2004 Softail FXSTi:
"THE CHERRY PIE"
by Alec Law
2004 FXSTi Softail Custom Motorcycle
I moved to Blairgowrie in 1995 because I had met these guys when I had my Biker pub and figured it would be a good place to put down some roots, and how lucky I was. Gavin Brown is one of the best Painters and Dave McKenzie is one of the best engineers in Scotland, if not the known universe.
First plans were for an FXR / FXD twin shock donor bike, but, having opted for the lowest possible seat height I settled on a 2004 FXSTi Softail Standard, in totally stock trim, with 4000 miles on the clock and no modifications. One careful lady owner ( thanks Harley Bird – is that your real name? ), and in as new condition. In March I had the bike delivered to my garage in Blairgowrie, and began the process of the final design.
Chapter 3 – Fabrication Wizardry
Part of the challenge in turning an ugly duck donor bike into the beautiful creation you see today was to set a strict financial budget for the transformation. As a working guy with a mortgage and six kids, I was not in the position to write blank cheques for costly bolt on goodies. Another local guy with a super cool black Dyna Superglide had transformed its looks and performance entirely through buying parts on e-bay.
So I began trawling e-bay and web-sites both in the UK and America until a fortuitous e-mail to Harley Mania in Edinburgh. These guys went above and beyond the call of duty in not only sourcing parts, but helping with technical problems and even trading in unwanted original parts.
After a visit to meet them in March, I decided to buy the entire parts list from their e-bay shop. This allowed me to specify a high level of quality without blowing the budget. They could not have been more helpful and patient, as several items which were ordered and found to be unsuitable were kindly returned with no complaints. Sincere thanks to Elaine and Ali for all help and support.
Whilst I was away sourcing the parts, Dave had the bike into his workshop, built a special jig to support the engine, and within two days had every component stripped off and the rear brackets cut off the frame to allow for installation of the new 200 rear tyre and W and F fender.
Meanwhile the frame was sent to Gavin at GS Custom Designs also in Blairgowrie, to be sand blasted and have all unnecessary lugs and welds removed as well as moulded and made smooth for painting.
As this was our first attempt at a full custom Harley we soon encountered the first of many technical problems. Part of my design was to incorporate a stretched and lowered fuel tank with none of the customary Harley Superstructure and speedo. The tank was to be low and the mini digital speedo mounted on the handlebars.
Unknown to me, you cannot buy a custom fuel tank for a fuel injected Harley, because all the fuel pumps and wiring are contained within the original bulky tank. Too late, I’d already bought the bike and there was no going back, so Dave cunningly devised a special tool to re-insert all the fuel injection hardware back inside the filler cap of the new tank, having previously cut a 20mm check out of the bottom and re-welded new securing lugs to ensure a super low fit over the frame tube and rocker covers.
As the days and weeks progressed, and Friday evenings were filled with beer and the opening of yet more exotic parts from Harley Mania, I realised how lucky I was to have this guy on my side.
When you’re sourcing parts from after market suppliers you’re led to believe that “ fits all 2000 up Softails” means just that – it doesn’t. In our case the front end, risers and handlebars were sourced from 3 separate catalogues to create the perfect look that I was after.
Nothing fits exactly, and virtually every component has to be modified to ensure the perfect seamless look. I’ve seen a few episodes of Bike Build Off recently and I can tell you that there’s nothing that these fancy workshops produce that Dave and Gavin can’t fabricate or paint to an equal or higher standard in true Back Street fashion.
Kellerman Bar End Indicators do not fit Kuryakyn Iso Grips, without the end caps of the grips being machined out to accommodate
them. Even fitting Iso Grips to Kuryakyn Brawny Drag Bars requires a degree of head scratching and cutting. The original speedo was binned together with all the warning lights, so a new digital mini speedo was specially fabricated to incorporate 6 mini LED warning lights. But the speedo sensor is wired through the digital ECM so a new wiring system has to be designed to allow for installation of new speedo sensor and adapter.
Fitting the new W and F rear fender should be a five minute job, but it doesn’t fit straight, so the left side frame bolt holes have to be filled and new holes drilled to avoid a cock-eyed rear end. The 200mm low profile rear tyre doesn’t “ fit straight into rear swingarm without modification “ – not unless you fancy riding with the rear tyre rubbing hard up against the swing arm – a bit like riding with the back brake full on! The teardrop coil cover requires fabrication of a new bracket, the wheels require new spacers and spindles, the headlamp doesn’t fit the bottom yoke, the steering stops supplied with the front end will scratch the frame paint and so on.
A new billet steering stop was fabricated and polished and virtually every after market part had to be modified in some way to fit the original frame.
Chapter 4 – Artistic Genius
With the frame, swingarm, oil tank and brackets painted, and the second dry build in progress ( wheels, exhausts, and engine components re-assembled ) Gavin and I discussed the design for the painting of the Tank and fenders. We’d chosen Persimmon Kandy Red over Orion Silver Base as a background colour and I wanted White Pearl flames to bring the paint job to life. Gavin can paint any flames you can imagine, but in keeping with the long low look of the bike, I wanted simple but classic flames, flowing smoothly from front to back and exaggerating the stretch of the overall shape. For a classic look I wanted to avoid tribal flames, yet at the same time I wanted a contemporary design – a combination of respect for the past , yet recognition of the tremendous flare and design of modern bike painters.
Gavin scratched his head for a couple of days, doodled some ides on paper and then began applying tape to mask out the shape he wanted to create. Once this process begins, he is transported to a different level of consciousness known only to artists of great genius, and the shape of the flames literally flows out of his hands and onto the tank and fenders. The end result is simply stunning, combining classic flames with contemporary curves and subliminal shapes, finished in White with Star Pearl. Seen in sunlight the paint comes alive, but even in a dull workshop the effect is mesmerising.
Chapter 5 – Final Assembly
With painting finished and all parts finally collected, the final build can begin. The new digital speedo housing has been sent away twice for chroming and a third time to have the chrome removed and polished instead. Any future bikes will all be polished as the chroming process is incredibly unreliable, and adds weeks to the final project if it doesn’t work first time. Once the Tank and Rear fender are finally installed the W and F seat is stripped, shaped to fit perfectly into the stretched tank seat pocket, and then taken to Stuart at Blazin’ Saddles in Glasgow for the stunning re-upholstered leather flame design which perfectly mirrors the design of the bike’s paint job.
Then suddenly, after weeks of working and waiting, the bike is finished , fuel poured into the virgin tank and the engine fired into life. 34 years in the dreaming and 16 weeks after arriving as an ugly duckling the Cherry Pie project Harley is the most stunning creation to ever emerge out of Dave’s shed, and is a tribute to the skill, patience, humour and commitment of two of the smartest guys I’ve ever met – Gavin Brown and Dave McKenzie.
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Gavin Brown for all paint and polishing and having the confidence to build this in Blairgowrie.
Dave McKenzie for all engineering, wiring, fabrication and assembly.
Elaine Robertson of Harley Mania for all parts.
Alistair Robertson of Alvins Motocal, Edinburgh for patience and technical advice.
Colin Rutherford of West Coast Harleys in Glasgow for advice and technical assistance.
Stuart of Blazin’ Saddles for an awesome seat.