Bikes from the Freakin' Fringe

The Gilded, the Billet and the Fugly: Bikes from the Freakin' Fringe

story by Paul Garson, Created Feb. 14, 2004
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Deep from within the bowels of the Bad Bikes Gone Wild archives we present ten motorcycles that run the gamut of "What the fu..?"

All sizes, shapes and dispositions and all caught on film! From a 24-inch knucklehead with a $15,000 price tag, to a Corvette LT-1 powered 12-footer built in a garage, to an "unsafe-at-any-speed" Porsche 911 BMW, to the grandfather of the Segway, and more... we got'em right here.

1. Hogzooooooooom! Shark-Finned Chrevo-Davidson

1957 was the year of Sputnik and fins. The Russkies got their satellite in orbit first, but Chevrolet built a car that would put car buffs in orbit for as long as there are cars and buffs. The '57 Chevy's fabulous fins became an icon in the history of the automobile. Hogzoom echoes that history albeit on two wheels, the shark finned beauty built several years ago by a guy named Vini who worked his metal magic out of a company called Ultra Kustom Cycles located in Riverside, California, an adjunct of an enterprise that built outrageous stretch limos and super plush motorhomes. UKC built one-off cars and bikes for the rich and famous who are looking for the ultimate conversation piece in the form of transportation. In this case, after artist Bob Thrash laid his sketch on Vini's drawing board, and Hogzoom became a three-dimensional prototype in a scant two weeks. Endowed with the classic styling of the '57 Chevrolet Bel Air, Hogzoom was powered by an S&S V-twin. From pencil point to fire-breathing reality, the project required a total of only 62 days while the actual wrenching time took less than half, 23 days. It drew mega-attention from day one.

The Russkies got their satellite in orbit first, but Chevrolet built a car that would put car buffs in orbit for as long as there are cars and buffs.

Its flawless metalwork was hand-sculpted from aluminum and 18-gauge sheet metal, the result of a team effort by Ultra's staff of past masters including Beamer, Rice, Rey, Jim Powel, Tennessee Joe and Al Helland. Beneath the gleaming metal and paint, lies a 1995 S&S 80 cu. in. V-twin powerplant mated to a 5-speed transmission. While White Bros. came up with the exhaust system, the drive train is nestled within a custom frame created by South County Cycle, wearing a 35-degree rake. Enhancing its pavement-hugging profile are 16-inch RevTech wheels shod with Kenda rubber.

And that rear taillight? That's a genuine '57 Chevy piece. House of Color came up with the special pigments required for such a masterpiece, formulating the candy red and pearl white paint that so accurately echoes the color scheme of the original '57 Bow Tie car. While Chevy rolled thousands of their cars, there's only one Hogzoom!


2. The Unway: Distant Relative of the Segway
The cover of the Brookstone Holiday 2003 catalog featured the Segway Human Transporter, a potential historical moment in transportation, or merely a footnote, that's yet to be seen. What you see here is perhaps an evolutionary branch of something along those same lines, albeit one species of vehicular transportation that may be limited to a single example. Unlike the real Segway, this one doesn't fall over, when the batteries are low.

The Unway as we call it was spotted at the El Camino Bike Show and Swap Meet a couple years ago, catching the eye of this rider/writer, always on the lookout for the novel, the nostalgic and the noctiluscent. Obviously genetically related to dragsters as indicated by the beefy rear tire, the vehicle may well be a steroidally enhanced version of those electric and gas-powered scooters seen whirring or buzzing around often piloted by kids holding a skateboard just in case.

However, the Unway, powered by what appears to be a lawnmower engine concealed in the nicely executed aft compartment, is a stout machine by all accounts.

Standing at the handlebars, the hand controls well-positioned, one feels comfortable and balanced. A look back at the beefy rear tire and think Christmas Tree... and a quarter mile rip down the local dragstrip. Call it the Segway Challenge Series... all powered scooters welcome.


3. The Bike that Carl Vogelbilt: Electra Cruiser

That's a lotta juice Carl Vogel of Vogelbilt Corporation in Oak Beach, NY built the prototype for his electric powered motorcycle as an engineering school project, a fully functional model unveiled on May 15, 2001.

While it requires no exhaust system, the Electra Cruiser produces its own signature sound similar to a supercharger's whine but is basically rigged for silent running, in effect a stealth motorcycle. Specifications include a top speed of 80 mph and 0-60 in 6.8 seconds, a 5-speed Baker right side drive and hydraulic clutch, wide glide front end, and a frame custom built to handle ten batteries. What makes the bike truly unique is Carl's patented rear drive train. Basically, the whole drive system is part of the rear swing arm and includes transmission and electric motor. This design enables the entire frame to be dedicated to housing the batteries. Curb Weight: If you have to ask, you wouldn't understand.

Says Carl: "It was my belief that a one of a kind vehicle could be built using simple and innovative designs." The result is a unique, rugged, retro looking design that's well-balanced, comfortable, and fun to ride. Best of all, it's a ZEV (Zero Emissions Vehicle) using only batteries as its source of power."(Of course, generating the power to charge the batteries and the act of disposing of old lead/acid batteries produces emissions and toxic waste -Sean) 

Says Carl: "It was my belief that a one of a kind vehicle could be built using simple and innovative designs."

It can be charged either by 110-volt or 220-volt, and in an ironic reversal during the recent East Coast power failure that darkened much of New York, Carl literally plugged his electric bike into his house and powered its appliances and lights while his neighbors shook their heads in envy.

You can see Carl's creation on the Discovery Channel featured on the Eco-Trekker TV series where it will travel over 1000 miles across the country. "The goal of the Eco-Trekker Tour and TV series is to provide ecological knowledge through entertainment. We're happy to be a part of it," says Carl who by the way is ready to build you your own Electra Cruiser. Projected price when available is $15-35,000. For more info, and to HEAR it run, log on to http://www.vogelbilt.com/ or call 914-736-6225.

4. Two-Foot Knuckle: The Incredible Shrinking Man's Custom Harley

Think of them as Faberge eggs in the collection of a Russian Czar, priceless bejeweled creations, but now add wheels. The description aptly fits what surely is the ultimate motorcycle "model," although that term hardly applies to the mind-bending creations of Don Nowell, master craftsman in miniature. These quarter-scale, museum quality motorcycles with working components take a degree of dedication long since placed on the endangered species list. Don, with years of experience restoring Pebble Beach winning classic cars as well as racing dragsters at the other end of the spectrum, brings a passion verging on, well, lunacy, to his art. Let's just talk nuts and bolts... like the 152 itsy, bitsy tiny bolts Don uses for each bike. Building the frames was at least, if not more, difficult than making a full-size one. After a painstaking R&D period, Don bent the raw tubing, fabricated fixtures to hold the frame, then milled and mitered all the joints. Try welding with a magnifying glass.

Amazing! As for the engine, Don made the prototype components from 6061 aluminum billet utilizing his well-equipped shop's milling machine and lathe. He then linked up with a foundry that was able to take the molds off the engine, cylinders, transmission, and carburetor. You have your choice of engines including an Evo Big Twin or a Knucklehead. As with any custom bike, you have your choice of show-quality color schemes.

Let's just talk nuts and bolts... like the 152 itsy, bitsy tiny bolts Don uses for each bike. Absolutely Amazing

This labor of love began in 1994 when Don conceived the idea, then required 13 months from a blank sheet of paper to the first finished example that debuted at the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. Extremely rare and unique, the Don Nowell Design motorcycles are for a very special clientele, the price $15,000. For those that must have the very best, these works of motorcycle art make a statement about the pursuit of excellence. Testimonials? The Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company purchased one to be placed on display in their new museum.

For more information, contact Don Nowell Design in Granada Hills, CA at (818) 363-8564 or log on to http://www.donnowelldesign.com/.


5. Feloniously Fast: "Lethal Injection"

"I could steer with one hand on the tiller." Hmmm... tiller, what else has a tiller? While not convicted of any crime except being monstrously fast and street legal, "Lethal Injection" is another blast from the past, first launched upon the L.A. freeways several years ago by Los Angeles resident Hayden Hamilton, its sinister name derived from the fact that its Chevy big block was fuel-injected. Humbly describing himself as a garage mechanic, Hayden fabricated the 300 horsepower Corvette LT-1 powered two-wheeler literally in his garage. Tipping the scales at 1300 lbs. and stretching 12-feet across the pavement, "Lethal" can propel you from 0-60 in two seconds flat and reach a terminal velocity of 220 mph. And for all its ferocity, it provides a respectable 25 miles to the gallon plus the amenities of an automatic transmission and reverse gear. Moreover, it is indeed street legal! "I could steer with one hand on the tiller," said Hayden, commenting on the smoothness of the acceleration.

Hayden, who learned his skills as youngster while working at his father's gas station, designed the 2-inch thick chroOh man, this baby just loves the Streets of Willow. The tighter the track, the better. moly frame, hand-formed the aluminum panels, and even routed the three on-board computers. "I like to tinker," he said when discussing his road-conquering leviathan.

The engine and tranny bolt right-up together, the Chevy mill forming a stressed member of the frame. Hayden transferred the LT-1 power via a right-angle 1:1 drive used for a conveyor system's converter. "Another off the shelf part, nothing special," shrugs Hayden. The front end is a Harley FLH Wide Glide, the swingarm assembly ordered from Boss Hoss, builder of V-8 bikes. Progressive Suspension created the shocks capable of handling the bike's unique characteristics while dual discs up front and a racecar brake on the rear handle deceleration.

"You have to treat it with respect, especially since I eliminated the factory rev limiter. Along with the traumatic powerband, there is a steep learning curve to handling the machine," explained Hayden. "Particularly the 40-foot turning radius. And you do have to parallel park. But once you're up and running, it's smooth as silk, without any flicker of vibration. You could drive it from L.A. to New York without a worry, except for the motorists who get a little too close for comfort just to get a better look."

The ultimate road rocket? One thing is for sure, there are no training wheels.

6. Got Wood? Burling a Harley

Scott Roussel carved a niche for himself, in the motorcycle collectibles scene. First off, no rainforest was decimated in the production of this motorcycle so don't go calling the Tree Hugger people. San Diego, CA-based Freedom Collectibles has managed to combine the magic of motorized vehicles with the warmth of wood and offers over 150 replicas of airplanes, automobiles, military vehicles, ships, spacecraft, even musical instruments.

After buying his son a couple of the handcrafted vehicles, Scott Roussel realized that other people would probably be just as fascinated by the creations as he was. Locating their source, literally dozens of artisans scattered throughout the islands of Indonesia, he was able to link up with them and bring their creations to the United States

Fashioned from luxurious teak and mahogany woods and highly detailed, the pieces range in size from desktop to garage size, literally life-sized reproductions including full-scale vintage motorcycles like the Harley-Davidson requested by a European customer who wanted his pride and joy converted into wood for his living room. Fashioned from luxurious teak and mahogany woods and highly detailed, the pieces range in size from desktop to garage size.Upon receiving an order, Scott utilizes computer CAD/CAM technology to precisely record the dimensions of the project vehicle either from archival materials or in the case of a custom vehicle or a extremely rare one from photos supplied by the owner. In a unique twist of Eastern handcraft meeting Western technology the replicas are then created by an Indonesian artisan and shipped to the customer's home.

Endless possibilities for unique works of art are thus made possible. For example, someone's always dreamt of owning a Crocker or a 1903 Harley-Davidson or a six-cylinder Honda racer. Now they can and at a fraction of the cost, and it won't even drip oil onto your carpet. But imagine a full-sized, highly detailed and beautifully finished mahogany or teak wood Indian 4-cylinder or Norton Manx or Ducati 750 Super Sport or whatever bike you can imagine... Freedom Collectibles can create it for you. Prices range from $5,000-$10,000 or more for special projects, say sidecar rigs. It will take several months for the artisan to hew your bike, but the end result will be the ultimate in the Motorcycle as Art. In addition, a portion of the sales goes to benefit TAPS, a program for the families of U.S. military personnel lost as casualties in Iraq. For a closer look at all their wooden replicas log on to http://www.freedomcollectibles.com/ or call Scott at 619-933-5800.


7. Porsche-Powered Beemer: Da Bomb

  Once again, If you have to ask......  Bill Getty runs TRC Engineering, source of classic Brit bike parts in Perris, CA. He deals in all kinds of classic and vintage bikes, from basket cases to psycho cases. Case in point this bizarre BMW/Porsche combo.

"What was the name of the first Atomic Bomb? Yeah, the Fat Boy... well this is it in bike form."

It's the extreme weight, so much of it concentrated on the front wheel, and the high center of gravity. You start with a really expensive bike like a $6000 BMW and a really expensive car like a $15,000 1966 Porsche 912, mash them up together, and you have The Bomb, which is worth about $1,000. A brilliant concept."

There is a measure of method to the madness. Bill explains that the Los Angeles company that built it back in the 1960s, Continental Motorcycles, actually did a very professional transplant. Besides the Porsche power plant, most of the bike is a stock Beemer, including the Earles forks, seat, gas tank, wheels, and brakes. Same HP but 4x the weight, where else in the motorcycle industry have we seen this trend?

Stuffed into the converted R69S frame, is a flat-four cylinder 912 series 1582cc Porsche engine fitted with 911 heads and dual down-draft Solex carburetors. Riding impressions? "Plenty of them," says Bill. "Most of them very scary. The first impression is the weight, it's extremely heavy feeling. Compared to a stock BMW, it's like riding a hippo made out of solid iron ore. The steering is more like docking the Queen Mary than riding a motorcycle. The engine makes tremendous torque from right off idle. As soon as you begin to accelerate, it's terrifying. The first feeling is a complete lack of control... maybe like riding a torpedo. The suspension is so stiff it will only react to something like off-roading in the Grand Canyon. No, it's definitely not a cushy floater. When you're riding it, the concussion registers on the Cal Tech seismometer."

What about Da Bomb's ergonomics? Says Bill, "That word wasn't in the dictionary when this thing was conceived. The carburetors stick up right where you knees want to be. Not only do you get cooked kneecaps, but the rear exhaust pipe sticks right out at the footpegs, and then curls down and roasts your feet."

Final Word on da Bomb: All in all, a veritable nightmare but with an adrenaline factor that somehow numbs you to the terror.

Bill however was able to tear himself away from the bike and it has passed onto other, hopefully, strong hands.
8. Not Your Grandfather's GoldWing: Ultimate Budget Custom Chopper

The creation of Oregon-based Keith Wright Enterprises, this custom metric monster is called "Old Wing." The similarity to Honda's famous "GoldWing" is no accident. What you see here is an evolutionary diversion that takes the classic "rolling sofa" to a whole new dimension.

You start with a late 70s or early '80s or '90s Gold Wing, which you can find for as little as $1,000 in very good condition since literally thousands of them were sold. The bike seen here has at its core a 1980 GL model that includes an engine legendary in power, smoothness and durability. Keith Wright then adds his magic in the form of a kit that relatively quickly, and very economically, transforms a conservative cruiser into an audacious, raunchy and intimidating looking boulevard blaster. 

It's not your father's Oldsmobile The basic kit consists of a special rear frame section and modified Harley flat side gas tanks. The stock frame is reconfigured to seven degrees over handlebars from a Huffy mountain bicycle, and a taillight from a '74 Volkswagen. In addition, the headlight and turn signals are off-the-shelf pieces available from the Custom Chrome catalog. The seat and front fender are stock Harley parts, the kind often found as swap meets for a fraction of their original cost as are the 19-inch front and the 17-inch rear Nissin wheels common to Honda Hurricanes of 1980s vintage.

Old Wing's "exotic" exhaust system was based on the stock GoldWing pipes plus a set of wicked looking Basset marine collectors. It makes for a menacing looking assemblage that also produces a very distinctive exhaust sound similar to a T Rex in a bad mood. What you see here is an evolutionary diversion that takes the classic "rolling sofa" to a whole new dimension. Exhaust envy, anyone?

The Old Wing/GoldWing conversion kit is both easy on the pocketbook and easy to put together so if you're handy with tools and a spray can, for about a grand you'll have yourself a whole lot of bike for a whole little money. Call it an "Old Wing, " "Wild Thing," or "Winged Thing," you'll be riding a machine that draws plenty of first class attention. 

For more information contact Keith Wright Enterprises at 541-269-1347.


9. Batman's First Bike? Spryl Frontwheeler

Tracing the genealogy of the Spryl would require Detective Columbo, but it appears the motorbike was sold through or by the American Brake Shoe Company, Kellog Division, Rochester, New York. American Brake Shoe apparently made railway car brakes.

Some years ago, Mike Stratos heard about the Spryl when his roommate told him that the next door neighbor had a strange machine gathering dust in his garage and it was love at first sight, Mike quickly swapped an RZ350 for it.

Mike's friend happened to be an automobile paint and body professional, and because he liked the two-wheeled oddity, said, "If you restore it right, I'll throw on a paint job" Now even more motivated, Mike set out on the great search for Spryl parts, which is like finding a liver donor for the Loch Ness monster.  Beautiful!

Eventually he did locate pieces documenting their correctness by an original 1950 Popular Mechanix blurb illustrating the machine. The story claimed 3 hp for the horizontal two-stroke, 100 mpg, and further promised "the cyclemotor turns any bicycle into a motorbike in fifteen minutes!" That might have been a bit optimistic. However, the Schwinn bicycle frame which accommodated the Spryl motor, was the same as the pre-stamped frame specifically built at the Schwinn factory to accept a Whizzer engine, the most popular hybrid of the time.

Mike set out on the great search for Spryl parts, which is like finding a liver donor for the Loch Ness monster.Am I the only one here who wants to buy an antique Schwinn and a Spryl motor?

The Spryl is quite easy to fire up and ride. Mike has cruised the bike up and down the beach areas near his home where the Spryl always attracts a crowd. Riding Impressions: Since the sprightly Spryl is a front wheel drive contraption, when you give it gas going into a corner, you need to use the front brake; then as you exit the turn, hit the gas and release the brake, and you trundle off.

Mike was clocked by a car for a verified 40 mph and reported that the Spryl's ride is smooth and stable, but is directly proportionate to the road surface, and recommends that going around a corner at 40 is not a good idea. However, he also adds that for a two-stroker the Spryl's engine is surprisingly smoke-free. All in all the design is a unique blend of charm and '50s technology. Have you hugged your Spryl today?


EBass has arranged for the MO staff to have an outing on a pair of pocket sidecars at the local go-kart track. Stay tuned for a tongue-in-cheek riding impression. 10. Taking it to the Minimum: Micro Racer

Last but not least we offer up a punctuation point to round off our ten bikes from Beyond the Fringe. Size does matter and this mini-sidecar "kneeler" looks so cute we wanted to pick it up and pop it into the trunk of our car. But the owner caught us so we had to settle for just a photo.

Motorcycles come in an infinite variety as varied and fascinating and eccentric as the individuals who dream them up and set them down the road for the rest of us to ponder and wonder... and the world is a more interesting place for their efforts. Keep'em coming!


 

 

 

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