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Thursday Edition

The Little Red Chopper, Part 2

All the Players Step Forward

By Kent Weeks and Tom Young with photos by RFR and Sil

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This gets more bizarre by the week, or year, maybe decade. We published Part 1 not long ago, but perhaps this is part 1. Although, if you read the first episode, you will encounter the long back story behind a brother, a veteran who had a chopper dream through many stages and years. Then there’s the story behind the builders, models and photographers involved in this process. It’s all good, fun, sexy and Chopper Nirvana. Enjoy.


Harvey came to me by way of John Peek, who runs Full Throttle motorcycle shop in Houston, (one of the most successful, top-gas bike racers in Texas). Harvey recently moved back to this area and didn’t have anyone to help with the custom metal work he wanted to have done. John knew I was a certified Heli-Arc welder doing steering-neck and rake-and-trail modifications on choppers and had designed a custom steering neck which had internal steering stops. Harvey had several ideas for the bike he wanted built for himself: It was going to be a chopper, which was a vision from his early days. . . an iconic, California custom, rigid-frame Harley-Davidson chopper!

When Kent Weeks and I met Harvey he brought us a pair of fatbob gas tanks, a funky old hex oil tank and some other parts that didn’t seem to go together, including a rear fender which in no way resembled the style I had envisioned for the rest of the bike.

To get the look I wanted in the rear fender of Harvey’s little red chopper, we cut slices into the sides of a flat fender, re-radiused it to the tire and then welded the cuts in place. Next, Kent and I welded ¼ inch round bar-stock onto the outer edge to give it ‘the look,’ and used my usual bar-stock supports to hold the fender over the wheel.

Originally Kent and I mounted the twin tanks, installed flush mount gas caps and set them up with coil pockets. The pockets allowed us to hide the coils from sight. The coils would mount to the frame with cut outs in the gas tanks one on either side. A trick I had used and passed on to Kent and some of the other guys I’ve worked with over the years.

Harvey brought an engine, too, which we were forced to use for a short period of time. Unfortunately, it was an early version 100-inch RevTech Evo: not really what I’d pick for the heart of a classic American chopper! I told him “Harvey, it takes as much time and effort to hang an ugly part as it does a good-looking part, so why don’t you let me help you pick out the parts needed to make a chopper you’ll be really proud to own and ride.”

He said, “Well, I got these parts cheap, and I can’t sell them on the internet because nobody wants them. So, I thought I’d just use them for a funky chopper made from old, used parts.”

I told him, “That doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. If you’re going overseas to fight for our freedom, so we can keep on riding our bikes, drinking beer and shooting pool, I’ll build you a custom chopper you can be proud of . NO CHARGE!”

By the time that promise was made I was already getting away from bike building and focusing more on specialty welding in the oil-field industry. Harvey’s bike, however, was a great project very near-and-dear to my heart. It was a project that aroused a genuine passion in me, because it was being designed and built for a true and deserving friend!

I built several custom choppers in my day, including one for myself back in the mid-‘70s while living in Southern California. I developed an intense passion for bike building from being around jockey-shift, rigid-frame choppers. I was an accomplished TIG welder, and my experiences in California along with the first chopper I built for myself, strongly influenced the style I incorporated into Harvey’s bike, but I’ll tell you about MY bike another time.

For Harvey’s bike we found a’69 Pan/Shovel FLH running bike and sold everything but the motor and tranny (we later discovered the ’69 was built the same year Harvey graduated high school). We had the motor rebuilt by Hal Cort, who ran a mechanic shop, had a pro-fuel, nitro-burning drag bike and earned a #1 plate in AHDRA sanctioned races.

Here's the glide and engraving version covered in the first article with Adea.
Here's the glide and engraving version covered in the first article with Adea.

In order to give this bike the look of the original West Coast style choppers, with their engraved timing covers and rocker boxes, I enlisted the well-known talents of a pin-striper named John, aka ‘Lunch Box’, who was old school when it came to engraving and was the only one I knew of who did that type of work. On close inspection, you’ll notice that the raised effect of the floral design is actually achieved by removing the metal from around the design. This technique makes the design stand out and gives it a raised look. It is expensive and requires more work and planning than most people imagine, but it is so much more impressive and if you ask me, it is well worth the time, effort and expense it required!

Instead of having an inner primary, I fashioned a custom primary support out of a ¾-inch round bar-stock, the back side of which I shaved flat to go around the alternator side of the motor to the transmission. Man, that was a lot of work but worth the look!

For the front tire I wanted more of a narrow fender, so Kent and I found a bicycle fender that was the width needed to just cover the top of the front tire. We incorporated the usual bar-stock, fender supports to hold it in place.

It was time to fit the new gas tank to the frame of this bike. We cut new pockets in a Sporty tank and fitted the right side with a single coil and we used the left side for electronics. Rubber mounted on the bottom, we relocated the petcock, new flush mount gas cap and a little skirting on the sides trimmed with ¼ round stock to carry on the look.

(If you look closely, you can find Kent’s ‘devil tail’ worked into the metal above the motor mount when he went in to revise some things during the final build).

See the first story for some of the details Tom mentioned in this story:

Darryl Briggs and with the lovely Dayton and the original springer version at the Galveston, TX show.
Darryl Briggs and with the lovely Dayton and the original springer version at the Galveston, TX show.

The gas tank was now in place, and my work on this chopper was nearing completion. All I had to do now was build a seat and design a custom tool box. I used an English wheel to get the shape I wanted out of a piece of aluminum with a ¼-inch piece of bar-stock welded around the edge to give it a nice rolled look. I had his seat pan chrome plated and then the edge finished with cross-stitched leather: it was real long on looks but short on comfort! (LOL) I had designed a custom toolbox that was hand-crafted out of 4-inch diameter aluminum tubing, cut in half. Both halves were hinged together, covered with leather inside-and-out, and mounted to the lower triple tree. It turned out great, and honestly looked more like a jewelry box than a tool box!

The original paint work was handled by an old friend Wayne and decorated with bare metal style flames and pin striping by another longtime friend of ours Joe Cartoolow.

The custom-made rotors on this bike were designed and built by James Hall of Deep Cut Rotors out of Colorado.

That’s my part of the story of this ‘Little Red Bike’ except for this final note: Some 15 years of my life, and lots of love, went into building this bike for Harvey, and developed into a true friendship with him and his wife, Maki, which has lasted 30 years!

Master fabricator Tom Young
Master fabricator Tom Young

--Tom Young

And now for the Girls and Kent Weeks’ Notions:

For me one of the best parts of this photo session was getting everyone together because I have known most of the people involved for several years. The First Time RFR and Sil got together for a photo shoot was shortly after I opened my own shop in the old location sometime in 2002 and involved the Black Beauty. Tom felt I was turning his fab shop into a bike shop, so I started Lucky Devil Metal Works down the street.

RFR or Rigid Frame Richard.
RFR or Rigid Frame Richard.

The mechanical restoration and first assembly for the shake down on black beauty was done by Jet at Full Throttle (one of my many mentors). I had done most of the metal work on this one while working with Tom at American Heli-arc. While she was out for paint, I moved so she ended up being the first final assembly in my new shop.

I made a point not to burn bridges, so every now and then I still keep up with Jet and Robert our former painter. We still collaborate on various projects.

With Little red I did not do all the metal work. Tom and the guys did a great job with the some, and it was nearly impossible to see where I stopped and they picked it up. I’ll let Tom fill ya in on some of the original build, I wasn’t involved with that part of the project. I did watch it come together and become quite a show stopper during a chop off event down in Galveston Tx. I ended up hosting the show and had to keep me and my clients from competing. Tom and the guys put together a trophy for me anyway--good times!

Kent and his trophy.
Kent and his trophy.

With this photo project we thought it would be fun to get RFR to take some photos of Sil operating the camera. She has a lot of talents and does everything from photo shop work to working on both sides of the camera so this was a great opportunity to show off some skills and work with RFR again.

Leslie Love Lace with the engraved version in Tom Young's shop.
Leslie Love Lace with the engraved version in Tom Young's shop.

Finding models,

I still do a little metalwork for other shops every now and then and I recently worked with an old friend and Harley tech on a little odd ball Ironhead. Shane, the client in common happens to run a fright factory (purgatory scream park) so I reached out to see if he might know anyone who’d like to shoot with Sil.

Adea Love.
Adea Love.

Craven Sic
Craven Sic

Fortunately, he was able to help out with that, one of his fright guys Craven Sic (Fx artist, body painter, horror model and actor extraordinaire)

Well, he just so happened to be engaged to the wonderful “Leslie Van Lovelace” who just happened to be a well-seasoned accomplished model.

   Leslie introduced us to her fantastic friend “Adea Love” who is also a talented model and fun to work with ( )

They are both members of the Houston Luscious Ladies, a philanthropy Pin up group where with their other members share the love of pinup, cool stuff, custom cars, motorcycles and helping others (I’m not sure it gets any better than that).

The shoot went down fine, aside from the fact that true-to-form I was late hahaha. I was doing some break-in service and a couple adjustments on Little Red before the shoot and decided to just ride her down to Tom’s shop, a good ride both ways! Though, as with any full build or custom restoration, there are still some minor adjustments to be made and a bit more break-in to do, but she sure is doing well and with the 6-n-4 and the modern starting/charging systems there are no worries about getting where you want to go and getting back!

Tom knows quite a few people who are into custom bikes and classic cars from working metal and welding for a few decades (and having a true hot rod heart), so he also called up some friends to bring a few cars by for the models to climb on and we got some good shots of Tom’s ‘58 Chevy, while we were at it (and it helped keep everyone busy until I got there haha!)

Ty Thomas (a local car builder, grey car 333 ) and Tom Massimin owns the GTO and the '32 ford ( Tom Young and the guys @ American Heli Arc did some work on the '32 )

Tom’s oldest Son Alex has become quite a talented guitar player and was lucky enough to find a good group to work with “Zellous hearts.” They practice in the shop a bit, so he and his band mate Cheyenne stopped by to see how things were going so we got her to show off some of her fire breathing skills.

I rarely get out of the shop, almost all projects get bigger in some way and often times, I give away my free time to try and help someone or to keep things moving with short and long term projects. Needless to say, once again I was overdue for a field trip, and it was good to see everyone in one place. I had a great ride back up to magnolia and even a better time hangin’ out with Good Golly Mrs. Holly when I got home!!

Kent and his lovely wife, Holly the magnificent.
Kent and his lovely wife, Holly the magnificent.

Good golly, Mrs.Holly...


American Heli-Arc
Click for action.
Click for action.

Lucky Devil Custom Motorcycles
Lucious Ladies

Click for Models
Click for Models

Full Throttle Custom Motorcycles

Click for action.
Click for action.

Scream Park

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Reader Comments

Love this story. I was an oil field welder many years ago.

Bill May
Nashville , TN
Wednesday, October 19, 2022

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