Count's Kustoms: Purple Haze Shovelhead Chopper

Written by  Story and photos by Greg Friend Thursday, 05 November 2009 23:16
Published in Choppers
A few years ago, the bike shop, Count’s Kustoms, was invited to participate in the Artistry in Iron show held in Las Vegas, Nevada, during Bikefest. Danny Koker, owner of Count’s Kustoms (also known as “the Count” in Count’s Kustoms) isn’t afraid to walk his own path and wanted to make a statement at the show he knew the other builders wouldn’t dare. “I wanted to build a genuine chopper in a world of bikes with 300mm tires. A bike that would be respected by guys from back in the day, something more authentic and pure,” Danny said. Considering the show is held in their hometown, they wouldn’t let any detail be overlooked and found a numbers-matching 1977 FXE with a 74” Shovelhead to use as a basis for their build.


The Count’s crew disassembled the ‘70s machine in order to start chopping the frame. Shannon Aikau, Count’s Kustoms’ head fabricator, had a 30”-over Sugar Bear springer front end sitting in the corner of the shop waiting for the right chopper. He planned to stretch the original frame in proportion to the length of the front end and dissected the neck, top motor mount, and the entire rear section of the frame. “I stretched the frame’s down tubes six-inches, the backbone four-inches, and set the neck’s rake at 50-degrees. Then I welded in a rigid rear section, and chopped off all the unnecessary tabs and mounts. The lower motor mounts, tranny cradle, and seat post were left in their original locations,” Shannon said. He didn’t stop there, though, instead of a typical top motor mount, he ran a tube along the bottom of the rocker boxes from the seat post to the left downtube, and chose not to run any kind of gusset within the angle created by the backbone and downtubes for a more skeletal look.

While Shannon was working on the fabrication for the chopper, his father, James Aikau, was rebuilding the motor and transmission. James took the dual-plug-head motor down to the cases and put it back together with all Harley parts except for the Wiseco pistons, Sifton cam, Dyna ignition, and S&S Super E carb and velocity stack. He also refurbished the four-speed, kick-start, Harley trans case with stock replacement gears. “I could never sell this bike because it was one of the last two bikes James put his hands on. He was a close friend and the bike reminds me of him,” Danny said.

As his dad finished up the driveline, Shannon began working with the essential tanks and rear fender. “We had this old Billy Lane tank stashed in the back of the shop that we were having a hard time finding a bike that fit it because it was almost too small to be worth anything,” Danny said. Shannon stretched the rear section of the tank a couple inches and ran the petcock through the backbone to use every drop the tank can possibly hold. Next, he bolted one of their round-style oil bags under the seat area and mounted a thin rear fender attached to the frame a hair’s width above the tire with a custom fender strut that wraps from one side of the rear-axle section of the frame to the other.

A period-correct paintjob was another requirement for the bike, executed by their acclaimed in-house painter, Ryan Evans. “One of my favorite colors is dark purple, but I’m not always into flashy paintjobs. Our goal for the bike was to grab a few more looks and to draw attention to the era-correct details. Ryan did a great job layering the purple base with black and silver pin striping,” Danny said. Once the final assembly was complete, Richard Ross, Count’s in-house upholstery guy, stitched a seat that hugs the lines of the frame and rear fender. A set of Count’s handlebars were attached to the front end as was the H-D brake lever and vintage-style white rubber grips that match the four white spark-plug wires on the left side of the motor. The only billet pieces on the entire bike are the Performance Machine caliper and caliper mount in the rear and a Jaybrake caliper and mount in the front.

“We felt that it was more important to stand out from the crowd with a bike built in a style that can be recognized as something that came from our shop,” Danny said. They didn’t win top honors at the show, but their goals were met; the bike didn’t look anything like the other builder’s creations. “The bike just sounds right; a Shovelhead motor sounding off through long, fishtail exhaust pipes. And it rides great, it’s no long distance cruiser, but it’s a lot of fun around town,” Danny said. “Purple Haze is easily one of my favorite bikes we’ve ever built.”

Builder: Danny Koker, aka The Count, Count's Kustoms

“I’ve got a great team working for me. I wouldn’t want to be working with any other guys,” Danny said. When Danny said that, it was obvious that he meant it, the people he has working in his shop are like family. Another testament to the family-like atmosphere is the lack of employee turn around at the shop. Every time a person visits their rig at a show, many of the same faces that were there five years ago are still there now. “Shannon is an incredible fabricator, working with him is so easy. We’re always on the same page, if I ask him to make something he always hits the mark,” Danny said.

The shop has been in business for about 13 years, but bikes and cars have been Danny’s hobbies for most of his life. One of the shops mainstays is their style, but they’ve experimented with some of the industry trends. “We’ve only built one really wide tire (280mm) bike for a customer that begged for it, but we’ll probably never do it again. The widest we’ll build now is a 240, but we generally suggest 200mm rear tires for any customer looking for a wide tire look,” Danny said.

Their style hasn’t changed, but one thing Danny said when he started the shop was that he’d never build production bikes, but the industry has drastically changed since he made that statement. “As Sugar Bear has always said, most of the production customs look like Easter eggs. But because of the media frenzy (and Harley’s lobbying), it’s harder to survive with just a custom bike shop. We had to get a legitimate manufacturer’s license and tons of liability insurance to stay in business. Once we had the license, we figured it was in our best interest to do something with it and now we have two production models, the Lane Splitter and the Nub,” Danny said. Check out the Count’s other customs and production line-up at or call them at 702-733-6216.


This bike feature originally appeared in Barnett's Magazine issue #64, September-October 2008.


Bike Name: Purple Haze
Owner: Count's Kustoms
Year / Make: 1977 HD FXE
Fabrication: Shannon Aikau (Count's Kustoms)
Assembly: Count's Kustoms
Build time: 3 Weeks
Engine: H-D 74" Shovelhead
Cases/ Flywheels: H-D
Rods: H-D
Pistons: Wiseco
Cylinders/ Heads: H-D
Cam: Sifton
Ignition: Dyna
Carb: S&S Super E
Pipes: Santee
Air Cleaner: S&S 3" Velocity Stack
Transmission: 4-speed H-D
Primary: BDL 2" belt
Clutch: BDL kevlar
Frame: H-D modified
Rake/Stretch: 50-degrees/ 4" out, 6" up
Forks: Sugar Bear 30" over
Rear Suspension: 18PSI
Wheels: American Wire Wheel
Front Tire: 21" Avon Speedmaster
Rear Tire: Vintage 4x18"
Front Brakes: Jaybrake
Rear Brakes: PM
Fuel Tank: Count's Kustoms
Oil Tank: Count's Kustoms
Fender: Count's Kustoms
Handlebars/ Risers: Count's Kustoms
Sissy Bar: Count's Kustoms
Headlight: Drag Specialties
Taillight: Drag Specialties
Hand Controls: H-D
Foot Controls: V-Twin Jockey
Electrical: Count's Kustoms
Chroming: Chrome Zone
Painter: Ryan Evans/ Count's Kustoms
Color: Candy Purple, black
Graphics: Silver leaf, black and red pinstripping
Polishing: Chrome Zone
Molding: Ryan Evans
Seat: Richard Ross
Interesting Custom Items: Numbers-matching frame and motor
Special thanks to: James Aikau, Transmission and Motor Builder

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