Monday, May 19, 2014

Theme Bikes, Flying Tigers, Shark Mouths, Walt Disney, Triumph, Howard Hughes, Hells Angels, Joe Petrali, and Swim Suits...

...or the mother of all post

Six degrees of separation is the theory that you can connect everyone or anything in six steps or fewer. These connections between individuals and how one thing affects another can be very interesting.

Before the rise of the television chopper build offs and Orange County Choppers there weren't too many theme bikes running around. Notice I didn't say none. After all, my old buddy Arte (see a few post back), built one while Paul Jr. was probably still in kindergarten.

Nose art or personalizing military vehicles isn't new and while stationed in Viet Nam as a tank mechanic, Arte remembered seeing all kinds of art, slogans, and names painted on various vehicles. He also had admired the Flying Tigers P-40's for some time, so years later after building a few bikes he decided to take the nose art concept a bit farther. Now remember this was the eighties.
I don't know when Arte started building it, but his Flying Tigers chopper was featured in a 1987 issue of Supercycle.

Not only did Arte want to incorporate the famous nose art on a bike, he wanted it's entire paint job to be as close as possible to that of the planes. To this end he actually enlisted the guidance of a WWII pilot who happen to live nearby.
The Flying Tigers in China with their P-40's at the dawn of WWII is where Arte's inspiration came. This happens to be the Hells Angels squadron of the Flying Tigers. Take note and remember both the red winged angel and the flying tiger logos. 
Where it all began. The Flying Tigers got the idea after seeing a photo of a RAF P-40 squadron in North Africa featuring such markings, who themselves borrowed the idea from German Luftwaffe ZG 76 heavy fighter wing pilots flying Messerscchmitt Bf 110 aircraft in Crete in the late 30's.

Other than a dragon or skull bike, I don't recall seeing any aircraft theme bikes before Arte's. Years ago I did think of a similar concept while going through my own growing interest in aircraft, but it's one thing to think it, and quite another to do it.
Not only did Arte make the extra effort to make his bike historically correct, the bike it self is detailed nicely
Arte flying his tiger then...
...and flight ready today.

Not being completely satisfied, years later Arte decided a Sportster tank and a different fender would better lend itself to the design. During the re-paint he also changed the sissybar and handlebars.
The five fictitious kills are for effect.

To this day, many a biker has chosen the Shark Face theme but rarely includes the Tiger.

Now days it just takes money. It's gotten to the point where a local H-D dealer is offering new Sportsters or your existing one done up this way.

The Shark Mouth has not been limited to aircraft or motorcycles. By the way, nobody ever mentions why a Shark Face would be on a Tiger?

That's it for Arte's machine, but let's dig deeper.

The Flying Tiger logo is said to have been designed by the Walt Disney Studios. While in it's self  that's a somewhat strange connection, I can't help wondering if the Flying Tiger' logo influenced the Triumph Tiger logo?
 Flying Tigers Ace R.T. Smith with those two logos again. 
The Triumph Tiger.

The connections continue.

It's often said that after returning from war some serviceman craved more excitement than what everyday civilian life offered. To fill this void many turned to motorcycling, it's clubs, and their associated activities to blow off this pent up steam. One such group of guys would eventually become the Hells Angels MC. 
The Hells Angels squadron logo...
... and the Howard Hughes film poster.

Research says the name Hells Angels was suggested by an associate of the club who was a WW II pilot and the same is said of their famous death's head logo. So, the Hells Angels motorcycle club name comes from a WWII squadron, which originally came from Howard Hughes' movie about WW I pilots.  
The 552nd Medium Bomber Squadron patch (above), is said to be one of the patches that inspired the Hells Angels first death head design (Below). 
The early death head patch does echo the squadron patch.

Another Howard Hughes connection to motorcycling is Joe Petrali. If you don't know 'Smokin' Joe then you're probably new to the sport.

Joe has many motorcycle racing credits to his name, but is probably best known for the 1937 land speed record run of 136.183 mph aboard a factory (H-D), prepared knucklehead. 
The streamlined tail section was removed for the record run. It was said to actually decrease stability.

After his glory days of racing, Joe became a confidant of Hughes and later served as flight engineer on the Hughes H-4 Hercules Flying Boat. 

Hughes hated the name "Spruce Goose" (especially since it was made of birch), which was a name that a reporter came up with. 
My own connection is that I worked at Hughes Aircraft Company in the eighties and nineties. One day I was shown this poster in the Public Relations department. They wanted to reprint an original which had all the crew's signatures on it.  I remember at first being surprised to see Joe Petrali. For a moment I had completely forgotten his involvement with Hughes. (I'll post a better shot of this poster when I get the chance)

I guess Joe's elevens were up as his record stood for 11 years until September 13, 1948 when Rollie Free famously broke it by approx. another 11 mph while laying prone in his swim wear aboard a Vincent.
Rolling Free (sans safety gear). A guy named Rollie Free breaking a motorcycle land speed record? It sounds made up. Many call this the most famous photo in motorcycle history.

That's all folks!
You could probably go on forever making various connections but, I got to stop somewhere.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Phase III Shovelhead

A while back, Joe Hurst sent me a scan of an old Phase III catalog and I pulled this Shovelhead from it. Except for the mild goose neck it has a frame very similar to his black bjke (Black Bear). Add  a blower and a black out program and it might look close to what he has in mind.