Kaplan Cycles Knucklehead Chopper

One mellow yellow rigid custom

Kaplan Cycles Knucklehead Chopper

Fred Wright loved this chopper, but as the months went by the shine wore off the penny, so to speak.

Mark Masker

This story originally ran in the January 2008 issue of Street Chopper.
I hate yellow choppers, I really do. If yellow needed a ride to the hospital, I wouldn’t give it one if my head was bleeding. However, the color looks good on this Harley-Davidson Knucklehead chop. This is a classic build if ever there was one and its coolness totally overrides my distaste for a certain primary color. Most of this machine is the original article from the factory and most of the rest of it is classic chopper parts from when those parts were the latest and greatest, like the 1950s Anderson footpegs.

It’s a ’47 Knuckle (motor and frame), origin: unknown. What is known is that in 1988 Fred Wright and Mike Kaplan both wanted to buy it from the original owner. Money makes the world go ’round though—Fred had it, Mike didn’t. Although Wright got the chopper, he let Kaplan ride it once shortly after purchase.

This nod to good sportsmanship was par for the course between these two longtime friends. Mike and Fred met years before when Wright was wrenching scoots in Berdoo (a.k.a. San Bernardino, California), back when Kaplan was a kid. Later on they ran into each other again and became best friends, working in their shop for 15 years.

Kaplan Cycles Knucklehead Chopper Engine

Old bikes mean old bike hassles and the Knuck ended up in the living room as a conversation piece…and occasional Christmas tree.

Mark Masker

Kaplan Cycles Knucklehead Chopper Exhaust

Sadly, Fred passed away but Julie retained possession and she was kind enough to let Mike Kaplan haul the Knuckle to his chopper shop in San Luis Obispo, California, for a full restoration.

Mark Masker

Kaplan Cycles Knucklehead Chopper

Mike changed as little as possible. This chopper represented his best friend; no way he’d alter it if he could avoid it.

Mark Masker

Kaplan Cycles Knucklehead Chopper headlight detail

Dennis McDonald spent two solid days cleaning it up, but when you let a chopper sit around for a long time, that’s not enough. For starters, the electric system needed replacement.

Mark Masker

Kaplan Cycles Knucklehead Chopper

Fortunately, Mike’s one of those guys who has a lot of genuine old chopper parts from the Golden Age.

Mark Masker

Kaplan Cycles Knucklehead Chopper frame

He went through the cam chest and had the parts necessary to reinvigorate the motor and replace the charging system.

Mark Masker

Kaplan Cycles Knucklehead Chopper gas tank

Despite McDonald’s thorough detailing, there was plenty of refinishing to be done. Jack Foster at Progressive Auto Art took care of that, rejuvenating the Lemon Chrome Yellow paint back to full health.

Mark Masker

Kaplan Cycles Knucklehead Chopper foot peg

Restoration wasn’t the end though. Mike took Fred and Julie’s chopper on the road. Not only riding it, but also entering it in a few shows.

Mark Masker

motorcycle seat

It’s done pretty well, taking two trophies at the Ride to the Rock in San Luis Obispo and Best Old Skool Scooter at the David Mann Chopperfest show in Ventura, California. Not only is that a testament to the bike, it’s a great way to pay tribute to an old friend.

Mark Masker