Looking over Jack Cofano’s Smoke Out photo gallery of our 1997 Sportster-based feature bike from Chop Machine in Toledo, Ohio, I can’t say any bad things about its period-good-enough-for-me look. Right up front I should say that this bike was built to a price and that’s not a bad thing. We all wish we had tons of dough to throw around on a moment’s notice, but we don’t so bang for the buck is important. This is one area where Chop Machine shines if you could somehow unit price the value of what’s gone on, into, and over this build until you’ve got a ride that’s fun to look at as well as ride.
All the Old School elements are there without trying to conspicuously look like they’re there and Chop Machine laid on a sparkly finish that probably would have made you king shit in most towns back in Old School days. Unlike another Chop Machine XL1200 we recently featured that was a walk on the dark side, this Sporty is pretty glam in comparison. And, that’s not a bad thing as it all ─ the paint, the graphics, the chrome ─ works in total harmony with the overall ‘60s-’70s style.
Chop Machine keeps the design lines flowing as they should by not doing this half-ass right from the start. They started with a brand new Led Sled single-downtube rigid frame with a reasonable, not ridiculous to ride, 2”-up/2”-out configuration that purposely comes minus its neck. Chop Machine cuts off the neck of their Harley XL donor bike and carefully welds that in Led Sled’s ready-to-weld neck area. Viola! Ask your bank, ask your DMV, ask your insurance company, ask whomever you feel you have to ask something to needlessly prove something to and they’ll all say, “That’s a Harley.” Is the work involved with welding a Harley VIN-equipped neck into a frame worth it? Well to paraphrase something attributed to Harley riders ─ If I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand─ I think says it all in only eight words. Smart approach to DMV, Insurance, and bank sanity by Chop Machine.
What I like about this particular bike is not only does it have the coveted Old School look, but there’s an even more important Old School feel when you look at this bike. Probably because this was built with an Old School budget as I mentioned before, when you have to use imagination, skill, and an eye for design in place of piles of money, you end up with a good looking bike regardless of what era you’re going for. In this case it just happens to be a ride that could have almost popped-up Poppin’ Fresh back when Richard Milhous Nixon was at his political peak.
I don’t think this could be classified as a new bike, but Chop Machine tries its best to come close. Besides the new frame, Led Sled Customs provided the seat, rear fender, oil tank, and the chain final-drive conversion (the only belts on motorcycles back then were around the rider’s waist). Poppin’ on a new set of spoked chrome-rim wheels front and rear takes care of wheel problems in barely a finger snap. With Avon Speedmaster MKII ribbed-rubber up front and a Shinko rear tire that looks an awfully lot like a Firestone from the fifties, rolling stock was ready to rock and reliably roll. Now there’s only a single brake, at least it s a disc brake and not a pair of vintage drums, on board, but it might stop as well as something really period correct like mechanical drums or maybe even better. I’m not sure that pulling off the front drum brake back in the day was done for practical reasons as well as looks, they unfortunately didn’t do much anyway. Now that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t prefer disc fore and aft in a heartbeat, but what I want is not relevant here.
After the engine was thoroughly gone through from the inside out, Chop Machine blinged that 1200cc mill out until you could look into the shiny engine cover castings and see Timothy Leary looking back if you tried hard enough. Yup, you could turn on, tune in, and drop out with an engine built for peace of mind instead of a grenade waiting to go off. Making you think a grenade has gone off are the beautiful Paughco Upswept Exhaust pipes which definitely fit the design on this bike like they were made for it. A go-to air cleaner cover for Chop Machine is the louvered MOONEYES classic piece that looks like it should be one of three on Ford Flathead in a fenderless ’32 roadster. Nothing wrong with finding a piece you like, really like, and sticking with it. Shows a bit of emotion and that’s an honest thing.
Bodywork is minimal, no surprise there, but what there is like the peanut tank or the comfortably aggressive rear fender look just right in their white base with goldish/orange flames. Not too much graphics, just the right amount even for someone as flame-jaded as I’ve unfortunately become. It looks good here and I wouldn’t change a thing from the Biltwell bars to the pleated rubber gaiters on the Sporty forks to the chrome shell headlight.
Chop Machine says, “This is a well-built, clean motorcycle. We use only quality parts on all of our builds. This bike looks and rides awesome.” What is also awesome is that this bike is for sale and had a buy-it-now eBay price of what I think is a very reasonable $9,000 that it didn’t quite reach so you’ve got an idea of where they’re at dollar-wise. Contact them on their Facebook page or the Old School way by telephone at 419-260-0067 and make ‘em an offer you both can’t refuse.