This article was originally published in the December/January 2000 issue of Cycle World's Big Twin magazine.
Lassez les bon temps roulez—let the good times roll. But do it with a tourer that has pepper, spirit and heat enough for any Louisiana gumbo. It’s just what you need for some Cajun-country traveling: a bagger with sufficient space for a couple of crawdads and just as much style as Crawfish Etouffé.
While he was working on this cool, clean bagger, nicknamed Canaille Noire—”Black Rascal” in Cajun French—Iowa builder Don Hotop was perhaps influenced by the laid-back lifestyle of the blue bayous: After being in his shop for nearly two years, the bike was finished just in time to be delivered to its owner, Mike Guidry, in Sturgis. Hotop had barely enough time to ride the bike about 450 miles on break-in duty before heading off for South Dakota, where it was officially unveiled. Some guys have the best jobs.
And others have the best bikes. Guidry is one of those lean, clean kind of motorheads who dislike a lot of razzle dazzle, stuff like chrome frames on license plates or excess brightwork everywhere. But that leanness does not extend to his garage: Guidry has countless cars and hot rods, along with six Cushman scooters and an old Mustang Pony (remember those?). His business is trucking, and when he’s not at work, he lives well, indeed, down in Acadia County, Louisiana. It’s Cajun country, hours away from New Orleans over the Atchafalaya Basin.
“I ate some of the best food I’ve had in years down there in Cajun land,” says Hotop. “Mike is a connoisseur of metal and meat. Aside from having gumbo running through his veins, he’s known for his ‘Hot Rods, Harleys and Hauling Ass’—which is the script found on the back of every truck he owns. His garage is absolutely fantastic. He’s got a ’55 Chevy that’s perfect; once you see it, you won’t want to look at another one the rest of your life. He’s got a ’63 Chevy Biscayne to kill for. The list just goes on and on. His place is like a museum, but just a few miles down the road is the swamp.”
This bagger ended up in Hotop’s capable hands because he had successfully rescued another of Guidry’s bikes from a fate worse than being submerged in a sourwater swamp and chewed by an alligator. Recalls Hotop, “Mike had a Softail that had been customized by somebody else—I won’t say who—and botched up so badly that he couldn’t ride it. Not long after he was introduced to me, he sent the debauched bike to my shop. After we finished that one, he trucked this bike to me and we put it on a Jenny Craig diet.”
Black Rascal started out as a ’97 FLHS, but practically nothing was left untouched. The frame was raked 4 degrees, the rear frame rails cut off and the top rail modified. All bracketry was excised and all extra tabs and brackets were removed and smoothed.
Guidry likes seeing ugly metal parts about as much as eating fast food, so the saddlebag mounts were reinvented and hidden to create the illusion of there being no visible means of saddlebag support. Hotop fabricated twin rear lights into the bags, relegating the stock, fender-mounted taillamp to the discard bin. To remove the ugly gap between footboards and frame, the footboard mounts were moved back two inches, then Hotop fabricated custom boards to fill the space with elegance. Next, the license plate was cunningly relocated under the fender, from whence it emerges when the bike’s on regular patrol duty. “There are times in Cajun country when you don’t want or need a license plate” claims Guidry. After hearing what he frequently does on a Louisiana Saturday night, we believe him. Let’s just say that Zydeco music and Dixie beer are the only parts of those activities that we’ll print here.
Hotop openly admits that he’s no painter, so he dispatched the frame to Dan Conlee in New Boston, Iowa, for all the molding, and to have the base paint and color applied. Meanwhile, the other chassis and body parts were trucked westward to Oklahoma where Mike Robbins did the artwork.
In the engine department, Nigel Patrick heads and 96-inch cylinders sit atop radiused S&S cases, with the cams, pistons, rods and crank also all from S&S. Prime mover, indeed. “This bagger will really blast down the bayou,” says Guidry.
But if the performance is spectacular, the detailing is flat incredible. “There’s just about nothing we didn’t touch on this bike,” claims Hotop. “We ripped apart the gas tanks and hid the caps down below a door so they’re invisible. We welded in a frame cover underneath the seat. We faired everything off.” The handlebar levers are modified Hotop/Ness units, and since Guidry hated the extended radio controls that overhang the handlebar on the stocker, all radio buttons were transferred to a fairing-mounted console. The ignition switch also was removed from its prominent location and hidden in the coil cover.
“The FLHS is more of a sport bagger now,” says Hotop. “It’s still got saddlebags, fairing and windshield, but it’s got a lot more get-up-and-go. It’s a lot of fun to ride. It’s not a lumbering old dresser any more.
“If I had it to do all over again, would I do anything different? No, not a damn thing. I kept offering Mike my stripped-down dresser and some cash for this Black Rascal, but he wouldn’t accept it. This bike is a keeper, but he just refused to sell it. “We’re now in the process of doing another bike for Mike. I can’t wait to deliver it so I cant get some more of those crawdads.”
Ecoutez, Don. You get too much of that Cajun style, you ain’t never want to leave Louisiana.
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|Bike Name:||Canaille Noir (Black Rascal)|
|Base Machine:||1997 FLHS|
|Designer/Fabricator/Builder:||Don Hotop 2613 Ave. L Ft. Madison, IA 52627|
|Paint and Chrome|
|Molding:||Dan Conlee, New Boston, IA|
|Graphic Artist:||Mike Robbins|
|Chroming:||Precision Plating, Quincy, IL|
|Displacement:||96 cu. in.|