The Survivor

Article And Photos By: Joshua Elzey

Originally Published In The February 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

Chet Hill is not sure how old he was when a Chopper first caught his interest, but he certainly remembers that he was about seven when he saw what may have been a Honda 750 Chopper. At that young age, he didn’t’ know enough to identify the make and model of that chopper. What did make an immediate impression on Chet was the look of pure joy on the riders face along with his scantily clad female passenger on the back. As soon as Chet got home, he immediately sawed the fork legs off an old bicycle. Then he proceeded to pound them onto the bottom of his newer bike. While this setup was unsafe by any parent’s standards, it still worked great as Chet proudly cruised the neighborhood trying to look cool. Chet’s new and “improved” ride lasted until he pulled the first wheelie… which resulted in the fork bottoms, the front wheel and Chet all flying off. This was nothing a few Band-Aids, a drill, and couple of bolts couldn’t remedy and Chet was once again cruising in chopper heaven. A few weeks later, Chet’s father customized his Sportster with some six over tubes and a naked lady mural on the tank. This summed up his two favorite things: Motorcycles and naked ladies, some things will never change! In Hill’s opinion, as he’s gotten older, choppers have gone in and out of style, and through several variations.

Over the years Hill has owned many bikes and has realized that one thing remains the same to this day, no matter what, motorcycles have always turned heads and put ear to ear grins on two-wheel fans of all ages. Over time, Chet settled in a home just south of the Milan Dragway near Detroit MI. Occasionally, you can see him on the track with some nostalgic dragsters. Eventually his home has turned into what some would call the ultimate man cave while others would say it’s an homage to times past. In every room there are several pristine vintage early model motorcycles displayed as art. There is one special bike in the main room that takes up nearly the whole length of the wall: Chet calls it ‘The Survivor.’ This chop was built by Carlini Cycle Creations in 1972 from a stock 1968 Bonneville that the owner had purchased new. The once stock Bonneville had become a fully commissioned build using mostly Carlini parts and it might have even been painted by Carlini himself. The chrome work was done by Browns plating. The Triumph was featured at the 1975 Detroit Motorcycle Show, however, not long after, it was put into storage where it sat until it was discovered just a few years ago. Hill stumbled across this beautifully preserved piece of chopper history at the AMCA Wauseon swap meet. The bike was completely untouched, and every part on it is still original to the 1972 build.

In 1972, Carlini’s shop sat on the corner of Dearborn and gained recognition in 1969 when he set out to make a name for himself by building some of the wildest choppers ever. A Carlini Honda 750 chopper named ‘Papillon’ featuring a multi-colored butterfly gas tank and was the first non-Cali bike to win the 1972 Long Beach Grand Sweepstakes award thus gaining Carlini the industry’s interest on a national level. This was around the time that Chet’s bike was under the knife. While Carlini moved on to other famous bikes such as the Honda Black Bart and Hanoi Hooker he also moved his shop to CA. Chet happens to have a snapshot of Detroit during this era. Chet had been looking for something unique to enter in the 2016 Detroit Autorama, and this fit the bill, so he quickly loaded up the chopper and brought it to its new home where it could be appreciated as it was meant to be. At Autorama the bike was awarded the Bob Leppan Celebrity Choice Award as well as the Sickest Cycle award. Chet was thrilled that so many others found the 70’s time capsule as appealing as he did and plans on preserving it just the way it sits for future generations to enjoy.

The Survivor Tech Sheet
Owner: Chet Hill
City/State: Milan, MI
Builder: Carlini Customs
Year: 1968
Model: Bonneville
Value: $10,000
Year: 1968
Model: Triumph Bonneville
Builder: Carlini
Displacement: 650CC
Air Cleaner:
Year: 1968
Make: Triumph
Year: 1972
Make: Carlini
Builder: Carlini
Type: Springer
Triple trees:
Extension: 12-14 Over
Front Wheel:
Size: 21”
Front brake: None
Rear Wheel:
Rear Wheel Size: 16”
Rear Brake:
Painter: Carlini
Color: Black & Gold
Type: 70’s Fog Custom
Chroming: Browns
Bars: Clubmans Turned Up
Risers: Dog Bones
Hand controls: Chromed
Foot controls:
Gas Tank(s): Wassel
Front fender: No Way
Rear Fender:
Seat: Carlini
Oil Tank: Chromed
Headlight: Dual Squares
Tail light:
Speedo: None
Photographer: Josh Elzey

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