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DP Customs 1979 Harley Cafe Racer

Posted on March 16, 2011 by Scott in Café Racer. 27 comments

My father once told me never to go into business with family, but it looks as if he may have been wrong. DP Customs is a Harley custom shop based in New River, Arizona that’s owned and operated by the Del Prado brothers. They earned their 15 minutes of fame recently after building a damn nice Gulf Oil Harley — but here’s a bike they finished before the Gulf that, in our humble opinion, has got an edge over its more famous sibling.

Based on a 1979 Harley Ironhead, it was transformed into what you see here for a paltry US$6000. Talk about bang for your buck. With the exception of the Benelli tank, all the custom parts were hand made by the brothers in steel and finished in a raw burnish that screams bad-to-the-bone. But that’s not to say it’s been done in a rush; just check the attention to detail and build quality. Need we mention that exhaust? And the rear cowl? And the oil tank? I thought not…

According to the bro’s, the bike pulls like a drag tractor and is loud enough to kill old ladies at 150 paces. It also handles well (which would make a nice change from your average 70s Harley), is comfortable, and pulls a crowd where ever it drops it’s side stand. No surprises then that they didn’t exactly get a lot of time to enjoy their sweet, silver creation before someone made them an offer that they couldn’t refuse. And who could blame him?

[Photography by Jed Strahm]

  • I'm trying to figure out what it is that I don't like about this bike….must be the thought of an electric starter on a "Cafe-Racer". Nicely done, but the kickstart XLCH motor would have been a better choice for the theme. Having owned 3 such XLCH models with 12:1 CR, I can attest that it makes starting a much more interesting endeavor. Guess all the new breed of rider have bad knees or overly strong thumbs from texting! Lol.

    • Samuel Avocado

      You can’t go around telling everyone how important you are. That’s for others to say about you. I won’t even look at your site. Even if I liked your work, I would never do business with you.

  • Flawless bike, love that bare-metal look, almost looks like something Shinya Kimura would build. The rear sprocket looks a little big, is that because they modified it from a belt drive?

  • SportsterMike

    Love the look of the twin pipes – takes your eyes away from the cut subframe which is where most people would put the indicators (like me) which would then get melted by the exhausts…
    Would love to see a version of this on the rubbermount frame with the electric start engine!! Yes, my knees ache in the cold winter mornings these days.. and I've seen a guy come fllying right off a kickstart XLCH years back
    So leccy start and 5 gallon Manx style tank for me so I can just keep riding..

  • @James McBride The early Sportster 883 "Iron Head" motor never came with belt drive.

    @SprotsterMike…yeah, my right knee ache a little more than necessary from a kickback or two from my modded motors. I'm just pointing out (as often as I can) that a cafe racer is a certain build. Born of the '60's Brit movement to take a street bike and then build as closely as possible a legal street bike that emulated the pro-track racers (Isle of Le Man TT, etc). Those builds start by removing every last pc of unnecessary weight and bulk, not adding on comfort features. The extra 42 pounds of the starter, battery, regulator and even the slight 1 1/2 lbs of the associated wiring harness would have to go. Really purist cafe racer builders opted to shave the frames of unnecessary lugs, the kickstand and opted for a bump-start machine. I'd rather not ride a whored-up version than have the it sitting in the garage to poke fun at me every time I pushed the starter button.

  • Pop a Wheelie Burn Out

    Back in the day, when the name "cafe racer" was given upon the community of riders, they themselves never would have told someone that their bike isn't "cafe" worthy because it still had riser bars, or didn't have rear sets. They didn't care. As long as you were attempting to make it into something that no one else was and making sure it was more race worthy than when they bought it is all that mattered. People think that just because something was generally done in the past and the label was put on them for doing it that way, that if we don't repeat it exactly how it was from that period that it no longer qualifies. I don't think people back in the day gave a shit and I don't know why everyone now a days do. It seems to be a normal occurrence I see on the web of everyone being "politically" correct on what a "cafe" should be or a "bobber" should be. Who gives a shit. I would be ashamed to think that the next time I go and build something for my bike that I would have to stop and think, "oh no, is this 'cafe' enough to be correct". I think the ones that sit here and talk about what makes a bike politically correct or not are the ones who are the posers and are more in it for the image. Those of us who build shit the way we want and get out and ride and don't label ourselves are the ones who get it. We are the ones that still remember the root of what all motorcycling and building is about. I am sick of the bitching and complaining. Have fun waisting your time being so accurate, while you are doing that, I am going to go ride my cafe racer, rigid, bobber, flobber, moon racer, whatever you want to call it.

  • @Pop a Wheelie Burn Out

    Got to disagree with you 100 percent.

    A) "back in the day" when I and my buddies were building these bikes, because they were the only real alternative to the Easy Rider chopper scene, we most certainly did correct our riding compadres if they were to put something like riser bars on a bike and call it a cafe racer. Just like today I'd tell any isiot that putting a trailer hitch on a Mustang doesn't make it a pickup truck. WE did care, and WE still do.

    And if today, someone wants to make a new genre of ride, great, so be it, whether Street Fighter or Pro Street.

    But that doesn't change the original and true mold.

    Who gives a shit?? Well, for one, anybody that doesn't want to look like an idiot by calling their nice, well built ride something that it isn't. No pride in calling a XR250 a street bike or a Dyna an Urban Racer.

    And you misuse the term "politically correct" just as quickly as you mislabel bike models. Politically correct is the term used to describe people that don't want to dwell on specifics, but prefer to lump everything together so it is all morphed into nonsense. No black or white, no red or blue, just meaningless gray babble without context.

    No if you think that I am a "poser" and you are a builder, then drop on by my website, ( then make an appointment to drop in and have a face to face and go over the bikes I own and build.

    What you should hate is the lack of appreciation for what a well done version of a particular bike is to the owner. That is, if you understand having pride in what you have instead of pretending it is something else. Or just not knowing the difference. Whatever it is that you actually are riding, wouldn't you rather have it properly appreciated for the virtues, style and meaning of that class of bike?

    If you lose the appreciation and definition of a thing, any thing, then it no longer matters what you call it, and there's no pride in owning it. So if you spend the $$ for a 'Busa, do you want to call it a cruiser? Or spend mega $$ for a chromed out H-D have some punk-ass call it a bobber? Don't think so.

    I love every bike I've ever seem, including the recently paged gaudy excess of german de-evolution on these pages. Part of that appreciation comes from knowing what I'm looking at and not calling it Jessica Alba when it's really Rosanne Barr.

  • Ya, and forgive the typos, I tend to get hurried when I'm pissed.

  • unitedguitar


    Now that I have said that. According to Always on Two, and I'm not saying one way or another whether he is right or wrong, if I have the "cafe" bum stop seat, the "cafe" handlebars, and have removed some unnecessary metal my bike is a cafe racer. Well then couldn't anything be a cafe racer? I can put clubmans or clip ons on any bike as well as a bum stop style seat and cut off a bracket here or there and bam i have turned a Virago into a cafe bike.

    I agree with you Always on Two that there is a "traditional style" to building cafe racers and I personally like that style. However, don't think for a second that the first cafe bikes out there had clubmans or clip ons and a bum stop on them. Those were things that were developed over time. The first guys out there building cafe racers weren't all wealthy and could just go out and buy any parts they wanted. The idea was to shave some weight so that your bike would be lighter and faster. Then after they got going so fast the started having some problems and a few guys would start sliding off the back. In came the bum stop. This is a pretty self explanatory device as it stopped your bum from sliding off the seat.

    So in reality, while there is a "traditional style" there are variations on the theme. Please try to correct me and tell me how stupid I am now. Have a nice day.

  • Pop a Wheelie Burn Out

    @Always On Two

    I figured you would disagree with me 100 percent as I assume others will. I understand the drastic examples you were giving when you say someone calling a Busa a cruiser or a Harley bagger a bobber. That would be ridiculous for sure. That is not the point I am trying to make. The point is, the Harley posted above has all the essence of what one would consider a cafe bike. If it rode past you, you would say, "that is a sweet cafe bike." But now that you have a closer look at it, you are saying it's not a cafe bike because it has a battery and an electric start. I think it's ridiculous for someone to check it off their list of not being a cafe bike because of those small things. I know those objects you are talking about are heavy and back in the day those parts were taken off to conserve weight. But what if the person who built this bike instead needed those on there for his own personal comfort to what fits their liking and instead built up the motor stronger and faster to make up for the extra weight. It's like saying just because a fat person sits on a cafe bike that it no longer is a cafe bike because the person added all that extra weight. So that's when my comment, "who gives a shit" comes into play. I equally get frustrated when some bloke put's a craigslist post of a CB750 with clubmans and calls it a cafe racer. I just don't think you can say this Harley isn't a cafe racer. Maybe not by definition in the 50's and 60's but it has all the essence of what any cafe racer would have done back in the day. Stronger brakes in the front, high rise pipes for ground clearance, bump seat and cut frame, and low bars. If this isn't a cafe bike, I wouldn't know what is. I am sorry if it sounded like I called you a poser. I was more trying to speak in general because I have been reading a lot of comments people post on Pipeburn and it just reached a point where I felt the need to say something. Your comment triggered the need for me to say something that i hoped more would read into. I see that you have the credibility in the motorcycle world to stand by your beliefs and I respect that. In fact, if we were having this conversation in person, it wouldn't be as hostile as I made it out to be when I wrote you. We can agree to disagree but I too think I have made a valid point that I will always stick to. I checked out your website, but didn't see anything on any bikes you have built. Be interested in seeing what you have built. Sorry if you felt personally attacked, I just felt like the comment you left needed to be addressed. All in all, no matter who rides what or calls it what, they are a fellow rider that I will always wave to and would be honored for any of them to ride by my side.

  • @ united guitar

    You're not an idiot, but you are on the right track. Yeah, the first bikes, as I said we were building, were done on some pretty short shoestrings. Removing some of the bulk is a start, but on a cafe racer, emphasis racer, everything needs to go that doesn't make it go.

    And not to nitpick, but to explain, cafe racers didn't have dual disks up front, because they're were no such things as front disks at the time.

    But certainly there would never be an electric starter on a cafe RACER.

    And you'd be really surprised at how difficult it is to chop a rear subframe, mount a bum stop seat and keep the assend of the bike stable. IT's not a buy it and fit it deal, you need to know something more than just how to butt-weld tractor steel.

    But there is one thing at which you are totally wrong. The seat on cafe racers didn't evolve because of excess Hp. In the first place, bikes of that era were far and few between that could even "pull the ton", let alone rip you out of the saddle with gearing so tall as to stretch the engine. It was the road course style of seat that kept the rider in one riding position (tucked) whether on the straights or draggin the corners as well as could be done back then and still kept his nuts off the rear tire. Neck jerking performance had nothing to do with it from day one.

    Now as to variations on a theme?? Yep, and they deserve a proper name to set them apart. In this featured example of an XLH (electric start, low compression, 4 gallon hiway tank, larger primary gear, shorter duration cam versus the EXCH kickstart, 10.5 cr, beefer cam, 2.5 gal sporty tank, 1 tooth shorter primary chain gear) my preference would be to call it an Urban Racer…. a bit to soft for real ultimate performance of the old 883 engine, but in the style of a cafe. Or if I wanted to be nasty, call it a Metro Racer, like a metro-sexual male who goes to the gym every day but would bust a nut if he had to go into the woods and chop lumber with a farm boy all day.

    But the bottom line is that a Cafe Racer is not just a little of this and a little of that. It is the extreme lightweight conversion of an early 60's or 70's factory bike to come as close as possible to the road racing counter parts of the same era.

    Everything else is something else. So call it something else.

  • unitedguitar

    I have a question for always on two and pop a wheelie burn out. You guys keep saying "we" when you talk about the beginning of cafe racers and I was wondering how old are the two of you? Since your posts claim that you were there you'd have to be at least in your 60's to have been old enough to have been around when cafe racers were just getting started. And I assume this means you both lived in London during the 50's and 60's to have witnessed the birth of the phenomenon.

  • @unitedguitar

    I have no qualms about disclosing that I am now exactly 60 y/o. I own several bikes including a nitrous fed V-Max, so think carefully before considering me too old and unfit to ride beside anyone at any speed. In 1962-1968 I was living, by the accident of my father being in the US Army, in a really crappy outskirt of London. Having a bike wasn't a luxury toy, it was the way I could get into town (illegally, didn't have a driver's lic) and earn a few dollars to help buy groceries after attending school.

    When we returned to the USA dad was stationed at Fort Ord, CA, and we lived in Salinas. Halfway between the two is Laguna Seca Raceway and Salinas was the home town of the Winter National Drags and the premier motorcycle club of the day, the Salinas Ramblers. I built my own bikes and entered every "grudge race", what evolved into bracket racing, and I raced flat track at the Salinas Fairgrounds with a little sponsorship help from Warren's Harley Davidson which amounted to some free time in their shop to use tools I didn't have and every once in a while a few nice parts would show up. Got on Laguna Seca once with nothing better than a bent bike to show for it, but at least I was on the track.

    Began building bikes for others around '66 when we were still in GB, I just got good at it from the necessity of having to fix my own. It wasn't a business, it was just doin it with and for guys like me with more envy than bucks. My painting skills took some time to develop so my best work was sprayed by the now famous Rod Powell. Pretty damn young to be a builder, and some of it wasn't very pretty back then.

    Started building bikes for cash around the summer of '78. Won placed and showed at different times at the Oakland Coliseum. Then,,,,Ahhh, but you didn't want the whole history, you just want the age… I said…60.

  • @Pop A Wheelie Burn Out

    You didn't offend me personally, just pushed the wrong buttons. After all it's not one of my bikes being featured.

    But if it was my bike, I'd call it an Urban Racer, to bring specific attention to everything this bike has that a Cafe Racer does not. I'd have the balls to say that it not only isn't a Cafe Racer, it's a cut above in components and features. I'd have the guts to say it's inspired by the Cafe Racer, but far superior in everyday use. Electric starter and all.

    And if someone asked me what the hell an Urban Racer was, I'd tell them "this is the first", do you want me to build you one?

    Hey, I'm done for the day…see ya.

  • RocketRobinHood

    @alwaysontwo: You make me fuckin tired. You get invited to parties much?

  • lance houston

    The guys at D P come up with creative ideas to apply to proven styles, and the fabrication skills to
    execute them. Nicely Done

  • Andrew

    Keep it friendly, thanks guys.

  • unitedguitar

    Always on two…I in no way meant to imply that you were too old to ride any kind of bike or motor vehicle for that matter. If I made it seem that way I apologize. I just wanted to make sure that you were legit. There are so many people out there that pretend to be something that they aren't. However I think that you have formed some well crafted thoughts and that you definitely know what you believe when it comes to motorcycles. I applaud you on that. I also like the therm you have given to the every day bikes that look like the traditional cafe style. Urban Racer is a pretty cool name for a segment of bikes and honestly probably fits what I ride better than a cafe racer.

    Having the stories to go with the age is awesome too. Maybe part of the problem with "young" people these days is that they don't listen to the stories that the wise folk have to offer. That being said, I am 23 years old and have no problem admitting that I know very little in the grand scheme of things. What I do know is that I built my bike the way I like it and I don't care what anyone else calls it, I call it mine.

  • Pop a Wheelie Burn Out

    @ unitedguitar
    the only time I said "we" was right after I made the comment, "those of us who build shit the way we want and get out and ride…" I used the word "we" to describe the group of people that build and just ride. If I made myself sound like I lived back in that time or in london that wasn't my intentions. Unfortunately, my knowledge of cafe racers is only what I have read, researched, and gathered from talking to those much older than me. I don't want to try and sound like I am more educated on the subject at all. I was just trying to defend this bike posted here and how it has the name "cafe racer" in it.

    You made some really good points and I think you put everyone in their place once you said that you are from London and have lived through it. Once you went further into explaining how basically the word "racer" was the only part that seemed to not work with you, it totally made sense. I think Urban Racer would fit, but I think you are right when you say "racer" is not what this bike is. I am use to people calling a bike that resembles a cafe racer as calling it a cafe bike. Because it has the essence of a cafe racer. That is what I always called mine. Cafe bikes. You do have to earn the "racer" part of the word and I think calling a bike a cafe bike and a cafe racer are similar but different at the same time. I think that has changed in the recent years though as cafe bikes got more and more popular, especially with bike companies making their modern classics. I understand the need to protect the terminology of classic motorcycles and cafe racers. The name has been butchered in the recent years, especially on Craigslist. I can end by saying this bike isn't a cafe racer, but more of an urban cafe.

  • tiny G

    Blah blah blah!! BIke looks great! All that matters

  • paddy

    Too heavy. Motor sucks and blows! Not a cafe but looks great. I dunno. It's a hybrid. Love the pipes, tank and seat and other stuff.
    But really, a Harley crank? No.

  • paddy

    forgot to mention that a Hardly Donothing motor can NEVER be a cafe motor. Unless you like Massey Ferguson cafe racers, of which there are none.

  • Jay Allen

    Thx Always on Two for some great reading material. Thx Tiny G for hitting the nail on the head. All those that continue to look down on the American V-twins due to not meeting your level of performance should try "getting down on the paint" of an Enfield just to see how much fun you can have without it all being horsepower related.

  • gr8scotny

    ENOUGH ALREADY. I give props to ANYONE who can customize a bike. If I build up my two Honda CB360's and it's popular to do so at the moment, am I a poseur even though I have seriously loved them since I was 10 years old? (40 now) I am sick of all the stupid back and forth every time someone builds a "cafe" racer. You know what a "real" cafe racer is? A bike you would ride between the cafes in England during the SIXTIES. If your bike can do that then it is a TRUE cafe bike. ANYTHING ELSE IS A POSEUR COPY!! I will build my bike and I will enjoy it despite what others may say. Thank you for listening and keep on building!!

  • HJ

    You can tell its a great bike when people argue over it!
    Great job, who cares what the label ?! Sounds like judging by old farts at Pebble Beach.
    You have to call it something, how about Vanessa- she's a stripper with all the right stuff too.

  • Ehj1957

    Cafe Racer was the person, not the bike and they raced from cafe to cafe…GreatGranPa