Cute Naked Black Sportster Ironhead

The Sportster (code beginning with XL) is continuously produced since 1957 by Harley-Davidson. But the Ironhead engine is the original Sportster engine only produced from 1957 until 1985 when it was replaced by the Evolution engine in 1986. And for many custom builders and core bikers the iron cylinder heads (instead of aluminum) engine is the only one that should equip a true Chop or Bob job. And it could be even truer for them if Harley decides to release a completely redesigned Sportster line like it just dit it this year with the 8 new Softails. New mono-shock swingarm Sportsters coming in 2019?

This very cute and simple Ironhead was built and belongs to Boy Janssen of young shop (don’t ask me why it’s called like that) in Rheden, Netherlands. An ex BMX guy with a weakness for the Japanese Bobber and the Californian frisco-style Chopper scenes, both influences that you can find in this custom project. Looking extremely minimalistic, but only only because of the extensive “cleaning” work performed on each square inch of this XLS. A raw custom job, yes, but almost as intensive in number of labor hours as one performed when building from the ground up. 

The 1981 XLS Sportster used as the donor bike was in non-running condition when bought it 2 years ago, but only until he realized that the spark plugs were the wrong ones…But a  running Ironhead was not enough. The engine needed a full top to bottom rebuilt with added electronic ignition and CV carburetor. The Sportster is now breathing through an old Volswagen Beetle air cleaner bolted to the carb via a one-off adaptor back plate.. For evident aesthetic reasons, the rocker boxes went through a split job.

But it’s the foundation that required the most intensive and delicate work, especially the rear end. A 1981 XL is considered a difficult year for any chop job, so Boy grafted the swingarm from an another model-year Ironhead and performed a drum brake conversion. For rear suspension, a pair of Shovelhead shocks was chosen and bolted slightly more horizontally to keep the frame lower tubes parallel to the ground. For embellishment, front forks were shaved. A narrow Alien gas tank fitted with original vintage Harley badges and a cylindric center fill Bison Motorsports oil tank complete the body work.

This black beauty rolls on a pair of 19” spoke wheels wrapped in Excelsior tires. Other details: Panhead lights, white rubber NOS foot pegs, black sparkle grips, Tracker bars, Upholstery by Silver Machine. An Ironhead at its finest. (photos @ Jeremie di Stefano)

17 Responses to “Cute Naked Black Sportster Ironhead”

  1. 1 Sharkey Dec 4th, 2017 at 9:18 am

    1981 XL obviously…very cheap starter bike with excellent results. Slim, beautiful build

  2. 2 SIGFREED Dec 4th, 2017 at 9:38 am

    Saw it in the metal – looks even better. Amazing what the rear shocks at the “correct” angle does for the overall stance.

  3. 3 Guzzigreg Dec 4th, 2017 at 9:51 am

    Very nice! Sane machine that can actually be used and not just looked at!

  4. 4 Xenu Dec 4th, 2017 at 10:03 am

    If the shocks are functional, how can the tire not hit the seat?

  5. 5 Haden Whipsnade Dec 4th, 2017 at 10:20 am

    Clean pretty much says it all !

  6. 6 Timothy Remus Dec 4th, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    Nice Sporty. Back to Basics – tastefully done. Sometimes less really is more.


  7. 7 X-HD Rider Dec 4th, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    cheap bike with expensive front end.

  8. 8 Pat h Dec 4th, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    I’m with xenu on rear shocks/suspension, x hd the front end is just a modified 35mm stock fork, the rear drum really cleans up the back of the bike and the 19″ wheel instead after the bloated looking 16″ which are the norm nowdays

  9. 9 hoyt Dec 4th, 2017 at 9:18 pm


  10. 10 coma Dec 5th, 2017 at 3:05 am

    Very nice and uncluttered. A true Sportster.

  11. 11 Boss Hawg Dec 5th, 2017 at 10:49 am

    Love it….clean with no frills.

    Looks like lots of fun….Bet it screams, too. .


  12. 12 ChopperBill Dec 5th, 2017 at 11:00 am

    Great bar rocket! Looks good. Sportster tank would have made it look better.

  13. 13 dick Dec 5th, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    It has that little bit of a rebel thing going on.

  14. 14 Kelly Dec 5th, 2017 at 10:35 pm

    Cute seems to indicate that you think sporties are “girls bikes”, wrong!

  15. 15 Emmett Dec 6th, 2017 at 10:18 am

    Cute? Nope.
    Bitchin’? For damned sure.

  16. 16 burnout Dec 6th, 2017 at 2:03 pm

    Very cool Ironhead! peace

  17. 17 rebel Dec 6th, 2017 at 9:24 pm


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