Covingtons Customs 2014 Indian Chief Vintage
Photos By Don Kates/Shooters Images
John Viskup has a couple of very nice Covington Customs-built Harley Davidsons. He digs those bikes a lot, but he also has an Indian Chief Vintage bagger. It is definitely an okay machine, but John had this nagging feeling about the overall look. Something seemed lacking, particularly in profile. One day, he asked Jerry Covington if he could do something with the Indian. Now Jerry Covington and his Woodward, Oklahoma,based Covington Customs shop should be no stranger to anyone reading these pages. Not only does Covington Customs build custom motorcycles and custom cars of all sorts, this outfit also manufactures a wide range of billet and other components for various Harley-Davidson models. The shop is a family affair, with 14 employees, including Jerry’s sons Dave and Pee Wee. Dave specializes in the fabrication part of the biz while Pee Wee is the powertrain go-to guy.
What all of the above means is that Covingtons Customs was definitely the right place to take on the task of “cleaning up” the Indian bagger. It all started with an idea: Owner Viskup and the Covington clan wanted it to look like it could have been built by Indian as a concept machine. The general idea was to mix a vintage classic look with a modern machine. At this point, Dave Covington drew up a series of concept images. Much of it was based around a custom leaf spring front end, which of course, has vintage Indian written all over it.
Dave had constructed one years ago for another project, and they decided the basic idea was perfect for the Indian. The big issue was that much of the Indian frame is built from a series of aluminum castings. It’s not that simple to cut and weld in order to change something major (like the neck). Jerry tells us that after a lot of head scratching, the ultimate fix was to place the bare Indian frame into a chassis jig and then design and build an entire new backbone, neck and double down tube setup out of steel. This “sub frame” was fabbed so that it would bolt into the existing Indian aluminum center frame section. From there, Dave went to work on the leaf-spring front end. The entire arrangement was custom-fabricated at the Covington shop. With the front end done, they moved to the back and lowered the rear end by way of a Platinum Air Suspension setup. It works by way of a stock Indian swingarm.
Before we go much further, we should note that Jerry’s shop has multiple CNC machines. Building custom parts sounds easy, but each of the CNC machining centers is working full time building components for custom parts operation. As most of you know, to make a CNC-machined part, a good amount of time is actually spent creating the program. For this custom Indian, many components were custom-machined on the CNC, but that meant hours to create the various programs and then stopping one of the production machines and setting it up for custom work. It all took time and it certainly wasn’t finished overnight. In fact, it took almost a full year to build this motorcycle, but the build progressed in spurts: They could fit things in without disrupting production too adversely.
Back to the bagger: Once the frame and front end were nailed down, Covington fabricated a custom steel headlight nacelle that for all intents and purposes, looks like an Indian part (it accepts a stock Indian headlamp). The side panels were also custom-fabricated, and it was all topped off with a stock Chief gas tank lightly modified with a custom filler panel. Rolling stock for the motorcycle consists of spoke wheels – a 26″ Ridewright job on the nose and a stock Indian 16″ch example out back. The back wheel was stripped and powdercoated. The front tire is a 120/55-26″ from Metzeler while the back tire is a 180/16″ Dunlop. Covering the wheels are fenders from Dirty Bird Customs. Dave reworked the front to work with the springer, while the back fender is as produced. Brakes consist of stock Indian calipers and
The handlebars are stock, but they’ve been powdercoated (Meclec Metal Finishing in California handled the powdercoating and chrome work). The bars are perched on RSD risers. Check out the grips, though: They were hand-tooled by Springdale, Arizona’s James Carter. Carter also hand- tooled the Indian-theme saddle. It’s definitely a work of art. The balance of the controls – foot and hand — are stock Indian components. Ditto the mirrors. The dash, however, is from Dirty Bird Customs. It accepts stock Indian gauges and hardware.
As far as grunt is concerned, the big Indian bagger relies upon an almost stock 111″ Thunderstroke V-Twin. The air cleaner is an Indian Motorcycle high-performance piece, same as the engine management software. The exhaust is a Covington-modified Rusty Jones 2-into-1 system.
Jerry Covington tells us his staff spent quite a bit of time carefully detailing the engine with paint. The idea here was to make it look more like a vintage Indian flathead. From our perspective, it flat works. Indian should take note!
When the fab and detail work was complete, the Covington crew stripped the bike and prepped all of the panels for paint and detail work. This really means they body-worked everything before handing the panels off to Brian Loker Designs of Owasso, Oklahoma. The instructions for the paint job proved simple: Paint it two-tone and make it look vintage. Loker absolutely nailed it with the black over red scheme separated by gold leaf.
With the panels complete, the bike went back to Jerry’s shop for final polishing and detailing and then on to reassembly. The machine was finished in time for Daytona Bike Week where the bagger pretty much stopped people in their tracks. Everyone was stoked by the machine, particularly because of the 26″-spoke front wheel and springer fork combination. Folks wanted to know when Jerry was coming out with a bolt-on kit. But as Covington is quick to note, the fabrication work required in order to arrive at that point in terms of looks is considerable (including pretty much half of a frame). It’s not exactly a bolt-in. None the less, it’s an absolutely stellar machine. To add icing to the cake, the big Chief springer rides and handles brilliantly too.
Indian uprising? No question in our book. The Covington-built bagger is an absolutely home run and we’re absolutely jealous! AIM 379