In this final installment of the Lowbrow Panhead project, bike owner/builder Tyler Malinky takes us through the processes involved with modifying and mounting a sweet Bates taillight he found at a swap meet. After wrapping things up in the rear, Tyler moved onto one of the most fun and rewarding projects any home builder can tackle with a welder and some simple tools in his own garage: fabricating a custom exhaust. Tyler used Biltwell Inc.’s popular and affordable builder’s exhaust kit for this project, and the tips he shares in this photo essay are super handy.
Button It Up, Shake It Down
It took Tyler just over three months of evenings and weekends to get the Lowbrow Panhead ready for a shakedown at last spring’s El Diablo Run. On that ill-fated adventure the motor launched a NOS rocker, so Tyler finished the four-day hell ride on a borrowed BMW enduro. Two months later Lowbrow’s founder debuted his rebuilt and painted Panhead at Born Free 3, and celebrated that accomplishment with three days of cruising under the SoCal sun.
We saw Tyler aboard his no-frills chopper at the Lowbrow Holeshot in Ohio last September, where both builder and bike were doing fine. We love success stories like these, and hope Tyler’s gumption and creativity inspires HOT BIKE readers to do something equally fun and rewarding in their own garages. Thanks to Lowbrow Customs, Biltwell Inc., Gasbox Fabrication, Trumpnut Nick, and all the other bootstrap capitalists and underground craftsmen who donated time and treasure to Tyler’s labor of love.
1. Tyler scored this original Bates taillight assembly at the Mid-Ohio Swap Meet for $5. Chopping prized old-school parts like this is sacrilege in the eyes of some retro grouches, but Tyler is a honey badger: he doesn’t give a shit.
2. Tyler used a hacksaw to cut out the cylindrical main section of the Bates taillight, leaving behind the brackets for the license plate and bulb housing.
3. Tyler cleaned up the edges of both pieces with a file and a flap disk before TIG welding them into a single smaller component. After welding, Tyler smoothed down the weld beads with a 120-grit flap disk wheel on a 4-inch grinder.
4. Tyler used care with his flap disk around the Bates logo to keep the original marking intact.
5. With the taillight housing installed even an expert would be hard pressed to identify this as a customized piece.
6. Tyler shaped a piece of 3/16-inch thick stainless-steel plate to fit between the uprights of his sissybar, then TIG-welded it into place.
7. Here’s the finished assembly with modified taillight installed. Note the fender-mounting bungs still missing from the custom assembly…
8. Tyler fabricated the fender-mounting bungs for his sissybar shown here by boring a 2-inch-long section of 5/8-inch O.D. stainless-steel rod on his lathe. After boring the rod, he cut off two 9/16-inch-long sections and welded each one to the opposing side of his sissybar. He then welded a section of fender scrap directly beneath both bungs, then drilled holes through the double-thick material. Finally, Tyler welded nuts to the underside of his fortified fender to make installing hardware a one-tool job.
9. Tyler’s retro Panhead features backing lights off a VW Beetle mounted between the Triumph fork legs on a handcrafted, stainless-steel, headlight mount assembly. He used the 5/8-inch and 9/16-inch rod stock left over from his sissybar project to create the component shown here.
10. A combination of aftermarket drag pipes, corrugated muffler pipe, and Biltwell builder’s exhaust kit were used to create the custom pipes on his Panhead. Fabricating a custom chopper exhaust is easier than many shade-tree mechanics realize, but Tyler recommends not starting the process until all other critical components and fabrication near your exhaust system—oil lines, foot controls, and brake master cylinder, for instance—are installed and accounted for.
11. Tyler used cut-off wheels on a hand grinder to slice and miter the tube sections for his exhaust, but we’ve seen hacksaws and band saws applied for this process as well.
12. After roughing out the opposing tube ends to create a given joint, it’s helpful to fine-tune the joint interface by shaping and de-burring every cut on a sander. If you don’t have a sander, a flap disk on a die grinder will also do the job.
13. The goal with whatever combination of cutting and mitering tools you choose is to create seams that are airtight. Tidy weld beads require less grinding, sanding, and polishing before plating, and this helps create a smoother-looking finished pipe.
14. Tyler’s pipes are handmade, distinctive, and original. Isn’t that what every chopper is supposed to be?
15. In keeping with his British fixation, Tyler chose twin Amal carbs for his Panhead. Underground fabricator Trumpnut Nick from northern Nevada makes this twin-tube contraption that connects the twin mixers to an S&S Panhead manifold.
16 The weight of two manifolds and two carbs gave Tyler pause for concern, so he fabricated this support bracket using scraps of stainless-steel rod from other parts of his project. Choppers have an uncanny ability to vibrate themselves silly; so little components like these add both structural integrity and visual intrigue.
17 Tyler is a clever builder, but even he knows his limitations. Professionals handled things like plating, painting, and polishing on the Lowbrow Panhead project so Tyler could focus on things like getting these finicky Amals to pump fuel into his rebuilt mill.
18. The Lowbrow Panhead in all her radiant glory.
By Tyler Malinky
Keep in mind it’s very important to ensure that you cruise with your motorbike with caution. Always make sure you put on original carbon fiber helmets.