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Paul Cox’s Dragster-Inspired Bike Tempus Viator

Custom Motorcycle Feature

Paul Cox’s Dragster-Inspired Bike Tempus Viator


Brooklyn artist/bike builder Paul Cox created Tempus Viator, the dragster-inspired custom before you, for a banker in Lower Manhattan. While Paul assigned the term Renaissance man to the late, great Indian Larry during our conversation about the purple digger, his background leaves little doubt that the term fits him equally well. As adept with brush, canvas, and various sculpting media as leatherwork, torch, lathe, mill, and engine/transmission building, there’s more to Paul than might be apparent. But let’s talk about Tempus Viator.

Its additional length, crucial in the dragbikes that inspired it for holding a tight line in the quarter mile and keeping the front wheel in sight of the ground, comes from modifications Paul made to a Rolling Thunder frame. They include additional stretch and rake up front, along with an extended rear section that features Paul’s signature drag reinforcement struts. An additional influence from the racing world is the titanium used in the bike’s girdraulic fork. Designed by Paul and constructed of components electric discharge-machined (EDMed) by “Knucklehead Steve” in New Jersey, the titanium earns its keep by making the fork much lighter than it would be in steel, and more rigid than if made of aluminum. Another interesting fact is that because titanium is tricky to weld, the upper and lower sections join mechanically via grade 8 hardware. The hydraulic units Paul had custom made for his forks ensure a ride more contemporary than vintage.

The leather seat, hand-tooled by Paul, of course, contributes to Viator’s unusually civilized ride. Recall the rigid frame, and understand that they aren’t called hardtails for nothing. The seat is supported by one of Paul’s Rigidaire air-suspension systems, which is adjustable via a small, well-hidden compressor. By pushing a button, the rider can collapse the all but unnoticeable air bladders to place the seat low on the frame, or inflate it for a welcome touch of cush when needed. New York City’s five boroughs not being known for silky smooth roadways, the Rigidaire is a good seller for Paul through his business, Paul Cox Industries. Clearly customer-oriented, he comments, “My builds have to be fun to ride and safe. A customer doesn’t get a jockey shift and spool wheel unless he’s comfortable with them.”

The heart of any honest, race-inspired motorcycle is its powertrain. Built around STD cases and heads, the 88″ Shovelhead features a 3-5/8″ bore and 4-1/4″ stroke, a combination favored by both Paul and Indian Larry. Though somewhat modest in displacement compared to some hot-rodded Shovels, the relatively short stroke and moderate bore deliver superior longevity and smoothness with a solid powerband throughout the rpm range. Backing up the “born to rev” 88-incher are a polished CCI four-speed transmission with a chromed ratchet lid and Rivera Primo clutch and belt drive. Regarding the latter, an interesting, seldom-seen touch is the use of a shortened and chromed compensator nut in place of the usual acorn nut to secure the front sprocket.

Interesting visual touches abound on Tempus Viator, not least of which is the Pavo Purple Kandy paint with rich, dark flames that Paul sprayed over a metalflake base before adding the perfect touch of contrasting aqua pinstriping. Gold leaf adds an element of class to any custom paint job, including the gears decorating Viator. Paul and his special guest trainee, his daughter Dylan, applied it to areas that draw attention to the finely crafted tank and fender mounts. Another highlight is the collection of copper lines and brass fittings. Possibly sensing that I was planning a quick trip to the nearest HVAC/refrigeration discount warehouse for copper tubing to replace the butt-ugly rubber lines on my Knuckle, Paul emphasized that the tubing he uses has thicker walls than that commonly available at home-improvement stores, making it a better choice for motorcycle applications. He also pointed out that he protects his lines from vibration by keeping straight sections as short as possible.

While the copper lines obviously contribute to Viator’s impact, those used to drain oil from the cylinder heads — every engine’s hot spot — also add function by exposing circulating oil to cool airflow. And speaking of cool, albeit in a different sense, you may find yourself wondering about the finish of the frame and Cox-made pipes. Paul had both nickel-plated and then scuffed them with Scotch-Brite pads to provide a lustrous semimatte finish. The shaved S&S cylinders received their luster via a ceramic coating applied by Jet-Hot High Performance Coatings.

It would be unfair to close without explaining the prominent mechanical theme on the gear cover, which was so skillfully executed by Heather New of New-Line Engraving in Canada, and other areas such as the previously mentioned seat and gold-leaf gear designs. One tip if your curiosity’s piqued: don’t expect the obvious explanation. Remember that Tempus Viator’s owner is a banker. The art and the bike’s name, which translates loosely to time machine, represent the complex locking mechanisms that secure top-level bank vault doors … and can only be opened by Father Time. AIM 321