I should have named this story the Matchmaker. We had a friend who was looking for a knucklehead and another who happened to own one. We'll let Jason Craze tell the story.
I learned early on that the soul of a bike makes it what it is. But where does the soul in a machine come from? It doesn’t come from the factory. It isn’t bought. It doesn’t come from the local swap meet, no matter how many cool parts are on that blanket. No, soul comes directly from the hands that touch those parts. Directly from the vision that guides those hands. Directly from the experiences of the person having those visions. All that gets transferred to the bike. It’s kind of like when people say a dog begins to look and act like its owner and vice versa. The bike takes on a portion of its owner and the owner starts to resemble and be known by his bike. So begins the journey of the soul.
The journey of this particular bike started when Bill let me know that a mutual buddy of ours was looking for a knucklehead lump. I took the bait and said I had the ’47 motor and frame from my Born Free 3 build laying around wondering what it was going to be when it grew up. Sumo was the man, and I got in touch with him directly. At first this was intended as a crate-it-and-ship-it kind of deal, but it quickly morphed into a hey-a-complete-bike-would-be-so-much-better type thing. Great!
Unfortunately, I hate building bikes for people. Call me a kook, but the whole soul thing pops up. If I’m being told how to build something by a guy looking at the latest monthy mag to hit the stands, the only thing I can guarantee is that the soul of that bike will be very hard to find. There’s an old saying about cooks and stew that comes to mind. You see, I like building for myself. My hands. My vision. My experiences. That’s what gets poured into metal in my shop. I know that at some point either during the build or after the completion, somebody will see the bike for what it really was intended to be and scoop it up.
Whatever. My parents were pot-smoking hippies. I blame them.
Anyhow, Sumo was different from the start. Hell, the man builds his own bikes. He’s got the chops to know what he’s done, what he likes, what’s good, what’s bad, and how it’s all supposed to get to the finish line. The guy rides more than most people just in his work commute, and I’m not really sure he even owns a car. If you’ve met him, you realize quickly that he’s got a soul all of his own. I knew he was worth his salt when he rode that puke green, goosenecked Honda on the EDR a couple years ago. Sumo seems all about the journey and somehow, I knew that this bike would be a good match for a guy like that.
He presented me with a wish list of items that he’d envisioned for his knucklehead-to-be, and it didn’t take me long to see a light at the end of that tunnel. There were some curve balls to be sure, and I thought a few of the things that popped up along the way were a bit weird and weren’t going to work, but in the end it was good to be taken out of my comfort zone and forced to think differently to get it done. A couple of items got ditched, and a couple of them turned out to be what make the bike what it is after all.
This whole project was more of a kit-bash than a ground-up build so to speak. A definite lesson in how to take a bunch of misfit parts and made them work together. It wasn’t so much about cool, one-off fabrication as it was about “how the hell is that going to work?” The bike that started as a subtle middle finger at Born Free 3 turned into a fine piece of riding material, and I’m happy that Sumo asked me to put a little of myself into this build. It’s not finished yet either. With all I’ve done, Sumo still has to figure out what to do with the paint in the long-term, and I’m sure he’s got lots of other ideas that will take a part of that soul he has and put it in there as well. Will it turn out to look like its owner? Well, I’d put money on the fact that you’Il definitely know the two belong together. I’ll also tell you that if it grows that massive red beard to match, I’m running for the hills!
Owner name, location: Sumo, Over the pond
Bike name: Bikes are like fish. You name them, they die.
Engine, year and make, model, modifications: 1947 Harley Davidson FL, stock bore / stroke.
Frame: 1947 Harley
Fork: Various year model Harley sportster 35mm with Sporty drum and custom axle, fork covers, brake stay and actuator.
Chassis mods: stock other than custom fork stops on the neck.
Tire/wheel size and style: 16” rear and 19” front. Both with mechanical drums and wrapped with Dunlops.
Favorite thing about this bike: If I say its the Biltwell Chumps and Whiskey Throttle, do I get brownie points? (Nope! -Bill) Believe it or not, the Buco bag matched up with the NOS Superior pipes. I thought I’d hate the bag, but it works and makes this bike what it is.
Next mods: Whatever parts of its new owner get to put into it
Other mods, accessories, cool parts, etc: My goal was to not modify much of the original ’47 equipment, so that it could always become whatever it wanted to be. All the little shit was lengthened, shortened, bent, straightened, cut, welded, and cursed at until it fit.
Thanks to: Biltwell Bill for getting Sumo and me together on this deal. Sumo for letting it happen like it did. Ed at Hawg Wild for listening to my gripes all the time and always having the right doohicky and thingamajig when I was looking. Anybody who ever lent a hand, bought me a beer, picked me up when I was down, said I build cool shit or supports what I do. Oh, and whomever the damn shipper is going to be so that it gets over the water before the sun burns out!
Phots and story by Jason Craze