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The Best of the Best 2003: Cruisers – S&S 145 Tribute

A casual idea evolved into a project that formed the most unlikely union of motorcycle design talent. Bob Kay, chief operating officer of American IronHorse, wanted to commemorate the 45th birthday of S&S Cycle, the Viola, Wis., builder of the V-twin engines that commonly power custom Harley- Davidsons. Kay, along with S&S, came up with the idea of commissioning five builders to design and construct exclusive custom bikes that would each feature a behemoth 145-cu-in S&S engine. The bikes, powered by the same engine but sculpted with the signature designs of their respective builders, would be sold together as a five-piece, $250,000 set. Each builder would build nine bikes, creating nine complete sets.


For the builders, the project represented a departure from business as usual. After all, they compete for virtually the same customers, and though they might treat each other with respect publicly, in private, some have been known to whisper about other builders’ design flaws and snicker at lesser bikes. “There’s a healthy competition,” says American IronHorse spokesperson Oné Musel-Gilley. “You would never put this group of guys together because they’re so competitive.”

This occasion would be different. The five builders—Arlen Ness, his son Cory, American IronHorse, Bourget’s Bike Works, and MCC Manufacturing—agreed to set aside their rivalries and participate in the project. S&S provided each company with a 145-cu-in block—the largest aftermarket motor on the market—and the builders went to work, molding their own visions of chrome and steel around the 186-hp V-twins. S&S issued only one mandate: Do what you want.

After completing their bikes, the builders transported their creations to Daytona Beach, Fla., for their debut earlier this year at Daytona’s Bike Week. On March 2, the custom machines—all with brash paint jobs, fat rear tires, and gleaming chrome accents—were unveiled: American IronHorse’s Sniper, MCC’s Bad MFG, and the unnamed motorcycles of Bour-get’s and Cory Ness. Arlen Ness is still building his entry, which is scheduled to be released in August.


Ultimately, seven sets of the 145 Tribute series will be available for purchase; S&S will retain one set, and another is slated for a Barrett-Jackson auction. Bourget’s and American IronHorse, however, are tentatively planning to put their custom machines into limited production.

145 Tribute, 817.665.2000

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