The computer world gave us the expression "garbage in/garbage out." Well, when it comes to building motorcycles, the inverse is certainly just as true. Start with the good stuff, and it's a lot easier to end up with something good. If you're lucky enough to be able to begin with a cherry-picked pile of the best stuff out there, it's almost impossible not to end up with something pretty special. And if you happen to have world-class fabrication skills and a true artist's touch, you are looking at a straight line to a slam-dunk of greatness. When Drag Specialties' Tom Motzko and Tank Ewsichek from Ohio's Tuff Cycle decided to collaborate, the result was nothing short of spectacular.
Tank tells us it all started with him knocking on Tom Motzko's door several times a year. "I used to go to Daytona and Sturgis and Laughlin, and I always made a point of stopping by their [Drag Specialties'] rig because it's a nice setup. I just kept pestering him for like four or five years, going, 'Hey, man, lemme build you guys a bike.' I told him, 'If you don't like it, you ain't gotta pay for it,' so I figured that was what got his attention. And I've been working for him ever since." So far, Tank has built five show bikes for Tom from the ground up and has painted several more.
This one was a bit of a departure for Tom's team at Drag Specialties, as they decided to break the Fat Book (Drag's catalog) cover's single-bike tradition. "We were on a catalog cover deadline to get two very different sort of 'soup to nuts' bikes done in time for that," Tom Motzko told us. "We have an old bobber-style bike, and then we have this pretty zoomy state-of-the-art rocket built on an Independent Cycles chassis. And in order to get these two bikes done on schedule, Brian Klock was working feverishly on his, and Tank was very happy to jump in and help us make our deadline."
Tank began by setting up the roller: frame, temporary frontend, Legend Air Suspension, swingarm, wheels, and tires. At this point there were a million ways to go-literally hundreds of parts to choose from in the catalog. He had to look no further than the PM Torque wheels, which at that point were prototypes, for guidance. "That's a good way to make a good hot rod-start with the wheels. I mean, I've seen some real cool motorcycles but then thought, 'Wow, why'd they put those rims on there?' But these are flowy-lookin' with points, and so we just started going through the Fat Book to see what else had sharp edges like that."
He picked up some Arlen Ness controls that fit the bill and found a set of Accutronix trees that, to his eye, also had the right mix of flow and edge. These topped the long order list that was faxed off to Tom, and while he was waiting for the Men In Brown to show up with boxes, Tank got into the metal. Tank's goal is to make bikes that appear to be moving even when they're idle, and there's nothing to interrupt the eye as your gaze flows across the bike. He said, "For me, it's kind of an artist thing. I take a length of welding rod and bend it to get the arc I want, then use some poster board maybe, just to get an idea of how it could be."
He started with the rear of the bike, where he had to fabricate a connective bridge of about 5 inches between where the 11-1/2-inch-wide Russ Wernimont rear fender stops and where the back of the seat begins. It took a lot of metalwork to make it flow smoothly all the way through to the top of the rear frame tube. Hidden in front of the rear tire in its usual place is the oil bag, right where you'd expect it, but this one is special. "There was a lot of R&D; that went into the steel bladder that's the oil bag. It's not like one of those bladders that's squared off in there. This is a custom piece that bolts up from the underside and is held up with gas tank-type rubber grommets. On the primary side it's carved and sculptured to accommodate Independent's very long primary-maybe like 3 inches longer than a stock primary-and it all comes with the kit.
Once the rear was dressed for success, the frontend started to look a bit naked-especially after the gas tank had its tail extension fabbed on to meet the front of the seat and was placed on the bike. Tank said, "I figured, man, I did so much tin work in the back that the plain neck on the thing was kind of a sore spot when you looked at it, 'cause everything was smooth and rolled with it, and then you looked at the neck and it was just...a neck, you know? So it kind of goes like that. You get done at the end of the day and look at it and think, 'OK, what's the next move?'" His answer in this case was hand-forming a sculpted piece that cups the front of the tank and really ties the body together.
A monster S&S; 124 was specified in a moment of happy overkill, given that this rig was clearly destined for trailers and shows. When we asked Tank whether there was any challenge to placing the big engine (and Baker six-speed) into this frame, or whether he had to modify the frame to accept all the torque this mill would put out, he simply said, "No. That thing slid in there without a hitch.
From there, it was a matter of some final details, such as the finely frenched-in rear taillight with the sharp-nosed rain skirt. Oh, and of course a lot of time was spent hiding all those pesky but necessary wires, cables, tubes, and the like. The idea for the paint scheme came from a visit to a local hot rod show-Tank looked around for colors he didn't see. First he painted the whole bike in pink, then mocked it back up, set the tank and put it on a lift to set the midline, and then painted the platinum. He then affixed transfer paper and cut the hatchets out, airbrushed those in, and then striped the powder-blue hard line by hand. Those color striations you see in the platinum top were freehanded, too. A few layers of clear, and he was done.
It sounds simple enough, but you've got to keep in mind that most shops employ different specialists in each area of bike building. The fact that Tank can do it all as a lone gun and do it so well is more than impressive. As Tom Motzko says, "Tank is very diversified. He does everything in his shop so he can control the time frame and quality very easily." The only work he farms out are chrome, polish work, and seats.
Tank's shop is 50 feet from his house, where he lives alone. As he says, "It's just me and the dogs." He's certainly not a hermit, but the solitude allows him to do this kind of work with minimal interruptions and put in whatever hours the job needs. He really does live and breathe this stuff, and it shows in every bike he builds. "The choices I make just kinda come from doing it. I've been around street rods and motorcycles my whole life. There are three lines to a bike, basically. There's a bottom line that has to be parallel to the ground, there's a midline (and you have to make sure everything is flowing with that), and you need a nice top line that is pleasing to the eye. I just mock it up and sit back and crack open a couple of chilly boys and figure out what it needs."
Tom Motzko guesses that it would take about $50,000 to replicate this bike as it stands. He was quick to point out that you could build a similar machine for less by picking less expensive parts from the catalog and maybe easing off on the bodywork a bit. But the goal of bikes such as this is to show what's possible when you start with the Fat Book and a phone. Tom said, "I think project bikes like this one get people excited about motorcycles in general. It may not be something that you want, but I'll tell you what-it's a pretty damn cool bike. At least you'll stop and look at it, you know?" Yeah, we know. We're still looking at this one. For a complete list of parts used to build this bike, check out the Drag Specialties website (www.dragspecialties.com)