I crossed paths with fellow member, Josh Allison, on Instagram through the #chopcult hashtag. Josh posted a photo of the bike that you see below as a mock up. I loved the stance and overall direction of his build. Looking through Josh's feed, it was evident that he's a talented fabricator. Josh works at The Forge in Loveland, CO, which builds ground up custom cars and motorcycles. Every inch of the Dead Pan was hand built by Josh. Most builders will cover their sheet metal work, but Josh decided to leave it raw, which helps you see his attention to detail and craftsmanship. Josh was nominated for Show Class Magazine's People's Champ 4, but didn't make it through to the final cut. This didn't deter Josh, as his goal was to finish the bike before Born-Free 8 and ride the piss out of it. I want to thank Josh for his help with this feature and ongoing support. Enjoy!
For as long as I can remember, I've loved motorcycles. I've been riding motorcycles since I was about 6 years old, when I found an old dirt bike in a neighbor’s back yard. I could see it from the alley. My dad bought it for me and we got it running. I was instantly addicted to riding it. My dad always rode Harleys and built bikes in the garage, so I guess it’s always been a part of my life. I rode dirt bikes for a big part of my life, raced moto-cross, rode free-style, the sand dunes...I had found my passion. Eventually, I began custom painting helmets, which led to painting bikes. After I finished custom painting his bike, one of my customers bought me an old 1980 CB 750 as a 'thank you'. That was my first experience with a street bike. Over time, the pain and cost of getting hurt riding moto-cross and free-style got old. I sold my dirt bikes and started riding street. My interest in building bikes and bike parts grew, but I couldn't weld or shape sheet metal, nor did I have any real fab skills. With my wife's encouragement, I decided to go to WyoTech. During my time there, I took Street Rod and advanced Street Rod. It changed me. I learned to TIG weld and shape sheet metal, which opened up my whole world to custom building. As I worked in different shops, I continued progressing and growing in my trade.
I have been thinking about this build for a long time. I wanted to create something that was rolling art; art that could be ridden. My vision for this build was to combine various metals, utilizing my metal shaping abilities, to create a commanding, yet elegant, bike. I wanted it to have a rustic feel with relevant ride-ability. It all started with a 1951 Panhead which had a motor and trans built by Carl's Cycle Supply.
I started with the springer, which was the most challenging piece to build. The end result was better than I had hoped for and it really set the standard for the rest of build. It was also the first piece of the puzzle that had brass and copper mixed into it. I knew right then that it was going to be the theme of the bike.
After the springer and getting the wheels and tires picked out, it was time to make the tank. The tank was an accident to a certain degree. After the sides were shaped I started to build the top piece. When I was taking it off and on, it hit me that it should be a cover to the gas cap and not a piece of the tank. I did the brass on the outside, and then pulled it to the inside of the tank so that no matter where you look on the build there are brass details. I used an English wheel, pull-max, planishing hammer, bead roller, and shrinker and stretcher to make it.
Once the tank was completed, I started to build the rear fender, continuing to pull the brass through it while maintaining a rustic feel. Throughout, I used the same tools as were used for the tank.
Next was the oil tank. I decided to give it a round shape, as I wanted to give all aspects of this build soft edges; without harsh lines. Once I put the brass cap on it, it came to me to have round flares in the seat, so that you could look down through the seat and see the oil tank cap and the beads around the oil tank.
The seat was a challenging piece, as I wanted it to flow with the bike; to look rustic as well as provide comfort. Once the seat was done, the bike had the flow and look I wanted it to have, so then I could make the bars.
I made three different sets of bars before I knew I had got the right "skinny" look that I wanted. I decided to do brass grips from Speed Dealer Customs to pull the brass all through the build.
Next, I put a brass headlight on from Panic Cycles and an After Hours Chopper rear tail light. Now it was time for the custom exhaust!
I love making exhaust pipes. On this build, I wanted to combine beauty and attitude to create bad-ass chopper pipes. After finishing the design, I gave it a mild polish to match the motor with rippled brass ends.
It took a bunch of machining to make the foot controls and little details, like the rear axle covers, along with some other smaller parts. I now had a full roller. It was time to think about finishes on the bike.
I didn't want to paint the bike. I felt like it would take away from the feel of the metal and the overall feel of the build. I loved this old front fork that a buddy of mine copper plated years ago. It was sitting in my back room. One day, I walked by it and it hit me that if the bike was copper plated it would be so kick-ass! It would give the bike the overall feel I had set out to accomplish. The copper plating was a very difficult process that my brother and I came up with. It will be interesting to see how it holds up after a couple of years!
This build took nearly a year and is entirely handcrafted. To date, it's the most complicated bike build I've done. Thanks for looking and hope you dig it! Josh Allison
Photos by Josh
Owner name, location: Josh Allison Loveland, Co.
Chop Cult Member profile
Engine, year and make, model, modifications: 1951 FL Harley Panhead
Frame: 1951 FL original pan frame
Fork: Custom handmade, one-off, springer
Chassis mods: Very little, cleaning up and getting rid of some tabs
Tire/wheel size and style: Front is a 21 inch rim with an 16 inch rear with Allstate vintage tires
Favorite thing about this bike: The gas tanks and the springer are very unique, handmade, parts
Next modification will be: None
Other mods, accessories, cool parts, etc: The bike is all hand-built except for the frame. Handmade gas tank, bars, oil tank, rear fender, springer, exhaust, seat, foot controls, and very custom brass accents with a copper finish.
Thanks to Carl’s Cycle Supply, The Forge and Mike Detwiler.
Josh's links - Website / Instagram / Facebook
Article by Lisa Ballard