At Barnett’s Magazine Online, we have lots of photo galleries that are defined according to a type or style of bike ranging from baggers to bobbers and everything else in between. Sometimes it takes a bit of brain matter to figure out where they might fit in the best as some bikes kinda overlap categories. With today’s feature bike, there wasn’t a millisecond of thinking involved ─ chopper. I mean if you asked somebody who was or wasn’t a motorcyclist to describe or maybe even draw a chopper and I guarantee you it will look like the profile of this bike. Well, maybe they’d be a few different details, but it would just as fantastically retrolicious as this straight out of the ‘60s and ‘70s chopper.
I wish I could feign surprise at finding out that Rhett Holley of Butcher Chop in Dry Fork, Virginia, was the mind and soul behind this build. But, after seeing his other work including a feature Barnett’s ran on Rhett’s tidy little Shovelhead bobber last summer, it was no surprise to me that this young, talented builder with the soul of a vintage guy turned out something so classy. Crazy classy, but classy nonetheless. To me, that’s what those old machines were all about and I’ve come to appreciate them for what they are, not what they aren’t. They’re more art than anything else and I’d rather have an art piece like Rhett’s build in my house to stare at than a painting, any painting, any day.
How do I say it other than the build was straightforward using the best lines of back in the day and the skills that Rhett’s learned along the way. No, I’m not saying this was an easy build, far from it, but that Rhett is not only a student of the times, but that he respects it while having some fun with it too. Something this outrageous and this flashy just looks like the fun’s about to happen. To whom? I don’t know. When? I couldn’t say. But if ever fun was gonna break out, it would be around something as cool as this chopper.
It’s hard to believe that this vintage chop started out as a 1984 Harley-Davidson FXRS as there’s very little they have left in common. Harley’s Low Rider was already pretty custom for the times, but like everything else Harley, it’s never enough. Rhett’s impossibly delicate rigid frame casually sets the tone for the build with smooth lines and nothing out of place. Other than a few necessary mounting points, the tubing is quietly unobtrusive other than giving a feeling of movement even at rest. Aiding and abetting this feeling is the raked out springer in deep chrome with twin teardrop headlights mounted vertically to enhance the appearance of height. Rhett’s chassis and springer were a perfect platform to build around and it was up to him to screw up the build trying too retro hard with too many details, but Rhett is a man of uncommonly good retro taste. As you can easily see, that didn’t happen.
For wheel choice, there almost wasn’t a choice but to go with the old standard of a 21-inch spool front wheel with a straight-rib front tire and a 16-inch out back with a vintage Firestone-style tread. Although it may be hard to believe, but back then calling up your dealer and asking to order a custom billet wheel would have been met with silence or laughter. The range of stuff we can just buy now is mindboggling compared to making it yourself back when. Out back there’s a single disc setup that provides what stopping power is needed when the bloom comes off the rose so to speak and owner John H. Hyatt II of Danville, Virginia, decides to spend some quality time on the road with his lovely ride. I doubt he’ll be going too far at a time, but what he does should be little kid fun.
Body-wise, there’s nothing ground breakingly new to report and that’s a good thing. I would be slighting Rhett a bit if I didn’t give kudos to his interpretation of the classic Sportster tank. It’s kinda Sporty-ish, but the thinness and the roundness belie any Sporty tank I know. It just looks lovely sitting there on the top tube and is a wonderful styling cue with a look all its own. There’s a nice bit of classic kit with the horseshoe oil tank and simple rear fender doing exactly what they used to do and that’s why we like ‘em.
I’m sure I’m wrong, but I thought that all 1984 FXRS were powered by the brand new Harley Evolution motor that basically saved the company. But, apparently that’s not the case as this absolutely stunning Shovelhead that’s been dipped in chrome sits front and center. To get one of these now 32-year-old engines to look this pretty is a lot of work to say the least. It looks surgically clean. I do appreciate that Rhett chose the smart move of not overdoing it and chrome the cylinders for show duty. I’ve always loved black cylinders against chrome and this contrast could blind you on a sunny day. But the highlight for me has to be those awesomely insane, chromed extravaganza of exhaust pipes that are on a journey of their own before letting loose right at ear level. Between the engine, tranny, exhaust, wheels and springer, there’s a lot of bling going on, but it looks right.
You can’t have a retro bike without a retro-style paintjob and Rhett knew exactly the guy he wanted to paint this up for him, Jason Hancock of 33 Kustom Kolor in Chatham, Virginia. In a word or two, Jason nailed it. The metal flake purple fade paintjob with white pinstriping creating panels within the fade is a killer. It says swinging ‘60s without having to shout it and I like that. There’s just enough going on to add character without taking any away. Sometimes painters try too hard for this look, but Jason, as I said, nailed it.
Same nailed it goes for the “Gadzooks! Now that’s a King & Queen seat.” The person responsible for this towering colossus of seating is Jordan Dickinson more widely known as Pineapple Jay of Union Speed and Style in Monticello, Minnesota. She is a thing of beauty just like the rest of this bike and is possibly the sexiest K&Q seat I’ve ever seen. It’s slim where others are ballooned and it fits the lines exactly. Even though a K&Q seat is about as nutty as you can get (don’t ask me how I know how weird it is to sit that high), it couldn’t be a better choice for this build. Jordan kept things simple and that was the right way to go as the shape of the seat itself does the talking with no need for idle chatter on the covering. A bit of piping augments the lines with a touch of pleating and that’s it.
I’m a hopeless custom motorcycle romantic who can’t get enough of this retro movement we’ve been seeing pick up a little custom steam lately. You can’t be a motorcycle freak without getting a bit of heart flutter when you encounter something like this for real. Back-in-the-day builds like this were shots across the bow that something new and different was happening in the custom world and that’s continued with all the different flavors of the month since then. But, every now and then, it’s sure nice to take a nostalgic trip back to simpler times like this bike represents and revel in it. And, it’s sure nice that there are people like Rhett Holley and his Butcher Chop shop who take this fun stuff seriously so we can just kick back and enjoy the good times.
For more info on Butcher Chop, check out their blogspot or catch ‘em on Facebook.