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Special K From Cole Foster

Salinas Boys Make Frisco Style Shine

By Bandit with Salinas Shots
6/10/2010 5:23:41 PM

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Cole and susie
Cole Foster and his Bride-to-be, Susan.

I’ll begin this rant with a clear definition of the story direction. If you know me, you know a clear definition ain’t possible, but I’ll give it a shot. I believe that Cole Foster of Salinas Boys Customs, Salinas, California is one of the very best at what he does. I’m not just writing that because he’s a member of the notorious Sinners So. Cal., featured in the first Choppertown DVD, a documentary.

When I mention what he does, I mean that he embraces a custom motorcycle style that only a few touch on, and few handle it as well. So what the fuck am I talking about? That’s hard to define (see!). I would call it an abbreviated and refined Frisco Style. A buddy called the other day and told me that he’s writing a story on the definition of the bobber. Actually that definition would take less than a page to describe, whereas Frisco style deserves a more delicate response. Ya see, bobbers were just bobbed stockers for racing in the ‘40s. The Frisco style reached deeper into the custom world, and many Frisco style bikes contained highbars.

Cole with a pan and car old 
This could be considered a bobber, except that the Panhead rear fender wasn’t bobbed. Cole also creates classic car customs.

Before I step on my dick any further, I’ll add a disclaimer. As we slip farther and farther from our historic roots regarding any custom culture, the past becomes a blur, or worse a generalization. To be completely honest, there were probably a multitude of various custom bikes being built by crazed torch- wielding maniacs in Bay Area garages during the ‘60s. But an image has always surfaced in my acid-soaked mind. My vision of a Frisco style is a stock rigid frame, untouched by TIGS, MIGs and torches, except to shave off unnecessary tabs. It’s a narrow, well-handling, minimalist, ride-able chunk of iron that’s capable of handling narrow, winding, wickedly steep, damp, Frisco streets.

In the past that meant, narrow Sportster tanks, British ribbed fenders, short sissy bars and shotgun pipes that wouldn’t drag against the pavement. They called for shaved and trimmed springers, 21-inch front wheels, jockey shifts and apes. They were slim, light and agile bikes with sprung Bates solo seats and single Bates sealed beam headlights. They were tight and right for the wild streets of San Francisco. Okay, so some builders stuck with this style, while others took drugs and were swept into the wild psychedelic world of constantly changing customs. But we’re not going there, we’re sticking right here.

Cole grinding

We (Bikernet crew) are going to build a light narrow, small scale, Frisco styled custom for Nyla, the woman of my dreams, with Lucky Devil Metal Works in Houston Texas, but much of our inspiration will come from the Cole Foster style, because we believe in our heart of chrome hearts that he represents the absolute best of this style.

Cole decker with VL front
Much of what we’re planning mirrors this bike, another Salinas project. We’re working with a VL front end, slim rigid, slimmer tank and even slimmer rear fender. Hang on.

King Cole

So that’s why you’re about to see a feature on Cole, Jeff Decker, the board track motorcycle art sculpture and the Salinas Boys. In the July issue of Garage magazine, they called Cole, “King Cole” the builder who rules. Maybe they were right?

cole shop

I spoke to Cole about the bike commissioned by artist Jeff Decker, for Jeff’s wife Kelly, who also rides. Jeff and Kelly reside in Utah and they’ve been friends with Cole for several years. Jeff’s a cohort of the Salinas Boy and a fabricator casting parts for them, including the headlight bucket and the outer shell of the aluminum oil bag that Cole originally designed for Custom Chrome.

Cole confirmed my assertion that this bike is of the Frisco style heritage. “Yep,” Cole said, “It has a stock wheelbase and rake. No mods to the frame, just like a Panhead.”

cole axle plate

With that aspect confirmed I quizzed him on various aspects including the axle plates. “I usually follow pure form and function. Modification are designed to improve mechanical ability but not this time,” Cole said. “This mod trimmed the rear of the low-buck Santee frame and made it look better. That’s all.” Axle adjusters are on the inside of the plates.

cole axle plate2

Cole grew up in the San Fernando Valley, California, or SFV. It was a Mecca for the blue-collar class mechanical minded. Jammer grew up there, Gary Bang has roots there, Easyriders was started in the offices of D&D distributors in Burbank. The Satan Slaves ruled the streets and since the sun shined constantly the brothers built hot rods and choppers day and night, year round. “I spent my first 20 there and in ’81 I moved to Monterey,” Cole said.

Cole’s Curt Hammet project ’36 Ford.

Although he has a past with cars, like the ’36 Ford he’s building for Curt Hammet of Metallica, he’s looking to escape the cumbersome 4-wheeler. “I’m hoping it’s my last. I love motorcycles and the ability to display mechanical workmanship on the surface,” Cole said, “not hidden by sheet metal. Besides, a car project can last for years.”

Cole tank top

I asked about the shapely, Sportster oriented gas tank and Cole proudly pointed out that it’s a stock Salinas Boys tank developed for Custom Chrome. “It’s stock out of the catalog,” Cole said.

Cole tank profile

He also developed the aluminum oil bag, but Custom Chrome didn’t pick it up. He took a stock job and designed an outer finned cover and Jeff Decker cast the aluminum mold for the skin. Then Cole built the inner walls out of .120 thick aluminum sheet to be twice as thick as stock for additional strength. When Jeff delivered the outer shell, Cole welded it to the frame and mounted it solid. “We pinched the outside design slightly,” Cole said, “so the tank wouldn’t protrude outside the frame rails.”

Cole left side mock

Cole mirrors my feelings for chromers. “I don’t like the time it takes or losing control of my parts,” Cole said. “I avoid chrome although there’s a plater next door.” He bead-blasted aluminum parts and polished stainless ones, or gave them a Scotch Brite texture. He uses a gun coating called Gibbs to protect bare aluminum. “It works like a champ and won’t collect dust and debris like WD-40. Painters aren’t bothered by it either.”

He made the clutch lever by hand and will ultimately install a front brake for Kelly’s safety. “The clutch lever was CZ inspired out of stainless steel,” Cole said. “ It’s similar to dirt bike levers.” As a side note he mentioned the following low-buck inspiration”

”If I was going to build an inexpensive scooter. I would start with a wrecked Honda CR 500. It has killer wheels (21/18) forks, trees and brakes. Adapt them to a rigid frame with a stock Harley driveline and it would be a sharp Frisco for a kid.”

cole rough nacelle

I need to check out a CR500. Could be another Bikernet project. We shifted to his handmade, 8-piece, aluminum nacelle and headlight bucket that appears to be seamless. It may be inspired by a K-model or Harley Hummer, but this one was hand fabricated from .080, dead-soft 3003 aluminum sheet.

cole filled trees
The top nacelle cap before the riser holes were drilled.

“Forming the ribs close together like that is next to impossible,” Cole said. He also made the sliders out of sheet aluminum. The headlight bucket ring came from a hot rod E&J football-style headlight, then Cole shaped a bucket to fit, which ya can’t see, and Jeff Decker cast it.

lower leg

The Lower legs were shaved and shortened from the top, 1- inch, to insure enough travel before bottoming against the Sportster trees.

cole pipe ends

The exhaust pipes began with stock exhaust flange that tapered to 1.5 inches diameter, then Cole TIG fastened lengths of stainless tubing and finished each pipe with a ring of stainless welded from the inside of the pipe then ground it to have a seamless flowing appearance, as if it was manufactured that way.

The air cleaner takes on that hand-built appearance, but there’s a hidden secret. “One of the guys hit an army surplus store,” Cole said. “He was looking for a threaded cap and found an aluminum military canteen. After he sliced it, I discovered the remnants.” Cole shaped the canteen mouth with another layer of aluminum sheet, bead-blasted it, then polished the fin shape for a new look.

Cole right mock

The rear brake is a drum Euro Components. Cole modified the anchoring system to hide it behind the frame and allow chain adjustment. The ignition/toggle switches are hidden under the frame near the front of the seat. A single Nology coils is tucked under the tank and fires from the Crane 4 ignition. The engine is a bone stock Evo crate motor from Bob Dron’s Harley- Davidson in Oakland, California.

Cole taillight profile

One of the many jewels on this bike came in the form of the rear fender from a ’36 Ford spare tire cover. “I made the rib grow then shaped plastic to form the taillight lens.” As it turned out he destroyed his favorite screwdriver. “It contained the perfect red plastic. It had to go.”

Cole taillight top

The Sportster kickstand style came from Matt Hotch. “It’s the cleanest on the market with a hidden ball and spring,” Cole said. Then I asked Cole about his love life and he gave me shit about being married five times. “I waited until I was 42 to get engaged,” Cole said.

“Okay, okay,” I said. “I’ll just write the story and shut up.”


cole crew assembling

Special K Spec Sheet

Model: Salinas boys “Special K” Rigid Evo

Engine: 80 cubic inch Harley classic

Ignition: Custom Chrome

cole air cleaner

Air Cleaner: Cole Foster Aluminum

Transmission: Harley-Davidson 5-Speed

Primary: Performance Machine

Frame: Cole Foster zero rake, zero stretch

Cole paint tank2

Tank: Cole Foster Distributed by Custom Chrome

Cole paint fender

Fender: Old Ford

cole worker with fender

Taillghts: Cole Foster red acrylic worked into rear fender

Cole paint close

Painter: “Wild” Bill Carter, Chattsworth, CA

Cole paint tank

Headlight: Cole Foster/jeff Decker—Cast Aluminum

Mid Controls: Performance Machine

Oil Tank: Cole Foster Aluminum,

Grips: Cole Foster marbilized, acrylic

cole front end

Fork Tin Nacelle: Cole Foster hand shaped from aluminum sheetmetal

Tires: Avon 21 front, 18-150 Avon rear

cole sinner boss
Sinner boss working around the shop, like brothers do.

Fork Sliders: K-Model Harley-Davidson

Wheels: Aluminun discontinued Performance Machine

cole biker top

Front Brake: None

Rear Brake: Evro Components Hydraulic, Italy,

Pipes: Stainless

Tips: Cole Foster hand made

cole top seat

Seat Pan: Cole Foster

Upholstery: George Atkins, San Jose

Fender Sturts: Stainless “Bicycle Style”

cole 3/4left

About The Salinas Boys Shop

cole straight

Have you been to their website?

cole 3/4right

Salinas Boys Custom car and bikes is a full service shop specializing in customizing your classic car or creating your dream motorcycle. From a full custom rebuild to a smooth chop - Cole Foster’s style is simple and pure, his cars simply flow. For 20 years Cole has honed his skills as a master fabricator. His designs have been featured in numerous magazines and TV shows world wide. Attention to detail and craftsmanship is of the up most importance. Each bike or car is fit the customer’s needs.

cole tank side

A standard custom starts at $40,000. For an automotive estimate, please bring your car to the shop. Based on time and material.

cole top tank

Salinas Boys Customs
1328 Burton Ave A8
Salinas, CA 93901
(831) 424-7753 shop
(831) 776-2423 cell

cole left profile

 Cole portrait

Cole Foster Bio

From Hot Rod Royalty comes classic customizing. Cole Foster, owner of Salinas Boys Customs, has been constructing rolling works of metal art for 15 years. Son of drag racing hall of fame member Pat Foster, Cole creates cars that are so clean they don’t have lines – they simply flow, as evident from the numerous magazine features written on these customs that roll from the bays of the Salinas Boys shop in the quiet California town. At the 2001 Grand National Roadster show Cole left with the Chip Foose Design of Excellence Sweepstakes award from his 1956 Ford F100 Truck.

Cole riding shot
Yeah, he rides ‘em. Chasin’ his girl. Don’t let her get away. He’s now engaged to Susie, the girl in these shots.

Fosters designs have been much coveted by rock stars who are into hot rods. He has built customs and bikes for guys like Sammy Hagar of Van Halen, frontman, Mike Ness of the punk band Social Distortion and currently constructing a 1936 Ford for Metallica’s Kirk Hammett.

Cole in black and white

In 2001 Cole built the blue bike a bobber style motorcycle that promptly set the bike world on its collective ear. The Blue Bike, as it’s referred to, is a tribute to classic styles. The bike was featured on Speed Channel’s “Corbin’s Ride On TV” and on TNN with “Popular Hot Rodding TV” plus no less than 20 magazines worldwide, including Easyriders, Cycle World, Iron Horse and Freeway.

 Cole chop
Cole in Vegas at the Biker Build-Off awards banquet.

Coles design’s are timeless, stylistic and subtle yet making a screaming statement collectively with the final product. Searching for the original designers clean lines of the car before corporate restrictions were placed. Attention to detail, maintenance of pure lines and skillful craftsmanship are the qualities respected by those who have seen Cole’s work. Passionate and obsessive in the pursuit of the perfect custom is what defines Cole Foster the artist.

 Cole miller ad

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Reader Comments

Stuff I know but a very informed article...

Cleethorpes, United Kingdom
Wednesday, July 27, 2022
Editor Response Thanks!
The notorious Sinners? You must not know the definition of the word. notorious because the sinners are just a bike club, NOT a biker gang.
Just a bunch of guys who build cars and bikes, hang out drink some beer and play music.

rob L
hanover, PA
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Editor Response Talented guys, especially Cole.
Hi, I have a 1200 Harley-Davidson Sportster 1996.
I would like to mount a tank Cole foster for this bike.
I would also exclude the template for the 1340 because it will not fit well on my bike.

This tank is that you have a sportster?
I would buy it if it is available and I live in Italy.
You can send it? How soon will I get?
Sorry for the English used but I used the google translator. Thanks and regards Italian

Maglie, Lecce, Italy
Saturday, March 31, 2012
Editor Response Hey,

Don't sweat the bad English. I'm still learning. I think Cole responded to you, but here's his contact info: Cole Foster

All the best with your project. Send us an image, to share with Bikernet readers.

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