For years we’ve drooled over the styling of Harleys and Indians from the 1940s, and we were also inspired by the images of TROG in the US, but finding (and affording!) an original Harley or Indian of this era was beyond our means so this created an opportunity to build a replica with a twist.
Words & pics: Hoxton Moto
Hoxton Moto was originally set up as a YouTube channel dedicated to motorcycling, but getting in the workshop to build bikes has become a passion, and in the last few years we’ve built a 1960s Honda race replica, a Honda CB550 Brat, a Moto Morini cafe racer, restored a Yamaha XT 500, and done this Harley beach racer, and we’re currently working on a Honda NX650 ’tracker.
We set out to find a cheap Harley as a donor bike and decided on a 1970s Ironhead Sportster. After a lengthy search, we finally found the ideal donor; it’d been imported into the UK as a restoration project at some point but, aside from occasionally being tinkered with, it’d languished unloved and uncared for in a garage for more than 10 years. Without revealing our intentions, a deal was struck with the owner, and the commitment was made.
We stripped the donor bike completely, retaining just the engine and frame. Jake Robbins Engineering (renowned bike builder and girder fork specialist) fitted a set of his hand-built girder forks, and then we talked about how to create a rigid rear end. After a short one-way discussion (with us mostly bamboozled by his vision), Jake persuaded us to let him loose on the rear suspension to create a friction damped, twin spring, live cantilever spring frame. This was his homage to a Bentley & Draper spring frame, as used on early Broughs and New Imperials. Like a man possessed, the angle grinder came out, the welder spluttered and snorted, and he smashed out the conversion.
Retaining the original rear wheel and brake, we sourced a 16-inch front rim and a drum brake from an Enfield Bullet and, after producing the rolling chassis, we moved on to the styling. Three important features of this were the handlebars, the fuel tank and the seat. Jake had some old ’bars collecting dust in his workshop which he donated, and we set about fabricating the seat and tank.
The seat was relatively quick to fabricate once we had decided on the shape and dimensions, but we deliberated over the fuel tank design as we wanted to create something different and unusual. Using a block of builders’ Celotex and a rasp, a shape emerged which became the template for the fabrication. The design was transferred to a sheet of ally and with the use of planishing hammers, English-wheel and a welder, the ally tank was completed.
We had to find a way of mounting the essential oil tank and battery box. We built the oil tank from scratch; designed to be rubber-mounted in the small space between the engine and frame, and the battery box was yet another hand-built feature, mounted on the swinging arm.
A predominant feature of the Ironhead is the air intake housing. We looked at all the aftermarket designs, of which there are many, but decided that we had come this far and would fabricate our own. With the leftover ally from the tank and a few hand tools, the air intake shape evolved into its unique design.
The rear mudguard and lights were found at autojumbles, and the seat was covered by Glenn Moger, while the control cables and wiring were all done in-house. To finish off the beach racer look, we fabricated and mounted the race plates. Finally, the bike was sprayed and painted by hand, with a signwriter brushing in the numbers and tank design.
If you’d like to see more of the bike, and the others we’ve done too, please check out our YouTube channel (Hoxton Moto), go to www.hoxtonmoto.com or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.Enjoy more Back Street Heroes reading in the monthly magazine. Click here to subscribe.