August 2000 Column
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"Lateral Thinking for the Indian Lover"
Home / Features / Chops
 Indian Choppers Corner
   Part Six: Birth of a Frankenstein Chief
   By Tim Pickering
Well, enough of philosophy.  It's time to get technical.  Not boringly technical (I hope), but I need to lay my own cards on the table.  After waxing so lyrical in recent columns, not to mention casting aspersions upon other peoples' Indian choppers, its high time I showed the world that I'm not just an armchair critic.

I also have a confession to make.  Part of my cunning plan with all this "Choppers Since The Dawn Of Time" stuff was to buy time while I made some visual progress on my own project.  Unfortunately, I still don't have much to report. 

Apart from my usual distractions of fatherhood and jazz, there have been two additional reasons for this poor showing on the chopper front. 

Firstly, Kiwi Indian's conrods that were initially expected to arrive in February are still not in stock, so I haven't been able to make a start on the engine. 

Secondly, since 19 May there has been an armed takeover of Parliament here in friendly sunny Fiji, with all Government Parliamentarians still being held hostage at gunpoint.  The situation is not yet as exciting as Rwanda, but it's already a lot more exciting than most parts of Minnesota (fires and floods notwithstanding).  See if you have more than just cursory interest in this sorry state of affairs, and Minnesotans in the VI Community can contact me privately if they want to debate the above assertion.  Since Fiji is now under martial law, and since my own house is within an easy rifleshot of the aforementioned Parliament (though thankfully out of range of the grenade launchers) I've had to vacate the premises and leave all motorcycling paraphernalia behind. 

Click on pictures for full size

A representative of Fiji's new government explains to your columnist that guns don't kill people, only people kill people.
How's that for an excuse?  Convincing?  It sure beats the more-usual "dog ate my homework", I daresay.

Anyway, while we happy-go-lucky Fiji Islanders all sit around and wait for the return of "normalcy" (a new word that doesn’t appear in any dictionary, but now in common use around these parts) I can at least show you how things have evolved in the frame and running gear department, as I strive against increasingly daunting odds to create my own Minimal-fuckin'-ist chopper Chief. 

After that I will run out of things to say and will have to turn this column over to a "guest host", like they sometimes do on the "Tonight" show.  If any of you out there in cyberland want to use this column to feature your own chopper Chief, or to explore some arcane technicality of the chopper craft, then drop me an e-mail and let me know.

Meanwhile, lets see for how long I can spin out this yarn.  This month I'll tell you how the frame and running-gear concepts got formulated.  Next month I'll show evidence that some bits of metal have, through judicious application of heat, actually become fused to other bits of metal as a first step in the implementation of this project.

Dreaming up my ideal chopper Chief 

Having acquired my job-lot of assorted Chief engine parts (see Part Four), and having decided that I didn't want to put them into a stock Chief frame, the next thing to decide was … what the hell sort of a frame was I going to put them into?

You will recall from Part Four of this column that I extolled the virtues of Ariel Red Hunter rigid frames as a good basis for a non-Harley chopper project.  They have a nice "30s" sort-of a look about them.  Not surprising really, since they were in fact made during the 1930s.  They remained in production virtually unchanged from about 1930 to 1954, and use brazed-lug construction as is typical of this era.  This gives them an "antique" look, which fits my vision of a period hotrod rather than a modern chopper. 

Basically, what I decided to make the object of my lust was a machine that combined the virtues of the Chief engine with the virtues of a bobbed-Harley type of frame. 

In Part One I explained how I'd flirted with the idea of getting one of the big British vee-twins of the 1930's, like an AJS Model 2 or Royal Enfield Model K, in order to avoid having to get a Harley.  This flirtation switched to Indian vee-twins when I realised how stodgy and pedestrian the Brit big-vees are.  But Indian Chiefs are not perfect either. 

Realising at last that no factory bike ever manufactured was going to suit me completely, it now fell upon me to manufacture one all by myself.  A daunting task if, like me, your skills only extend as far as unbolting things (usually successfully) and bolting things together again (sometimes with less success).

My idea is to make a reasonably sporty big v-twin that, as much as possible, looks as if it could have been manufactured during the 1930's.  Have a look at the next few pix on the right for examples of Harley bobbers that capture the spirit of what I want to build. 

With a Chief engine I will get the best and most race-bred of the flathead big-vee engines from the '30s.  With a Harley-esque frame and running gear I will overcome my Chief dislikes.

Hollister 1947.  The photo that launched a thousand bikes, and several dozen piss-poor movies.


"Whaddya mean, someday folks will want stock fenders on it again?  Are you nuts?"

"Yes mom, I'll be back directly.  Soon's I finish my paper route …"

I could almost give garage space to a Harley flattie, if it looked like this.

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