Could This Flathead Chop Be More Traditional?

Story by Alvoris Vambrosio Photos By Jack “Out Of Town” Cofano
2017-08-29 18:26:23 Published in Could This Flathead Chop Be More Traditional?

   In a word, “No!” If somebody today wanted to build an Old School chopper, you could use this build as the perfect template for a truly traditional chopper from the days when Old School was new school. Although they didn’t label it anything but a chopper back then, it’s Old School in spirit and honesty of design. But, it is the intent of the builder that intrigues me the most. He wanted to build a chopper that wasn’t trying to be Old School, it is Old School. Back in the day, this was a real honest-to-goodness radical chopper and something you really didn’t see too much. 


    Back to that “intent” thing, it’s surprising to see how true the builder stayed to the time with no need to meld a few different eras together along with some modern parts and leave it at that. In its own way, this is like a 100-point restoration of a stock bike only it’s not. It’s a 100-point Old School build at least in what you see. Is the old mellow Harley-Davidson Flathead modified with new S&S internals for better reliability or performance? Don’t know/don’t care as what I can see looks lovely, simply lovely. 

   Whether it was chance or intent, the rigid frame this bike is built on has the ridiculously thin tubing that looked so cool and the lines that have stood the test of chopper time. It’s Old School radical, but still usable as any chopper had to be back then as it was usually also your only rider. Without trying to cause crap, motorcycles were a blue-collar thing then just like hot rods were. You built ‘em, you rode ‘em and that’s how it went. Life was good. 

   Even as a punk kid I knew the best extended fork was a springer, just ask anybody. Don’t ask me how I know the skinny extended telescopic forks would bind and become a solid tube front end. That’s where I learned the word stiction (the friction that tends to prevent stationary surfaces from being set in motion) for the first time. Plus, just like this bike they simply look too cool for school as the kids used to say.   

   Wheels were usually just laced up wheels and that was fine, but every now and then someone had a set of Invaders with their five spoke chromium beauty shining brightly. Remember, these steel wheels were around before mag wheels as we know them were prevalent. In the true tradition, the 21-inch front was brakeless with an Avon Speedmaster MkII the tire of choice. Out back the 16-inch rear Invader has a stock Harley drum brake/sprocket bolted up to it with a classic square tread Avon tire looking like it just rolled out of yesterday. 

   The kick-only Harley-Davidson Flathead looks like it’s about one year old with a bit of street patina on the clean as a whistle engine. No over-chromed/show polished Flattie, just a nice original look to it. The mag is the only bit of chrome bling other than the straight-through, slash-cut dual exhausts and the primary, but at least the mag keeps its cloth covered wiring. The guys I knew didn’t have tons of money for chroming, but they made what they had look good. This engine looks good, damn good. 

  Although the bodywork might not seem radical, it would have been. Just seeing a custom cylindrical like this one would’ve caused my knees to get weak, never mind that wild small twin cap tank. Or that fender that was more than the typical trailer fender with its curving sides and flip-up lip. Yes, there was a time when fender flips were the new thing and this builder was more than happy to incorporate it into his build. 

   Other telltale bits are the always extremely personal, sometimes good and sometimes really bad, sissy bar any chopper had to have. A long, raked front end and a tall sissy bar were essential parts of any chopper build. Here, the builder (who could easily be the owner too) did his take on a trident-style that adorned many a chopper. The difference is it’s radically laid back after it’s done its fender stay duties into a personal twist on an old theme. 

   Drag bars on high risers completes the picture of street-smart cool that can still be easily ridden today. That smartness also shows up in the controls with everything being familiar to a contemporary rider except for the lack of a front brake. No foot clutch and no hand shifter make for a blue collar everyday rider that’s easier and safer to ride today with all the chuckleheads out there. 

   One more smart thing was the sprung solo seat instead of a thin padded seat mounted right on the frame. This might be the only twist to the way I remember them as all bikes were set up for a passenger. And not for my friend Phil, but his sister hopefully. Frankly, this builder knew what he was doing and stuck a nice sprung saddle on there that in conjunction with the tall sidewalls of the rear tire running at very low pressure made for a much more comfortable ride. But, it’s true Old School anyway so no big deal. 

   Where this bike and the builder really had a handle on things Old School was the paint. Honestly, I never saw many all-out crazy paintjobs on the road, but I did see a lot of paintjobs. They were mostly a single color just like this one and may have had to do with what the local body shop or your friend was painting that day. With not a lot of money and not a lot of people who could paint like today, a single color was the way things went. And, that was okay as long as it was a cool color like this one. 

   So as far as I’m concerned, if I was to judge this bike for being truly Old School, I would have to say absolutely yes except for one thing. It’s a little thing and a good thing that keeps this from Old School authentic and that’s the quality of this build. This bike was built to a much higher quality level than anything I remember seeing (and doing) than anything I ever saw when Old School was in session. This would easily have been the best built bike in my city and we had a lot of them all things considering. Transport this thing back to 1966 and this guy would have been the coolest guy in my city. 

   So unknown Smoke Out builder, you get two-thumbs up for coming up with a plan, sticking to it and creating a time machine that travels into the future. Yeah, this chopper isn’t a going back thing to me as much as coming straight out of the past with not a thing there that shouldn’t be. It truly is Old School when it was New School. 

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