Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Iron Mistress

This bike has always been among my favorite bikes of all time. Named the Iron Mistress, and built by Sean Coulford and his wife, it was a cover and a feature bike for the Sept. '80 issue of Supercycle.
The first obvious thing you are going to notice (and I always liked it) is the the earliest example of a "taildragger" rear fender that I can remember seeing. Sean built this fender way before Ness, Perewitz, or Sumax did them, and was probably the inspiration for those later versions. Sean made this fender by cutting and splicing 4 FL rear fenders together, and adding a 5/16" bead around the edge.

The bike started out as a "loose" Knuckle basket case. The bottom end is a '41, and Sean added a '48 Pan top end to it. Why? because he had the Pan top, and he wanted a Pan, plain and simple.

The frame is totally owner-fabbed. Sean started out with the Knuck seatpost section and part of the backbone from what he got with the basket . To that, he added a swingarm bottom cradle from the transmission area, to just below the tanks. From the downtubes up, he built a killer gooseneck section 3" out over stock, and in the rear he built his own hardtail, moving the rear axle back 2" further than stock, and added his own lowered axle plates.

A little better lit, more clear view - this time the R/H side. One of my favorite touches is the full Pan hubcap. As with the rear fender, to get the exhaust proportions right for the bike, Sean cut up 2 sets of Paughco fishtail mufflers to get the exact length he needed, and added those to a set of stretched Paughco upswept Pan pipes.

This photo gives you a feeling of just how long and stretched out this bike was. But, with the rider and passenger mounted on it, it looked perfectly proportioned. Definitely custom, with a capitol "C".

Nice stuff here - check out the 24 carat fasteners and scattered bits, the 2" Phase III belt drive, and the hand-formed red plexiglass belt guard that Sean and his wife did, by heating the plexi in the oven, and then forming it over wooden bucks to get the final shape, then adding stainless door trim for edging, and finishing it off with a gold leaf "Iron Mistress" moniker.

What's really a nice touch is the 5 gallon gate shift tanks. What's that you say, Dr. Sprocket - Harley never made 5 gal. tank shift tanks? You're right, but Sean did! He adapted the Knuckle shifter gate to the later tanks, and the job looks almost Factory. Also, we get a look at the goosenecking. Nice.

Fast forward 5 years, and like we've seen many times over, a guy just can't help himself when it comes to changing things around "just a little". Now the Iron Mistress has morphed into a very cool dresser! This is how the Iron Mistress was featured in the Aug. '84 issue of Supercycle. Hard to believe this is the same motorcycle.

Gone are the apes, the upsweeps, and the tall sissy bar - but the frame, tanks, and the taildragger rear fender are still there. The front end was taken back down to stock length, and Sean again took three FL front fenders and made a matching 'dragger front fender, complete with the 5/16" full bead around the edge. Sean also kept the fishtail mufflers from before, but added them to a custom set of dual crossover pipes. Man, talk about your 180 degree styling turns!

A good shot of the new catseye dash, and FLH-adapted radio caddy, complete with the Stewart-Warner vendor supplied Factory oil pressure and amp gauges - all behind a cut down, red tinted FL windshield, and the caddy top emblazoned with the name of the bike. Too cool.

Here's a nice shot of the L/H side of the bike. Check the ruby red 'flake paint, and the beautiful job of polishing and plating that El Monte Plating did. Quality work like El Monte did was easy to find in '84, try finding this type of dedication and skill today. If you do, it'll cost you an arm and a leg, and a left nut to get it!

Also, we get another good look at the hand-formed red plexi belt guard, and the Knuck shifter gate adapted to the 5 gallon tanks . And, if you look below the clutch basket, you can see part of the swingarm frame's lower cradle splice into the Knuck seatpost.

Again, pure owner-built beauty and detail, just as the first version was crafted.


Chessie (Chesshirecat) said...

lovin it....yeah.

drsprocket said...

Rich, I can't help my self,sorry. That's not a stock early knuckle shift gate but one made by Nation-Bilt that reversed the shift pattern (like '47) so you didn't need to flop the shift dog on the trans (they furnished a diamond piece to bolt on there). It fit the early tanks so you could run tru-duals (by Superior) which could be fitted to '47's because of the factory flipping of the shift pattern. 4th was forward instead of to the rear like early knuckles. it was made of solid brass and not steel like the curved early shift gate. look how the outside edge looks similar to the '47 type. FYI. Springs here, enjoy, Rich

Irish Rich said...

Doc, I know you can't, just like I can't.

Very cool info on the shifter gate, and as always, I'll file it away.

BTW, I see that both Street Chopper, and The Horse decided not to choose pics of your Sporty or the blue Knuckle for either of their David Mann Chop Fest articles. Too bad, those were killer bikes, IMHO.

Chris K said...

I wondered about the shift gate. I thought he might have made it from both types.

Some might question why he went from a chop to it's dresser style, but if you look thru Supercycles of that era (mid to late 80's), the vintage restoration movement seem to influence a trend towards more stock looking (fat fender),custom bikes.

The factory responded with the Heritage Softail in '86 and the Fat Boy in '90.