Mark Klos: I grew up on a street with a really hardcore biker club, the kind that your parents tell you to stay away from. We rode dirtbikes in the woods when I was around eight or nine years old. These bikers kept to themselves but would occasionally have big parties up there. My fifteen-year-old cousin talked us into going up there when I was twelve. They recognized us as the kids who rode dirtbikes. One of the guys was an excellent artist and was drawing Bilbo Baggins from the Hobbit on the garage door in chalk. I started talking to him and told him how much I liked it. He said he was going to paint it and that the chalk was just done as a guideline. So over the next couple of weeks, I’d go down there after school and watch him paint. They were just regular guys that didn’t scare us. Growing up on that street probably influenced my interest the most.
MK: In the late 1970s, a couple of buddies and I noticed this bike and two others outside of a bar when we were walking down to the local Stop-N-Go in Bethel Park. We were in awe over them. The gentleman who owned the bike came out and kind of shooed us away. I told the guy that I wanted to buy the bike if he ever sold it, but he told me I was just a kid and couldn’t afford it.
Then about ten years later in my twenties, I met the guy again when servicing a truck he was driving for Pepsi-Cola. I asked him about buying that old panhead again, but he still wouldn’t sell it.
Jumping forward to 2016 when my brother and I were in Laconia Motorcycle Week, we bump into this guy again at a bar. After buying us a round, he asked if I’d still like to buy the bike and said that he wanted to give me the first shot since I’d been interested all these years. At this point, it was just sitting in a barn not being ridden anymore.
MK: He did some stuff to it over the years. Most notably, he blew up the original panhead motor. Instead of going with Harley cases, he decided to build a better-performing aftermarket motor for less. It has a Santee frame with an S&S bottom end, an STD 103” top end, and Andrews gears in the transmission. It’s at the point now where I don’t think there are any original parts left on the bike. Other than that, the back brake is a banana brake from the 1960s, but to my knowledge, they never made them chrome. So either someone had it chromed or it’s a reproduction.
MK: I only wanted to change a few things to tailor it more to what I liked and make it better suited for riding in our area. The goal was to keep a similar look to what I remember years ago. It’s a handful, and I didn’t want to subject anyone to sit on the back, so after I got it, the first thing I did was change the king and queen seat to a springer seat I picked up from Drag Specialties.
The rear fender is actually two fenders that were welded and molded together–a 1960 FLH front fender on top of a steel chopper fender. For the paint, I loved the bright flamed look from when I originally saw the bike, so I did a very similar paint job on the tank and repainted the frame from the backbone all the way down to the axle.
MK: It used to have a telescopic front from the 1960s, but I picked up this Denver’s Choppers front end from Cycle Warehouse in Butler, Pennsylvania. My brother and I went up there in the winter one year, and after looking around, I saw that they had a bunch of springer front ends on the wall. I took some measurements on my bike and went back in the springtime. It was still there, and I got a better deal by waiting. It was perfect for the bike. I didn’t really want to run a 21-inch front wheel, but it gives the chopper the right stance.
MK: It feels fantastic. The bike is temperamental but really nice to ride around 70 to 75 mph. It’s loud and obnoxious, but at that speed, it’s kind of idling. On open and back farm roads, I find myself giggling at how effortlessly it cruises. I don’t consider it done, but I don’t think anyone’s chopper is ever finished. Similar to an oil painting, you keep walking by and touching it up over time. It’s my dream chopper.