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Twenty Years of Chopper Dedication and Hard Work

by Dan Stern with photos by his lovely wife

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Decades ago (mid ‘90s) Paisano Publications came out with an upscale magazine called VQ. I’m sure a take-off on GQ. People scoffed because the RUB thing was in full swing. I didn’t care because it was another great publication from bikers for bikers. It was tailored for the upscale market complete with ads for cologne, soap and other things you’d never find in Easyriders. The best part was a feature on artists concepts.

Honestly, I think Joe Teresi was way ahead of his time with this one. Starting in the ‘00s this would have fit right in. VQ’s editor, Keith (Bandit) Ball was running it while juggling the editorship of Easyriders and countless other publications.

In 1997 the issue of VQ featured illustrations from a concept artist Tim Conder. The concept was a left-hand sidecar. The shapely notion struck me to the core. I’ve seen state-of-the-art custom bikes from all over the world, from incredible builders, but never saw a concept that I wanted to copy or duplicate in anyway. I’ve been building bikes well over 40 years.

Around the same time, during Daytona Bike Week, Joe Teresi gave me a sharp VQ money clip. I have used it for over 20 years. You’ll note the money clip logo now resides in the steering damper knob. A nod to Joe and Keith (some call him Bandit).

Conder’s conceptual illustration really hit me. I called Keith and inquired, who the hell is Tim Conder? The reply was that he was in Sonoma, 90 miles away. I called Conder and asked if anyone has ever built this sidecar? His reply was no, and he would really like to see it done.

My life was crazy busy being the guy behind the scenes at Custom Chrome bringing it to crazy growth heights. I was involved in every aspect of that company from product development to marketing, sales and much more. I was lucky to build a bike every two years. So, I tore out the VQ illustrations and filed them with my future projects.

The year 2004 brought a couple of big changes for me. I left Custom Chrome, started Hollister H-D and relocated it to Morgan Hill, where I renamed it House of Thunder H-D. During the move, my file cabinet popped open, dropped my build files and low and behold, out came Tim’s sidecar conceptual illustrations.

I worked building a dealership for several years, never being able to really dedicate the time.

But once House of Thunder settled in, I carved out some time to start the sidecar project. I struggled through building the sidecar frame, wheels and most of the body roughed from wooden forms (bucks), then molds and then parts. Even figured out the air system to raise and lower the sidecar. I mounted the pump in the nose of the sidecar, an air tank underneath with polished brass fittings and used auto air shocks to lift it via a switch under the fuel tank.


I sold House of Thunder H-D in 2015. In 2019 I dedicated 20 hours a week, threw away over a years’ worth of work, because I wasn’t happy with it. Finally, in 2020 I decided I would dedicate 40-50 hours a week and build the best bike/sidecar that I could, no matter how long it took.

Finished it in the middle of the great Pandemic in November of 2020, and I am now awaiting the show circuit.
The bike is based on a ’04 Softail with mild engine and gearing mods, including double-bronze powder-coated. Wheels, which are real Halibrand knockoffs running 17-inch radial tires all around, 180 in the front, 200 series in the rear.

Proportioning valve is used to balance the rear brakes on the sidecar and bike. GMA brake pulley kit for the rear of the bike and a Brembo in front. Made the handlebars and used Custom Cycle Engineering Controls.

Fit and finish is my expertise, so when you look at the handlebar cover, you’ll see how tight it fits. It looks stock but it’s not. The steering damper poking through is where I machined a spot for the VQ money clip.

I hate this gap...
I hate this gap...

Things like the gap at the bottom of the headlight ring really bug me, so I blended in a filler piece. Nacelle headlight strip needed to be extended with a small double step next to the handlebar cover. That double step is mimicked at the bottom of the grill in front of the engine and the inside center of the windshield.

Where did she come from?
Where did she come from?

I did a lot of the body work with trim pieces in place, so I would get the fit as tight as possible before sending things off for chrome. And yes, I even made my own key out of an antique gas valve handle.

I built fully polished, louvered-aluminum belly pans on the sidecar and the bike. Not to mention polished aluminum inner fender wells, my own taillight housings and lens. I know, I’m sick.

I hand bent the sidecar interior trim and hid all the hardware. The Jarrah exotic wood floor was sourced from western Australia, sanded and eight coats of clear added to reach the finish I wanted.


Of course, no project of this size can be done all by yourself. Bob Munroe (Grand National Hall of Fame) took my wooden windshield frame and turned it into steel along with the fender trim and extended fuel tank.

Lots of painted pieces.
Lots of painted pieces.

The one-off paint was done by the great hall of famer Art Himsl, who has painted several bikes for me in the past and is just a pleasure to work with. Dennis’ Body shop did the final body work to get everything straight.

Guy Ruchonnet was invaluable helping with the frame, fender braces, bucks and molds. Nothing is more rewarding than to work with pure craftsmen and watching them take my work and refining it.

Notes for the engraver.
Notes for the engraver.

Some of the people who helped and inspired me are no longer with us like Darrell Hayes and Don Ivie, whom I miss every day, and both could always get me out of a tight corner.

Lowered for show.
Lowered for show.

Ride height.
Ride height.

Valley Powder Coating in Tracy, San Joaquin Chrome Plating in Lodi get a nod as well as that crazy Englishman John Reed who helped me with the geometry for the sidecar from his past racing experience. Thanks to Marc Farro for help with the wood floor.



Okay, so it took me over 20 years to complete this project, so what! It’s finished. It’s the best bike I’ve ever built. It’s beautiful on top as well as underneath and I hope to show it to you in a regional show soon!

Rumble Sidecar Specifications

Owner: Dan Stern
Bike: 2004 Harley-Davidson Softail w/left-hand sidecar
Engine: 88-inch Twin Cam powder coated double bronze
Trans: 5-Speed

Wheels: Halibrand knockoffs
Brakes: Brembo front, GMA rear
Handlebar: Custom by Stern
Hand Controls: Cycle Controls
Front Suspension: Shovel adjustable tree, extended tubes

Rear Suspension: Works Shock
Fuel Tank: Extended by Bob Munroe

Fenders & Body Panels: Handmade by Guy Ruchonnet & Stern
Grill: Stern
Exhaust: Hooker & Bob Munroe
Paint: Art Himsl custom blend

Seat: Corbin

Special Features: Fender Trim, handmade taillight housing & lenses, louvered belly pan

Electric controls under the engraved step.
Electric controls under the engraved step.

Suspension: Auto air shocks
Interior: Pattern by Stern, stitched by Finish Line Interiors
Windshield: Bob Munroe & Stern
Jarrah wood floor: Stern & Marc Farro
Features: Custom matching luggage behind seat, machined footrests, custom interior and side trim, rock guard, fender and taillight trim.

Special Thanks: Guy Ruchonnet, Don Ivie, Bob Munroe, Darrell Hayes, Dennis Sumonovich, Art Himsl, Tim Conder, Dee Genung, Marc Farro
Wait, There's More:
Tim Conder named the sidecar art "Rumble" after the Link Wray song. Wasn't keen on this idea, not really into naming bikes. But I decided to go with it anyway cause it completes Tim's vision as well as mine.
Early in the week I commission Harry's Custom Signs in Hollister to make me a board for upcoming shows and to name the bike Rumble.
You published the sidecar article late Wed. and of course I'm thrilled. 

Thurs. we head to SF airport where I am surprising Shirley with a couple days in Las Vegas. While at the airport right across from our gate is an exhibition of old electric guitars, amps and records. 
I don't play guitar but love the style, history, innovation and of course rock & roll. 
Lo and behold here is Link Wray's guitar and album in the exhibition. In the attached description of his record states his only hit song was "Rumble" and that was in the year of 1958. The year I was born. Pretty cool. But wait. 

Saturday we're in the Las Vegas airport and pass a guy that has only one large word on his t-shirt in a stylized font and it says "Rumble." No logo, nothing. Walk to our gate and here he comes again to our gate. Pretty damn funny. 
Is it a sign that things are yet to come?
--Dan Stern 
This is our light breathable ballistic Nylon vest with leather trim. Click and check it out and all our cool leathers.
This is our light breathable ballistic Nylon vest with leather trim. Click and check it out and all our cool leathers.


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Reader Comments

GREAT ARTICLE!! Beautiful project. Of course pictures don’t do it justice. I was fortunate to have been able to see it in process over the years. Excellent job Dan.

Erik Hofstad
Concord, NC
Monday, July 12, 2021

I thought the article was very well done, it began with the vision, didn't waste time with too much technical detail (and there is a lot of technical detail) gave us awesome pictures to chart the course and brought it all home with real time completion. I especially like that Dan gives credit to the many people along the way (all old friends) that helped him bring his vision to life.

Andy Smith
Morgan Hill, CA
Friday, July 9, 2021
Editor Response Thanks much for your review. You'll make Dan's day.
This is bad ass! This is a 3 wheeler!

charlotte, NC
Thursday, July 8, 2021
Incredible detail in the work. Lots of ingenuity in translating the artwork into reality. I wish I could do half as well.

Vern Moore
Kingsley, PA
Wednesday, July 7, 2021
Editor Response Dan did an amazing job with Tim's concept.

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