Function, Form And History Combined
(Reprinted from Thunder Alley - December 1996)

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Maybe some of you Sporster lovers out there can relate to this story.  Kirk Kelley worked in Harley shops for years and although he always tried to help his fellow Sportster riders, he noticed that  they tended to suffer from a lack of respect in the industry.  An XL rider had every bit as much right to good service and, more often than not, was just a willing to put money into his or her bike as the Big Twin guys.   The path seemed clear; Kirk decided to open his own shop just for Sportsters.   Thus was born Sporty Specialties, Inc. in Fullerton, California.

Kirk drew upon his vast experience as an XL-loving parts guy to help Sporty owners get the right parts and solve their vexing problems, and the big work went to veteran wrench Doug Whitson.  If Doug's name rings a bell, perhaps its from the Webley Vicker bikes (BMW frame and VW motor) he used to build back in the '70s.  With a kick-butt mechanic and a seasoned parts guy at the helm, the shop was a perfect haven for connoisseurs of the American race bike.

As a businessman, however, Kirk saw the need for some promotion, and as a fan of acceleration, he made the obvious leap into drag racing.   A Sporty Specialties, Inc. drag bike tearing down the strip in all its high performance glory had to become a reality.

The history of this bike is strange, horrific and wonderful.  One of Doug's passions at the time was New Zealand Sidecar racing, a type of track where the bike is fitted with a stripped sidecar.  The sidehack passenger, or "the monkey," shifts his weight on the sidecar to balance the g-forces when the bike goes into a turn.   Fascinating to watch, but hazardous to do, Doug's sidecar racing career came to a sudden halt at 70 mph.

When the dust settled, both Doug and the Sportster rig he had been riding were in pretty bad shape.  Never ones to let a situation get the best of them, Kirk and Doug turned things around.

The forks and the frame were a total loss, but there was still a very sweet '91 883 XLH motor with a five-speed transmission in that wreck.  As Doug licked his wounds and waited for time to heal, Kirk was busy with the catalogs, ordering the parts to make the motor into the drag bike of their dreams.

He pieced together a rolling chassis out of Paughco rigid frame, a set of Showa narrow-glide, dual-disk forks from a '82 Harley, and a set of stock-type stainless steel spoked wheels.  Kirk was very happy with the Paughco frame as it turned out.   The installation was easy; the motor dropped right in and was a great looker with its low lines, its extra five degrees of rake and the hot-looking oil tank and battery box, also from Paughco, that fit right up.

As parts continued arriving, Doug started to feel like his old self again and he began to work on the motor, which he immediately punched out to a 1200cc with a kit from JE.   The lower end was balanced and dyno-tuned by Bartels' and a set or Andrews N4 camshafts were installed.  For rubber-burning performance they took the heads to Wild Bills racing in Oceanside, California, to be rebuilt to perfection.  Even though they chose a Mikuni carburetor to feed the motor, Kirk decided to retain the oval air cleaner as it is a part that many people associate with the Sportster.  Although the five-speed tranny and clutch were left as stock items, the final drive was converted to chain for the added strength need for drag racing.  The ignition system was put in the hands of Dyna 2000 for a hot, on-time spark.

wpe11.jpg (10172 bytes)As great as the bike would run, it had to look sharp as well.  Orange and black, Harley's traditional racing colors, were to be worn on some light sheet metal.  Kirk ordered the Ness front fender and the extra wide rear from Nempco because they were fiberglass and thus, light.  The tank, which Kirk had hanging around the shop, was the stock item for a 1963 XLH.  It was chosen because, aside from looking cool, it brought to light something many people didn't know about XLH history: Back in the '60s, most people traded those bigger tanks for the hipper peanuts and thus not many bikes have them today.   Although that style won't fit on the EVO Sporster frame, it bolted right onto the Paughco.

With the colors chosen and the sheet metal acquired, the actual spraying was left in the hands of Ted at Bootleg Painting in Chino, California.  Chrome is nice, but for a deep luster, nothing compares with honest-to-goodness polished aluminum.  Pretty much everything aluminum was sent to Caliber Polishing in Fullerton to have the shine brought out.  The orange middle rocker spacer was installed just to finish off the color scheme.

wpe12.jpg (14242 bytes)It's funny how projects can change direction in the middle of their growth.  As the bike started to come together, the urge to ride for more than a quarter-mile became great in the two veteran Harley riders, and soon the Sportster started to wear the colors of a street bike.   Screamin' Eagle slip-on mufflers were attached to the crossover less headers, a headlight, taillight, and lay-down license plate frame found their way into the XL's parts box, and a mirror seemed to grow out of the flat-track style handlebars.  The seat by Barr Enterprises of Tajunga, CA looked good and was comfortable for more than 14 seconds.  Forward controls were added for comfortable road cruising and a 51-tooth wheel sprocket was attached for a more comfortable ride.

There comes a point in the building of a motorcycle when the project begins to look more like a bike than a pile of parts.  This bike was reaching that point and Kirk and Doug were itching to take it on the street to see what it could do.  And once it was finally finished, it could do a lot.  It was fast, handled well and looked like nothing else on the road.

The result of this hybrid of drag bike and street cruiser is nothing you had better bet against next to another bike at a stoplight, yet it will still get you around town without breaking your butt.  The rigid frame and unusual fenders catch eyes as it rips down the street, but the classic Sportster tank - which holds almost four gallons - and the oval air cleaner never try to hide the fact that this bike is a Sportster.  So even though it never got a chance to spread Sporty Specialties, Inc. name at the drag strip, it is its own advertisement any time it rolls uniquely down any Southern California road.

And if your ever in Fullerton, stop into Sporty Specialties, Inc. and see what you can do for your Sportster.  Keep the Sporty faith alive!

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