As we all know, a bone stock Harley-Davidson is never intended to stay that way. Michael Hatton’s Forty Eight Sportster is an excellent example of how you can put your own individual twist on a project and produce something that you’re truly proud of.

Throughout his process he made big decisions that completely changed the styling of the bike, finally resulting in a raw, aggressive looking ride that embodies precisely what a ‘street brawler’ is all about.

Read Michael’s story & view his images below:

“I guess there will always be that pull towards Harley-Davidson’s. Love them or hate them they have a personality. I think that personality, along with the history and tradition, will always make kids yell out in excitement. It’s the kind of motorbike that wherever you go for a ride you’ll end up talking with someone or hearing a story of some old WL or FXR or Dyna they had growing up. I’ve never been a big fan of chrome bling and tassles, chaps and bandanas. I think Sportsters are such a fun platform to customize because there are decades of builds you can look back on and draw from for inspiration. The Forty-Eight really embodies the factory custom look lots of people like. Slammed speedo. Huge cat-squasher front tire. Inverted mirrors and cat-squasher front tire. For a lot of guys this bike is great right off the lot, but after I tore into my first and second bikes I knew that nothing on the Sporty was going to stay stock for long.

harley-davidson Forty Eight sportster

This was the first bike I ever dove deep into, messing around the electrics and modifying the frame. Granted it was more along the lines of unplugging harnesses and hardware and then grinding down the frame rails which is basically something any pro builder can do in their sleep. There was a little bit of trepidation for sure. For most of the summer I got to work in a large motorcycle shop so I had a lift and some tools to work with. I made notches where I wanted to cut and let the sparks fly. I drilled holes for the turn signal bolts and by chance everything wired back up and stayed lit.

In the above photo you can see the flipped/upside down bars, SikPipe Straight Shots, DK Outlaw air cleaner and Chainsickle rear sets have been installed. Amazing what two friends and a case of beer can accomplish in a night.

Shot of the flipped bars and stupid front signals still on.

Now it had a great bobbed look I was going for but it was still a little too plain. Loud is one thing but if it doesn’t look good then people won’t look twice. I wanted something that would make people stop on the street and look at . I had a friend of mine stitch and old tablecloth to cover up the orange alligator leather. I have an appreciation for drift cars. Not shitty Civic’s with wings and wheels that cost more than the car, but guys who spend the time tweaking engine tunes and suspension set-ups for days in their garage. Something that looks stock but can kick the ass of a GT500 while going sideways. Some of the guys in Japan have started stickerbombing their cargo racks, bumpers and even wheels. I thought it looks great and had amassed quite a collection myself so one day I got started.

Side shot of some of stickers and righteous Biltwell grips (Left).  Parked with a buddies  Triumph Bonneville bobber (Right).


Times change and things start to get really crazy. I’m loving what the guys over in Japan are doing with their Sportsters and decide to drastically change things up. Tank comes off, as do the bars, and the forks get dropped. I source a lot of things from generous friends or work to keep the cost down and get to work in my new garage space.

Russell Mitchells’ bikes from Exile Cycles on Biker Build Off back in the day have a soft spot in my heart. His chunky/clean builds are such a fascination paradox. His trademark nickel and brushed aluminum was something I wanted to try my hand at, so I took some scotch-brite and hit a few chrome parts like the headlight bezel and gas cap. As long as you follow the same direction it turns out really well. The longer you work at it the better it turns out. Flipped the headlight mount as well so now it’s tucked nice and close to the headstock. Stripped the gas tank of the stickers and the paint and proceeded to scotch-brite it as well. Next few shots are of the bike nearing completion.

People who know me expect some wackiness, so I made a seat pan out of a skateboard with some help. I think it really makes an awesome visual piece for the bike.

My two girls. As of writing this the streets have about 3 inches of snow on them and it’s -17 C outside so our riding season is effectively done but that just gives me some more time to clean it up and then we’ll see what spring brings.

I know it’s not the prettiest bike, its raw as hell and a loud bitch, but hopefully I can inspire some of you out there to go all out. Don’t be afraid to really put your personality in it. Make something you love to ride and turn heads.

Thanks for reading guys, keep it pinned.”

Check out more photo’s of Michael’s project on his instagram, or let us know what you think in the comments below.

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