Arlen Ness

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Arlen Ness
Arlen Ness cropped.jpg
Ness in 2014
Born(1939-07-12)July 12, 1939
DiedMarch 22, 2019(2019-03-22) (aged 79)
Occupation Motorcycle designer, entrepreneur
Years active1960–2019
Known for Custom motorcycles
Relatives Cory Ness (son), Zach Ness (grandson)
Website www.arlenness.com

Arlen Darryl Ness [1] [2] (July 12, 1939 – March 22, 2019) was an American motorcycle designer and entrepreneur best known for his custom motorcycles. Ness received acclaim for his designs, most of which are noted for their unique body style and paintwork.

Motorcycle design can be described as activities that define the appearance, function and engineering of motorcycles.

Custom motorcycle

A custom motorcycle is a motorcycle with stylistic and/or structural changes to the 'standard' mass-produced machine offered by major manufacturers. Custom motorcycles might be unique, or built in limited quantities. While individual motorcyclists have altered the appearance of their machines since the very first days of motorcycling, the first individualized motorcycles specifically labeled 'Custom' appeared in the late 1950s, around the same time as the term was applied to custom cars. In the 1960s, custom artisans like Arlen Ness and Ben Hardy created new styles of custom bikes, the chopper. In the 1990s and early 2000s, very expensive customs such as those built by Orange County Choppers, Jesse James's West Coast Choppers, Roger Goldammer became fashionable status symbols. There are also companies that are bringing back pin striping, such as Kenny Howard and Dean Jeffries from the 1950s, with a continued effort to keep pin striping alive. The choppers of the 1960s and 1970s fit into this category.

Contents

Early life

Arlen Darryl Ness was born in Moorhead, Minnesota on July 12, 1939 to Elaine and Ervin Ness, and moved to San Lorenzo, California when he was in the sixth grade. [3]

Moorhead, Minnesota City in Minnesota, United States

Moorhead is a city in Clay County, Minnesota, United States, and the largest city in northwest Minnesota. The population was 43,349 according to the 2018 United States Census estimates. It is the county seat of Clay County.

San Lorenzo, California CDP in California, United States

San Lorenzo, also known as San Lorenzo Village, is a census-designated place (CDP) located in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area in Alameda County, California, United States. The population was 23,452 at the 2010 census. It is an unincorporated community, located at the banks of San Lorenzo Creek. It was originally named Squattersville in 1851, but later renamed to San Lorenzo.

Prior to his career as a motorcycle builder, Arlen worked as a pin setter at the local bowling alley, and later as a post office worker and furniture mover. Ness also competed in semi-professional bowling leagues, the earnings of which he used to buy his first motorcycle, a 1947 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead that he later customized. [4] [5]

Bowling class of sports in which a player rolls a bowling ball towards a target

Bowling is a target sport and recreational activity in which a player rolls or throws a bowling ball toward pins or another target.

Harley-Davidson Knucklehead engine

The knucklehead is a retronym used by enthusiasts to refer to a Harley-Davidson motorcycle engine, so named because of the distinct shape of the rocker boxes. The engine is a two-cylinder, 45 degree, pushrod actuated overhead valve V-twin engine with two valves per cylinder. It was the third basic type of V-Twin engine used by Harley-Davidson, replacing the Flathead-engined VL model in 1936 as HD's top-of-the-line model. The engine was manufactured until 1947 and was replaced by the Panhead engine in 1948. The Knucklehead-engined models were originally referred to as "OHVs" by enthusiasts of the time and in Harley's official literature; the nickname arose from the California chopper culture of the late 1960s.

Ness was married to his wife Beverly for 59 years until his death. [6]

Career

QuickNess, in the permanent collection of the Oakland Museum of California. QuickNess 1984.jpg
QuickNess, in the permanent collection of the Oakland Museum of California.
A motorcycle with two engines by Arlen Ness Arlen Ness two engine motorcycle.jpg
A motorcycle with two engines by Arlen Ness
A streamlined motorcycle by Arlen Ness Arlen Ness streamlined motorcycle.jpg
A streamlined motorcycle by Arlen Ness
Ness-Stalgia Model Ness-Stalgia.jpg
Ness-Stalgia Model
Arlen Ness Victory motorcycle at the Seattle International Motorcycle Show Arlen Ness Harley-Davidson Progressive Insurance.JPG
Arlen Ness Victory motorcycle at the Seattle International Motorcycle Show
Entrance to Arlen Ness Motorcycles in Dublin, California Arlen Ness Motorcycles 1.jpg
Entrance to Arlen Ness Motorcycles in Dublin, California
Arlen Ness motorcycles and trophies on display in Dublin, California Arlen Ness motorcycles and trophies.jpg
Arlen Ness motorcycles and trophies on display in Dublin, California

His first customs were made in the garage of his home in San Leandro, California, but by the early 1970s he had moved to a storefront on East 14th Street. [8]

Ness was recognized for his unique painting style and for developing a line of custom motorcycle parts. His popularity grew as he built new custom bikes [9] and then had those displayed on the bike show circuit and featured in motorcycle magazines. [10]

After more than three decades of custom bike building, his business, Arlen Ness Motorcycles, moved to a Dublin, California facility that includes a museum featuring more than 40 of his custom motorcycles. The museum displays his Untouchable, the twin motor Two Bad, the antique inspired Ness-Tique, Blower Bike, the Italian sports car inspired Ferrari Bike, the '57 Chevy inspired Ness-Stalgia, the Bugatti-like Smooth-Ness, the Discovery Channel's Biker Build-Off bike Top Banana, and his jet-powered Mach Ness. The company is also an authorized dealership for Victory Motorcycles and for Indian Motorcycles. [11]

The Mach Ness is a motorcycle Ness built in 2005, inspired by Jay Leno's turbine-powered bike, that incorporates a jet-powered helicopter engine as its power plant. The design, concept, paint, and graphics were created by Carl Brouhard and the hand-made aluminum body work was by Bob Monroe. [12] [13]

Ness received recognition and awards including Builder of the Year, induction into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame and Lifetime Achievement Awards. [12] His son, Cory Ness, has worked with Ness for more than 30 years, and now runs the day-to-day business operations at Arlen Ness, Inc. [14] Cory has himself been recognized as a top custom bike builder and even defeated his father in a 2004 episode of Biker Build-Off. Carrying on the family tradition to a third generation, Cory's son, Zach Ness, built several high end customs before finishing high school in 2006. [15] Today Arlen Ness Inc. is completely owned and operated by a family and is the only motorcycle business, that houses 3 generations with the same last name in it. At the moment, Arlen Ness brand offers products for V-twin engines and motorcycle gear. The Arlen Ness museum and showroom are located in Dublin, California. [16]

Ness received a patent for the Big Shot, a method of altering the motorcycle's fuel injection system, and thereby enhancing a motorcycle's performance. [17]

Ness died on March 22, 2019 at the age of 79. [6]

Related Research Articles

Chopper (motorcycle) type of motorcycle

A chopper is a type of custom motorcycle which emerged in California in the late 1950s. The chopper is perhaps the most extreme of all custom styles, often using radically modified steering angles and lengthened forks for a stretched-out appearance. They can be built from an original motorcycle which is modified ("chopped") or built from scratch. Some of the characteristic features of choppers are long front ends with extended forks often coupled with an increased rake angle, hardtail frames, very tall "ape hanger" or very short "drag" handlebars, lengthened or stretched frames, and larger than stock front wheels. The "sissy bar", a set of tubes that connect the rear fender with the frame, and which are often extended several feet high, is a signature feature on many choppers.

Victory Motorcycles

Victory Motorcycles was an American motorcycle manufacturer with its final assembly facility in Spirit Lake, Dickinson County, northwestern Iowa, United States. It began production of its vehicles in 1998, and began winding down operations in January 2017.

Mert Lawwill is an American professional motorcycle racer, race team owner and mountain bike designer. He won the 1969 AMA Grand National Championship and, was one of the top competitors on the AMA national racing circuit during 1960s and 1970s. After his motorcycle racing career, Lawwill became one of the top motorcycle racing frame designers and builders. Lawwill then used his experience as a motorcycle frame builder to become an innovative mountain bike designer, developing one of the first bicycle suspensions. He also developed prosthetic limbs for amputees. Lawwill was inducted in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998.

Roland Sands is an American motorcycle racer and designer of custom high-performance motorcycles. In his career as a professional motorcycle racer has won the 1998 AMA 250GP National Champion road racer championship. Sands is an award-winning designer of custom performance motorcycles, and owner and founder of Roland Sands Design.

Dave Barr is an American veteran of the Vietnam War and a motorcyclist best known for being the first double amputee to circumnavigate the globe. He lives in Bodfish, California where he runs a motorcycle tour company. He is also the author of several books and was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2000.

Bobber (motorcycle) custom motorcycle

A bobber, originally called a 'bob-job' from the 1930s through 1990s, is a style of custom motorcycle. The typical construction includes stripping excess bodywork from a motorcycle; removing the front fender, and shortening the rear fender, which is "bobbed", and all superfluous parts removed to reduce weight.

William Godfrey "Willie G." Davidson is an American businessman and motorcycle designer, and the former senior vice president & chief styling officer of Harley-Davidson Motor Company. He was also the head of Harley-Davidson's Willie G. Davidson Product Development Center in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. While being generally responsible for approving Harley-Davidson motorcycle designs, he also personally designed several motorcycles for Harley-Davidson, including the Super Glide and the Low Rider, which pioneered the factory custom motorcycle and created an intermediate line of motorcycles between their large touring models and their smaller Sportsters.

Harley-Davidson XR-750

The Harley-Davidson XR-750 is a racing motorcycle made by Harley-Davidson since 1970, primarily for dirt track racing, but also for road racing in the XRTT variant. The XR-750 was designed in response to a 1969 change in AMA Grand National Championship rules that leveled the playing field for makes other than Harley-Davidson, allowing Japanese and British motorcycles to outperform the previously dominant Harley-Davidson KR race bike. The XR-750 went on to win the most races in the history of American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) racing.

Buzz Kanter is the editor-in-chief and publisher of American Iron Magazine, American Iron Garage and American Iron Salute magazine, and was inducted into the American Motorcyclist Association Hall of Fame in 2002. Buzz was also inducted into the National Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame and the Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame.

Galloping Goose Motorcycle Club

Galloping Goose Motorcycle Club (GGMC) is a one-percenter and motorcycle club that began around a motorcycle racing team and friends based out of Los Angeles, California in the United States in 1942. The group was informal and not chartered until 1946. Soon after, the organization spread out from southern California, establishing chapters in Illinois, Missouri, Montana, Indiana, Wyoming, Kansas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida.

J&P Cycles

J&P Cycles, Inc. was founded by John and Jill Parham in 1979. It sells motorcycle components, apparel, and gear for the American V-twin motorcycle rider. Owned by Motorcycle Aftermarket Group (MAG), the company has retail outlets in Ormond Beach, Florida, Anamosa, Iowa, and Sturgis, South Dakota.

David Uhl American painter

David Uhl is an American artist who specializes in oil paintings of vintage Harley-Davidson motorcycles and is known for his Women of Harley-Davidson collection.

Albert Burns (motorcyclist) American motorcycle racer

Albert "Shrimp" Burns was an American dirt and board track motorcycle racer in the early 20th century. Riding for Harley-Davidson and later Indian, he won multiple races in California and later the east coast and the midwest. He won the national championship in 1919, and was inducted in the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998.

Zach Ness American motorcycle builder

Zach Ness is a third-generation American motorcycle designer and entrepreneur. He is the grandson of motorcycle customizer Arlen Ness, and son of Cory Ness. In 2013 Zach teamed up with National Geographic Channel for the television series Let It Ride. The series followed Zach as he and the Ness crew built custom bikes for clients.

Cory Ness American motorcycle designer

Cory Ness is a second-generation American motorcycle designer and entrepreneur. He is the son of motorcycle customizer Arlen Ness, and father of Zach Ness.

M. L. Fredericks, nicknamed "Curley", was an American motorcycle racer.

Harley-Davidson KR

The Harley-Davidson KR or KR750 was a 45.125 cu in (739.47 cc) displacement V-twin engine racing motorcycle made by Harley-Davidson from 1953 through 1969 for flat track racing. It was also used in road racing in the KRTT faired version. When the KR was first introduced, it dominated motorcycle racing in the United States. In 1970 it was replaced by the long-lived and US race-winning Harley-Davidson XR-750.

Joe Petrali was a motorcycle racer, Joe Petrali also was known as “Smokin’ Joe" the title was more commonly used by his friends. He was considered as one of the country's most exceptional racers from the mid-1920s-1930s. Petrali was a class A racing stars who competed in board track racing, dirt track, speed records. Petrali won a marvellous 49 AMA national championship races on August 29, 1937, a result that was transcended 55 years later in 1992 when Scott Parker won his 50th AMA national.

Gloria Struck was one of the early members of the Motor Maids women's motorcycle club, which she joined in 1946, at age 21. She is both a Sturgis Hall of Fame and Motorcycle Hall of Fame inductee.

References

  1. "Happy Birthday to Arlen Ness, Legendary Custom Builder, Victory Motorcycle Dealer & Motorcycle Icon". Victory Motorcycles . Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  2. Blake Z. Rong (15 July 2013). "Happy Birthday, Arlen Ness". Autoweek. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  3. "ART OF THE CHOPPER: ARLEN NESS – FIRST LOOK". Cycle World . Bonnier Corporation. December 17, 2007.
  4. "AMA Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame - Arlen Ness". AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. American Motorcyclist Association . Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  5. "Arlen Ness to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award from Sturgis Motorcycle Museum". American Iron Magazine. TAM Communications. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  6. 1 2 Williams, Don (March 23, 2019). "Arlen Ness Passes – 1939-2019". Ultimate Motorcycling. Retrieved March 23, 2019.
  7. "Arlen Ness - Harley Davidson: QuickNess motorcycle". OMCA Collections. Oakland Museum of California. 2019. Retrieved March 24, 2019. Harley Davidson Sportster Motorcycle, 1972. Customized body with silver and copper leaf, gold plating, and engraving. History: Arlen Ness customized this motorcycle in 1984. He used it for display and in competition naming it "QuickNess." Regular shows were held where customizers exhibited their artistry. Arlen Ness has won many trophies for his superb machines. This one has a tangerine orange body with copper leafed and painted designs and engraving on the chrome parts.
  8. "Arlen Ness Bio". Motorcycle USA. 3 December 2010. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  9. "The most beautiful motorcycles: Arlen Ness • Luxe Fair". luxefair.com. 22 June 2018.
  10. Charle, Suzanne (October 16, 1997). "When It Comes to Harleys, Arlen Ness Is One Very Cool Customizer". New York Times . Retrieved August 8, 2014.
  11. "Manufacturer Models". Arlen Ness Motorcycles. Retrieved March 25, 2015.
  12. 1 2 "Arlen Ness - Heroes of Harley-Davidson". Motorcycle Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 23 May 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  13. "Mach-Ness - 74th Annual 2014 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally". Archived from the original on 17 August 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  14. "A New Breed: Ness revving up less expensive line of manufactured motorcycles". East Bay Times. 2005-11-25. Retrieved 2019-01-05.
  15. "Zach Ness Profile/ Sailor Jerry Presents Hot Bike Invitational Bike Build-Off". Hot Bike. Bonnier Corporation. 10 June 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  16. "Arlen Ness: Products & Corporate Information" (PDF). Arlen Ness Inc. July 2018.
  17. "Supplemental fuel injector trigger circuit" . Retrieved 8 August 2014.

Further reading