Saturday, December 5, 2009

Do you know this Man?

His name is Ben Hardy. Do you recognize his face? Or maybe his name rings a bell. No? You've never seen his countenance. Or heard his name before. How can this be? He should be considered a National Treasure. And yet he is almost completely unknown. He is an artist of epic proportions. Maybe another picture will give you a clue.

Here is Mr. Hardy on a vintage Harley Davidson. An ElectraGlide to be exact. The model year is unknown to me. But is in full-dress. And most certainly predates the AMF takeover of the HD Motor Company in the early 70s. Still no ideas? OKAY. He's a man who owned a Harley back in the day!!!??? True dat. But wait. There's more.

Here is a picture of the business he owned. HARDY'S MOTORCYCLE SERVICE. It was located at 1168 East Florence Avenue, Los Angeles, California. The building still exists. But Mr. Hardy's Bike shop has been gone for who knows how long?
So let's investigate the facts we know so far.
1. We have a man.
2. We have a man who rides a Big twin Harley.
3. We have a man who owns a motorcycle repair shop in California.
Lets assume some facts from the evidence I've given you so far and the historic events surrounding them. All of the picture were made before 1969, When AMF took over Harley. In the early to mid 1960s America's motor company was in trouble. Much faster bikes were part of the British invasion that most people remember as the advent of "THE BEATLES" and "THE ROLLING STONES." Not only were the radio waves filled with mop-top music. But the highways were filling up with TRIUMPH, BSA and NORTON motorbikes. The faster Brit bikes were easily out running the HOGS, in sales-rooms and on drag strips.
But most Harley riders were extremely loyal and dedicated owners. And rather than abandon ship, they began to customize their bikes in ways that would make them more competitive with the Brits. The thrust to weight ratio needed to be improved. The easiest way to accomplish this was to remove, or "CHOP" off all the things on a bike that weren't needed to go fast. Things like front and rear fenders, could go. The turn signals, gone. The clunky front drum brakes, gone. The mirrors and the big, heavy, spring loaded seats, gone. And mufflers, gone to the scrap pile. A minor alteration to the front frame geometry, with an extended front fork, and the bike would bounce and soften the blow to the rider, that occurred from changing out the seat.
Quite naturally this cultural revolution began in 1960s California. And the American Chopper was born.
So we can assume Mr. Hardy was a custom bike builder, from the mid 1960s. You say you don't know any Chopper builders by name. How about Billy Zane, Indian Larry, Arlen Ness, or this TV persona, Paul Teutul Sr?

You would have had to spend a significant amount of time locked away to not have heard any of those names. Especially Mr. Teutul, of Discovery Channel's Orange County Choppers fame. But  to have heard of Ben Hardy, you'd be an extremely rare connoisseur of motorcycle trivia. But to never have seen his art creation, you would have had to die before 1969, or have been from another galaxy.
Mister Hardy took two old 1949 police motor cycles, purchased at auction for $500.00. And turned them into an icon for a generation. In fact his art work is one of the world's most recognized items. More famous than anything done by Peter Max. Or the Campbells Tomato Soup Can painted by Andy Worhol.
The1949 Harley Davidson Hydraglide looked like this before Mr. Hardy worked his majic on them:

Classic lines and a Panhead engine that many restorers try to achieve. You couldn't get near one of these today, in  this condition for less than $30,000.00. Yet in 1968, California police departments were dumping them for what a decent leather jacket goes for today.Yet when finished with his inspiration, the creations Mr. Hardy released, is now priceless.

This is one of the two motorcycles, or more correctly called CHOPPERS that Benl Hardy made.
The original "Captain America" Bike.

And this is the other. The BILLY BIKE." These bikes appeared in the seminal motion picture "EASY RIDER." And mounted by Peter Fonda an Dennis Hopper, they thundered into the hearts and minds of youths in search of real AMERICAN FREEDOM. Bolstered by an eclectic sound track of the era's most Avant Garde, music, Topped off by Steppenwolf's Anthem of the 60s "Born To Be Wild", a  new generation took the stage. Often copied, but never duplicated, Ben Hardy started a quest for freedom in our youth that still exists to this day.
And now you know the best of the story.



Very interesting post. I enjoyed that.

I have photos of my granddad from the 1930's on a Brough motorbike[favoured by Lawrence of Arabia whom granddad used to bump into when getting parts].

I shall have to find it for you, if you'd like an old vintage motorbike photo from Britain, KW.

Gillian said...

Enjoyed this post...

Blasé said...

Are you sure he's not Louis Gossett Jr's Father??

Edie said...

Okay I don't know any of the names so I must have been locked up somewhere. But I do appreciate the "artwork". Especially that first creation.


Just telling it like it is said...

Nice guns and baller tires!

Anonymous said...

I read what you wrote at Ubermouths and I have one thing to say. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!

Kitty said...

wow! I just sold my Harley to support my artwork. I love learning where things come from or how people influence our lives.

Dutch donut girl said...

Great story!