Knuckle with a Twist

Written by  By Buck Manning and photos by Steve Deitz/ Model - Lindsie Varva Tuesday, 24 October 2017 07:00
Published in Vintage
Calling somebody’s custom bike derivative could be a good way to see how quickly they can rearrange your facial features. Everybody’s pride and joy is their pride and joy even if it’s a blatant copy of some other builder. Like any form of art or music, it’s hard not to be influenced or even possessed by what’s been produced by others before you. The thing that can be funny about this (at least to me anyway) is that some people could make a (insert builder’s name)-influenced custom so  exact that it looks like an authorized clone while they deny being influenced by that builder or that they just don’t see what you’re talking about. Others, like Steve Peffer of Steel City Choppers in Butler, Pennsylvania, could care less and take a potentially volatile comment like “You seem to be influenced by Indian Larry. . .” as a compliment.

Part of Steve’s cool, no-ego attitude could be that he, like a lot of us, holds both the work of and the man himself in high regard. Like that famous Harley saying, “If I had to explain, you wouldn’t understand,” if you were ever lucky enough to have spent even a few seconds chatting with Indian Larry, watched him on TV, or got a close-up look at one of his bikes you no doubt can understand. Steve’s close encounter with the man takes it a step further than most of us. “I drove toNew York Cityin a ’56 Chevy panel truck without a license to hang out with him ‘cause I thought he was the best in the world. He took me in and really taught me different things as an artist. He could see my bikes as an artist and taught me more intricate things I was missing at the time,” said Steve. “Spending time with him was unbelievable, he was a gentleman. He was definitely inspired and I think he changed the world of motorcycling.”

The backbone of this bike called Twisted Knuck is an Indian Larry Legacy twisted downtube frame with a closer to sportbike 30-degrees of rake for the nimble handling Indian Larry demanded of a bike. “Quazar [the eventual owner] had been collecting high-dollar parts for years like the Accurate Engineering Knuckle motor, the BAKER 6-speed trans, and what I think are Landmark wheels,” said Steve. “He contacted Indian Larry Legacy and got the frame and was going to have another shop build it, but he spoke to me at a show in Sarasota and asked me to build the bike. We ended up turning it around and built it in six months.” 

Obviously a highlight of that half-year build is the 113” Accurate Knucklehead engine based on an S&S bottom end with what many consider Harley’s prettiest engine ever. “They’re great, they’re very responsive. It’s like having a brand new Knucklehead,” said Steve. “The Knuckle has a sound of its own, it’s really deep. Shovels are really cool, Pans are more tinny, but I think a Knuckle is just the ultimate. The power is equivalent to a similar Evo so you’re not losing a thing with Accurate’s Knuckle.” Steve whipped up a set of “shotgun” pipes using Evo pipe flanges for the double-barrel look that not only looks cool, but makes sure you hear that neat-o Knuckle noise. The Primo belt primary sports ’46 Knucklehead tin where billet once was and spins a BAKER’s 6-into-4 trans with a kicker hanging off it. “I think the ’46 tin makes the bike. If it had the billet piece on it, it wouldn’t be the same,” said Steve. “Kick starting it not’s bad once you have it warmed up. That’s the way real motorcycles should be started.”

There are many other Indian Larry touches like the twin Question Mark discs, the twisted springer, Paul Cox’s unique Rigidaire air-ride seat, mini-apes, Mustang tank, steering damper, and more. Where this bike takes a turn of its own is Steve’s flat black and 23-carat variegated gold leaf paintjob. “Being in the sign business, I do variegated gold leaf for signs and I use that medium in my motorcycles also. I love the twists coming down in variegated gold leaf, it just reflects colors in so many different ways,” he said. “I used hexagon gold leaf stock instead of square stock which gives it a craftier, more elegant look.” Steve’s simple white pinstripe perfectly bridges the gap between the flat black and the gold leaf and keeps one from overpowering the other.

“It’s a real nice bike. The acceleration is unbelievable, I love the Paul Cox suspension seat, and the brakes let you stop on a dime,” said Steve. “It went together really well and it was great using the best of everything. It was a pleasure to build and it’s a pleasure to ride.” 

Up Close: Baker 6-into-4 Transmission

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Burt Bacharach! Oops, wrong guy, I guess I was channeling Austin Powers. Let’s take that again. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Bert Baker!  That’s better, sorry. Mr. Bacharach has had a steady stream of hits like The Look of Love, What the World Needs Now is Love, and What’s New, Pussycat? to name a few, while Mr. Baker has had his own steady stream of hits like his 6-speed, 7-speed, and 6-into-4 transmissions to name a few. It’s easy to get them mixed up as Bert Baker of BAKER Drivetrain is the Burt Bacharach of transmissions.

Bert’s innovative and tough as nails 6-into-4 transmission is a direct replacement for the old 4-speeds found in Knuckleheads, Panheads, and Shovelheads. Thanks to the Guru of Gears, you can have both closer spacing between gears for keeping the engine on the boil and an overdrive for highway cruising (500rpm reduction at cruising speed) cutting wear and tear, vibration, and increasing gas mileage. If that’s not enough, there’s the option of tailoring the gear ratios to suit your needs. But wait, there’s more as it’s also available with or without the 1936-1984-style kicker with a sassy polished brass pedal and a conventional mechanical kicker cover or an extra-cost hydraulic kicker cover. Bert’s greatest hits keep on coming with a choice of finishes from raw, show polished, and wrinkle black. If that’s not enough options and finishes to match your style, well I couldn’t imagine what you’re up to (Honestly, do you really need a 7-into-4 in a Shovelhead?), but I’m sure the nice people at BAKER can help you out.

Get more info on all the made-in-the-USA BAKER products at or call 877-640-2004. 

Builder: Steel City Choppers

More than ever, passion is what drives people to keep building great bikes. The days of chopper TV-influenced buyers paying wicked big bucks for bikes they never intend to ride are gone and so are the quick-buck shops that catered to them. Either the remaining good shops have retrenched and tightened their belts to produce rideable, reasonably-priced customs or individuals with an income from other occupations are running a dead serious hobby/business that hopefully supports itself while taking care of a builder’s need/passion to create mechanical art. Steve Peffer of Steel City Choppers in Butler, Pennsylvania, falls into the latter category. I have a sign shop [Classic Signs and Graphic] and I’m a graphic artist. I do signs and graphic art to keep the money still going. The motorcycle and hot rod thing is more of a hobby to me,” said Steve. “The signs really slow down in the wintertime and I’m able to spend time building motorcycles in January and February. I can focus on that and it’s great to be able to be this creative. I do it for the passion and love of motorcycles, not for the money. ” 

Being creative doesn’t mean building something just to look at as Steve puts a finished bike through his own torture test. “Every bike I build, I jump on and ride to Key West from Pittsburgh and back with no backup vehicle. That’s what it’s all about, being able to ride the motorcycle,” he said. “I’m real particular. I don’t do a project that’s not interesting to me like some of the barges and crazy bikes you see. I just don’t do them. We try to do things differently. We try and make the bikes stand out, but there’s a lot of gaudiness out their and that’s not where we’re at.” 

More info at or call Steve at 724-679-7633. 



Quazar and Christina

Year/Make/Model: 1946 Knucklehead

Steel City


Steel City

Build time:


Engines: 113” Accurate Engineering Knuckle
Cases: S&S
Rods: S&S
Pistons: S&S
Cylinder: Knucklehead Power

Knucklehead Power





Carb: S&S Super G

Steel City Shot Gun

Clutch:  Barnett 
Air Cleaner: Dish
Transmission: BAKER 6-into-4
Primary: Primo
Frame: Indian Larry Legacy Paul Cox & Keino
Rake:  30 
Forks: Twisted Springer
Front Wheel: 21" Stainless Spoke
Rear Wheel: 18" Stainless Spoke
Front Tire: 21 Metzeler
Rear Tire: 8x180 Metzler
Front Brake: PM
Rear brake: Exile Sprotor
Fuel Tank: Mustang
Oil Tank: Hexagon
Fenders:  Ribbed For Her Pleasure
Handlebars: Mini Apes
Headlight: Paughco
Taillight: Fab Kevin
Hand Controls: PM
Grips: PM
Painter/Graphics: Steve Peffer
Color: Flat Black w/23k Gold Leaf
Polishing: Brush finish

Nate Dog/WirePlus Coffin 

Seat: Steve Peffer

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