On the other hand, there are builders like Ron “Chop Doc” Harris of Chop Doc’s Choppers in Waterford, Michigan, that clearly know what Old School is and how to properly bring it to the table. If you thought our feature bike built by Ron back in 2005 was actually from some long ago time period, well you’d have good reason to think that. Ron is a third-generation body man and painter and possibly more importantly, a third generation motorcyclist. Yeah the guy’s got history and this bike proves he’s got the licks to pull off a “real” Old School custom without being tacky or themey in any way.
If there ever was a classic Old School engine, it’s gotta be a Panhead as far as I’m concerned. Ron’s choice of a Panhead-style motor was probably never given a second thought on this build as that’s what was powering most Harley choppers back in the day along with the always beautiful, but rarer Knucklehead. Frankly, I don’t think I ever actually saw a Knucklehead chopper back in my day, but I did see Panhead after Panhead. At the time this was a pretty late model motor that had a reputation for running and running and if it didn’t, it was easy to fix. The blue collar motorcycle riders of the day wanted a bike to ride whenever they wanted as well as look cool. Score one for the loveable Panhead.
When choppers were choppers, those same blue collar riders didn’t buy a custom frame out of a catalogue, but true to form, chopped the shit out of what they had. Nobody I know or even heard of sent their required dimensions off to a frame builder and got a brand new piece back ready for mockup. They stripped down the old stocker and hacked and whacked and welded until it was wild enough to start bolting on possibly some of the few and often expensive (for a blue collar guy) aftermarket parts that were available like the elemental springer front end on Ron’s bike or the tiny and I mean tiny drum brake on the front wheel. These itsy-bitsy drums fulfilled the letter of the law in some states that required brakes at both ends and also made a decent hill holder for these foot clutch/hand shifter choppers.
Ron’s got the Sporty-style tank jauntily mounted exactly as I remember them and probably has the same gallon and a half capacity all my friends ended up with at that angle. Sure looks just peachy, though. Same goes for the Ron’s choice of a Bates-style pleated seat. Nobody I knew built a seat and had it covered in hand-tooled leather. It was either a vinyl Bates solo or maybe the grand daddy of them all, the towering, awe- inspiring King & Queen tufted vinyl seat that looked wild, but was the most painful thing to spend time on. Other than that, it was a chopped up stocker with something stretched over it.
But, when it came time for the motor, owners didn’t screw around back then and this is where the money was often spent. Wild was the way to go with intake and exhaust systems that were the standout features in those back in the day chops. Ron obviously has his finger on the trigger on this one with a dual carb intake that is the focal point of this build as far as I’m concerned. From the lovely cast dual carb manifold making possible the fitment of what I think are Cobb’s Custom curved intakes mounting a set of fore and aft Mikunis to possibly the most outrageous wrap-around and wrap-around again until you aren’t sure what is what capped with the happiest set of intake-plugging balls with MOONEYES decals for eyes that look like crazed finger puppets instead of the world’s longest velocity stacks. That is one roller coaster of a carb setup if I’ve ever seen one. Kudos to you Ron.
Same goes for the dual exhausts with a look reminiscent of a couple of mortars and the sound to match up near a rider’s ears. A touch of header wrap bridges the gap between old and new although I never ever knew anyone that didn’t take pride in their always outrageously long chromium exhausts. Plus the chromed spike cap nuts scattered throughout the bike could have been the difference between a winner and second place in a bike show back when groovy was groovy.
Ron capped it off in a perfect period paintjob that sure looked like the sign of the times. Few custom painters existed back then and it was either paint it yourself or try and get somebody in an auto body shop to spray whatever they had left over or if you were feeling really rich, you might buy some paint that never came on a stock bike. The all-baby blue was something that wouldn’t have surprised me then as anybody who painted a bike really wanted you to know that the bike had been painted. Ron’s artificially aged paintwork only adds to the illusion of this being a found bike instead of a (sorta) recent build. Points to Ron on that one.
All in all, Ron Harris did a great job of interpreting what a real Old School bike might have looked like back in the day. From one end to the other, he’s got it going on. With the experience of three generations of bodymen and painters and motorcyclists, I expect nothing less than Old School perfection and that’s exactly what I got. This Old School chop got my blood flowing like crazy so I’m gonna hop on my new Sportster Low and go to Barnett’s to get some leather tassels to Old School it out. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
For more info on Chop Doc’s Choppers, click on http://www.chopdocschoppers.com/.