During the original chopper craze, some 30 odd years ago, you couldn’t just call up your local mail order company and request a hardtail with a 4” stretch and a 43 degree rake. You had to do it yourself. Since there always has been, and always will be more riders then there are builders, many of them came to guys like Perry Sands.
Perry’s first chopper. Perry was never afraid to take a torch to a pristine Knucklehead and kick it out a few degrees. He was also not afraid to build a jig, document the project and generally make it right. Beginning in 1968 with relatively crude tools and the singular passion to build motorcycles, Perry was the local go-to guy for the custom hungry Southern California bikers. Everything from sissy bars to wild one-off front ends came out of his Paramount, CA shop, but his true passion was performance. For those of you who can remember back that far, the wheels and brakes of the bikes of yester-year left a lot to be desired and were rendered virtually useless once the motor was breathed on a bit. This is the point in the custom bike timeline that Perry made his biggest mark.
Classic PM logo. Experimenting with some of the available aftermarket disc brakes, he quickly realized that nothing out there would live up to his standards. The obvious solution would be to create it, on his own. In 1970 Performance Machine was born of this passion and within a few short years PM disc brake systems were the defacto standard for any well-sorted custom. The original building that housed PM was a converted dairy in the depths of Paramount, CA and still sported the “Flying Processors” moniker of its former occupants. The photo of that building still graces a wall in the PM offices and this bike is a tribute to 35 years of building some of the coolest stuff for some of the coolest people.
Perry (what’s with that hair?) and his son, the new PM builder, Roland. These days’ PM’s bike building duties have been handed over to Perry’s son Roland and he has taken the former art to unimaginable levels. Beginning with a Chopper Guys Maximus single downtube chassis sporting an 8″ stretch in the downtube, 6″ stretch in the backbone and 35 degree rake and set up for a massive rear tire and right side drive.
A custom oil bag was created to match the lines of the bike and the swingarm was reshaped to further the look. From there, every seam and joint was smoothed out and filled for an unobstructed fluid shape. A Storz 49mm fork was bolted on by means of a highly modified Storz lower triple clamp and a handmade upper clamp.
A set of prototype PM Contour wheels initially graced the bike, as it was shipped out to Russ Wernimont for some handmade bodywork. On its return the bike took on an entirely new shape, as Russ created a multi faceted one-off tank and welded a shorty fender to the rear. Additional metal was added to the fender to create a hidden taillight and a cover was created under the tank to hide all electrical components. A steel front fender was then modified and bolted up to the Storz forks. With the metal work completed a set of clip on handlebars were built, completing the long and low look of the bike.
Several motors saw time in the chassis before a TP 121 was decided on, and while this was happening the bike was picked to be at a show in Vegas. Now the project had a deadline and things we’re starting to get ugly. A Baker 6 speed, right side drive trans was selected to do time behind the motor and they were connected with a PM Contour belt drive primary.
Having perfected mid controls, Roland integrated the shift side into the primary and created a unique right side drive hydraulic clutch master and brake control into one amazing aluminum structure. These would later become production parts and are now available from PM. New for the model year, PM’s Method Contour wheels in an 18” x 10” rear and 21” front now graced the bike. A massive Avon 300 series rear tire was matched to the skinny Avon front rubber.
A few detail parts such as the unique air cleaner housing and Headwinds headlight were wrapped up and the metal work was officially completed. With frighteningly few days left on the calendar, the body and chassis were stripped and sent to Airtrix in Santa Barbara for bodywork and paint.
The raw metal had been worked over a number of times and required 45 hours of painstaking love just to prep. Countless pounds of filler, as well as the labor to smooth it out were invested in this bike. When the work was complete, they poured 145 hours into the project! The result was amazing, featuring a GM Chevrolet blue metallic with darker blue mini flake panels and lavish flowing lines. With precious few days left, the bike was carefully reassembled and readied for its debut. The pipes were hand made by the PM R&D crew and the rear suspension is a Legends Airide with the compressor hidden under the fuel tank.
With several motor changes in the initial stages of the bike, they overlooked the front mounts. The deletion of forward controls, allowed Roland to smooth out the front motor mount and he tapered the mount on the engine case to match. Now that he had replaced that motor it was painfully obvious he had neglected this mod, as the mount stuck over like a sore thumb. Panic ensued, and the motor was yanked out, stripped and ground to match the frame.
The inner case was painted to match the chassis, bad new. It needed immediate resurfacing, so it was overnighted to Airtrix for an emergency repair. While that was going on, final electrical, as well as the hydraulics for the brakes and clutch, were wound through the tubes of the frame. A design matched 13” disc lives up front, grabbed by a PM 6-piston differential bore caliper and a hidden two piston unit handled the rear braking duties. Hand controls are naturally PM Contour and are accented by PM grips.
Now with only a day remaining before the bike was shipped to Vegas, Roland somehow managed to talk Perry into using a private helicopter to run to Santa Barbara and pick up the freshly painted engine cases from Airtrix. Speed TV’s American Thunder came along for the ride, as they were filming a piece. Within hours the parts were safely back at PM and the chaos of final assembly began. Burning the midnight oil and using the PM R&D crew for support, the motor was hastily built-up and slammed into the bike. It instantly fired to life and the rumble of the open pipes echoed throughout the now abandoned PM compound. With only minutes on the motor, everything was rolled into a PM truck for an all nighter drive to sin city and the bikes debut.
Happily, it was well received in Vegas and has since become a fixture in PM’s advertising and roadshow. The chopper craze had officially been handed down to the next generation and the Flying Processor was alive.
Postscript: This bike represents the one and only chopper Roland has ever built and rumor is, it is now for sale. Drop PM a line if you’re interested.