Ok people, this is the beginning of documenting the Barnstorm Cycles/SPCL’79 transformation of a lowly, stock, ratty 1986 Sportster 883 into a lean, hardtailed 1200cc custom that you can be proud to ride, even while you’re friends are watching. Over the next handful of articles, we’ll be going over the complete processes involved in the rebirth of this bike; sorting any mechanical issues, fabrication, and aesthetic included. The idea for these articles will be to lay out the steps we follow to put together a budget build from start to finish using evo sporty powerplant.
Ok the first step on any bike build is to find the bike. I had always wanted to build a close to “one-off” bike from a stock evo sportster but hadn’t been able to find a cheap enough, complete donor bike at the right time. Well, if you knew what we (actually Jake) paid for this 86 Sportster donor, you’d probably want to punch me in the face, muttering “lucky bastard” while walking away from me with my newly bloodied nose. Sometimes you just get lucky, which we did. This bike was a running, driving donor that had been neglected for too long, but all that doesn’t matter when you plan to completely tear the bike down.
First thing we did was to assess what was salvageable on the bike for our final build ideas, what was junk, and what had value on moto forum classifieds, eBay, etc. After saving the powerplant, the frame, the late 35mm front end (to be used on another build), we decided to sell just about everything else off. The rough plans for the build are as follows:
- 883 to 1200 conversion.
- Modify the frame with a Led Sled Customs hardtail.
- Full minimal rewire.
- Modify and frisco mount a sporty tank (big surprise, huh).
- Build some bars/pipes/seatpan/sissybar/battery box and most likely a bunch of other little stuff tbd.
This bike had plenty of surface rust all over, but nothing that couldn’t be handled by anyone reading this right now. I’m too ugly for the camera so the handsome man breaking down the bike in the pics is the trusted mechanic at Barnstorm Cycles, PQ. PQ has spent the better of 35 yrs spinning wrenches on American iron. He broke this bike down with the quickness. The cylinders/pistons and heads looked swell, so we knew this bike hadn’t been beaten, just forgotten. The 1200 kit was ordered, so that will be our first order of business once we clean up the cases, heads, and rockers.
The first fab project for this build will be the tank. I started playing with the tank shell while we waited to make a decision on overall hardtail dimensions. So far, the decision has been made to keep a full 2.2 gal tank on the shell, no narrowing. I love the way a narrowed tank looks but it would be nice to get more than an hour of hard riding out of it. Doming the shell a bit and moving the filler forwards will help with the fuel capacity when we frisco mount the tank on the Sportster’s backbone. Some dishing details on the sides of the shell were done over a couple different size pipe sections welded down to the fab table and a plastic blocking hammer. I felt that those simple details will help define the minimal paint job/design idea we have for the bike. Rubber isolators will be used in mounting the tank in 3 points, 2 bottom/front and 1 rear at the tail of the tank (as seen in the previous metal shop feature).
For the bars, I wanted something that had some adjustment in the risers so we’ll use some Biltwell stainless slimline risers and their new one piece dogbone top clamp. With those bolted to the top tree, we can design some one off bars that will be ugly and uncomfortable.
The design idea for the bars was to use some ¼” thick stainless plate to make some dogbone shapes that the lower and upper bar will be welded to. Being the lucky bastards we are, we have a former employer that has a waterjet machine to help with cutting the ¼” thick stainless out. There are times to use this technology and this was one of them.
With the length of stainless tubing cut and knurled for the bottom tube and the top bar bent up, it’s time to slide everything together and weld them up. For a little extra flavor, we’ll turn down some aluminum to make some caps to use the lower tube as a stash tube. You can put your wee… I mean registration in it.
With these two pieces of the puzzle finished, I can sit on the frame and make motorcycle noises. We’ll be talking about the 1200 kit, the hardtail install, and making this thing back into a roller in the next installment. Keep on keepin’ on.