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White Iron

  • Motorcycles
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One Night at a Time
Words by Kurt Diserio — Photos by Alexa Diserio
“I found it on eBay. I hit the bid button, and all of the sudden I won. What a rush,” said Ryan Mazzaferro, explaining how he acquired the original 1974 Harley-Davidson XLCH Sportster that he would use as the platform for his first custom build. Most motorcycle projects use eBay at some point for parts, but this one in particular literally started on the e-commerce bidding website.
Harley-Davidson Ironhead XLH Sportster Vintage Motorcycle Pittsburgh
The ironhead was shipped nearly 400 miles from Michigan to Blairsville, Pennsylvania, where Ryan spent roughly eight months constructing the V-twin bike. “This Sportster was all original when I bought it,” he stated. “I’ve always had motorcycles my whole life but had never built one like this before. There was no vision at first, I just kind of went for it. Eventually I decided that I wanted something lower with a springer front end. I worked on it a little almost every single night, starting in August and finishing by April the next year. My mind was completely blown at how much work it took—far more than I expected.”
Harley-Davidson Ironhead XLH Sportster Vintage Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Ironhead XLH Sportster Vintage Motorcycle Pittsburgh
All of the work was done in Ryan’s garage. After rebuilding the motor and transmission, the original frame was chopped and lowered about 1.75 inches in the rear. He built the exhaust and seat brackets himself and added a TC oil tank, Moto Iron springer front, and a fuel tank he found at Lowbrow Customs. To freshen up the rocker covers, he removed all of the old chrome and polished them by hand. The stock wheels were in rough shape, so he taped off each individual spoke and painted them gloss black.
Looking back on the time spent assembling the finished bike, he recalled the best and worst moments. “I think the most satisfying part is the way the tank and fender come together. As soon as I saw the components, I knew it was exactly what I wanted. I created all of the mounts for the tank and used a torch to heat the bottom so it’d fit around the rocker covers.” He continued, “The worst part of the build was probably that the frame was cracked in a couple of locations, and when I went to weld it, there was so much oil inside the frame that it almost caught fire. I probably welded it fifteen times in the same section before it finally burnt all of the oil off.”
Ryan has already planned to build another bike when winter rolls around. “I’m thinking a big-twin Harley, a Victory chopper, or possibly even a two-stroke. I used to have a Kawasaki H1 Triple when I was younger, so I feel that’d be a lot of fun.”
Harley-Davidson Ironhead XLH Sportster Vintage Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Ironhead XLH Sportster Vintage Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Ironhead XLH Sportster Vintage Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Ironhead XLH Sportster Vintage Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Ironhead XLH Sportster Vintage Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Ironhead XLH Sportster Vintage Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Ironhead XLH Sportster Vintage Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Ironhead XLH Sportster Vintage Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Ironhead XLH Sportster Vintage Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Ironhead XLH Sportster Vintage Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Ironhead XLH Sportster Vintage Motorcycle Pittsburgh
  • Featured in Issue 004
  • 1974 HARLEY-DAVIDSON XLCH SPORTSTER
  • Built by RYAN MAZZAFERRO
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  • Words by KURT DISERIO
  • Photos by ALEXA DISERIO
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