There are few men that leave a strong impression on you from the time you meet. Caleb of Cro Customs is such a man. I once made the mistake of asking him the silly question why "Cro"? Was there Native American in his background? Maybe I assumed too much. I'm not sure if it was the flat foot Billy Bear 48 Hours vibe he was bringing, or the fact that he was more Melungeon than pale face. Caleb is a solid cat and an original to say the least. What other bike builder do you know that can throw down crazy beats on drums? The dude's a full-on jazz and blues connoisseur and loves Frank Zappa and Richard Pryor the same. Oh and his name is Caleb Robert Owens, hence CRO. It just sounds Blackfoot or Apache.
Out of the hood and ridin' dirty.
I met Caleb a few years back on the 2nd El Diablo Run. At the time I was runnin my '52 pan in its first version and let's just say the Mexican roads beat the hell out of a brotha, and the devil got the best of me and my bike. The plan for the following year was to build a bike that could best the devil. I wanted something sturdy and road-worthy with 16-inch front and rear wheels to better handle those Mexican potholes. No fancy paint or any kind of frills. I wanted this one all business.
I actually bought the bike as a runner off some dude I knew. At the time the bike sat in a Paughco frame with a narrow glide frontend, a set of 14-inch apes, a sporty tank, 5-inch trailer fender, and the like. It was a great bike, but not my flavor.
There's nothing classier than an old RL springer.
Most of the parts that we swapped out on this bike were parts I had picked up over the years while still living in Chicago. Probably the best score was the original RL Springer frontend with that beautiful, dare I say it, patina. I bought it from a guy in New York on the eve of Christmas Eve, so that homeboy could have some cash for his kid's toys. The '48 wishbone frame was a find in nowheresville Illinois for $500. The tank was a swap meet item I just stumbled on in northern Illinois. I got the trim ring from my boy Numnutts. I traded him a can of whoopass for it!
So, I procrastinated on flipping the drivetrain out of my other bike into the hodgepodge you see here, until two weeks before the 3rd El Diablo Run. That's when things got interesting. I approached Caleb with the idea of helping me get it running in exchange for a case of Pacifico and a drinking buddy. Being the solid dude he is, he was like, "We can try!" Caleb and I worked on this thing every night for hours. We stripped the drivetrain the first night and started in on the light fab work. Caleb fabbed the fender brace from an old stainless boat railing. Our good friend JD Sansaver (Without Flavor) came in on the back end and knocked out the exhaust pipes. After the bike was done, I got down on stripping the paint and laying on the gun bluing solution on the tank to maintain the raw look of the bike.
One swanky sucker.
Several cases of Pacifico, a few White Russians, a night of karaoke, and exactly one week later, the Hoodrat, aka Melungeon Mayhem, was born. We finished the bike with only a day to spare before the run. I'm not sure if Caleb was sold on the aesthetic when we finished it, but the bike definitely had soul and a flavor of its own. He dubbed it the Hoodrat one night, and so it was written on the frame with a sharpie.
The bike came together quite nicely and I couldn't thank Caleb and JD enough for their help. On the run, the bike ran great and only fouled one plug the whole time.
The bike may not look like much to some, but it was a purpose-built bike made with lots of love that slayed the roads of Mexico with a vengeful persistence. Viva la Hoodrat!
The plan for the following year was to build a bike that could best the devil.
Wil & CRO kept it simple, not stupid.