Feature Bike – Bobbing Along

Story by Glenn Roberts// Photos by Glenn Roberts
June 6 2011

Paul Morton began riding minibikes around the tender age of ten, and later moved on to riding trials bikes with the help of a champion trials rider that his dad worked with. Since Paul’s early days, it has been a steady line of cars, trucks and motorcycles – anything with wheels and an internal combustion engine has kept him busy. Since no one in his family is mechanically inclined in the least, Paul taught himself at an early age by taking apart mini and trail bikes, then fixing them and putting them back together in proper running order. Once he was able to drive, he began tinkering with cars and trucks, but he never lost his love of all types of motorcycles.

During his early twenties, Paul bought a badly beat-up 1985 GP race-replica Yamaha RZ500 and rebuilt it. Shortly thereafter, when the bank would lend him money, he bought his first Harley – a 1983 Willie G Wide Glide with factory primary and secondary belt drives. Realizing a little while later that he owned a fairly rare bike, he made some modifications, but never altered the basic bike. Paul still owns the special Wide Glide, and has put it back into near-stock condition, but he will soon have a sidecar attached so he can ride his kids around.

The red 1948 Harley-Davidson you see here is Paul’s first attempt at building a bike from scratch. The bike took about five years to build, but Paul took a year off while he and his wife were in the process of building and moving to their present dream home. In Paul’s words, “The bike took five years, four trips to the tattoo shop, three houses, two kids and one wife.” The man keeps busy, that’s for sure.

In the beginning, he didn’t have much of a vision in mind, but the one thing he wanted for certain was a springer front end – this was the first piece he picked up, and the rest of the bike was literally built around it. By the time he had a rolling chassis he still didn’t have an engine, but he knew what he wanted. Liking the shovelhead in his Wide Glide, and being too young to ever have seen a new one, he chose a brand-new S&S 93 ci engine with split rocker boxes. This was the biggest shovelhead S&S made at the time, and it’s the biggest engine that would fit in the stock 1948 frame that he had picked up.

Always willing to learn new skills, Paul began metal fabricating and shaping and settled on his third set of gas tanks, while the seat pan took a page from his own livelihood. Paul being a stonemason, mixed a bit of extra cement one day, threw it in a form and sat in it, mimicking the exact shape of his butt. The dried cement would be the mold for the seat pan. All the metal work was done with a homemade shot bag and a modified leather-faced mason’s mallet.

When it came to paint, Paul took that task on as well. “I’ve been rattle-can painting since I was a kid with my first VW Bug in my parents’ garage. In fact, I’ve tried proper spray equipment and I own everything for proper spraying, but I find I do a better job with an aerosol can, including the clear coat.”

Most of the trinkets Paul has on this bike hold plenty of sentimental value. For instance, the Kit Kat plaque on the leather-clad battery box – he’s not sure where it came from, but Kit Kat is his wife’s lifelong nickname. The rest are little items his kids have given him to adorn the bike. The keychain with a skull hanging from the front frame was given to him by his youngest child and it serves as a “gremlin bell,” to ward off evil road spirits. The clutch lever and shifter are from a mountain bike Paul wrecked, and the foot pegs are from one of the kid’s bikes.

Paul lives in the Port Dover area where, every Friday the 13th, the small fishing village is inundated with tens of thousands of motorcyclists for the long-standing, one-day rally. Paul rides his red bobber regularly, but keep an eye out for him in Dover – he’s sure to be taking part in the festivities.


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