Spitfire Motorcycles’ Rollin Bones Panhead

Written by  By Jeff Spicoli Photos by Jack “Oh that kind of bones” Cofano Wednesday, 27 February 2013 16:43
Published in Ultra Customs
      Doing this gig for a living makes you a bit jaded about custom motorcycles much like I would imagine Mr. Hefner feels about his job. Hey, as Rodent always says, “What’s the big deal? It’s an engine and two wheels.” That’s true to a point, but I can’t believe that I can still get really excited about a bike as a whole or a wild paintjob or sometimes it’s just a part of or a part on the bike. Take the Spitfire Motorcycles’ custom called Rollin Bones for instance. This very cool and delicately spindly-looking ground-up build by Spitfire’s big cheese, Paul Cavallo, and the Spitfire crew at their Rancho Cucamonga, California, headquarters was built in an extremely short time (40 days?) for the Artistry in Iron Show in Las Vegas, but this was no parts-special quickie with a nice paintjob. Nope, basically everything on this bike other than the tires and engine/tranny were made by Spitfire. Even the 1951 Harley Panhead engine and 4-speed tranny was a total crank-up rebuild, not a modern day Panhead lookalike.


  But, that’s not what got my attention on this ambitious build. It was those very large diameter (26” front/23” rear) wheels and, it was not the very large diameter that caught my attention. Super tall wheels are the current rage and all, but that’s something I could give a crap about for purely personal reasons. Hey, if you love giant rims and dream of the day you’ll have yours, more power to you. Nope, what I really liked about these wheels wasn’t obvious to me at first look, but became the object of my interest after I started to really check out the pics. Man, those things are all multi-piece wheels that are bolted together. I just assumed they were cleverly machined to look like they were multi-piece and with the state of the art machinery out there that wouldn’t seem to be impossible to make it look decoratively like a multi-piece.


    Yup, in the middle of a short build time, Paul whipped up two wheels each containing nine major pieces that really took some serious engineering and a lot of patience to make. First there was a giant wheel blank that the center was machined out of except for some big tabs to bolt the individually machined spokes to. And to do that, a two-off hub had to also be machined to accept the other end of the spokes too. Plus the rear wheel needed a sprocket and brake setup just to add a bit more design and machining time. Why don’t you check out this video for yourself to get an idea of what’s involved. Personally, I was pleasantly surprised this wasn’t slap-dash “let’s build a wheel” effort, but a real engineering exercise.


   As far as the rest of the bike, well I think it speaks quite nicely for itself. Proportions are good and the giant wheels don’t look as cartoonish as one would think if you were having it described to you. It actually looks normal in photos and that’s not a slam, but a compliment as far as I’m concerned. The Spitfire Girder front end is not the first girder ever made, but it’s a nice one with a look of its own and it also fits in well with the minimalist frame tubing. Even the internal throttle-only unadorned bars look like an extension of the frame and fork with not a cable or wire to be found anywhere.


  Kudos have to go out to the only outside people involved in this build. Casey Johnson of Headcase Kustom Art for the really terrific and fun paintjob he did. What appears to be a beautiful yet simple paintjob from ten feet away changes radically in an interesting and involving way the closer you get. You have plenty to look at, but it doesn’t fight with the bike’s overall design for attention. Also, Pascal Davayat of Riff Raff Leather in North Hollywood, California, is responsible for not only the leatherwork on the seat, but the “engraving” on the engine that he refers to as “tattoo engraving” as it’s apparently done like a tattoo but without the bleeding.


  All in all, it’s just another very nice bike from Spitfire. Be sure to check out their website (www.spitfiremotorcycles.com) for more info on their bikes and their extensive parts line.

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