Slammin' Southwest Shovelhead

Written by  By Buck Manning and photos by Joe Yezzi Saturday, 11 November 2017 08:55
Published in Vintage
Given a little time, it’s always amazing how your mind can, to paraphrase an old saying, turn sh*t into Shinola and make something you once felt sucked into an object of desire. For instance, take the infamous 1969-1981 AMF era at Harley-Davidson. Buying a new Harley then was a definite crapshoot as AMF’s total reorganization of production along with a decimated workforce and resulting strikes caused quality control problems that almost shuttered Milwaukee’s Vatican of V-twins forever. Back then I hardly gave an AMF-tagged bike a cursory look other than a few particular models. But, there were actually quite a few AMF-introduced features we take for granted on a Harley today. Oh little things like alternators (’70), disc brakes (’72), cast aluminum wheels (’77), electronic ignition (’78), rubber engine mounts (‘’80), Kevlar belt final drive (’80), and a five-speed transmission (’80) to name a few. Or, iconic production models such as the ’71 FX Super Glide, ’77 XLCR Café Racer, ’77 FXS Low Rider, ’80 FXB Sturgis, and ’80 FLT Tour Glide (if your favorite model was left out, I apologize telepathically). I never thought it could happen, but today I look at an AMF boat tail with lust and not disgust.

Joe Yezzi, owner of this sleek 1975 FLH called Low Lucy, harbors no ill will towards the AMF era and said, “I’m a traditionalist, I have an old soul. I like the OEM Old School stuff and I’m a big Shovel fan. I’d rather buy three Shovelheads than a new model. I got no problem putting AMF on the bike, it is what it is. People are now doing anything they can to get the old decals that say AMF on them.”

Low Lucy looks way better than when it popped out of York, but it wasn’t always that way. “It was a basket case I got cheap on Craigslist. It had 16” apes and all the aftermarket chrome on it and everything was either rusted or real dirty, real rat rod looking,” said Joe. “It leaked a ton of oil, but I rode the butt off it. Coming back from The Horse Smoke Out going 90-95 on the thing, it just took a crap on me. When I took it apart at home, the heads and the crank were gone, the tranny was a hair from blowing up ― everything was just shot.” He took what’s left to Highway Choppers in Glendale, Arizona, where it was rebuilt back to stock (and one can assume better than new). And so it began.

“As cool as the bike looked, I wanted to do something different. I took everything off that was aftermarket and replaced it with OEM. Pretty much anything that was chrome, I powdercoated,” said Joe. “There isn’t a nut or a bolt on that bike that’s not brand new. It’s slammed, but it rides nice. I cut an inch off the 11” Progressive shocks and took 2” off new Forking by Frank fork tubes. I can’t go any lower on that thing.” Joe re-chromed the original Harley Italian wheels and rebuilt them with stainless spokes, but went back and forth about what tires to put on them. “I ended up doing the double-stripe Shinko whitewall and really liked it,” he said adding. “I’m a big fan of banana calipers. As much crap as they are, they just bring you right back to the ‘70s.”

Everybody’s got some sort of a style tick and for Joe, it’s fenders. “I can’t stand when you’ve got two fenders uneven, it doesn’t look right to me. Without the bumper that came on this bike, the gap between the tire and front fender is horrific. I lowered it and tilted the front down a little bit. It came out nice.” Thankfully, painting the tins didn’t involve the ‘70s color of choice, brown, but a tasty two-tone turquoise and birch white finish. “I took the Harley Turquoise from ’91 and muddied it up with some black to it. It just gave it that more hardcore look,” said Joe. Josh Prechel of J&S Customs laid on that paint while Craig Henkel did the pinstriping. “It’s hard to see, but there’s a silver and dark gray pinstriping, almost like ghost pinstripes,” said Joe.

The response to the finished bike has been positive. “This bike draws a crowd wherever we go,” said Joe. “I didn’t want people to say, ‘Oh, he tried to restore it and didn’t know what he was doing.’ I want people to say, ‘It’s done the way he thinks it should have come from Harley. Less is more and I’m all about simplistic and clean.” When asked if Low Lucy was just a show bike now, Joe said, “I ride this thing. It’s mainly a bar hopper, but I’ll go 300-400 miles in a day until my back’s killing me. I can cruise at 75-80 and hit 90-95 no problem. It’s like riding a new bike.”

Up Close: Shinko Classic Tires

If you’ve been keeping score on what the current trends in custom bikes are these days, you couldn’t help but notice the amount of interest in building bikes that have their design roots firmly planted in the past. Yeah, I know the term Old School is overused, but lately there has been a serious interest in building bikes that have a vintage flavor of customs of years gone with bobbers, track bikes, hot rod-influenced rides, and bikes like Joe Yezzi’s which might be the equivalent of hot rodding’s restomod  moniker. Sometimes what gets forgotten in any of these builds is appropriate rubber. No I’m not recommending finding and using 40-50 year old NOS tires to be period correct and cool. Damn, I’d be scared to ride tires that old even if it wasn’t my bike.

 Lucky for us there are companies like Shinko producing a modern equivalent of an old classic like the Goodyear Speed Grip. Modern because it’s not only fresh rubber, but with lots of current updates in a dead-on copy of vintage style. Joe used Shinko’s Classic 240 Series dual-stripe whitewall that really gives the feeling of that era where dual-stripes tires like the premium Vogue white and gold stripe tires did for a Caddy back then.

Shinko’s 240 Classic Series are available in dual stripe (each stripe 3/8” wide), whitewall, or blackwall in the popular MT90-16 size with a 4-ply nylon carcass having a modern Aramid (Kevlar) belt on top keeping things under control. Using modern rubber compounds for mileage and grip, these are not just for riding Main Street, but H-rated and good for 130mph. They’re cool, classic, and affordable. How affordable? Well J&P Cycles sells them for a reasonable $85 each, that’s cool by me. Visit www.jpcycles.com and up your cool quotient.  

Builder: Joe Yezzi

When Joe Yezzi isn’t running his Phoenix, Arizona-based company, Yezco Concrete Polishing (www.yezco.com), he’s riding or wrenching on his FLH. It’s no surprise then that when he first got it, he said, “I was going to ride this thing until the wheels fall off and then strip it down to the frame. I couldn’t wait to do it. Unfortunately, it just happened sooner than I anticipated.”

There’s a good possibility that Joe’s also a good boss as he is quick to give praise to anyone who helped him like the guys at Highway Choppers (www.hwcclassics.com) who rebuilt his engine and tranny. “Usually when you’re looking at coffee table books, you’ll see their name in those a lot. They do a lot of museum Knuckles and Flatheads, said Joe. “In the ‘70s, the father of the two brothers who run it now went across the country and bought out every Harley dealer that was having issues. He created the most unbelievable inventory of old Harley parts, it’s like a museum in their old house in Glendale, Arizona. It’s packed to the gills with stuff.”

Bestowing compliments to his painters, Joe said, “Josh Prechel of J&S Customs did a really, really nice job. Craig Henkel is a freelance pinhead and he’s phenomenal. He just comes in and bangs it right out.” But wait, there’s more. “Ralph Dematteo from Oneway Restorations helped me assemble a lot of stuff like hub bearings, inner primary, clutch and getting the motor dialed in, especially the SU carb.”

Joe isn’t resting on his laurels with this bike and is already looking to the next one and said, “Ralph just hooked me up with a bucket frame for a Shovel. I’m just looking for another motor and tranny and I think I have enough parts to finish that bike.” If it’s anything like Low Lucy, it’ll be a rider and magazine worthy feature too.

SPECIFICATIONS
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Owner: Joe Yezzi
Year/Make: 1975 Harley-Davidson FLH
Fabrication/Assembly: Joe Yezzi
Build time: 3 months
Engines: 74" H-D Shovelhead
Cases/Rods/Pistons: H-D
Cylinder/Head: H-D
Cam: Comp Cam SHV-4030
Ignition: Points
Carb: SU (Skinners Union)
Pipes: Fishtail True Duals
Air Cleaner: SU Eliminator 2
Transmission: H-D 4-speed Ratchet top
Primary/Clutch: H-D
Frame: 1975 FLH
Rake: Stock
Forks: Forking by Frank/ Progressive springs
Fork length: -1.5"
Triple Trees: H-D
Rear Suspension: Progressive Suspension
Rear Shocks: Cut to 10"
Wheels: H-D Italy 16x3
Tires: Shinko MT90 130/90-16
 
Front Brake: H-D Banana
Rear Brake: H-D Banana
Fuel Tank: H-D 5-gal
Oil Tank: H-D
Fenders: Shaved H-D
Handlebars: Custom
Risers: H-D
Hand Controls: H-D
Grips: '80s sponge grips
Foot Controls/Pegs: H-D
Headlight: Stock H-D
Taillight: Guide RH 68
Painter: Josh Prechel-J&S Customs
Color: Turquoise and Birch White
Graphics: Craig Henkel
Powdercoating: Radiant
Polishing: Concours
Seat: 25-year-old-custom
Special thanks to: Rob Yezzi, Ralph Dematteo and Oneway Restorations

2 comments

  • Comment Link Monday, 23 October 2017 posted by AC Strickland

    How much are you asking for it?

  • Comment Link Monday, 23 October 2017 posted by AC Strickland

    How much are you asking for it?

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