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Kendall Kustoms ’52 Triumph Thunderbird

Posted on October 26, 2011 by Andrew in Bobber, Classic. 28 comments

Girder your loins – Kendall’s Triumph uses a ’38 Ford axel as a backbone

Me, I’m a guy who likes to plan. I like to draw and concept. I like colour swatches and mood boards and paint samples. I like to give myself plenty of time to tweak and stare and think. I like Photoshop because I can try hundreds of different ideas in a short period of time and choose the one I like the best. I like symmetry and geometry and precise measurements. I do things “just in case”. I budget and I scheme and I think and I think and I think. And after all that I still find that the end result of my toilings can often times be just as average as the next guy. That’s why I’m totally envious of guys like Kendall Lutchman – guys who can grab a bunch of old hotrod spares, junk tanks, scrap steel and only the most fleeting of plans in his obviously sharp mind and build a last-minute bike that cleans up at two bike shows in two days. Just goes to show – the gut beats the head every time.

Kendall rides the lightning thunder

Here’s Kendall. “I never knew I was going to be building bikes for a living, but here I am. It started when I was 6 years old, I received my first model car and loved it. I have built models all my life, and still do. When I was about 10 my older brothers were always in the garage, building hot rods with their friends. I would be building and painting bicycles next to them, trying to fit in any chance I got. I was always drawing and when I was about 13 I picked up my first pinstriping brush and loved it. By then everything in the house was pinstriped, Mom did not like that too much. At 16, I got my first car it was a 1962 Chevy Impala, which was given to me by my dad and brother. I wanted a motorbike but wasn’t allowed to get one because my Mom did not like motorcycles. So I stuck to cars, and after high school I got a job at a restoration shop and worked there for 2 years restoring old muscle cars. After leaving there, I bounced around to a couple different body shops. When I was about 20 years old, I found myself working at a top notch restoration shop painting high end cars like 356 Porches, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Rolls Royces. I got tired of working for the man and started working from home, for myself.”

Loving the way the tank hangs below the frame

“Fast forward now 8 years later, I finally bought my first bike. Having built many bikes for friends and customers and decided it was time to build a bike the way I wanted. I bought the Triumph 2 years ago in Daytona. I started it in January of 2010. At first, I wasn’t sure what style I wanted to go with. Looking back, I always loved the boardtrack-style bike. I was fascinated at how these men were racing bikes without any brakes around a board track. So I told myself that’s it, I was going to build a boardtrack triumph, a bare stripped down scoot. So everything on the bike was all hand formed and made in-house. On a budget for this build, not wanting to spend a whole lot but still wanting to make it nice, I made the frame with left over parts from hotrods. The backbone is from a ’38 Ford front axel and the down tube is a ’31 Model A.


“The tank had been used
as an ashtray in my buddy’s shop”


The whole bike was metal finished, that way I would have less work when I painted it. I made the foot controls and license plate bracket from scrap steel. The seat is from a Brooks B ’72 Raleigh bicycle, I used ’36 knuckle buddy seat springs and wanted to hide them behind the transmission, so the seat looks stationary but is actually fully functional. Pipes were made from bends from take off, the tank is an original Wassel, made in England. The tank had been used as an ashtray in my buddy’s shop. Rear fender came from Pat at Led Sled Customs. The wheels are from Warren Jr. at Jr. Cycle Products, headlight is a Bates, handlebars are stainless steel, clutch and internal throttle from Cook Customs.”

Come to think of it, that tank DOES look very butt-worthy

“I did not have paint on this thing ’till Friday March 4 and was trying to make it to Daytona by Monday. So a couple of friends came over and helped out so Saturday I built the motor then finished up Sunday night, went to bed and left Monday for Daytona. I have ’till Thursday for the Willies show, that’s all I wanted to to do for so many years was build my bike and ride it to Willies old-school chopper show. Well with the help of all my friends I got it done around 6 o’clock in the morning and rode it to willies at 1:30 in the evening. After all the headaches and cuts and no sleep, plus trying to keep the girlfriend happy, it was awards time and they call my name for best British. I was so fucking happy that I did it I finally accomplished something for myself. I was honored, so the next day I took it to the Limpnickie lot show and not excpecting to win, well I did it again! I won best Euro, thinking it was over 5 minutes later I hear my name for best of show. Really? Best of show! So after a week, and a lot of fun I would have to say that 2011 Daytona bike week was the best time in my life. I have to thank Warren Heir Jr., his dad Senior, Jaymo, Matty, Mike, Kyle, James and my girlfriend Liz, and everyone else who got me there on my bike – thanks again.”

I think there’s a lesson in this build for all of us. Sometimes over-thinking things is the worst move you can make. It’ll often lead to internal conflict and needless complications in what should be a really simple process. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule – and there’s always moments in life where you definitely shouldn’t listen to your gut. Just ask Charlie Sheen – and your mate with the Thai ladyboy as his new, surprise girlfriend.

  • Clean bike, but that exhaust has gotta make your right leg smelly.

  • That is crankin’. The paint, the grips, the levers. 😮

  • revdub

    I really like the recycled aspect of this build. Seems that he used a lot of interesting parts. The seat setup is pretty cool too. Nice build!

  • Anton

    I love the bike, and a closer look shows the tips on tje pipe point the exhaust away, but it doesnt look right with the rider sitting on it. It looks awkward. Maybe a slower seat? Idk it bugs me.
    Gorgeous bike though just looking at the photos of it.

  • Paul Heller

    There are some really cool details in this build. The tank and seat brackets looks great. The bicycle-esque seat post looks rad. The skinny and tall wheels look legit board tracker.

    But no matter how much I like those details, the axle-over-tank frame just isn’t doing it for me. The tank is the skin of the bike, the engine is the heart, despite their mechanical nature I can’t seem to see a motorcycle with an exoskeleton. 

  • Manox432

    Is that a brooks seat? I run those on my bicycles, looks fucking insane. Love it

  • Bigmattie

    Boardtrack baby, hell yeah. Question – does it weigh a ton with that meaty frame or is about the same as a tubing job?

  • matt muellner

    Cool bike, interesting design.  I’m curious how strong the frame is, longitudinally & how the seat would be for more than a mile or two (especially with the foot position).  

  • The Gas Tank looks just like an Indian Larry gas tank!

  • Kendallkustoms

    Thanks guys … The frame is very strong I trust my welds and its not that heavy the seat actually a pogo there is springs are behind the trans the tank ia real wassel that I hand dished with a ball pein hammer thanks again for all the props but remember there is prob alot of things that you can do different but I did build it for me so thanks again…Kendall

  • GuitarSlinger

    Well first off , you certainly do track down some incredible customs . I’m loving this Triumph !

    Second , from your comments about yourself , as a composer/musician myself  w/multiple International awards who also teaches , I’m getting the feeling you may be suffering from a common creativity syndrome I call ” Letting your Head get in the way of your Hands ” 

    The point being , yes I strictly advocate doing ‘ the work ‘ to get your Craft down , but when doing rather than ‘ practicing ‘ you need to let the instincts you’ve gained take over ( for the most part while  still allowing the Craft to determine the finished product ) 

    Couple of books I’d very highly recommend that might help 

    ” Free Play ” by Stephen Nachmanovitch 
    ( some of the New Agey stuff gets annoying , but the book overall is well  worth the  slog thru the occasional  New Age fluff )

    ” Art & Fear ” by David Bayles & Ted Orland 

    Both books deal with creativity in general and the Blocks or minds can create , rather than M/C’s 

    Neither book can ‘ Make ‘ you talented , but if the talent is there these two books will help you release it . 

  • Anon

    No front brake, no helmet, no wonder your mum didn’t like the thought of you on bikes.

  • JD

    love the bike! Always refreshing to see something different. Also love the fact that you used what you had lying around and pieced together something that cool. That’s ingenuity, and what gives this bike far more soul than a cheque book build!

  • diesel450

    No front brake?! There’s no rear brake that I can see. This is a beautiful piece of art, It really is beautiful, but if you can’t ride it what a waste of a great vintage motor. 

    • Kendallkustoms

      i do have rear brakes and i build my bikes to ride not look pretty sitting on a shelf or showroom thanks

  • NoNoNo

    It’s obvious a lot of skilled custom work went into this bike and I can appreciate that, but no brakes and an incredibly awkward looking riding position? What’s the point?

    • revdub

      Awkward riding position? It looks totally comfortable to me. Are you 80?

  • bum

    nice looking bike,amazing detail,  but wow he looks lame riding it

  • Davidabl2

    An “Art Bike.”  For better or  for worse.

  • Blackfriday134

    Thats not a real motorbike.

    • Kendallkustoms

      its as real as it gets because i ride it all the time 

  • JasonB

    Might want to keep those untied shoe laces and flapping pants cuffs out of the primary chain, tough guy!

  • Steve

    nice,to bad it not a street bike.

    • In our books, if the guy who made it says he rides it all the time, then it’s a “real” and/or “street” bike. End of story. Why would you think otherwise?

  • David_gustavsson

    Hat’s off to Kendall! Wonderful bike! 
    And to all you who says it’s not a street bike: this thing is obviously more agile than your average Harley chopper. If you knew the first things about riding ergonomics and steering geometry you’d see this is the case, and you only need front brakes if you’re speeding 🙂 Old Triumph rear brakes are actually pretty good..

  • Christoffer Martensson

    It would be nice to some moodboard also, some history of the pre-build!

  • Rho10028

    I hate it you wasted a good motor that should have been in its original frame & restored to its former glory.Im not anti custom but please use a more readily available motor & leave the classic engines for those of us who would do right by them