Some people tiptoe around issues and some jump in headfirst never looking back. Marty Spranger of Warren, Michigan, is of the latter crowd. Born with motorcycles in his blood (his father was a long time biker), and living in the heartland of horsepower (on the outskirts of Detroit) you could say Marty was destined to roll two wheels and turn wrenches.
"I wrenched on mini-bikes and go-karts as a youth and rode my old man's '77 chopped Triumph," Marty told us. "I built some custom Mustangs along the way too, but I always felt more balanced on two wheels rather than four."
Determined to get his own motorcycle, Marty eventually did, but not under the condition he (or anyone else for that matter) would have liked. In 2004 his father (The Mouzer) passed away and willed his '01 Ultra to Marty. While Marty cherished the bike and vowed to never let it out of his possession, it wasn't quite what he had in mind as "his bike." So a few weeks later Marty purchased a '98 Softail Custom and kept the Ultra in the garage. Several hours later Marty had the Softy in his cousin Fonzo's garage torn apart and the two men began cutting it up.
Marty and his cousin Fonzo minutes after bringing Marty's new ride home. It wouldn't stay this way long.
Marty and his cousin Fonzo minutes after bringing Marty's new ride home. It wouldn't stay
"Living and loving HOT BIKE inspired me to build my own custom bike. I wanted nothing more than to see my bike on the cover of HOT BIKE when it was completed," Marty said. "My ultimate goal was to build an extremely radical chopper while keeping the machine a Harley at heart. Immediately after purchasing the bike I put a Sawzall to it. I literally cut this beautiful bike to pieces hours after handing over $13,500 for it."
With a frame jig set up in Fonzo's garage, Marty and Fonzo drop-seated the frame, lengthened the backbone and downtubes, and raked the neck out to 45 degrees. They also cut and widened the back of the frame to accept a 280mm rear tire.
As you can see, Marty bolted up dual Mikuni 42s. You may also notice the stainless steel oil lines Marty bent up. But wait there's four lines you say? They are: oil feed, oil return, vent, and the last one contains the wires from the hand shifter to the solenoid.
As you can see, Marty bolted up dual Mikuni 42s. You may also notice the stainless steel o
Luckily for Marty, anything he or his cousin couldn't do, the quality craftsmen surrounding them could. Marty received quite a bit of help from James Kaye of Detroit Bros fame and Dale Patterson from Superior Metal Concepts.
"The tanks were made from scratch by James. The left-side tank is for gas and holds about 3.5 gallons. The right side is the oil tank and holds 4 quarts. It also has a cutout for the suicide shifter. James also fabricated the dash panel, which houses a Dakota Digital speedo and covers the electronics between the tanks. To keep the front of the bike clean, James created a set of one-off handlebars that mount directly to the top clamp. The bars feature an internal throttle and clutch and the outside diameter of the grips are the same size as the bars for a smooth look from bar end to bar end.
Dale chipped in by fabricating the rear fender to perfectly hug the lip of a Weld wheel. The rear of the fender has an LED strip frenched into it. Dale also bent and welded up the hot rod pipes, which feature a four-into-one design that connects to the 3-inch turnout muffler. For the foot controls, Marty wanted something not usually found on a chopper or hot-rod-style bike, a heel-toe shifter setup. So Dale cannibalized some PM controls and created a one-off set of forwards that feature a left-side heel-toe shifter. When most people want to clean up the bars and eliminate a front hand brake but still run a front brake, they usually run a proportioning valve setup off the footbrake that operates both brakes at the same time. Marty on the other hand went a completely different route. On the right side he came up with a front/rear brake design that consists of two side-by-side PM master cylinders and two PM foot controls that work independently of each other. The inner pedal operates the rear and the outer works the front. "There is probably more thought and design into that setup than anything else on the entire bike, Marty commented. "I guarantee no one else has that shit!"
As for the powerplant, well that was torn down, and the heads and cylinders were sent to Head Quarters. The heads were ported and polished, the valves were triple angle ground, and the cylinders were matched up for 10.5:1 Wiseco pistons. Upon reassembly, an Andrews .590 lift cam was installed, along with a high-volume, high-pressure oil pump. Backing up the engine, Marty installed a Baker six-speed transmission, which due to his proximity to the Baker facility he had the unique opportunity to watch being built firsthand. Taking things a bit further than your standard modern foot shifting, Marty incorporated a hand-shifter into the mix as well. Like a mad scientist, Marty set the bike up so it can be shifted either by foot or by hand with a mechanism hidden beneath the shifter rod that has two actuation buttons. Slam the shifter forward and it hits the button below, which is connected to a solenoid on the primary side and shifts up a gear. Pull back on the shifter and the rear button fires the solenoid to downshift.
While Marty did get some help from Dale and James, the rest of the bike was pretty much garage-built by him and Fonzo. It took Marty about two years to work in all the intricate details he wanted in his '98 Softail Custom makeover, but in the end it truly became a custom Softail. Not a single detail was left out. Marty even made sure every bolt that could be a chrome socket head was a chrome socket head. However, before tearing the bike apart and laying paint to metal, Marty wanted to give it a thorough shakedown run. "I rode the bike for a year in bare metal and primer to make sure all was well before painting," Marty said. "The bike ran excellent. It sounds like a small block Chevy! It's a blast to ride. It takes about two minutes to figure out the controls. It could be a trailer queen but it's not. I ride the piss out of it."
You'd be hard pressed to see a brake setup like this. The inside lever bites down on the rear caliper and the outside pedal actuates the front caliper.
You'd be hard pressed to see a brake setup like this. The inside lever bites down on the r
You don't see too many heel-toe shifter setups on custom hot-rod Softails.