Emotional Baggage | Harley Shovelhead Custom

This Chopper Will Cost you a Purse

"You owe me a purse!” she exclaimed. Usually when I hear that, it means some drunk just tossed cookies on a stripper or something. This is the first time in the 11 years I’ve been writing bike features someone has ever told me that in relation to a motorcycle, however.

Before we get to the new handbag though, we have to step back a year to an old frame. PJ Ciraulo had lent his old buddy, John, a hand moving stacks of boxes. John’s dad, Peck, owned an old chopper shop called The Scooter Shack in downtown San Jose, California, so it wasn’t that huge of a surprise when they unearthed a ’72 Harley Super Glide frame during the move.

“When are you going to build this frame up?” PJ asked.

“I’m not,” Peck replied. “Why don’t you do it?”

In the truck it went. A week later, PJ dropped it off at Puccio Welding and Machine for surgery. He wanted it resurrected as a hardtail chopper. Puccio Welding and Machine did a lot more than the rigid chassis conversion, though. They also narrowed and shortened a West Eagle 7-inch steel Ducktail fender that now rides over the rear Coker bias tire.

Yes, we know. When we hear “Coker bias” we think “early days chop job” too. A lot of old parts came out of retirement just to lend their street cred to PJ’s project. RE Engineering rebuilt a ’79 80-inch Shovelhead motor, for one thing. It’s hooked up to an ’80 four-speed transmission with a kicker. PJ’s scoot even has a set of hand controls from a ’76 Kawasaki KZ 650.

Still, some of the other parts are all modern. It’s tough to beat the ’70s for chopper style, but modern gear wins for reliability hands down. For starters, Puccio’s reworked a Thunderheader exhaust and S&S air cleaner to keep the old mill running nice and smooth. While the belt drive between the Shovel motor and the kicker transmission has classic style, it’s a late model from Primo. PJ’s chopper may run on old-style Coker bias tires, but there’s a Sprotor attached to the back wheel that’s far better looking and more powerful than any drum brake. And the KZ 650 hand controls sit at the ends of a pretty modern Pro Taper handlebar. At foot level, you’ll find controls that came off of an ’04 Harley-Davidson Dyna.

“You owe me a purse!” she exclaimed. And by “purse” we mean “high end Louis Vuitton handbag.”

All of the fabrication and mock-up work was handled at Puccio’s but Big Ed Lewis at 408 Customz saw to the final assembly. It was his job to turn this conglomeration of old and new parts into a fully functional, good-looking chopper. Puccio laid the groundwork but it fell to Ed to make it all work together as one, which was no small feat when you consider how many different sources, some of which weren’t made to work together, got tapped to make this bike a reality.

Over the next 13 months that it took Puccio and 408 Customz to build the bike, a cloud hovered over the project. Not everyone in PJ’s life wanted him working on a new project, least of all his wife who’d already told him she’d divorce him if he so much as started one. Like the Allied invasion of Normandy, secrecy was vital, albeit slightly less vital to the survival of the free world.

Building the chop in secret was only the second hardest part of the deal, though. Once the project was complete, in terms of difficulty, PJ’s campaign of deception was eclipsed by finding a way to break the news about his new bike to his beloved without losing half of everything else he owned in the process. Perhaps he’d tell her about it over a nice candlelight dinner at some swanky restaurant by the ocean?

Nah, too subtle. Besides, his wife was too smart. She would’ve seen the pill under the sugarcoating anyway. PJ gambled on shock and awe. He parked the truck in the driveway with the Shovelhead in the back for her to find on her own.

“Who’s bike is that in the back of the truck? It’s beautiful,” she inquired when she got home. “I like the style.” That’s when he knew his marriage would be fine. And by “knew” we mean, “had a 50-50 chance depending on the words he used next.”

“Oh, remember that old frame that John’s dad gave me?” he asked.

Suspicion crept into her eyes. “Yes. That was just a frame…”

“Well,” he said, “Now it’s a whole bike.”

Suspicion evolved into outright disapproval, and her change in demeanor probably took about two seconds, but as we all know, time stops whenever you break bad news to your significant other.

“You owe me a purse!” she exclaimed. And by “purse” we mean “high end Louis Vuitton handbag.” HB

Bike Owner|P.J. Ciraulo
Shop Name|408 Customz
Shop Phone|(408) 294-4008
Shop Website|408customz.com
Fabrication|Puccio Welding and Machine
Assembly|Big Ed Lewis-408 Customz
Build Time|13 months
Year/Manufacturer|’79 H-D/Shovelhead
Builder|RE Engineering
Rocker Boxes|H-D
Carburetor|S&S; Super G
Air Cleaner|K&N; with S&S; cover/Puccio
Year/Manufacturer/Type|’80/H-D four-speed
Primary Drive|Primo Open Belt
Year/Manufacturer|’72/H-D FXE/Puccio
Manufacturer|Front H-D
Length|2 inches under
Triple Trees|H-D
Manufacturer Rear|N/A
Swingarm|Hard tail by Puccio
Wheels, Tires, and Brakes
Manufacturer Front/Type|Akron/Spoke
Manufacturer rear/Type|Akront/spoke
Caliper|Exile Sprotor
Rotor|Exile Sprotor
Color|Bronze and silver
Painter|P.J. And Curtis Acosta
Graphics|Orange and white striping by Gene Worth
Rear Fender|West Eagle/Puccio
Fender Struts|Puccio
Gas Tank & Cap|Sportster King Tank
Oil Tank|Puccio (with built in filter)
Handlebars|Pro Taper Pastrana Bend
Hand Controls|1976 Kawasaki KZ 650
Foot Controls|2004 H-D Dyna
Headlight|Puccio 4-inch
Turn Signals|None
License Mount|eBay
Seat|West Eagle

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