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Thunder Mountain Custom Cycles 2008 Spitfire

By Terry Roorda

The details are in the double-take

Custom catering to the women in the audience

Looks can be deceiving, and the new Spitfire from Colorado-based Thunder Mountain Custom Cycles is a master of deception. To all outward appearances, this model is an uncompromising full-tilt pro-street custom machine, and it’s only upon closer inspection and upon mounting up that you come to realize that it’s actually been scaled down in certain critical areas to accommodate riders of a smaller—much smaller—stature.

Built upon a stretched-out drop-seat chassis of proprietary Thunder Moun-tain design, the Spitfire boasts a long list of custom bona fides: The front fork is a billet work from American Suspension raked out to 45 degrees, and the rear pulley and wheels on this version—the premium Spitfire C, to be exact—are RC Component units, with a 120/21 tire mounted up front and a fat 240/18 in the rear, both Metzelers. There’s nothing downsized about those elements, and they’re all so pleasingly proportioned on this bike that it’s only on second-blush appraisal that you notice that 74-inch, four-cam V-twin motor—a.k.a, the XL1200 Sportster mill—tucked into the midst. And not only that, but you also notice that the motor is rubber-mounted, yet mated so perfectly to the frame that the rubber mounts are utterly inconspicuous.

The great awakening really occurs, however, when slinging your frame down into the drop seat of the Spitfire. There riders of my dimensions will discover cramped ergonomics, with a tight triangle of seat/bars/foot controls suited to riders of significantly more limited range than myself.

This is a moment of disorientation. The bike looks plenty rangy enough, but is compact in the operator compartment owing to the handlebars—another proprietary Thunder Mountain design—that reach way back, and foot controls that are positioned about halfway between what would conventionally be midmount and forward-mount configurations. It’s a less than ideal setup for bossing around a bike with that much rubber and rake, requiring me to work around my own knees and elbows to get things done, and the difficulties are compounded for me by the Screamin’ Eagle Heavy Breather air intake used on the Spitfire C model, which hits my long right leg in the side of the knee.

Now take all of those complaints of a 6′4″ rider and translate them to the diminutive distaff dimensions of North edition editor Shadow, and a different story emerges, indeed. The bike fits her like tailored goods, and all of the control issues the cramped riding posture holds for me are suddenly control virtues with her in the pilot’s seat. It all makes perfect sense, as you can see from the photos here.

Thunder Mountain Customs is unique in their segment of the industry in relying extensively on stock and catalog Harley-Davidson components, and the Spitfire is no different from the Big-Twin offerings in using stock controls, gauges, brakes, and powertrain. That’s especially true of the base Spitfire model, the Spitfire B, which comes with bone-stock black grips, switches and foot controls. That model also uses laced wheels instead of the billet jobs and an open-element Stage I air cleaner, and those economizing measures bring the model in at a list price of $19,995. A cut above that is the Spitfire T, which adds the RC Components parts, and adds $2,000 to the price. The Spitfire C pulls out all the stops and does some extensive dipping into the P&A catalogue. Chrome grips, switch modules and footpegs are affixed as well as the aforementioned Heavy Breather intake, presenting a thoroughly completed custom package for $23,995. Common to all models are the basic chassis/powertrain/suspension components as well as the delicious paint schemes offered on the machines. Thunder Mountain performs all of their paint operations in-house and currently offers eight basic motifs, each hand-executed in elaborate, flawless fashion. Whatever design you go with, it’s included in the base sticker price so there’s no up-charge surprises lurking there.

Other design details of special note on the Spitfire are an oil bag devised by Thunder Mountain to tuck back under the drop seat—inconspicuous, but with a full 2.5 quart capacity—and a Baker Drivetrain-engineered motor pulley that’s offset sufficiently to get around that 240 tire, while still utilizing the stock pulley cover on the motor, albeit with a subtle spacer. The fender struts used on the bike are from Heartland USA and feature docking slots for attaching Heartland’s innovative Second Seat passenger pillion setup—a setup that suspends the seat slightly above the fender to preserve the paint finish beneath, and comes with an integrated sissy bar for a stylishly finished appearance.

A curb weight of just over 600 pounds combined with a claimed power production of 83 hp make for a real firecracker of a ride, and one that lacks completely the pronounced vibration levels associated with many of the big-inch solid-mount pro-street offerings on the market. It’s an attractive package and uniquely suited to the custom-minded consumers of limited vertical stretch who have found themselves underserved by the industry at large. Not that’d you know it at first glance.

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