There’s a bike shop Down Under that’s turned the custom bike world upside down and sideways as well. Scotty’s Choppers is located out in the Aussie boondocks (or “bush”) in a town called Urallal, which is perched at 3,300 feet above sea level on top of the Great Dividing Range in New South Wales. Uralla has its share of history, most notably as the mid-1800s stomping grounds for the notorious “bushranger” Frederick Ward (a.k.a. “Captain Thunderbolt”), who used to “rob from the rich and give to the poor.” Now it’s Scotty’s Choppers that has struck with lightning impact upon the local community-and the custom bike world at large.
The native aboriginal Australians talk of the “Dream Time,” where they tap into the “time before time, the beginning of all things.” We’re not sure that’s where he got his inspiration, but Scot (“Scotty”) Cox did dream up a bike that blew the competition out of the water, first on the island continent of Australia, and then during a fierce custom bike competition in the U.S. Case in point, the Discovery Channel Bike “Ballistic,” which is seen here in all its orgasmically flowing alloy curves.
Those compound curves were created in a shop separated into two floors. The upper section is dedicated to assembly, while the lower floor houses an “alloy room” where all the aluminum (or “aluminium,” as Scotty and crew call it) body parts are hand formed. There’s also a steel room crammed with fabrication equipment for frame building, including a wild assortment of jigs, rollers, and presses. The whole deal is especially impressive when you consider that the equipment was designed and manufactured in-house, with the innovative tools created by Scotty himself. Thanks to the special tools, Scotty and his lifelong friend and business partner Grant Purkiss are able to transform their truly one-off visions into reality. Grant is a mechanic by trade, while Scotty is an engineer. The two teamed up about five years ago to focus on their common passion for motorcycles.
When asked how they manage to find enough customers in a town of fewer than 2,500 people, Grant replies, “The customers find us. We build for the one-off-type people who love their machines. They fly into Uralla, and once they’re in our workshop, they’re gone; it’s like a candy shop.”
The first bike built by Scotty’s was appropriately named the “Aluminator,” since it was completely fabricated from polished alloy, including the frame. It went on to win the 2001 “Best Custom Motorcycle” title in Australia. Then it won the Outstanding All-Over Design award at the 11th Masters Pro Bike Show during Daytona Bike Week 2002. At the same event, another Scotty’s Choppers bike, “Excalibur,” was awarded top honors by receiving the Judges’ Choice award.
“People were just blown away by the art and the all-aluminum, no-Bondo, no-filler craftsmanship,” says Grant. “We’ve won quite a few engineering awards here in Australia as well as ‘Best Custom Bike’ for three years running. Another milestone was being involved with the Discovery Channel, doing the World Biker Build-Off, having been invited to be the Australian representative. We competed with the likes of the Martin Brothers and Exile Cycles, with the final vote taken at the Rat’s Hole Show in Daytona. We built ‘Ballistic,’ the Discovery bike, in 35 days with the camera crew here the whole time. Since that program was aired in the States in September 2004, we’ve received thousands of e-mails saying we should have won, that our craftsmanship was way above everything else.”
When accepting the Discovery Channel challenge, Scotty and Grant decided, mostly due to registration restrictions in their country, to build a bike with a standard-length frontend. It was conservative for a radical bike competition, but they focused the “radical” aspect on the bodywork. Says Scotty, “Greg Shephard, from E.C. Custom, a good friend, supplied the necessary drivetrain components to make this machine a true powerhouse. We used an S&S; 124-inch engine, Baker right-drive transmission, and a BDL 3-inch-belt primary drive.” Meanwhile, they made a list of parts they deemed suitable for such a project, including wheels sourced through Primo in L.A. that were cut to an unusual pattern to suit the machine (and later marketed as the Discovery Wheel). Scotty shod the wheels with the then-new 280×18-inch Metzeler rear tire and a 19-inch front. Forward controls and hand controls were sourced through O.M.P. in Italy, as were the brake calipers.
Ballistic’s frame is all-steel construction, specially designed to handle the 130 horsepower the mill produces. Scotty decided to construct all the body panels from aluminum and housed the frame within the panels to give the impression that the total machine is all alloy. The build went relatively smoothly and on time. During testing of the powertrain, the bike broke traction through every gear change. The power-to-weight ratio was described as phenomenal-a word that can also easily be used to describe “Ballistic” as a work of engineering art. As for the otherworldly shine given off by the bike, Grant explains the process. “We don’t use solid paints. Rather, we use paint dyes in clear-so, in essence, the polished aluminum shines through the paint.”
In addition to custom bikes, Scotty’s Choppers also produces “panel kits” for Harley-Davidsons and a wide spectrum of handmade alloy fenders and fuel tanks, as well as exhaust systems and handlebars and just about anything to do with bikes. This includes the company’s “Wide Ass Frame Kits,” which feature swingarms designed for use on ’86-’99 Softails rolling a 250×18 tire.