Saturday, April 30, 2011

Siksika: 1956 Panhead

This is my first real attempt outside the BS1 at a "show" quality bike. I've never been much for the "show" thing, I love riding my bikes so much that the idea of sitting at a show all day looking at my bike makes me anxiuos. I've done this once already with this bike and it's not easy.  Make no mistake, this is no different than any other bike I've built, it WILL be ridden!
 I've had this motor for a long time and ran it in the Gran Sancho. Once the motor was ready for a rebuild I decide while I had it apart, to polish the heads and cases and so it began. The 66 was ready for a rebuild too, so that basic chassis would end up on this bike. The motor is an OEM 56 lower end with original flywheels and rods. The top end is original 48 jugs and heads. I scored the early Cycle Engineering rocker covers at the LBC swap. The NOS super B with accelerator pump came from a stash of parts I scored on a Santa Cruz visit. I've had the new Morris mag for a while and ran the same mag on a few bikes now. I went through it and popped in a new coil and points.
 The idea for the 23" wheel was sort of a goof. First time I saw one on a chopper was my good friend Warren Lane in Miami. I liked the look, but it didn't really speak to me. While building the BS1 back in 09 we narrowed a bigtwin springer and had the big 23 on the forks. I slapped in on my shovel for a goof and I thought it just worked. This 23 is a speedway rim 36 hole laced to an early chopper spool hub. It just needed a rear 18 to balance the stance better.

I've since narrowed a few of these. I've seen a lot of this mod now so I think it's run it's course, at least for me. Born Free 3 you'll see a lot of them.
When it comes to customs bikes, or most things, my aesthetic tendencies are "organic". I tend to be drawn to things were the pieces work in combination to make a bigger statement. Flashy paint is great, but if that is all I see then it loses my interest. Contrast is a big one for me too. Complete chrome or polish just get's lost in a wash.
The intent of this bike was to be a little deceptive. At a distance it looks like a nice black and shiny bike, but at close inspection you find things you could easily miss if you didn't take your time. Kind of like riding.
The tank is an old Wassell of course. I ran this on the first version of the 66. It was narrowed in the rear, tunneled and frisco mounted.

Another intention was to keep things as stock as possible but to modify each part in a creative but functional way. All the small parts are hand made via free form machining and plain old elbow grease.

The tank mounts, brake and clutch pedal, shifter arm and motor mount, started as round stock. I used 2 or three different mill bits to get the blood grooves. I then used heat to bend them to where they needed to be. This process sometimes takes several attempts to get it right.
 The original rocker clutch was chopped and lowered a couple inches. I machined a small tab for a heel rest where the original spring would clip to.

The handle bars took probably 10+ hours to make. I cut the ears off the top clamp. Machined two DOM pieces to accept the new 1" bars I bent. The sleeves that accept the bars are tapered to mimic the stock look. The cross bar was made in a similar manner. The top stem nut is also hand made.
The engraving was done by gun smith Mark Cooper. Mark was fantastic. I outlined exactly what I was looking for, traditional, subtle and balanced. He did an incredible job.
 The pegs are original Andersons that were milled down, drilled, the engraved. Crodersons.

T. Markus came through with another pro paint job. Straight, super tight gloss back with a little class.  Sometime ago I did a tank for my brother and we explored this idea of etching the clear coat, kind of like etching glass. The results were really nice, so when it came time for the Panhead I threw the idea by T about doing something a little more complex. He was a little nervous but the results are superb. Deceivingly simple, yet complex.   Each design was custom made for each part of the bike. No clip art here.
The shifter knob is something special. My pal Brett brought me some scrap pieces of wood to play with. I took a piece of Walnut and turned it on the lathe. Did a little hand work leaving a nice 1/4" groove at the top. I took an old photo of my Dad, post WWII and glazed it in. Now the old man is riding with me. I think the old man would have loved this bike.
JD stepped in and helped me put the seat together. It's buffalo hide covering 1" of memory foam. Just enough to support my fat ass.

The pipes are a set of Paughco up sweeps I modified to turn up inside the frame. I used a Biltwell pipe kit for the extra pieces.
The tail light is a microphone from 1948. I didn't have to do much work to it. Layed in two LED grids and cut out an old lens to fit.

The air cleaner cover is a 40/50's era cover for an Ice Crusher. Ice o Mat.

Big thanks to the following people for their help, inspiration and support.

Mrs Kris Owens, my Hawaiian goddess. Thanks for putting up with my addiction.
My brothers Chuck and Buck, you gave me the bike bug and I love you for it.
JD Sansaver. Thanks for inspiring me and motivating me, oh, and the Jim Beam.
T. Markus Paint.
Mark Cooper Engraving
Superior Plating
Concept Powder Coating
Culver City Sandblasting
Culver City Police Dept ( officer Travis Marchel (sp)) Thanks for not impounding the bike!
Bill & Harlold from Biltwell/Chopcult. Your continued support over all these years means a lot.
Matt & Dean from Dice. Thanks for the love and keeping my mind right.
Warren Lane. Thanks for the knowledge and encouragement.

Thanks so much to all my friends for the kind words, encouragement and love. I'd be a bitter old man with out all of you.  I am very blessed.


  1. caleb, perfect informative post on a beautifully detailed and proportioned bike, it...your work is always an inspiration.


  2. Details, Details, you kill it every time! I love the bikes you build, true inspiration as mentioned above. Thanks for sharing

  3. Where do I start?Simply amazing.

  4. Very Nice as always with your work Caleb!

  5. Art.
    Art, meet Motorcycle, Motorcycle meet Art.

  6. Amen. Caleb- there are a couple of 'lil' homies here in Venice that are responding wildly to thes shot. I think that speaks volumes.

  7. That is a good sweet lookin motorcycle buddy lots of real sweet details

  8. wish I had the same patience like you! This is really absolutely fabulous! Great job Caleb

    greetings from Belgium

  9. As always ya keep raisin the bar. Outstanding. Black is the color of cool and ya hit the right balance of chrome, engraving (perfect) and well.... It is just damned good. Dad would and is proud my brother. Makes me remember you as a little kid sitting on the back of my scoot with that shit eatin grin you had as I ran ya around the hood. You still got that grin! And I am proud of ya too.

  10. Thanks for all the very kind comments folks! Very much appreciated.

    Chuck, thanks my brutha, love you.

  11. looks like a
    magical pig
    With marital aids
    stuck all over it.

  12. Caleb, Another mind blowing piece of artwork..and even more stunning in person. Great job as always!

  13. Mind, blown... I knew it would be something to see but, WOW! Almost as much soul as the builder himself.

  14. awesome! amazing bike!!! congrats!!!
    greetings from Brazil

  15. Been watching your stuff for a while now and always impressed, this is also pure class....a bike to be savoured in the flesh.

  16.'s incredible!!! Nice work mate!

  17. yer a savage...that means yer awesome in northern cali..haha

  18. Done to perfection bruv. Crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside.

  19. As everyone knows, I have impeccable chopper taste and I am truly, truly turned on by these pics. Can't wait to see it in person! Great job again Caleb.

  20. like scotty scott said i cant waite to see it in person hope your at born free that would be my only chance to.its perfect

  21. Next big thing....engraving! Great bike!