This is Bruce’s Harley flathead 45. I really like this bobber, it has clean lines, and considerable detail. I could look at it all day, and, to be honest, if I owned it, I would probably ride the wheels off it.
I am not quite sure of the year on this bike, according to Bruce, the parts came from everywhere, and since the Harley-Davidson 45 was made over a span of decades, let’s just call this one a “Fifty-Something.”
The color scheme is pretty much straight forward, just four colors, red, black, and, as best I can describe it, a kind-of dark, distressed silver. The only touch of metal flake comes by way of the seat, which has it’s own detail that reinforces the Fifties “Hot Rod” theme of the 45.
There is minimal chrome, the bike’s beauty comes from the natural metal finishes, a well thought out paint scheme and attention to detail. There is no billet, no braided cables, the parts are primarily Harley, or items modified to work on the bike. A good example is the battery box, which is a cut up finned aluminum valve cover. Back in the early days of bobbers, you used what you could find to customize your motorcycle, and Bruce’s bobber stays true to that tradition.
If you look at the “checker boarding” under the tank, you can see the skill and planning of the painter. It flows with the lines of the tank, and where it “dimples” in at one point, it all terminates neatly.
There was no effort made to smooth over, or disguise the years of use. If you look closely at the engine castings, you can see every scar left by miles on the road.
The engine has been rebuilt to stock condition, with the only modernization being to the ignition and electrical systems. Since the last year of production for this engine was 1973, parts for upgrades are still available.
The use of vintage plug wires are a nice touch, as is the drive-in speaker used as an air cleaner cover.
Nothing really jumps out when you look at it, your eye follows the lines from front to back, and everything fits together smoothly, which is how it should be.
Because there is nothing screaming “Look at me!” There is no distraction from the subtile details.
Everything on this bobber just works, from every angle.
The day I shot this series the weather was a bit dicey. It had been threatening rain during the first part of the shoot, and finally, the drops started to fall. Moving indoors wasn’t a big hardship, and besides, we were still waiting on the model to show up.
Our location was an old Sinclair gas station from the Fifties that is used to house the numerous motorcycles and cars owned by Bruce and one of his friends. Now that I was out of the rain, and waiting, I could get back to documenting more of the 45’s details.
The front down tube has an interesting detail, a medallion from an old bicycle, if you look close, you can see it’s a Saint Christopher’s medal.
The fame paint is a type of aircraft grade epoxy, that when you buff it, darkens, and gets a distressed/aged metal look to it.
The headlight is a common teardrop style. If you look at the end of the dog bone risers, you can see the end caps have the classic biker “13.” To be honest, I didn’t notice these until after the shoot, like I said, so much detail to see!
The pipes on this bike are a special fabrication by custom bike and hot rod builder Hank Young. They have some excellent lines, and are certainly better looking than most of the drag pipes that are available for the 45.
When we were discussing shooting Bruce’s bike, he kept insisting that he would only let me if I included, “A good looking girl with tattoos, like in the magazines.” Apparently, he had read one too many issues of “The Horse Backstreet Choppers.” He would not budge on this, so after some looking, I came up with a model. I think she fits the bill, attractive, young, and tattooed, and she doesn’t distract from the shots of the bike at all.
Because she was an aspiring tattoo designer/artist all of the tattoos are of her own design, and very unique.
As far as I know this was her first time as a model, she was easy to work with, always smiling.
The shoot had been held up for weeks while I was trying to find a model, and sometimes you just get lucky. I met her at a wedding, I thought she would be perfect for the shoot and recruited her on the spot.
I couldn’t ask for better, easy to work with, beautiful, and her style matched the look of the 45. She even had a friend that was a makeup/hair professional who came along for the shoot, like I said, lucky.
Our deal was that she would model only if I provided her with detail shots of her tattoos. I was happy to oblige her, as the shoot progressed, it became a little more about her, and less about the bobber.
I love my job! I can think of worse ways to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon.
I have seen many trends in my over Forty years of riding, long front ends, heavy frame moulding, billet, wide tire rears, you name it. Those styles come and go, but, there is something to be said for the classics like the “Billy Bike” from Easy Rider, or this bobber. A good classic custom is never out of date, and when it is as well executed as this one, always a head turner.
This bike was built by Bruce in his garage with the help of friends, only things like paint and chrome were done by professionals. You could build your own classic, one route would be to dig up an old 45 and start with that as a base. Or, a better option, would be to use a Sportster, and combine it with a Road 6 Customs Sportster hard tail conversion kit. Then you would have the modern running gear, the performance, and reliability that comes along with it. Either way you go, you will have your own “head turner,” just like Bruce.
Words By: Terry Cavender
Images By: Terry Cavender