Tuesday, August 3, 2010

This Month's Header, Wowed by Joe Hurst's White Bear

This is a tale that spans decades and could only have happened with the advent of the internet. It's also a tad lengthy to properly explain.

Joe Hurst's White Bear. Definitely one of my all time favorites. The mag wheels, the metal finish, and the length reminds one of the purpose built machines built for drag racing.

Certain bikes strike a nerve with each of us. That being the topic, not long ago, Chopper Dave asked his readers, "what bike did it for you"? Almost all of his respondent's comments cited recently built bikes. I added my two cents, listing only older builds. The first one's that came to mind were, Sonny Barger's yellow panhead, Roth's Oink, Dick Hirshberg's '69 shovel, and Joe Hurst's White Bear. Now, over the years "the list" might have been different, but Joe Hurst's White Bear would always have been included and somewhere at the top.

I first saw Joe's bike many years ago. I vividly remember the place but am still not 100% sure the month and year (71-72?). It was at a Custom Car and Motorcycle Show that was held each year at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles. My memory says it took place sometime around November or December and I keep thinking it was called the L.A. Winternationals. Yes, I know that's a Drag Race, but it's also a show mentioned on the cover of the Feb. '69 issue of Choppers Magazine. Anyway, at the time, I didn't know anybody else interested in Choppers so, I asked my dad if he would take me.

A somewhat disappointing spread from Street Chopper July 1973

It's one of my fondest memories but, I only clearly remember two bikes from the entire show. The bike that just completely blew me away was Joe Hurst's White Bear chopper. After walking through the show a couple of times I kept returning for another look.

I remember at one point, Joe kicking it to life and then pulling out a giant screw driver in which he proceeded to check the spark by arcing each plug as the engine roared inside the arena. I was already a fan of Dick Allen, so that combined with his forks, the paint, bead blasted engine, pipes, dual carbs, mags, the sound, plus seeing that fully chromed open chain drive primary whirling was more than my adolescent mind could handle. It was akin to standing next to a Top Fuel Dragster on the line at Lions.

This photo can't do it justice. It was the early '70's and I had never seen anything quite like it. All the aluminum of the engine and trans was bead blasted. The matte finish contrasted nicely with every nut and bolt being chromed. This reinforced the competitive look that the stainless lines, headers, Posa carbs, and Joe Hunt magneto, brought to life.

Afterwards, I remember describing Joe's bike to anyone who would listen. Surely a bike that cool would be featured in one of the upcoming magazines. With that in mind, each month, I went to the news stands hoping to see it featured. I knew it would take awhile since in those days it was months between production and sales. It seemed like 9 to 12 months passed when White Bear finally showed up in the July '73 Street Chopper. Boy was I shocked and disappointed to find my favorite bike wasn't on the cover, no color photos, only two pages, and the last bike featured in the back! To add insult a Honda was on the cover. I didn't understand it and hoped it might show up in another magazine, but it never did. I figured I'd never see that bitchen paint job in color ever again.

Fast forward to 2006. I stumbled upon Jesse James' History of the Chopper program on Discovery and low and behold, there's Joe Hurst being interviewed for the segment on Dick Allen. I thought, wow, he's still around (possibly still local), how cool it would be to someday somehow talk with him.

Forks is a 20" overstock Dick Allen springer. It was shown with one piece pullbacks instead of risers and z-bars.

Summer 2008. On a mission to find vintage chopper photos on the net I find these dang blogs and in September decide it's time to jump in myself. One of the best blogs for chopper history and info is Irish Rich's Applied Machete and on January 19, 2009 Rich does a post on Joe's bikes titled, "More Dick Allen goodness". This prompts me to leave the following comment: Damn, You beat me to it. I've been planning a post on Joe and his bike. I was wild for the White Bear version, saw it at a show about 9 months before it was in St Chopper magazine. The paint was unreal. I was shocked and pissed they didn't run it in color. I'll still do a post on it anyway.

Open primary is chain drive, Joe mentioned it featured chrome primary and drive chains for the show. Belt drives didn't exist yet.

July 2010. One day I dig out that Street Chopper so I can finally do the post and the very next day I get an email with the subject, Joe Hurst Rode with Dick Allen. He tells me how enjoys the blog and wonders if I'm interested in some old photos of his and Dick's bikes? My response, WOW!

The issue that featured Joe's bike. That's One Wild and Crazy Honda. Joe really felt strongly that his bike should have be in Hot Bike and be feature on the cover, and told them so. Hot Bike was relatively new and catered to the performance scene. I know there are fans and friends of Jim Noteboom out there, but I still would have much rather seen White Bear on the cover. I was even less tolerant of Honda's then.

After a few days Joe sent some photos but, I wanted to wait until I had talked to him before posting anything. After a brief call, he calls me back Saturday evening and we spoke for about an hour and a half. It was a lot of information to digest. He told me how he thought of Googling "Dick Allen Biker", wondering if anything would even show up, then re-thought, why not try "Joe Hurst biker"? To his surprise he finds Rich's post with my comments, and thought to himself, he's pissed?, it was my bike, how the hell does he think I felt?

It's only been 38 years since I've seen these colors. Joe says this is from that show. He said the show was put on by the Tridents Car Club. I recall their name but not sure that's what they called the show. He mentioned a Honda won first place at the show too. He's also a little unclear what month it took place. He thought it was in the spring of '72 as later that summer he rode it cross country with Dick Allen. This and the photo below were photoshoped to bring back their faded colors.

It was always a mystery why this colorful bike was named White Bear? That will be revealed in an upcoming post. Those living around the South Bay (Los Angeles), should recognize this green belt under the power lines.

It's a real honor for me to hear, and share this historic stuff. Over the next few weeks I'll be posting more of Joe's awesome photos and info. I am really looking forward to more chats with Joe. We'll likely be meeting soon with maybe a visit to the Dick Allen Wailing Wall.


Cris said...

Outstanding post, Chris. Can't wait to see and read more.


lewy k said...

chris, great article on one of the nicest choppers ever built. design, work and attention to detail is unreal. looking forward to seeing more pics and reading more about joe. thanks to you and irish rich for bringing this one front and center....an amazing work of art mr. hurst.

Irish Rich said...

Chris hits the motherlode. Very cool, looking forward to more of Joe's photos! I agree that his bike, with that paintjob would have been a killer cover. But, then again, I know Bones, and his bike was pretty "out there" for the times, and it was cleaning up on the Cali show circuit that year.

Next time you talk to Joe, tell him that the bike I rode in the opening of the History Of The Chopper,"White Heat", was bumped off the cover of the April '05 issue of Street Chopper, for Hank Young's "Lakewood Special" Biker Buildoff winner. Happens all the time.

Chris K said...

Rich, Yeah, it can get fairly political.

Bone's Honda was pretty out there. I'm sure they thought putting a wild Honda on the cover was more of an attention getter than another custom Harley.

As the '70's rolled on, Street Chopper was moving steadily towards showing more Japanese bikes, to the point, I thought it hurt the magazine and lost interested in it.

drsprocket said...

Chris, Homerun! Isn't that a Dick Allen exhaust system and sissybar (or at least, style)? Doc

drsprocket said...

Chris, P.S. I just noticed the shifter knob in the 2nd to the last photo. It's the one's all the period correct bobjobs and such are using today. Popular in the 30's and 40's. Way ahead of his time to have it on a jockey in the early 70's. Doc

Chris K said...

Doc, Yes. Joe was best friends with Dick. More info about the exhaust and sissy bar will be forthcoming.

Noot said...

Great Post . . .
Arlen's Blower Bike Shovel did it for me - if I could have any bike in the world?