When he isn't wrenching and riding his badass panhead, ChopCult member Buster68 serves in the Canadian military. Rob Watt as frogmen from the Great White North know him is a deep-sea diving expert, an improbable niche given Canada's perceived nonchalance on matters of military might. As I learned during lengthy and interesting conversations with my new friend at last month's Greasebag Jamboree, Canada is a world leader in oceanic military exercises. Obviously there is zero room for error in such endeavors, and Rob takes his responsibilities seriously. That seriousness is reflected in the attention to details that abound on Rob's hand-built hard tail. Follow us now as SCUBA Rob explains how he breathed new life into an old motorcycle in this edition of ChopCult Bike Feature.
I bought this bike complete with an airbrushed skull paint job and horrible '80s overstuffed king-and-queen seat from a buddy on Vancouver Island in ‘06. I switched out some of the parts and ran it as a half-assed bobber for a year or so, until I cracked the right-side case. It took me a while until I had the time and money to rebuild the bike. I am a Canadian Navy Clearance Diver—like an EOD Diver in the US Navy—so work kept me busy for most of the last few years.
After I came back from Afghanistan in 2010 I used some of my deployment money to start the rebuild. I hooked up with Lee at American Cycle Service, and engine builder Rob Kelly, and the bike started coming together. Initially, it was supposed to just be an engine repair, but it sort of morphed into a frame-off rebuild. Interestingly, the final look of the bike changed several times, in part based on feedback I got from a build thread I was running at the time on ChopCult. I had picked up a ’54 right side case which we were going to bore-match to the left, but when we got the bike apart we found out the left case had already been cracked and welded twice, so we played it safe and went with a new set of STD cases.
When I lived on Canada's West Coast there was a pretty healthy vintage and chopper scene, but now that I live in Ottawa, there is virtually nothing. I was super stoked to ride to the Greasebag and see the reaction my bike received, especially considering how cool so many of the bikes that showed up were. Getting a trophy at the bike show was just the icing on the cake. I was stoked just to talk to so many kindred spirits. No posing, no attitudes—just lots of sweet chopper love.
Owner: Rob Watt
Hometown: Ottawa, Canada
Bike's name: “Unforgiving” (based on the previous mechanical issues, the uncomfortable ride, and my wife’s attitude about the amount of time and money I’ve poured into this thing)
Frame make, model year and mods, if any: 1953 Harley FL, slightly raked and frenched at the neck
Motor make, model and mods, if any: 1953 Harley FL rebuilt by Rob Kelly; STD cases, 4-3/4” stroke; S&S cam, rods and flywheels; H-D pistons; Rowe valves; Super-E carb; solid lifters; Dyna electronic ignition
Fork make, model and mods, if any: 41mm H-D Hydra-Glide legs, Mullins Chaindrive narrow trees
Primary drive specs: BDL open belt
Tranny specs: H-D 4-speed, jockey shift, kick-only
Front wheel specs: 21” vintage Honda (only thing we could find that fit between the Mullins trees), Avon Speedmaster
Rear wheel specs: H-D 16” with PM rear disk, NOS Firestone tire
Custom-fabbed bits: Lots of custom stainless goodies: mid-controls, sissy bar, oil filter mount, fender and tank mounts, cool combined fork stop / headlight mount etc., plus a fender that was narrowed and reshaped to give it a Wassell look; all hand-fabbed by Lee Batchoun
Painter: Timmy “Toonz” Feher
Seat maker: Custom seat pan by Lee, tuck-and-roll by local marine upholsterer
Thanks: Lee Batchoun for overall bike build, Rob Kelly for putting together a bulletproof stroker engine, and Toonz for the jaw-dropping paint
Check out more of Lee's handiwork at his blog.