Steve “Street Rod” builds a chopper to rival the pros
Before I go on and on about this being Nutmegger Steve Van Blarcom’s first bike build, which it is, you should know that he’s a successful and well-respected builder of hot rods and classic automobiles. To say that he’s mechanically inclined just wouldn’t do his skills justice.
Having built countless custom hot rods and performed many nut and bolt restorations, there were still a few things that Steve wanted to do. The first was to set some land speed records. In 2006, he hit 198.43 mph in his Thacker and Shine 1929 Roadster at the Maxton Mile. He’s currently the record holder, and since the Mile closed down in 2010, he always will be. In 2009, he trucked out to Bonneville where he claimed a world land speed record in the roadster, taking it to 216.979 mph.
There was still something that Steve had not done. While he had worked on motorcycles and customized several of his prior bikes, he had never actually built one from the ground up. At the time, bike builder shows were becoming very popular on television. “I used to look at the bikes that they built and thought, I can build one like that,” Steve says. “I wanted it to be a theme bike like I was watching the bike builders on TV do.”
Steve’s life revolves around his family and hot rods. Both are displayed prominently on this bike. “When I thought about what I should use for a theme, because I’m such a street rodder I came up with the idea to make what we now call the Hot Rod Chopper.”
The stunning paint job has a House of Kolor Candy Blue and Silver laid down by Shane Salisbury of Wetcoats. Those colors are broken up with a painted chrome strip and ’57 Chevy aluminum fins on the back fender. “It went on from there and started to involve my whole family,” Steve says. The names of all the members of his family are featured on the bike, including Judy, his wife of over 40 years; his grandsons Derek and Drew, and his daughter Laura. The ignition cover on the left side of the bike is engraved Sandy, in memory of his other daughter. To make the family complete, there’s also a Steve painted on the bike.
Take a look at the other airbrush work that Shane did, like the moon eyes on the left side of the oil tank and “Mr. Horsepower” Woody Woodpecker on the right. To come full circle on Steve’s chopper, the paint features six of Steve’s actual cars right on the gas tank. The diner the cars are parked in front of is the famous Olympia Diner on the Berlin Turnpike in Newington, Connecticut. That was the popular strip back in the day where hot rodders used to cruise and show off their rides. The wide tires on his Bad Coupe painted on the fender almost make even the 300-class rear tire look pitiful.
Delivering power to that hunk of rubber is a 131″ V-twin built by H&L Performance in Wallingford, Connecticut, which uses S&S Cycle cases and produces 150 hp. The custom pipes, and the rest of the metalwork, were built by Jamie Miller of Miller Racing. That giant Weber IDF carb from Terry Components not only feeds tons of air and fuel to the beastly engine, but it also adds to the bike’s hot rod theme. A BAKER Drivetrain RSD six-speed backs up the 131, and the two are mated via a BDS 3″ primary.
For added cleanliness, Steve wired everything through the big blue frame. The frame itself sports 40 degrees of rake and is stretched 8″ up and 5″ out. It’s also tough to overlook those one-off wheels made by Chuck Wendt of Rowe Machine and modeled after the old Radir wheels that graced hot rods in the ’50s. That big beautiful front end is a 14″-over Mean Street Stiletto model, which Steve internally wired the brake lines through. Doing the actual braking at both ends are Performance Machine calipers. Steering is accomplished with a classy Custom Cycle Control Systems handlebar with built-in controls, and, of course, internal wiring.
With that clean look and killer power, it might be difficult to believe that the hot rod chopper is streetlegal. It is, as part of Steve’s original goal was to ensure the bike would be 50-state legal as any stock Harley-Davidson would be. Even the one-off exhaust has the proper amount of baffling to keep this chopper out of the impound.
While Steve has the technical skills and tools required to build a pro-level bike, no one can take away that this is indeed his first bike build. While many would-be builders out there tried to copy the pros they saw on television, Steve succeeded and gave “as seen on TV” a whole new meaning. AIM
READER’S RIDE By Tyler Greenblatt
Story as published in the July 2012 issue of American Iron Magazine.