After 20 years building some of the most recognisable custom bikes in Britain, Krazy Horse boss Paul Beamish knew there was only one way to celebrate - build some more.
“We wanted to create bikes to represent all the different styles we’ve built over the years,” he says. “So we thought we’d get all the guys in the workshop to build the bikes that they want to - get them to put something of themselves into the builds, but be guided by the kind of
thing we’ve done in the past.”
And where would all the parts for these creations come from? “Well, we’ve got 20 years-worth of stuff lying around,” says Paul.
“So we thought we’d use some of it up.” And this isn’t the sort of £20 fleabag tat you and I might have knocking around the shed - we’re talking Jessie James frames, Knucklehead engines and a blizzard of top-end components...
Near The Knuckle
“This was built by John Gibson who’s been at Krazy Horse since the early days,” says Paul. “We had a Knucklehead engine lying around that we’d bought a while back,” says Paul. “It’s like that with a lot of the parts for these bikes - we’d bought parts from Custom Chrome, Zodiac, S&S or whoever because we liked the look of them and thought we’d sell them to someone, but some just sit there. That’s where a lot of these bits come from.”
This bike was originally going to be built for a customer but his circumstances changed and he then wanted a Morgan - Krazy
Horse is a dealer for the 3-wheeled cars. “We started playing with some Morgan mudguards we had lying around,” says Paul, “and we thought they worked quite well on the shape of the wheel - they’re not quite symmetrical but you can hardly notice. That’s customising isn’t it? Using parts that work together.”
Let’s start with the name: a Section 8 is what the US Army gives you when you appear to have gone completely nuts.
“It seemed appropriate for this bike,” says Paul Beamish. “We built a lot of cafe racers before they became wildly popular so we had to do one. The youngest member of our team, Lee, built it - he races motocross and is more into the modern Brat-style look.”
The exhaust is particularly Section 8 and came about because the header pipes exit directly at the front and rear on the air-cooled Buell motor. That meant creating a loop behind the engine to get the pipe lengths anywhere near equal. The frame is no less exotic - a replica Norton Featherbed.
“We built quite a few cafe racers with that frame,” says Paul. “We used it for the limited edition Ace Cafe bikes, so we had several around. I love this bike.”
Another John Gibson creation. “He had his own shop in the 70s and 80s he’s still our main custom builder, despite being nearer 70 than 60. We took apart the original Kiwi frame, cut it up and shortened it (they’re usually quite long) to make it a much smaller bobber. We’d done some work with Kiwi engineering in the States and we had this engine kicking about for seven or eight years.
It’s a beautiful looking engine especially as it’s polished rather than the usual cast finish. Originally I had an idea about building a bike to replicate my 1934 three-window Ford coupe that I raced at Pendine Sands [the speed trials held on a Welsh beach]. It has a side valve motor, just like the Indian. We didn’t plan to build it as a matching vehicle, we just wanted to do what we felt like.”
“This represents the sort of bikes we were building in the early 2000s,” says Paul. “It has a Jessie James CFL frame - we used to build a lot of bikes using those because if you set the bike up properly they handle really well. It was in build for quite a few years in the shop but we never got the impetus to move it forward.
Then, because it’s got the higher neck, I thought it would fit a sprint-style bike by putting the tank under the frame like a speedway bike. Then we saw some wire wheels on special offer so we got those, and instead of building a traditional chopper as you’d expect of a Jessie James frame we ended up doing something different.”
These days almost all Krazy Horse bikes are built like this - very few come from commissions. “After a while you realise that customers don’t really know what they want and they’re not the best people to decide how you should build a bike that’s going to work. Because we liked the bikes we built for ourselves, we started doing more of that, and selling them off the showroom floor. If someone comes along with the right project we’ll obviously do it, but we prefer building bikes and selling those, knowing that everything is going to work.”
As the name suggests, this is powered by a Panhead and harks back to the 70s when this kind of Dave Mann style was all the rage. It was built by Bob, Krazy Horse’s Panhead aficionado using a 93ci S&S motor and Santee frame. “Like any builder we only use parts that we’ve found to be reliable - the Kustom Tech handlebar controls on Panned Substance are a good example of this,” says Paul. “We’ve used them for ages - I first met the guys at a show 10 years ago.”
Besides using up valuable parts that have been lying around, Paul also reckons the projects have helped remind him why he’s in the business: “It’s been good fun to get the project finished because the business has expanded so quickly and changed so much - going from three people to 40 - that it’s easy to forget what we do best which is build custom bikes.”
“When we came up with the idea for these bikes, we wanted to do different styles and something we’ve done a lot of over the years is flat trackers,” says Paul. “We were going to do another Harley-based flat tracker but then we thought about what we’ve done with the wall of death bikes [for Guy Martin’s speed record attempt], we decided we could use an Indian engine.
For us, custom bikes should always work, which is why it’s got K-Tech fork cartridges and is as light as it can be. In the old days we used to ride our bikes all over Europe and the same thinking still applies today - none of these are show bikes, they are all built to be ridden. This is the only bike of the six that we may well keep for ourselves, so we can enter the Super Hooligan series in DTRA (Dirt Track Riders Association). It would be a handful, but it’s been built to ride.”