Any ancient culture worthy of its relics had a little sun worshiping going on. The Greek sun god Apollo towed it across the sky every day with his chariot, the Aztec sun god Tonatiuh demanded human sacrifice, and in Ancient Egypt, well, the sun god Ra had a falcon head. I guess someone back then said so, and it just stuck.
People still worship the sun today, just not as an angry god looking to eat everyone or a guy hot rodding across the heavens. Modern sun followers pay their respects through things like tanning and surfing. ACME Choppers chose to do so with this custom golden Panhead.
At least, that’s how it sounded when I tracked down ACME co-owner Jason Ahlquist to talk about it. The first thing that hits you is the way the sun hits the bike. He loves the way its big metalflake comes alive in the sun. Between the yellow flake job and all the copper accents, you can see why this chopper shines on a bright day’s ride. When ACME first painted it, in fact, it shone too much. See, the frame and forks were originally zapped with yellow metalflake too. That was too much of a good thing, though, so both the bones and the forks got the black powdercoat treatment to balance it all out. It’s a pitfall that sometimes happens during a build. “You get so far in, thinking it’s coming out the way you want it, then you find out you want to change something to make the bike better,” says Jason.
When you create on instinct, changes like that just come with the territory. Jason and his brother, Wayne, built this chop in just that fashion. Think of it as the chopper equivalent to Iron Chef—you start off with a few parts and not much of an advance plan, then run with your gut. Doing that doesn’t give you the same carefully orchestrated look that a step-by-step agenda does, but at the same time, locking yourself into a concrete plan can make for a bike that’s an ice queen—beautiful as hell but no heart. Besides, once you start putting the basics together, the rest of the bike almost builds itself. Almost no one builds a bagger around a rigid frame or a chopper with hard bags and a fairing. I mean, it happens, sure, but not real often. Elvis liked peanut butter and banana sandwiches, but I don’t see Bobby Flay writing a recipe book on them.
It’s really gummy; almost like rubber. Melting and drilling copper sucks. It’s sticky, nasty shit. Terrible.
In this case, brothers Wayne and Jason started out with an 88ci S&S Panhead engine and a ’99 Santee rigid frame. That pretty well demands evolution into a chopper. It’s only a matter of what kind.
The muses told them they had to run with a gooseneck frame. Then mounting several different fork sets revealed that a springer was the only frontend that looked good to the Ahlquists. It was a stock Harley unit but the profile it made was too long for their tastes; they shaved 4 inches out of it and that looked perfect.
Having narrowed the project down to a gooseneck chopper, that made some of the other creative choices a lot easier, like the wheels. Chica is known for loving himself some gooseneck. You could say his parts line is the pepperoni on a gooseneck pizza. That may be why ACME chose Chica’s classic-looking Invader wheels for this baby.
Like the chassis, the motor got its share of tweaks too. ACME built it around S&S cases and barrels but with STD heads capped with Custom Cycle Engineering rocker boxes. The Ahlquist brothers and their crew added their signature to the power equation with a one-off stainless steel exhaust that stands out thanks to a copper heat shield.
Working with all of the copper on this bike wasn’t exactly a happy experience. The end result is beautiful, but copper is the high-maintenance date of the fabrication world. Jason put it this way: “It’s really gummy; almost like rubber. Melting and drilling copper sucks. It’s sticky, nasty shit. Terrible. Copper is very hard to machine and form because it wants to grab tooling, so you go slow and don’t make a lot of heat. Not like stainless. Stainless is relatively easy; it welds clean and has no impurities.” If you’re going to use copper, it’s far easier to electroplate it over another metal after creating a part from it. The fact that ACME chose solid copper instead shows just how patient these guys are when it comes to beautifying a bike.
Skin-wise, there isn’t a whole lot on this chopper, surprise-surprise. There’s just a rear fender and oil and gas tanks. All three were either made or modified in-house. The back tire hugger and the oil sack are the shop’s own from the ground-up, but the gas box is a Sportster tank the Ahlquists narrowed down and to which they added their own brass cap.
ACME’s sun god took six months to become roadworthy. It doesn’t surf or tan, and while it doesn’t race across the sky, it sure looks great running along the road at ground level. Thankfully, Jason and Wayne had the good sense not to mount a bird head on it. HB