The Vulture

Article By: Chris Callen

Photos By: Rebecca Cunningham

Originally Published In The April 2017 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

 

This bike was the Best of Show Winner at our Chopper Show at the Lone Star Rally 2016. That made it good enough for the cover of any other issue, but once I got to talking to the builder, Brian Henke, well the kinda cat he is, made it perfect for our twentieth Anniversary Issue. See, Brian is just a good ole lifetime scooter bum and the story that surrounds this bike will strike a chord with any other lifelong scooter bum that reads it. It starts with a heap of a dirty old motorcycle that was rumored to be one of the third builds out of the new “Denvers Choppers” in San Bernardino back in ’67. But before we get into that, let’s talk about the man that put the time in? Brian and his brother both got into motorcycles as T kids out of necessity. His old man bought them both a motorcycle so they could have their own transportation out to their tractors every morning to put time in on the family farm. This would be a double backfire for the old man, after a while as he ended up hating bikes altogether thanks to Brian and his brother’s hijinks on them. Brian stuck with the bikes all the way through school, had all kinds of dirt bikes and then in 1980 bought his first Sportster®. It wouldn’t be long until he was chopping it apart. As a matter of fact, he got his ass kicked when the old man realized the smell of gasoline coming out of the basement was from Brian’s handy work. From that point on he always worked on his own bikes, said he never had a choice since there was never enough money to pay someone else to do it. Nearing the late eighties, Brian said that he was getting more and more into the go-fast properties of the V-Twin motorcycle and no one around Illinois was really building them up so he headed East to try to learn from the masters. He quickly found himself at the side of great names in motorcycle drag racing like Jim McClure and Pete Hill. Living in a Ryder Rental truck for weeks at a time, chasing the East Coast Drag Racing circuit up and down the coast. With about fifteen years into the drag race scene, Brian decided to head back to the Midwest. He bought a trucking operation and was gonna try his hand at making a living on the road a different way. He bounced around the country for a while like that and eventually landed in Texas about ten years ago, where he decided to come off the road. He threw up a shingle for “Wick Twisters” and started to settle down.

 

Brian’s been getting into antique and vintage stuff for a while but when he first got to Texas he made friends with a cat named Tony who was part of the “Highway Horrors” car club. They were having a party and when Tony saw Brian on his old Shovel Stroker named “Lulabelle” he told him he had to meet the guys from the club. Brian decided to ride his old ’55 Pan to their spot and from then on they called him Panhead Brian. Funny, I know of few of these same stories myself. But this is where the bike you see on these pages came from. It turned out that sometime later, Tony would call Brian about a guy he worked with that needed help with an old Panhead. Brain agreed to let Tony give him his address and one night as he was working in the shop a trailer pulls up with a 12-foot-long chopper on it. Enter Leon Yost and his wife Linda, who had scored the bike off of her brother during a visit to California. It had been parked since the seventies and was just in really bad condition, but the story man, that’s where it’s at. You see Dennis, her brother, was the original owner and swears that this was the third bike ever built from Denvers new shop in San Bernardino. Now, there were only a handful of Denver’s Springers ever made in the Twisted variety, so if this is true it’s even more of an anomaly. Eventually, Bryan got in touch with Mondo himself to get an answer and while he couldn’t verify the number the bike was, he did say he recognized it.

So, as the story goes it started life as a ’58 Pan that was purchased off the Los Angeles Police Department, made into a far-out chopper with the likes of a Billy West Wood original paintjob identified by his signature cross brushes. From there it would make its way to Dennis’s garage in the late seventies and sit until Leon worked the deal. By this time, it was ridden hard and put up wet, in very bad condition and about wore the hell out. Once Leon found out the history of the bike, he just couldn’t see letting it go to waste and made a commitment to restoring this true survivor. Bryan was well aware how bad off the bike was and agreed to take it in and look it over. He pulled the heads of, checked it out and slapped it back together and with a few tweaks he got the old girl to fire up. That was just the beginning. He told Leon that it was gonna be an expensive restoration. Now at retirement age, Leon would probably never get the full enjoyment out of how much he’d have to put into it, but to his credit he agreed and Bryan decided to throw in on his end and did the whole job for parts and paint. It was just too good of a cause not to sign up for. Big Greg at MC Creations helped source the parts. Mike Cato, a young cat who taught himself to paint, laid down some incredible color. The only thing Bryan asked, was that the paint look like an acid trip and that the left and right sides weren’t the same.

 

As the paint was going down, Bryan enlisted Giusto at Land Pirate Enterprises to help with the motor work at his shop. They had a tall order ahead of them. When they got right down to it, even the crank pin bearings were cracked in half. All told, it would be a two and a half year process that would stay true to the idea of not buying anything they didn’t have to, but instead using the parts it had and restoring them. Every once in a while, Leon would call and ask if Bryan needed anything, but other than that he stayed out of it until the day came that the bike was ready. After nearly having a heart attack, he sat and marveled over what had been done, it was perfect. Unfortunately, Leon only got to ride it for a little bit before having knee surgery. Since the surgery, he can no longer start the bike and it now sits in near perfect condition at his home in Tyler Texas. Leon knows, just like the rest of us that bikes like this are made to not only be seen but ridden and seeing as he can no longer start it he is reluctantly willing to part with it, and this one, this would be a bike to ride back in time on.

The Vulture Tech Sheet

Owner: Leon Yost

City: Texas

Fabrication By: Bryan Henke

Year: 1958

Model: FL

Value: Lots

Time: 6 Months

ENGINE

Year: 1958

Model: Panhead

Builder: Bryan Henke/Louis Giusto

Ignition: Points

Displacement: 1200”

Pistons: .30 Over

Heads: Stock

Cam(s): Leinweber

Carb: Linkert M741B

Air Cleaner: Stock

Exhaust: Drag Specialties

Primary: Chain

Transmission

Year: 1958

Make: Harley-Davidson

Shifting: Foot

FRAME

Year: 1958

Make: Harley-Davidson

Rake: I Forget, Sorry

Stretch: 10 And 6

Front end

Type: Twisted Springer

Builder: Denvers Choppers

Extension: 25 Over

WHEELS

Front Wheel: Invader

Size: 21”

Front Tire:

Front brake: None

Rear Wheel: Invader

Size: 16”

Rear Tire:

Rear Brake: Hydraulic Brake

PAINT

Painter: Mike Cato

Color: Trippy

Type:

chrome: Custom Chrom & Polish

ACCESSORIES

Bars:

Risers:

Fuel tank:

Front fender: None

Rear fender: Flat

Seat: Little York Upholstery

Foot Controls:

Headlight:

Taillight:

Speedo: None

Photographer: Rebecca Cunningham

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