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

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