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Milwaukee Vibrator

  • Motorcycles
  •  | 
1979 Harley FXE Chopper
Words by Kurt Diserio — Photos by Alexa Diserio
It would be foolish to highlight the stylish panhead chopper from Nick Miller in our last issue without a follow-up feature of one of his other notable machines, the 1979 Harley-Davidson FXE with the appropriate nickname of “Milwaukee Vibrator.” Carrying a perfect balance between elegance and grit, the bike embodies everything that people love about choppers.
Miller originally picked it up in Ohio from an older man who stored it under his porch—not the ideal place for a motorcycle that most of us would be crazy about. As he made clear, it was super crusty and ugly, but it started on the first kick. What more could you ask for with a classic Harley? That’s where the good news ended. Shortly after trailering the bike home, it wouldn’t start again, no matter what he did. This headache led to the decision to chop it and have the motor and transmission rebuilt since it needed some love anyway.
Harley-Davidson FXE Shovelhead Chopper Pittsburgh
The frame was actually hardtailed twice because he wasn’t satisfied with how it looked the first time. “The axle plates were too plain,” he explained. “When some buddies and I hardtailed it the second time, we used Harley-Davidson style cast axle plates to look more proper.”
As far as parts and pieces, Miller mentioned that the most intricate part of the shovelhead is the modification to the gas tank. “A lot of those types of gas tanks have both a gas cap and a dummy gas cap. I had the idea to take the dummy cap out and mount the ignition switch in its place like a Harley Hummer tank. My buddy Flop, of Flop Customs hot rod shop here in Pittsburgh, modified the tank for the ignition switch, and we used a factory Hummer ignition bezel that I later chromed. It’s always cool for me to watch people’s reactions when they’re looking over the bike and finally notice that. It usually takes a few minutes for them to realize it’s not a gas cap.” He continued, “Another cool part that sticks out is the sissy bar. It has a removable bayonet that I’m told is Russian from World War II.”
Harley-Davidson FXE Shovelhead Chopper Pittsburgh
The 1961-62 panhead fuel tank badges are one of Miller’s favorite Harley emblem designs. He explained, “I really wanted to use them on this bike because they matched the contour of the tank pretty well. The scallop painted stripe on the tank is a slight wink to a 1961-62 Duo-Glide paint job.”
When it came to the paint, he had originally picked out a deep blood red with black scallop theme. Then about a week before it went out for paint, he was walking his Great Dane, Nigel, through Bloomfield where he lived at the time and parked outside of Sonny’s Tavern was a brown Kia Soul that he thought was a really neat color. “It doesn’t look metallic until you look closely at it. It was a really unique color, and as soon as I saw it I changed my mind.”
For Nick Miller, his most fond memories are from building the chopper and having a lot of different friends help out with the many aspects of the build. To him, that’s the best part. “Motorcycles are about community. For me, at least, the friendships and connections you make are vastly more valuable than the actual motorcycle.” We couldn’t agree more.
Harley-Davidson FXE Shovelhead Chopper Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson FXE Shovelhead Chopper Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Shovelhead FXE Chopper Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Shovelhead FXE Chopper Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson FXE Shovelhead Chopper Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson FXE Shovelhead Chopper Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson FXE Shovelhead Chopper Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson FXE Shovelhead Chopper Pittsburgh
  • Featured in Issue 009
  • 1979 HARLEY-DAVIDSON FXE
  • Owned by NICK MILLER
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  • Words by KURT DISERIO
  • Photos by ALEXA DISERIO
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