To really learn how to do something well, you need to commit and dedicate a portion of your time and life to it. Andy Palmer wanted to be an incredible sheetmetal guy, so he apprenticed in a 9,000-hour program in New Zealand before moving to Los Angeles to make a name for himself. The move paid off and he hooked up a gig creating prototype cars, which lead to another cool job rebuilding old Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Cobras. Finally he opened his own shop, Exotic Coachworks, in Bellflower, California, where his incredibly detailed FXR was born.
This gorgeous bike is not Palmer's first piece of work in our magazine -- we just didn't know what he had done until we met him. Andy built skins for gas tanks on a few El Diablos we featured, along with the P.M. chopper and Minx that we featured over the last few years. He left the tunnels and the mounts to the actual builders, but it looks like he did the hard stuff. Interestingly, we only found out about his impressive resume after we photographed his bike -- his FXR stood on its own for the cover test.
Palmer knew what he wanted this bike to be long before he touched the first part. It would be rubber-mounted for comfort, look like a chopper when standing still, and be detailed in ways most people wouldn't think to go. Rather than a conglomeration of parts, this would be a complete build in which each part related to and complimented the piece that it was connected to.
The first step in any custom bike is either building or buying a platform on which to build. In this case, Palmer turned to Rowe for an FXR-style frame with 38 degrees of rake and 4 inches of stretch. He connected a Storz 43mm fork and billet trees to the neck, and used Works Performance shocks to link the swingarm to the chassis. Palmer's vision of a classically styled bike included a link to the Ferrari's of old -- wire wheels. A 21-inch Akront rim was connected to a P.M. hub with stainless spokes up front; a matching 18-inch version holds up the rear. Both wheels carry Dunlop tires, but in the interests of actually riding his bike, Palmer went with just a 180 out back. Up front, you find a 13-inch P.M. rotor being squeezed by a four-piston ISR caliper, while out back a tiny 8-inch ISR rotor gets squeezed by a pair of ISR calipers.
Now it was time to add a driveline so the sheetmetal could be built around it. Palmer met PJ of PJ's Custom Cycles some time ago, and he knew when it was time for a motor, PJ would get the call. A 96ci S&S; was selected for the project -- plenty of get up and go, but not so much as to be excessive. The motor is all-S&S;, except for some special PJ headwork and a Dyna ignition. Backing up the 96-incher is a five-speed FXR transmission with a case polished to jewel-like brilliance. To ensure a positive connection between the two, a 3-inch BDL beltdrive and A.R.T. hydraulic clutch were put into place.
Stepping back and looking at what he had so far, Palmer decided to build a set of handlebars that did two things. First, they would appear to grow right out of the fork legs, adding height and a more chopper-esque stance without changing the actual stance of the bike. Second, they would carry the headlamp high and forward, adding even more shape to the bike. Once in place, Palmer looked at the chassis again and had a better idea of what he could do with the metalwork. The first step was a front fender that hugged the 21-incher tightly, but didn't dominate the wheel. Moving to the back fender, Palmer found that the frame struts didn't match the shape he had intended for the fender, so he added curvature to them to accentuate the look of the new rear skin.
Now it was time to show what he could do and build some tanks. A very stretched and detailed tank made from just four panels of metal rides high on the frame, and a faux oil bag for the electrics rides below. Andy liked it and was ready to do some paintwork when he realized something. He had no provisions for rear lighting. A quick session with the swingarm implanted '59 Caddy-style taillights into it, and he was back to painting.
After the '60 Ferrari red dried, Palmer started assembling and figuring out the last few pieces to build. Pipes were first, then a very unusual velocity stack cover, followed by chrome mouldings on the fenders. A few more items were added (like Eurocomponents handgrips and controls, along with P.M. foot controls and a Warren Morimoto) seat and Palmer was ready to show us the bike -- but only in person. He rode the bike to our offices, stood back, and waited for our reaction -- guess he got what he wanted!
|ASSEMBLY||PJ's Custom Cycles|
|BUILD TIME||18 months|
|REAR SUSPENSION:||Works Performance|
|WHEELS, TIRES, AND BRAKES|