It's not the destination; it's the journey." A well-known producer of motorcycles has used that phrase as part of it's marketing for sometime now. The "Ol Buzzard" has made a long journey, from Detroit to California and back again. Along the way it has undergone many different changes, from Detroit Police motorcycle, to traditional bobber, to west coast style chopper, to garage dweller, to basket case, to complete rebuild as a modern classic.
A remote oil filter mount was used on the side of the rear frame rail then hard lines were run to the FXR oil tank
A remote oil filter mount was used on the side of the rear frame rail then hard lines were
Francis Edward "Eddie" Davis originally purchased this 1956 Panhead from a Detroit Police auction in the early 1960's. It was brought home to Livonia, Michigan where the windshield, saddle bags, and other unnecessary equipment was removed and the story began. It was pretty much ridden as is until Eddie left to honorably serve his country in Vietnam. During his tour he picked up the nickname "Buzzard" which was to become his road name when his tour was over. Like many veterans who return from Vietnam, Eddie had seen and experienced many things that had radically changed his perspective on life.
Ron cut up an old sprocket to work as his Shredder footboards.
Eddie's interest in riding grew tremendously after the war. The bike was updated to reflect the times. Upswept megaphone-exhaust, the front fender was taken off, and new paint were among some of the changes. Gone was the cushy seat and stock bars in favor of a narrow seat and z-bars. Eddie's bike began to reflect his new views on life - anything not absolutely necessary was dropped. Right about this time he packed up the Harley and moved to California.
Over the next few years Eddie became immersed in the blooming west coast biker culture. From the seat of his hardtail, he rode along side some of the most famous and infamous celebrities from that period, and along the way picked up some new ideas and left some old ones on the side of the road. He also settled down with a wife and had a daughter. Family obligations saw Eddie load up once again and travel back to Detroit.
Upon returning to Detroit, Eddie had now become "Uncle Eddie" (or Uncle Buzzard as I would call him). I met my uncle and was also introduced to a box of parts that would soon become the "Blue Bitch." As my dad would later explain, Eddie and the family had traveled from Cali to Detroit in a VW bug, so the only way to get everyone here and bring the bike too was to take it apart. Taking advantage of the Michigan winter and the fact that my parents lent him their garage, a true layback chopper was about to be born.
This iteration had all makings of what was to become a true American cultural icon. A cut down rear fender, step king/queen seat, tall sissy bar, no front fender, no front brakes, drag pipes, crazy length fork tubes (giving it that all too familiar oil-starving frame angle), layback bars and lots and lots of dough molded around the frame to make everything smooth and rounded (courtesy of local painter Yosemite Sam, circa 1973).
Although barely a year old at the time, my parents recall that the Blue Bitch fascinated me; whenever it was around I couldn't keep from staring at it or trying to climb on it. As fate would have it, job opportunities beckoned, and Eddie and the family loaded up and were California bound once again.
Sadly, I would only get to see Buzzard in person three times over the next 27 years. Work and family kept him out in California and my family here in Michigan. As I grew older, my grandmother would often call me "Eddie" as we shared a lot of the same habits and mannerisms. Other members of the family found it a bit strange how alike we were in personality considering we spent very little time together.
Thanks to the invention of the internet, by the late '90s, Buzzard and I could communicate easier and less expensively via email and instant messaging. We also talked on the phone with a little more regularity; and during one conversation in June of 2000, Eddie said that if anything were to happen to him, he wanted to make sure that "his wife got his guitar and the bike came to me...everything else is just stuff anyway." We also talked about getting together someday to do some riding, as I now owned a motorcycle of my own. Had I known what was soon to happen, I would have headed out that night.