Black Knight

Article By: Chris Callen Photos By: Mark Velazquez

Originally Published In The August 2016 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

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Brandon Cooper spends the winter months immersed in his alter ego as King Bee Customs. By day he is a mild mannered engineer at a facility that makes aircraft components but when the doors to his Gains Township facility close at night he becomes Captain Custom! No seriously, this cat builds a bike a year out of his shop and each one more elaborate than the year before. We caught up with Brandon during the Editor’s Choice Show in Daytona where he brought this incredible Flathead out for the chance to get featured in a national publication, and we are thrilled to have it. Now, when I call him Captain Custom, that’s not what B he calls himself but how else do you refer to a man who not only builds incredible bikes, killer car restorations and has even done a touch of old wooden boat rehabbing over the years?! In polite language he is somewhat of a super hero, when it comes to this bike, he is an amazing fabricator. It turns out that Brandon got started on this skill set in the same way many of us did, by not being allowed to have motorcycles as a kid. He and his buddies would root around an old junk yard finding Tecumseh motors that they could bolt onto their Schwinn Stingrays. You remember…the ones with the big banana seats and the ape hangers? Not getting killed upon completion of their first set of daredevil tricks on that creation only let the flood gates open. By the time he was celebrating his seventeenth birthday, where his parents lovingly presented him with a huffy mini bike they thought would be his first, he had already been riding a Sporty back and forth to high school. For years he and a buddy had been keeping bikes in an old shed they built out in the swamps of New York where he grew up. The shack provided a good secret lair where he could keep his true identity hidden, along with an ever growing collection of projects.

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As years went on Brandon continued to hone his abilities and his passion and he started to realize that he was far more interested in a motorcycle’s engine than any other facet of it. This was what he would begin basing his builds on. Brandon would start looking for engines that struck a cord with him and then he’d just build the rest of the bike around the vision of what he saw in it. That leads us to the origin of the Black Knight. One of the stops for Brandon and his riding buddies these days finds them at the shop of Tommy Hyde. Tommy was a famous flat track racer in the late fifties and early sixties and even held the eastern championship for several years. To say that Tommy knows how to put one together is putting it mildly. Needless to say, not everyone is given a look behind the curtain at his place so on one such occasion as Brandon was getting the tour, he spied three Flathead motors among some old K models and an XR750 of Tommy’s. They made a deal for one of the Flattys and Brandon’s wheels started to turn. He loved the look of the 45 but knew that the old Harley transmissions were lame. It occurred to him that by using the yolk of the Servi-car the Flathead came on and building his own frame he could not only put whatever transmission in it he wanted but he could also stretch the frame out and make the long bike had been dreaming of. A quick stop to Chris West Designs where Chris sketched out a frame design on a giant sheet of paper and Brandon found himself welding tubing together. So what about the tranny? Well, he married that old 45 with a pre-unit Triumph 4 speed. I know, crazy sounding right? But the end result is that he gets to run this thing at 80mph with the motor only turning about 1800 rpms. That’s purring along for an old bike man.

The girder front end was another sticking point for Brandon. He wanted one but didn’t want to buy it, the fun for him is in the execution of his ideas. Instead he ended up laying some tubing out, splitting it, spreading it and making his own rockers on a machine at work. The end result is a component that you just can’t buy in any catalogue. The rest of this build is filled with a laundry list of miss matched parts from other brands and eras of motorcycles, all added with seamless precision to the Black Knight. In the tradition of where custom motorcycle culture started, and Brandon’s own background for building things, he sticks to what he does. We talked about the young guys today and how amazing it is to see the level of execution they put into their builds now. When he and his buddies were young ya just threw a bike together as fast as you could and it didn’t matter if it was a rattle trap. It’s great for him to watch how far all of it has come and inspires him to do his own thing. He finds what he likes and makes it work, the way it’s always been in the real world of customizing. Brandon’s already on to his next project which finds him with a Triumph triple and front frame section to work with. Brandon says that he thinks he’s going board track style on this one and I can’t wait to see where he goes with that, stay tuned.

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Black Knight Tech Sheet

Owner: Brandon Cooper

City/State: Gaines Township, MI

Builder: King Bee Customs (Owner)

Year: 1959

Model: Harley Davidson Flathead

Value: ?

Time: Over 1000 Hours

ENGINE

Year: 1959

Model: Servi-Car 45

Builder: Tommy Hyde

Ignition: Stock Harley

Displacement: 873cc

Pistons: Tommy Hyde Special

Heads: Performance Medium NR.6 Compression

Carb: Mikuni HSR Re-Jetted

Cam: Intake 30°,Grind,Exhaust Stock

Air Cleaner: Early Henderson

Exhaust: King Bee Customs

Primary: King Bee Customs

TRANSMISSION

Year: 1962

Make: Triumph Pre-Unit

Shifting: 4 Speed

FRAME

Year:

Model: Chris West Design

Rake: 32°

Stretch: 66”

Forks

Builder: King Bee Customs

Type: Girder

Triple Trees: King Bee Customs

Extension: 25.50

WHEELS

Front Wheel: Early Sportster

Size: 19”

Tire: Firestone Delux Champion

Front Brake: Early Sportster

Rear Wheel: Shovelhead

Size: 16”

Tire: Firestone Delux Champion

Rear Brake: Tokiko Cal

PAINT

Painter: King Bee Customs

Color: Black

Type: Dupont

Graphics: King Bee Customs

Chroming: N/A

ACCESSORIES

Bars: Swap Meet Special

Risers: Stock

Hand controls: Stock Harley

Gas Tank(s): King Bee Customs

Front fender: Swap Meet Special

Rear Fender: Swap Meet Special

Seat: Redtail Leather

Foot controls: King Bee Customs

Oil Tank: King Bee Customs

Headlight: Unity Boat Light

Tail light: ‘33 Chrysler/King Bee Customs

Speedo: None

Photographer: Mark Velazquez

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