Saturday, February 20, 2010

Magazine cover tri-fecta

When people talk about bikes and builders from the late '60's-early '70's, one person who is totally overlooked is Gary Hetrick. At that time, a machinist by trade, Gary was bitten by the chopper bug, and decided to build himself a bike, but not just any bike.......

Gary Hetrick's riding cover shot for the March '73 issue of Street Chopper. The bike appears to be black in this shot, but in reality it was various candy purple shades, faded over a white pearl base.

Just take some time to soak in all the detail and trick components Hetrick incorporated in his build. His fabrication skills and machine work from 30-odd years ago would put a lot of builders with their CNC machines and modern equipment to shame today.

Hetrick started with a '69 ex-LAPD cop bike. Gary took the frame, and extended it out 4", then he added another 1 3/8" of rake to the neck. He built his own hardtail section 2" shorter than an original rigid frame.

From there, Hetrick made his own 21" over springer front end out of 4130 cromo tubing. Then, he fabricated the gas tank, oil tank, and just about every other part on the motorcycle you can see, in his spare time at his machine shop. Gary then made all his own oil and fuel lines out of Earl's AN supplies, and used aircraft grade stainless allen head and nylock fasteners, along with safety wiring every critical fastener, to secure every component on his bike.

This bike was light years ahead of what everybody else was doing at the time, and would still be a knockout even today.

One of my favorite pieces on Hetrick's bike, the machined inner and outer primaries. Gary started with a 56 lb. block of aluminum, and 25 lbs more for the compensator and clutch domes. When he was finished, the primary weighed in at a svelte 28 lbs. All this machine work was done on a manual rotating milling machine, and consumed 158 hours. NO CNC! Wow

The finished primaries, just beautiful. Good shot of the machined forwards on the shift side. Also note the tinted inspection window with the H-D pin in the center.

I saw on another message board that somebody was touting how they had incorporated both their front caliper and their master cylinder into the same bracket. Sorry, Hetrick beat you by 37 years! Gary ran his front brake cable inside his rt. rear springer leg, and connected it to a H/A "pull" master cylinder. Nice polished American 12 spoke wheel, too.

All you guys with your gas tank site tubes.....again, 1973, nothing is new. Check out the lettering at the base of the tube - START WALKIN'.

OK, now this has to be the coolest cover photo ever for a chopper magazine! Here's Gary's bike and feature article for the June '77 issue of Supercycle. Still rolling 4 years later, with a few new components.

Like all of us, Gary couldn't resist changing things around some. His bike now sported Cragar Super Trick wheels front and back (adapted by Hetrick), new disc brakes, paint, gold leaf, and Gary decided to build himself a new 22 over girder front end.

The front brake was still cable operated, but this time Gary ran the cable to a master cylinder hidden behind the headlight, with the hydraulic line run internally in the rear leg of the girder to the caliper.

Gary also punched the engine up a little, giving the tired cop bike engine a .060 overbore, 9:1Venolia pistons, 468S Sifton cam, lifters, and pushrods, and had Jerry Branch fit the heads with big valves and a port and flow job just for good measure.

Color shot from Hetrick's Supercycle spread. Here you can see the gold anodized Cragar Super Tricks, and the new paint and leafing. The paint appears brown in the color plates, but was actually a candy plum toner over a gold base.

Gary's new bike on the cover of the Feb. '06 issue of Street Chopper. Full circle 30 years later......

Gary dabbled in parts and machining for other people's choppers for awhile, then picked up sign painting, lettering, and pinstriping, which made him a good living for the next 30 years. Choppers had made a big comeback, and Gary had the desire to build another bike, but never seemed to have the motivation.

Well, after his wife had a bout with breast cancer, and was recovering, Gary himself was struck with prostate cancer, which he also beat. Hetrick felt that beating his cancer was the perfect motivation to build another chopper, and also the perfect "therapy' that he needed in his life.

As with his first bike, Gary made every single part for this project, save for the modern big-inch Evo, and the Baker RHD 6 speed. Gary built himself a frame jig, bent all the frame tubing, made the gas and oil tank, wheels, controls, primary, 22 over girder front end (with hidden front brake line), and everything else you can think of. When he built the frame, Hetrick decided that he wanted the perfect tire-to-fender clearance, so he made the rear axle stationary, and used an idler gear to adjust the rear drivechain. Little touches like this are all over the bike, and like his first project, you can spend hours discovering them.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Followup on the Arlen Ness van.......

At the end of my post on Arlen Ness' "Harley Hauler" van (see two posts down), I wondered if Arlen still owned the van (Ness has a propensity to keep all his personal custom vehicles), and also wondered where it was today.

Well, I got an Email from "Al", and he added a little more info, and sent the following pictures for me. Thank you Al, it was most appreciated!

" Rich,
Long time reader of your blog. Also been hung up on Ness Ford van for years. Here is what I have been able to find out(true or not, who the fuck knows....). Van left alone till sometime in the late 80's or early 90's, thats when it was re-shoed,had some more body mods done(re-radiused the wheel wells and new mirrors) and painted red. Not long after it was sold to a Ness employee who still owns it. Enjoy the pics. Al "

As Al mentioned, you can clearly see the new wheels/tires, the re-done flares, and the ground effect panel that occupies the side pipe's old location.

I also notice too, that it's also re-lettered Arlen Ness Las Vegas. From the background in the picture, it sure looks like it's parked in front of Arlen's Vegas store, on the Boulder Hwy., right across from the Bouder Station casino. I know a gal who used to work there, maybe I'll ask her if she has any info.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Another set of narrow tanks..........

.......for a very wealthy European magazine editor. He wanted to retain and utilize the tank mounts on his OEM frame.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Arlen Ness' "Harley Hauler"

In the same April '83 issue of Truckin' magazine that I pulled Stan Betz's shop El Camino painted by Von Dutch (check back down the posts to see it), they also featured Arlen Ness' custom '77 E100 van, which he called the "Harley Hauler". Calling this van "custom" is an understatement, and featured mods done by a varitable "whos who" in the rod and custom field.

Good thing Ness was still building diggers, because you couldn't have gotten anything else in the back! When this van was shot, it already had 55,000 mi. of hauling bikes around to shows, on it's modifications - a testament to the craftsmanship of all the people involved with the project.

For starters, Ness took the van down south to the absolute master of the top chop, Dick Dean. Dean removed a straight 6" of roof height. Then, Arlen hauled it back to the Bay Area, where Rod Powell stepped the frame 8", and sectioned the body another 6".

Arlen himself, along with Bob "Mun" Munroe handled all the interior modifications to the dash, "doghouse", door panels, seats, and all the related components like the gauges, steering column, garnish moldings, and the factory A/C unit to fit the new low body profile.

From there, it went to Jack Hagerman to get its hood louvered. Next, it was shipped to Kenny West's shop in Fresno, where its rear door panels were louvered, the metal flares were constructed, and a power sunroof section from a Thunderbird was grafted into the front roof panel.

After all the mods were done (all in steel, mind you), Ness sent it to Paul McElly in Hayward for the bodywork and paint. Anybody that knows anything about doing a black finish knows how much time, blocking, and sweat it took to get that super modified body to the point of painting it. The least little flaw under black paint sticks out like a rubber pee-pee. This van was flawless when Jeff McCann and Dick DeBenedict did their pinstriping and gold leafing on it. Of course, Danny Grey handled the entire custom interior.

To round out the package, Arlen added Western Wheel Turbo Vector rims with the recesses blacked out, BF Goodrich Radial T/A tires, and a set of Hooker headers and sidepipes in black ceramic.

The article never mentioned an overall height for the van, but with Arlen standing next to it, it looks to be less than 5' tall overall. Wow! I wonder where this van is now, or if Arlen still has it? Anybody know?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Bob Tronolone

You might not recognize the name Bob Tronolone. But, readers of will recognize him as "Bob T", the contributor of many articles and those fantastic old motorcycle photos over there. Keith Ball and Bob T go back a long ways, and have ridden together for years.

Bob T left the Marines in '71, and he proceeded to buy a Harley Servicar that he fully tricked out, including a long Dick Allen springer. Bob rode that around for a while, then sold it and decided to get himself a new Superglide.
Here's Bob T in 1977, on his chopped Superglide......

Bob T bought his '73 FX Superglide new, and proceeded over the next 4-odd years to change it around a little. He bobbed both fenders, and hardtailed the frame. Next, he added a US Mag 12 spoke rear wheel w/a Performance Machine brake, and swapped out the 19" front for a 21" rim, and kept the FX's hub and disc brake. The front end is stock lenght, with polished sliders.

The engine stayed pretty stock, with the addition of Sifton solid lifters, and an earlier 7" round air cleaner. Bob T made his own exhaust, and added MCM mufflers. The transmission was filled with Andrews gears, and Bob did the ratchet top jockey shift/foot clutch setup, and added a D&D kicker cover. Bob lost the cast inner/outer primaries, and used a Phase III belt drive with a Phase III cast alternator cover.

Other notable parts on this bike are the early tool box, speedo, horn, and '47 tail lamp. Cheat'ah supplied the seat, and Dennis Weitzel made the 32" sissy bar. Bob also added full braided oil and brake lines, and an oil cooler. Paint was done by Don Fadden at Custom House, and Ron Tessensohn did the tank's murals.

Bob T still owns this bike, and it's kept in very roadworthy condition.

Here's Bob T, 33 years later, on his Twin Cam Dyna. A little greyer (hey, aren't we all?), but still putting down the miles.
Photo courtesy of Bob T

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Always trust a man..........

.........who has his business products tattooed on himself , in the form of sleeves!

Mr. Bert Baker - a dedicated rider, and builder of the best transmissions, transmission replacement parts, and related components for Big Twins and Sportys in the world.

And, the nicest guy in the business, too!
Photo courtesy of