Ever since he first spotted Harley’s Softail Night Train, Jim Zemaitis had been eyeing the model for potential ownership. He wasn’t in any hurry to pick one up though because as the owner of Zee’s Customs in Savage, Minnesota, many bikes passed through his hands throughout his 10 years in business. So, when a buddy with that particular model needed some help to make a little cash, Jim was happy to oblige him. “My friend was in a bad place and needed to unload an ’04 Night Train. I picked it up from him at a fair price, and it was a safe buy because it only had a few thousand miles on it and was in good condition,” Jim says. He rode the bike around for a while in its stock condition, but soon realized he was missing out on a big marketing opportunity for his shop. “I figured I’d use the bike to showcase what Zee’s Customs could do; I thought it’d be cool to make the bike look like a custom pro-street, with all the reliability of a stock bike,” Jim says.
With a clear intention of what the bike was to become, it wasn’t necessary to pull the motor from the frame, but it did end up living on a lift for some time. Jim pulled the stock swingarm off the bike first, so he could make modifications to it for fender mounting later. Adding to the custom look of the bike, the stock frontend was replaced with a 2-inch-over HHI unit with billet triple trees and lower legs.
While the swingarm was removed and the final drivebelt was hanging off the trans; Jim converted the belt components to a chaindrive so he could fit a 200-series tire in the stock location. He did just the opposite for the primary drive and changed out the stock chain primary for a BDL 3-inch open-belt drive and clutch. The only other modifications made to the driveline came in the form of an S&S air-cleaner, a wrapped Hooker 2-into-1 megaphone exhaust system, and a single-fire ignition system.
"'Legal' isn’t far from 'reliable,' and Jim had every intention of complying with the local law, partly due to the amount of time he expected to spend on the bike, but mostly because he didn’t need any more tickets (who does?)."
Once the driveline modifications were finished and the swingarm and frontend were reattached to the frame, Jim procured a set of custom wheels. Specially built for the bike, he powdercoated the DB-2 three-spoke wheels; a narrow 21-incher for the front and an 18x5-inch for the rear. “The most challenging part of the build was dealing with the original-equipment frame; squeezing that 200mm tire in the stock swingarm was tough,” Jim says. Fortunately, figuring out what brakes to use was a far simpler matter; he just used the stock H-D calipers in similar locations, clamping down on a pair of rotors that matched the design of the wheels.
“Legal” isn’t far from “reliable,” and Jim had every intention of complying with the local law, partly due to the amount of time he expected to spend on the bike, but mostly because he didn’t need any more tickets (who does?). He customized and modified a set of fender blanks to cover both the new Avon tires, molding the rear to the swingarm to complete the look. A custom stingray and leather seat was made for the bike by Mark Milbrandt; specifically designed to conceal the gap between the seat and the fender. Pearson Customs drag-style handlebars were bolted to the frontend, along with a black painted H-D headlight. Behind the handlebars, Jim mounted a custom gas tank and a slick, flush-mount gas cap, but the stock, wrinkle-black coated oil bag wasn’t moved from its original location. An LED taillight/license plate holder was attached to the primary and a law-enforcement–approved swept mirror rounded out the accessories necessary to keep the bike on the road while maintaining its custom appeal.
When the sheetmetal work was finished Jim had to decide on a color to paint the bike. He chose not to take the “night” out of Night Train, and painted it vivid black to match the other darkened components. The dark theme continued into the sole graphic, a ghosted Zee’s Customs logo located just above the seat on the gas tank allowing the basic aspects of the drivetrain and sheetmetal to stand on their own, unadorned with unnecessary decoration.
As soon as the Loctite dried on the fasteners required for reassembly, Jim got the bike on the road. “This bike was intended to be seen, and I had it at all the local events and shows for more than a year. It’s been a great advertisement for the shop, and it still starts right up every time!” Jim says. HB