A Knuck Named Grandpa

Featured In The March 2015 Issue Of Cycle Source

Article By: Chris Callen   Photos By: Rebecca Cunningham

Feature 3a

Here before you ladies and gentlemen is the very bike that we picked for our “Best In Show” award at the 2014 Lone Star Rally. Now, before I tell you the story of this old girl let me set the scene and what brought us to this decision. There we are in Galveston, the bike show is at its peak, so many gorgeous motorcycles from all eras and then somewhat late in the afternoon a ’47 knuckle rolls into the middle of the show. It was parked quite unassumingly as just another bike in the show, but a few of us took note in a second flat. You see, to appreciate a bike like this you have to take yourself back in time, no not the way some of the cats are doing today in reliving the seventies. You have to go back to when this bike was built in the late sixties and it was all just starting to happen. There were no real catalogues, maybe Happ Jones, there were for sure no TV channels showing builders creating customs. In fact, motorcycle riders at this point were still looked upon in conventional society as being on the fringe. As we looked over the length of it that day at Lone Star, you could tell that this was the real deal, it had history, was an original and there was no denying that it was the best bike that had entered our show. I had a chance to sit down with the owner of Grandpa and get the story behind this beautiful machine. He told me he didn’t really have much and then we talked for about an hour about it. Tim Treadway is his name and he’s been doing this for as long as he can remember. He started like so many of us on a little 90cc Kawi. He was 15 ½ and the restrictions were less on a MC learner’s permit so it quickly became his primary source of transportation. From there he would go on to a 650 Triumph T110 that he rode most of the way through High School. Then a 45 Servi Car that he finished as a senior. He did all of it himself, even the motor. Of course, he sold the trike when he went off to college, little time for it and almost no other motorcycles for some time as he focused on his future. There would be the occasional bike like an old Indian he bought for $75 and sold for $150 around 1969 and was thrilled that he had made such a profit. Nearly ten years goes by until Tim would get back into bikes again, finding himself a nice softail. No way could he just leave it stock, so he changed up the front end and went with an FL style fender and a sixteen-inch front wheel. Tim thought it was funny that the next year or so Harley came out with the Heritage Softail. Ahh, so many times we hear this. A good idea is just a good idea. On top of all the experience Tim has with bikes through his life, he has also built and restored everything from airplanes to cars and even has his name on a few of the National Grand Champion WWII Planes. As soon as he saw old Grandpa, he knew exactly what he was looking at. This was the kind of bike that would have been, and quite possibly was, on the cover of Big Bike in the late Sixties. For him, it is everything that a custom motorcycle should be, a Knucklehead and built right. In his world Tim says that original counts for 10,000 points in any part of the restoration world. He knew he had to have this bike as it was a survivor just like he was.

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Of course the person he bought the bike from wasn’t the actual builder so Tim had to go with hearsay and educated guesses. From the lore, it was told that the bike was built sometime in the mid 60’s by Bob Roberts in the San Francisco area. That made sense since this was exactly the type of bike to come out of the Bay area during that period. Tim finally tracked Bob down and had a good conversation about the true history of it. As it sits today, the only thing that isn’t exactly as it was the day Bob finished it is the oil tank, front end and kickstand. The front end was changed out after he had it to add a brake. Tim thinks the geometry of this may be off slightly and currently has the original narrowed 14 over wide glide front end on its way to him. Bob told Tim that he believes this is the original paint which was done with spray cans… They used a ribbed rear fender from an English bike and cut it down to fit. It had a shop made sissy bar that has only been slightly modified since then. Of course the Cycle Shack shorty pipes like most of us had back in the day anyway… Even the small details kept Tim believing that this was old gold. Like the builders initials inscribed into the engine and transmission cases. A lot of guys used to do this to let people know who did the work, some still do. It’s funny that items like the traditional Bates seat and pillion pad, that so many retro heads throw on current builds to get that way back look were on this bike as a new item of the day. And did you notice? A Hand clutch, foot shift…. Right, not all of ‘em were built with jockeys… Hahaha Bob was a prominent bike builder back in the day and this bike was on the show circuit in the California area. It also scored a cover on Choppers Magazine August of 1972. Apparently all the right people bought this bike, Bob’s son and two others before Tim. Luckily they all had the same respect for Grandpa and left it the hell alone. It’s amazing to think a bike could be so cool that it would span nearly five decades and still be as impressive and hold as much clout in the custom world as this last year Knuckle. As Bob and Tim talked about the bike today and Tim told him about Galveston he was thrilled that the bike was still taking awards 42 years later. Tim hung up assured that what he had in Grandpa was exactly what he thought he was buying, an unmolested survivor of the chopper era. In the end all I can say again is thank you Mr. Treadway for bringing this bike out and letting people young and old see an actual living piece of chopper history. We’d give you that best of show every time you bring that knuckle out!

Feature 3c

Owner: Tim Treadway
City: Kingwood, TX
Fabrication By: Bob Roberts
Year: 1966
Model: Knucklehead-Original Chopper
Value: Priceless
Year: 1947
Model: Panhead
Builder: Bob Roberts
Ignition: Shovelhead Auto Advance Dist
Displacement: Stock
Pistons: Stock
Heads: Stock
Cam(s): Stock
Carb: Stock
Air Cleaner: H-D
Exhaust: Cycle Shack Shorty Pipes
Primary: Tin
Year: 1947
Make: Stock
Shifting: Foot
Year: 1966
Type: Wide Glide
Triple Trees:
Front Wheel: Spoke
Front Tire:
Front brake: Mechanical
Rear Wheel: Spoke
Rear Tire:
Rear Brake: Mechanical
Painter: ?
Color: Red Metal Flake
Type: Lacquer
Graphics: None
Bars: T- Bars
Hand Controls: Stock
Gas Tank(s): Frisco
Rear fender: European
Seat: Bates
Foot Controls:
Oil Tank:
Photographer: Rebecca Cunningham

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