Article by Jimmie Frizzell, Photos by Missi Shoemaker, originally published June 2019
It’s all got to start somewhere so why not let it be the beginning, but in the beginning, we don’t always know where the end will be.
Tyler Porter started his Shovelhead journey by staring at a set of GSXR inverted forks cast away from a previous flat track project. This was not Tyler’s traditional start to a chopper project. He builds what he wants and has the faith to move organically through the build one step at a time taking each step as it comes. His eyes were drawn to a Paughco single loop frame. But with the short stance of the sport bike forks and the sixteen-inch wheels, and the loop laid on the ground, function was completely removed right from the start. Hank Young was able to fix the dilemma by modifying the frame with a skid plate, removing the charm of the single loop but giving the bike a look that Tyler was unexpectedly happy with.
As you can imagine with a project that spans six years, every piece of the bike comes with its own history. Porter always had an attraction to Shovelheads. While visiting St. Louis, a Craigslist ad sent him to a shady part of town in search of the heart for his project. He found himself standing in a shop with rows upon rows of Panheads, Shovels, and Evos. The proprietor of the shop in question told him to choose his poison, and they would settle up after. After some searching he found a motor with decent compression and all its fins, an excellent start to a long trek. The plan was to dress the engine in black powder and to do that Tyler reached out to Andrew at Revolution Performance. While ironing out the details, Andrew inquired about who was going to be building the motor and offered his services. Jumping at the opportunity to have skilled hands revitalizing the Shovel, the motor was shipped out for some much-needed attention. Andrew went through the heart undoing all the previous wrongs, re-ported the heads and balanced the crank producing a Shovel that runs better than ever imagined. To add performance, Tyler installed a Keihin FCR carb off a KTM 640. The combination of the carb with electronic ignition and finely tuned motor Porter says the response is equal to a fuel injected motor, which for a Shovel is a rarity.
Tyler used the Biltwell build your own exhaust kit to allow the motor to breathe. He intended to have the pipes done in stainless, and that’s what he did. With the pipes mocked up to his standards, he hand the final product mandrel bent and fitted in Stainless. Once in place, a set of Vance and Hines, originally intended for a CBR 1000, were used to add to the throat, once again adding a modern sport feel to the build.
The oil tank and wheels are both Harley takeoffs. The wheels came off a Softail Deluxe powder coated with brass accents. The oil tank is a modified dinosaur bucket off The Rocker model. Tyler removed four inches from the center and, once installed, had to notch the frame for dipstick clearance. As luck would have it, once it sat in place, it cleared the primary by a quarter of an inch!
A decent percentage of the time spent on Tyler’s project was spent in waiting. The original tank was to be custom made in fiberglass. After almost a year of waiting the final product proved to be completely unusable and wrong. Frustration allowed him to reintroduce himself to welding, knowing the only way he was going to get what he wanted was to figure it out himself. Armed with a lack of knowledge and limited tools Tyler ordered up the sheet metal, an endless supply of wire, and dug in like a grunt. The thought of quitting was in the forefront of his mind,
but constant encouragement from outside sources carried him to the finish line. The tank was then tested and sent out to California for paint. Upon its return, the bike saw its first event. As most of us know when you spend enough time on a project when it finally sees the light of day you wait for the other shoe to drop, sometimes it never happens, but in Tyler’s case, it did. The paint on the tank began to lift and separate; there was no saving it; the tank would need to be redone. Realizing where the problem may lie, the painter agreed to repaint the tank,…if only it were that easy. Weeks turned to months, and Tyler’s attempts to contact the keeper of the tank went unanswered. There was no chance of replacing the one-off tank, not after all the hours he had into it. As luck would have it business had him flying out to California and Porter added an extra day to his trip just to get answers and hopefully his tank. When he arrived the shop was closed, and Tyler wasn’t sure in what direction he should head. Fortunately, his painter was inside and completely caught off guard by Tyler’s visit. An assembly line of projects were strewn across the shop but in the corner under a thick veil of Bondo sat Tyler’s tank. It had been dropped and all but abandoned. The tank was repossessed and brought home to Georgia in hopes of salvation. A local painter, Philip Sims, agreed to squeeze it into his rotation. Fitting it in when he could between more pressing projects, he was able to bring the colors closer to where Tyler had seen them in his head, and the results are flawless. All in all, the tank build time was two months, unfortunately after all was said and done paint tookthree years.
When you have no set plan, and you aren’t graced with an endless supply of finances some things may take longer. As Tyler puts it “when you have money you don’t have time and when you have time you don’t have money”. I think that resonates with most of us. But it’s also said that good things happen to those who wait and I think Tyler Porter can attest to that tenfold. He may have come close to outgrowing his build many times, but if you ask me, it may be a perfect fit.