Lil Bastard

From the December 2014 Issue Of Cycle Source

Article By: Jack Schit  Photos By: Chris Callen

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I believe in my heart that one must be open to what the universe throws out there and if you are open and aware, amazing things can and will happen. This past July I had the great honor for the first time of hosting Gettysburg Bike Week and I was nervous and excited at the same time. I was nervous because it’s an event I had never taken part in and I didn’t know what to expect. I was excited because I LOVE HISTORY and going to Gettysburg is like stepping back in time. On the first night I was suffering a real “fish out of water” syndrome at the pre rally party, standing alone in a sea of L.E.D. lit baggers, where an evo felt like an antique. Off in the distance I could hear a faint rumble and my ears perked up as I began walking towards the street. With each moment that passed, the sound became louder and more pronounced. The sounds were unmistakable! That’s an old bike coming my way! Oh yeah, that’s a foot clutch engaging, the unmistakable pop pop, potato, potato, potato… I literally jumped into the street to flag down the rider and as luck would have it, he pulled right into the lot. The man was Robert Gibson, a local legend if you will and he had no idea this party was even going on, he just happened to see the bikes in the lot and one crazy arm flailing nut jumping up and down. Like a groupie I ran to where he had rolled this magnificent scoot to a stop and with each step I took closer, I could feel my mouth gaping open wider and wider! Stunning, simply stunning were the only words I could bark out at him. He was so very cordial as he thanked me. As any of you old chopper jockeys know, people often come up to the bike and ask all kinds of crazy stupid questions and you nod and smile as you inform them, “no, that’s a custom antifreeze tank that all old Panheads use” and give a little wink to your friends. But when someone who truly knows these machines starts going apeshit over hand made parts and picking out things that would almost go entirely unnoticed most other times, a near instant bond begins to form! That “you poor bastard, you’ve got this disease too” bond. The bike had just been finished and this was its maiden voyage down those historic streets and he damn near gets tackled by me. I introduced myself to him and afterwards realized that I didn’t invite him to the Cycle Source Show, I damn near demanded his participation! As you can see with the pics strewn about these pages, this machine is rolling fine art and not only won its class but also won best of show and there were some stellar bikes entered, it was no easy feat. In most cases, it takes a real “nut” to get into these old scoots. The one thing I believe that can be said without fail to describe us is passion! Robert has so much passion it drips out of him like a total loss oil system, as you run low, just add more! This man gave up a lifelong career as an engineer to follow a dream of opening a Tin Type photo studio and uses only pre Civil War Cameras to help make others fantasies a reality. He is a local, historical “rock star” in Gettysburg and we could not walk but a few feet each time before someone stopped him with questions about little known facts of the battle and those who took part in it. It makes total sense that it’s antique iron for this guy! Following your dream can come at great expense and throw in the worst economy since the great depression and Robert found himself holding a near empty wallet. He bit the bullet and sold his newly finished 1960 Pan and to quote him, “nobody sells a Pan because they want to”! Now the search was on for that next great project and you all know the drill of swap meets, e-bay, chasing down myths and rumors. With others leaning over his shoulder, checking out the 49 FL engine he stumbled upon at a dimly lit show, the pressure was on. The cylinders at some point had been swapped out for 78 Shovel jugs which as many of you know was a way to get those precious 80 inches out of a Pan. The engine was painted flat black and appeared to look pretty decent. Taking a few moments to contemplate the purchase, the owner said “I’ll throw in that four speed tranny too”. Talk about a shit or get off the pot moment as the guys standing behind him were waiving their cash in hand, the deal was done, the anguish of early iron withdrawal had come to an end. Shortly after is when the anguish of the swap meet, flat black, too good to be true antique iron, clear title pan reared its ugly head! After stripping off that flat black paint he found what so many of us do, nasty welds and other assorted nightmares which left him second guessing the rushed purchase. The time was there and a total tear down was in order. Once everything was stripped, it was loaded up and taken to Ron Kesserling at Cafes Custom Cycles for some much needed case repair and he decided to have the cylinders re-bored along with fresh pistons and rings. One of the things that truly stand out on this machine are the rockers! Throwback Machine cast aluminum, that more closely resemble Offenhauser finned valve covers on an old flat head Ford were placed atop this glorious beast!

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Simplicity was the order of the build and it began with a Paughco rigid, stock V-Twin Springer, star hub wheels, drum up front, 60’s juicer in the rear and wrapped with Coker 30’s Indian Replica rubber. Points were run and the tiny 4 cell anti-gravity battery was hidden under the tranny. Mid controls were an e-bay find that found themselves being chopped up and re-worked to suit. The Cole Foster tank was matched up with a Barron’s ribbed fender and along with the oil tank were given the bronze patina paint it wears by John Waggonner at Big Toe Paintworks. Simplicity again stepped up and the old wallet chain became linkage and old wrenches became levers! Another outstanding piece of this machine is the handmade exhaust. What began as a Biltwell exhaust kit turned into a 2 into 1 header that would appear more at home on a Deuce Coupe than an old scooter all thanks to Robert’s father in – law, master craftsman and hot rodder Kerm Schindeldecker! The S&S Super E is force fed air from a cast bronze intake that was liberated from a 1940’s Chris Craft boat. Chris Long from Sellinsgrove, Pa threw down some ol’ stripes and lettering on her for the perfect finishing touches. So there you have it, that is how Lil Bastard’s are built, not born and it’s not neglect that creates a Lil Bastard but it’s the passion and devotion, the art and industry coming together all because you were open to receive what the universe was throwing out that day! This bike sums up nicely everything that attracted Robert to vintage bikes years ago, gorgeous stance, powerful engine, aggressive riding style and subtle period touches all with no nonsense simplicity! To quote the owner; “it’s easy to festoon a bike with the latest doodads and bullshit but it takes an artist to build something simplistic and timeless”! If you are ever in Gettysburg, Pa and I urge you to make that happen, stop by Robert J. Gibson Photography Studio, you can’t miss it, it is right on the main strip and it’s got this gorgeous Pan parked right out front! When you get there, tell him your pal Jack Schit told ya to stop in and who knows, maybe he will immortalize you with a tin type photo that you will have forever and just for the hell of it, let him dress you in some Civil War Uniforms and let you rattle a saber to call upon some of the thousands of Gettysburg ghosts! Here’s to wishing you and that Lil Bastard of yours many happy miles together my friend!

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Lil Bastard Tech Sheet
Owner: Rob Gibson
City: Gettysburg, PA
Fabrication By: Rob Gibson
Year: 1949
Model: FL
Value: $22,000
Time: 5 months
ENGINE
Year: 1949
Model: Panhead Bottom, Shovelhead Top
Builder: Rob Gibson
Ignition: Stock Coil/Points
Displacement: 80 CU
Pistons: .040 over
Heads: Stock Shovelhead
Cam(s): Andrews
Carb: S&S Super E
Air Cleaner: Chris Craft Boat Intake
Exhaust: Rob Gibson 2 into 1 intake
Primary: Open Belt Drive
TRANSMISSION
Year: 1975
Make: Harley FX
Shifting: Suicide Clutch, Jockey Shift
FRAME
Year: New
Make: Paughco
Rake: Stock
Stretch: Stock
FORKS
Type: Replica Springer
Builder: V Twin
Triple Trees: Flanders Bars Welded to Top Clamp
WHEELS
Front Wheel: Harley Star Hub
Size: 16”
Front Tire: Indian 16 x 5
Front brake: HD Drum
Rear Wheel: Harley Star Hub
Size: 16”
Rear Tire: Indian 16 x 5
Rear Brake: Harley Juice Rear Drum
PAINT
Painter: John Waggoner
Color: Satin Bronze
Type: 2 Stage
Graphics: Chris Long
molding: None
chroming: None
ACCESSORIES
Bars: Flanders
Hand Controls: Knucklehead Brake Lever
Risers: None
Gas Tank(s): Cole Foster
Rear fender: Barron’s Ribber Fender
Seat: Mother Road Customs
Foot Controls: E-Bay / Hand Fabbed
Oil Tank: E-Bay
Headlight: Panic Cycles
Taillight: 1937 Ford
Speedo: None
Photographer: Chris Callen

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