West Coast Report 26th Edition by John Gilbert

Arlen Ness B-day at The Petersen — Dream Garage in Fallon 

I really dig it when an un-plan comes together. I decide what I’m going to run in each week’s West Coast Report by searching through image archives I’ve been collecting for upcoming articles, and then rely on a spur of last minute cosmic synchronicity to bring it all together. Sometimes it can take years for all of the story elements to materialize and then suddenly one day everything falls into place. As this is being written its September 9, 2013. Had he lived, today would have been my dog, Bongo’s 14th birthday. That’s Bongo on his 9th birthday sitting in between two editorial assistants while I at Custom Classic Trucks.


The Petersen Museum threw Arlen Ness a big birthday bash for his 74th celebration. I remember Arlen’s birthday is on July 12, because I called him on July 12, 2009 on his 70th birthday. I didn’t intend to bug Arlen on his birthday, but I needed some help writing an article about Jon Kosmosky and House of Kolor. Bongo died later that afternoon, and that’s why I’ll never forget the date for Arlen’s birthday.

The photo credits for Arlen’s birthday bash go to the Petersen Museum.


A close up of Arlen’s logo on the screen while the food line starts to pick up traffic in the background. It cost $95.00 to get in and the proceeds went to charity.


I wasn’t there, but I’m pretty sure it was interesting hearing what Bruce Myer had to say.


I’m guessing that’s Arlen’s wife at left. Arlen and Barry Weiss are both Hamsters. I don’t know about the rest of the cars, but that’s Arlen’s chopped ’56 Ford F-100 in front of his Victory shop in Dublin, CA. Arlen sold the truck years ago, and then discovered it recently on eBay.


Always my favorite, the food line. I know the food is really good at Petersen Museum events, I ate there when Arlen helped debut the new Victory motorcycles one year.


Here’s Barry giving Arlen a birthday kiss, it must be a Hamster tradition.


Arlen signed it “to Lorenzo” Although I can’t recognize if that’s Lorenzo Lamas receiving the autograph. Gary Wood played Edward Furman on Air America.


I’d say wearing a Hamster shirt means this guy is probably one of the Hamsters. In fact I’m surprised not to see a lot of Hamster shirts in the background of these photos.


I really like the intricate patterns on her dress, it looks ornately metallic and silky smooth. Even blowing it up to the max I couldn’t make out her name.


OK, now were getting into the photos I took of Art on Two Wheels. At rear right is the 2005 3-headed Monster. From Petersen text

Called the 3-Headed Monster because of the number of cylinders in its unique engine, this custom by Cory Ness is powered by a 180-horsepower, three cylinder engine called a Fueling W3. The “W” refers to the arrangement of the cylinder banks, which resemble the letter W. Like radial aircraft engines it has a master connecting rod to which the other two rods attach. Ness converted the Ness Y2K Dyna frame into a rigid frame, handcrafted the gas tank and fenders, and added Evil-7 Ness wheels to complete the sinister theme. This chopper went on to win a 2005 episode of the reality television show Biker Build-Off.   


The “Untouchable”

Arlen Ness bought his first motorcycle, a slightly used Knucklehead, in 1963 for $300. Seeking greater distinction, he immediately began work on the bike, giving it a new look with a stretched gas tank and custom paint. A crowd pleaser from the start, Untouchable drew the attention of the media and led to Ness receiving orders for paint jobs on other motorcycles. But since Ness reinvested the money he made from custom paint jobs into his business, he could not afford to purchase a new motorcycle and reworked the 1947 Knucklehead often. Between 1963 and 1977, Untouchable took on various looks that included both Sportster and Tombstone gas tanks, high bars and drag bars, and purple, yellow and blue paint. The 74-cubic inch engine was replaced by a 100-cubic inch unit with a Magnuson supercharger and the stock transmission replaced by a unit-construction transmission from a Sportster.


“Mach Ness”

Arlen Ness began building his jet bike after seeing Jay Leno ride a similar version. He fit a turbine jet engine into an old Ness frame and used a single chain to deliver power to the rear wheel. An electric motor was mounted on the front wheel for starting the turbine engine and a clutch was installed to disengage it as needed. While most jet-powered motorcycles are built as sport bikes, this one was kept long and low to retain the jet theme. The all-aluminum body was hand fabricated by Bob Munroe and Carl Brouhard hand-painted the detailed graphics, including the rust and rivets. Keeping with the theme, the bike is equipped with afterburners which shoot flames a distance of up to ten feet.


“Half & Half”

A fan of the look of antique bikes, Arlen Ness modified an antique Sportster kit in order to create the light and nimble Half & Half. To build the bike, Ness chose a Harley-Davidson Shovelhead engine for an older look and borrowed the drive and transmission from a stock Harley-Davidson FXR. When completed, Half & Half was taken on a tour around the country, which included the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota and Daytona Bike Week in Florida. Ness admires the look of these antique kits so much that he keeps one mounted in his living room at home.


“Top Banana”

Top Banana was constructed in a mere 10 days as part of a competition for the reality television series Biker Build-Off in which two motorcycle builders compete to build the better bike. The motorcycle features a one-off frame, 145-cubic inch S&S supercharged engine, and dual custom-made front perimeter brakes with dual six-piston calipers on the rear. To retain a long and low appearance, the top of the bike’s frame was split into two bars so the engine could be fitted between them. Top Banana lived up to its name having been designated the winner of the build-off in Puerto Rico in December 2004.


“Aluminum Victory”

In 2003, Arlen and Cory Ness partnered with American motorcycle manufacturer Victory Motorcycles to build limited-edition models under the Ness Signature Series name. The bikes featured Ness aftermarket Billet aluminum accessories, custom paint schemes, and signatures on the side panels. This chromed custom has an all-aluminum frame and swing arm that together weigh an incredibly light 17 pounds. To further reduce weight, the gas tank and fenders were fabricated of aluminum. Victory Aluminum is powered by 106 cubic inch V-Twin engine and equipped with a front dual disc brake and inverted fork for better strength and rigidity.


Here’s another view of “Half & Half”

A ¾-view of Arlen breeding a Shovel FXR with vintage cues.


“Sick Ness”

The grandson of Arlen and son of Cory, Zach Ness has become the third generation to carry on the tradition of building radical custom motorcycles. Constructing his first bike before finishing high school, Ness has already become well-respected in the custom motorcycle builder community even as he continues to discover and develop his own individual style. Zach’s creations have been featured in many of the nation’s top motorcycle publications. To create this custom, Ness started with a Ness Y2K Softail chopper frame with an altered rear section and powered it with a 124-inch S&S engine. He completed the look of SickNess with features such as a custom Billet rear swing arm, custom pointed front frame scoop, and handmade gas tank and fenders.


“Thin Twin”

Blue Digger Son of the “King of Choppers,” Cory Ness followed in his father’s footsteps building and customizing motorcycles and created his own line of custom bikes. Thin Twin features a five-inch stretch Digger frame, a signature Ness design that sparked the trend toward longer and lower choppers during the 1970s. Its two custom gas tanks are bolted together by a ribbed seam in the middle and the 23-inch Ness Billet Bone wheels are powder coated and diamond cut. Steel triple trees connect the hand crafted fork tubes to the frame. Thin Twin is equipped with a kick start, magneto ignition, and custom front and rear perimeter brake rotors.     



Inspiration for the motorcycle’s art deco design came from a sculpture of a 1932 Bugatti roadster sitting on Arlen Ness’s coffee table. Following the elegant lines of the Bugatti, Carl Brouhard drew the initial sketches and Craig Naff hand formed the curvaceous aluminum body which wraps around an experimental Ness rubber mount Softail frame. It is powered by a stock 80-cubic inch Harley-Davidson Evolution engine with a stock FXR transmission. To show off its high level of craftsmanship, the bike was ridden to several runs unpainted, but eventually completed to participate in the 1995 Oakland Roadster Show.

Outlaw Rodder

Patching Holes in the Hot Rod to Hell’s Nose

People can say whatever they want about a fiberglass bodied car, but I gotta say fiberglass sure is fast and easy to work with. In an earlier West Coast Report I showed what the new Headwinds headlights with custom grilles are basically going to look like. So now in this week’s edition I’m going to demonstrate how to repair the big ugly holes left in the nose by the old headlights. There’s at least three different ways to repair minor holes and imperfections in fiberglass. The first which is a bad idea, is to use a polyester filler (bondo). Crack City, you can get away with filling imperfections, coarse sanding scratches, etc. with a polyester filler, but watch out when you use it where there needs to be structural strength. The next two methods using fiberglass mat soaked with resin, or Evercoat Everglass Filler are a much better way to go.


For the four holes in the nose I determined Everglass would fit the bill just fine. A quick description of Everglass; it’s a Short strand, fiberglass reinforced body filler. High strength, high build and waterproof which makes it excellent for repairing holes, rusted metal, body seams and shattered fiberglass. Contains ZNX-7T for superior adhesion and corrosion resistance to bare steel, galvanized steel and aluminum.


The inside view before starting.


I used 36-grit sandpaper to rough up the outer surface to promote adhesion. Everglass filling in the deep sanding scratches adds strength to the repair.


Ditto for the inside, I used 36-grit to rough the area up.


Just about any kind of tape, masking, foil, or Scotch, can be used to make a barrier to retain the Everglass from squirting out.


I mixed up the Everglass with the included Blue hardener.


As soon as the Everglass was mixed I applied it to the inside of the nose.


While the Everglass was still tacky I removed the foil tape.


Notice there’s only a couple of small pinholes appearing after the first application.


Here’s inside the other side. Notice there’s a heavy buildup of Everglass to add strength to the repair. To make sanding easy, start sanding the Everglass with 36-grit while its still tacky.


To fill the pinholes on the outside I spread on Everglass and then block sanded it with 36-grit to get the basic shape. Remember, do it while still tacky.


Once the Everglass cured hard, I block sanded the surface with 220, and 320 grit paper. You can use wet or dry paper, I wet-sanded.


36-grit on a sanding block


Work the block in a circular motion, and criss-cross. Also use a straight-line motion, but keep and eye open for how its turning out.


After finishing in 220 or 320 I always use PRE to make sure the surface is contaminant free, so the primer will not fisheye.


One of my favorite products, Eastwood’s High-Build Self-Etching primer works just as good as primer from a gun, and with much less hassle.


You can tell from this shot the spraycan lays down a serious high-build coating of primer.


Its amazing how fast Eastwood’s High-Build primer dries. After a couple of hours in the sun I was able to start block sanding. All primers shrink to some degree. After two days of curing longer I re-sprayed the area and block sanded again.


On the way home from Hot August Nights in Reno one year I stopped by Marvin Sanders home in Fallon, Nevada to shoot his ’56 Ford for a feature in Custom Classic Trucks.

While I was at Marvin’s I noticed there was a brand-new pole barn next door on a big lot with a for sale sign. Although I imagine I’ll live my life out in Orange County, CA. I’ve always had a dream about moving out to the country and living on an acreage with a shop big enough to store, and work on all of my cars, trucks, and motorcycles.

And of course the big lot would come in handy for driving an old 9N Ford tractor around with a herd of dogs running behind it. I’m not sure how many wives they’ll let you have in Nevada… Just saying, its in the middle of nowhere you know. Did I say wives, I meant dogs… how many dogs?

Here’s the view out behind Marvin’s green oasis. I had to really look to see through the greenery to next door.

Here’s how far the pole barn sits back from the road.

Here’s the front complete with a truck door.

Here’s the backside.

Here’s inside up front. I’m sorry I can’t remember how much they were asking for the property.


This is Marvin standing ¾ ways to towards the rear of the barn.


Notice the floors are still dirt. First thing I would have poured a cement slab.


That’s looking into the rising morning sun. This is the view looking from the rear. It’s a long way to the next property.


That dirt patch at right of the road is where the driveway was, or should I call it a dirt way?

 Rustin’ Gold

“66 Chevy C10 in Fallon, NV.

After I left from shooting Marvin’s ’56 Ford, I drove around the neighborhood in Fallon, and searched for stuff for sale. This ½-ton ’66 Chevy didn’t have a price, but it couldn’t have been much.


It’s a dirty shame the truck is so rusty because its an original paint example with all the stock trimmings still in place. First year 327 V8 with 3-speed Overdrive, and Factory tach!


Look under the visor, I guarantee this roof is ready to rust-through completely and turn this C10 into a roadster. I called the ph. number no one answered.


This baby is a Big-Window, and that’s old truck gold! Notice the flush rear camper style bumper, never seen one like that. I think all ’66 Chevy’s came with backup lights.


‘Ol Loren bought her brand-new I’ll bet; On the side of the bed LOREN HARRISON Atlanta, MO. GVW 6,000 FARM is still legible.


Notice this thing is so rusty the front fenders have big holes clean through. My guess is someone bought in Missouri and moved to Nevada, and then put it up for sale. Nevada trucks are usually rust-free for the most part.

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