Custom 1963 Harley-Davidson FL | Show-Time Contradiction
Stepping out of your comfort zone to build a beauty
It started with an Instagram post I saw about Ivan Snodgrass selling a roller that he pulled out of a garage somewhere near Louisville, Kentucky, and was letting it loose to free up some room in his shop. The stance in the photo was absolute perfection. You just don’t see bikes with profiles that perfect every day, and I had to have it.
The bike sat in my garage for a couple of months, and I didn’t really plan on doing another bike for a year, but then three months before Born-Free 7, I just couldn’t keep looking at it. I used a ’62 motor to do all the mockup fabrication that I planned on using for the bike, and although the bike came with a frame, controls, front fork, and wheels, by the time I got everything laid out and my design direction sorted, it was nearly impossible to use anything—even the frame—without a complete overhaul.
After several weeks I managed to wrap up the fabrication enough to focus on the frame and tank specifically, which was the priority in order to get the bike to Denis Babin so he could work his magic. After its arrival in Dana Point, California, my lack of “effectiveness” at bondo became glaringly obvious, and he had to graciously finish what I had started. A week later, Denis began what I consider to be one of the greatest paint jobs in the history of motorcycles. Not only was it perfect for the bike, but it was absolutely perfect for the vision. We shared photos daily of the progress, and as the whole thing unfolded before my eyes via iPhones from 1,200 miles apart, I began to see all of my showbike chopper dreams becoming a reality.
It was absolute perfection from start to finish, but the pressure was on to get the frame and tins back up to the rainy state. I still had 10 days and shipping was only two days in transit from Dana Point, so that left me eight days to get the frame up, cleared in my shop, assembled, and shook down. In less than two days I would find out a lot of things—not only about this particular motorcycle but the beauty of this amazing country of ours coupled with my own personal threshold for pain.
Riding this motorcycle was unlike any other experience I have had to date. When the only suspension on a bike is the air in the tires, you feel the road in ways that at some moments can leave you speechless—and not in a good way. We f—king made it. More than 1,200 miles in three days on a bike that most people think shouldn’t go farther than the trailer to the podium.
I could go on forever with more stories that unfolded on the road, but the highlight was simply riding the bike I spent hundreds of hours putting together into the greatest show on earth and leaving with the Best Chopper award at Born-Free 7. That is probably my proudest moment to date with these old bikes, and although it’s never a necessity to get appreciation for anything I do creatively, it sure was nice to ride home to Seattle with that aluminum plaque strapped to the front of the handlebars.
“Contradiction” (or “Connie” for short) was the most appropriate name because I have always made fun of guys who do fancy paint and chrome all over their bikes, but then I ended up building one myself as a way to get out of my own comfort zone. The biggest lesson I learned during the whole process is that you need to have the ultimate respect for the guys building these showbikes from scratch because I have never worked harder or had a more difficult build in my life. Hats off to all the showbike guys out there.
|Build Time||200+ hours|
|Builder||Thom Jones/Jess Wikoff|
|Carburetor||S&S Super E|
|Cams||Andrews J Grind|
|Air Cleaner||Modified Jag|
|Primary||Custom Boot Guard/Open|
|Year/Type||Modified ’49 and ’51 H-D|
|Rake/Stretch||45°/4.5 in. up, no out|
|Front End||Survivor Custom|
|Length||30 in. over|
|Wheels, Tires, and Brakes|
|Brakes||Front mechanical disc|
|Brakes||Rear Mechanical Drum|
|Colors||Base Pearl with Candy Gold w/ others|
|Plating/Polishing||Show Quality Seattle|
|Ignition||Stock Manual Advance|
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