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Gypsy Rose Lee and Her Panhead

Paul Cavallo Spitfire Custom for Vegas Artistry in Iron Competition

By Bandit with photos by Markus Cuff

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When it comes to Paul Cavallo’s dry wit and motorcycle-building capabilities, it takes no more than a the whisper of a breeze through California hillside brush to kick off the desire to build another chopper or bobber. He hardly needs any excuse to work 14-hour days along side his master machinist dad. Call him for Born Free the bobber show, or the Las Vegas Bikefest Artistry in Iron, or a high school partner who needs a bobber to help him forget the anguish of a divorce, and Paul is inspired. He won’t clean up a build or modify a recent stock model. In each case, he’ll start from scratch and build a ground-up under ridiculous time constraints to meet some crazed self-imposed deadline or show schedule.

“I know I should design products for stock bikes,” Paul said, “but I’d rather build cool shit.”

And so he does from dawn to dusk to the extreme, like a mad scientist stirring chemical concoctions until the wee hours. Paul grew up on the outskirts of Los Angeles smack dab in the center of the drug revolution surrounded by rowdy bikers, and rockers, on the wrong side of the tracks where half his pals ended up in prison or dead of drug overdoses.

He survived and in his clean and sober state, he lights a cigarette and stares thoughtfully at the Gypsy Rose with the air of a surgeon, wondering what he could do make his patient more shapely or stealth-like.

Paul started building springer forks just six months ago, after refining the hottest new girder in the industry. He built three sets of rockers for the Gypsy to set it on a perfect plane with a Hollywood freeway at 3:00 in the morning. The forward controls are part of his growing product line, so he built a set, and then the gas tank and the oil tank with a gallon synthetic oil capacity. He built the bars with brass caps, the brass grips, the pipes, and the machined aluminum caps capable of holding a restrictive baffle with the same attaching setscrew.

Unlike any heat shields in the industry, Paul welded nuts on the inside of the pipes, and ran the domed Allens through the shield into the pipes. He built the frame with his Spitfire crew, so it was stretched 4 inches forward and the neck lowered 2 inches.

Mr. Spitfire, Paul, kicked off this project specifically for the Artistry in Iron just a couple of months before the September event, around a 1956 Panhead engine and 4-speed transmission. Bill Chambers rebuilt and balanced the engine while Paul worked with Billy McCahill, of the revitalized STD company, on a set of dual-carb Panheads and cast-finned STD tall pan rocker covers. Billy didn’t have the proper sized insert drill to bore into the intake ports, so Paul hauled the tool to the STD factory to take care of business. They drilled and tapped threads into the heads and Paul returned to Spitfire’s unlimited creative headquarters to figure out the intake runners.

Paul took two chunks of aluminum round stock and bored them for enhanced intake velocity, and then he threaded the O.D. and screwed them into the heads until they bottomed perfectly. He bored and tapped the heads for locking setscrews. Then he welded aluminum 45-degree tubing bends to the straight runners. Finally, he ported and polished each intake manifold. Get the picture?

This guy lives to create something cool for any late night lane-splitting chopper. Check the rear hub he machined so that the spokes are high and low, or shorter on the left by an inch from the right. If a part isn’t handmade, Paul wishes it was. He even designed a special rear axle plate for the frame to house the sprotor brake, so the frame and brake components would remain tight and narrow.

Time was running out when Paul discovered his regular custom paint talent, Casey, was unavailable, and 10 days before the show, he delivered the frame and sheet metal to David Anthony Garcia, who has painted Low Riders for 40 years within his metal flake family biz. Paul’s hands began to sweat as he announced his deadline and delivered his handmade seat pan and headlight bucket to Pascal, the engraver and leather-tooling master.

It’s every builder’s nightmare when he’s forced to allow his precious creative artistry to slip into the controlling hands of chromers, painters, leather workers, powder-coating shops, or polishing houses to be lost in the dust of a thousand other jobs, or buried in Bondo shavings with parts for Jap bikes, or, God-forbid, shipped to China wrapped in bubble-wrap and foam peanuts. It makes me shudder to think about it, especially with a looming deadline approaching, and 17 other world-class builders rolling toward the same location in Las Vegas for the competition of the year. Serious builders would compete against noted craftsman, to be judged by their peers and national magazine editors. The Gypsy had to be world class, had to be finished, had to be fine, and had to be on time. Oh fuck!

On Saturday, less than a week before he planned to pack and cut a dusty trail for glittertown in the desert, Paul picked up the deep metal flake coated frame from Anthony and peeled back to his shop for final assembly. Paul was still creating one-off products until the last minute, like the top motor-mount housing the dual throttle cable guide brass junction. Anthony delivered the dazzling sheet-metal Tuesday morning. Paul had to be in Vegas for setup by Thursday.

As the tall pans on the mighty classic engine slipped into the frame, Paul discovered too tight rear rocker fins and the Pan had to be removed, machined and replaced. Paul installed the sleek gas tank Tuesday afternoon and discovered his lack of a dual-runner petcock. “I couldn’t make a Pingel work,” Paul said, but a friend showed up at the shop.

“I have a dual-runner Honda petcock in my garage,” his friend said, mocking another last minute Spitfire deadline.

“Let’s go,” Paul said, and they jumped in his truck-- another builder deadline nemesis—errands. As soon as the talent departs from the watch factory, everything stops, except burnin’ daylight. Every stoplight, taco break, or phone call from a sweetie slows progress. Paul is also a family man, but absolutely fortunate to have a wife who gets it.

They peeled to his friend’s garage with the gas tank carefully wrapped in rags. If it worked, a new process was set in motion. It did fit—amazing, but they needed a rebuild kit, and to strip and polish the petcock and then install it.

Custom hub with the left side spokes set to be 1-inch shorter than the right.
Custom hub with the left side spokes set to be 1-inch shorter than the right.

“Fortunately there are rebuild kits for most Jap components,” Paul said. He worked through Tuesday night with Berto from Mobile Custom Wiring at his side.

By 6:30 Wednesday evening, the Gypsy Rose slithered off the shop lift onto the concrete deck and the trailer-loading process began. By 8:00, he rolled away from his shop and towards home, where he grabbed a bite, slept for two hours and at 9:30 hit the road for Vegas, 250 miles away. He had until 10:00 the next morning to set up at the Cashman Center on the north side of Vegas.

Before the Gypsy Rose felt the final polishing rag slither over its sleek surface, Paul pondered his next build. Would he complete his stretched FXR project in his custom-built frame, or a classic 45 flathead project in an original frame? You never know with this guy.

Gypsy Rose Lee (January 9, 1911[1] – April 26, 1970) was an American burlesque entertainer famous for her striptease act. She was also an actress, author, and playwright whose 1957 memoir was made into the stage musical and film Gypsy.

Our gorgeous blonde model is Queen Esther, who was a blast to work with. She has five children, is a long time tattoo model, and works in a marijuana dispensary. She is currently on the cover of the HORSE magazine. Amazing!

Bikernet Extreme Spitfire Tech Chart

Regular Stuff

Owner: Rawdog

Bike Name: Gypsy Rose

City/State: Highland, Ca

Builder: Paul Cavallo/Spitfire Motorcycles

City/state: Rancho Cucamonga, Ca

Company Info: Spitfire Motorcycles
Address: 8727 Utica ave
Phone:855 773 3473


Fabrication: Spitfire

Manufacturing: Spitfire

Welding: Spitfire

Machining: Spitfire


Year: 1956

Make: Harley-Davidson

Model: Panhead

Displacement: 74ci

Builder or Rebuilder: Paul Cavallo / BCR

Cases: stock

Case finish: Polished

Barrels: Stock

Bore: 3 7/16-inch x 3 31/32-inch

Pistons: Wiseco

Barrel finish: Black powder coat

Lower end: Stock, balanced and trued by BCR

Stroke: stock

Rods: stock

Heads: STD custom made, with left side intakes

Head finish: Polished

Valves and springs: Kibblewhite

Pushrods: Colony

Cams: Andrews

Lifters: stock

Carburetion: 2 Mikuni 38mm round slide

Air cleaner: Spitfire

Exhaust: Spitfire


Year: 1956

Make: Harley-Davidson

Gear configuration: stock 4 speed

Primary: BDL 1.5-inch belt

Clutch: Drag Specialties

Final drive: Chain

Kicker: Spitfire


Year: 2012

Builder: Spitfire

Style or Model: "Archer" rigid

Stretch: 4 inches out, 2 inches down

Rake: 40 degrees


Front End

Make: Spitfire

Model: Micro Glide Springer

Year: 2012

Sheet metal

Tanks: Sacred Steel

Fenders: West Eagle

Oil tank: Spitfire

Type: Candy red over solar gold mini flake

Sheet metal: David Anthony Garcia

Molding: David Anthony Garcia

Base coat: David Anthony Garcia

Graphics: David Anthony Garcia

Base coat: Solar gold

Type: mini flake

Graphics or art: OG ‘70s style fan patterns



Make: Spitfire

Size: 21

Brake calipers:

Tire: Avon Speedmaster


Make: Spitfire

Size: 18-inch Hi/low

Brake calipers: Sprocket brake by Spitfire

Tire: Coker


Foot controls: Spitfire Darkside controls

Finish: chrome

Master cylinder: Spitfire

Brake lines: G&J aircraft

Clutch Cable: Foot clutch

Shifting: Jockey shift

Kickstand: Spitfire


Ignition: Distributor

Ignition switch: toggle

Coils: Blue streak

Regulator: Cycle Electric Inc

Charging: Cycle Electric Inc

Starter: Kick

Wiring: Berto, Mobile Custom Wiring

Harness: Custom by Berto

Headlight: Drag Specialties/ Riff Raff

Taillight: Drag Specialties

Battery: Antigravity LI

What’s Left

Seat: Pascal Davayat, Riff Raff Kustom Leather

Gas caps: Spitfire

Handlebars: Spitfire

Grips: Spitfire

Pegs: Spitfire

Oil lines: G&J aircraft

Fasteners: Ray "the King" @ AIR fasteners

Specialty items: Hand engraving throughout the bike by Pascal Davayat.

Credits: Thanx to the following for making this build happen: Johnny Hernandez Jr, Martin Castro, Gil Fabian, DAG, Ride Wright, Caltron, Ducmonster, Wolfman, The Spitfire Crew, and my dad, who I have been lucky enough to spend every day of the past 23 years with. “I'm sure watching me play with motorcycles wasn't what you had in mind, but we both knew I wasn't gonna be a doctor.”

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