The Yellow Jacket

Featured In The March 2015 Issue Of Cycle Source

Article By: Chris Callen   Photos By: Rebecca Cunningham

Feature 4a

While we were in Galveston, Texas for the 2014 Lone Star Rally we had so many great bikes to choose from. One in particular stuck out in the Sportster category and once we had the chance to catch up with the owner, Glenn Johnson, we realized that we had picked the perfect bike for an award and for a feature in these pages. Although Glenn had grown up around the choppers and diggers that belonged to friends of his old man, it would only be ten years ago that he would find his way into building them himself. He started on a Honda CB650 and as with most things in his life, when a new task came up like wiring, he would learn how to do it himself. Glenn said it never makes much sense to him to farm out something unless he can’t possibly do it himself. As his own personality started to come out in the bikesand paint schemes he was putting out he realized that the acid trip style of the chaotic seventies style bikes and cars from his childhood were burned indelibly into his mind. He is a lace paint job freak and loves to recreate the hint of style cues from that era. As a side note, Glenn told me that he built this bike specifically to bring to the Cycle Source show in an attempt to get some recognition for his hard work. He said, “It’s hard for a small shop to get recognized unless you catch a break. Even that #BIKERLIVE show ended up being big name shops.” So a guy like him in a 28 x 28 structure that doesn’t have a name in the industry wonders how to get noticed. Well for us, this is the reason we do a magazine and we were thrilled to meet up with him. After scoring the bulk of the donor for it in a trade for services, like so many small shops do, he began working on the frame under hurried conditions. He was getting ready to go under the knife for a second back surgery and had precious little time to get the frame done. He wanted to stretch the sporty frame out five inches without touching the neck or leaving any extra room in the engine cradle. Instead he took it all to the swingarm and rear section. After the surgery he quickly came to the realization that he hadn’t left any room for his oil tank. Glenn wasn’t alone in this build though, that’s another great part of the story. There he stood, in a back brace and in pain, with his helper and son Michael as Glenn tore down the motor and began to sort out where to go with the build next. Maybe, he thought, a Mooneyes oil tank at the front of the frame would do, maybe he could squeeze it into the small space left under the seat. Glenn called this an “Oh Shit” moment and we talked about that being the mother of invention. In the end he remembered the side-by-side oil and fuel tanks of the early bikes and decided a twist on those would do nicely. Instead of side by side, one over the other and it was done so well you almost don’t realize it at quick glance. The 15-year-old boy would never leave his old man’s side for the duration of the build. At first Glenn thought he was there more to keep him from hurting himself than to actually help. As the project went on though Glenn would ask his son for his input on the design, even the name came from Michael’s assessment that the look of the tank and the long skinny stance resembled a Yellow Jacket. Glenn figured one name was as good as another and wanted Michael to be part of it all so it stuck.

Feature 4b

Ninety percent of this bike was created from used parts, another feature that turns heads of us tramps at The Source. Scrounging five-gallon tanks from a shovel, bent up eighteeninch bars that left sixteen inches of useable material, even a pile of used exhaust pipes that would be cut and repurposed into a custom exhaust for the Jacket. When he got to the muffler, Glenn cut the center out of a stock muffler and changed the direction, making the back the front and vise versa. Glenn really saved some dough in this build and claimed that this cost effective way of building is how ya have to do it as a small shop. I told him it’s the Jedi way of Master Roadside! All finished up, Glenn brought his son Michael to the show at the Lone Star Rally to let him experience that as well. He figured that even if they didn’t win anything he would see how people reacted to what they had built. They were both thrilled when they got called for a trophy and to continue the lesson, he brought Michael to the photo shoot after the rally at the Calvary Catholic Cemetery, one of the oldest in Galveston that survived the storms. Bottom line is that this is a sweet little sporty but the story makes it perfect and we’re glad to bring it to you this month! Can’t wait to see what comes out of this two-man team in the future.

Feature 4c

Owner: Glenn Johnson
City: Dayton, TX
Fabrication By: Owner
Year: 1986
Model: XL 883
Time: 4 Months
Year: 1986
Model: XL883
Builder: Owner
Ignition: Ultima
Displacement: 1200
Pistons: Weisco 9.5 to 1 Conversion
Cam(s): Andrews
Carb: CV
Primary: Harley
Year: 1986
Make: Harley 4-speed
Shifting: Foot
Year: 1986
Make: Harley
Rake: Stock
Stretch: Stock
Type: 2013 XL
Builder: Harley
Extension: Stock
Triple Trees: Stock 2013 XL
Front Wheel: Harley 40 Spoke
Size: 19”
Front Tire: Avon 100/100/19
Front brake: Stock 2013 XL
Rear Wheel: 40 Spoke Harley
Size: 19”
Rear Brake: Harley XL
Rear tires: Avon 100/100/19
Painter: Owner
Color: Black and Gold
Type: Gold Flake
Graphics: 60’s/70’s Style
Molding: Owner
Bars: Owner Built- 16” Skinny Apes
Hand Controls: Harley
Risers: Bitwell Slim Line
Gas Tank(s): Owner Built Split Gas/ Oil Tank
Front fender: Harley Lowered 1/2”
Rear fender: TC Bros. Ribbed
Seat: Owner Built
Foot Controls: Custom Chrome Forwards
Mirrors: O1 Old Swap Meet Find
Oil Tank: Owner Built Split Gas/ Oil Tank
Headlight: 2013 Harley
Taillight: Model A
Photographer: Rebecca Cunningham

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