50-Bike, 100-Cylinder Salute

S&S celebrates a half-century of speed.

Photography by Michael Lichter

50-Bike, 100-Cylinder Salute

Little did George Smith Sr. know back in 1958, when he and partner Stanley Stankos formed S&S; Cycle Equipment to sell aluminum solid-lifter pushrod kits for Harley-Davidsons, that the company would last 50 years or that it would become a major maker of complete V-Twin engines.

Smith just liked to go fast—on dragstrips and at Bonneville—and a year later when he bought out Stankos, S&S; (now standing for George and wife Marjorie) moved on to making stroker flywheels for Harleys. In time, there'd be a whole slew of hi-po parts, including a free-flowing S&S; carburetor in 1967 and the signature "teardrop" air cleaner in '75.

Smith passed away in 1980, but under George Smith Jr.'s leadership, the Viola, Wisconsin-based company grew. In 1998, the company started making entire engine assemblies, much to the delight of backyard builders and the then-flourishing "clone" custom-building business. Two years ago came the X-Wedge motor, a clean-sheet design that owed nothing to previous Harley-Davidson architecture.

Last summer, to celebrate 50 years of success, S&S; threw itself a party. The invite list included 50 of the world's best custom-bike builders, each charged with creating a rolling, S&S-powered; tribute bike. The winning entry would bag its creator the S&S; 50th Anniversary Grand Champion's trophy and a lion's share of the $50,000 in prize money.

Brian Klock drew inspiration from his current passion for Bonneville, mixed it with a desire for plenty of fun and added his own creativity to build this bike - in three weeks! The Klock Werks team really outdid themselves on this project.

Chopper Dave went old school and built a bare-bones chopper - with a very modern X-Wedge fuel-injected engine. Why not? The lean-and-mean Chopper Dave machine is ready for the highway or urban jungle.

Road Rage Customs built this bike to see just how much fun it could be. Plenty of cornering clearance, excellent suspension and all-day ergonomics make this a bike that looks for corners. Primary case is shortened to help reduce wheelbase.

AQG Motocyclette built a bike around an X-Wedge, too. Minimalist everything, 117-inch engine and a big fat tire that offers plenty of grip.

Kevin Alsop of Big Bear Choppers built a bike that is a far cry from a chopper. This sport-based machine is a cross between canyon-carver and top-speed land missile. Take a moment to appreciate the details and engineering concepts.

Marcus Walz built his bike with a stance that is almost intimidating. You can't help but imagine this bike spinning up its rear tire in a huge cloud of smoke, the rider tucking in for a wild ride.

Dan Roche built his chopper to ride, with a long stance and comfortable riding position. Focus on function, sure, but plenty of attention of form, too.

Kris Khrome built a radical machine around a radical engine, an S&S; 145-inch V-Series. Poised to roar down a dragstrip or burn up Sunset Boulevard, the Krome machine commands attention - especially when it starts up!

Arlen Ness is known as the King of Custom for a reason. Here he's created a bike that might remind you of the low-slung choppers he built in the early '70s, or it could be a futuristic version of motorcycling just as easily.

Revolution Speed reminded everyone that carbon-fiber isn't just for body panels - you can make a whole frame out of it, as well! This high-tech bike changes the rules and looks absolutely great doing it.

V-Series winner: Nicolas Chauvin has an eye for motorcycle design and his entry reinforces that. Flowing shapes and sculpted lines put this low-slung machine at the head of its class.

Flyrite Choppers took one of its production bikes and put a spin on it for the event. Tall bars, blacked-out wheels and a fat whitewall tire in the rear give this little bike a big personality.

Saber Specialties was the last shop in the build - stepping in to replace a builder who backed out. No problem for the crew, as this gorgeous, flowing bike was brought to life.

SB-Series winner: Odyssey Motorcycles shocked the show with this bike. Innovative engineering, wild styling and chances taken clearly show why this bike received as much attention as it did.

Jesse Rooke's bike makes you want to go find a dirt-track and start sliding sideways. Tall bars offer plenty of steering input. Next stop, San Jose?

Krazy Horse Customs put its unique spin on a V-Twin sportbike. An aggressive riding position, big power from the S&S; 100-cube engine and sticky tires make for a fun day running canyons or cruising the boulevard.

Skeeter Todd is no stranger to building custom bikes. What most people don't realize is how much engineering Todd puts into his bikes - like incorporating a Honda swngarm and suspension on this go-fast Pro Street-style machine.

Jerry Covington has been around the custom world for a long time. He knows just how to blend original custom styling with today's technology, and did a tremendous job of it on this blue beauty. It looks old, it looks new...and it looks right.

Donnie Loos at Sucker Punch Sally leaves no question as to what his bike is intended to do: Go fast in a straight line. A fat slick out back, slammed-to-the-ground profile and raked front end create the perfect platform for quarter-mile fun.

Scott Long built a bike that proves chrome, gold and metallic-green paint can be a work of art. His lean machine has a sporty edge to it while still paying homage to the bobbed look that we all love.

Chica builds bikes that get attention from any angle and this chopper proves that. Rather than smooth, flowing lines, Chica took an aggressive stance and echoed the angular shape of his gas tank with the rear fender and exhaust.

Branko took the S&S; tribute theme seriously and incorporated images of company the founders George and Marge Smith into his bike. His combination of old and new styling, vibrant color and the stance of the bike really draw you in.

Cory Ness drew back on ideas from the early days of custom, with a small-diameter frame-tube design. He threw a huge twist into the old-school look with amazing spoke wheels that are almost as wide at the hub as the bike is.