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Motorcycles have always been a hobby of mine.
I love working on bikes as much as riding them. I’ve rebuilt a handful of motors in the past. It all started with dirt bikes and in my late teens it was all about Harleys. I grew up in NY just outside of the city. All of my friends were into American iron, so naturally, I was too. Until one day my perception shifted a bit.
It was during my first day working at my cousin’s paving company when one of the workers pulled up on the coolest chopper I have ever seen and it happened to be a Triumph. That memory stuck in my head for a long time. I had my Harley for many years after that, but I finally bought my first Triumph just a few years ago. I happened to buy two bikes in one week. These bikes will soon become the pieces that will form our films “Brittown” and soon to be, “The Harbortown Bobber.”
The urge of wanting to own a Triumph resurfaced while making “Choppertown.” Although, I really liked all of the Sinners’ bikes, I was really attracted to Dustin and Noah’s Triumphs. It was also during shooting “Choppertown” I learned about Meatball. I filed this information somewhere in my brain to later retrieve it to start the ball rolling for our film projects.
Not long after the release of “Choppertown” I felt it was time to look for a British scoot. Zack and I were also brain storming ideas for a new biker film. It was during this week two Triumphs fell into my lap for a good price. Kutty (the main guy from Choppertown) told me about this guy, Matt the Rat, who worked for Jimmy White at Circle City Hot Rods had a Triumph roller just sitting there looking for a home.
Zack and I got down there as fast as possible to check it out. When I first walked through the door, there she was, a 1969 Triumph with perfect lines and a perfect stance. Although this bike was just a roller it already had a cool look to it. It was love at first sight and I knew that would be the foundation of my Bobber.
A few days later I found an abandoned 1971 Triumph Bonneville café project also listed for a good price. Once again, we headed out and snatched it up. It was the motor from this bike that later would become the power house behind the bobber and the main subject of “Brittown.” This all came together one day while Zack and I sat around both bikes when we came up with the idea to do a Triumph 650 motor rebuild movie with Meatball and also came up with the idea of shooting the process of the Bobber build at the same time. So, the Journey of the creation of the Harbortown Bobber began in the Fall of ’06.
While Meatball had my motor at his shop, I was constantly searching for parts for my bike. I approached the design of the bike with different images of bikes that influenced me in the past. I didn’t want it to look like a traditional Triumph bobber with the skinny rear car treaded tire, the stock Triumph tank, the ribbed rear fender…etc. I wanted it to look different, but at the same time keep it period correct with a modern flare. I started with the gas tank. I searched hard and long for a Wassell peanut tank. I wanted that tank to have a shallow tunnel so it could be mounted Frisco style. I finally found one from Kutty’s friend Billy. A few days after that, the build started at Jay’s (J-bird) garage along with a young fabricator Jonathan Smith.
Jonathan took my Wassell tank and first put a new tunnel in it. Next he moved the filler hole to the top of the tank for style as well as to maximize fuel capacity. The finished outcome of the tank was exactly what I was looking for. Next was the oil bag and fender.
Jay’s Harley, which was his latest build, started to give me ideas for my fender and the style oil bag I wanted. The oil bag and fender are both made from the same material, spun metal (steel). The oil bag came in two halves. The first thing Jay did was to cut the two halves down a bit to fit the proper oil capacity for Triumphs. Because Triumph hardtail bikes have so much empty space behind the motor I wanted my oil back to sit vertically in order to fill that empty space. The two halves were welded together and a matching filler bung and cap, same one on the gas tank, was added to the top. The fender also came in two halves. That too was welded together, cut to fit short and snug on top of the tire. This was an important part of the look on the bike. I wanted the rear to be different so I chose to get a tire that was on the wide side. I also wanted the set up to be be 16” in the rear and 21” in the front. I just like the way that set-up looks on these old bikes. This was the same set-up of Kutty’s bike from “Choppertown.”
The tires were given to me from my buddy AJ in NY, after I helped him rebuild his sporty. It was the exact size I was looking for. This set-up was common for Harley bobbers, so it’s safe to say there was also a Harley influence in the design. I felt the wider rear tire (130 Metzler) and the form fitting fender added a sense of weight to the rear which helped give it that different look, esthetically, when compared to other Triumphs.
Next we needed the frame to be shored up. We wanted our friend Irish Rich from Shamrock Fabrications (http://www.shamrockfabrication.com) and who also a Nomad Sinner to put his hands on it. Rich didn’t live close, he was a Denver guy, but distance was not a factor and the road trip to Rich’s began. Over that weekend Rich made sure the frame was square and he welded up a bunch of old mounting holes throughout the frame. The build was ready for the next level. The following week we went to visit Earl Kane in San Pedro, California.
I met Earl through Jay. Earl, from Earl Cycle Art (http://www.earlsbikes.net), came onto the project because he was a Triumph Bobber expert. His bikes were stunning. He also became the most significant part of the build. I spent most of my days in Earl’s shop until the bike was completed. Earl not only fabricated a cool seat, a license plate bracket, a cool chain tensioner, fork stop bungs and a headlight mount he also made sure everything worked during the assembly process. In addition, he paid close attention to the over all look of the bike. The bike inherited its low stance after Earl took 2”off the front down tubes. He also introduced me to Jet Coating (ceramic coating)
Traditionally, Jet Coating was used by car guys to insulate their exhaust pipes as well as giving them an aluminum finish. It is very similar to the powder coating process. We had decided to have the gas tank, oil bag and gas tank Jet Coated. The important part of the process was for all the tins to be medal finished. That alone was time consuming because we had discovered that the Jet Coating wasn’t too thick so flaws would show through if we weren’t careful. All in all, the outcome was great. It gave the bike a very polished aluminum look. I’m not too into chrome, so that look was perfect.
The seat tooling was done by Gilbert Gonzales. I sketched out the design for him and he did a great job etching it into the leather.
This is only a brief background of the build. The whole process was a journey and it was exciting the day I took my bike out for its first ride. All this could be seen in the film soon to be released, “The Harbortown Bobber.”
Visit Zack and I at http://www.choppertownnation.com/.
By Scott Di Lalla