Will even wrote a piece about this dilemma of motorcycle versus art on his blog and here’s a piece of it. “The artistic form of the build must absolutely follow the engineered function of a motorcycle. You have to build a bike first! If function is thrown out the window in lieu of artistic expression then we are simply visual artists constructing metal sculptures. If someone wants to construct a metal art piece that exaggerates the form of a motorcycle while departing from its function the way Pablo Picasso painted content while departing from visual form, then by all means misalign the wheels, build a frame with no downtubes, engrave every inch of metal, and leave the fluids out. Then, stick it in an art gallery like MoMA (not a motorcycle show) and call it what it is, an impressionistic representation and an exaggeration in form. Go ahead and be an artist, but don't call yourself a builder if you can’t build a bike that rides straight hands-free at 100mph!”
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise then that this tidy little bobber should not only have Lawrence DeSmedt’s sensible sensibility of what makes a bike fun to ride, but the functionally clean lines that followed under the hands of a skilled builder with good taste makes for a show winner too. Yes sir, Dead at 19 just won 1st place Retro Mod at the IMS Ultimate Builder US Championship in Indy so that part’s done and if you bothered to check out the video, you know it’s a rider and not just on a technicality. That bike looks like it would be a blast to scoot around on and the name wouldn’t even bother me as I’m so far past that it wouldn’t count.
Starting with a basket case 1981 Harley FXW (according to Will - must be an FXWG technically), Will whacked off the cast iron neck and chucked the rest of the frame while he made a whole new rigid frame out of chromoly tubing with geometry and dimensions to make a fine tarmac terror. Rolling stock consists of perfectly-sized (my opinion) aluminum-rim laced wheels by HDW with reasonable rubber circling them. Will also poured on the brakes and that’s fine by me. I like mechanical things and a purposeful rotor and caliper has a pure mechanical beauty of its own. It also moves it one step away from living in Poserville as it gives the bike a release-the-hounds-with-anger attitude.
The 80” Shovelhead not only got the innards rebuilt to a fare-thee-well, but the outards as well. There’s now a wicked shiny finish emanating from the engine compartment that no factory Shovel ever had as OEM. The engine and tranny is like one giant bedazzle with a magneto hanging off it and a set of pipes that are doing their own version of Milton Bradley’s Chutes and Ladders. You’ve got to look through the shiny bits to see all the intricate design work on various brackets and pieces throughout the engine and tranny. Same goes for all the controls too especially the shifter.
Bodywork started as flat sheet metal that ended up worked into the shapely fuel and oil tanks you plainly see. The way the tank’s mounted allows for plenty of fuel and range just like a real road bike while the oil tank blends in nicely. The style and tint of the paintwork is almost a bit of a shocker at first. I had an old ’64 Triumph TR4 that had a similar hue of blue called French Blue that I never knew if I really liked at first, but boy did it grow on me. Surprising how that happens. I guess as we tend to go safe at first when it comes to making a color statement. The combo of white and light blue shot by Brian and Emeric Howell of RGW with striping by Danny Taylor really works here without shouting “Hey look at me I’m trying too hard to be different!” at you. It’s different, it’s cool, and it probably caused a brief discussion when the first paint chips were shown, but now I can’t imagine it any other colors. The only thing I can imagine is what fun this must be to ride. Somewhere in Southern California there’s a new owner who’s going to be sitting on the air bag suspension seat with leather covering by Warren Ramsey and riding the pee out of it and couldn’t care less about my jealous fantasies. Good for him and I hope he enjoys it for all it’s worth.
For more info on Will Ramsey’s Faith Forgotten Choppers, please visit www.faithforgotten.com.