Talk to any core motorcycle collector, and they will tell you that the value and interest of the bikes would increase if they were all genuine. Interest increases even more when the creator is completely original. Such is the case with the handcrafted 990-pound custom cruiser made by Bill Becker of Boscobel, Wisconsin. Becker is the kind of gentle, soft-spoken guy who works his hand in his profession, as well as his hobby—repairing and building just about anything you’d want to name. Motorcycles are a major area of interest—Indian motorcycles in particular.
When I first met him, Becker told me he had always admired the real Indian Four motorcycles. He wanted them in the worst possible way, but the cost always kept them out of reach. But, where there’s a will, there’s a way. “I decided to make myself something that was just as good,” Becker explained. What he found was probably better—even the four-cylinder. What he’s built is a custom one powered by a 1937 Ford 221ci flathead V8. Becker says the old engine had 87 horsepower at 3500 rpm and 122 ft-lbs of torque at 2000 rpm, providing attractive low power—all in about 25 mpg.
The exhaust system uses a standard manifold running a single straight pipe on each side, ending in a chromed shark tail. Although there is no muffler, the sound is surprisingly soft, calm, and unobtrusive. Amazingly, Becker did the design/manufacture without drawings—even schematics! He said he basically started with the engine and driveline dimensions and built from there. It includes a completely original hand-bent double-cradle hardtail frame from one-inch, inch ID DOM OD mild steel tubing. Yes, it bends by hand using a manual tube bender and all the strength he and the others can muster! To accommodate the intake system, the top tube of the frame split into two tubes above the engine, which he welded to a large flat plate gusset at each end. The assembly is tethered to the engine block, so the engine is the stressed part. Behind the transmission, the frame leads to a stiff rear end. The front forks, wheels and triple-disc brakes are a transplant of Honda’s golden wing.
The chassis layout results in a wheelbase of 78 inches, an overall length of nine feet, excellent mass centralization, low center of gravity, and a very low 23-inch saddle height. For transmission, Becker adapted the hydraulically operated clutch and torque converter package from the Chrysler A470 transmission—used in K-cars and minivans—to the Honda Gold Wing 1500 axle final drive. With a final drive ratio of 2.83:1 in high gear, speed the highest calculated was around 115 mph. Becker says the motor only spins at 1800 rpm at highway cruising speed.
Even the fuel tank requires some original thought. The Yamaha XS1100’s fuel tank is stretched six inches, and Becker makes a large tunnel at the bottom of the tank for Ford’s stock intake manifold. A special 90-degree adapter allows the S&S Super G 2-1/16-ich carburetor to be mounted under the tank, facing forward. Also under the tank is the air filter and alternator, which are mounted directly on the front of the engine.
Despite its length and width, the tank holds only 3.5 gallons, giving the V8 a range of only about 87.5 miles before the ride begins. The ignition system is also original. The mechanical distributor is at the front of the engine behind the radiator and fan, while ignition timing is regulated from a small belt-driven Chevy HEI unit under the left headpipe. The front distributor has points that can be used if there is a problem with the belt driven HEI. For motorcyclists, the first thought of a V8-powered motorcycle is generally extreme performance; in the case of Bill Becker’s custom V8, that’s extreme originality!