**Editor’s note: **The cover of our October 2010 issue featured an elegant-yet-vicious, ruby red ground-up custom built by Dante Depaola out of Northern California. The bike was rather hard to categorize stylistically; a little bit café racer, with some high-end modern sport bike appeal, but with a monstrous 127 cubic inches of gleaming V-twin billet cradled in the center of the frame. What you could easily say about the bike was that it was all attitude, totally badass, and did an excellent job of showing off Dante’s love and appreciation for the California Hot Rod lifestyle. Well, once again Dante has made an offering to the gods of speed and custom culture. However, this time instead of building a bike from scratch, he found his ideal platform in is buddy’s 1994 FXR.
Elias (Eli) Stavrinnides and I are really good friends and he had a ’94 FXR that he called The Roach. He called it The Roach because it was old with black and brown paint. He brought the bike by the shop one day because I told him I would pull some of the old garbage off the bike that he didn’t want anymore; things like gauges, turn signals, idiot lights—stuff you really don’t need to ride, but really clean up the bike. I mentioned to him that I’d been wanting to makeover an FXR for a long time but hadn’t found anyone with the balls to see the project through the distance I wanted to go. So we talked about it a little bit and then he left. »
A few weeks later we got back together and Eli said he would like to do a major face-lift on the bike. He said he wanted something clean and understated. “Not crazy,” he said. He wanted it to be a mean black bike. So I told him to trust me on the project and it would come out cool.
As far as the vision of the project, I’ve had the desire to build a custom FXR for a long time. Growing up in the Bay Area and watching both my uncles ride around on their FXRs or FXRTs, I have always loved the bike. I would be no different than any other Harley fan when I say that the FXR chassis is by far the best handling bike Harley has ever built. Just look at the chassis of the baggers and you will see the design cues from the FXR. So my desire to build on the FXR platform was both nostalgic and challenge influenced.
I made the side covers out of 16-gauge steel (which was a real pain in the ass) with large cut-outs in the middle of them to account for the running gear movement
Growing up watching FXRs run the streets in my neighborhood in the ’80s, I felt they were the one bike that captured that California Hot Rod vibe; handled like a freak but ripped like a dragster. Usually that was only translated for me through cars. So to be able to take a bike that I felt was the quintessential “riders” bike and build my version of what I thought it should be was like a dream come true.
One of the biggest things that always bothered me about the FXR chassis was the one thing that makes the chassis so great, the Y section. I just never really like the oddly placed side covers. I always felt they were part of the bike, but aesthetically hard to design around and make flow with the rest of the bike. Another issue was the rear fender. It’s like you either slam it and lose function or run it high like a dirt bike and lose the sleek style. I’m sure FXR purists are saying “f@#k you!” but that’s just how I had always felt.
|Bike Owner||Elias Stavrinnides|
|Shop Phone||(707) 322-6558|
|Build Time||Eight months|
|Manufacturer Front||GSXR 1000|
|Triple Trees||LA Chop Rods|
|Manufacturer Rear||Progressive Suspension|
|Wheels, Tires, and Brakes|
|Color||HOK Pagan Gold|
|Rear Fender||Dante DePaola|
|Gas Tank & Cap||Dante DePaola|
|Oil Tank||Dante DePaola|
|Seat||H-D-Modified/leather by Craig Willits|
I wanted the bike to look as good as it handled, and I was lucky enough to have a good friend like Eli who was ballsy enough to take the leap with me. Most people feel the FXR is perfect the way it is and don’t want to screw it up. Eli, however, let me do whatever I wanted with exception to the bars, they had to be up for comfort (so I leaned them forward to make them have a nasty stance).
When it was time to dig into this project, I started with the part I felt was the essence of the bike: the Y part of the chassis. “What’s more ‘hot rod’ than exhaust cut-outs?” I thought to myself. I made the side covers out of 16-gauge steel (which was a real pain in the ass) with large cut-outs in the middle of them to account for the running gear movement so the exhaust wouldn’t hit. I felt it made the Y part of the chassis more purposeful, like it was built for function, strength, and style. I built the oil bag and tucked it up in the rear of the lower frame rails behind the tranny. I made the custom exhaust and ran it over the starter towards the side covers. I flipped the battery on its side for more clearance.
I then went to the tail section and joined the end of the rear frame tubing on either side with round stock to match frame diameter. Then I formed a small tail section and laid it over the top of the rear of the frame. Just like the side covers, I thought it made the rear look aggressive and finished (like a sport bike tail section), not just bolted on. Over the backbone I built a tank that was large enough to roll a 100 (miles) but was minimal and kind of up tight on the frame. The shape is quite a bit different than most tanks, but I really like the shape and it was a really fun tank to build.
I stuck with stock wheel sizes for handling and went with a GSXR1000 frontend with a set of kickass triple trees that Gard Hollinger at LA Chop Rods built for me. Up front it has dual radial brakes, and I made a custom bracket to run a radial brake in the rear as well.
As the build was coming to a close, I told Eli I wanted to do a different color, because black would lose a lot of the cool details of the bike. I didn’t tell him what color I planned on painting it because I knew if I told him I wanted to do Pagan Gold he wouldn’t have ever gone for it. Needless to say it was painted Pagan Gold—it’s definitely not an understated color, nor is it “not crazy.” But in the end Eli was glad I went with the gold and he loves the bike; he rips it daily in Sonoma County.
I didn’t want to build just another Bay Area rubber mount. I feel like in the end I built something that pays homage to the history of the best bike Harley ever built, but made changes that enhanced both its performance and style. HB