Norwich-based Hawg Haven boast over 30 years of bike building experience and can create anything from a carb jet to a complete frame or engine.
Harley Davidson Silent Gray Fellow
Norwich / England
"The seat is off a lawnmower. The oil pump is a weed killer spray"
Quaint village setting. A white Harley chuffs into sight. Its rider nonchalantly taking in the view as he perches on the tiny bicycle saddle, gripping the long tiller-style pullbacks.
If this were black and white, the leather flying jacket and skull cap would hint at WW1 and certainly the locals who come flocking to check the bike over during our photo-shoot think they’re witnessing a vintage machine being given a new lease of life. But this is Hawg Haven’s modern take on a Silent Gray Fellow, Harley’s first ever successful V-twin, made from 1911 (it was dubbed silent because Harley were proud of the effective muffler).
The man who commissioned it is the rider, Andy Fraser. Pulling off his leather flying helmet, he says: “I love vintage stuff but wanted a couple of bikes with a modern twist. Jon at Hawg built me a boardtracker last year – a tuned Sportster in a replica frame. This [the Gray Fellow] was another of my ideas. I aim to ride both, knowing they have modern-day reliability.”
This latest project started with a gift. “A mate gave me a scale model of a Silent Gray Fellow. I showed it to John and said ‘I want something like this I can ride.’ We went through some old Harley books, picking out the bits of the early Harleys we wanted to incorporate.”
It’s powered by a standard 1990 four-speed Sportster engine – both the engine and gearbox have been rebuilt but carry no performance parts. “When we built Flying Angel [Andy’s boardtracker] the brief was for a full-on racer with a tuned Sportster engine, in a lightweight rolling chassis. There’s a potential for 140mph,” says Jon Quantrell, owner of Hawg Haven in Norwich. “But this has been designed as a plodder and it didn’t need performance parts because it’s so light.”
The carb is a UK-made SU, bought – bizarrely – from Rivera Engineering in the States. Ignition is Daytona Twin Tech.
The hardtail frame was made by Briz at CCD, who produces all the special frames for Hawg Haven’s builds. Jon says: “It’s all brazed and we wanted to show all the beautiful joints but ended up hiding them with the paint.”
Hawg made the forks and incorporated the front suspension into the stem. “Our Wee Davey worked his magic,” says Jon. “You have to have some form of suspension on the front end!”
The 23in rims were laced to the Sportster hubs by Devon Wheels using spokes specially made by Hagon. There’s no front brake and the rear stopper is a Sportster disc/sprocket combo. “We could have taken the easy route and gone for 21in wheels but I wanted a distinctive look, hence the 23in rims,” says Jon.
Hawg Haven has built ground-breaking, award-winning custom bikes using the kind of advanced CAD engineering employed in F1 but they returned to old school methods to construct this Sportster.
“Everything on this bike has been fabricated by eye on the bench because that’s how bikes were built 100 years ago,” says Jon. “We’ve done so many choppers and cafe racers so building a bike close to the original style, but with a modern motor, was a relatively simple job for us. Having said that, it still presented us with plenty of challenges. Any ground-up build is a challenge. Everything is hand-built and all done by eye!”
Hawg fabricated the fuel tank and the mudguards are from Motorcycle Storehouse – trimmed down to fit. The seat post was made by welder/fabricator Mark Raby and the seat came from North Walsham Motorcycle Museum.
“I had a lot of fun finding the odd bits and pieces to add the finishing touches to the bike,” says Andy. “The seat is off an old ice-cream bike. The oil pump is actually a weed killer spray, which I bought at a local auction house. I found the Shell and Pratts fuel tank caps at an auction too.”
Kim at T&G Bodywork in Wymondham applied the paint. Jon the Painter at Hawg did the striping and graphics.
Andy also has a passion for vintage and classic bikes. “I’ve got about 35 classic and vintage bikes including a 1906 belt-drive Silo, a Versus from France with a leather belt drive and a Clyno. I’m keen to build my collection and open it to the public. Ideally, kids will go free because I want to get the younger generation interested in motorcycles.”
Andy’s not intending to lose any momentum with his old Harleys either. “Next on my list is a 45 Magnum – it’s a 45 bottom-end with an Ironhead Sportster top end. They appeared when the WLAs [early Harley engines] were no longer quick enough. Mine was built for a racer in the 1970s.”