Deus Ex Machina—Latin for “god from the machine”—is a literary term that originated in Greek theater where actors performed free-form plots. If the plots were not working well, a mechanical device—a “machine”— lowered onto the stage a god who would change everything.
These days, Deus Ex Machina is a creative custom-bike operation headquartered in Sydney, Australia. The company also has several satellite shops around the world, including one in Venice, California. That’s where Michael “Woolie” Woolaway built “The American,” a Harley-powered dirt-track framer café bike.
Prior to hooking up with Deus, Woolaway built motorcycles for numerous celebrities, including Ryan Reynolds, Orlando Bloom and Billy Joel. It was through these customers that he met Dare Jennings, Deus Ex Machina’s founder, and began building projects after Jennings opened up a stateside branch.
“I didn’t build The American to compete with a modern sportbike or have the feel of the mile dirt-tracker the framer is based on,” says Woolaway. “I wanted something down the middle—not too much brake, not too much power, but just enough to be fun to ride and fun to look at.”
A C&J Low Boy chrome-moly frame is sprung with a one-off Works Performance shock handcrafted by Pierre Vaillancourt. A Buell WP fork is hung in Durelle Racing triple-clamps and fitted with a single Brembo brake caliper. Buchanan’s in Azusa, California, laced a set of 18-inch Sun Rims to A&A hubs. Avon Super Venom tires provide traction. The rider’s “office” consists of a C&C custom seat perched behind a long, handcrafted aluminum tank, Woodcraft clip-on handlebars and Motogadget speedo/tach.
Power arrives via an H-D Sportster five-speed engine massaged with a balanced crank, forged rods, JE high-compression pistons, Edelbrock big-valve heads, lightened and hand-polished rockers, and chrome-moly pushrods jiggled by the lobes of Andrews cams. The 1203cc V-Twin is fed by a 41mm Keihin FCR carb, with spent gases departing through Deus-made stainless-steel headers connected to flat-track-style SuperTrapp megaphones.
Too bad we weren’t able to saddle up The American for a short ride. It would have been fun to find out if there is a god in the machine.