Cast your minds back to last summer, and the issue of Back Street Heroes in which we ran a bike built by the father and son team of Norman and Louie Hartley of Deathgrip Custom Cycles – the stunning purple Panhead that they took to Born Free in California.
Words: Dave Manning
Pictures: Garry Stuart
Tragically, Norm passed away from cancer last year, just a handful of days before the feature appeared in print. It takes little imagination to work out why Louie might want to build a bike in honour of his father; a bike titled The Final Farewell – the very machine you see here. This is the last bike that Norm had a hand in the build of, and although he didn’t really have much of a hand in the physical building of the bike, his wealth of knowledge and guiding words along the way were essential. And, as Louie says: “Just him being there in the shop with me was enough to push me forward with the build and, although he didn’t make it long enough to see the bike completed, I’m pretty sure he’d’ve loved it.”
The bike was actually built for one of DCC’s customers, Alan Ions, and Louie makes a special mention of the fact that, during the duration of the build, not only has Alan allowed him complete creative freedom, but has now become a friend. And, thanks to that flexibility afforded by his broad-minded acceptance of the bike Louie wanted to build, the end result’s a perfect, coherent example of the chopper genre.
The idea centred upon a 1953 H-D Panhead power-plant, although it was no ordinary ’53. With the foundations solidly set with Delkron crankcases and a Jim’s crank, a pair of S&S pistons give plenty of punch, breathing through a modified Super B carb and velocity stack and a set of stacked bespoke exhaust pipes – the outlet from the front pot writhes sinuously around the base of both barrels before neatly accompanying the rear cylinder’s pipe to the rear of the bike.
As with all the builds at Deathgrip, Louie likes to do as much as possible himself. Consequently, the frame is a one-off, twin downtube, high-necked rigid, with the rake and high neck proving just right for the stunning ‘Slim Jim’ springers (also made inhouse). The top end has a set of one-off ’bars, again made in the Middlesbrough workshop, while the bottom end is prevented from digging itself into tarmac by a Kustom Tech wheel, of 21 inches in diameter, with a neat mini drum brake, which has the front brake torque arm bushed for movement, rather than rose-jointed, in order to keep it slim and neat.
At the rear, an 18-inch rim is laced to a star hub with a mechanical, rather than hydraulic, drum brake. A super-tall sissy-bar extends from the frame rails just above the rear spindle, supporting not only the solitary mudguard (a modified Manta Ray item welded to the frame), but also the almost-equally tall seat unit – note how the sissy-bar has those exquisite mounts on to both the frame and the mudguard, and how perfectly it matches the seat profile (and how soft and welcoming the leather appears on the seat, as covered by Dave at Slo-Co).
The elegance of the sissy-bar is just one of the multitude of neat detail touches that abound, yet the bike is neither cluttered nor overindulgent in any way. It’s all purity and simplicity of line, shape and form. Following the idiom of smooth lines, the mudguard, narrowed peanut petrol tank and one-off oil tank are all welded to the frame, and then moulded to flow smoothly together. Anyone who’s attempted this knows just how much work is involved, and how long it takes to reach the required finish, and bear in mind that the moulding also extends to the headstock area (with its neat, bullet-shaped steering stops), the aforementioned sissy-bar mounts, the engine head-steady, the formed guards ahead of the chain adjusters, and even extending to the lower engine and transmission mounts!
Once all of that moulding was completed, and what a mind-numbing, soul-sucking task that must’ve been, the frame assembly and various ancillary parts were all shipped down to Wakefield to allow Matt at Paint By Matt, who’s done most of DCC’s builds, to work his magic. And what a superb job he’s done; the colour isn’t just red, and it isn’t just a gorgeous candy red either – it’s an eye-catching and fascinating mix of scarlet, crimson and ruby reds, all overlaying a crackly gold base that only shows itself in certain lights, and is a total bugger to photograph, so well done to Garry Stuart for immortalising it in a digital form… although whether the amazing finish actually translates into the printed media remains to be seen.
Further tasks to be completed in a unique way that in no way detract from the end result, but instead contribute to it, were the incredibly well-hidden electrics (can you see anything apart from the HT leads?) as knitted together by Rory Hartley (Louie’s brother) at Electric Dreams, the serpentine mounts for the front and rear lights, the way that the clutch case and clutch operating arm are painted bright red, and the way that the chain rivets have been patiently and delicately machined down and polished. No compromise. Exactly how it should be. Norm would most definitely approve.