The Challenger – ’96 883

Ironworks Magazine – July 2012 Volume 22 Number 5

This bike started as an idea after a trip to Surgis where I visited the AMD championship in 2008. I didn’t know what i was going to build, but i was inspired and knew i wanted to compete in the Modified Harley class. I had purchased a 1996 883 Sportster from a friend back in 2006, but back then i never thought i’d be using that bike to compete in the AMD championship. The whole time i was pondering what i could bring to the competition, the bike was sitting there right in front of me. That was the point when the ideas started t flow and the planning started to take effect. I knew that in order to compete at the AMD level and to stand out in the crowd, i would have to build as many parts by hand as i could. I didn’t want to take the easy way out on any parts i was creating for this bike, so there were no short cuts. The more difficult the idea, the more i wanted to do it.

I came up with a couple of concepts for the bike, but since i didn’t work with shop drawings the bike changed styles during the build. Once i came up with the initial concept, i knew what i had to do and the bike started to take form. At the same time, i decided to open my own shop. I thought I’d be able to build the bike while i was setting up my new shop, but that turned out to be an unrealistic goal and the bike was put on hold for about a year, meaning i missed entering the AMD competition in 2010.

At the end of 2010 the build started again. I wanted to build a board track-inspired bike with a modern twist. First i hard-tailed the rear section of the bike and modified a Springer suspension front end that was built by EC Customs. The first thing to address was the handlebars. Since there are no triple clamps, instead of just welding the bars to the steering stem i decided to machine removable flanges, which was no easy task. The bars had a clip on style with an internal throttle.

I knew i had to put a number plate on the bike to keep with the race bike styling and feel. I machined brackets off of the handle bar mounts to support the number plate and also to mount an oil cooler that sits behind it. At first i didn’t know where i was going to put the headlight but i ultimately decided to incorporate the headlight into the number plate, trying to keep it a tight package without being overly complicated.

Then i started on the gas tank design, keeping it in line with the boardtrack styling. I came up with the idea of mounting the tanks to the frame with aluminium backing plates to match the brackets i built to hold the number plate. At that point i decided to add a top-mounted steering damper to complicate matters. Then i moved on to the seat and the rear fender designing an adjustable-height, suspension-mounted seat and tail section, which also incorporated aluminum backing plates. In my view, this gave the bike its beautiful lines from the rear.

Now i had to come up with an idea for the oil tank, which was originally going to be in the tail section. But i wanted to ride and enjoy this bike, so i was concerned about the potential heat and discomfort of that placement. This was when i decided to built it into a splash pan in front of the rear tire which was also no easy undertaking, considering the battery sits in front of it with very limited space.

The bike is a very tight, small package but it does have 5 ½ inches of ground clearance and good handling. I decided to make rear sets and keep them high to keep that race bike feel when you’re sitting on it. That was when the high mounted exhaust came into play, too. I wanted to do something with the now-empty space where the oil tank usually sits and have decided to have the exhaust exit through the left side of the bike. This meant i had to incorporate a heat shield heel guard on the pipes. The brakes and the hand controls, ordered from LA, Choprods, are all ISR equipment.

Next, i tore down and rebuilt the engine usual Buell heads and cylinders. I also set up a pair of 30mm Mikuni carburetors. The wheels are handmade steel rims by Scott’s Invaders – instead of billet mags – to keep with the look of the older styling.

Nub Graphics did a great joint painting the bike giving it that retro look using a solid red and antique white with silver leaf numbers. I was hoping to keep within a clean yet intricate look for the bike and he nailed it.

The bike is full of details from the motor mounts to the stainless steel hard lines to handmade taillight, and license plate bracket. I wanted people to come and stare at this bike and take some time to enjoy the details. It’s not something you can take in quickly, it’s something you can enjoy looking at for hours if you care to.

I would never made it to the competition without the help of my close freinds, family and new employee. I have to give a big thanks to Richie Varella, Gerard Siani, John Picca, Yankee Schmidt and Titto the man. They spent, many nights working on this beast. Right down to the last day of fabrication at 5:30 in the morning. Also, many thanks to my loving and understanding family. Although the bike’s name is The Challenger, i was originally calling it The Home Wrecker because of the toll it took on my family life.

I was gratified when The Challenger took 2nd place in the AMD World Championship, which was no easy task due to the competition we were up against. I was also invited to show my bike at the Artistry in Iron show in Las Vegas, which was a great honor. It also took 1st Place in the Modified Harley Class at the IMS Ultimate Builder Show at the Jacob Javits Center in NYC and 1st Place once again at the IMS Ultimate Builder U.S. Championships in Daytona.

Not too bad for a bike that started out as an 883 Sportster.


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