Editor's Note: You know the old saying "you can't teach an old dog new tricks"? Well that might be true if that old dog isn't interested in what you're trying to teach him. But teach him something he can use or benefit from (say in the form of extra treats or belly rubs) and he'll learn as much as you're willing to teach him. While Art Martinez from Southern California got a late start in the Harley game-he didn't pick up his first H-D until he was around 44 years old-he didn't let that hold him back from going back to school and learning a couple tricks that helped him turn a tired Softail into his dream bike.
I have more than 35 years experience working as a sheetmetal journeyman at McDonnell-Douglas Aeronautics, Whittier Steel, and Los Angeles' largest transit system, L.A.C. Metro (the Metro). I've been at the Metro since 1980, and many of the people I've met there have been influences on my interest in motorcycles. I bought my first motorcycle around 1998, a few years after my brother Rick got his. My bike was a '92 Electra Glide and it was a great riding motorcycle. I rode that bike all over Southern California. I was very lucky that my first Harley never had any problems. I kept this bike for about four years, and then I sold it.
It pays to have friends who know how to lay down some slick pinstripes.
I have always had an interest in the classic look of a Springer frontend. So one day in 2002, I bought a '94 Softail Springer. The next five years of riding that bike wasn't too good. I had many mechanical and electrical problems. Lucky for me a good friend, Roy, asked if I was interested in going back to school with him and signing up for a motorcycle mechanic course for the next four semesters at Los Angeles Trade Tech College. Well, it didn't end there; we also took two semesters learning how to weld and two semesters in auto body repair and paint. It came in handy because I was able to work on my own bike.
After having five years of problems with my motorcycle I parked my bike in the garage and contemplated either selling it or tearing it apart and rebuilding it. It took several months before I came to the conclusion that I was going to make one of my dream's come true. I was going to build my idea of a '70s chopper out of this bike. So one day I started to strip the bike down to where the only items left were the frame, engine, transmission, and frontend.
Art modified the dash bolts so that he could run these knockoffs instead of the standard acorn nuts.
Art modified the dash bolts so that he could run these knockoffs instead of the standard a
One of the first things I had to do was to repair the electrical harness. It was a mess, and you could tell that some inexperienced person had worked on it. It was so bad that the electrical schematics from the service manual and the electrical harness on the bike didn't match. The worse thing I noticed was when they replaced many of the wires, they used the same color of wire everywhere. Anyway it took a lot of time and patience to rework the harness, but I ended up creating a new wiring schematic blueprint so that I could include it in the service manual. My next step was to start buying parts. I knew this was going to take some time. I wanted to avoid catalogs and dealerships because they can be very expensive. I had to save money and be a smart shopper to get the very best deal on new and used parts to build my bike. I surfed the net (Ebay, Craigslist), visited motorcycle swap meets in California and Arizona, and I spoke to friends and acquaintances that were involved in the motorcycle world.
"The build was tough at times, especially reworking the electrical harness. I should have just bought a new one, but again, I was trying to save money."
"The build was tough at times, especially reworking the electrical harness. I should have
You can't miss Art flying down the freeway with his 16-inch LA Choppers' Mutha Apes.