Rene Astengo’s Iron Head Sporty

Rene Astengo is a family guy. Helping his minions gives him great pleasure. His nephew, Benny, approached Rene about building a bike for his high school senior project. Rene thought building a bike was a great idea. Rene wanted him to get an A, so he volunteered. Initially, Rene was just going to supervise the youngster and give him pointers when needed but the two worked side by side for the duration of the build.

Midway through, Rene knew the two had something much more special than a senior project. Rene likes to sell old parts at the Vet’s swap in Long Beach, California. Luckily, there are tons of other gearheads selling bikes, vintage parts, and all kinds of motorcycle knick-knacks. This is where Rene encountered the Sporty. “I was approached by a guy at the swap meet who asked me if I wanted to buy and old Honda and an old Sportster he had in his backyard,” Rene recalled. He bought both. He had never ridden a Sportster in the 20 years he’s been riding and fixing up bikes. His first bike was ’59 Panhead that he got at the age of 19. This Sporty was in pretty good shape so he thought, what the hell? Once he got the bikes home, he and Benny tore into tore the bike down. The only parts kept were the engine, the rear hub, and brake drum/sprocket. Everything else, he ended up selling the next month as the same swap meet.

After going over the motor, the two cleaned it up to brilliant shine. Finding a new home for the engine was the hard part since he wanted to ditch the stock frame. While surfing the information superhighway, Rene discovered his Holy Grail of the build with the early ‘70s Corbin-Gentry frame. It was the perfect frame for the build and he had to have it. He made his bid on eBay, and sure enough, he won! “That’s when the bike became more than Benny’s senior project,” Rene stated, “that frame made it.” When he got it home, he incorporated the stock lower frame tube into the Corbin Gentry because he liked the look of the stock footpegs and kickstand. 

Rene said he usually starts with the frontend and works his way toward the rear to get the bike’s theme to flow right. Nothing seemed to flow. So, he went against the grain by building in no particular order. He modified a rear Sporty fender until it sat just right and he knew it was going to make the rear clean and sanitary when used with the custom-made sissy bar with integrated plate/taillamp he made. He was right. Back up front, Rene wanted to instill the knowledge of doing things by hand like the builders in the past did without the high-tech equipment available today. He had Benny shave the fender mounts off the lower legs by hand. Benny also shaved and filled the triple trees, and the whole batch was sent out for chrome. Also up front is a custom lower bearing cup/fork stop. The front wheel was straight-laced by Buchanan’s Spoke and Rim and the rear spoke wheel setup uses the original hub and also includes the original Sporty brake drum/sprocket setup. For the gas tank, he tweaked it so that it would sit on the backbone with hidden mounts. And for expelling the fumes, a custom set of one-off drag pipes were made. For riding comfort, the seat pan was handmade to handle the bumps and was covered by Francisco Johnson. 

 Rene said the most challenging part of this build was tweaking the rear fender and sissy bar/taillamp setup to fit–there’s always at least one challenge when building a bike from the ground up. Making all the parts he chose for the build and the ones he custom-made flow together was another challenge in and of itself. He lived up to the challenge. “The bike turned out so nice that I decided to go a little further with it, do a little more, and enter the Grand National Roadster show,” Rene said. It took First in its class, and the best part, Benny not only got an A on his project, he was awarded a medal of merit by the school for his efforts. Keep up the good work Rene, and stick with it, Benny!