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Tuesday Edition


A New Breed of Biker Emerged

By Sam Burns with photos curated by Sam

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At the time, Jack worked at the local Harley dealership. He met even more bikers there though the greatest percentage of his customers were buying Honda parts. At the time, the CB450 was the largest displacement motorcycle in the Honda line. Shortly after, the 750 Four would be on the floor and things really began to change. The 350 had edged out the 305, and on and on went the displacement and horsepower wars among the Big 4 from Japan.

The Dealership started as a Harley-Davidson dealer only, but one of the mechanics talked the owner into carrying Honda. It was in the early days of Honda being imported. The vast majority of the business became Honda driven back then. Later the Motor Company required the two showrooms to be separated. Today, they are once again in a new building that meets the new business model.

The British bikes were being edged out. The mighty Sportster would lose its domination on the streets, but its popularity would stay strong for many years to come.

And a Sportster would bring a new brother into Jack's life. Bobby just traded a stock FL for a brand new XLCH, and he didn't waste much time making it his own. Jack helped him gather the parts he needed.

The Sporty would end up with a 5.00/16 out back and a 3.00/21 upfront. Six over fork tubes to make it cocky and short struts to keep the custom rear fender off the tire. We were both fairly new at all this, but Bobby had a good friend to help with setting things up and especially with the custom paint job. This cat was really hip and had what seemed a never-ending number of talents. Jack met people the like of which he had never known. Life got very interesting.

Bobby shared rent on an old house with a guy called Red. Their place became the hangout and where more than a few parties took place. They built a ramp at the back door so they could ride in from the alley and straight into the house. The cops never solved the mystery of the disappearing sickle that they tried so hard to catch. Red built a Beezer chop and it was the first limey custom Jack ever saw, nice.

Bobby's Sportster was a real runner. Jack ordered a set of straight racing pipes from Harley-Davidson and a full set of PB cams. Big John set him up with an SU carb and intake. The carb would spit once and then the bike would take off like a scalded dog. That sucker was quick, and Bobby could wrangle that bike like nobody's business. Red had a nice-looking springer on his beezer with a fat rear tire and skinny front as well. Jack got to ride the BSA and was impressed. It wouldn't be long before Red got himself a Harley though.

Jack really liked the performance, style, and sound of the Sportster. One came up for sale and he first tried it out on a make-shift dirt track on the property of the old Catholic school. He had a blast, and a deal was struck. Jack felt like he could go anywhere on that bike and pretty much did just that.

It was a '65 XLCH with magneto and DC Linkert carburetor. There were some aftermarket goodies available for that carb model and the early S&S carbs had a similar design. Someone suggested that Jack could get his points, condensers, and plugs at the local Massey Ferguson dealer. Jack liked the price, so he gave them a try and found it worked just as well as OEM.

The bike had a custom paint job that was done by a skilled local painter, but Jack just didn't care for the color. Soon it was riding around in gray primer. Jack found a new riding partner from out of town who came to the Harley shop where Jack worked. He rode the same year Sportster as Jack, but his was customized and looked really cool.

Jack's Sportster remained very much stock, but he would continue to customize his Pan and successive big twins. The bunch he rode with stayed independent for years, but the idea of a club kept coming. A very talented man whom all would come to have great respect and appreciation for opened the first custom shop in town.

There were a handful of guys who built Knucks and Pans with the precious few parts available at the time. Flanders, Bates, S&S, and Barnett come to mind, but these builders were customizers and hot rodder elite who made what they needed and made it well. They knew how to make those old bikes perform as well as they looked.

The new shop would provide a place for the up-and-coming custom parts, rebuilds, and any and all custom services. Some truly outstanding work came out of this shop. Jack and his crew found D&D Machine, Paughco, Santee, Andrews, S&S, and a host of others. Life couldn't be better for the chopper builder or so it seemed.

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