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1996 Sportster XLH – ‘1944’

Posted on October 15, 2012 by Andrew in Bobber. 34 comments

Life is the biggest lottery of them all. And it seems like Dan Kocka from Chicago won the jackpot in the ‘Cool Dad’ lottery. “I grew up around hot rods and rock ‘n roll thanks to my dad who always owned bad ass muscle cars” says Dan. “Dad owned a few bikes as well – an old BSA chopper that was pretty cool.” Dan taught himself to ride at a very young age, but was never that interested in building or tinkering on his motorcycles. Until recently, when he was given a solid insurance claim for his hail damaged car. Instead of replacing the car, Dan decided to do something sensible – for the first time in his life – and save the money. That was the plan until he came across a rolling chassis and a ’96 Sporty motor on Ebay. “I’ve been an electrician for 5 years now so I have a decent sense of how things work, but motors are something I’ve always wanted to learn” he says. So Dan threw himself into his first motorcycle project – and what a project it was.

“So I ended up buying the rolling chassis and a ’96 Sporty motor on Ebay” says Dan. “I knew that anything I started I was going to finish. Over the course of a year or so, in my buddy’s garage I chopped and modified and pieced together the parts I had or the parts I wanted. I knew generally how I wanted it to look and sound. Last spring, Chicago had a couple of hot humid days while I was out of town and my brother called me up and said he had some bad news, that the humidity rusted all the parts we had stripped. I said fuck it, it probably looks better now. I never touched the metal since then, only embraced the sinister look, and decided to add to the darkness. I’ve decided to call it the 1944, because it sort of looks like it’s that old, but mainly in memory of my dad, who was born in that year, and if he was still alive today would probably think it’s a pretty rad bike.”

Dan tells us the bike runs as means as it looks. He rebuilt the top end with Buell parts. The handlebars are stock off his other ’87 sportster with a moto crossbar which Dan welded on. The clutch lever is an ASV moto clutch he machined to fit 1″ bars. “The brakes are all brembo which I have to thank Detroit Bros for making a bracket that houses Brembo calipers” he says. Both rims are painted 3×16’s with MT90-16 Shinko vintage tires. The seat is by Mother Road Customs out of Montana. The fender is a chopped stock sportster fender. The headlight is a Hella fog light off Dans brothers old truck and the tail light is just an old ford light off Ebay.

“Forward controls for Harley’s are always ridiculously overpriced so I bought a universal set off TC Bros with intentions of modifying it to fit. It bolted right on the pattern of the front motor mounts and even extended by 2 or 3 inches. Couldn’t have worked out better. Big Jim from Chicago made the brass pushrod tubes. I like leaving things raw and uncovered than dressed up which is why I cut the cam cover. All the paint and tin mounts were done in the garage with tools and material anyone with some ambition can easily acquire.”

The end result is a great looking bobber that could be from any era. The rusty metal – although originally an accident – adds to the character of the bike given the appropriate name of ‘1944’. A couple of shout outs from Dan: “I couldn’t have done it without Gene Morrow for always giving me a place to work and tools to work with, Matt Gacon for always fixing my fuck ups, Juan Hernandez for the amazing photos, and spoon, for loving my good decisions… and bad ones.”

“Lastly, thank you dad, for taking me to AC/DC concerts, drag races, and demolition derbys when I was a kid, instead of playing catch with me in the backyard.” There’s a lesson in that for all the dads out there – including myself.

[Photography by Juan Hernandez]


  • cockneycustoms


  • Mikki XS

    This is so so so nice i know my next build now EPIC!!!!

  • Mrityunja Singh

    Rusty nailed it!

  • That is awesome! Is there a video of this beast anywhere?

  • mtiberio

    when I saw the cover shot, I thought, neat someone finally ditched firestones for racing slicks. then I saw the drill down shots… I’m starting a new trend. slicks for customs…

  • No Body

    gotta love designer rust….

  • Brett Stenson

    Dan worked his ass off on this bike for sure. Nothing but heart and soul put into this project, and I’m super proud of him. Good work big bro! TJK would approve…

    • 198three

      blood sweat and tears. love bro

  • Jay

    Phenomenal bike. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  • revdub

    Raw, mean, and garage built. What’s not to love? I can feel the rock ‘n roll and raucous attitude right through the pictures.

  • That’s one cool, dangerous, minimalistic Sportster. This bike should have been on the cover of the last Icon catalog. Everything seems to work on this build – even the tires.

  • 198three

    thanks everyone for taking a look. here’s the bike running..

    • 198three


    • Dan – how’s the volume when yr riding it? Just looking at those pipes makes my ears bleed…


      • 198three

        when I’m done riding my right ear rings a little more than my left, theyre screaming in front of me rather than behind, and they point at the ground so the sound bounces back up. it’s loud as fuck. sounds like a top fuel car when cruising in second gear down a side street.

        • Jonathan Noble

          I hope you’re wearing plugs, i didn’t and now I have tinnitus at 26.

          • 198three

            I have it too

    • FLAMES!

  • I love this bike!! Its like this sexy mix of classic and modern, I’m crazy about this bike

  • Killer Sporty, and great inspiration for my build.

  • JD

    absolutely awesome! Everything just works on it, makes me want a bobber even more!

  • ofl

    Not only it looks like out of a heavy metal hero comic book, but it sounds like it too!

    AWESOME word bro!

  • huseman

    hey man, i played catch with my dad in the back yard! WTF? LOL. BADASS!!!!

  • Glocker

    Old skool kool! then it lets me down with that grill over the light. 🙁

  • J

    Im glad were getting away from those little bikes.

  • Jacob Speis

    Hey Dan, what are those grips? I’ve been looking for those for my XS400 but can’t find them.

    Also, great looking bike. Looks absolutely fantastic.

  • Clifford

    I love it but the one thing I’m not feelin is the hella fog light. Hella is German.. I would at least take some cutters to the cage around the lamp.

  • David Aldrich

    I really like it! I normally don’t like the rusted rat rods, but you pulled it off without looking like you tried too hard. Love the BMX style bars. Is that a stock tank, or is it stretched a little?

  • I get it, but one question. Why would you run the exhaust pipe down the back of your leg and into your boot?

    • Brett Stenson

      because its metal.

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