Ironhead Old School Chop

Story by Johnny Pants Photos By Jack “Radio Silence” Cofano
2018-06-13 16:30:54 Published in Feature Bikes

So, you’re a diehard Old School freak, huh? I’m a traditionalist too and I can’t get enough of well done Old School builds whether they were from back in the day or just done yesterday. Like a well-worn set of Levis (or whatever), it’s a style that never ever goes out of style. Old School builds entice me in to look in every nook and cranny to see how things were done. When I run into a cool cat of a custom like this Harley-Davidson Sportster Ironhead chopper, I inspect more than look. Not critically either, I just want to understand and get a feel for the build.

  It could be that Old School is all about feel more than anything else. At least that’s the way I see it as I’m okay with looking at Old School maybe more than I am riding them. Yes, I’m from the past where riding was more important than just showing off. Back then if you had a bad ass chop you rode it because it was usually all you had. Bar hoppers today were once distance bikes if that’s all you owned and it never seemed to stop anybody. But, a lot of them I rode were downright scary with hyper-long skinny forks, no brakes and handling that could best be described as different.

    Rake and trail were a garden tool and a path through the woods back then. Disregarding their importance led to some strange rides where butt-clinching cornering was almost standard issue. Getting the front wheel where you were happy was often like yelling commands at a deaf dog. It’s not gonna happen. Today, though, new/old builds take things like this into account and you can get reasonable chopper handling that’s not out to get you from the first twist of the throttle to the ride’s-over shutdown. 

  At least that’s the way I see this gorgeously radical Ironhead chop with a sale date that says modern and a time-stamp that says Old School. Built around a custom stretched swingarm frame with a couple of the skinniest downtubes possible, it makes its statement in about half-s-second and continues to fill you in the more you check it out. I’m going with the idea the rake and trail were seriously considered because of the rear shocks. Yup, those modern bits with piggyback reservoirs and a bit more travel than I expected makes me think the builder was concerned with ride and handling. Using these instead of just a super-short shock that would be more strut than shock makes me think that way.

   Plus, if you gotta go unnecessarily long with a set of forks because that’s your style and your business, springers were and still are the way to go as far as I’m concerned. Plus of course they look cooler than cool. And, hanging what appears to be an H-D Morris Mag wheel so far in front of the rider is about as dramatic as it gets riding Old School. You just kind of roll in to a stop or aim it down the highway like a rolling gun sight. Out back is an appropriately-sized similar design wheel, but with a somewhat vintage Motor Company rear disc brake setup providing the sole stopping power.

  The Ironhead Sporty engine is from the early ‘70s with an unknown specification. Back in the day these were no slouches and with a bit of customary hop-up equipment onboard, they’re still quite contemporary speed-wise to today’s Sporty. The AMF engine was fairly brutal with its power delivery and that’s one characteristic that still appeals today. What doesn’t appeal, though, is the vibration which would probably shock a lot of modern-day riders into a WTF? moment after experiencing it. The only rubber mounting on this ride was of the two tires. But, with that set of straight-through drag pipes hanging off the engine you can clearly see no Ironhead decibels are harmed whenever this baby’s running.

   That all black engine probably has a lot of stores to tell as it gets close to its 50th birthday, but it’s still getting ready for another 50-year-go-round after the last rebuild. I do have a couple of concerns, though, like the missing sprocket cover that leaves the kick starter really hanging out in the breeze and unsupported and the lack of shifting gear. Everything else is on the bike but that. Am I missing some radical new way of shifting? I do like that this bike is true to OS form with a nice stock primary with message.

  Whoever built this bike does deserve a lot of credit for their reinterpretation of famous styles from the past. Take the classic coffin tank for example, here it’s been tweaked very, very nicely with a different take that includes a revised profile with some judicious curves adding lots of appeal where only straight lines usually exist. The design and cap placement are also thoughtful touches that take this out of the copycat to cool version.

   Same goes for the reworked rear fender that’s nicely rolled and molded with the tail light and plate completely integrated, but standing out too. It’s got a ‘70s chopper vibe and a bit of kinship to the original Boat Tail Super Glide. The modern teardrop headlight perfectly fits this build looking neither old nor new particularly, but something that could’ve been done in the ‘70s even if it clearly isn’t. You might know it, but most people probably wouldn’t. And then there’s the metal flake vinyl solo seat that’s come to represent an Old School look that’s more hot rod than chopper to me. I honestly can’t say I ever ran into a vinyl metal flake seat on a bike eons ago, but I did see them in hot rods. Hey, it’s an accepted practice and homage to Old School now whether it’s correct or not so who am I to say anything?

   The coppery-bronze paint on this build is pretty ‘70s digger-perfect to me. The body and frame being the same base color is period correct and from there the graphics take over adding depth and drama to the final paint work. The layout of the graphics and the panel style itself fits the bill with a interestingly  busy, but not too busy, piece of air brushing. You probably saw that the tank’s graphics are a different color scheme than the rear fender which caught me by surprise as every seems to do both identical. Not here, though, as the tank stands out as it rightly should. Nice eye on this one Mr. Painter.

  So like I said initially, Old School is all about feeling and this build makes me feel pretty damn good. I look at something like this and I’m feeling 20 again. Not a bad feeling if I do say so myself.

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