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Feature Bike – Steel town Scrapper

June 1, 2012


Feature Bike

Story and photos by Glenn Roberts

Dennis Luison was in his early 20s when he bought this 1977 Sportster from Poole’s Harley-Davidson, and while it was purchased as a running bike, a lot of its pieces came in a box. He would never have guessed at the time that 30 years later, he would still own the same bike. As time went by, a tired, worn-out back dictated that Dennis move up to a more comfortable Road King, but the Iron Head Sporty always had a special spot in his garage.

While wiping the dust off of the Sporty one day, he decided it was way overdue for a face-lift, so he began saving his pennies. Dennis’s line of work allows him to periodically collect various types of scrap metal, so he began socking away all of his waste metal proceeds to fund the makeover.

Without a definite plan or the time needed to do the job, he enlisted his long-time friend Roger Rossato to do the build. Coincidentally, Roger also bought his first Sportster with Dennis, but he sold it many years ago. Always dabbling in mechanics of some kind, Roger is a hobby hot-rod guy who specializes in ’41 Willys and ’34 Ford Highboys, but over the years he has produced nine ground-up motorcycle builds, so Dennis knew his bike would be in good hands.

Steel Town Feature Dennis told Roger he wanted a 250-rear tire and a springer front end. The rest of the details would be worked out as the job progressed, but both agreed that the first order of business would be to make plans to lower the bike, as the mid-seventies Sportster was a tall bike and Dennis wasn’t.

Once the bike was stripped, the frame received the first attention. It’s all stock with the exception of modified shock mounts to properly fit the widened swingarm. Keeping the original mounting section, Roger modified and welded the new swingarm.

Roger had a bit of trouble sourcing parts, as it seems the ’77 and ’78 Sportys are a bit of a rarity, even in the aftermarket world. He couldn’t find another swingarm, and the steering neck had to be bored out in order to accept the bearings for the springer front end. The wiring throughout the bike was unexpectedly brittle, too, so Roger had to rewire the whole bike.

Feature Bike Steel Town ScrapperAfter refreshing the top end, the engine was stuffed back into the frame and the bike was now starting to take shape. The modified swingarm and a set of short shocks lowered the bike nicely, and with the sprung solo seat mounted and the drag bars bolted on the springer front end, the bike fit Dennis perfectly. After Roger made a set of exhaust pipes and modified the forward control mounts so Dennis could wrap his right leg around the breather, the job was coming to an end.

Dennis’s new ride is quite a change from the original tall, top-heavy Iron Head, which sported drum brakes front and back. After 30 years of ownership and a regular rider for most of those years, this little Sporty doesn’t owe Dennis anything, especially when you consider cash from scrap steel funded it.


Owner:Dennis Luison
Model1977 Sportster
BuilderRoger Rossato
Time To Build18 months
Displacement1000 cc
Lower EndHarley-Davidson
CarburetorS&S Super B
Air CleanerSpike
ModificationsCustom swingarm
Front End
BuilderDNA Springer
Modifications 2-inch under
PaintingBlack Cherry
Builder/Manufacturer60-spoke billet hubs, Ultima rims
Tire Make And SizeDunlop 21 × 3.5
Builder/Manufacturer60-spoke billet hubs, Ultima rims
Tire Make And SizeDunlop   18 × 8.5
People To MentionRoger Rossato, El Diablo Choppers, Painting by cousin Larry Pellizzari


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