Old school is a term people like to toss around, but few are old enough to recall its meaning. Sometimes we all need to be schooled in our biker roots; sometimes it takes a guitar-slinging cook from a small Arizona town to remind us just what is cool.
Nathan Capp, 39, took some six years to cobble together Crusty Steve, the family chopper. Capp, his wife Katie, and their five kids have adopted the bike as if it were a dirty little lovable mutt that followed them home. Crusty Steve was named by Capp's three-year-old son, who was trying to pronounce Trusty Steed. "This has always been a family project," said Capp, "without their support and encouragement it would never have been built."
Some friends refer to the Honda CB 750-powered chopper as the Rust Rocket because it "...goes real fast, real straight," said Capp, adding that he doesn't so much turn the bike as navigate it. Choppers have never been known for their nimble agility and Trusty Crusty Steve is no exception, but no one said chops are for sissies.
By day Capp is a line cook; by night he shines, singing and playing guitar for the well-respected local band, The Cheaters. The metal/punk/pop group has been together for 11 years. He has also spent time in a paint shop and done some tattooing. Interesting character, this Capp; a good-natured family man with a helluva' lot of ingenuity under his hood.
"I had a vision of what I wanted to build,"he said, "I just didn't sift through junkyards and backyards picking up anything I thought could be bolted on a bike." It took a lot of salvage trips to bring it all together, he said, plucking one part at a time from the heap.
Reminds me of my crazy grandpa, who rode Indians and Harleys in the 1920s and '30s. He could walk into a junkyard, pull a tractor seat out of the stack, weld together a frame out of railroad track, shape a tank out of old soup cans, shoehorn in a grimy Ford motor and three-hours later ride away on something that reasonably resembled a motorcycle. Capp has that kind of forgotten inventiveness.
Point of fact, Capp and his brother, Ben, um, found a Denver Chopper frame,"...rusting in a guy's backyard and hid it for a couple of months until we could retrieve it...the motor is a random CB 750 four banger with open pipes, rescued from the junk pile...the rear end is a 16-inch hoop laced to a Honda hub...front end is, we think, stock CB 750. Then there are the junkyard bars, seat pan, rear fender, and tank. The headlight is off an Italian scooter of some kind. The oil bag is an old Santee octagon tank with an Empi filler neck and cap from a Volkswagen. Both were found in some salvage yard somewhere."
Capp created Crusty Steve on a family budget and timetable. Every single nut bolt and washer, he said, was addressed and every other piece was modified or reworked. "This bike was built on a vision and a dream of what my perfect chopper would be. We are about six years into the bike and it may never be finished, so I guess it's finished. This bike belongs to my wife and children as much as it belongs to me. It takes hours and sacrifice to build a dream. It is perfect. It's not for sale."
Capp beams with pride when talking about his family, his friends, and this jalopy of an old-school machine. He should; after all, what else really matters worth a damn? Just get on the damn thing and ride it to Hell, but bring back something nice for the wife and kids.
Honda Rat Chop
Nathan Capp and Ben Klawitter
Fabricated air intake from Volkswagen exhaust pipe; new charging system replaces total electrical loss "save-weight, be cool" engineering, and pretty much everything else was tweaked
'70s-era Honda CB750 inline four
Ignition: Leg power (kick only)
Exhaust: Open pipes
Denver's Rigid Digger style, approximately 1972.
Wheels, Tires and Brakes:
Stock 18-inch front
Rear 16-inch hoop laced to Honda hub
Low, fast and scary
Front Fender: None
Rear Fender: Harley, Maybe
Fuel Tank: H-D Sportster
Gauge: Don't Need 'Em
Foot Controls: Stock Honda
Seat: Junkyard steel pan of dubious origin; Schwinn bicycle seat springs
Headlight: Some Italian scooter
Special Thanks: Jason Benatz, Katie Capp and the Capp clan, Ben Klawitter, Buddy Worden, and Don Fenn of Air-Cooled Auto Works (Cottonwood, AZ) for their relentless help, faith and enduring support.