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 ...
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.