This article was originally published in the April-May 1997 issue of Cycle World's Big Twin magazine.
“A ’48 Panhead is what a motorcycle should look like,” says Craig Eisenberg of Phoenix, Arizona. “I don’t care for the sleek new stuff at all.” No surprise, then, that his spectacular custom, which he calls the Eisenberg Deluxe, does its best to emulate a Harley of that era.
When Eisenberg decided to customize his ’96 Softail Springer, he turned to Paul Yaffe of American Legend Motorcycle Company, also in Phoenix, and asked him to build a bike that would embody the timelessness of his favorite period in history. That collaboration turned out to be a marriage made in heaven—or in the late 1940s, at least. Both men strongly admire the art-deco styling of that era, and Yaffe also has a fascination for the work of Preston Tucker, the enigmatic automaker whose brilliantly designed but ill-fated car made a big splash in the late 1940s. In fact, the working name for Eisenberg’s custom during its construction was the Tucker Bike.
Once the desired look was decided, Yaffe went to work turning Eisenberg’s dream into something more tangible. He’s particularly proud of the front fender, a singular work of art that uses special hidden mounts to appear as though it’s floating on the front end. “We started with a flat piece of metal,” says Yaffe, “and we worked it with a small English wheel and a beating machine we have here. Because of the unique way the fender is mounted, it has a whole cage molded into the inside to keep it stiff so it won’t flex or vibrate.”
Other one-off pieces created by Jaffe are the art-deco choke knob and exhaust caps, along with the seat, the rear fender and the LED taillight that is cleverly hidden inside it. “We kept the Springer fork stock,” says Jaffe, “but we cut it and widened it to give it a more nostalgic look.”
Then there’s the piece de resistance, the paint job. The molding and the application of the base paint (a ’97 factory H-D color called Platinum) were done by Miguel’s Psycle Paint in Phoenix, then the Brandywine panels and graphics were laid on by the incomparable Dawne Holmes in nearby Prescott. Once Holmes’ flawless art-deco treatment was completed, all the body pieces went back to Miguel for application of the final clear-coat.
Although the Eisenberg Deluxe is a show-stopper, and won awards for Outstanding Bike, Best Paint, and First In Class in its debut custom show, its owner intends only to ride it from now on instead of entering it in further competition. “This bike was meant to ride,” says Eisenberg. “I just love to ride it, so I ride it a lot. Even just looking at it makes me feel good. It looks like something that was born rather than manufactured.”
Right. And its birthday was, oh, about 49 years ago.
|Owner||Craig Eisenberg, Phoenix, AZ|
|Model||FXSTS Springer Softail|
|Designer/Fabricator||Paul Yaffe, American Legend Motorcycle Co. Phoenix, AZ 85016 602/266-8226|
|PAINT AND CHROME|
|Molding||Miguel’s Psycle Paint|
|Base paint||Miguel’s Psycle Paint|
|Chroming||Santa Ana Plating|
|Builder||American Legend Motorcycle Co.|
|Displacement||80 cu. in.|
|Air Cleaner||Milwaukee Iron|
|Other Mods||Xzotic Panhead rocker covers; heads milled .050”; mild porting|
|Brake||Stock caliper, RC Comp rotors|
|Handlebar||White Bros. bikini bars|
|Fender||Paul Yaffe/David Farmer|
|Speedo||Stock, face-plate graphics by Dawne Holmes|
|Gas tank||American Legend|
|Foot controls||Jay Brake|
|Other||Fender struts by Cyclesmiths; Custom aluminum dashboard by MacDandy, side-mount license-plate bracket by Beyond Bolt On|