Whether by calculated analysis or dumb luck, Harley-Davidson has once again thrust its ubiquitous bar and shield into the zeitgeist, this time among an army of Sportster-mounted ex-skaters, motocrossers, and tweeners itching to get their two-wheeled freak on. The 29-year-old overachiever who owns this show-quality daily rider is the archetype for Harley’s target demo, but Mike D. Ellis chose a different path.
Unlike so many other young bucks in his shoes, Mike D skipped a sit-down with the MoCo finance manager and bought a wrecked ’03 883XL off Craigslist. With help from his journeyman auto-mechanic father, Mike, he rebuilt the engine, installing a 1250 kit while they were at it. Mike solicited advice from his friends and employers Bill Bryant and Harold McGruther at Biltwell for some of the other fabwork required, but all the planning and dirty work was executed by Mike D personally. None of this would seem surprising if Mike’s chopper roots were deep, but he’s a San Diego desert rat and motocross aficionado. We’ll let the man with the Panther tell his story…
“I grew up going to the desert with my family since I was in diapers. I first started riding off-road at the age of six, and I’ve had a healthy interest in powersports ever since. When I was in high school, I worked at a local motorsports shop, and by 21 I landed a sales gig at Universal Motocross. That’s where I met McGoo and Bill.
“After growing Universal as far as its new owner was capable of taking it, I got out of the motorsports industry to pursue safer diversions in web and event promotions. My taste for two wheels never subsided, however, so I took the management position that Bill created for me at Biltwell. After settling into my new gig, I built my first chopper in the evenings and weekends at the Biltwell shop.
“George Counes at Spartan Frameworks built the rigid XL frame, and it’s the first and last of its kind from his company. My dad, Bill, and McGoo and too many friends to list helped me along the way, and we finished the bike in about twice the time I thought it would take. If I learned anything while building the Sex Panther, it’s that you can’t rush motorcycle fabrication and assembly.”
I rode with Mike D on the Sex Panther’s maiden voyage, and his first chopper performed flawlessly. The proportions and ergonomics of Mike’s diminutive Harley fits the man’s own frame perfectly, and the blackout livery with argyle accents is show-quality and unique. By soliciting help from chopper-building buddies and family, Mike built his Sex Panther for several grand less than a Nightster or Forty-Eight would have cost new. Not a bad investment for a first-time builder and bike rider.. HB
|Owner||Mike D. Ellis|
|Year / Manufacturer||2003/H-D|
|Type / Size||Sportster/1250cc|
|Air Cleaner||Bench Mark|
|Exhaust||Biltwell Builder’s Kit|
|Rake/Stretch||3 inches/4 inches|
|Length||2 inches under|
|Triple Trees||H-D shaved|
|### Wheels, Tires, and Brakes|
|Color||HOK Black Sparkle Pearl|
|Painter Blue Moon Kustoms/Got Flake|
|Rear Fender||Front Street Cycle|
|Fender Struts||Mike D. Ellis|
|Gas Tank||Lowbrow Customs|
|Oil Tank||Acme Choppers|
|Hand Controls||Joker Machine|
|License Mount||Mike D. Ellis|