Part two of three. The more things change, the more they stay the same…
Before it became popular to hate on Harley-Davidson even while you owned one, riders were deeply interested in what the Motor Factory was up to. Frank said he couldn't wait to get a set of shovel heads on his pan engine. If H-D came out with something new, guys with a prior generation machine would scrape and scramble to get that new part—shovel heads, disc brakes, juice forks, for example—onto their older bike. Such a program and attitude toward progression seems more optimistic and forward-looking than the modern quest for retro. Things in Frank's days went both ways of course, and even Harley did things like installing a Sportster front end on a Big Twin and calling it a Super Glide. That was a common trick guys had been doing forever by the time Harley got around to it. "Mostly we took things off and reduced the motorcycle down at first" Frank says. With little funds for hopping-up, the best way to make a bike faster, as well as easier to work on, was to remove bits we deemed unnecessary. It's good to see some simple concepts have never gone out of style.
East vs. West
Frank started out in Baltimore, Maryland, as an Editor-at Large-for Easyriders back in '72. After four years of covering events and shooting bikes he made the move to California. He was rattling off the changes he made to his bike each year: different frame geometry, tanks, paint, chrome, et cetera. It sounded like the bike changed every winter, and changed significantly; not just a refresh. I asked Frank if it was like this every year and if that changed when he moved to California. Yes, and yes. The bike got completely torn down and rebuilt, new paint and rebuild every winter in Baltimore. After the move his panhead stayed exactly the same for four or five years. Like most of us in the Golden State, Frank hesitated to spend the time needed to completely rebuild his chopper because he didn't want to miss out on too many good riding days.
Frank's Bike, fourth or fifth generation 4 up 4 out, 22-inch over. Note axed tank, molded frame, scoops on dropouts and axed oil tank.
Frank "Cosmo" Pendolifini's pre-unit. Cosmo was an important mechanical mentor to Kaisler.
Various show bikes in Baltimore, circa early '70s.
Laconia '74. Arlen Ness with the Silver Lady, one of his earliest diggers. Arlen has since found many early examples of his famous machines, but he's never been able to locate this one. Jim Davis built this bike out of 5/8-inch O.D. chromoly. Rear hub is a front Sporty unit with an aluminum hub welded to it for mounting the sprocket. This bike had the first twist clutch Frank had seen. Also, note the lack of an oil bag: all oil is in the frame. Ness shipped the bike to Perewitz and rode up with Dave and his crew. Note second oil cap in the middle photo, and note fins shaved off front hub used as rear. The rear wheel also had the brake switch inside the drum. Talk about neat shit!
Arman Bletcher's Bike photographed at the Malibu ER Ranch. Late '70s or early '80s.
Modernization. Frank's trusty pan, now a pan/shovel. Yes it's the one shown in various stages as the gold show bike above and the one with the brown Wassell in Part One. This was in the '80s some time, shot outside the Easyriders offices in Agoura Hills, California. Note split oil/gas tanks and modern upgrades like mags and disc brakes.
Side note: these images are scanned from Frank's original prints. You can view larger versions here. Please don't post them around the internet without giving full credit to Frank Kaisler.