In Charlie’s memory, and in the spirit of the great thing he liked to call Motorsickilism, this incredible handcrafted 1961 Panhead Chopper is being raffled for $20 per chance or 6 opportunities for $100.
On Friday, August 13, 2021, one lucky winner will be selected randomly through a third-party source to be the caretaker of Charlie’s legacy. 100% of the proceeds will go directly to the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum in Charlie’s honor.
It is the perfect way to end this story, maybe the only one that makes sense in the wake of such a tragic loss. Help put Charlie into the history books for one last great accomplishment.
Back in 1949, the year when parts of this here bike were born, humans were not even dreaming of becoming space explorers. The world was fresh out of the worst years of its existence, a time when most of the planet’s nations tried to obliterate each other in more or less creative and horrific ways.
They tried to do so by using rockets, too, an invention that eventually helped open up humanity’s appetite for space exploration. After the war ended, Germany’s most prestigious rocket scientists, Wernher von Braun and his Nazi V-2 rocket team, found themselves working for the Americans. Faster than you could say “Man belongs wherever he wants to go,” we went to space, reached the Moon, and sent a small army of rovers to Mars.
The fast pace of space exploration was of course sung in literature and movies, but also on mundane objects such as teacups or T-shirts. And yes, even on cars and motorcycles.
This 1949 Harley-Davidson Panhead is one of the objects celebrating space exploration. It does so by displaying one of the most intricate and detailed custom paint jobs we’ve seen on such a project.
Despite the rather limited real estate available, the bike reeks space no matter where you look: there is a big NASA logo visible on one side, a couple of planets and a self-propelled astronaut on top of the tank, suns, moons, and alien UFOs on the side of the thank, and a fancy human spaceship on the frame.
The motorcycle is part of the larger lot of two-wheelers known as the Legends Motorcycles Museum collection. No fewer than 36 of them, including this one, are going under the hammer in April, during the massive Mecum auction, which is to be held in Las Vegas.
There is no estimate on how much the bike is expected to fetch, but those with a big enough passion for Panhead Harleys and space can boldly go where their competitors cannot, as this one is selling with no reserve.
Fans of old, customized or other types of motorcycles have a major event coming their way in the first month of next year. At the end of January, many of them will flock to Las Vegas, where a Mecum motorcycle auction of massive proportions will be held.
The auction house has been hosting this event for years, and for 2021 we are promised to see 1,750 two- or three-wheelers crossing the auction block in the hopes of earning big bucks for their current owners. Many makes are on the list, but one of the most important is, of course, Harley-Davidson.
Milwaukee-made motorcycles are coming to Vegas either individually or as part of some collection. One of the biggest such packs is that of the Legends Motorcycles Museum in Springville, Utah, with 36 motorcycles owned by the museum’s Rick Salisbury going under the hammer. From Tri Glides to vintage choppers, very few Harley types are missing from the bunch.
The 1948 model featured here is one of the two-wheelers in this special pack. Despite being based on an older model, it is meant to be reminiscent of the choppers made in the 1960s and 1970s, with a raked and molded frame, king and queen seat, and a sissy bar behind it, among other things.
What catches the eye, though, is the fuel tank, which seems to come with a photo of an aircraft carrier. And we do literally mean a photo: not spray- or hand-painted, nor airbrushed on it, but apparently glued to the upper side of the fuel tank, and presently peeling off at the corners.
Try as we might, we were unable to identify the aircraft carrier and get a sense of why it was chosen as an adornment for the bike.
This particular build is selling with no reserve during the auction, and Mecum does not give an estimate as to how much it is going to fetch.
It’s been a rough year for custom motorcycle fans, who, just like car lovers, had no major dedicated event in 2020 – except, perhaps, for Strugis. But that is more of a festival and less of a build display, so novelties were pretty much scarce.
The coming year is shaping up to mark a relative return to normalcy. That means we’ll probably be getting all those juicy gatherings like Mama Tried, Congregation, or Born-Free again. Before this happens, though, the year opens with the Mecum Las Vegas Motorcycle auction at the end of January.
As usual, the auction house is flooding the market with old, vintage, rare, or custom builds. In all, 1,750 bikes are listed for sale, either on their own or as part of collections.
One prominent such display of bikes is by the Legends Motorcycles Museum in Springville, Utah. It comprises 36 motorcycles owned by the museum’s Rick Salisbury, and the 1971 Harley-Davidson Sportster chopper seen here is one of them.
Harley started making Sportsters in 1957 and launched them into the wild sporting four-stroke, V-twin engines, at first from the Ironhead family, and later on using the famed Evolution. Like all other Harleys, it was quickly adopted by custom shops and turned into different things entirely.
The one we have here pays tribute to the custom choppers of the 1970s. It’s raked build makes it look aggressive, though not as long as other bikes of the segment. It also looks extremely fresh, thanks to the warm blue custom fuel tank (hinting to an Indian Larry build) and rear fender that complement the cold of the exposed engine, exhaust, and wheels.
Mecum does not provide any technical details on the two-wheeler, and it’s not venturing into making a guess as to how much it is expected to fetch. What’s worth noting is that the chopper is going with no reserve.
Given all the lockdowns and social distancing measures ordered in place for most of the year, motorcycle shows got canceled or postponed just like everything else. Trying to save face and give custom shops across America a means to vent off steam, Harley-Davidson created The No Show event back in June.
Held online on Instagram and Youtube, it was the perfect opportunity for some 60 builders from 10 countries to show their latest or best creations, builds that would have otherwise risked sinking into oblivion in 2020.
As you might expect, most of the shops taking part tried their best to advocate the projects being presented, describing in detail and at times using big words the two-wheelers we were seeing. But not Tennessee-resident Rusty Perkins, the man behind this here 1968 Shovelhead.
If you thought the title of this piece is some personal opinion on the build, you were wrong. These are the words the builder himself uses to describe the motorcycle: “nothing real special about it, simple, the way I like ‘em.”
And that statement pretty much sums up the American custom motorcycle scene: a great two-wheeler is not what the onlooker wants or expects, but what the builder/owner thinks it’s right.
As all the others in the series, Perkins was given a little over two minutes to present his bike. He uses most of them to give us a seemingly bored rundown of the motorcycle (available in the video below), without actually saying anything about it.
He does reveal the bike was built over a long period of time, using what is described as a “messed-up Shovelhead frame” as a starting point. Slowly, the project was gifted with an engine, the proper wheels a chopper should have, a peanut tank with some flame graphics no one can see without really looking, and a custom exhaust system to die for.
Just like car lovers, motorcycle enthusiasts around the world had to settle for online shows this year. In America, where the bulk of custom shops is located, that was nearly a tragedy in itself.
Most of the nation’s summer events – aside from Sturgis, obviously – were either postponed or canceled. Some bike makers, like Harley-Davidson, stepped in and tried their best to ensure people still have a means to show their creations.
For the Milwaukee-based company, that aid came in the form of The No Show, a Youtube-based series that featured back in June the machines created by 60 builders from 10 countries.
Among them was this 1940 stainless steel Knucklehead, coming our way from Buffalo, NY-based Christian Newman. Built a couple of years back, the bike is the winner of the People’s Champ competition, and the recipient of the prize for best Knucklehead at Born Free.
The build has stainless steel frame and fork, housing the slightly-modified 1940 Knucklehead engine, a narrower-than-usual transmission, and a reworked clutch. One of the most important custom touches involves the way in which that engine gets its oil.
According to the builder, there are almost no hoses on this bike. The oil gets into the engine directly through the frame, via the right-side chain stay, and gets back into its tank through the front downtubes.
Visually, the bike looks like a proper custom build centered around Harley hardware but also blends some elements from the automotive world. The front lens of the headlight, for instance, comes from a 1951 Chevrolet, while the rear lenses (there are two of them) have been taken from Hudson cars made in 1940 and 1941, respectively.
As a side note, had this year’s Born Free show taken place at the scheduled date, Newman says this stainless Knucklehead is not what he would have brought. Instead, the builder was planning to show another stainless steel machine, in the form of a turbo flathead.
Back in 1985, a group of motorcycle enthusiasts from Germany set up shop in Hamminkeln, Germany. They started off as a repair garage for mainly Japanese bikes. The group slowly grew from being what they themselves describe as a “motorcycle shed” into one of the major names in the custom motorcycle industry.
And by custom, we mean Harley-Davidson. During its early years, Thunderbike repaired bikes, but also started toying with the idea of customizing them. Long ago they spat out both Suzuki and Yamaha two-wheelers, with a custom twist.
Later on, over a decade after being set up, Thunderbike decided Harley-Davidson is the way forward, and completely switched focus on the American-made motorcycles. Slowly the moniker became known worldwide first by selling these bikes, and later by modifying the hell out of them, and even launching a full line of frames to house Harley hardware.
Over the past year, we’ve covered Thunderbike’s work extensively. The Germans have literally hundreds of modified Harleys in their portfolio (we’re yet to find a more lucrative shop anywhere else), and they keep on coming, either as client-required modifications, or as special builds for competitions like the King of Kings.
In 2020 the garage is celebrating its 35th birthday. It was only natural for the Germans to come up with a worthy build, made for the occasion. And this is it.
There’s no official name for the motorcycle. Thunderbike only calls it 35th Anniversary Bike, because from time to time they use all of their inspiration for products, and are left with none for names. There is however one word on the bike’s page that would fit it just nicely: Firecracker. So we chose to call it that.
Usually, we would tell you a thing or two about the build. Things like it uses mostly Thunderbike parts, a touch of Harley hardware – including the Panhead engine – or that a lot of CNC machinery was involved.
But we’ll give you none of that this time. What we give you is a video (below) documenting the project (you’ll need about 30 minutes of your life to see it all), because the Firecracker is a bike that needs to be seen, not written about.