An Indian Larry Inspired Chopper from Oil City
When building a motorcycle, inspiration often comes from the legends of the past. Every period had its style, and every builder tried to create something original. The hot rod era was a time with some big personalities in custom culture—names like Ed Roth, Von Dutch, and Dean Moon to name a few. The art created by these individuals resonated in motorcycle builders like Indian Larry, who would in turn inspire the blockhead chopper you see here by Travis Dittman of Oil City, Pennsylvania.
A fabricator by trade, Travis spent a lot of his youth in the garage with his father. “My dad was into hot rods and bikes,” he explained. “He had a 1976 Kawasaki KZ900 that he bought new at the time. When I was a kid, he’d be out in the garage, and I was right there working with him. I still have that bike today.”
Travis developed an interest in Harleys during a car show when he was younger. A guy pulled in with a Softail sporting a shovelhead engine. It was just a typical bobber Softail that was painted candy apple red, but it was enough to light the fuse. He started with a couple of Sportsters, but eventually decided to get a big twin. He explained, “My wife went for a ride on my buddy’s bike, and it scared the crap out of her. She told me she would never ride on one, so I could do what I wanted.” That’s all she had to say.
The build started when he acquired a custom Crazy Horse panhead replica frame that he sold but later bought back from a friend. The engine is an 80 inch Evo that uses an aftermarket cam and cases with an S&S carburetor. Using Indian Larry as the inspiration, Travis wanted something that looked like his style without being a complete copy. “I used some Indian Larry pieces throughout the bike, like the points cover and rocker collars,” he said. “At one point, the tank was flat black with Rat Fink painted on it. It even had a Von Dutch flying eyeball in the back. I later saw the gold and really liked it. There weren’t many bikes around that color, so I decided to go with it.”
The frisco style chopper has attracted attention locally. Travis was even stopped at a DUI checkpoint in the middle of the night on his way home from work, only because the cops wanted to take pictures sitting on the bike.
Some of the more unique elements include the top motor mount, which was made from a Suzuki GSX-R750 connecting rod. The forward controls were machined by Wally Stearns and also used connecting rods from a small-block Chevy. Up front is a DNA springer with a Three Two Choppers wishbone kit and homemade handlebars. The Moon oil tank is located on the front of the frame, which is a nod to the old gasser builds of the hot rod days. The seat cover was done by Rosco Bickel.
A notable characteristic of Indian Larry was building bikes so that you could see all of the mechanics and craftsmanship. Travis took that into consideration, mentioning that nothing is hidden on it. He wanted it all open so that if the chopper broke down on the side of the road he’d be able to fix it with what little tools he carried.
Just like when he was young, Travis’s father was there every step of the way. “My dad was pumped when I started building this, and now when I see the finished bike it makes me think of him,” he said. When asked about future builds and where the inspiration would come from, he mentioned that his father’s old KZ900 might be the next project. We’d love to see it happen.