That 70’s Show
Zane’s wild chopper raises the bars.
We first got to know Zane from his work at Burleigh Bars.
The high-quality handlebar maker is a long-time supporter of HEAVY DUTY and when we heard about the chopper their Sales Manager had built, naturally we wanted to find out more. A lot more. So we set up a meeting on a sunny Gold Coast Saturday to get the story first hand.
Walking into Zane’s workshop was like being a kid in a toy store - if that store had a 70’s biker film theme.
There are several very interesting projects at various stages of completion and an array of parts, motors and components spread out around the walls, but pride of place was taken by a stunning, custom-built Harley-Davidson Shovelhead finished in candy purple.
We sat down next to the classic beauty so I could ogle it as I asked the usual questions.
“The frame was custom made some time in the eighties. Nobody can tell me exactly who built it, or where it came from, but it’s just got the perfect line. It’s a bit longer than a factory rigid, it’s more up and out, but it’s got that straight-leg look that I wanted. That ’57 Panhead kind of stance.” He said with the conviction of a true expert.
“I originally planned to put my Panhead motor in it, but it wasn’t right. The Pan needs to be in a Panhead frame, so the next step was to find a motor. And it came to me in quite a bizarre fashion. A bloke just walked into work and asked, ‘Do you know anyone who wants to buy an 80-cube Shovel motor?’” He laughs, “… Well, as a matter of fact!”
“So I picked up the motor, got the gearbox from Stuart Henry Motorcycles and it was all starting to come together. I got the oil tank at a swap meet for $70, and everything else kind-of fell into my lap. You know, when I build choppers it’s almost organic. I set out with a rough idea of what I want to build … and the end result is often vastly different.
When I first got the motor, the previous owner said it was a nightmare. But I looked it up and down and couldn’t see that I was going to have a problem with it. I put new points in it instead of the electronic ignition that was on it. I like points. They ran that way for decades … it started on about the fourth kick and ran really sweetly from then on.
That’s one of the concepts for this bike. If anything did go wrong, I could fix it on the side of the road. The tool bag has spare plugs, points and there are only about five Allen keys and three spanners needed to pull the whole bike down. I wanted to keep it super-simple to fix.
From there I freshened up the paint on the motor and installed the S&S Carby. Apart from the cam she’s just a standard 80-cube Shovelhead. It’s a 1984 FLH motor that came out of a Police bike. You can tell that by the way the engine number has been replaced with 4 stars on the casting.
Which I kinda dig, with all that Cop history, now it’s in a nasty chopper!
The extra chrome was already done as it had spent some time in a 90’s show chopper as well. I did a little bit of cleaning up on the lifter block, the pushrod tubes and the pump. I had to clean up a lot of overspray to get it looking the way it does now.
The air filter came off another one of my bikes that I got sick of not being able to ride in the rain, but as I have no plan to use this one in the wet, it’s too sketchy, this filter works perfectly.
Another thing that I’m really pleased with is the Revetch Ratchet-top 4-speed gearbox. It selects neutral easily, even when stopped, and is as solid as a rock considering its running through a standard Shovel dry-run clutch.
Things with this build just naturally found their way to me. The pipes popped up on Ebay and were a bargain at $70 too.” They sound fantastic, not too lout, just right: deep and throaty.
“The thing is I buy vintage Harley parts when I find them, I’ve got a problem.” And he grins again. “I’ve got a mountain of parts in stock under the house, I just collect things. The gas tank for example was going to be on another build, but it didn’t work looks-wise. So I took off the second filler cap and cleaned it up and it worked really well on this frame. It all just came together.”
“The 18” bars were a set that Adam bent up at work. He made one set for a customer, who really wanted the vee-style apehanger.
If we’re going to bend up a specific set of handlebars, we’ll make two or three sets.
So, they were sitting on the shelf at work and I kept looking at them, thinking ‘Yeah they have got to go on this bike’. They just work to a tee. The line is perfect. They give it that 70’s David Mann style of chopper look.
Then the front end came to me on a bike I bought for parts. Originally, I was going to go with a six-inch-over Springer, but it turned out they were bent, so rather than try and fix them I smacked this set, from an ’84 Tourer, on it and it rides great. They probably look the part better than the springer too.”
To stop or not
“At first it had a twin disc brake setup, but the callipers and discs were all mismatched and the brakes dragged. I always planned to run this bike without a front brake, but after I’ve ridden it for a while, I’ve changed my mind.
With the foot clutch, the hand shift and no front brake … well, any set of traffic lights with a slight incline or decline is … fairly entertaining.” He said with considerable understatement.
That was particularly evident after I watched him wrestle with the bike at the lights as we made our way out to the ensuing photo shoot.
“Yeah, the first time I rode it I bumped into a truck! But nothing bad has happened since.” More grins.
“The wheels are from a WLA. It’s an 18” on the back, laced to an early Shovel drum brake rear end with sealed bearings. I went with sealed because I wanted this bike to be able to be ridden fair distances.
The front wheel came with the front end I bought. It’s an early Evo twin disc hub, but it’s laced to an alloy rim with stainless spokes. Both wheels are shod with Avon Speedmaster tyres, because they look right.
It’s so easy to mess up the look of a Chopper with the wrong tyres. I’ve got 18psi in the rear at the moment. I learned the hard way about running high pressures on a rigid. It doesn’t corner as well with the lower pressures, but it definitely rides a lot softer.”
I asked about the unique Sissy Bar?
“I had a lot of help there from the boys at work. Jez, Dave, Adam, Kurtzo, as well as Jacob our polisher. I wanted to use a lot of stainless because that’s what we do, day to day, at Burleigh Bars.
Working there really opened my eyes to what you can do with stainless - how strong it is and how beautifully it polishes.
So we went with 316 stainless chain, made a jig up on an old palette and it took Jez days to weld it, and I mean days, but the end result is phenomenal.
Dave made the chain gear shift too. I also went with 316 stainless chain on the shift linkage as well, but it’s not welded.
The seat came from a friend, it’s the perfect line, it doesn’t do a lot to keep you in it, but it looks awesome.”
Then we talked about the controls and electrics. “I made the mid pegs, it’s a standard FLH brake pedal, all the brake lines were made by Goodrich Brakes on the Sunshine Coast. It’s a standard Panhead master cylinder, Chopperware foot clutch, I really like the Chopperware components, the rear fender is by them as well.
I wired the bike front to back, used all Pan head style cloth covered wire, got the regulator off Ebay, went with the standard Shovel charging system and used the S&S Super E Carburettor for simplicity of starting.”
Which lead to the next obvious question: what’s it like to ride after you do start it?
“Not bad, it sits on the road really solidly. It was always a concern not knowing if the frame was actually straight, and I had planned to put it on a jig, but the first time I rode it allayed any concerns, it tracks beautifully. Thank goodness!”
Speaking of beautiful, I asked about the paint?
“That was done by JMS Refinishing in Burleigh Heads, it’s a Candy Purple over a black base coat and it really pops in the sun yet it looks so deep you could dive into it in the dark. Originally, I wanted to add some pinstriping, but I decided it just doesn’t need it. It’s right the way it is.”
And that’s something of an understatement. It most certainly is just right. A real credit to the man.
What is even more amazing is that the build cost around $6,500. That doesn’t account for the hours Zane spent building a masterpiece. But it’s a remarkable achievement for that sort of cost.
Like something from the 70’s.