Howdy! Grab a chair an’ a beer! Ya know, sometimes we all get in that ol’ “makin’ money” rut, an’ forget that sometimes you’ve just got to have a little fun. For me that sometimes means tryin’ somethin’ I’ve never done before, an’ if it doesn’t turn out, either keep at it till it does or toss it on the junk pile an’ walk away. One thing I’ve never done is radically modify a factory frame. Sure, I’ve raked ’em an’ installed a weld-on hardtail section a time or three, but I’ve never just taken straight tubing, a Sawzall an’ a cutoff wheel an’ had at it for the sheer joy of destroyin’ what the factory spent millions to design. I don’t have a frame jig, or anythin’ that fancy, but I do have a laser level, an angle gauge, an’ a pretty good eye for straight. I’ve fabricated a lot of parts like oil tanks, chin spoilers, forward controls an’ a lot of other stuff, an’ for me that’s where the fun is! One thing I hesitate to do, though, is experiment on a factory Harley frame, but the other day I got the perfect candidate handed to me for next to nothin’.
A friend owns a towin’ company an’ he always keeps an eye out for bikes that get towed but not picked up from his tow lot. So when he called me the other day, instead of turnin’ down all the metric stuff, as usual, I went out an’ took a look at the little Kawasaki Vulcan 500 twin he had sittin’ out back. Yeah it was a forlorn, neglected piece ’a crap from the Land of the Risin’ Sun, but what the hell; a lot of builders have been usin’ small metrics an’ doin’ real well with ’em on the show circuit, including Roger Goldammer an’ Lee Wimmer with his recent win at the Easyriders show in Charlotte. (Congrats, Lee!) I swapped some stuff outta my stockpile for the little turd an’ brought it home to begin either its transformation or ultimate destruction.
I want to build something short, low an’ lean that looks like you could stuff it in your pocket an’ walk off with it. I just love the bikes Kraus Motor Company builds, but I never copy anyone’s style, even if I had the skill an’ equipment to do so, which I don’t. I’ll just take it one step at a time an’ see how it turns out. If I really louse it up, I’ll just use the engine in a 500cc, 6-speed, water-cooled 90-mile-an-hour barstool. Can you imagine getting’ a DUI on that thing?
I’ve only built one fuel tank from scratch, but it turned out nice with no leaks after four years of use, so that’s another thing on this bike I’m going to make myself. I’m not gonna get in a hurry since this is a “fill-in” project an’ I’m already building another chopper an’ a ’43 Ford hot rod pickup, but it’s goin’ to be fun to just hack away at this thing without a care in the world an’ see where it ends up. Yesterday I got the rigid rear section built, lined up an’ tacked in place, an’ the swingarm stuff all cut off. Now I have to fabricate the cross bracing an’ rear engine mount supports, then I’ll start on the neck an’ downtubes. Once I get everythin’ all lined up an’ tack welded in place, I’ll pull the engine out so I can access everythin’ to finish the welds. I also have to figure out where I’m gonna mount the cute little radiator an’ electric fan that hung off the front like a wart on a toad’s ass. I have a lot of ideas I want to try for suspension on the seat, an’ maybe even buildin’ my own unique front end. The engine an’ frame together don’t weigh much over 100 pounds, an’ I lifted it down off the welding table with no problem so I suspect that the finished bike will weigh in at around 200 pounds or so, which should make it a heap of fun to ride.
As stubby an’ low as this thing’s gonna be, I don’t suspect I’ll be ridin’ it very much. My old arthritic bones just won’t allow me to spend much time cramped up like a pretzel, but I want it to be roadworthy even if it never sees the road.
At the Easyriders show in Sacramento a couple of years ago, I pointed out to Reggie an extremely ugly (sorry guys, but it is) little Yamaha YZ-490 that someone had radically butcher… I mean customized, then rattle-canned black. I told her I liked it, an’ she gave me that “Huh?” look. I told her that it looked like it was a lot of fun to build an’ would be a blast to ride, at least until after the wreck.
I know a lot of ya are probably shakin’ your heads about now, but after all the years of buildin’ Harleys, Triumphs, BSAs an’ other bikes, I think it’s time for some low-buck fun so I’m cuttin’, weldin’ an’ fabricatin’, an’ tossin’ the scraps out the door. After all, isn’t that what buildin’ is all about?