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BCR PROJECT BIKE : ADVENTURE ON THE HORIZON | BUILDING THE HARLEY DAVISON AMERICAN SCRAMBLER 2015
For years our shop housed an old 1999 Harley Davidson 883 Sportster. It was a small, beat up bike & with a chromed out engine & mismatched mag rear/21" wire front wheels, it donned all the appropriate traits of a classic cruiser. To be honest, there was a long time when we didn't really know what we wanted to do with it. Thusly, the bike caught dust for nearly five years while we toyed with ideas of converting it to a Cafe racer or maybe a bobber.
By our self-instilled doctrine of aesthetic beliefs, we want all of our builds to be different & with this being our first Harley build we really wanted to emphasize that. Functionality comes first & foremost, but when we build a bike, we build a bike that will stand out & a bike that can be ridden hard. We took our plans from the drawing board to the recycling bin countless times before deciding that what we really wanted was to make this old cruiser something that could be ridden everywhere. It was this spark of realization that ignited our pondering minds & through the fire came the roaring & ready to adventure American Scrambler.
Much like any stock Sportster, the Scrambler started in a dropped-rear cruiser stance. With the front end high & the seat down low, we knew exactly what our first modifications would be. For the front end we envisioned a more modern design & decided to slap on a late '90s GSX1000 USD to lower the front. We decided to keep the Harley front hub but we machined a new front axle & an adapter to accommodate the GSX's double disc brakes. To raise the rear we switched to longer rear shocks & raised the shock mounts by an inch, effectively giving us the signature scrambler stance we were looking for. Once we got that, we decided to switch to all wire spoke wheels with aluminum raised-center "dirt catcher" rims by Borrani. With both the street & the dirt in mind, we equipped the Scrambler with dual purpose tires.
When considering options for a tank, we decided this bike would be best fit with an original design so we made one following the design of the Harley's V-twin motor. We added a stainless rack for detail & set the Monza gas cap off center. To finish off the tank, we added a black flame graphic to an otherwise bare aluminum polished finish.
Having the tank follow the accent of the motor gave us a beautiful curve to play with when building our seat. To maintain the bike's natural flow, we made the front of the seat follow the tail of the tank & curved the seat up toward the rear. In attempts to further abandon the bike's previous life as a cruiser, we decided to make the seat as narrow as possible without exposing the frame rails. The seat pan itself is fiberglass & is wrapped in high density foam fashioned with cowhide leather upholstery.
After finalizing the design of the seat we made a custom oil tank to fit inside the midsection of the frame. Here, we notched the inside to fit a gel-cell battery giving this used-to-be cruiser the option for a rougher ride. We then added an aluminum number plate with a black patch & gold pinstripe.
We wanted the fenders to match the number plate & the gas tank so we made those out of aluminum as well & added stainless steel mounting brackets. We fabricated a front skid plate (also out of aluminum) with ventilation slots to cool the voltage regulator & then fashioned a small dashboard out of mild steel that we designed to fit the stock tachometer & warning lights. We then designed stainless footpegs & foot controls that are mounted in the mid-section of the bike.
When working on the engine, we knew the first thing that had to go was the chrome finish so we sandblasted the side covers & the top end, leaving us with a pitted matte finish. We then swapped the stock 883 pistons with a 1200cc piston cylinder kit. We made our own air filter box out of aluminum & covered the air inlet with a stainless wire mesh. The stock belt drive was then swapped out for a chain final drive & the side cover of the engine was cut out, exposing the front sprocket & gold chain.
With the Scrambler starting to look as wild as we dreamed, finding an aftermarket headlight bucket & tail light to suit our build became an increasingly difficult task. As you can probably imagine, we encounter this situation quite often & like all the other times before, we decided to build our own from scratch. We built a headlight bucket that we wanted to tuck between the fork legs so we designed it to be as narrow as possible. The tail light was made of bare aluminum & bolted onto the tail of the frame, wrapping around the frame end loop
While building this bike we knew we wanted to stay true to the signature scrambler style, but as always, we also wanted it to have our own unique twist. With the scrambler-style exhaust in mind, we fabricated our own 2 into 2 exhaust out of stainless steel & in the vein of old school scramblers, mounted the mufflers high. We finished off the mufflers by adding aluminum detail & left the brushed matte finish.
The Scrambler was nearly complete at this point, but with adventure in our veins & our eyes on the horizon, there was one last detail that needed to be made so we gave the Scrambler an all-purpose road kit. The detachable leather bag is an original design & is designed to match the seat's cowhide leather upholstery. To finish the build, a protective aluminum plate was made to help keep the bag clean during the Scrambler's hopefully-muddy future ventures.
As with all of our projects, we definitely set out to build a bike that was realistic & functional, but more importantly we built a bike that was fun. What started as a standard cruiser has become a bike that could now trek, whether in the street or in the unmapped dirt of the Earth, toward the dawn of a new day.