole the solid upper motor mount. Next, we plotted out the entry/exit locations for the internal wiring and hydraulic clutch line in the tubing, and instead of just drilling holes, I cut oval slots in the frame and TIG’D in some bologna-sliced thick wall tubing for contoured and reinforced entry/exit ports, blending them into the tubing.
Here came the first of the “no compromises.” I debated long over finishing the frame in powdercoat or paint and then decided a frame like this deserved to be nickel-plated. Sport Chrome in Westminster, California, professionally handled that step, and I’m glad I waited until I saved the money to have John and his crew do the plating.
The ’79 Shovelhead engine came out of California, along with a couple of baskets I bought on the way to the Hippy Killer Hoedown. The engine now features an S&S stroker kit and displaces 86ci. S&S also supplied the oil pump and the B carburetor. The B’s bird deflector is an NOS CCE piece, given to me by Randy Smith. Camshaft is an Andrews B grind. Because of the clearance problems with the front exhaust spigot to the downtube, it was necessary to cut off the original spigot and configure a new spigot turned 90 degrees to the left. This was handled by Rick Labriola (LA Jockey Shift) and looks totally stock. After Rick did his mods, the heads were sent off for Cerekoting then to Area Machine, which did a mild port and a three-angle valve job. The finned rocker boxes are from Throwback Motorcycles and carry the serial number “1001”—the first production set. The 2-into-1 exhaust started as a smashed V&H collector I picked up at the swap for $20 for the merge section. Twelve tubing pieces were blended together for the pipes then Cerekoted in Black Velvet by Applied Plastics Coatings in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, which also handled the cylinder head coating. Ignition is handled by an old cast Morris Magneto setup.
The transmission started with a Delkron five-speed case and includes a Baker six-speed gearset, Baker hydraulic end cover, and an FXR shifter drum. The transmission connects to the engine via a Rivera Primo 1-3/4-inch Brute 3 Extreme belt drive originally intended as an enclosed Softail application. Tech Cycles converted the RP hub to its Isolator series
starter system. The inner motor plate, outer belt guard, and the “through the primary” shifter were handled by us. The inner primary and Isolator plate are black anodized, and the belt guard is engine-turned.
The wheels are pretty unique, and I literally stumbled over the early 15-inch Dick Allen Centerline rear wheel at Pat Leahy’s shop (High Gear Machine) on a trip to Long Beach, California. Rick Labriola converted the rear hub from the mid-star ball bearings to tapered Timkens and machined the hub adapter/spacer for the rear belt pulley. The front wheel is a 17-inch Centerline Convo Pro that Bob Schenck bored the hub out of then machined a new billet hub to Narrow Glide specs, with sealed H-D bearings.
The springer started as a front spring perch from Slippery Pete and a rear yoke from Fat Bob, from Rockford, Illinois, both given out of friendship. The 8- over extension was done with good ol’ Ford radius rods by us. The OEM Hydra- Glide risers came out of my stash, and the handlebars were built using 1-inch Flanders #2 bars, with the bar ends sleeved down to 7/8 inch to use the Magura master cylinders and NOS English Doherty 7/8-inch grip and quarter-turn throttle set that I bought back in 1970 and never used. The throttle is set up as a “poor man’s internal throttle,” with the throttle cable running inside the bars— entering close to the grip and exiting between the risers. The headlight is a Unity utility lamp converted to quartz halogen, with bottom mounts buck-riveted on from a junk Bates repop I saved for just this application.
The gas tank was built from a Paughco 2.2-gallon blank, with a frisco filler with Harley cap and hidden mounts. Rear fender was a leftover Front Street wide rib with an old Duo- Glide taillight molded into it and converted to LEDS by us. The oil tank (along with the under-trans battery tray) we first prototyped on my right-hand guy, part-timer Steve’s bike, around 2010. That bike was featured in the Winter 2009 issue of Street Chopper. The 4-gallon tank rubber mounts in front of the rear fender, with internal lines. The oil filter mounts into the left-hand side of the oil tank and is an assembly that Tim Doherty (Doherty Machine) gave me in 2000, at the Laughlin River Run.
The under-transmission tray houses the waterproof electrical component box, plus the 16-cell Antigravity battery. As mentioned earlier, the wiring is all run internally, with the harnesses exiting the bottom of the seat post, connecting to the box via four GM Weather Pack plugs. Undoing those four plugs, removing the “+” battery cable from the starter pole, then four bolts, and the entire tray drops down for servicing.
The paintwork was done by Kirk Taylor (Custom Design Studios in Novato, California) and is pretty special to me. For almost 14 years I’ve wanted Kirk to paint a bike of my own, and for the same timeframe, he’s wanted to paint one of mine as well. It all came together on this one. I told Kirk, “black, 24K-spun gold-leaf flames, red- orange pinstripes,” and left it at that. He knocked the paint job out of the park! The chrome plating, black nickel, black anodizing, and aluminum polishing were done by Industrial Plating in Omaha, Nebraska.
All in all, I couldn’t be happier with the results of this build. Its first year out of the gate, my threeyear wait was rewarded with a first-place class win at the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, California, several radical custom first-place trophies in Colorado’s big shows, a Street Chopper magazine “Winner Take All” show win (along with Cycle Source’s Best of Show pick) at the Sturgis 75th rally, culminating with a place on the Hot Bike Tour in September of 2016. The bike ran like a champ with the Evos and TCS from stop to stop on that tour, and I was pretty damn proud of that. I’ll never sell this bike; I have too much in time, memories, and friendships wrapped up in it to ever do that. SC