“A lot of people in the motorcycle industry thought I was a wrestler getting into bike building but I’d been in it since I was a kid. The wrestling gave me the means to get that going.” –Chuck Palumbo
Even if Chuck Palumbo didn’t have more than a decade’s experience as a pro wrestler, I still wouldn’t want to piss him off. He’s a big dude. Like, I’m-6-foot-5-and-look-like-I-was-raised-on-a-diet-of-other-children big.
Chuck’s also a pretty good guy when you talk to him about his love for cars and bikes. He grew up in and around the hot rod/muscle car restoration business thanks to an uncle who was in it. Chuck told me, “I grew up in that body shop. Every once in awhile we’d do a bike.” Going into business for himself came later, though. First, he put his imposing physicality to work in the wrestling ring, starting in the WCW, then in the WWE after Vince McMahon bought out the WCW. Funny enough, wrestling is what led Chuck full circle back to building motorcycles. One of his WWE buddies wanted a custom bike so Chuck set up his garage to make that happen. That led to other bikes for other friends until 2008 when he left the ring for the garage: “I’ve been super busy. I’m doing nine builds right now.” At one point Chuck even started riding his bikes to the wrestling ring as a way to advertise his handiwork.
One of the scoots that’s kept him so busy is this ’05 Softail Deluxe he tailored for friend James Daluz who came to Chuck jonesing for a motorcycle with a 23-inch front wheel. He’d fallen in love with that concept after seeing the other 23-incher scoots Chuck had already built. In fact, fat spoke wheels was the only requirement James had for his new ride. All the rest of it was Chuck’s design: “It’s great when a customer gives you free reign. I tried to make the bike an extension of his personality. He likes classy things. It has some old-school features but it’s also classy and modern.”
While Chuck has built plenty of ground-up bikes over the years, he recommended shaping a stock platform H-D into badassery rather than a frame-up custom job. With its hidden suspension, a Softail made sense for making the bare bones custom seen here. Having worked in pro wrestling for so long, Chuck’s no foreigner to crafting an illusion. Doing it with a bike lift is probably easier on his spine, though. In this case, he disguised a daily rider to look like a full-blown custom without sacrificing comfort or reliability.
Stylistically, this bike has a bobbed look, done in black, with just enough gold here and there to give just the right amount of contrasting shine. CP Kustoms (Chuck’s shop, obviously) made the sheetmetal and bars that are a huge part of its uniqueness. That rear fender hugs the new 200mm back tire beautifully and the line of holes on it adds some style along its edge. Fabricator Kevin made the matching struts. Then there’s CP Kustoms’ new gas tank that looks a little like a one-off peanut. Take a gander under the seat and your eyes are treated to the sweet custom work Chuck incorporated into the oil tank as well. Chuck also went for bonus points with brass accents from the risers up front to the shift linkage, seat springs, and drivechain links.
Big changes were in store for the wheels and brakes, too. CP Kustoms took down the stock H-D wheels and bulked up the Softy with a set of Ride Wright Fat Daddy 50-spoke wheels, the front one being the 23-incher James wanted for this project. It’s straddled by a Mean Street frontend that measures in at 2 inches under stock. The overall effect is a little like a snub-nosed pit bull.
Its frame, motor, and transmission are largely stock save for two changes—the breathing and the BDL primary. Chuck crafted the hot rod scoop air cleaner and 2-into-1 pipes not just for better performance but also to lend some cred to James’ ride. Just check out the engraving on the air cleaner with James’ name on it. As for the pipe, it has just enough heat shield to keep James’ leg burn-free. You could even make the argument that the bluing on the pipe is a battle scar that tells you this chop ain’t no trailer queen.
Given the thought Chuck puts into creating a scoot, having it sit in a trailer somewhere would probably be an insult to him: “I try to make the bike an extension of the guy’s personality. I find out what they are about, what they are into, what movies and music they like, their hobbies, what they do for a living, and how they dress. Put that together and you can tell what they want. A lot of times people think they know what they want but if you do it that way, they won’t be happy with it. I feel fortunate that people trust me enough to have creative control over their projects. You get a thrill like you’re building it for yourself. At the end of the day, I love making something from nothing.” Given his previous career, insulting Chuck probably isn’t a good plan. So if you get a bike from him, you better be prepared to actually ride it. HB
"I try to make the bike an extension of the guy’s personality. I find out what they are about, what they are into, what movies and music they like, their hobbies, what they do for a living, and how they dress."
|Bike Owner||James Daluz|
|Shop Name||CP Kustoms|
|Shop Phone||(619) 672-4795|
|Build Time||Four months|
|Type/size||Twin Cam/88 ci|
|Air Cleaner||CP Kustoms Inc.|
|Exhaust||CP Kustoms Inc.|
|Manufacturer Front||Mean Street|
|Length||2 inches under|
|Triple Trees||Mean Street|
|Swingarm||CP Kustoms Inc.|
|Wheels, Tires, and Brakes|
|Manufacturer Front/Type||Ride Wright|
|Manufacturer Rear/Type||Ride Wright|
|Tire/Size||Avon Cobra 200/18/50|
|Color||Gold Pearl over Black (custom mix)|
|Rear Fender||CP Kustoms Inc.|
|Fender Struts||Fabricator Kevin|
|Gas Tank & Cap||CP Kustoms Inc./RSD|
|Oil Tank||CP Kustoms Inc.|
|Handlebars||CP Kustoms Inc.|
|Headlight||CP Kustoms Inc.|
|License Mount||Fabricator Kevin|
|Seat||CP Kustoms Inc.|