Sorry, but it seems most of the motorcycle sweepstakes, giveaways, whatever, are won by people who are not motorcyclists and only want to turn it into some cash and move on to the next sweepstakes. Well, at least it seems that way to me. Either way, you got to wonder if they ever found a good home right from the start or at least eventually. And, that’s exactly what you’re looking at right here, one of the late Joe Camel giveaway custom motorcycles courtesy of the Camel Roadhouse back in 1998.
Much to my surprise, it’s in exceptionally great shape for a custom bike almost 20-years old. Whoever won this or bought this from the lucky person who won it has sure taken exceptionally good care of this time capsule from before Y2K almost ended the world. All I can guess is that somebody (hopefully the winner) was really proud of this bike and kept it as a time capsule as much as a motorcycle. Not a single thing has been changed from its original giveaway form including the famous purple and yellow Joe Camel colors.
No surprise that it wasn’t a Harley-Davidson giveaway bike as this was the beginning of the era when no price was too high for a fresh Harley. Joe Camel turned to the newly formed Titan Motorcycle Company working out of Phoenix, Arizona for his own personal variation of one of Titan’s custom production models which had hit the scene back in 1995. Titan was the first of many to come production custom bike manufacturers using not a single Harley part, but all aftermarket stuff. That doesn’t mean Harley’s ideas and style weren’t copied as the aftermarket stuff made me wonder when Harley was going to fire up its team of lawyers on standby to sue the clone makers. Shockingly it ever happened and the clones were allowed to clone.
Like all the production custom manufacturers of the time, Titan produced a line of customs that tended to include every style of custom currently popular with people who had yet to really experience what has become known as the TV chopper. This little bit of spit is a Softail copy with Pro Street intentions. Sitting low, long and with a mild rake, it fit all the Pro Street requirements with a beefy and short chromed inverted fork. A 21-inch “custom” tri-spoke machined billet wheel (!) up front and a set of custom rotors to match hinted at the power this Pro Streeter must have. Out back a similar wheel design in a 17-inch size carried a big-for-the-time 180mm tire to enhance the performance look. Talk about rad for the time, the big single back rotor sported as many calipers as the dual fronts. Pretty damn rad for the time.
No right-side drive was necessary as it was later as that tire size still made left-side-drive possible. Titan did some more Harley cribbing and even used a Motor Company-style belt drive instead of a more expected chain final drive. The five-speed tranny’s (six-speeds hadn’t been “invented” yet) chain line was just fine with no need to move the engine out of the centerline of the chassis. OMG, that was a strange period when the engine had to be off-set mounted and all the problems that came with that before LSD became a standard for big wheels allowing needed clearance. Things have certainly changed in twenty ears even if they’ve stayed relatively the same.
The Twin Cam engine had yet to make its first appearance as Harley soldiered on with the 80-inch Evo. Titan at the time used big-inch S&S motors from 96- to 106-inches (up to 105hp available) and enjoyed a sizable power advantage. Here, Mr. Camel’s bike is fitted with a chromed Thunderheader 2-into1 exhaust the likes of which we still see as a popular option today. The Carl’s Speed Shop forward facing high-flow air cleaner was cutting edge stuff then and Carl’s is still at it today. Not surprisingly, many small aftermarket accessory companies were initially thrilled to get contracts to supply the custom production bike manufacturers. Hopefully they all got paid at some point when the clone makers all eventually went bust.
It’s funny how the clean bodywork seems kinda boring and not so radical 20 years later. At the time this was pretty rad stuff in a custom production sorta way. One thing that instantly dates this bike is the paint job, but for once it’s pretty cool stuff. The colors are indicative of the times with a funky dark bluish purple base and neon-style leftover colors for graphics. Actually, it was all reminiscent of Joe Camel’s cartoon-style and fit the Camel Roadhouse ad campaign perfectly.
I guess what I find so interesting about Mr. Came’s bike is that it’s a prefect interpretation of what was going on in the custom motorcycle world back in 1998. All the bits from the engine to the wheels and the design style says “pre-Y2K” and that’s cool with me. This bike is like a rolling history lesson of what was once considered cutting edge and now it’s become kinda hip the way I see it. It’s not only a custom from a different time, but it has the late Joe Camel history to go with it. Joe, wherever he is, would be proud.