Article by: Heather Callen
Published: December 2018 Issue 261
If you are a regular reader of this rag, then you know I don’t usually write feature bike stories. Well, this is a special one, and I wanted to give it a go so bear with me. At the risk of repeating myself, if you are a regular reader of our monthly offering then you also know just as well as I do that quite often it’s the story behind a bike that makes it feature worthy and not just the bike. In this case, it’s both, a bitchin bike and a tale that chokes me up every time I hear or tell it.
The War Pony started its life as a 2003 Harley-Davidson® Ultra Classic (The Black Pearl, aka The Pearl) that founds its way to Chris Callen, the founder, publisher and editor of Cycle Source Magazine in 2005 or so. It was just around the time that Cycle Source could be found on the national newsstands. What most don’t know is that it is entirely possible that this mag wouldn’t be in your hands today if it weren’t for that motorcycle. You see, along with the prestige of going national came the bills, and traveling by motorcycle was the only way Chris could afford to be at all of the events getting the stories he needed to fill pages. If it weren’t for Chris being able to load up the Ultra with camera gear and cases of magazines he would never have gotten anywhere, never would have had stories to share.
Over the next decade, Chris and The Pearl fought wars together. They crossed this country dozens of times bringing magazines, stories, and memories back and forth for roughly 250,000 miles. When his mother passed, after a demon-filled life, Chris put her ashes on the back of that Ultra and road to the Bonneville Salts Flats where he set her free at 100 mph in the most peaceful place he knew, knowing that if her soul were to find peace, it would be here.
In 2010, Chris and The Pearl rode 9,000 from Key West, Fl to Homer, AK in eleven days fn the first ever Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge, she ran like a champ, and Chris learned more about himself than he’d ever imagined.
In 2015, Chris and his new bride (me), loaded up The Pearl with a tent, two sleeping bags, and no plans for what turned out to be the most fantastic honeymoon one could hope for. After18 days, nine states, 6500 miles and even two breakdowns in Death Valley, he wouldn’t have traded the old girl in for anything in the world.
Alas, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. In 2016, the Ultra met an untimely end when a friend totaled her. Thankfully the rider was saved. However, the bike wasn’t quite so fortunate.
Thankfully the powerplant and drivetrain had been spared. Chris wasn’t quite ready to put her up just yet and knew that there was an afterlife ahead. So, with a few calls and a show that needed a project, the resurrection began in Long Beach, CA at the Progressive International Motorcycle Show. Chris put in a call to Paughco Parts for their new FXR frame that was designed to accept a Twin Cam touring motor and tranny, and with that, he had a new skeleton for the heart. Though the motor had escaped unscathed, it definitely needed to be freshened up after a hard 250K miles, and off it went to Zipper’s Performance. Danny and his crew worked wonders with the old girl and turned the powerplant into a monster 117. Sam over at Ride Wright wheels hooked the War Pony up with a set of Fat Daddy wheels and looking for a beefy look Chris opted for Pirelli Scorpion AT’s front and rear. Thanks to Cone Engineering the proper parts were found for Chris and RJ to fabricate the stainless exhaust: there’s no doubt when this pony is thundering down the road. Pro Taper Tracker bars top off the custom fairing by LA Fairing Company.
Over four months, in seven cities and with the help of friends around the country The War Pony was reincarnated. With the soul of her creator, it’s stronger than ever. In Sturgis, she ran an impressive 114mph in the 1/8 mile. However, the most important trip this history-filled motorcycle has made so far was a return to the Bonneville Salt Flats. You see, the last time she flew over the salt was when she let Chris’s mother free. If you ask me it’s a complete circle, and there are more memories to fill our book.