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Going out with a bang: Jamesville’s last custom Harley

Going out with a bang: the last custom Harley from Jamesville, a WLA bobber.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the machines built by James Roper-Caldbeck. Back in 2009, when Bike EXIF was only a few months old and still a casual side project, we started featuring Jamesville bikes—which were a breath of fresh air compared to the blinged-out choppers that still dominated the western Harley scene at the time.

James and I have kept in touch over the years. So I had mixed feelings when he dropped me a line the other day to say he was closing the custom side of his business, and was going to focus on restorations and traditional bob-jobs only.

Going out with a bang: the last custom Harley from Jamesville, a WLA bobber.
Fortunately, the Denmark-based Englishman has built one last custom to sign off with, and he’s going out with a bang.

“This ’42 flathead came to me as an engine and transmission stuffed into a frame, rolling around on an old wooden dolly,” James says. “It was followed by ten boxes full of crappy old parts. I guess it was some kind of chopper back in the day.”

Going out with a bang: the last custom Harley from Jamesville, a WLA bobber.
James’ client wanted something very different—a custom bobber. “He was in love with the first bike I built under the Jamesville name, a 1942 WLC flathead.”

James is coming up to his tenth anniversary in the motorcycle business, and this would be his 25th complete build. So he figured it would be fitting if he built a WLA flathead using the first Jamesville creation as a muse.

Going out with a bang: the last custom Harley from Jamesville, a WLA bobber.
“Out of the ten boxes, I gave nine of them back to the client,” he says. “All I’ve used from the original basket case are the frame, forks, engine, transmission, wheel hubs and primary cover.”

Those components have all been completely rebuilt, and everything else is new.

Going out with a bang: the last custom Harley from Jamesville, a WLA bobber.
“The client wanted a bike with a Harley WR feel,” James reveals. “Light, sporty and slim. It was important to him that there was no battery box, which is not needed on a WR because they use a magneto.”

But James won’t use a magneto on a customer’s bike—they’re way too trying for someone with little mechanical knowledge.

Going out with a bang: the last custom Harley from Jamesville, a WLA bobber.
Instead, he found a small Antigravity battery. “WR-style gas tanks leave a perfect space in the frame between the tanks for the battery. The tanks are built in Poland I believe, which I am very happy about—as I don’t have to make them any more!”

James has finished the split tanks with a custom aluminum strip, which also houses an oil pressure light sat on a small piece of sculpted brass.

Going out with a bang: the last custom Harley from Jamesville, a WLA bobber.
The handlebars are Speedster bars with six inches chopped out of the width, two from the rise and an inch from ends. Like many other parts on this flathead, they’ve been Parkerized—treated with a phosphate coating, similar to the process used on firearms.

The rear fender was made by Cooper Smithing Co., and James has welded the fender strut directly onto it—so there’s no need for fussy nuts and bolts. “I have to say his fenders are the best in the business. Just a beautiful piece of metalwork.”

Going out with a bang: the last custom Harley from Jamesville, a WLA bobber.
James has kept the original hubs, but laced them to new 18’’ rims with Parkerized spokes. They’re wrapped in Shinko 270 Super Classic tires, with a vintage-style sawtooth tread pattern to match the looks of the WLA.

“Other than that, and the chopped down seat and the custom exhaust—which sounds awesome—the WLA is pretty much stock,” says James.

Going out with a bang: the last custom Harley from Jamesville, a WLA bobber.
And that’s the way the Harley business is going right now in Europe. “People want to keep their bikes original,” James notes.

“So this is as much a restoration as it is a custom build. ‘Investment’ is a word often used in the Harley world today.”

Going out with a bang: the last custom Harley from Jamesville, a WLA bobber.
The striking paint is most definitely not stock though, and we love it. “For the anniversary bike I wanted something that said POW! but still had class,” says James.

“Unfortunately the client was not crazy about the red, and said it looked too retro. So the bike is now hidden somewhere in Copenhagen, waiting until the lawyers have sorted out their shit.”

Going out with a bang: the last custom Harley from Jamesville, a WLA bobber.
“Building custom bikes is always fun. It’s like playing Russian Roulette: you never know if you’re going to get the pay, or the bullet.”

We’re sad to see James leave the custom business, but glad to hear he’s going to carry old restoring old Milwaukee metal. If you live in northern Europe and have a barn find gathering dust in your garage, Mr Roper-Caldbeck is your man.

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Going out with a bang: the last custom Harley from Jamesville, a WLA bobber.

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