The Wet Lilly

Article By Will Ramsey

Photos By: Kevin Willis-217 Outkast Photography

Originally Published In The February 2017 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

The main stream custom motorcycle industry has always been driven by changes in stylistic popularity. Modern custom styles over the last fifteen years have come and gone pretty quickly and are often regarded as little more than explosive fads. These popular trends tend to be the source of quick money for those looking to capitalize on the business side of mainstream custom bikes, and as such the styles change dramatically, and in some instances, redefine radical with complete disregard for functional. There are however builders in the industry that have stayed true to the timeless aesthetics of vintage Harley Davidson motorcycles and the early modifications that defined the custom scene for decades. This genre has stylistically evolved more slowly and more methodically than the extreme mainstream, and as a result most of the builds from fifteen or twenty years ago are still aesthetically pleasing and downright cool today; hence the term timeless. Often the builders of these retro style customs are generically referred to as “old school,” but that term is not always accurate to the evolution of this genre. So, I have chosen to refer to these builds as simply “timeless.”


The vast majority of these builders are far more interested in the passion and history of the custom culture than the rockstar persona often associated with the explosively popular mainstream scene. Brian Elliot of Black Sunshine Customs truly embodies the lifestyle and vision of a timeless builder. Having grown up around custom bikes, and engrossed in the culture his entire life, Brian found himself on a life long journey that would allow him to acquire a diverse skill set as well as an eye for timeless nostalgic designs. Evolving from a painter to a fabricator Elliot was immersed in the chopper world, building ground up hand fabricated masterpieces like his Goldilocks bike. I first met Brian at Sturgis in 2010, hanging out at the lot. The bikes he had on display were both colorful and raw. Exposed Aluminum welds and flake paint jobs illustrated his talent as well as his eye for design. And if you spend any time talking with Brian there is no doubt about the passion for his craft. As the industry evolves so do the builders and Brian has found himself going further and further back in time, spending many of his work days restoring vintage frames and old springer front ends. But even during this period of reusing vintage parts, Brian has not lost touch with the creative fabricator inside himself. This bike is an excellent example of integrating restored parts with creative new vision.

This sweet 1979 Shovelhead was a gift from Brian to his wife Mary for Christmas. Brian found a true basket case bike and he and his daughter Mia brought it home and together they just mocked it up rough so they could present it to Mary on Christmas day last year. After the new year, Brian tore the bike down and started to bring his wife’s dream bike, Wet Lily to life. She had a lot of say in the overall aesthetics of the bike and Brian stuck to what he does best by seamlessly blending some amazing vintage components together with his own fabrication. The early Panhead front end was lowered 3 inches and the matching OEM front fender was mounted on the rear of the bike to balance the nostalgia. In order to get the stance just right, Brian reached out to his old friend Jeff Cochran and acquired a SpeedKing drop seat frame kit to modify the original ‘79 frame and lower the back end for the Adam Croft leather seat. When I first saw this bike, there were two points of fabrication that jumped out at me and simply made me say wow. First was the aluminum oil tank with the clear Lexan side covers, which Brian machined in house on a manual mill with some help from his friend Jason Britz.


The second subtle point of fabrication that just really hit home for me was the mounting of the gas tanks. Brian lowered the fat bob tanks and cut relief in the tanks to allow the Throwback rocker covers to be seen. He also relieved the side of the tank behind the SU carb for clearance. It is the subtle smooth design points like this tank that truly sets apart a craftsman from the crowd. The original basket case had a complete 80” motor that Brian knew was going to need a complete bottom to top rebuild. So, after cleaning things up a bit Elliot jumped in the car and headed to Illinois to visit his best friend Grimey at Strip Down Cycles. A long weekend at Grimeys is always sure to yield a dependable rebuild and a few late-night stories to boot. To wrap up the build Brian laid down a clean paint job to his wife’s approval and just in time for spring. As sexy and slick as this bike is, Brian’s wife Mary is a rider and Wet Lily had been put to the test daily all year long. Extreme fad bikes will always come and go but a clean well-built bike like this will always remain timeless.

Wet Lilly Tech Sheet

Owner: Mary Elliott

City/State: New Jersey

Builder: Black Sunshine Customs

Year: 1979

Model: FXE

Time: 1 Month


Year: 1979

Model: Cone Shovel

Builder: Brian Elliott/Rod Davis

Ignition: Points

Displacement: 80”

Pistons: Stock

Heads: Kibblewhite

Carb: SU

Cam: Stock

Air Cleaner: Ironcraft-Brent Law

Exhaust: Black Sunshine Customs

Primary: Stock


Year: 1979

Make: Cow Pie

Shifting: 1 Down, 3 Up


Year: 1979

Make: Harley-Davidson

Rake: Stock

Stretch: Dropseat


Builder: Harley/Black Sunshine Customs

Type: FL

Extension: Shortened 3”

Triple trees: FL


Front Wheel: Black Sunshine Laced

Size: 16”

Front brake: None

Size: 16”

Tire: Firestone

Rear Brake: Dual Brembo/Black Sunshine


Painter: Black Sunshine Customs

Color: Kandy Teal

Type: House of Kolor

Graphics: Black Sunshine Customs

Polishing: Elite Polishing


Bars: Black Sunshine Customs

Risers: Black Sunshine Customs

Hand controls: JayBrake

Foot controls: JayBrake

Gas Tank(s): Black Sunshine Customs

Front fender: Nope

Rear Fender: Panhead Front Backward

Seat: Croft Leather

Oil Tank: Black Sunshine Customs

Headlight: Unity Shallow Back

Tail light: Black Sunshine Customs

Speedo: None

Photographer: Kevin Willis-217 Outkast Photography

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