in the beginning
The story begins about 100 yards or so from the entrance to Wolfe’s Pond Park in Staten Island, New York where Frank Voto has his shop that all the locals around here call Wolfe’s Pond Harley. Frank has been building bikes here for quite some time and is a very talented mechanic/machinist/fabricator and has either built or fixed most of the classic bikes around these parts. He’s deep in the traditions of old time Harley and doesn’t have much use for flashy paint and chrome these days but when a motor leaves his shop it’s gonna run like it should and he’ll stand by anything that rolls out of his garage.
One day Frank and I were having a beer out in front of the shop when Matty his right-hand man in the shop who has since unfortunately passed on says, “hey I got a call last night from Richie’s brother Robert who has some stuff for sale”. Apparently, he had assembled some parts for a rigid bike he wanted to build but changed direction and was looking to unload what he had. Right then I got that magic feeling. The three of us jumped into Franks old van and headed out to Richie’s garage in New Jersey where the stuff was being stored. When we got there what we saw was basically a rolling chassis which included a brand new (but old) Paughco rigid straight leg frame with a mid-seventies shovelhead motor sitting in it along with an old Harley ratchet top transmission. The motor was very familiar to Frank because he had built it about fifteen years earlier and it had been stored for the project ever since and never ran. It originally came out of a basket case Harley as a 74-inch Shovelhead which was torn down and reassembled into a set of STD cases along with 80-inch flywheels and a few other small upgrades. There was a bunch of other pieces and parts and a custom sissy bar that was actually on one of Matty’s old choppers as well. I was lucky enough to grab the whole package for three thousand bucks and we packed it all in the van and hit the road.
vision and inspiration from A VERY COOL SCENE
Now Matty knew that I was looking to build a rigid and just hadn’t come across the right opportunity yet. When I think about custom bikes, I picture old rigid frame Panheads and Shovelheads, like what you would have seen in Easyriders magazine back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. As luck would have it, there was a really cool custom bike scene that was happening at the time in Brooklyn. We had discovered the Brooklyn Invitational, which was a custom motorcycle show that builders were invited to showcase their craft. The cool part was that there were just as many awesome bikes out in the street as there were in the show. With the Indian Larry shop around the corner and Paul Cox still doing his thing in the neighborhood, it seemed to be a hotbed for custom builders and there was a lot of inspiration for garage builders like myself. So many people to talk to and bounce ideas with, now keep in mind I wasn’t looking to build a state-of-the-art machine but more of a bar hopper done with swap meet parts along with some of my own ideas and the most important thing of course is that it would be fun to ride. It was here that I found my inspiration among like minds! This was the opportunity I was waiting for.
AND SO IT BEGAN!
The first thing I did was mockup the frame so I could have some tabs welded on. I borrowed a set of floorboards and controls from a friend that had a 1960 Harley because even though it didn’t seem to be a popular idea at the time, I wanted to put floorboards on it because I think they’re more comfortable. The tabs needed to be in the right spot. I needed tabs for the oil tank, the sissy bar, a bracket for the seat, and whatever else I could think of. I wanted to mount a king sportster gas tank somewhat Frisco style, so I needed to mockup the mounts for that too. When that was complete off to the welder and then the sand blaster, and finally Acme Powdercoat, just over the bridge in Sewaren, New Jersey.
While that work was being done, I contacted a painter I had met at a bike show that went by the name Pinstryper Eddie out in Long Island ( now Palm Coast Eddie because he relocated to Florida ) and went over some ideas about the paint. I definitely wanted blue and had an idea about the wolf being that it was coming to life at Wolfe’s Pond Harley and all. I brought him the tank and a rear fender that I bought from Lowbrow customs which was a twin rib British style and he told me what he had in mind and that was that.
When the frame came back, we started to assemble the chassis. The front end I got from Matty who bought it at a swap meet. It was a 2000 Harley wide front end that was shortened 4 inches. The wide front ends weren’t really in style at the time, but I love the way they look with the skinny 21” tire in the middle. The 21” laced rim was a swap meet Harley part along with the Avon speedmaster mounted on it, and a standard Harley front brake caliper to round it out.
The rear brake is also a standard Harley caliper that sits right in the “v” of the rigid rear very nicely. That detail Matty insisted on because he loved the way that looked on a rigid. I had to weld yet another bracket for that also, and I have to admit it worked out great. Those calipers go for like 50 bucks at the swap meets because guys take them off all the time in favor of custom brakes that probably don’t work as good. The rear wheel is a 16” laced rim with an old Continental white wall mounted on it for that old bobber look.
We dropped the motor in the frame without even checking it out because Frank wanted to see how good he was in the past (he was pretty confident it was good to go). He remembered putting Andrews gears in that old ratchet top transmission also, so he was confident in that as well. I decided to run an open primary with a 1 1/2” belt drive and an old 50’s style mousetrap to link it all together just because I thought it looked cool.
I decided right in the beginning that I wanted to run an upswept exhaust with cocktail shakers because I love that look so I bought a brand-new set from Paughco. That presented some minor challenges due to the fact that they were really designed for the generator style motors not the later cone motors like I had, but we worked it out. A S&S carb was a must, and one was fortunately included with all the parts that came with the build. Frank insisted on a Dyna ignition because he feels they’re the most reliable. I mounted that old sissy bar of Matty’s on the back with the fender, and to compliment it an Indian Larry question everything taillight that another friend had gotten me from the awesome people over at Indian Larry. A solo seat seemed to work well with what we were building but that took a little getting used to. I decided on a set of 12” bars up front to complete the look but I still feel I eventually want to change them to something with a little more style because they look a little square to me.
When we rolled her off the bench, I think it only took a few kicks before she roared to life. With some fine tuning off we went! I have to say this bike is great to ride. It’s so light and responsive and really carves up the road. A rigid bike on the streets of New York can be a challenge but damn it’s fun. The old pothole rodeo. I’ve made it out to most of the local events and the bike definitely gets attention. There’s always room for improvement but I’m proud of what I built and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.