American Iron Garage: Garage Built


Therapy Build

Evolution and survival through craft

by Stephen Long

Merriam-Webster defines evolution as “a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better state.” For George Holland, the process of evolution has been a pertinent and sustained element of survival. “Evolution,” he says, “I like that word.” And in his ever changing circumstances, George, otherwise known as Dutch (see: Holland, George), embraces his own evolution with resounding resiliency, as the ever-unforgiving, unpredictable universe hurled an all-too familiar fate in his direction: cancer.

From the very first time Dutch straddled the saddle, he strived unapologetically to be the baddest, most domineering rider amongst his friends and peers. Although starting out on a small displacement Japanese bike, he immediately felt the urge to go bigger, if for nothing else but to one-up his buddies, first by upgrading to a Suzuki 250, then to a Norton 750. His commitment to foreign brands remained until 1971, when he had a run-in with the law. No, not that kind of run-in. “In Downingtown, Pennsylvania, I bought my first Harley from a police officer. A 1971 Shovelhead FX,” Dutch remembers. Not that his American epiphany would stop there.

Dutch's flask serves another, darker liquid these days.

Dutch’s flask serves another, darker liquid these days.

“In 1979, I sold the ’71 Shovel and bought my very first new Harley-Davidson, a red and black Shovelhead FXEF. Rode that bike for 26 years.” At that time, Dutch was living in Atlanta, building his metal fabrication business, specifically constructing billboard structures. A long way south of Pennsylvania, he felt himself getting closer and closer to his final goal: Florida.

While building a motorcycle from scratch had always been a lifelong dream of George’s, he often found himself too wrapped up in other projects such as completely restoring a dilapidated marina that he purchased in Nokomis, Florida. “One of my favorite sayings is ‘If you can dream it, you can achieve it,’” he says. The restoration and subsequent success of the marina turned into his passion (well, second to, you know, riding). He repaired and dredged all boat slips and developed a tiki bar that was renowned for being the only tiki bar to host a recurring bike night. Enter Tammy.

Tammy frequented the bike nights George’s marina hosted, with her attendance eventually leading to their introduction. As their affections began to materialize in a very real way, George found himself facing a decision that seems as though it wasn’t as tough as it sounds. “I wanted to get Tammy a diamond,” he says. “That red Shovelhead? It sold very quickly, for three times as much as I bought it for. And I’ve never regretted selling it.” Their meeting and eventual marrying is an important aspect in the development of George’s dreams. “In 2006, we bought the new Softail Deluxe and modified it with a Stage II kit, bringing the Twin Cam up to approximately 1500cc.” He notes this as one of the many stages in his own evolution, as he moved into a new phase of his life, with his new wife and his new motorcycle (they still ride the Softail), he now had a pairing of the two loves at the forefront of his life.

In 2012, Dutch retired and needed a way to keep busy. He credits his friend Hank for giving him the scoop on a 1967 Shovel that he owned and would sell to George at a reasonable price. George completely restored the bike, turning it into his “bar-hopper bobber,” complete with a suicide shift and foot clutch that he fabricated himself. It was during this time, however, that George began to feel his voice fade into a raspy shell of itself. “It was the first signs of cancer growing in my throat. Then I was down, on and off radiation and operations for a couple of years.”

Undergoing daily treatment for seven weeks, George remained steadfast in his approach to riding and to living. “During the treatment I was still able to ride my bike to the appointments, at least until the last couple of weeks,” he recalls. “Then, it simply became too sore.” As the radiation therapy came to an end, his doctor brought the news George wanted to hear. They beat the cancer to a pulp. And, as an apparent silver lining, the doctor told him that he’d come out “sounding like a rock star.” As time went by, however, his throat remained sore and, as cool as it was supposed to be, the raspy voice never alleviated. During an unscheduled return to the doctor, all signs pointed to the cancer’s return, wracking George’s throat with a vindictive vengeance in the form of Stage Four larynx and vocal cancer.

George flies black sails into the storm.

George flies black sails into the storm.

Operating was imperative, and George was on the surgical table almost immediately. Doctors performed a total laryngectomy, an operation that includes removing the larynx, vocal chords, lymph nodes, and partial thyroid gland. Post-op, he spent the following week in a self-reflective stupor, with resounding sympathy washing over him as he saw the suffering of those worse off than he. Not lost in the turmoil of the disease is George’s attitude; he never delved into self-pity, refusing to say, “Why me?” In speaking with George, a sense of overwhelming humility seeps forth from his micro-philosophies.

George clearly has a knack for taking things that are seemingly hopeless and turning them into something powerful. And his wherewithal was certainly being tested. He admits that he began to feel seriously depressed during and after his two-year bout, as he and Tammy had to come terms with his new circumstances. “Tammy never left me during my entire stay [at Moffit Cancer Center]. We both learned how to care for and get along with my new configuration and feeding tubes,” he remembers. “For me, the worst part was the unknown. At home, the healing process was more painful, and I had to create ways to get things done.” Tammy arrived home one day with a check for $1,200 and a note saying, “Go buy a frame and get started on that chopper you’ve been saying you always wanted to build.”

To continue reading this story and about other home-builds like it, pick up a copy of American Iron Garage Spring, available at Greaserag.comAmerican Iron Garage Summer is available on newsstands 5/31.

Custom Harley Motorcycle News: Big Bear Choppers Titanium

Ti1SAN BERNARDINO, CA, March 13, 2013 – Big Bear Choppers today introduced the TITANIUM, a completely new design for 2013 that reinvents the type of motorcycles that Big Bear Choppers offers to consumers. With improved suspension, braking, different fairings, a completely new exhaust system, and carbon fiber components, the TITANIUM takes the philosophy of an FXR style motorcycle and takes it to the next level. Big Bear Choppers working with Yoshimura will also introduce a new line of custom parts for Harley-Davidson Sportsters including new exhausts and fenders. Big Bear Choppers will have the TITANIUM and its new BBC/Yoshimura parts line at Daytona BIke Week, March 8-17, 2013.


American Iron Magazine Custom Harley Show For Daytona Bike Week?

Last year American Iron Magazine and Motorcycle Bagger created a ride-in custom and classic Harley motorcycle show in Daytona Beach during Bike Week. It was a lot of fun and drew a good number of wonderful custom and classic Harleys, several of which were photographed and featured in the magazines.

Plans are still up in the air now for another American Iron Magazine and Motorcycle Bagger sponsored custom Harley show in Daytona Beach Bike Week but we want to do another one. So we are asking our readers for suggestions on where to hold a custom and classic Harley ride-in show and how to make it the best possible.

Share your comments here please.

Kurt’s Led Sled Custom Sportster Bobber Bites Him Back

Blame it on the Wapatui punch, a glorious blend of gut-wrenching, largely grain spirits, Red Bull, and cheap fruit slung together, shaken, and stirred, in a trash can. Legend has it that this elegant cocktail made its debut at a frat house somewhere in Minneapolis, but it has apparently gained a popular legion around the banks of Lake Erie and Cleveland in particular. Its magical qualities can make your day and ruin your night. Or make your night and ruin your day. In other words, Wapatui is beautiful. And heinous. Beautifully heinous. However, enough about that distinguished elixir for the moment.

Not to sound like an elementary school grammar lesson, but this bike is cool. I know that. You know that. We know that. But cool can only take you so far, and there’s often a lesson in humility to be found at the end of the trail. Such was the case with Kurt Epprecht last summer during the Sturgis rally. Kurt had picked up a mildly wrecked 1998 Sportster Sport about a year before the hoedown in the Black Hills. The XL wasn’t so demolished that our Wapatui warrior couldn’t ride it from Cleveland down to Pat Patterson and his Led Sled crew in Dayton. Kurt told the boys what he had in mind — and the posture he and his slight inseam so desired — and then let Pat go nuts as only Pat and the Led Sledders can.
One thing Kurt, a track racer and genuine all-around motorcycle fiend, supposedly specified were pipes that wouldn’t easily scrape and turn into scrap metal. Maybe Pat didn’t hear that request or perhaps he just had his own ideas. No matter. Kurt picked up the stunner you see before you (well, not quite) on Memorial Day 2010, blasted off with mad aggression, quickly turning the bike’s initially low-slung dual exhaust into a pair of sparking cheese graters. Clearly something had to be done.

Pat and his henchmen had already tossed everything from Kurt’s wrecked Sporty. In case you’ve never had the honor, Pat and his pals, true XL wunderkinds, take great pride in tossing pretty much everything you hand them with the exception of your motor. They might even toss you if you hang around too long. It’s what they do, and they do it best. (Full disclosure: I have been honored and tossed in such splendor, and I have a sick Led Sled to prove it.)

As you can see, nothing on Kurt’s scoot is stock, save the H-D 1200 mill. From the frame to the bars, fender, struts, floorboards, oil bag, gas tank, battery cradle, seat, paint, fender … The boys really went to town on this one, not that they can otherwise control themselves when handed a lucky victim. They have a disease, which should not be diagnosed.

Of particular note is the front end, a Led Sled first. That’s right,  yet again, another groundbreaking American Iron exclusive. The National Enquirer has nothing on us! “Kurt’s bike is the first springer we built from scratch,” says Pat. “It’s our design, and we’re really proud of how it looks. In the back legs, you might notice a raised part that comes to a point. We’re trying to pay attention to detail and still make it a killer ride. Given the rake and the fat front tire, you can still throw that thing into corners and it’s awesome. You might feel a crack or two in the road, but you can whack it and give it hell just like anything else.”

Although I’d known Pat for awhile before he decimated and then beautifully resurrected my XL, Kurt had never met Pat prior to his Led Sled odyssey. “It’s always kind of strange when you’re building a bike for a dude that you don’t know,” Pat concedes. “But what’s so cool is that he trusts you. And you have to respect that insane trust. Ideally, it becomes a bond.”

Bond, trust, honor, detail … It all comes back to the finished product, with which Kurt was thrilled. Except for those damn low-slung pipes. And now we come to the lesson in humility. Having shredded his exhaust, bada$$ that he is, Kurt went back to the swami and requested that Pat give him the upswept pipes he’d originally asked for. And so Pat did, setting those suckers above the floorboards and angling them, as you can see, over the fender, pointing to the moon, the sun, your deceased relatives, or whatever else you believe in. How gorgeous. Kurt was a happy man.

Then it all went to s#!%.

“It was Sunday night at the [Buffalo] Chip,” recalls Kurt. He was drinking Wapatui (remember that?) with his buddies, and they were just happy to have enjoyed a great day riding Spearfish Canyon, eating Indian tacos, and generally being the distinguished gentlemen that frequent the annual gathering in the Black Hills. Kurt and company were hanging on top of their RV perched above the Chip’s stage hill camp area, perfectly situated to take in the evening’s music. And, of course, soaking themselves in the trash  can glory that is Wapatui.
When the sun sank, the band cranked, and things got really dark. To show his appreciation of the whole spectacle, Kurt zeroed in on the one thing he thought was lacking — a personal “rev check,” whatever that is. (I’ve knelt at the knees of some old school authorities, and nobody has ever heard the term, but, apparently it’s a sportbike ritual referring to revving the hell out of your bike at a standstill — always an honorable practice.)

Kurt’s rev check found him, perhaps a bit sloshed, with his Led Sled bobber in a dim section of grass. “I went to fire it up,” Kurt remembers. “Damn those pipes sounded so good. I had some trouble locating the switches to start the thing, but I worked it out. Then I slung my right leg over and my boot lace caught on the slash-cut, upswept pipes. I tried to pull it off, but things were going and my curled leg and body position would not allow me to free my boot from the pipe. I ended up falling over the bike while my foot was still stuck on the pipe and then the bike fell on top of me. I woke the next morning, and I had a huge gash on my thigh where the petcock had torn through my jeans, and my knee was the size of a pumpkin.”

Kurt spent that day at the Rapid City Emergency Room where he was diagnosed as having a severely sprained MCL (medial collateral ligament) and a shanked quadriceps muscle. “It kind of screwed up my Sturgis vacation,” admits Kurt. “But you can still have fun at the Chip, even if you are crippled.”

For the record, Kurt and his ailments are now healed, his bike is as ratty and marvelous as ever, his treasured (and dubious) high pipes remain, and his arm is frozen from constantly stirring a trash can full of Wapatui.
Fear the juice. AIM

Story as published in the September Issue of American Iron Magazine.

Hot Rod Harley Sportster By Shaw Speed & Custom

Every day the folks at Bike EXIF post another interesting motorcycle. Most are not Harley, but all are worth checking out. Here is one custom Harley Sportster they shared recently that we though our viewers might find interesting.

EXCLUSIVE Recenty was the finale of the London International Custom Bike Show. So here’s a first look at the most interesting bike, the ‘XLST3’ from Shaw Speed & Custom. SS&C is the custom workshop of an East Sussex Harley dealer, and the south coast boys were the big winner on the night—with XLST3 and a second entry (‘Nascafe Racer’) coming first and third in the Modified Harley-Davidson class.

Harley-Davidson Sportster custom
XLST3 is based on a 2011-model XL1200N, with several key mods. The bike sports a custom exhaust system—built in-house—and has also been converted to chain drive. The stock front end has been fettled with titanium nitrided forks, progressive springs and XL883 fork lowers. A braced swingarm and Öhlins shocks keep the back wheel [Read more…]

Sam’s Led Sled Custom Harley Sportster

If you think this little golden beast is absolutely stunning, you should have seen it before. Way before. “Yeah,” notes Pat Patterson, the guru behind Dayton, Ohio’s Led Sled Customs. “Most people bring us new or almost new bikes. In terms of how they usually look when they’re brought to us, yours was kind of an exception.”

And with those words, Pat exposes himself as a generous master of understatement. This Sportster was a wreck when it first darkened Led Sled’s door, the battered victim of a fairly spectacular end-over-end, game-crushing incident that involved, among other things, a frozen front brake and me barrel-rolling 50 yards down the road. I’m not exactly proud of that little stunt. I am, however, proud (extremely proud) of this bike. At least as it stands today. It’s mine, and I’m one lucky dude. Now, with that out of the way we can get down to business.

After my header, I was left with a totaled 1996 XL 1200, a sorry state of affairs by any measure. Always quick with a solution (not to mention a snarky comment), AIM Editor Chris Maida suggested we turn my balled-up bike into a magazine project. I believe Chris’ words were something to the effect of “We haven’t done a Sportster in awhile and so, being the $#@?&% idiot that you are, you just helped us out.” He’s such a kind man.
Anyway, we didn’t have to wrack our brains for long to agree on who would be ideal to tackle such a potentially heinous project. Pat and his Led Sled crew were the obvious choice, as they specialize in Sportsters, and their builds tend to involve chucking everything stock, except for the motor, about the only part of my bike that had managed to avoid the carnage. Okay, maybe my gas cap survived. Regardless, one call to Pat and the party was on.

For those unaware, Led Sled has fast become renowned for its thoroughly unique treatment of Sportys. However, not too long ago, Pat was making his cake as an overland trucker, a job he held for 10 years, starting at age 21 with his own rig. He eventually ended up with six semis and a team he posted on various Midwestern routes. All the while, though, he was toying first with his 1993 XL and later with other people’s rides. When he wasn’t hauling freight, he was in his garage trying to make Sportsters look cool with little more than a bench, grinder, and MIG welder. Pat also discovered he could lay down some killer paint. That led to him going to vocational school and learning how to work a lathe. Then, of course, he needed more room in a real shop.

Although he didn’t realize it, the seeds for Led Sled were quickly being sown. “$#!% just happened, until I was so busy working on bikes one day that it dawned on me: I couldn’t drive trucks anymore because if I’m not here at the shop all the time, this place ain’t gonna grow.” That was around 2003, when Led Sled officially opened its doors. Pat was 31 and destined to become “The Man” in XL land.
“We’ve been really blessed,” admits Pat, considering the state of the custom world today. “I never started this company thinking we’d have a niche or that I was going to roll the Sportster market. I’ll do a big bike for somebody, no problem. But Sportsters are what I want to build. That’s where my heart is. Hell, I still have a million parts in my head that would make a Sportster look cool.”
At this point does anyone doubt Pat’s enthusiasm for Sportsters? Let’s hope not.

And so, with my wadded Sporty in hand, Pat and the boys went to work putting Led Sled’s hardtail kit to the test. The kit comes with a rear fender, battery tray, and oil tank already mounted. First of all, they ripped my bike apart and threw everything away, save for the motor and the front half of the frame — all the easier to register and insure it, given the stamped VIN numbers. “We cut the frame right behind the top motor mount on the backbone and then 3″ underneath the rear motor mount,” explains Pat. “Those welds and cuts are right at motor mounts. So even though you’ve just welded it, the rigidity of the mill, which adds a lot of the structure to the frame, basically holds the entire bike together anyway. You could probably run these kits without even welding because of where we strategically place the slugs to slide into the tubes. From there, we just started throwing our parts on it.” Like their new floorboards and that blink-and-you’ll-miss-it covert license tag. “We call it our fleeing and eluding bracket because … ” Just take a guess, please.

Things came together pretty quickly, and Pat claims the build was just plain fun and simple. “After all, our goal is to make it as easy as possible for a dude in his garage to install our parts,” Pat says. “Your bike mainly consists of our hardtail kit. We wanted to show how good your bike can look with just that. When it came time to give it flash, Paughco gave us that bitchin’ front end. Then I narrowed the tank to bring that skinny feel into play.”

And does anyone notice those bars? “With those, we went for an edgy, out-there, hardcore feel. Nothing traditional. You can change the whole attitude of a bike with just handlebars.” Mission most definitely accomplished. “It’s funny. The bike is really so simple, but you still just have to stare at it.” And stare at it people do, often in a trance. After a prolonged meditation, one transfixed friend (an Irishman) mumbled, “It’s amazing, like, Steve McQueen meets Liberace.” Priceless.

On that note, perhaps it’s time to address the way this golden knockout rides. Being a suicide-foot-clutch, jockey-shift, no-front-brake conundrum, it takes some getting used to. For most people, it’s probably not the most ideal machine to tackle the mean streets of, say, New York City. Then again, most people wouldn’t even think of riding this bike — even if they could figure it out, that is. In that respect, it’s got a form of natural theft protection. The truth is, once you get in the groove, it’s an incredibly fun, fast, and nimble animal to bang around on. Just try to avoid the many yahoos who almost crash into you trying to catch a glimpse of a machine they may have never seen the likes of before. It’s not easy being gold. And a Led Sled.

As much as I’d like to beat my chest and say that I’ve logged many miles on this beauty, the honor belongs to Chris Maida who cranked it all the way up the East Coast from Daytona to New York, except for a 200-mile trip to Charlotte to fix a blown head gasket, in three days! I had to fly home. Does that make me soft? Maybe. But my time will come. For the moment, though, Chris, bastard that he is, reigns as the true warrior. You don’t know how it pains me to write that.

Now I’m going to stare at my gorgeous golden girl. AIM

Harley Bagger Magazine Daytona Party Bike Show

American Iron Magazine and Motorcycle Bagger are throwing a magazine launch party and bagger bike show at the Broken Spoke Saloon in Ormond Beach, FL.

The launch party for our new Motorcycle Bagger magazine and free bagger motorcycle show starts around 1 pm, Friday March 11 during Daytona Beach Bike Week.

Meet our editors and have some fun. We will be looking for custom and classic Harley baggers to photograph and feature in our magazines.